Human Rights

China's government ditches Basic Law by trying to nix Hong Kong court's ruling on face mask ban

Taiwan News
Date: 2019/11/19
By: Keoni Everington, Taiwan News, Staff Writer

(AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A day after Hong Kong's High Court ruled that a ban on face masks was unconstitutional, China's top legislature ignored the basic tenets of the Basic Law and claimed the court had no jurisdiction in interpreting the law.

On Oct. 5, Lam announced the Prohibition On Face Covering Regulation, which was derived from the colonial era Emergency Regulations Ordinance. On Monday (Nov. 18) Hong Kong's High court ruled that a ban on face masks imposed by the Special Administrative Region's (SAR) Chief Executive Carrie Lam was "incompatible with the Basic Law," the mini-constitution that has been in place since Hong Kong's handover to China in 1997, reported the South China Morning Post.

In response, China’s top legislature on Tuesday (Nov. 19) claimed that Hong Kong's courts do not have the authority to rule on the constitutionally of laws under the Basic Law. In a statement released on Tuesday, Yan Tanwei, a spokesman for the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), said, “Whether the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region comply with the Basic Law of Hong Kong can only be judged and decided by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress."

He added that "No other authority has the right to make judgments and decisions." Zang Tiewei, a spokesperson for the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee, claimed that in accordance with Article 8 of the Basic Law, "the laws previously in force in Hong Kong, including the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, shall be maintained except for those that contravene the Basic Law of the HKSAR or that have been amended by the legislative body of the HKSAR."
[FULL  STORY]

China will only tolerate Hong Kong's defiance so far.

The National Interest
Date: November 15, 2019
By: Ted Galen Carpenter

For months, transfixed populations around the world have watched as anti-government, pro-democracy demonstrations continue to convulse Hong Kong. The frequently violent disruptions are producing highly negative economic effects. More than a month ago, data indicated that hotel bookings in Hong Kong were down 40 percent from a year earlier, as both business travelers and tourists sought to avoid being caught up in the turmoil. Demonstrations—and sometimes pitched battles between protesters and police–at Hong Kong’s international airport have produced extensive flight cancellations, and the airport has had to shut down entirely on several occasions.

Thus far, the central government in Beijing has adopted a relatively restrained approach and not trampled on Hong Kong’s legal autonomy. President Xi Jinping’s regime continues to let its appointed chief executive for Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, take the lead in managing the crisis. With Beijing’s approval, Lam even formally withdrew the proposed extradition law. That measure, which would have enabled Beijing to “request” the extradition of Hong Kong dissidents to be tried in mainland courts where even basic due process protections are absent, triggered the initial protests last spring.

Xi’s government apparently believed that such a concession, combined with a low-key approach that relied on Hong Kong police to maintain a modicum of order, would gradually cause the demonstrations to fade away. That scenario did not occur; throughout the summer, the protests actually grew larger and more vocal. Recently, the number of protesters has dropped, but the confrontations with police have become increasingly violent, and arrests on various charges more frequent. Moreover, the demands of the demonstrators are now much more extensive than demanding the withdrawal of the extradition statute. Hong Kong activists are pushing for major democratic reforms, especially making the entire legislature and the chief executive into elected offices, which would dramatically dilute Beijing’s authority and influence.

Signs are growing that Beijing’s patience may be at an end. There certainly appears to be rising pressure on Hong Kong authorities to adopt a much harder line toward protesters. Not only have arrests soared, but police are now using live ammunition and have wounded several protesters. More worrisome, there are indications that a full-scale crackdown, perhaps even using People’s Liberation Army units, could be imminent.

At a November 11 press conference, Carrie Lam bluntly labeled protestors “enemies of the people,” an especially ominous term coming from the appointee of a communist regime. Hong Kong riot police stormed the Chinese University of Hong Kong on November 12 in an attempt to take control. Not only is that campus a logistical hub for the pro-democracy movement, but most internet connections in the city pass through the Hong Kong Internet Exchange housed there. If Xi’s government is contemplating sending in security forces to occupy the city, gaining control of the Exchange would be a crucial prerequisite to control the flow of information. Finally, there are media reports that fleeing mainland students and other residents from the People’s Republic are being evacuated by boat. Since there have been violent attacks on mainlanders in recent weeks, such an exodus might just reflect growing nervousness. But it also could be preparation for a PLA operation in Hong Kong.    [FULL  STORY]

Hundreds of pages of internal papers offer new insight into how the program began, how it was justified even as the damage it caused was clear, and how some officials resisted it.

The New York Times
Date: Nov. 16, 2019
By: Austin Ramzy

The entrance to a re-education camp at Harmony New Village, in Hotan, Xinjiang, China.Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

HONG KONG — Internal Chinese government documents obtained by The New York Times have revealed new details on the origins and execution of China’s mass detention of as many as one million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region.

The 403 pages reveal how the demands of top officials, including President Xi Jinping, led to the creation of the indoctrination camps, which have long been shrouded in secrecy. The documents also show that the government acknowledged internally that the campaign had torn families apart — even as it explained it as a modest job-training effort — and that the program faced unexpected resistance from officials who feared a backlash and economic damage.

Read the full story

‘Absolutely No Mercy’: Leaked Files Expose How China Organized Mass Detentions of Muslims

A member of the Chinese political establishment who requested anonymity brought the documents to light in hopes that their disclosure would prevent Communist Party leaders, including Mr. Xi, from escaping responsibility for the program. It is one of the most significant leaks of papers from inside the ruling Communist Party in decades.

Here are five takeaways from the documents.

Privately, officials were blunt about the consequences.

The Chinese government has described its efforts in Xinjiang as a benevolent campaign to curb extremism by training people to find better jobs. But the documents reveal the party’s efforts to organize a ruthless campaign of mass detention in the name of curbing terrorism, a program whose consequences they discussed with cool detachment.

The papers describe how parents were taken away from children, how students wondered who would pay their tuition, and how crops could not be planted or harvested for lack of workers. Yet officials were directed to tell people that they should be grateful for the Communist Party’s help, and that if they complained, they might make things worse for their family.    [FULL  STORY]

U.S. Department of State
Date: November 11, 2019
By: Morgan Ortagus, Dwepartment Spokesperson

PRESS STATEMENT

The United States is watching the situation in Hong Kong with grave concern.  ‎We condemn violence on all sides, extend our sympathies to victims of violence regardless of their political inclinations, and call for all parties— police and protestors— to exercise restraint.‎  We repeat President Trump’s call for a humane resolution to the protests.

The increased polarization within Hong Kong society underscores the need for a broad-based and sincere dialogue between the government, protestors, and citizenry writ large.  The United States urges the Hong Kong government to build on its dialogue with the Hong Kong public and begin efforts to address the underlying concerns driving the protests.  We also urge the protestors to respond to efforts at dialogue.

The United States believes that Hong Kong’s autonomy, its adherence to the rule of law, and its commitment to protecting civil liberties are key to preserving its special status under U.S. law, as well as to the success of “One Country, Two Systems” and Hong Kong’s future stability and prosperity.  We urge Beijing to honor the commitments it made in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, including commitments that Hong Kong will “enjoy a high degree of autonomy” and that the people of Hong Kong will enjoy human rights the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly— core values that we share with Hong Kong.    [FULL  STORY]

The target is a private company. But what about the state’s constant snooping?

The Economist
Date: Nov 9th 2019

Guo bing, a legal academic in the eastern city of Hangzhou, likes to spend his leisure time at a local safari park. But when the park informed season-pass holders like him that admission would require a face-scan, Mr Guo objected. Late last month he filed a lawsuit, claiming the new rules violated his privacy. Facial-recognition technology is widely used in China. Doubtless to the relief of the government which makes extensive use of it, there has been little public debate about it. State media, however, seized on Mr Guo’s case, trumpeting it as the first of its kind to be lodged in a Chinese court. Netizens have been hailing Mr Guo as a champion of consumer rights. A thread about his suit has garnered 100m views on Weibo, a social-media platform.

It is surprising that it has taken so long for the judiciary to get involved. Some 300 tourist sites in China use facial recognition to admit visitors. The safari park says doing so can shorten queues. Many office workers in Beijing’s main financial district clock in and out of work by scanning their faces. Some campuses and residential buildings use facial-recognition cameras to screen people entering. WeChat, a messaging and digital-wallet app, allows users to pay with their faces at camera-equipped vendors. Facial-recognition systems are ubiquitous at traffic intersections, in railway stations and airports (visitors to a public-security expo are pictured being scanned).

But even the government recognises that the proliferation of this technology may lead to abuses. It does not want discussion of its own intrusions into privacy, such as the use of facial recognition to spy on millions of Uighurs, a mostly Muslim group, in the western region of Xinjiang. But poor protection of facial and other personal data by Chinese firms could impede the country’s rise as a global tech giant. On November 4th the websites of Xinhua, a state news agency, and People’s Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, republished an article in a Hangzhou newspaper describing the lawsuit as a “very good opportunity” to spur “public debate”. People’s Daily has started an online opinion poll about the “ever-increasing” number of venues using facial recognition. It is due to publish the results on November 11th.    [FULL  STORY]

South China Morning Post
Date: Nov 12, 2019
By: David Zweig

 

  • Chinese leaders’ expression of confidence in Lam means that it is unlikely that the PLA or Chinese police will soon be seen on Hong Kong streets
  • The attention paid to Hong Kong during the fourth plenum and news that central government officials will come to the city to explain the meeting’s communique should arouse concern

Illustration: Craig Stephens

What do Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s meetingswith China’s top leaders in Shanghai mean for Hong Kong? Viewing those meetings with some scepticism is warranted on several fronts.

First, while President Xi Jinping and Vice-Premier Han Zheng expressed full confidence in Lam and acknowledged the work she and her team had done to resolve the crisis in Hong Kong, no one here really shares that view.

And why should we? Since the spring, we have watched as Lam’s extradition bill exploded from a “single spark” into a “prairie fire”, even as rational Hongkongers begged her to reconsider. We watched her ignore public opinion polls released in early June that showed just how unpopular the bill was. We watched her stoke the fire on June 10 when she announced that she would reject the concerns of the million protesters who had marched the day before.Her effort to ram her unpopular bill through the Legislative Council triggered the first serious violence between protesters and the police. Then, after declaring that she would never give in to violence, she did precisely that on June 15 when she put the bill’s reading on hold, teaching the protesters that violence pays.
[FULL  STORY]

CNBC
Date: Nov 11 2019
By: Natasha Turak

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — China’s heavy-handed response to an NBA general manager’s comments on the turbulent protests in Hong Kong represents a violation of U.S. sovereignty, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during a panel event in the United Arab Emirates capital on Monday.

“When China says to the NBA, the National Basketball Association, ‘your general manager cannot say something about what’s going on in Hong Kong,’ now that’s a violation of American sovereignty, because Americans have the right to say what they please,” Rice told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the annual Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition & Conference (Adipec).

“And so I think this has become something of a problem between the two countries, it’s not going to go away, it’s certainly not going to go away in Congress, where I think people are holding back on sanctions but worried that they may have to put them forward.”

Rice’s comments refer to Beijing’s harsh response to Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who in early October tweeted an image that read, “Fight for Freedom. Stand for Hong Kong.”
[FULL  STORY]

Fox News
October 28, 2019
By Caleb Parke


China is cracking down on Christianity and other religions as part of a campaign by the country's Communist Party to "eradicate" so-called "pornography and illegal publications," according to a Chinese persecution watchdog.

One branch of the Protestant Three-Self Church, located in the northeastern province of Liaoning, was fined the equivalent of $1,400 after South Korean versions of the Bible were discovered in April. Other Three-Self churches had hymnbooks, gospel pamphlets and Bibles confiscated and burned, according to Bitter Winter, a religious liberty magazine focused on China.

Marco Respinti, the director-in-charge of the Italian-based publication, told Fox News the CCP is using "very tricky, subtle cultural warfare" to combat the church in China.

South Korean versions of the Bible and hymnbooks published by the printing houses that are not approved by the government are also targeted. (Bitter Winter)

"Sometimes the CCP says you're allowed to have religious materials in the state-controlled church, but then they stop people, so it's contradictory," Respinti said. "They are trying to control all of culture, and religion is a huge part of people's culture. So they're trying not only to stop people's public expression of religion but they are also trying to go into personal things — beliefs — they are trying to indoctrinate people through these banning of religious materials."    [FULL  STORY]

Quartz
October 29, 2019
By King-wa Fu
Associate professor of journalism at the University of Hong Kong


In 1989, when the spring met summer, most people in Hong Kong, no matter how ordinary they were, became a part of a once-in-a-lifetime, mind-blowing moment.

On April 15, Hu Yaobang, a leader widely known as a key reformer in post-Mao China and who had been sacked by the Chinese Communist Party two years earlier, died at the age of 73. In a moment defined by widespread inflation, corrupt bureaucracy, and the aftermath of an unsuccessful student movement, the former liberal leader’s death reminded citizens that these grievances remained unanswered. Hu’s death triggered a series of commemorations, student demonstrations, rallies, and occupations of one of China’s political and cultural landmarks, Tiananmen Square in Beijing. On May 19, the government issued martial law, sending troops and tanks to the Square and the surrounding regions. The suppression culminated in the Tiananmen massacre on June 4, 1989.

Now, 30 years after the events at Tiananmen Square, most people in China still know little about this history.

At the time, most Chinese outside of Beijing didn’t know much about what was going on. The government censored information about the uprising, preventing missives from being published in newspapers or broadcast on the news. Now, 30 years after the events at Tiananmen Square, most people in China still know little about this history—despite the ubiquitousness of the internet in China. The reason? China’s infamous internet censorship system, the innovation that has earned the country the dubious accolade of  “the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom,” according to US-based think tank Freedom House.

At the time of Hu’s death, I was an ordinary freshman studying at The University of Hong Kong. I was having a fairly standard college experience, one that removed me from the “real world”—the university’s off-campus dormitory, called University Hall, is literally a castle. On that April 15, most students had locked themselves inside their dorm room or stayed in the library to prepare for exams. Every desk on the campus was quiet.    [FULL  STORY]

CNBC
Date: October 14, 2019

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned on Sunday that any attempt to divide China will be crushed,

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China June 25, 2019.
Nicolas Asfour | Reuters
as Beijing faces political challenges in months-long protests in Hong Kong and U.S. criticism over its treatment of Muslim minority groups.

“Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones,” he told Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli in a meeting on Sunday, according to China’s state broadcaster CCTV.

“And any external forces backing such attempts dividing China will be deemed by the Chinese people as pipe-dreaming!” he was quoted as saying.

Xi, the first Chinese president to visit Nepal in 22 years, arrived in Nepal on Saturday on a state visit. Both sides are expected to sign a deal expanding a railway link between the Himalayan nation and Tibet.

Nepal’s Oli told Xi that the country will oppose any “anti-China activities” on its soil, CCTV reported.

China, which is trying to de-escalate a protracted trade war with the United States, has seen its political authority tested by increasingly violent protests in Hong Kong against what is seen as Beijing’s tightening grip on the Chinese-ruled city.

Police in Hong Kong have used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons against pro-democracy demonstrators in the former British colony, which has been plunged into its worst political crisis in decades.    [FULL  STORY]