Tear gas and rubber bullets in Hong Kong

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

Three things before the news:

We will not send a newsletter tomorrow, as we’re having a staff retreat, primarily to discuss ways in which we can make this newsletter and your Access membership even more valuable to you. As always, suggestions and rotten tomatoes are welcome in my inbox — just hit “reply” to reach me directly.

Our free newsletter — for those poor souls who don’t have Access — has gone weekly instead of daily. You can see the first SupChina weekly here. If you like what you see, please subscribe using the button on the top left of that page. Please note: The free weekly will always be based on material you receive in the member newsletter; we will never publish news in the weekly that you have not already seen.

How did Transsion, a Chinese mobile phone manufacturer, come to dominate the African market? Beijing-based video blogger Lanlan61 explains in this 10-minute YouTube episode.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


1. Hong Kong police fire tear gas and rubber bullets at protestors

WHAT HAPPENED?

Hong Kong police in riot gear fired rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons in skirmishes with protesters surrounding the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo). The mass demonstrations succeeded in forcing LegCo to delay its second debate on a controversial extradition bill. The proposed law would put Hong Kong residents — and, per legal scholar Jerome Cohen, anyone passing through Hong Kong’s airports — within easy reach of China’s opaque police and legal system.

  • “All-out chaos” is how the South China Morning Post characterized Wednesday’s events.

  • The protests are seen by many as a reawakening of the spirit of the Umbrella Movement and the Occupy Central protests of 2014. The SCMP says:

Students and youths were back with a vengeance, this time seemingly more organized and prepared for the showdown with face masks, goggles and makeshift body armor, their actions coordinated spontaneously on the ground and through encrypted messaging

Umbrellas were also back as protection from pepper spray and batons as protesters repeatedly charged police lines in scenes reminiscent of and even more intense than the Occupy protests of 2014, when demonstrators demanding greater democracy brought key parts of Hong Kong to a standstill for 79 straight days.

  • Sounding like a People’s Daily opinion piece, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é) condemned the demonstrators in a TV appearance. Channel NewsAsia reports:

“The rioting actions that damage peaceful society, ignoring law and discipline is unacceptable for any civilised societies,” chief executive Carrie Lam said in a video statement, her first comments since the clashes erupted.

“It’s obvious that these are not peaceful rallies, but openly organized riots,” [公然有組織地發動暴動 gōng rán yǒu zǔzhī de fādòng bàodòng] she added. She noted the protests were “in no way an act of loving Hong Kong.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

Alex Lo, a South China Morning Post columnist who invariably takes a pro-Beijing, pro-Hong Kong establishment point of view, argues that “the government has already made concession after concession on the contentious extradition bill but once again, as in 2014, protesters are demanding all or nothing.”

His conclusion is that “with no realistic demands made and no one from the opposition to negotiate with, the government will simply push on to get the bill passed before the month is out.”

He is probably right about the government passing the bill no matter how unpopular it is. Let’s hope there is not too much blood spilled before then.

2. Huawei suspends laptop launch, Google and Nintendo retreat

We’re counting today as day 342 of the U.S.-China trade and tech war. There is plenty of speculation in the media on what Trump and Xi and their negotiators are thinking, and the likelihood of a deal, but much of it is as informative as “gossip from the small streets” (小道消息 xiǎodào xiāoxī). I do not see an end in sight.

Here are today’s news stories:

  • Huawei has “put on hold indefinitely” plans to launch a new laptop computer because of the U.S. blacklist that prohibits American companies from supplying the Chinese tech giant, reports the South China Morning Post.

  • “Google is moving some production of Nest thermostats and server hardware out of China, avoiding punitive US tariffs and an increasingly hostile government in Beijing,” says the SCMP.

  • “Nintendo is shifting some production of its Switch videogame console to Southeast Asia from China to limit the impact of possible U.S. tariffs on Chinese-made electronics,” reports the Wall Street Journal (paywall).

  • Chinese tourists are avoiding the U.S. The New York Times reports (porous paywall):

Figures from the Commerce Department’s National Travel and Tourism Office show a sharp decline in the number of tourists from China last year. Industry professionals worry that the drop-off is picking up speed this year, affecting not just airlines, hotels and restaurants, but also retailers and attractions like amusement parks and casinos.

  • The Chinese delegation to the Select USA Investment Summit, an annual conference held by the United States government, “shrank sharply for a second year, falling to 76, from 101 last year and 155 in 2017,” according to the SCMP.

  • “How reliant are US colleges on Chinese students?” asks the BBC:

In the 2017-18 academic year, there were 360,000 Chinese students enrolled in the US to take up courses…

The amount Chinese students and their families contribute to the US economy continues to rise. This is estimated to have been $13 billion in 2017-2018, a figure that includes tuition fees and living expenses.  

3. Latin America and the U.S.-China trade war

Dialogo Chino, the Latin America–focused cousin of environmental news site China Dialogue, has a new issue of its email newsletter out. This is the introduction:

The U.S.-China trade war is presenting Latin American countries with a range of social and environmental challenges.

In Mexico, sorghum for human consumption is being readied for export to China, where around a third of the grain is used to manufacture alcoholic beverages. Yet, hit by adverse climactic conditions, Mexican production is faltering and creating a deficit in supply, just as China is being forced to look to emerging markets because of U.S. tariffs.  

China is also increasingly looking to Brazil to meet its demand for soy, but experts warn this could cause a devastating spike in deforestation.

However, a new report by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) looks at Chinese banks’ exposure to ‘deforestation risks’ in soy supply chains and argues that banks can help solve South American forest loss by pushing for greater sustainability policies in the grain-dealing companies they invest in.  

In Argentina, demand for lithium — another weapon in the U.S.-China trade conflict — is growing. Chinese companies, which are responsible for 35 percent of global demand for newly extracted lithium, are making progress in a mining project in Jujuy province despite no free and informed prior consultation with local indigenous communities.

Click through to the newsletter for links to the articles summarized above.

4. China in the Mary Meeker internet report

Mary Meeker, the financier famous for her highly respected Internet Report, which has been published annually since 1995, has released the 2019 edition. China plays a big role. Radii China has summarized the key China points, which include:

  • Meituan and Pinduoduo are specifically noted as non-U.S. innovators.

  • Direct financial services” such as mobile payments and digital wealth management products are being pioneered in China.

  • VIPKid, which connects American English teachers to students in China online, is held up as an example of educational trends.

  • Short videos are driving internet usage in China.

TechCrunch also has a post summarizing the China sections of Meeker’s report.

5. American teacher stumped by gaokao as test takers recover

The college entrance examinations known as the gāokǎo 高考 are still very much on people’s minds in China, although there is perhaps consolation for the many suffering high school graduates in the comparative difficulty of the test: The South China Morning Post reports that a video of a “U.S. secondary school maths teacher comically trying — and failing — to complete a mathematics question from a Chinese gaokao exam paper has been widely shared on social media in China.”

But the stresses on students are very real. Sixth Tone has a report on “the mental health camp treating China’s troubled gaokao kids,” and Radii China notes the growing trend of post-gaokao travel: “According to data released by leading Chinese travel service Ctrip, in-app searches and bookings for graduation-related travel is up this year by a whopping 500 percent.”

6. Smoking pot in ancient Chinese graves

For the Associated Press, Christina Larson reports:

Archaeologists have unearthed the earliest direct evidence of people smoking marijuana from a 2,500-year-old graveyard in western China.

In a complex of lofty tombs in the Pamir Mountains — a region near the borders of modern China, Pakistan and Tajikistan — excavators found 10 wooden bowls and several stones containing burnt residue of the cannabis plant. Scientists believe heated stones were used to burn the marijuana and people then inhaled the smoke as part of a burial ritual.

“It’s the earliest strong evidence of people getting high” on marijuana, said Mark Merlin, a botanist at the University of Hawaii.

—–

Our whole team really appreciates your support as Access members. Please chat with us on our Slack channel or contact me anytime at jeremy@supchina.com.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Pinduoduo had previously launched poverty-relief projects to support three counties in Xinjiang, Hubei, and Henan, according to Jing Ran, the company’s vice president. However, several articles later published online dismissed the projects as failures and gimmicks, he said.

Jing further claimed that, based on Pinduoduo’s own investigation, the attacks had been coordinated by the company’s competitors.

  • Oil drilling in Xinjiang
    Shale oil efforts gather momentum / China Daily
    “The Xinjiang branch of China National Petroleum Corp, or PetroChina, China’s largest oil and gas producer and supplier, has started drilling work on 47 wells at the Jimsar shale oil field, using 36 drilling rigs, with work on eight wells already completed, the company said.”

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

  • Human genetic resource regulations
    China moves to protect human genetic data from going overseas / Sixth Tone
    “Companies and institutions that illegally collect, use, or sell China’s human genetic resources overseas may be fined over 1 million yuan ($145,000), according to a national regulation made public on Monday.”

  • Wildlife trafficking
    The expert helping customs end endangered species smuggling / Chinadialogue
    “Zheng Ruiqiang explains how researchers work with customs to identify sperm whale teeth and other parts of vulnerable and endangered species.”

  • Qinghai goes renewable
    Remote region in China tries to set clean-power record / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
    “The northwest province of Qinghai aims to use only electricity generated from renewable sources, including hydroelectric power, for its population of about 6 million over a 15-day period starting June 9, State Grid Qinghai Electric Power Co. said Wednesday.”

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

  • Deadly floods across eight provinces
    Heavy rains in southern China leave 49 dead, 14 missing / AP
    “More than 7,000 houses have collapsed and 300,000 people have been evacuated, China’s disaster reduction committee said… Direct economic losses totaled 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion).”

  • South China Sea
    Philippines accuses Chinese vessel of sinking fishing boat in disputed waters / NYT (porous paywall)
    “The Philippines on Wednesday accused a Chinese vessel of ramming a Philippine boat in the disputed South China Sea, causing it to sink and putting the lives of the crew at risk.”

  • U.S. calls out Beijing on NK sanctions
    Calling out Beijing: US ‘gift’ to China shows unenforced North Korea sanctions / AP via SCMP
    Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan “presented Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe with a gift…but what at first glance looked like a coffee-table book was actually 32 pages of photographs and satellite images of North Korean ships getting and delivering shipments of oil.”

  • Internet censorship
    China blocks websites, internet accounts in new cleanup campaign / Reuters
    “Business China blocks websites, internet accounts in new cleanup campaign China launched a new campaign to clean up its internet, state media said, amid a fresh wave of apparent censorship by Beijing blocking more foreign media websites and shutting down domestic accounts on social media.”
    China’s censors block Newsroom.co.nz / Newsroom (New Zealand)
    “Newsroom’s website has been blocked in China as part of a major new crackdown on foreign media. The Chinese Government appears to have taken a more severe line in response to coverage of the Tiananmen Square massacre.”

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

  • Chinese views of social media censorship
    Chinese blogger addresses Weibo’s “elephant in the room” / What’s on Weibo
    “A recent popular post on Weibo suggests that intellectual discussions are dying on Weibo and that Chinese web users can no longer ignore ‘the elephant in the room,’ triggering discussions on the status quo of social media in China.”

  • The Chinese workers who built the transcontinental railroad
    Railroad workers’ descendants notice lack of credit for Chinese immigrants / NPR
    “Chinese immigrants helped build America’s first transcontinental railroad in the 1860s, but their contribution has been largely forgotten. A group of their descendants is trying to change that.”

  • When did the Chinese start removing footwear indoors?
    Shoes off! / World of Chinese

ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, credited with teaching mainstream America many Chinese cultural norms, contains an episode in which Chinese-American mother Jessica Huang acts touched to see her son, Eddie, bringing home a “Chinese girlfriend” who took off her shoes before entering their home. But how did this custom start, and is it still prevalent among Chinese today?


FEATURED ON SUPCHINA

Whispers of ‘Umbrella Movement II’ as protesters gather in Central, Hong Kong

SupChina’s Anthony Tao is in Hong Kong observing the ongoing protests in the city. Click here to read his latest report, and see the photos and video that he took.


PHOTO OF THE DAY

Click Here

Protest in Hong Kong continues

Hundreds of thousands of people are marching in the streets in opposition to a proposed extradition bill, which, once passed, would send criminal suspects to mainland China to face jurisdiction there. The mass protest, which started on Sunday and continues through Wednesday, has escalated to violent confrontations with the police, which has used tear gas, pepper spray, and batons in some cases.

Thousands of people are currently convening in the districts of Admiralty and Central and jamming onto Harcourt Road in front of the city’s government offices — precisely where the Umbrella Movement protests, which lasted two and a half months, began in 2014.

—Anthony Tao