Monday, 24 June 2019

Hong Kong teeters on edge of US sanctions

US legislation aims to penalize abuses committed in Hong Kong and could make the city’s special status a pawn in the US-China trade war


Hongkonger Hendrick Lui believes the United States should slap sanctions on those responsible for cracking down on recent mass protests against controversial legislation that aims to allow for criminal suspects to be extradited and tried in mainland China.

Lui was among hundreds of mostly young demonstrators involved in a June 21 sit-in at the city’s Legislative Council (Legco) building and nearby roads, where some held banners in support of a bill recently tabled by senior American lawmakers to sanction mainland and city officials involved in rights abuses.

The bipartisan legislation, known as the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, was introduced on June 13 by hawkish Republican senator Marco Rubio and Democratic congressman Jim McGovern in the wake of recent violent clashes between protestors and security forces in Hong Kong.

If passed, the bill would impose sanctions and travel restrictions against individuals in China and Hong Kong found to be involved in human rights violations, and require the US president to certify annually that Hong Kong is “sufficiently autonomous” to continue receiving US trade privileges not afforded to mainland China.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

While Lam relents, Hong Kong calls massively for her ouster

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam backed away from a contentious extradition bill and issued a public apology but as many as two million demonstrated on Sunday calling for her resignation


Hong Kong’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam issued a public apology Sunday evening (June 16) as hundreds of thousands of protestors dressed in black clogged the city’s streets in another massive protest demanding her resignation and the scrapping of a contentious bill that would allow for the extradition of suspects to mainland China.

A day after Lam announced a surprise decision to indefinitely postpone the bill in a press conference on Saturday, the city’s leader vowed to “sincerely and humbly accept all criticism and to improve and serve the public” in a statement released at 8:30 pm as chanting crowds stood outside the gates of her office calling for her to step down.

“Carrie Lam’s press conference yesterday just made Hong Kong people angrier. We don’t think she will step down, but we must force her out,” said 27-year-old Chiew minutes before demonstrators began marching from Victoria Park in the scorching afternoon heat with the aim of forcing the government to rescind, rather than postpone, the controversial bill.

Gripped by a surge of mass dissent, the Asian financial hub has been thrust into political crisis amid the largest political demonstrations and some of the worst scenes of violence since Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997. Organizers from the Civil Human Rights Front said almost two million people took part in Sunday’s march.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Friday, 14 June 2019

As China blames US, Hong Kong on a precarious edge

Beijing claims ‘external forces’ were behind recent mass protests in Hong Kong while US readies legislation that could strip the autonomous city of its special status


Hong Kong’s legislature building remains closed after mass protests over a proposed extradition law that would allow for suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial turned violent on Wednesday (June 12).

While the city’s center returned to normalcy on Friday, demonstrators are set to take to the streets again in the days ahead, setting the stage for new rounds of confrontation and a potentially more severe official response.

Clashes between police and tens of thousands of young black-clad protestors resulted in the hospitalization of at least 81 people in some of the worst violence seen in the former British colony since it was handed back to China in 1997.

The protests are already having diplomatic ramifications. Senior US lawmakers from both Democratic and Republican parties on Thursday introduced legislation that would require the US government to annually certify Hong Kong’s autonomy from mainland China to qualify for special business and trade privileges.

China, meanwhile, has rejected accusations it is throttling Hong Kong’s legally guaranteed autonomy and forcing legal changes on the city’s government. In response, Chinese state media has taken sharp aim at “external forces” it claims are trying to drive a wedge between the city and the mainland by creating chaos over the bill.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Protests set stage for historic clash in Hong Kong

Youthful demonstrators block talks on controversial extradition bill, paralyzing the financial hub


Throngs of youthful black-clad demonstrators with umbrellas, goggles and face masks blockaded major roads around Hong Kong’s legislature building on Wednesday, a surge of mass dissent against an extradition bill that, if passed, would allow city residents to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Leaderless but highly organized, protesters in their tens of thousands had been in an hours-long stand-off with riot police bearing shields and wielding batons in scenes reminiscent of the protracted Occupy Central democracy protests of late 2014. Police used pepper spray, beanbag rounds, tear gas and even rubber bullets against protesters who defied the show of official force and refused to retreat.

The protests have symbolically erupted just after the 30-year anniversary of China’s lethal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. How the protests, if sustained, will ultimately be handled is unclear, but the stage is now set for a pivotal clash of pro- and anti-Beijing forces in China’s special administrative region.

Mass opposition to the bill has fast spiraled into a political crisis for Chief Executive Carrie Lam with escalating street protests and strikes clogging key roads near government offices three days after Hong Kong’s biggest political demonstration since its return to Chinese rule in 1997 drew more than one million people, according to organizers.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Why Hong Kong won’t go quietly to China

One million Hongkongers protested, some violently, on Sunday against a pending extradition law many fear would undermine the city’s judicial and political independence


A protest march of more than a million people brought Hong Kong’s streets to a standstill on Sunday (June 9) in what organizers claim to be the city’s largest-ever rally. They gathered to voice mass opposition to a proposed extradition law that would for the first time allow fugitives wanted by authorities in China to be sent from Hong Kong to the mainland for trial.

Braving sweltering temperatures, throngs of demonstrators clad in white held placards and yellow umbrellas in defiance as they shouted slogans in English and Cantonese calling for the resignation of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who critics say has tried to hastily push through the unpopular bill.

The Civil Human Rights Front, the group that organized the sprawling march, claimed a record turnout of 1.03 million people, a massive showing that raises pressure on local authorities to scrap the rendition bill. Police estimates down played the numbers, per usual, with security forces claiming attendance peaked at 240,000.

Though the China-backed extradition bill is a local government initiative, many here are wary that it would give authorities in Beijing a freer hand to target political opponents and foreign businesspeople on the self-ruled island with contrived charges to be heard in China’s politicized court system.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Thirty years on, Hong Kong fears its own Tiananmen

On the anniversary of China’s June 4, 1989 fatal clampdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, Hong Kong’s freedoms are quickly eroding away


A candlelight vigil commemorating the 30th anniversary of the June 4 crackdown on student-led demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square was attended by tens of thousands in Hong Kong, with young and old alike gathered to mark what many see as a seminal event in modern Chinese history.

Crowds gathered on the damp football fields of Victoria Park where they swayed to protest songs with candles in hand and chanted slogans. Some could be seen shedding tears or heard sobbing as a eulogy to the dead rang out over loudspeakers. Hundreds of miles away in the city where the violent events unfolded, however, it was as if nothing had ever happened, according to news reports.

Three decades on, mention of the violent repression is heavily censored in Chinese news and social media as perhaps the country’s biggest political taboo. Hong Kong, along with Macau, are the only places on Chinese soil where commemorations are held each year. The date continues to resonate with Hongkongers amid rising distrust of mainland authorities.

“The memory of June 4 scares me,” said Tiffany, a 23-year-old university student who attended the vigil. “Seeing these people still alive makes me very touched,” she said as a former student leader gave a stirring speech. “Being here reminds me that the Chinese government is so inhumane and, recently, they are tightening the rule of law in Hong Kong.”

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.