Hong Kong Free Press HKFP https://hongkongfp.com/ Hong Kong news - Independent, impartial, non-profit Fri, 20 Jan 2023 06:28:59 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://hongkongfp.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/cropped-Favicon-HKFP-2.png Hong Kong Free Press HKFP https://hongkongfp.com/ 32 32 175101873 Hong Kong Bar Association urges against blanket ban on overseas lawyers in national security law cases https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/20/hong-kong-bar-association-urges-against-blanket-ban-on-overseas-lawyers-in-national-security-law-cases/ Fri, 20 Jan 2023 04:04:47 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413994 HKBA no complete ban on oversea lawyers featureThe head of the Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) has said the city should not implement a complete ban on overseas barristers participating in national security law cases. His comment came after the government said it would amend the Legal Practitioners Ordinance in light of Beijing’s recent interpretation of the national security law. Chief Executive […]]]> HKBA no complete ban on oversea lawyers feature

The head of the Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) has said the city should not implement a complete ban on overseas barristers participating in national security law cases.

Hong Kong Bar Association Victor Dawes
Hong Kong Bar Association. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

His comment came after the government said it would amend the Legal Practitioners Ordinance in light of Beijing’s recent interpretation of the national security law.

Chief Executive John Lee invited China’s top law-making body to intervene after government lawyers failed to block King’s Counsel Timothy Owen from representing media mogul Jimmy Lai in Lai’s high-profile national security case.

Beijing then confirmed that the power to decide whether an overseas counsel could be employed for security law cases lay in the hands of the chief executive and the Committee for Safeguarding National Security.

Hong Kong Bar Association Victor Dawes
Hong Kong Bar Association Chairman Victor Dawes. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Meeting the press after being re-elected as chairperson of the HKBA on Thursday evening, Victor Dawes said the barrister group did not believe there had to be a “complete ban” on overseas counsels in all security cases for either the prosecution or the defence.

He said authorities should preserve flexibility for both sides in picking legal representatives in cases that did not involve confidential matters or state secrets. “This is in line with other non-NSL cases,” Dawes said.

“In so far as public perception is concerned, we believe that it will be conducive to the administration of justice and the rule of law,” he added.

“After discussion, we think a complete ban is not what we will be happy to see.”

The chairperson said the barrister group would file its formal suggestions when a concrete proposal on the upcoming amendment is announced.

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Opinion pieces should have views on both sides, prosecution claims at Stand News sedition trial https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/20/opinion-pieces-should-have-views-on-both-sides-prosecution-claims-at-stand-news-sedition-trial/ Fri, 20 Jan 2023 00:24:19 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413960 Stand News ChungThe lead prosecutor in the trial of a former Hong Kong chief editor, who is charged with sedition over 17 commentaries and news reports, said Thursday that commentaries should include opinions from both sides of an issue. Laura Ng asked Chung Pui-kuen if he agreed that Stand News’ commentaries were not “balanced” as they only […]]]> Stand News Chung

The lead prosecutor in the trial of a former Hong Kong chief editor, who is charged with sedition over 17 commentaries and news reports, said Thursday that commentaries should include opinions from both sides of an issue.

Laura Ng asked Chung Pui-kuen if he agreed that Stand News’ commentaries were not “balanced” as they only focused on protesters during the 2019 unrest.

Stand News Chung pui-kuen Patrick Lam
Chung Pui-kuen on December 13, 2022. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Chung, the former acting editor-in-chief Patrick Lam, and Best Pencil Limited, Stand News’ parent company, are accused of conspiring to publish “seditious publications.”

Balance in op-ed

After Chung at the prosecution’s request summarised some of Stand News’ most viewed commentaries – including an op-ed saying that foreign countries were entitled to interfere in Hong Kong – Ng asked if he agreed that the articles represented what readers of the digital news outlet preferred.

Chung said it depended, as some articles gained more exposure after being shared by readers on other platforms.

Stand News Chung pui-kuen Patrick Lam
Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam on December 13, 2022. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

“Exactly, ” Ng said, “when a reader shared a Stand News’ article, and when it travelled far enough, other non-Stand News readers would only read that particular article. Doesn’t that mean every article should maintain balance and neutrality?”

Chung replied that commentaries should always be opinionated. “Agree, but once it’s inside your head, you cannot get rid of it,” Ng said.

“We hope every civic-minded citizen can forward not just a single article, but articles from across the political spectrum, ” Chung said.

“You hope to do that, but it’s not what happened in reality,” Ng replied.

stand news homepage final
Stand News’ home page on December 29, 2021 before it was shut down.

Chung raised the example of TVB, a pro-establishment broadcasting news outlet, saying it also had opinion pieces. “This is how op-ed works in media,” he said repeatedly, adding that the only way to maintain balance was to keep “existing.”

“Let Stand News exist so that we can keep on producing articles representing different opinions. Otherwise, we cannot achieve that,” Chung said.

The non-profit online news outlet ceased operations last December after its newsroom was raided by more than 200 national security police officers. Seven people connected to the publication – including Chung and Lam – were arrested. They were both granted bail after being held in custody for nearly a year.

A story of sardines

Ng later asked if Chung agreed that most people prefer reading news reports that align with their particular political stance, and that their favorite news outlet could have an imperceptible influence on them – shaping their perceptions of different issues.

“I dare not say the media has such influence. It depends,” Chung said.

Ng then recalled a story – which she claimed was told by her teacher in school – about how a sardine business owner won over customers from a competitor after claiming the owner’s sardines did not contain any carcinogenic substance.

Stand News Chung pui-kuen Patrick Lam
Chung Pui-kuen on December 13, 2022. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

“Eh… You just raised a marketing strategy, what’s your point?” Chung asked. Ng said articles in Stand News only emphasised the good qualities of protesters, and “that’s already a criticism of the other side.”

Chung said Stand News, as a news outlet, aimed to probe the deep-rooted causes of social movements like the 2019 unrest. He said that unless the government tackled the root cause of public outrage, another social movement might break out in the future.

“It’s not something you can resolve through arresting individuals, suppressing certain opinions or allegedly “seditious” organisations,” he added.

The trial continues on Friday. Sedition is punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.

The anti-sedition legislation, which was last amended in the 1970s when Hong Kong was still under British colonial rule, falls under the city’s Crimes Ordinance. It is separate from the Beijing-imposed national security law, and outlaws incitement to violence, disaffection and other offences against the authorities.

Prison van Stand News West Kowloon court
A woman waves goodbye at a Correctional Services Department van outside the West Kowloon Law Courts Building on December 30, 2021. She was among a crowd which tried to bid farewell to former Stand News editor-in-chief Chung Pui-kuen who was remanded into custody pending trial under the colonial-era anti-sedition law. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. 

The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

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Hong Kong gov’t urged to spend HK$100m to revive ailing tourism sector https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/19/hong-kong-govt-urged-to-spend-hk100m-to-revive-ailing-tourism-sector/ Thu, 19 Jan 2023 10:05:27 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413943 Tourism demand featureRepresentatives of Hong Kong’s ailing tourism industry have urged the government to provide HK$100 million to revive the sector after almost three years of crippling Covid-19 restrictions on visitors. Top members of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong and four lawmakers from the city’s largest pro-Beijing party the DAB discussed the difficulties faced by […]]]> Tourism demand feature

Representatives of Hong Kong’s ailing tourism industry have urged the government to provide HK$100 million to revive the sector after almost three years of crippling Covid-19 restrictions on visitors.

DAB tourism sector presser
The Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong and DAB meet the press on January 19. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

Top members of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong and four lawmakers from the city’s largest pro-Beijing party the DAB discussed the difficulties faced by the trade at a Thursday press event.

While the city axed most of its Covid-19 restrictions last month and resumed quarantine-free travel with the mainland on January 8, council chair Gianna Hsu told reporters the recent development “only means a start for our industry, and we are not yet in the course of revival.”

“We expect that we will have to wait until 2024, or even till the middle of that year, for our trade to return to normal,” Hsu added.

Hong Kong had around 444,000 visitors between January and November last year, official figures show, less than one per cent of the 52.7 million visitors in the first 11 months of 2019.

Although there are still around 1,600 travel agencies left in the city, Hsu said many had to shrink operations over the past three years. “Some are reduced to having one desk only,” she added.

They need funds to rehire staff, rent proper offices and purchase necessities for their business, she said.

Gianna Hsu
The Chairperson of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong Gianna Hsu (middle). Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

There are also between 1,500 to 2,000 tourist coaches that have been sitting idle for almost three years. The cost of bringing one back into service ranges from HK$60,000 to over HK$100,000, Hsu added.

In addition, the travel industry will have to put more resources into headhunting, staff training and overseas promotion.

According to Hsu, Hong Kong’s travel industry employed around 18,000 people before the pandemic, but has lost over half of its manpower over the past three years.

In light of the difficulties faced by the trade, the council asked the government to provide funds matching the investment the industry would be making to support its revival.

Fanny Yeung
The Executive Director of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong Fanny Yeung. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

It also urged the authorities to provide low-interest loans to the travel sector or negotiate with banks to ease loan terms for tourism companies.

When HKFP asked how much they expected the government to spend, the Executive Director of the council Fanny Yeung said “it would be around HK$100 million.”

If such a subsidy were granted, Yeung said it would take the trade around one year to bounce back to its pre-pandemic level. “If we don’t have this subsidy, frankly, we don’t know if we can really revive or not,” she added.

Hsu said their suggested amount would be able to cover all aspects of the industry’s needs, including the maintenance of coaches and hiring of new staffers.

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Not one of 8,625 complaints against Hong Kong judiciary upheld in 2022 https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/19/not-one-of-8625-complaints-against-hong-kong-judiciary-upheld-in-2022/ Thu, 19 Jan 2023 09:30:39 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413882 judiciary annual report 2022 featured imageNot one out of more than 8,600 complaints made against judges or judicial officers last year was deemed to be justified or partly justified, according to a report by Hong Kong’s judiciary which also said defendants on average wait almost a year to have cases heard in district court. The report published on Monday said […]]]> judiciary annual report 2022 featured image

Not one out of more than 8,600 complaints made against judges or judicial officers last year was deemed to be justified or partly justified, according to a report by Hong Kong’s judiciary which also said defendants on average wait almost a year to have cases heard in district court.

The report published on Monday said 8,625 of the 8,720 complaints received were pursuable but none of them were found to be justified or partially justified. It said four “social event court cases” generated 8,595 of the 8,720 complaints.

Court of Final Appeal
Court of Final Appeal. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The number of complaints handled in 2022 was a 295 per cent increase from 2021’s 2,205 complaints.

Among the 8,625 pursuable cases, 73 related to “attitude and behaviour in court,” 8,542 were about the handling of proceedings and ten were “of a mixed nature.”

Increasing waiting time

Waiting times grew at the city’s District Court last year. On average, it took 354 days for a criminal case to proceed from first appearance to a hearing, a 67-day increase from 2021 and 254 days more than the target of 100 days.

The report cited difficulties such as the Covid-19 pandemic and an “increasing number of complicated cases,” especially those linked to the 2019 protests and to national security.

district court
Photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

“In 2022, court operations were fraught with particular challenges from the onset of the 5th wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in the first half of the year which hit hard on manpower supply at all levels of court,” the report read.

The city saw an unprecedented wave of Covid-19 infections in early 2022. Court proceedings were suspended in March.

Over 10,000 people were arrested over the 2019 extradition bill protests, which erupted in June 2019 over a since-axed extradition bill. They escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment.

More than 7,000 have yet to be prosecuted. Lawmakers have quoted Secretary for Security Chris Tang as saying the administration will soon make a decision on whether to charge around 6,000 of them.

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Covid-19: Lawmaker urges scrapping of PCR tests for mainland travel as one centre sees queues till 3 a.m. https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/19/covid-19-lawmaker-urges-scrapping-of-pcr-tests-for-mainland-travel-as-one-centre-sees-queues-till-3-a-m/ Thu, 19 Jan 2023 09:15:04 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413871 doreen kong testing featured imageA Hong Kong lawmaker has urged authorities to cancel the need for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests to enter the mainland as one centre in Sham Shui Po saw would-be travellers queuing until 3 a.m. on Thursday. Under the current policy, all travellers over the age of three must obtain a negative PCR test result […]]]> doreen kong testing featured image

A Hong Kong lawmaker has urged authorities to cancel the need for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests to enter the mainland as one centre in Sham Shui Po saw would-be travellers queuing until 3 a.m. on Thursday.

Under the current policy, all travellers over the age of three must obtain a negative PCR test result within 48 hours before crossing the border between Hong Kong and the mainland.

Doreen Kong
Doreen Kong. Photo: Legislative Council, via Flickr.

Tens of thousands of people are crossing in both directions in the run-up to the Lunar New Year starting on Sunday after Beijing this month scrapped its years-long quarantine requirements. Travellers from both sides must still take PCR tests.

Local media said more than one hundred people were still queuing for PCR tests at the community testing centre at Sham Shui Po’s Maple Street Playground after midnight, when the lights were already off. The station completed testing for everyone waiting at around 3 a.m.

Chief Executive John Lee acknowledged the situation was “not ideal” when addressing the issue in the Legislative Council on Thursday morning.

Chief Executive John Lee attending the Legislative Council question and answer session on January 19, 2023.
Chief Executive John Lee attending the Legislative Council question and answer session on January 19, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Lee said only 60 per cent of the city’s total testing capacity was being used on Monday. “We know the problem was not a shortage in supply, but the distribution of information,” he added, as some people did not know spaces were available at other testing centres.

Lawmaker Doreen Kong told Commercial Radio on Thursday she believes most of those queuing at Sham Shui Po were blue-collar workers and many might not have had time to visit other testing centres before 8 p.m., when they stop accepting new registrations.

“Those who work as dishwashers or waiting staff might not be off work yet, how can they be there?” Kong asked.

The lawmaker said the best solution was to cancel the testing requirement altogether.

“Otherwise I am very worried that the demand [for PCR tests] will be greater than our testing capacity as authorities continue to increase the quota for cross-border travel,” she added.

Chief Secretary Eric Chan told the Hong Kong Economic Times that Hong Kong must wait for approval from Beijing before it could drop the PCR testing requirement.

Sham Shui Po testing centre
Queues outside another testing centre at Lai Kok Community Hall in Cheung Sha Wan on January 17, 2023. Photo: Doreen Kong, via Facebook.

Ricky Chiu, the founder of test provider Phase Scientific, told the same radio programme he believed the major bottleneck was registration and urged people to make bookings in advance.

“Many people were unclear about the arrangements related to cross-border travel,” he said, adding some were confused about whether the 48-hour window started from the time they received the result or the time they took the test. The latter was correct.

Chiu, whose company operated the Maple Street Playground centre until last September, said it has always been busy.

Chiu, an adjunct associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s School of Biomedical Sciences, said that from a public health standpoint “there are not many reasons supporting the requirement for PCR tests.”

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Tens of millions head home for China holidays as Xi flags Covid worry https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/19/tens-of-millions-head-home-for-china-holidays-as-xi-flags-covid-worry/ Thu, 19 Jan 2023 08:50:04 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413971 Chinese head home for CNY amid Covid featured imageBy Vivian Lin Tens of millions in China headed to their rural hometowns for Lunar New Year celebrations Thursday, though President Xi Jinping said he was “concerned” about the countryside’s ability to weather a Covid surge. China’s transport authorities have predicted that more than two billion trips will be made this month into February in […]]]> Chinese head home for CNY amid Covid featured image

By Vivian Lin

Tens of millions in China headed to their rural hometowns for Lunar New Year celebrations Thursday, though President Xi Jinping said he was “concerned” about the countryside’s ability to weather a Covid surge.

China’s transport authorities have predicted that more than two billion trips will be made this month into February in one of the world’s largest mass movements of people.

Passengers arriving at Shenzhen North railway station on January 17, 2023 during peak travel ahead of the Lunar New Year of the Rabbit, in China's southern Guangdong province.
Passengers arriving at Shenzhen North railway station on January 17, 2023 during peak travel ahead of the Lunar New Year of the Rabbit, in China’s southern Guangdong province. Photo: CNS/AFP/China OUT.

But the exodus from big cities hit hard by Covid is widely expected to cause a spike in cases in under-resourced rural areas.

Officials have said that as of Wednesday, 480 million people have travelled across the country since January 7, a huge increase compared with the same period last year.

There were huge crowds on Thursday at central train stations in Beijing and Shanghai, where many travellers told AFP they were elated to be heading home — some for the first time in years.

“I don’t care anymore, that’s how I feel,” a Shanghai-based worker called Chen, heading home to the southeastern city of Wenzhou, told AFP.

“Last year I was so careful, and this year I feel much braver,” she said.

“I haven’t been home for three years,” said Ren, an agent representing social media influencers.

“Because of Covid, my salary hasn’t been that high, and sometimes I don’t even get to go to work,” he explained. 

“I wanted to be with my family. It doesn’t matter if I have money or not, I want to go see them,” Ren added.

“Something that I’ll definitely do when I go home is give my mum and dad a hug.”

A patient with Covid-19 coronavirus at a hospital in Jinghong City in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture in China's south Yunnan province on January 9, 2023. Tens of millions in China headed to their rural hometowns for Lunar New Year celebrations on January 19, though President Xi Jinping said he was "concerned" about the countryside's ability to weather a Covid surge.
A patient with Covid-19 coronavirus at a hospital in Jinghong City in China on January 9, 2023. Photo: Noel Celis/AFP.

Others appeared more concerned about the coronavirus, with two young women in their 20s wearing hazmat suits.

“We’re a bit worried the virus will be more transmissible during the Chinese New Year travel rush,” one said.

“Since we’re going home, we’re worried it’ll affect our families, that’s why we bought (hazmat suits).”

‘Gloomy emotions’

China’s leader has expressed similar concern about the impact of the outbreak on rural areas during the holidays.

“Xi said he was primarily concerned about rural areas and rural residents after the country adjusted its Covid-19 response measures,” state news agency Xinhua reported Wednesday — a reference to the relaxing of China’s strict virus curbs last month.

He “stressed efforts to improve medical care for those most vulnerable to the virus in rural areas”, Xinhua said.

“Epidemic prevention and control has entered a new stage, and we are still in a period that requires great efforts,” Xi was reported as saying, stressing the need to “address the shortcomings in epidemic prevention and control in rural areas”.

Xi Jinping
Chinese leader Xi Jinping. File photo: GovHK.

After a gruelling month in which cases surged nationwide, the government said it would step up efforts to quell “gloomy emotions” online about the outbreak.

China’s internet watchdog launched a campaign Wednesday to sponge out “fabricated patient experiences” online and “increase the rectification of epidemic-related online rumours”.

The goal of the campaign, the Cyberspace Administration of China said, was to weed out items that “mislead the public and cause social panic”.

Lunar New Year peak

Airfinity, an independent forecasting firm, has estimated daily Covid deaths in China will peak at around 36,000 deaths per day over the Lunar New Year holiday.

Before they were relaxed, China’s hardline zero-Covid policies including long lockdowns hammered its economy and sent hundreds onto the streets in protest.

Xi defended that strategy on Wednesday, insisting zero-Covid had been “the right choice” and had allowed the country to fight several outbreaks.

West Kowloon Station
Long queues of people waiting to buy high-speed rail tickets to mainland China at West Kowloon station on Jan. 12, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

China on Saturday reported almost 60,000 Covid-related deaths in just over a month, the first major toll released by authorities since the restrictions were eased.

But with mandatory testing scrapped last month, official statistics are no longer believed to accurately reflect the scale of the outbreak.

Airfinity also estimated that more than 600,000 people have died from the disease since China abandoned the zero-Covid policy.

The Britain-based research firm has said its model is based on data from China’s regional provinces before changes to reporting infections were implemented, combined with case growth rates from other former zero-Covid countries when they lifted restrictions.

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Hong Kong to stop isolating Covid-19 patients from January 30 https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/19/breaking-hong-kong-to-stop-isolating-covid-19-patients-from-january-30/ Thu, 19 Jan 2023 02:52:39 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413874 John Lee Covid-19 no quarantine featured imageHong Kong will no longer impose compulsory quarantine orders on Covid-19 patients from January 30, Chief Executive John Lee announced at the legislature on Thursday. The decision was made after considering a number of factors, including a “sturdy” level of hybrid immunity in society, as well as the lowered risk imposed to public health by […]]]> John Lee Covid-19 no quarantine featured image

Hong Kong will no longer impose compulsory quarantine orders on Covid-19 patients from January 30, Chief Executive John Lee announced at the legislature on Thursday.

The decision was made after considering a number of factors, including a “sturdy” level of hybrid immunity in society, as well as the lowered risk imposed to public health by the virus, said Lee.

Chief Executive John Lee attending the Legislative Council question and answer session on January 19, 2023.
Chief Executive John Lee attending the Legislative Council question and answer session on January 19, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

He added that resuming quarantine-free travel with mainland China had also not led to a significant increase in infections, and that the number of cases had decreased by 90 per cent from the height of around 30,000 cases to 3,000 cases on Wednesday.

Further details will be announced at a Health Bureau press conference on Thursday afternoon, Lee said.

Chief Executive John Lee attending the Legislative Council question and answer session on January 19, 2023.
Chief Executive John Lee attending the Legislative Council question and answer session on January 19, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Currently, Covid-19 patients can leave quarantine after testing negative on the fourth and fifth day after testing positive. While the city once required all Covid-19 patients to be isolated at government facilities, they can now quarantine at home.

The government’s management of the Covid-19 pandemic had to evolve to a new stage and a new mode, the chief executive said, as the capability of society and citizens to deal with the virus had increased significantly.

Chief Executive John Lee attending the Legislative Council question and answer session on January 19, 2023.
Chief Executive John Lee attending the Legislative Council question and answer session on January 19, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

“As the majority of cases are mild, the handling of the pandemic should move from a blanket mandatory [requirement] from the government to citizens deciding for themselves and taking responsibility,” said Lee.

The chief executive said that a new norm will be established step-by-step, where Covid-19 will be treated as an upper respiratory disease.

covid covid-19 quarantine tsing yi isolation
Tsing Yi Covid-19 quarantine facility. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Hong Kong reported 3,793 Covid-19 infections and 56 deaths on Wednesday. The city has recorded 2,884,006 cases and 12,965 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic almost three years ago.

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3 Hongkongers sentenced to up to 18 months of jail after accepting plea deal over riot case related to 2019 PolyU siege https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/19/3-hongkongers-sentenced-to-up-to-18-months-of-jail-after-accepting-plea-deal-over-riot-case-related-to-2019-polyu-siege/ Thu, 19 Jan 2023 00:00:00 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413838 Poly U protest sentencing featureA Hong Kong court has sentenced two protesters to 15 to 18 months in prison over their participation in a riot during the police siege of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in 2019. A third person was sentenced to a training centre, an alternative to jail for young offenders. Brian Leung Tsz-yeung, 26, Hui […]]]> Poly U protest sentencing feature

A Hong Kong court has sentenced two protesters to 15 to 18 months in prison over their participation in a riot during the police siege of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in 2019. A third person was sentenced to a training centre, an alternative to jail for young offenders.

Brian Leung Tsz-yeung, 26, Hui Ning-hin, 22, and Dick Cheung Tat-wing, 20, appeared in front of District Judge Stanley Chan on Wednesday morning.

District Court
The District Court. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Chan said that all three were “lucky” the prosecution had accepted a plea bargain and based the case on “a brief riotous moment” rather than the entire duration of the week-long campus siege.

The trio had earlier pleaded guilty to taking part in a riot near PolyU and the Hong Kong Science Museum on November 18, 2019, as their part of the plea bargain. Leung also pleaded guilty to possessing an instrument fit for unlawful purposes after he was found carrying a spanner.

In exchange for their guilty please, other charges pressed against them – including one count of rioting with others inside PolyU on November 17 and 18 – were kept on file.

The PolyU campus was occupied by pro-democracy protesters and surrounded by police for several days in the grip of the 2019 protests and unrest. Violent clashes erupted between the two sides, resulting in 300 hospitalisations and the arrests of 1,300.

According to Chan, the trio were among a group of protesters who attempted to escape the besieged campus in the morning of November 18.

tear gas poly-u umbrellas
Protester with umbrellas enshrouded with tear gas near Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Photo: Jimmy Lam/United Social Press

After some protesters hurled petrol bombs and other hard objects at the police and officers fought back with tear gas, the three and 14 others attempted to escape by hiding inside the Hong Kong Science Museum, but were later found and arrested by police.

The judge said the three were all young with good characters and no criminal records. “I think the trio became victims of a storm after being manipulated by others,” Chan added.

After considering the defendants’ mitigation submissions, the judge set the starting point of sentencing for Leung and Hui at two years in prison.

Because they did not enter guilty pleas initially, instead agreeing to a plea deal, both were given a one-quarter discount, reducing the sentence to 18 months in prison.

For Hui, Chan took a further three months off after considering the mitigation letters written by Hui’s parents and girlfriend, and the defendant’s promise to “never give up,” meaning Hui was handed a 15-month jail term.

PolyU protest
Protesters outside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong on November 17, 2019. Photo: Studio Incendo.

Meanwhile, Chan sentenced Cheung – who was only 17 at the time of the offence – to a training centre, where the minimum period of detention is six months and the maximum is three years, depending on conduct.

The judge said Cheung had made the “right decision” to return to Hong Kong from Taiwan in February 2021 to face his charge. “Even if the defendant had to be imprisoned for a few years, that would still be much better than spending the rest of his life in exile,” the judge added.

Four others who pleaded not guilty in the same case are currently on trial. Another co-defendant, Lee Ka-hei, had earlier pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a training centre.

Sticker with law firm contact

Included in an afterword to his reasons for sentencing, Chan said he was aware that there was a sticker on Cheung’s phone case when he was arrested that said, “Don’t be afraid, we are here,” with the number of Bond Ng Solicitors on it.

The judge said the message could have two implications: that someone had encouraged the defendants to go to the protest scene or the frontline, or that there was potential benefit from providing legal support to the protesters.

“I emphasise that there is no evidence suggesting the sticker was made by the law firm, nor that the firm gave it to the defendant,” Chan said, adding that he would not dig into the matter in the hearing of this case.

“But related authorities, including the Law Society of Hong Kong and the Legal Aid Department, can make their own decision on whether they would like to follow up,” he added.

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Zero-Covid left in dust as Chinese revellers fuel travel boom https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/19/zero-covid-left-in-dust-as-chinese-revellers-fuel-travel-boom/ Wed, 18 Jan 2023 16:24:00 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413944 covid tourismby Jing Xuan Teng Armed with selfie sticks and freshly recovered from Covid, Chinese tourists ambled through bar streets in the country’s backpacker haven of Dali, partying the stress of the past three years into oblivion. As Lunar New Year approaches, China is seeing a domestic travel boom after the government abruptly dismantled its longstanding zero-Covid strategy […]]]> covid tourism

by Jing Xuan Teng

Armed with selfie sticks and freshly recovered from Covid, Chinese tourists ambled through bar streets in the country’s backpacker haven of Dali, partying the stress of the past three years into oblivion.

dalin covid
This photo taken on January 14, 2023 shows people posing for photos in Dali town, a township-level division in Dali City, in China’s northwest of Yunnan province. Photo; Noel Celis/AFP.

As Lunar New Year approaches, China is seeing a domestic travel boom after the government abruptly dismantled its longstanding zero-Covid strategy last month.

“I feel so free,” said Hu, from Beijing, while visiting Dali in southwestern Yunnan province.

“As I was walking down the bar street, I heard someone singing a song I really like… I feel like everyone is so happy,” she told AFP last weekend.

Just two months ago, travelling involved navigating a maze of onerous restrictions and multiple testing requirements.

But now shuttered PCR testing booths dot the sidewalks of major cities like relics of a bygone era, some covered in a crust of disinfectant residue and others broken into by street cats.

While the first weeks of reopening saw millions get Covid, overwhelming hospitals and crematoriums, a recent slowdown in infections now has allowed many to take advantage of the loosening up.

Watering holes and street food stalls in Dali’s bustling old town were packed when AFP visited, the sounds of firecrackers punctuating the night as people celebrated the Kitchen God festival. 

dalin covid
This photo taken on January 14, 2023 shows people walking down the street in Dali town, a township-level division in Dali City, in China’s northwest of Yunnan province. Photo: Noel Celis/AFP.

Zhou Hua, a tourist from Chengdu visiting with his family, said he came to enjoy the mountain air and “clean out his lungs” after recovering from Covid.

“We’ve been stuck at home for three years already, so we rushed out here,” he said.

Similar scenes unfolded in Xishuangbanna prefecture, also in Yunnan province, famed for its temples and tropical landscape.

A line of visitors jostled to enter a crowded night market as a cacophony of pop songs blared from bars across the Lancang River, as the upper half of the Mekong is known in China.

Women in heavy makeup and outfits inspired by traditional dress stood on the banks as hired photographers snapped pictures. 

“No vacancy” signs hung on hotels in the main tourist district, and diners waited for up to an hour for tables at popular restaurants.

Adding to the travel rush is the heavy traffic traditionally seen before Lunar New Year.

Transport authorities predict more than two billion trips will be made during a 40-day period between January and February — nearly double the figure last year and 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

covid covid-19 microscope
Covid-19 under a microscope. File photo: NIAID.

Many fear that cases will surge as millions travel home, with China’s President Xi Jinping saying Wednesday he was “concerned” about the virus situation in the countryside.

But many locals AFP spoke to in Yunnan played down fears of an outbreak — and much of the infrastructure that sustained the zero-Covid policy was gone.

Along the province’s southern border with Myanmar, multiple Covid checkpoints used for testing drivers and goods stood abandoned when AFP visited last week.

Dusty road barriers were piled up haphazardly under a corrugated metal roof at one unstaffed facility near Yunnan’s Cangyuan county.

A sign for free PCR tests had fallen on the ground and workers had left two disinfectant-spraying machines in one cleared-out office room.

“Obey the pandemic’s commands,” large signs proclaimed at another checkpoint. 

“Prevention is our responsibility.”

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6 arrested by national security police over ‘seditious book’ sold at Hong Kong Lunar New Year fair https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/18/6-arrested-by-national-security-police-over-seditious-books-sold-at-hong-kong-lunar-new-year-fair/ Wed, 18 Jan 2023 05:50:06 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413765 Six people have been arrested by Hong Kong’s national security police over the production, publishing and sale of a “seditious” book on the 2019 protests and unrest. According to local media, three were apprehended during a raid of a Lunar New Year fair at Ginza Plaza in Mong Kok on Tuesday evening by officers from […]]]>

Six people have been arrested by Hong Kong’s national security police over the production, publishing and sale of a “seditious” book on the 2019 protests and unrest.

Mong Kok fair raid
The fair at Ginza Market, Mong Kok that was raided by national security police on January 17. Photo: Courtesy of CVRHK.

According to local media, three were apprehended during a raid of a Lunar New Year fair at Ginza Plaza in Mong Kok on Tuesday evening by officers from the National Security Department and Customs. The others were arrested in Kowloon and the New Territories.

Alan Keung Ka-wai, the founder of independent news outlet Free HK Media, was among those arrested, Ming Pao and state-backed paper Wenweipo reported.

During the police operation, officers also took down the identity of all stall holders and visitors at the fair.

The police said the six, aged 18 to 62, were “members of an anti-government organisation,” in a statement released on Tuesday evening.

Pastor Keung
Alan Keung Ka-wai, the founder of online outlet Free HK Media. Photo: Free HK Media, via Facebook.

The group was accused of producing and publishing a “seditious book about a series of riots that occurred in Hong Kong from June 2019 to February 2020,” and selling them at the Mong Kok fair between December and January.

“The book’s content advocates for Hong Kong independence, as well as incites others to overthrow the central authorities and Hong Kong’s government, use violence, and flout the law or any lawful orders,” the police said.

Police said they also found other products that “glorified violence or opposed the government” being sold at the same stall.

In total, officers collected 43 copies of the book in question after searching the homes of those arrested, and other related premises.

All six have been remanded in police custody.

'Seditious book' on 2019 protests
“Shame on you grocery store” said it is selling a book about the 2019 protests at the fair in question. Photo: shameonyougrocerystore, via Facebook.

Ming Pao and Wenweipo reported that the stall in question was operated by Shame On You Grocery Store. The seller said on its Facebook page that it was publishing a 400-page book about what happened from June 2019 to February 2020 and the publication was being sold at the fair from December 25.

Hong Kong’s sedition law saw its last amendment in the 1970s, when the city was still under British colonial rule. The maximum punishment for the offence is two years of imprisonment.

Independent fair scene

The Mong Kok fair, organised by Dare Media and Be Water Alliance, opened in December 2022 and was expected to operate throughout the Lunar New Year holiday until the end of January.

Mong Kok fair raid
The fair at Ginza Market, Mong Kok that was raided by national security police on January 17. Photo: Courtesy of CVRHK.

The Democratic Party was also selling products at the fair to support its members Wu Chi-wai, Lam Cheuk-ting and Andrew Wan. The trio are all in remand over a high-profile national security case, in which 47 pro-democracy activists have been accused of subversion over their roles in a election primary.

Similar independent fairs have popped up across the city in recent years as a substitute for dry goods stalls, which have been absent from Hong Kong’s largest seasonal markets – the Lunar New Year fairs – for four consecutive years.

In the past, products political and satirical products were a staple at Lunar New Year fairs.

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Hong Kong press group slams omission of lawmakers’ names from legislature meeting minutes https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/18/hong-kong-press-group-slams-omission-of-lawmakers-names-from-legislature-meeting-minutes/ Wed, 18 Jan 2023 05:45:08 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413771 LegCo meeting minutes anonymous featured imageHong Kong’s largest journalist group has criticised the legislature’s administrative office for removing the names of lawmakers from meeting minutes. It said the move could impact public understanding of official procedures and how the media reports on the Legislative Council. The change, first noted by Ming Pao, has been implemented since the seventh Legislative Council […]]]> LegCo meeting minutes anonymous featured image

Hong Kong’s largest journalist group has criticised the legislature’s administrative office for removing the names of lawmakers from meeting minutes. It said the move could impact public understanding of official procedures and how the media reports on the Legislative Council.

Legislative Council Chamber
The Legislative Council Chamber on November 23, 2022. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The change, first noted by Ming Pao, has been implemented since the seventh Legislative Council (LegCo) term began last January, although it is not clear exactly when. The current council was the first to be elected under an overhauled electoral system that was introduced to ensure “patriots” govern Hong Kong.

Under the new policy, the names of government officials and lawmakers who speak in panel or committee meetings have been replaced by “a member”, “members”, or “the administration.”

A snippet of the meeting minutes for a Public Works Subcommittee of the Finance Committee meeting on October 26, 2022, where the name of the lawmaker who spoke was omitted in the minutes, and replaced by "a member."
A snippet of the meeting minutes for a Public Works Subcommittee of the Finance Committee meeting on October 26, 2022, where the name of the lawmaker who spoke was omitted in the minutes, and replaced by “a member.” Photo: LegCo, via screenshot.

Previously, meeting minutes showed the named of the lawmaker and the title of the government officials.

A snippet of the meeting minutes for a Public Works Subcommittee of the Finance Committee meeting on December 21, 2016, where the name of the lawmaker who spoke was shown in the minutes.
A snippet of the meeting minutes for a Public Works Subcommittee of the Finance Committee meeting on December 21, 2016, where the name of the lawmaker who spoke was shown in the minutes. Photo: LegCo, via screenshot.

In a response to HKFP, the Legislative Council (LegCo) Secretariat, an office that provides administrative support to the legislature, said that the move was implemented to make it “more convenient” for the public, lawmakers, and government officials to grasp the rundown of LegCo panel meetings, as well as the key points and responses in discussions.

“Since the seventh Legislative Council, the secretariat has optimised how committee meeting minutes are prepared, in order to concisely summarise and organise the main points of speeches made by meeting attendees,” the LegCo Secretariat statement read.

Time stamps were included in an appendix for all meeting minutes, the statement added. By cross-referencing those time stamps with video coverage of meetings, it should be possible to infer who said what. The secretariat’s statement also said that meeting minutes would only be confirmed after being reviewed and voted on by all lawmakers present at the meeting in question.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association, in a statement on Tuesday, said that the new change would hinder the public’s right to know about legislative procedures and undermine people’s understanding of lawmakers’ work.

HKJA Hong Kong Journalists Association logo
Hong Kong Journalists Association. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

“Lawmakers’ speeches directly reflect their performance, and omitting their names will make it more difficult for the public to identity who said what. One one hand, that would make it more difficult for the public to hold lawmakers accountable, and therefore affect how voters may vote,” the association’s statement read.

“On the other hand, omitting lawmakers’ name will also hinder the media’s ability to report on the legislature, making it more difficult for [the media] to be the ‘fourth estate’ and monitor the operations of the government and the legislature.”

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Hong Kong Customs smash HK$6 billion laundering syndicate – highest on record https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/18/hong-kong-customs-smash-hk6-billion-laundering-syndicate-highest-on-record/ Wed, 18 Jan 2023 03:53:23 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413793 AFP customs featHong Kong Customs have smashed a money-laundering syndicate and operations centre worth HK$6 billion – the highest amount on record among such cases, according to the department. They arrested nine people and have sought to freeze HK$16 million of assets following the operation at a residential premises on January 5. “It was revealed that the […]]]> AFP customs feat

Hong Kong Customs have smashed a money-laundering syndicate and operations centre worth HK$6 billion – the highest amount on record among such cases, according to the department. They arrested nine people and have sought to freeze HK$16 million of assets following the operation at a residential premises on January 5.

Hong Kong Customs press conference
Hong Kong Customs press conference on Operation Hornet on Wednesday. Photo: Customs.

“It was revealed that the syndicate members had opened a number of personal and company bank accounts in various local banks to deal with large amounts of money with unknown sources between 2020 and 2022,” Customs said in a Wednesday press release.

Three men and six women aged between 39 and 68 were arrested for suspected laundering under the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance.

“The investigation also showed that the background and the financial status of the syndicate members were highly incommensurate with the large-value transactions recorded in their bank accounts,” Customs added. “They also rented a residential premises at a large private housing estate, which was suspected to be an operation centre for money-laundering activities.”

A licensed money changer, 10 residential premises and eight companies were raided, as officers seized around HK$3.9 million in cash, banknote counters, several mobile phones and computers, company chops, cheque books, bank cards and bank documents.

The nine were released on bail pending an investigation. The maximum penalty for laundering is HK$5 million and 14 years behind bars.

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Philippine Nobel laureate Maria Ressa acquitted of tax evasion https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/18/philippine-nobel-laureate-maria-ressa-acquitted-of-tax-evasion/ Wed, 18 Jan 2023 03:02:33 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413783 AFP Maria Ressa acquittedBy Mikhail Flores Philippine Nobel Prize winner Maria Ressa was on Wednesday acquitted of tax evasion, among a slew of charges she has long maintained are politically motivated, calling the verdict a victory for “truth”.   Ressa, who shared the Nobel with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov in 2021, still faces three other cases, including a […]]]> AFP Maria Ressa acquitted

By Mikhail Flores

Philippine Nobel Prize winner Maria Ressa was on Wednesday acquitted of tax evasion, among a slew of charges she has long maintained are politically motivated, calling the verdict a victory for “truth”.  

Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa
Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa looks on after she was acquitted of the tax evasion cases against her at the Court of Tax Appeals in Quezon City, Metro Manila on January 18, 2023. Photo: Jam Sta Rosa/AFP.

Ressa, who shared the Nobel with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov in 2021, still faces three other cases, including a cyber libel conviction now under appeal that could mean nearly seven years in prison.

“Today, facts win. Truth wins,” a teary-eyed and defiant Ressa told reporters outside the Manila courtroom after the court ruled on four government charges that she and her online media company Rappler had dodged taxes in a 2015 bond sale to foreign investors.

The tax court said prosecutors failed to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that Ressa and Rappler Holdings Corp. had evaded paying income taxes owed.

“These charges were politically motivated,” Ressa said Wednesday. “We were able to prove that Rappler is not a tax evader.”

Rodrigo Duterte
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo: Wikicommons.

The 59-year-old has been battling a series of cases that media advocates say were filed due to her vocal criticism of former president Rodrigo Duterte and his drug war, which claimed thousands of lives.

Ressa and Muratov were awarded the 2021 Nobel for their efforts to “safeguard freedom of expression”.

Asked what the tax court ruling meant, Ressa said: “Hope. That’s what it provides.”

In a statement, Rappler said: “An adverse decision would have had far-reaching repercussions on both the press and the capital markets … With you we will continue to #HoldTheLine” — a slogan used to symbolise their fight for press freedom.

An uncertain future

Despite the ruling, the future of Rappler, which Ressa founded in 2012, remains uncertain.

It is still fighting a Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission order to close it for allegedly violating a constitutional ban on foreign ownership in media. 

The news organisation, which remains operational, is accused of allowing foreigners to take control of its website through its parent company Rappler Holdings’ issuance of “depositary receipts”.

Under the constitution, investment in media is reserved for Filipinos or Filipino-controlled entities.

The case springs from a 2015 investment by the US-based Omidyar Network, established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.  

Omidyar later transferred its Rappler investment to the site’s local managers to stave off efforts by Duterte to shut it down.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos said in September he would not interfere in Ressa’s cases, citing the separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches of government.

Philippine President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos delivers his inaugural address in June 2022
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is sworn in as the 17th president of the Philippines. Photo: Rey Baniquet/Presidential Photo.

Shortly after Marcos took office last year, Ressa lost an appeal against a 2020 conviction for cyber libel.

Trouble for Ressa and Rappler began in 2016, when Duterte came to power and launched a drug war in which more than 6,200 people were killed in police anti-narcotics operations, official data shows.

Rights groups estimate tens of thousands were killed.

Rappler was among the domestic and foreign media outlets that published shocking images of the killings and questioned the crackdown’s legal basis.

Local broadcaster ABS-CBN — also critical of Duterte — lost its free-to-air licence, while Ressa and Rappler endured what press freedom advocates say was a grinding series of criminal charges, probes and online attacks. 

Duterte’s government said previously it had nothing to do with any of the cases against Ressa.

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Macau jails ‘junket king’ Alvin Chau for 18 years over fraud, illegal bets and criminal syndicate https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/18/macau-jails-junket-king-alvin-chau-for-18-years-over-fraud-illegal-bets-and-criminal-syndicate/ Wed, 18 Jan 2023 01:50:00 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413815 alvin chauby Holmes Chan Macau’s former “junket king” Alvin Chau was sentenced on Wednesday to 18 years in jail for running an illegal gambling empire, ending a criminal trial that shocked the casino hub and toppled one of its highest-profile gaming tycoons. The 48-year-old founder of Suncity Group pioneered the junket industry that brought high rollers […]]]> alvin chau

by Holmes Chan

Macau’s former “junket king” Alvin Chau was sentenced on Wednesday to 18 years in jail for running an illegal gambling empire, ending a criminal trial that shocked the casino hub and toppled one of its highest-profile gaming tycoons.

alvin chau
Policemen keep watch outside the courthouse in Macau on January 18, 2023, ahead of the arrival of the city’s former junket boss Alvin Chau for his expected verdict for running an illegal gambling empire. Photo: Peter Parks/AFP.

The 48-year-old founder of Suncity Group pioneered the junket industry that brought high rollers from mainland China to Macau, the only place in the country where casinos operate legally.

At its peak during the 2010s, junkets contributed the bulk of gaming revenue for the former Portuguese colony, which boasted a pre-pandemic casino industry bigger than Las Vegas.

Chau’s downfall coincided with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s years-long anti-corruption drive, which has included much closer scrutiny of corrupt officials who might travel to Macau to place bets and launder money.

Prosecutors charged Chau with 289 counts of fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling.

Judge Lou Ieng Ha on Wednesday found Chau guilty of fraud, running a criminal syndicate and operating illegal bets, but acquitted him on the money laundering charge.

Suncity under Chau’s leadership “conducted illegal gambling for unlawful gains for a long time”, she said in her ruling, and sentenced him to 18 years behind bars.

macau
Macau. Photo: El Freddy, via Flickr.

She also awarded damages of US$834 million to the Macau government and lesser sums to five casino operators, saying their revenue took a hit due to Suncity not declaring the full extent of its gains.

Illegal bets

The trial began in September and centred on alleged under-the-table bets worth HK$824 billion ($106 billion) over eight years, which defrauded Macau of tax revenue exceeding HK$1 billion.

Chau, who was charged alongside 20 co-defendants, was also accused of facilitating proxy betting for Chinese customers to gamble remotely in casinos based in Southeast Asia.

The defence acknowledged that under-the-table betting existed in Macau, but pointed to the lack of direct evidence implicating Chau, Suncity executives or employees.

Addressing the court in December, Chau said his company had never run into legal trouble in more than a decade of operating VIP rooms in casinos worldwide.

“I don’t know why [Suncity] is deemed a criminal syndicate,” Chau said, according to local media.

“My colleagues have not seen a cent of criminal proceeds up until now… We have never paid additional compensation for illegal acts.”

Pedro Leal, one of Chau’s lawyers, said after the Wednesday verdict that he believed there were grounds for appeal but needed to discuss further with his client.

“I think there’s a lack of evidence for the fraud and illegal gambling [charges],” he told reporters.

Chau’s legal woes began in November 2021 when authorities in the mainland city of Wenzhou issued a warrant for his arrest for running an illegal gambling syndicate.

Macau authorities then arrested him and other senior company executives two days later but chose to charge them locally, citing a concurrent investigation based in the city.

Money laundering

Macau has a separate legal system from the Chinese mainland, largely based on Portuguese law.

In September, a court in Wenzhou convicted 36 people related to Chau and Suncity based on allegations that partly overlapped with the Macau case.

Casinos Macau
Casinos in Macau. Photo: Wikicommons.

After the arrests, Suncity shut down all its VIP rooms and a number of casino operators followed suit, some also citing Covid-related business pressures.

It signalled a shift in Macau’s gaming industry as the government strengthened its regulatory muscle with Beijing’s backing, which took the form of a legal amendment last June.

Another high-profile junket boss Levo Chan, Chau’s onetime rival, is also being prosecuted separately for fraud, money laundering and running a criminal syndicate.

“The junket model was one of the prime movers for money laundering for as long as it was prominent,” gaming consultant David Green told AFP.

“The casinos themselves can’t afford to take the risk of being held jointly liable with the junkets for their misdemeanours.”

Shares in the city’s six casino operators edged higher in the afternoon, with Sands China up by over four percent after lunchtime.

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Chief Exec. John Lee says Hong Kong aims to drop all Covid curbs this year https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/18/chief-exec-john-lee-says-hong-kong-aims-to-drop-all-covid-curbs-this-year/ Wed, 18 Jan 2023 00:00:00 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413748 john leeHong Kong’s John Lee has said he hopes all Covid measures will be dropped in 2023, including the mask mandate. In an interview with Commercial Daily published on Tuesday, he said that a “full return to normal has always been my goal… I hope that there will be no Covid-19 curbs, including mask mandates.” Lee […]]]> john lee

Hong Kong’s John Lee has said he hopes all Covid measures will be dropped in 2023, including the mask mandate.

In an interview with Commercial Daily published on Tuesday, he said that a “full return to normal has always been my goal… I hope that there will be no Covid-19 curbs, including mask mandates.”

Chief Executive John Lee meeting the press on January 10, 2023
Chief Executive John Lee meeting the press on January 10, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Lee said he hoped “every problem will be solved” relating to the pandemic during the first quarter of 2023, though he gave no specific timetable on the compulsory mask order.

The chief executive added that the authorities would have to consider the capacity of the city’s medical services before allowing future relaxations: “We don’t want what we saw last March – during the fifth-wave outbreak – to happen all over again. Our healthcare system was overwhelmed, and because of that, the central government had to send people to offer aid.”

Nevertheless, Hong Kong once again has the highest Covid death rate in the world, according to Quartz. The city also had the most Covid deaths globally during its fifth wave, which health experts put down to low vaccination rates among elderly people, low rates of prior infection and an overwhelmed healthcare system.

Remaining restrictions

Whilst most Covid restrictions have been dropped, those failing to wear a mask still risk a HK$5,000 fine – a rule that has been in place since July 2020.

Last month, David Owens – a doctor and honorary clinical assistant professor in family medicine at the University of Hong Kong – told HKFP there was “no rational scientific argument for mask mandates, especially outdoors, at this stage of the pandemic.”

The city also enforces mandatory isolation orders for positive cases, with Covid-positive arrivals to the city risking a stint in a government camp unless they pay for a quarantine hotel.

Hong Kong has seen 2.8 million cases of Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic, and 12,909 related deaths, according to the government’s Covid dashboard on Tuesday.

Additional reporting: Peter Lee.

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Hong Kong journalist Bao Choy allowed to appeal conviction linked to Yuen Long attack documentary https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/17/hong-kong-journalist-bao-choy-allowed-to-appeal-conviction-linked-to-yuen-long-attack-documentary/ Tue, 17 Jan 2023 10:50:16 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413675 bao choy leave appeal featHong Kong’s top court will allow journalist Bao Choy to appeal her conviction over accessing car licence information for an investigative documentary about a mob attack in Yuen Long in July 2019. Speaking to reporters outside the Court of Final Appeal on Tuesday, Choy said the court’s decision that morning showed the belief that there […]]]> bao choy leave appeal feat

Hong Kong’s top court will allow journalist Bao Choy to appeal her conviction over accessing car licence information for an investigative documentary about a mob attack in Yuen Long in July 2019.

bao choy court of final appeal
Journalist Bao Choy outside the Court of Final Appeal on Jan. 17, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Speaking to reporters outside the Court of Final Appeal on Tuesday, Choy said the court’s decision that morning showed the belief that there were points of controversy worth discussing in her case, and which involved significant public interest.

“Whether I win or lose [the appeal]… the public already has a judgement in their hearts,” Choy said.

The journalist was found guilty in 2021 of making false statements to obtain vehicle records for a documentary she was producing for public broadcaster RTHK, the subject of which was the July 21, 2019, attack at Yuen Long MTR station, which took place amid widespread protests that year.

The incident saw dozens of white-shirted men, reportedly with triad affiliations, indiscriminately assault commuters and protesters returning from a demonstration that night.

In making the documentary, Choy and other producers used a public database to review records of vehicles suspected of transporting assailants and weapons to the site of the attack.

yuen long july 21 china extradition
The attack at Yuen Long MTR station on July 21, 2019. Photo: Screenshot.

Choy appealed her conviction at the High Court in August, but the judge upheld the guilty verdict.

The Court of Final Appeal will hear the journalist’s case on May 3, which is World Press Freedom Day.

Press freedom in decline

Choy’s defence is seeking to contend three aspects of her case – whether the purpose of applying for access to the public records is important, how “traffic and transport matters” is defined, and if Choy knew that her application was unrelated to traffic matters.

The appeal, overseen by Court of Final Appeal judges Robert Ribeiro, Joseph Fok, Johnson Lam, will be Choy’s last chance to overturn the conviction.

bao choy court of final appeal
Journalist Bao Choy outside the Court of Final Appeal on Jan. 17, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Press freedom in Hong Kong has come under the spotlight since Beijing passed a national security law in June 2020 in response to large-scale protests that began in the summer of 2019 against a proposed amendment to the city’s extradition bill.

In 2021, two major news outlets Apple Daily and Stand News – both known for their pro-democracy stance – closed down after their newsrooms were raided and staff arrested under national security and sedition charges.

Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which publishes an annual ranking of the press freedom situation globally, put Hong Kong at 148th place in 2022 – 68 spots lower than it had been the previous year. The watchdog ranks a total of 180 countries and territories.

The government, however, has said that press freedom is “respected and protected”, but that such rights are “not absolute.”

Correction 18/1/2023: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Bao Choy had spoken to reporters outside the Court of Final Appeal on Thursday, when it should have been Tuesday. We regret the error.

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Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific cabin crew union withdraws protest application ahead of planned industrial action https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/17/hong-kongs-cathay-pacific-cabin-crew-union-withdraws-protest-application-ahead-of-planned-industrial-action/ Tue, 17 Jan 2023 10:45:30 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413666 Cathay Pacific flight attendants union action featureAn application to hold a protest over work and pay conditions has been withdrawn by a cabin crew union of Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific. The demonstration was planned for Wednesday, a day before union members are set to begin industrial action after having reached “no consensus” with their employer. The Cathay Pacific Airways […]]]> Cathay Pacific flight attendants union action feature

An application to hold a protest over work and pay conditions has been withdrawn by a cabin crew union of Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific. The demonstration was planned for Wednesday, a day before union members are set to begin industrial action after having reached “no consensus” with their employer.

Cathay Pacific counter
An empty Cathay Pacific counter at Hong Kong’s airport. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union, which has 3,000 members, had applied to the police to hold an assembly at Cathay City, the airline’s headquarters, on Wednesday afternoon. A Sunday Facebook post about the rally said its purpose was to “arouse public attention and support so as to seek positive responses from the company.”

Grace Siu, the vice-chairperson of the union confirmed with HKFP on Tuesday afternoon that the proposed assembly will be cancelled.

“The Company does not consent to the proposed assembly taking place on its premises, FAU will not be able to obtain the ‘letter of no objection’ from the police authority,” Siu said.

She added that they had “no choice” but to withdraw their application for police approval, as they want to protect members from involvement in any unauthorised assembly.

The application marked the first attempt to host a public protest after Hong Kong scrapped its Covid-19 group gathering limit last month, almost three years after the measure was put in place in March 2020.

The police told HKFP on Tuesday that they received a notice from a group on January 11 about a public event they planned to host at the airport on Wednesday.

“The police are handling the related notice. The police carry out independent risk assessments for each public event notice received,” they said.

‘Work-to-rule’ action on Thursday

The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union warned it would take industrial action at a press conference on December 30. The union said the company had ignored their concerns over long working hours and manpower shortages since 2021.

On Monday night, the union announced on its Facebook page that it would start its “work-to-rule” campaign on Thursday – where members will only do what is stipulated by company policies and rules.

The union said it had requested to meet representatives of the airline on Tuesday, but management said they were only available on Thursday at the earliest.

“All the concerns mentioned are indeed discussed in the last year and there has been no consensus,” the post wrote.

The union attached guidelines to their industrial campaign with the announcement, urging its members to adopt work-to-rule and “fly only when you are 100% fit.”

Cathay’s promises

In response to HKFP’s enquiry, Cathay Pacific said it knew “roster building is not going to be perfected overnight with the many constraints we are still facing as we recover,” but it pledged to do “whatever is feasible” to relieve workloads.

“Many of the rostering issues raised previously have already been resolved for the January roster,” the company said, adding that improvements would continue in coming rosters.

Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union
The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union at a press conference on Dec. 30, 2022. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

The carrier said it had made several changes to the February roster released on Monday, including making flight distribution less clustered among cabin crew members. In addition, the airway also said it was confident it offered “competitive pay” for all positions.

“Cathay Pacific can assure our customers that our flight services will continue as scheduled and there is no need for concern,” it added.

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Hong Kong’s John Lee says some are using journalism as cover to ‘launder money,’ pursue political objectives https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/17/hong-kongs-john-lee-says-some-are-using-journalism-as-cover-to-launder-money-pursue-political-objectives/ Tue, 17 Jan 2023 09:00:21 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413726 John Lee Article 23 and fake news feature (Copy)Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee has said there are people using journalism as a cover to pursue political aims, personal benefit, or “launder money” in the city. The comment was made by the city’s leader and former security chief during an interview with state-backed newspaper Commercial Daily on Tuesday, when Lee said there were […]]]> John Lee Article 23 and fake news feature (Copy)

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee has said there are people using journalism as a cover to pursue political aims, personal benefit, or “launder money” in the city.

Chief Executive John Lee meeting the press on January 10, 2023
Chief Executive John Lee meeting the press on January 10, 2023. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The comment was made by the city’s leader and former security chief during an interview with state-backed newspaper Commercial Daily on Tuesday, when Lee said there were two layers to the issue of “fake news.”

The first was “harmful or false information,” Lee said, adding that he hoped this could be dealt with by self-regulation.

“If the industry is self-disciplined, and everyone produces their own operational guidelines and rules… that would be ideal,” Lee said.

The second kind of “fake news” was that which threatened national security, according to Lee.

He said while there have been “improvements in the media’s professionalism” since the implementation of the national security law, there were still some who worked under the guise of journalism to further their own aims.

media journalism press freedom
Reporters at a press conference. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“Some people are using journalistic work as a cover to do other things, including some with political objectives, or even personal aims… some fled the city after raising funds from the public, and cases of money laundering exist,” the chief executive added.

Lee did not provide any specific examples of such alleged activities.

Authorities are currently carrying out research for a proposed “fake news” law, with findings expected to be compiled by mid-2023.

Local security law

Lee also discussed the legislation of Article 23 – Hong Kong’s own security law.

“[I] hope the legislative work can be completed within this year, or next year at the latest,” he said.

National security law
File photo: GovHK.

Lee said the government already had a draft of the legislation, but added that he had requested the Security Bureau to prepare another after seeing “foreign forces continue with attempts to get involved or intervene with Hong Kong’s matters even after the conclusion of the black riots,” referring to the 2019 protests and unrest.

Lee said the second draft would focus on preventing “clandestine espionage activities,” block new methods of spying that arise from technological advancements, and plug loopholes introduced by new media. He did not specify how the law would legislate these areas.

In addition, the chief executive said there had been many “foreign agents” acting under the guise of different names, institutions or forums in Hong Kong.

“We have prosecuted many, while some closed down on their own and left immediately after, these are successful [examples].” Lee said.

He said the government’s next step would be to prevent foreign agents from entering the city in the first place, without specifying how he planned to do that.

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China’s economy grows at slowest pace in decades but beats forecasts https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/17/chinas-economy-grows-at-slowest-pace-in-decades-but-beats-forecasts/ Tue, 17 Jan 2023 07:31:20 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413759 AFP China 2022 economic growthBy Sébastien Ricci China’s economy grew last year at its slowest pace in four decades as it was hammered by Covid lockdowns and a property crisis but the forecast-beating reading raised hopes for a strong recovery as it reopens. Beijing’s rigid adherence to its zero-Covid strategy of strict containment that effectively shut the country off […]]]> AFP China 2022 economic growth

By Sébastien Ricci

China’s economy grew last year at its slowest pace in four decades as it was hammered by Covid lockdowns and a property crisis but the forecast-beating reading raised hopes for a strong recovery as it reopens.

Beijing central business district
A man walks past the Central Business District in Beijing on January 17, 2023. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP.

Beijing’s rigid adherence to its zero-Covid strategy of strict containment that effectively shut the country off from the world hammered business activity last year and threw supply chains offline, rattling the global economy.

The measures meant the growth came in at just three percent last year, the worst reading since a 1.6 percent contraction in 1976 — when Mao Zedong died — excluding pandemic-hit 2020.

National Bureau of Statistics official Kang Yi told reporters on Tuesday the world’s number-two economy had in 2022 “faced storms and rough waters in the global environment”, and warned “the foundation of domestic economic recovery is not solid as the international situation is still complicated and severe”.

The figure missed the government’s 5.5 percent target and was well down from the previous year but it was better than the 2.7 percent predicted in an AFP survey of analysts. The fourth-quarter reading also topped forecasts, providing some optimism for 2023.

Apple store Shanghai iPhone
An Apple store in Shanghai, China. File Photo: Wikicommons.

Retail sales shrank just 1.8 percent in December, compared with the 9.0 percent estimated, as the lifting of restrictions allowed consumers to go back to the high street.

Industrial output and fixed-asset investment also beat expectations, while unemployment fell last month from November.

“The good news is that there are now signs of stabilisation, as policy support doled out towards the end of 2022 is showing up in the relative resilience of infrastructure investment and credit growth,” Louise Loo, Senior Economist at Oxford Economics, said in a note.

‘Zero-Covid’ scrapped

China’s economic woes last year sent reverberations across a global supply chain already struggling with waning demand caused by surging inflation and central bank interest rate hikes.

Strict lockdowns, quarantines and compulsory mass testing prompted the abrupt closures of manufacturing facilities and businesses in major hubs — including Zhengzhou, home of the world’s biggest iPhone factory.

Beijing abruptly loosened pandemic restrictions in December in the wake of some of the biggest protests in years but the move has sent infections soaring across the country, sparking concerns about the near-term effects on the economy.

The World Bank has forecast China’s GDP will rebound to 4.3 percent in 2023 — still below expectations.

Problems in the property industry are also still weighing on growth. 

The sector, which along with construction accounts for more than a quarter of China’s GDP, has been hit hard since Beijing started cracking down on excessive borrowing and rampant speculation in 2020.

The regulatory tightening marked the beginning of financial worries for Evergrande, the former Chinese number one in real estate that is now struggling with a mountain of debt. 

china housing property evergrande
Residential buildings developed by Evergrande in Henan, China. Photo: Wikicommons.

Real estate sales have since fallen in many cities and many developers are struggling to survive.

But the government appears to be taking a more conciliatory approach to reviving the sector.

Measures to promote “stable and healthy” development were announced in November, including credit support for indebted developers and assistance for deferred-payment loans for homebuyers.

Jing Liu, chief economist for Greater China at HSBC, said the “normalisation path is likely to be bumpy”, warning of a “big setback in the near term” followed by a strong rebound.

“The roll-out of a series of measures to ensure sufficient funding support to developers and revive housing demand will also help to stabilise the property sector,” she said.

But Chaoping Zhu, of JP Morgan Asset Management, sounded a note of optimism, saying in a note: “Looking forward, we expect to see a sustained economic recovery in 2023 as a result of reopening and policy stimulus.

“Service sectors should be the early beneficiary when pent-up demand is released.”

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said: “As we look towards 2023, we could see a sharp rebound over the next quarter as we look towards Chinese New Year in just under two weeks’ time.”

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Another defendant in Hong Kong’s 47 democrats national security case to plead guilty, as trial delayed by a week https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/17/another-defendant-in-hong-kongs-47-democrats-national-security-case-to-plead-guilty-as-trial-delayed-by-a-week/ Tue, 17 Jan 2023 05:14:20 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413678 47 democrats case management featureA defendant in the high-profile national security case involving 47 Hong Kong democrats has indicated that he would like to change his plea, as the trial received a revised start date of February 6, a week later than scheduled. Mike Lam, founder of retail chain AbouThai, said on Tuesday through his barrister Alain Sham that […]]]> 47 democrats case management feature

A defendant in the high-profile national security case involving 47 Hong Kong democrats has indicated that he would like to change his plea, as the trial received a revised start date of February 6, a week later than scheduled.

Mike Lam
Mike Lam. File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Mike Lam, founder of retail chain AbouThai, said on Tuesday through his barrister Alain Sham that he would plead guilty to the charge of conspiracy to commit subversion.

According to the prosecution, led by Anthony Chau, Lam might also give evidence in court. Apart from Lam, another 30 defendants have pleaded guilty in the case.

While the prosecution initially wanted to set another date to confirm Lam’s plea, the panel of judges ruled that the businessman’s plea will be confirmed on the first day of the trial.

The pre-trial review on Tuesday was heard by three High Court judges, Andrew Chan, Alex Lee, and Johnny Chan at the West Kowloon Law Courts Building. Lee recently replaced Judge Wilson Chan after the latter said he was retiring from the trial on health reasons.

The 47 pro-democracy figures have been accused of conspiring to commit subversion under the Beijing-imposed national security law over their roles in an unofficial primary election in July 2020 ahead of the Legislative Council poll, which was later postponed.

Most of the defendants have been remanded in custody for close to two years after being detained in late February ahead of a four-day marathon bail hearing in March 2021. Lam is among the 13 defendants currently out on bail.

Bail applications in national security cases have to go through a stricter assessment. Judges consider not only the defendant’s risk of absconding or obstructing justice, but also whether there are sufficient grounds for believing they “will not continue to commit acts endangering national security.”

‘Preserving the integrity’ of the trial

Chau on Tuesday said that the prosecution would present five or six witnesses, and that the 90 days scheduled for the trial should be sufficient, even though not all of the defendants had agreed to a single summary of the facts.

The lawyers of some defendants asked the judges to allow their clients to use electronic devices in the dock to review the evidence, which will be provided in electronic form, and take notes. The judges said they would decide on the matter later.

West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts
West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Defence barrister Steven Kwan applied to block the three judges from reading the materials provided by the prosecution to the defence. If the case were to be heard by a jury, the materials would be given to the judge presiding over proceedings but not members of the jury.

As the jury in the 47 democrats case has been replaced with a panel of judges on national security grounds, Kwan reasoned that the materials should not be made available to “preserve the integrity” of the trial.

The judges, however, denied Kwan’s application, saying that they were “professional.”

Trials at the High Court usually are heard by a jury. However, under the national security law, a jury could be excluded under reasons such as the need to protect state secrets or the safety of members of the jury and their families.

Some of the defendants who have pleaded guilty to the subversion charge, including Joshua Wong, Lester Shum, and ex-chairperson of the Democratic Party Wu Chi-wai, also appeared in court on Tuesday.

People sitting in the public gallery stood up and waved as the defendants entered and left the dock, with some shouting “Happy New Year!” Sunday marks the first day of the Lunar New Year.

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Hong Kong will have a bright future if it stays on the right course, new head of Beijing’s office in city says https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/17/hong-kong-will-have-a-bright-future-if-it-stays-on-the-right-course-new-head-of-beijings-office-in-city/ Tue, 17 Jan 2023 03:00:00 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413613 Zheng Yanxiong assumes office featured imageHong Kong will have a bright future if the city stays on the right course, Zheng Yanxiong, the newly appointed head of Beijing’s office in Hong Kong, has said. Zheng assumed office on Monday, replacing Luo Huining as the head of the central government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong. The hardliner was previously the head […]]]> Zheng Yanxiong assumes office featured image

Hong Kong will have a bright future if the city stays on the right course, Zheng Yanxiong, the newly appointed head of Beijing’s office in Hong Kong, has said.

Zheng assumed office on Monday, replacing Luo Huining as the head of the central government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong.

Zheng Yanxiong meeting the press outside Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong on January 16, 2023.
Zheng Yanxiong meeting the press outside Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong on January 16, 2023. Photo: China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong.

The hardliner was previously the head of the Central Government’s Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong. Prior to his appointment to Hong Kong, Zheng served in local government in Guangdong province.

While there, Zheng crushed anti-corruption protests that erupted in a Guangdong village in 2011, after the death of an activist in police custody.

Hong Kong’s national security office was established with the implementation of the Beijing-imposed law that criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure.

The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China.

However, the central government, as well as the Hong Kong administration, have credited the legislation for bringing the city “from chaos to order” and “advancing to prosperity.”

Zheng Yanxiong (right) meeting with Luo Huining (left).
Zheng Yanxiong (right) meeting with Luo Huining (left). Photo: China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong.

Speaking to reporters outside the liaison office in Sai Wan, the newly appointed chief said that as long as Hong Kong “does not make a mess of itself, [and] stays on the right course,” the city will have a great future.

Zheng also thanked China’s leader Xi Jinping, his predecessor Luo, and “Hong Kong workers,” as well as expressing gratitude for the support of the city’s various sectors.

The newly appointed official also said that he would try his best to become a director who “knows Hong Kong, loves Hong Kong, and [works] for the good of Hong Kong.”

“[I will] speak more for Beijing in Hong Kong, and more for Hong Kong in Beijing,” said Zheng.

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Office for Safeguarding National Security of the CPG in the HKSAR

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China population shrinks for first time in over 60 years https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/17/china-population-shrinks-for-first-time-in-over-60-years/ Tue, 17 Jan 2023 02:45:31 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413667 AFP China population shrinksBy Ludovic Ehret China’s population shrank last year for the first time in more than six decades, official data showed Tuesday, as the world’s most populous nation faces a looming demographic crisis. The nation of 1.4 billion has seen birth rates plunge to record lows as its workforce ages, in a rapid decline that analysts […]]]> AFP China population shrinks

By Ludovic Ehret

China’s population shrank last year for the first time in more than six decades, official data showed Tuesday, as the world’s most populous nation faces a looming demographic crisis.

An elderly man stands at a bus stop in Beijing on September 19, 2022.
An elderly man stands at a bus stop in Beijing on September 19, 2022. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP.

The nation of 1.4 billion has seen birth rates plunge to record lows as its workforce ages, in a rapid decline that analysts warn could stymie economic growth and pile pressure on strained public coffers.

The population stood at around 1,411,750,000 at the end of 2022, Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported Tuesday, a decrease of 850,000 from the end of the previous year.

The number of births was 9.56 million, the NBS said, while the number of deaths was 10.41 million.

The last time China’s population declined was in 1960, as the country battled the worst famine in its modern history, caused by the disastrous Mao Zedong agricultural policy known as the Great Leap Forward.

China ended its strict “one-child policy” — imposed in the 1980s owing to fears of overpopulation — in 2016 and began allowing couples to have three children in 2021.

But that has failed to reverse the demographic decline.

one child policy two
Family with one child. Photo: Wikimedia.

Many point to the soaring cost of living — as well as a growing number of women in the workforce and seeking higher education — as being behind the slowdown.

Chinese people are also “getting used to the small family because of the decades-long one-child policy”, Xiujian Peng, a researcher at Australia’s University of Victoria, told AFP.

“The Chinese government has to find effective policies to encourage birth, otherwise, fertility will slip even lower,” she added.

Many local authorities have already launched measures to encourage couples to have children. 

The southern megacity of Shenzhen, for example, now offers a birth bonus and allowances paid until the child is three years old.

Yuen Long Kai Shan Shenzhen New Territories
The view from Kai Shan at Yuen Long. Across the harbour is the Chinese city of Shenzhen. Photo: GovHK.

A couple who has their first baby will automatically receive 3,000 yuan ($444), an amount that rises to 10,000 yuan for their third.

In the country’s east, the city of Jinan has since January 1 paid a monthly stipend of 600 yuan for couples that have a second child.

Independent demographer He Yafu also points to “the decline in the number of women of childbearing age, which fell by five million per year between 2016 and 2021” — a consequence of the ageing of the population.

“A declining and ageing population will be a real concern for China,” Peng said.

“It will have a profound impact on China’s economy from the present through to 2100.”

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Sedition trial against Hong Kong outlet Stand News adjourned again at prosecution’s request https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/16/sedition-trial-against-hong-kong-outlet-stand-news-adjourned-again-at-prosecutions-request/ Mon, 16 Jan 2023 11:24:49 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413604 Stand News 2023 day 21The sedition trial against defunct Hong Kong independent outlet Stand News was adjourned until Thursday afternoon after the prosecution found issue with the time frame being referred to by the defence. Chung Pui-kuen, Stand News’ former chief editor, and Patrick Lam, the outlet’s former acting chief editor, appeared before Judge Kwok Wai-kin in the District […]]]> Stand News 2023 day 21

The sedition trial against defunct Hong Kong independent outlet Stand News was adjourned until Thursday afternoon after the prosecution found issue with the time frame being referred to by the defence.

Chung Pui-kuen, Stand News’ former chief editor, and Patrick Lam, the outlet’s former acting chief editor, appeared before Judge Kwok Wai-kin in the District Court on Monday. Both stand accused – along with the outlet’s parent company Best Pencil Limited – of conspiring to publish “seditious” articles from 2020 to 2021.

Stand News Chung Pui-kuen
Chung Pui-kuen on January 16, 2023. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Giving his testimony last week, Chung told the court about his views on the 2019 protests and unrest, saying that Hongkongers were calling for democracy and freedom, not values related to economy or welfare.

Explaining the context behind 17 articles that have been accepted as evidence in the trial, Chung said: “You can see how Hongkongers were afraid of losing freedom.”

List of the 17 selected articles – Click to see
  1. Profile of Gwyneth Ho, a candidate in the 2020 legislative primaries held by the pro-democracy camp, published on July 7, 2020.
  2. Profile of Owen Chow, a candidate in the 2020 legislative primaries held by the pro-democracy camp, published on July 27, 2020.
  3. Profile of Fergus Leung, a candidate in the 2020 legislative primaries held by the pro-democracy camp, published on August 12, 2020.
  4. Commentary by Chan Pui-man, Apple Daily’s former associate publisher, criticising speech crimes, published on September 12, 2020.
  5. Commentary by Nathan Law, a former lawmaker now in self-exile, on “how to resist” under the national security law, published on September 20, 2020.
  6. Profile of Law on his “battlefront” of calling for sanctions on the Hong Kong government in the UK, published on December 9, 2020.
  7. Commentary by Law on “resilience in a chaotic world,” published on December 13, 2020.
  8. Feature interview with Ted Hui, a former lawmaker in self-exile, after he fled Hong Kong with his family, published on December 14, 2020.
  9. Feature interview with Baggio Leung, a former lawmaker in self-exile, as he called for sanctions on Hong Kong and a “lifeboat scheme for Hongkongers,” published on December 15, 2020.
  10. Commentary by Sunny Cheung, an activist in self-exile, responding to being wanted by the Hong Kong government, published on December 28, 2020.
  11. Commentary by Allan Au, a veteran journalist, on “new words in 2020,” which included “national security,” “disqualified” and “in exile,” published on December 29, 2020.
  12. Commentary by Au calling a national security trial a show, published on February 3, 2021.
  13. Commentary by Law paralleling the mass arrests of candidates in the democrats’ primaries to mass arrests during Taiwan’s white terror period, published on March 2, 2021.
  14. Commentary by Au accusing the authorities of “lawfare” in usage of the sedition law, published on June 1, 2021.
  15. Commentary by Au describing Hong Kong as a disaster scene after the implementation of national security law, published on June 22, 2021.
  16. Feature about CUHK graduates’ march on campus to mourn the second anniversary of the police-student clash in 2019, published on November 11, 2021.
  17. Report on Chow Hang-tung’s response to being honoured with the Prominent Chinese Democracy Activist award, published on December 5, 2021.

After hearing Chung’s testimony, lead prosecutor Laura Ng said on Monday that she did not intend to start her round of questioning because of the differences in the contextual time frames being discussed by the defence and the prosecution.

Stand News dec 28 homepaeg
Stand News’ home page on December 28, 2021, a day before it was shut down. The headlining story was about Apple Daily news executives given an additional charge of conspiracy to publish seditious materials, the same charge it now faces. Photo: Wayback Machine.

Ng proposed further discussing the trial timetable on Thursday, and requested more days to be scheduled for the trial.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” defence counsel Audrey Eu said, in response to Ng’s proposal. She said that although both defendants were on bail, they were unable to work during the trial. Furthermore, it was not ideal for the case to be adjourned too many times, especially with another long holiday coming up. The Lunar New Year will begin on Sunday, followed by three days of public holidays.

The trial was initially scheduled to begin on October 31 last year and last for 20 days. However, the trial was halted after it was discovered that over 500 Stand News’ articles had been archived by national security police, leading to an application by the defence to terminate the trial – which was later rejected.

Stand News Chung pui-kuen Patrick Lam
Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam on December 13, 2022. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Kwok approved the prosecution’s request to adjourn, but asked Ng to prepare for her round of questioning on Thursday.

‘Confidence’ in Stand News

Before Eu finished her round of questioning with Chung on Monday morning, Chung told the court he believed the interviewees of the 17 articles, including candidates of the 2020 democrats’ primary – 47 of whom have since been charged under the national security law – did not intend to incite anyone.

“I believe they, as political figures, sincerely believed what they said in the articles. As a media outlet, we did not have any seditious intent, either… Yet, we could not ignore their political stances just because they could be illegal. That is not what the media should do,” Chung said.

When asked if Stand News had “glorified” or “demonised” figures in its reports, Chung said the outlet had been ranked Hong Kong’s third-most credible news outlet in research conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2019, adding that lawmakers like Priscilla Leung and Regina Yip were willing to answer their enquiries despite the outlet’s short history.

“I believe it’s because they had confidence that we wouldn’t distort their replies,” he said.

Stand News acting editor-in-chief Patrick Lam was arrested by national security police on Wednesday.
Stand News acting editor-in-chief Patrick Lam was arrested by national security police on Wednesday. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Judge Kwok last week asked whether an op-ed on “10 steps to mutual destruction” by scholar and activist Benny Tai should be taken into consideration in the trial. Like many of the articles accepted as evidence, Tai’s was related to the 47 arrested democrats.

Eu, however, said the shuttered news outlet had never published the piece or any news write-up related to it, and the trial should focus instead on the existing 17 articles admitted as evidence.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

The anti-sedition legislation, which was last amended in the 1970s when Hong Kong was still under British colonial rule, falls under the city’s Crimes Ordinance. It is separate from the Beijing-imposed national security law, and outlaws incitement to violence, disaffection and other offences against the authorities.

Non-profit online news outlet Stand News ceased operations last December after its newsroom was raided by more than 200 national security police officers. Seven people connected to the publication – including Chung and Lam – were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to publish seditious publications. They were both granted bail after being held in custody for nearly a year.

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Hong Kong Bar Assoc. chief urges use of legal power with ‘caution’ following Beijing interpretation https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/16/hong-kong-bar-assoc-chief-urges-use-of-legal-power-with-caution-following-beijing-interpretation/ Mon, 16 Jan 2023 10:15:45 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413605 New Legal year featureThe Hong Kong Bar Association has urged the authorities to exercise the power confirmed by Beijing’s recent interpretation of the security law with ‘caution’ during the opening of the new legal year. The city’s justice minister and a solicitors group defended Beijing’s recent ruling, saying that it had not granted new powers to the chief […]]]> New Legal year feature

The Hong Kong Bar Association has urged the authorities to exercise the power confirmed by Beijing’s recent interpretation of the security law with ‘caution’ during the opening of the new legal year.

The city’s justice minister and a solicitors group defended Beijing’s recent ruling, saying that it had not granted new powers to the chief executive or national security authorities. The city’s courts were also urged not to “usurp” the legal functions of other government organs.

Chief Justice Andrew Cheung
Chief Justice Andrew Cheung attends the Ceremonial Opening of Legal Year 2023 on January 16. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Speaking at the Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year 2023, Chief Justice Andrew Cheung said the courts must respect and uphold Hong Kong’s constitutional order under China’s Constitution.

The courts were duty bound to fully exercise their power under the Basic Law and other Hong Kong legislations, Cheung said.

“However, it is equally important that they do not usurp the functions, powers or jurisdiction vested in other organs or bodies under the Basic Law, or… the Constitution, or to purport to exercise judicial power that they have not been conferred with,” he added.

Interpretation of security law

The Chairperson of the Hong Kong Bar Association Victor Dawes said Beijing’s first interpretation of the national security law last month “understandably prompted discussions about the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong.”

Following four failed attempts by the government to block the admission of King’s Counsel Timothy Owen in the high-profile national security case against media mogul Jimmy Lai, China’s top law-making body interpreted the national security law after being invited to do so by Chief Executive John Lee.

Hong Kong Bar Association Victor Dawes
The Chairperson of the Hong Kong Bar Association Victor Dawes speaks at the Ceremonial Opening of Legal Year 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The interpretation confirmed that the chief executive and a national security committee had the power to decide whether a foreign counsel not qualified to practice in Hong Kong could participate in national security cases.

Dawes said the exercise of any power by the city’s leader or the committee had important ramifications on “the right to be legally represented, the right to a fair trial, and the perception of fairness in a trial,” which he said are “cornerstone features of our legal system.”

“We urge and expect the Chief Executive and the Committee to exercise their power with great caution and restraint, with these fundamental matters in close view,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Secretary for Justice Paul Lam said suggestions that the interpretation had expanded the powers of the city’s leader or the committee and put them “above the law” were “plainly wrong and misconceived.”

Secretary for Justice Paul Lam
Secretary for Justice Paul Lam speaks at the Ceremonial Opening of Legal Year 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

“The Interpretation is, by definition, a clarification of the original intent and purpose of those provisions; it does not confer any new power on anyone,” Lam added.

Echoing Lam, the President of The Law Society of Hong Kong Chan Chak-ming said the interpretation was a “good example” of the authorities’ commitment to faithfully implementing “One Country, Two Systems” within the Basic Law.

Chan said Beijing’s recent interpretation of the security law “provided procedural guidance on existing provisions” and left the handling of the case “entirely in the remit of the judiciary.”

Public criticism

Addressing public criticism of the judiciary, Chief Justice Cheung said it was “wrong to criticise a judge simply for applying laws which one does not like or agree with,” as “laws are not enacted by judges.”

Chief Justice Andrew Cheung
Chief Justice Andrew Cheung attends the Ceremonial Opening of Legal Year 2023 on January 16. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Cheung said that judges in Hong Kong have handled cases attracting public or international attention “with great professionalism,” irrespective of whether they were designated as national security judges.

The chief justice added that some views on court decisions might stem from “an inadequate understanding of the adjudication process.”

During his speech, Dawes said many members of the Bar Association had taken up “sensitive and difficult” criminal cases in the past few years.

Chan Chak-ming, The Law Society of Hong Kong
Chan Chak-ming, the president of The Law Society of Hong Kong speaks at the Ceremonial Opening of Legal Year 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The leader of the barristers group said it was “unfortunate” that these lawyers were criticized because of their role in defending such clients.

He said the public must appreciate that lawyers were required to appear in court “not because of any sympathy on their part with the aims or methods of the accused,” but their professional duty.

Overseas non-permanent judges

The judiciary announced on Friday that retired justice of the High Court of Australia Patrick Keane had been recommended as an overseas non-permanent judge at the city’s Court of Final Appeal.

Two British judges – Lord Robert Reed and Lord Patrick Hodge – resigned from the top court last year, citing security law concerns.

Ceremonial Opening of Legal Year 2023
The Ceremonial Opening of Legal Year 2023 on January 16. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Dawes said Keane agreeing to join Hong Kong’s judiciary “is a clear vote of confidence to our apex court.”

Speaking on behalf of The Law Society of Hong Kong, Chan also said they were grateful to all judicial officers and overseas non-permanent judges serving in Hong Kong’s courts.

“In recent years, attempts to politicise some of the court’s work have presented challenges to the perception of judicial independence,” Chan said.

“Their support speaks louder than words about the respect they have for the commitment of Hong Kong’s judiciary to the rule of law and judicial independence,” he added.

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In Pictures: 8,500 take high-speed trains between Hong Kong, mainland China as service restarts after 3-year Covid hiatus https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/16/in-pictures-8500-take-high-speed-trains-between-hong-kong-mainland-china-as-service-restarts-after-3-year-covid-hiatus/ Mon, 16 Jan 2023 05:28:18 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413548 high speed rail first day featAlmost 8,500 people travelled on the high-speed railway between Hong Kong and mainland China on Sunday, the first day of the service restarting after a three-year Covid hiatus. West Kowloon Station, the Hong Kong terminus, saw eager travellers stream in and out throughout the day. Travellers told local media their journeys were smooth, with manageable […]]]> high speed rail first day feat

Almost 8,500 people travelled on the high-speed railway between Hong Kong and mainland China on Sunday, the first day of the service restarting after a three-year Covid hiatus.

west kowloon station high speed rail border reopening
West Kowloon station on Jan. 16, 2023, the first day of high-speed rail services between Hong Kong and the mainland resuming. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

West Kowloon Station, the Hong Kong terminus, saw eager travellers stream in and out throughout the day. Travellers told local media their journeys were smooth, with manageable wait times and minimal crowds.

Immigration Department figures from Sunday showed that 4,719 people arrived in Hong Kong through the border checkpoint located at West Kowloon Station, while 3,729 exited to travel north. The total number of passengers – 8,448 – fell short of the daily 10,000-person limit.

Some shops and restaurants at the station remain closed.

west kowloon station high speed rail border reopening
West Kowloon station on Jan. 16, 2023, the first day of high-speed rail services between Hong Kong and the mainland resuming. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Ticket sales for the high-speed railway resumed on Thursday, with up to 5,000 tickets a day each way. There are currently 38 trains departing from Hong Kong daily in the initial stages of the resumption, allowing passengers to travel to Shenzhen, Dongguan and Guangzhou.

Tickets to the mainland have largely sold out for the next two weeks, which covers the Lunar New Year holiday. Routes to Guangzhou East, Guangzhou South, Dongguan and Dongguan South stations are among those that are unavailable until the last Sunday of the month, the China Railway website showed.

west kowloon station high speed rail border reopening
West Kowloon station on Jan. 16, 2023, the first day of high-speed rail services between Hong Kong and the mainland resuming. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Routes to Hong Kong, however, offered more availability.

Opened in 2018, the West Kowloon station became the latest border checkpoints to reopen since quarantine-free travel was restarted between Hong Kong and mainland China last Sunday. China’s border reopening comes amid a nationwide surge in Covid infections after Beijing speedily axed anti-epidemic restrictions.

Almost 60,000 Covid-related deaths were recorded in just over a month, the first official toll released by authorities since restrictions were loosened.

west kowloon station high speed rail border reopening
West Kowloon station on Jan. 16, 2023, the first day of high-speed rail services between Hong Kong and the mainland resuming. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Currently, people in mainland China can travel to Hong Kong via land ports including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, Shenzhen Bay, Lok Ma Chau and Man Kam To, the latter two of which were restarted last week, in addition to by flying in or taking ferries.

west kowloon station high speed rail border reopening
West Kowloon station on Jan. 16, 2023, the first day of high-speed rail services between Hong Kong and the mainland resuming. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

While quarantine requirements have been dropped, people travelling in either direction must still obtain a negative result from a Covid-19 PCR test taken within 48 hours of departure.

‘On the road to normalcy’

A number of lawmakers who boarded the high-speed train in Hong Kong on Sunday praised the service’s efficiency. They also called on authorities to increase the frequency of trains, as well as the number of destinations served.

west kowloon station high speed rail border reopening
West Kowloon station on Jan. 16, 2023, the first day of high-speed rail services between Hong Kong and the mainland resuming. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Lawmaker Andrew Lam wrote in a Sunday evening post that it was his first time in Guangzhou in three years.

“Hong Kong is embarking on the road to normalcy. Different checkpoints are about to be fully reopened… [I] hope the high-speed rail can resume its medium- and long-haul services to make it more convenient for citizens to travel to and from the mainland,” Lam said.

Legislator Michael Tien urged the government to increase the number of available tickets from 5,000 to 8,000 per day from Wednesday leading up to Lunar New Year.

west kowloon station high speed rail border reopening
West Kowloon station on Jan. 16, 2023, the first day of high-speed rail services between Hong Kong and the mainland resuming. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Tien added that the high-speed rail service to the new Guangdong East station was “not very high speed,” taking up to an hour and 50 minutes – a duration he said was similar to the MTR’s intercity passenger service that used to depart from Hung Hom station. The intercity trains have been suspended since Covid-19, and will not be restarted, local media reported.

The lawmaker said authorities could consider setting up an express route with fewer stops to Guangdong East.

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Chinese tech giant Tencent fires more than 100 for fraud, embezzlement https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/16/chinese-tech-giant-tencent-fires-more-than-100-for-fraud-embezzlement/ Mon, 16 Jan 2023 05:10:42 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413659 AFP TencentChinese tech giant Tencent said Monday it had fired more than a hundred employees for violating company policies, with some referred to police and later found guilty of bribery and embezzlement. The Hong Kong-listed company is the world’s top video game maker and the owner of popular super-app WeChat but has struggled under a broad […]]]> AFP Tencent

Chinese tech giant Tencent said Monday it had fired more than a hundred employees for violating company policies, with some referred to police and later found guilty of bribery and embezzlement.

The Hong Kong-listed company is the world’s top video game maker and the owner of popular super-app WeChat but has struggled under a broad regulatory crackdown on China’s tech sector initiated in late 2020.

A man walking past the Tencent headquarters in Shenzhen, in China's southern Guangdong province
A man walking past the Tencent headquarters in Shenzhen, in China’s southern Guangdong province, on July 10, 2022. Photo: Jade Gao/AFP.

In a statement, the firm — which in November posted its second consecutive quarterly decline in revenue — said it had found more than 100 employees guilty of violating its anti-fraud policy.

More than 10 were transferred to China’s public security organ, it added.

“In response to the problems of corruption and fraud within the company, Tencent’s Anti-Fraud Investigation Department continued to strengthen its crackdown and investigated and dealt with a series of violations with common problems,” the firm said. 

“The number of cases and personnel investigated and dealt with throughout 2022 has increased compared with 2021,” it added.

Those accused were found to have embezzled company funds and accepting bribes, it added, with a number referred to police and some found guilty in court.

A number of those fired and accused of corruption were part of the company’s PCG arm, which oversees its mammoth content output from news to sports and movies.

wechat
WeChat. File photo: Wikicommons.

But they also span Tencent’s other businesses, including cloud computing and fintech.

Most notably, one employee was found guilty of “accepting bribes from non-state employees” and sentenced to three years in jail, the company said.

Company CEO Pony Ma told an internal staff meeting last month that the level of corruption at the firm was “shocking”, state media reported.

Tencent has been hit hard by a regulatory crackdown on video games by Beijing, which saw hundreds of firms pledged to scrub “politically harmful” content from their products and enforce curbs on underage players to comply with government demands.

But the firm has shown signs of revival, with its share price almost doubling in Hong Kong since October 28, when it hit a low not seen since 2017.

The firm was also last month granted its first licence for a video game in 18 months, ending a dry spell that had hampered the profits of the world’s top game maker.

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Jimmy Lai’s Hong Kong lawyers deny association with ‘int’l legal team’ that met with British minister https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/16/jimmy-lais-hong-kong-lawyers-deny-association-with-intl-legal-team-that-met-with-british-minister/ Mon, 16 Jan 2023 05:00:00 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413535 Jimmy Lai lawyer statement featureThe local legal team representing jailed Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai in his high-profile national security trial has said it is not “professionally associated” with an international group of lawyers who reportedly met with a UK minister over Lai’s case. Hong Kong law firm Robertsons Solicitors issued a statement on Friday night after the […]]]> Jimmy Lai lawyer statement feature

The local legal team representing jailed Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai in his high-profile national security trial has said it is not “professionally associated” with an international group of lawyers who reportedly met with a UK minister over Lai’s case.

jimmy lai
Jimmy Lai. File photo: StudioIncendo.

Hong Kong law firm Robertsons Solicitors issued a statement on Friday night after the Hong Kong government said it “opposes and condemns” any interference from the UK following reports that a team of lawyers working for Lai had met with junior foreign office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

In the statement, Robertsons said it “exclusively acts for” Lai in his cases.

“Mr Lai has never instructed anyone apart from his legal team in Hong Kong to act on his behalf in relation to his criminal and related proceedings in Hong Kong,” the statement read.

It also stated that none of Lai’s legal advisors in the city “is in any way professionally associated” with the “international legal team” in question.

However, according to the website of London-based law firm Doughty Street Chambers, Lai’s “international legal team” is led by King’s Counsel Caoilfhionn Gallagher.

Robertson statement
The statement issued by Robertson Solicitors on Friday. Photo: Screenshot, Leung Chun-ying via Facebook.

The BBC reported last Tuesday that Lai’s lawyers in the UK had asked British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for “an urgent meeting” on “potential ways to secure” their client’s release. Reuters later reported the lawyers had met Trevelyan.

Speaking in the British parliament on Wednesday, Sunak insisted on the UK’s right to get involved in its former colony, as Hong Kong’s civil liberties were meant to be guaranteed for 50 years under the Sino-British Joint Declaration agreed on before the city’s Handover from British to Chinese rule.

Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday that Lai and his lawyers in the UK were “blatantly perverting the course of public justice.”

HKFP has reached out to Doughty Street Chambers for comment.

Lai’s criminal charges

Lai, a British national, has been accused of colluding with foreign forces under the Beijing-implemented national security law and producing allegedly seditious publications under the colonial-era sedition law.

The 75-year-old founder of the now-defunct pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily has been behind bars since December 2020. He is currently serving a sentence of five years and nine months for fraud over violating the leasing terms of his newspaper’s office complex.

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Hong Kong to see chilly Lunar New Year following cold snap https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/16/hong-kong-to-see-chilly-lunar-new-year-following-cold-snap/ Mon, 16 Jan 2023 04:39:07 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413558 foggy hong kongHong Kong is expected to see a dry, bright but chilly Lunar New Year break, following a colder period in the earlier part of this week. The Observatory said on Monday that the “winter monsoon will bring cold and dry weather to Guangdong in the next couple of days,” with temperatures as low as 11 […]]]> foggy hong kong

Hong Kong is expected to see a dry, bright but chilly Lunar New Year break, following a colder period in the earlier part of this week.

cold weather
Hongkongers wrap up warm during the chilly weather on January 16, 2022. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The Observatory said on Monday that the “winter monsoon will bring cold and dry weather to Guangdong in the next couple of days,” with temperatures as low as 11 degrees Celcius expected on Monday and Tuesday.

hong kong weather
Photo: HKO.

The mercury is expected to gradually climb, with highs of 15 degrees Celsius at the start of the week, rising to 19 degrees by Sunday – the first day of the Lunar New Year.

The city saw a foggy weekend with the Observatory hoisting the cold weather warning on Sunday afternoon – the first of 2023.

foggy hong kong
Fog gathers along the Chinese border, as seen from Hong Kong’s Kuk Po in Plover Cove Country Park on Saturday. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The Centre for Health Protection urged the vulnerable and elderly to stay warm, whilst a Labour Department press release urged employers to make appropriate arrangements for staff.

cold weather
Hongkongers wrap up during the chilly weather on January 16, 2022. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The Home Affairs Department has opened 18 temporary heat shelters across the city. Those seeking refuge can call 2572 8427.

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Poor taste? Thai KFC fans incensed by now-deleted Lunar New Year promo https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/16/poor-taste-thai-kfc-fans-incensed-by-now-deleted-lunar-new-year-promo/ Mon, 16 Jan 2023 01:00:00 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413529 KFC ThailandFast food giant KFC has incensed its Thai customers with a now-deleted Lunar New Year promo which many found to be in poor taste. Ahead of the festive season, the eatery shared an Instagram promotion for its new fried chicken incense sticks. It is unclear if the product was real, but each stick reportedly contained […]]]> KFC Thailand

Fast food giant KFC has incensed its Thai customers with a now-deleted Lunar New Year promo which many found to be in poor taste.

KFC Thailand incense
Photo: KFC Thailand via Instagram.

Ahead of the festive season, the eatery shared an Instagram promotion for its new fried chicken incense sticks. It is unclear if the product was real, but each stick reportedly contained 11 herbs and spices to mimic the smell of its fried food, according to news portal Thaiger.

Incense has multiple ceremonial uses in Chinese culture, including to honour the dead.

“[O]ur ancestor can enjoy the scent of KFC…” wrote one Instagram commenter. “That’s so inappropriate,” wrote another user.

“So many things wrong with this. You’d that they would know Chinese culture better,” one Twitter reaction read.

Ho Ching, the wife of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien, was among those who shared the promotional material, accompanied by the exclamation: “Wah…”

The blunder comes a year after UK newspaper the Observer faced flak for using Chinese funeral joss paper in a “cursed” Lunar New Year food feature.

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Hong Kong criticised for barring protest photographer Michiko Kiseki from city https://hongkongfp.com/2023/01/16/hong-kong-criticised-for-barring-protest-photographer-michiko-kiseki-from-city/ Sun, 15 Jan 2023 23:30:00 +0000 https://hongkongfp.com/?p=413525 Japanese photographer denied entry featureHong Kong’s Immigration Department barred freelance photographer Michiko Kiseki from the city last month, according to Japanese newspaper Nikkei. The award-winning photographer captured the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest, later hosting an exhibition in Japan of her shots. She said on Twitter that immigration authorities grilled her on the exhibition, which was held last February, […]]]> Japanese photographer denied entry feature

Hong Kong’s Immigration Department barred freelance photographer Michiko Kiseki from the city last month, according to Japanese newspaper Nikkei.

The award-winning photographer captured the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest, later hosting an exhibition in Japan of her shots.

Immigration
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

She said on Twitter that immigration authorities grilled her on the exhibition, which was held last February, before she was denied entry to the city on December 30, 2022.

Kiseki, who was born in Belgium and grew up partly in Hong Kong, won the Grand Prize of the 4th Photo Publishing Awards in 2021, according to her online portfolio.

Press freedom NGO the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on the entry denial, whilst the Hong Kong Journalists Association urged the government to respect free speech and the free press: “[A]s an international financial hub in Asia, journalists or other professionals should be allowed to visit or work in Hong Kong…” a statement said on Friday.

In response, the Immigration Department told HKFP: “The Immigration Department (ImmD) does not comment on individual cases. ImmD acts in accordance with the laws and policies in handling each immigration case.”

HKFP has reached out to Kiseki for comment.

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