Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Why Hong Kong protestors fly the American flag

Protests have nothing to do with a US-backed ‘color revolution’, as Beijing claims, and everything to do with rights, liberties and democracy


When black-clad protesters gathered at Hong Kong’s central Chater Garden for a mass rally on July 28, an unlikely tune rang through the air: a rendition of the United States’ national anthem performed by a megaphone-carrying activist in black sunglasses and a face mask.

As activists waved American flags and appropriated “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a protest song, a China Daily editorial published that day reiterated Beijing’s verdict on a protest movement that has brought parts of the semi-autonomous city to a standstill since demonstrations began in June.

“Judging from the preparation, targeting strategies, riot tactics and abundance of supplies, it takes naivety akin to simplemindedness to truly believe these activities are not being carefully orchestrated,” the state-run newspaper’s editorial said.

It further stated that the demonstrations are a “color revolution” orchestrated by local opposition politicians in collusion with foreigners, namely the US.

The term is a reference to various pro-democracy movements, some of which adopted a specific color or flower as their symbol, that erupted in several countries of the ex-Soviet Union in the early 2000s that toppled unpopular regimes with the backing of student activists and Western-financed civil society groups.

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.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Beijing says stop but Hong Kong says no

China spokesman says on Monday ‘Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong’ and that future unrest won’t be tolerated but there is no resolution to the escalating fight in sight


The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, an administrative agency of China’s cabinet, held a rare 40-minute press conference in Beijing today (July 29) in response to recent violent clashes and escalating political instability that has brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill.

Yang Guang, the office’s news spokesman, reiterated the central government’s “resolute support” for Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s administration and praised the Hong Kong police’s handling of the mass protests. He told reporters that Beijing regards the “one country, two systems” framework as the best way to continue governing the territory.

He condemned “radical protesters” for using violence and causing injury. The central government’s three hopes for Hong Kong, the news spokesmen said, are that various sectors firmly oppose violence, firmly safeguard the rule of law, and for society to resolve political conflicts as soon as possible.

Hong Kong’s leadership must “find ways to push for economic development and solve grievances of youngsters on quality of life and career prospects,” Yang said, with his counterpart, spokeswoman Xu Luying, acknowledging “deep-rooted problems” that impede young people’s economic mobility and access to housing in further remarks.

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, 28 July 2019

Hong Kong reaches a protest point of no return

Weekend of rage ends with clashes, tear gas and tense standoffs between protesters and riot police in now familiar scenes of chaos


Tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong peacefully assembled at the city’s central business district on June 28 for the weekend’s second mass demonstration and began marching in different directions, a day after black-clad activists descended on the northwestern town of Yuen Long in their thousands. Police denied permission for both marches to be held, though umbrella-wielding protesters still turned out in force.

Police, in a now-familiar cycle of events, fired repeated volleys of tear gas at groups of protesters who marched both to Causeway Bay and westward to Sai Ying Pun near the Central Government Liaison Office, which was vandalised with ink and graffiti one week earlier. Riot police cordoned off Des Voeux Road to prevent restive marchers from reaching the building.

Demonstrators, most of whom dressed in black and hid their identity with goggles and face masks, simmered with anger as they erected makeshift barricades a half-block from police lines outside the area’s Western Police Station. Both sides exchanged messages in Cantonese and English over loudspeakers before police put on their gas masks and charged toward the protesters as chaotic scenes unfolded.

Fresh unrest in Hong Kong’s western districts on Sunday follows clashes on Saturday (July 27) evening as police stormed a metro station in Yuen Long, a small northwestern town in the New Territories, using their batons on protesters and leaving the building’s tiled floors stained with blood, events that have raised fears of an unyielding pattern of violence.

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.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Tensions flare, teargas fired at Hong Kong anti-triad rally

Protestors rally in the beleaguered town of Yuen Long in defiance of a police ban to show outrage over attacks last week by triad-linked assailants


Yuen Long, a small northwestern town in the New Territories region of Hong Kong, played host to a sense standoff between thousands of black-clad protesters and riot police earlier today (July 27), after scenes of bloody mob violence linked to underground triad societies unfolded at the district’s metro station a week earlier.

Riot police fired waves of tear gas canisters as they forced protesters into retreat across multiple locations in the town. Demonstrators in turn shouted insults at the officers, while others gathered bamboo sticks and pried bricks from the roadside, acts which they insisted not be photographed by reporters.

By early evening, protesters began making their return home via the nearby metro station, though many remained on the streets in a continuing standoff with law enforcement at the time of publication. Police had earlier issued a rare refusal of permission for the gathering to be held over concerns of violence and clashes.

That hasn’t deterred activists, who have turned up at the town in large numbers despite the march being designated as an “unlawful assembly.” Seething with outrage over attacks carried out on Sunday (July 21) by assailants with links to triad gangs that targeted protesters and others, the crowds have mobilized to make a stand.

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, 26 July 2019

Hong Kong braces for ‘unlawful’ anti-triad protest

Police declare Saturday’s planned mass march near known triad area illegal but the stage is still set for an activist vs gangster confrontation


In a rare move, Hong Kong police have officially banned a protest scheduled to be held on Saturday (July 27) in the northwestern town of Yuen Long, where earlier this week a marauding gang with alleged links to triad criminal groups indiscriminately attacked pro-democracy protesters and others at a metro station.

Citing a risk of violence and challenge to public order, Anthony Tsang, the acting regional police commander for the New Territories North, said there is a “fairly high chance for both sides to clash” if the demonstration goes ahead.

Tsang said that the march’s planned route was too densely populated and narrow for a huge number of demonstrators, adding that it would end near indigenous villages where many of the triad-linked attackers are believed to reside.

Calls for aggressive retaliation against the criminal mob have also cropped up online, he said, raising fears that the border town could become the next flashpoint in Hong Kong’s escalating weeks-long political crisis.

Thousands are expected to defy police orders and march on Yuen Long tomorrow despite its official designation as an “unlawful assembly.” If the march proceeds, it would mark the eighth straight weekend of demonstrations that, while largely peaceful, have increasingly descended into violence as protesters adopt more radical tactics.

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.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Hong Kong’s radicals test Beijing’s bottom line

China’s offer to deploy People’s Liberation Army troops to maintain order has put the city on edge ahead of planned protests this weekend


After more than seven weeks of massive and increasingly violent demonstrations and retaliatory crackdowns in Hong Kong, recent remarks by China’s Defense Ministry suggest Beijing’s tolerance could be at a breaking point.

Referring to the vandalism of the Chinese government’s central liaison office by radical protestors on July 21 as “intolerable” and an affront to the “one country, two systems” principle, Chinese military spokesmen Wu Qian raised the prospect of deploying the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to Hong Kong if requested by the city’s government.

On July 24, when asked at a briefing how China’s Defense Ministry would handle possible future violent agitation by pro-independence protestors, the official replied by saying that “Article 14 of the Garrison Law has clear stipulations,” without elaborating.

The ominous remark, one that hints of a possible armed crackdown, has put many in the city on edge as a new round of mass protests are scheduled for this weekend.

Article 14 of the city’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law, states that the Hong Kong government can ask Beijing for assistance to maintain public order and disaster relief from the PLA’s Hong Kong garrison, which houses mainland military personnel who are not otherwise permitted to leave the premises.

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.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

After the crash, information wars inflame MH17

Conflicted narratives and contested facts mean no near-term justice or closure for what may be the most politicized aviation disaster in history


“Five years might have passed but our resolve for accountability and justice will not wane,” read a statement by Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport released on the fifth anniversary of the unresolved shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over the skies of eastern Ukraine, taking the lives of all 298 people on board.

Malaysian authorities vowed to “remain resolute in our pursuit” and “leave no stone unturned until justice is served,” adding that it would continue to work with the other members of the multinational Joint Investigation Team (JIT) and international community to pursue the those responsible for the plane’s downing.

“We sincerely hope that this will bring some measure of comfort and solace to the families and the next of kin of those who were lost in this tragedy,” the statement said.

Conflicted narratives and contested facts about what actually happened above the sunflower fields of eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, however, means there will be no near-term closure for what may be the most politicized aviation disaster in history.

Dutch prosecutors tasked with assigning criminal responsibility for the downing announced last month the names of four suspects, three Russian nationals and one Ukrainian, who are due to face murder charges in proceedings set to start in the Netherlands next 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.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Five years on, no answers to who felled MH17

Asia Times examines in two parts why Malaysia’s premier and others doubt a Dutch-led probe’s finding that Russia shot down flight MH17


Five years ago, scenes of horror unfolded across the sunflower fields of eastern Ukraine. Shot out of the sky, the smoldering fuselage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 tumbled back to earth with 298 passengers aboard, unwitting victims of the single deadliest incident of a still-festering civil war on Europe’s periphery.

Bound for Kuala Lumpur, the Boeing 777-200ER’s flight path took it directly over conflict-ridden areas of Ukraine where Russian-backed separatists and government forces were engaged in fierce combat. The plane disappeared from radar nearly four hours after departing from Amsterdam and crashed in Donetsk, a separatist-led breakaway republic bordering Russia.

International investigators concluded in 2016 that the plane was hit by a Russian-made Buk-9M38 missile fired by separatist fighters. The missile system in question is said to have been brought across the border into eastern Ukraine to aid the Russia-backed rebels and quickly rolled back after the MH17 disaster to avoid detection.

A multinational Joint Investigation Team (JIT) believes the Soviet-era surface-to-air rocket was supplied by the Russian military’s 53rd Air Defense Missile Brigade, a charge the Kremlin has strongly and consistently denied.

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, 9 July 2019

Singapore the big winner of Hong Kong’s chaos

The city-state’s comparative stability is drawing business and funds away from tumultuous Hong Kong


Recent turmoil and tumult in Hong Kong has spooked investors and dampened business sentiment, prompting capital flight that appears initially to have benefitted rival business and finance hub Singapore. 

The Southeast Asian city-state, likewise known for its modern banking and financial services, is widely seen as an attractive alternative for investors seeking stability and impartial rule of law in the region.

The mammoth protests against a proposed extradition bill that have gripped Hong Kong since early June would be unthinkable in Singapore, which strictly enforces laws that curb public protests and political expression. 

The weeks-long demonstrations took an extraordinary turn on July 1 when protesters besieged and ransacked Hong Kong’s legislative building on the anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Though the chaotic scenes have made global headlines and raised new questions about the city’s future as Asia’s premier financial center, analysts and experts say the protests are not necessarily the main factor driving the capital outflows.

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.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Singapore licks its trade war wounds

City-state’s exposure to tariff-disrupted supply chains could soon tilt the trade-reliant economy into recession


While the US-China trade war truce achieved at the G20 summit has been widely welcomed by business and markets, trade-reliant regional countries like Singapore are still bracing for economic headwinds.

Economists have warned that Singapore could tip towards recession if the US imposes more tariffs on Chinese imports, a reflection of the wealthy city-state’s high exposure to China-linked supply chains and production networks.

While US President Donald Trump has stepped back, for now, from his threat to slap levies on some US$300 billion worth of additional Chinese goods, US tariffs applied so far have contributed to Singapore’s worst manufacturing downturn in a decade.

The high-tech manufacturing hub’s electronics exports tumbled 31.4% year on year in May as the impact of US tariffs coursed through regional supply chains. Trade data released last month by Enterprise Singapore, a government agency, showed non-oil exports fell 15.9% in May, down from 11.8% in March and 10% in April.

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.