The selection of Carrie Lam - SupChina

The selection of Carrie Lam

It’s Carrie Lam, of course

In a no-surprises ballot voted on by around 1,200 business and political leaders in Hong Kong, Carrie Lam 林鄭月娥 was selected (paywall) to become the territory’s next leader with 67 percent of the vote. The members of that election committee, comprising just 0.03 percent of registered voters in Hong Kong, are heavily tied to Beijing and were likely to vote for Lam, but even then, Beijing’s pressure on them was unprecedented in this election cycle. Another candidate, John Tsang 曾俊华, was more popular among the public according to polling, but received half as many votes as Lam in the ballot that counted.

Despite Lam’s reported focus on mending ties in society, which have been increasingly frayed as protesters have pushed for more voting power and rejected the government’s direction of reform, her election was swiftly followed by the arrests of nine democracy advocates for years-old public disturbance charges.

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Hints of high-level recognition of reform stagnation

In an unusual instance of high-level criticism of central government policy, the Economic System and Management Institute of the influential National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) released a blunt report (in Chinese) on “The Reform Obstruction Phenomenon,” China’s slow economic reform policy. The New York Times commented (paywall) that the report “indicates that some government insiders agree” with the premise that policy reform has stagnated. The Times also linked to comments (in Chinese) made this month by former finance minister Lou Jiwei 楼继伟, in which he hints that China is among the governments he considers to be allowing debt to build up as it avoids deeper reforms.

New rule to cool Beijing property market

The Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban Rural Development issued a regulation on Sunday that prohibits individuals from buying newly built commercial properties in the city, in an attempt to cool off the housing market. The rule specifies that new commercial properties can only be sold to enterprises, public entities, and social organizations. Under the new policy, individuals who do not have any property can still buy secondhand commercial properties, but have to prove income tax payments for five consecutive years.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor in Chief

This issue of the SupChina newsletter was produced by Sky Canaves, Lucas Niewenhuis, Jia Guo, and Jiayun Feng. More China stories worth your time are curated below, with the most important ones at the top of each section.


Apple wins patent dispute case in China

Over the weekend, a Chinese court ruled in favor of Apple in a patent dispute case with a domestic subsidiary and local retailer, according to Xinhua News Agency (in Chinese). The ruling overturned a ban, which prohibited selling Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in the country. The ban was enforced last summer after Shenzhen Baili Marketing Services, a local smartphone manufacturer, accused Apple of infringing on patents for the exterior smartphone design of its 100C mobile phone. Reuters reported that the Beijing Intellectual Property Office revoked the ban and affirmed that the design of the iPhone does not violate Shenzhen Baili’s patents.

Meanwhile, Apple has been trying to boost its presence in China. The Cupertino-based company recently announced that it plans to open two new research and development centers in Shanghai and Suzhou, following the opening of its first $45 million research hub last September in Beijing’s Zhongguancun 中关村, often referred to as the country’s Silicon Valley, and another in Shenzhen.

Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook visited the headquarters of the bike-sharing company Ofo in Beijing and met with the company’s founding members, including CEO Dai Wei. Cook also visited the Beijing-based startup Keep, the developer of an app with the same name, which offers a workout tutorial. Zhao Ziming, an analyst based in Beijing, told the China Daily that Cook’s visit indicated that Apple has recognized “China’s research capabilities and the importance of Chinese developers to the tech giant.”


Talking about human rights may get you stuck in China

A Chinese-born professor at an Australian university and a Taiwanese man experienced interference (and possibly foul play) during their visits to China last week, probably due to their interest in human rights.

Feng Chongyi 冯崇义, a longtime professor at the University of Technology Sydney who studies political reform in China, was barred from leaving the country after a visit during which he had been researching Chinese human rights lawyers, his attorney told (paywall) the New York Times. He was then subjected to multiple rounds of questioning about his field research in China and was pressured to take a lie detector test, which he refused, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The delay in Feng’s travels is a bump in Australia-China relations, which have otherwise been looking increasingly sunny.

Lee Ming-cheh 李明哲, on the other hand, is a community college manager from Taiwan whose more informal discussions of human rights with friends in the mainland through social media may have led to his disappearance (paywall) last week. Lee had entered the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai from nearby Macau, intending to visit his sick mother-in-law, and promptly went missing, sparking an outcry from Taiwan’s ruling government. Both incidents highlight the risk involved in researching — or even discussing — human rights in China, particularly after new legislation (paywall) that more tightly regulates foreign NGOs went into effect this year.


China’s top prosecutor to examine Shandong loan shark killing case

Reuters reports that China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) will review a controversial case in which a man was jailed for life after killing a loan shark who threatened his mother.

Su Yinxia 苏银霞, the man’s mother, borrowed more than 1 million yuan at a monthly interest rate of 10 percent from a local real estate developer in 2014 in order to keep her own company afloat. Since then, Su paid him back 1.84 million yuan in cash, and transferred to him a property valued around 700,000 yuan. The amount, however, did not cover her debt, and on April 14, 2016, a group of 11 thugs showed up at Su’s office to demand further payment. Su’s son, 22-year-old Yu Huan 于欢, was present, and an argument began that led to one man, Du Zhihao 杜志浩, described in a report (in Chinese) by the Southern Weekly as a gangster, reportedly pulling off his pants and exposing his genitals. Police arrived at the scene after a factory worker called them, but they stayed for only about four minutes, telling the two sides to settle the matter peacefully. After the police left, the dispute escalated, and Yu used a knife to stab four of the gangsters, including Du, who died after being sent to a nearby hospital.

Yu was sentenced to life in prison in February, but the Southern Weekly’s article on the episode that was published last Saturday brought public attention to the case. Titled “The man who killed those who insulted his mother,” the article focused on two questions regarding the case — whether Yu was acting in self-defense and whether Du’s death is a case of police negligence.

The case has been widely discussed on Chinese social media, with many internet users calling for leniency for Yu and for a deeper examination into the police’s role. “Yu is innocent,” Yi Zhongtian 易中天, a famous Chinese writer and scholar, wrote (in Chinese) on Weibo. “Stabbing the people who insulted one’s mother is not only an act of self-defense, but also a bold act for a just cause.”