Yet another person is disappeared in China

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

Our word of the day is 四人帮 sì rén bāng: Gang of Four. Scroll down to the section on Hong Kong to see why. 

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief 


1. Employee of British consulate in Hong Kong disappears in China 

Hong Kong Free Press reports

A staff member from the British Consulate General in Hong Kong has been detained in mainland China for over 10 days after crossing the border for a business trip, according to his girlfriend.

Simon Cheng Man-kit, a trade and investment officer at the Scottish Development International section of the consulate, attended a business event in Shenzhen on August 8 via the Lo Wu control point, but never returned to the city despite a prior plan to come back the same day on the Express Rail Link, his girlfriend said.

According to the New York Times (porous paywall): 

  • Cheng “holds a British national overseas passport, which entitles him to consular representation but does not allow him to work or live in Britain. China does not recognize that status, which Britain created for Hong Kong residents before it returned the city to Chinese control in 1997.”

  • Cheng’s girlfriend “said an immigration official had told his sister that he had been placed under administrative detention, in which suspects can be held for up to 15 days without court hearings or access to lawyers.”

2. College Daily: Misleading Chinese students in the U.S. since 2014

College Daily is a Chinese language website aimed at Chinese students in the U.S. The New Yorker’s Han Zhang has written an illuminating profile of the company: The “post-truth” publication where Chinese students in America get their news (porous paywall). It’s well worth reading the whole piece. Here are some of the revelations: 

  • Founded in 2014 by Lín Guǒyǔ 林果宇 in his Beijing apartment, College Daily now “has more than thirty staffers in Beijing and fifteen in New York.” Tencent, operator of WeChat, was the major investor in College Daily’s most recent funding round that injected three million dollars into the company. College Daily has “about 1.6 million followers on the social-media platform WeChat and more than a million active readers a day.” 

  • “Today, it would be hard to find a Chinese student in America who doesn’t regularly encounter College Daily content, intentionally or not.” Even those who don’t subscribe are likely seeing College Daily content in WeChat groups, timelines and chats.

  • Most of these students probably do not follow U.S. news sources and social media. Instead they get news “on their phones, often from College Daily, in a stream of memes and Internet-speak.”

  • The site began as “a bare-bones survival guide for American campus life, with vaporous posts about boosting your G.P.A. and planning for finals week.” But it is now much more like a sensationalist newspaper which offers “Chinese news delivered with nationalistic overtones; tabloid tales of Chinese students living overseas (sex, drugs, murders, and missing women appear frequently); and news from the U.S. and the celebrity world.”

  • Some articles are simply made up: one of College Daily’s more popular writers describes how one article written in the first person about a Syrian classmate who cried after seeing video of Chinese New Year fireworks was written at the direction of Lin Guoyu. College Daily also “aggregates content sourced from Infowars and RT, the Russian government-backed news outlet.”

  • In 2017, Chinese social media users attacked a University of Maryland student named Yáng Shūpíng 杨舒平 who gave a commencement speech praising the fresh air and freedom of expression in the U.S. A College Daily story was the vector that made Yang’s speech go viral. Yang was hounded off the internet. The New Yorker points out that “‘Shaming China’ is something of a buzz phrase at College Daily: as of February, it had appeared on the site more than a hundred and forty-five times.”

  • “Lin said that College Daily’s stories accurately reflect its readership’s disillusionment with America, particularly when they compare the U.S. with China. ‘Especially after the 2016 election, our readers see how divided a society America is.’”

Fascinating stuff: go read the whole thing

3. Falungong media company spends fortune promoting Trump

Also appearing today is a profile of a very different kind of media company: the Falungong’s Epoch Times. Trump, Qanon and an impending judgment day: Behind the Facebook-fueled rise of The Epoch Times by Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins of NBC. Aside from the predictable Falungong weirdness (aliens, anti-vaccination beliefs, etc.), there’s this:

By the numbers, there is no bigger advocate of President Donald Trump on Facebook than The Epoch Times. 

The small New York-based nonprofit news outlet has spent more than $1.5 million on about 11,000 pro-Trump advertisements in the last six months, according to data from Facebook’s advertising archive — more than any organization outside of the Trump campaign itself, and more than most Democratic presidential candidates have spent on their own campaigns.

4. Beijing blames protests on Hong Kong ‘Gang of Four’ 

The South China Morning Post reports:

China’s state media has launched scathing personal attacks on leading pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong, labelling them the “new Gang of Four” that “colludes” with Western forces to instigate unrest and destroy the city.

In an escalation of rhetoric, the articles published over the weekend lashed out at media tycoon Jimmy Lai [黎智英 Lǐ Zhìyīng], Democratic Party founder Martin Lee [李柱銘 Lǐ Zhùmíng], former chief secretary Anson Chan [陳方安生 Chén Fāng Ānshēng] and former lawmaker Albert Ho [何俊仁 Hé Jùnrén], calling them the “Gang of Four who bring ruin to Hong Kong”.

Here is one of the Xinhua attack pieces (in Chinese) which features this image, presented side-by-side with an anti-Gang of Four poster from 1976 (image courtesy of Chineseposters.net):

As the Li Yuan of the New York Times argues (porous paywall): “Beijing wants greater sway over global public opinion. Instead, its propaganda outlets make Chinese leaders look like bullies.”

Other news from Hong Kong: 

“China Citic Bank International, a Hong Kong-based unit of the nation’s largest state-run conglomerate, sent a message to staff on Wednesday, saying that ‘no employee shall travel by flights operated by Cathay Pacific Group’ for business purposes with immediate effect,” according to Bloomberg.

“Pilots and cabin crew at Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways described a ‘white terror’ of political denunciations, sackings and phone searches by Chinese aviation officials amid anti-government protests gripping the former British colony,” reports Reuters

Pilot and pro-democracy legislator Jeremy Tam [譚文豪 Tán Wénháo] resigned from Cathay Pacific Airways “saying the move could put an end to the ‘political storm’ that has enveloped the company,” according to the South China Morning Post

Former Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg is being praised “for taking a principled stand and protecting his employees at the expense of his own position,” says Taiwan News: “According to local Hong Kong media reports, Beijing authorities asked Hogg to hand over a list of Cathay Pacific employees who had taken part in the recent anti-extradition bill protests in Hong Kong. Instead of betraying his employees and endangering their safety, he only provided a list of one name — his own.”

The Hong Kong “government will start work immediately on building a platform for dialogue among all walks of life,” according to remarks attributed by Xinhua News Agency to Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é). This is unlikely to satisfy Hong Kong’s marching youths, but a “platform for dialogue” is perhaps better than blaming the protests on secret plots by foreign countries or the “Gang of Four.” 

—Jeremy Goldkorn


BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

  • Techno-trade war and Huawei
    Huawei founder details ‘battle mode’ reform plan to beat U.S. crisis / Reuters
    “China’s Huawei will spend more on production equipment this year to ensure supply continuity, cut redundant roles and demote inefficient managers as its grapples with a ‘live-or-die moment’ in the wake of U.S. export curbs, founder Ren Zhengfei said.”
    Intelligence officials tackle Huawei’s power as Donald Trump’s decision is unclear / Politico
    “U.S. intelligence officials recently brought together experts to game out how Huawei’s reach into next-generation 5G wireless technology could test U.S. global alliances. The simulation organized by government intelligence agencies comes even as President Donald Trump has considered using the Chinese telecommunication giant as a bargaining chip in his trade war with Beijing.”
    Home Depot cuts sales outlook as it warns on hit from tariffs / FT (paywall)
    “Home Depot said that its 2019 sales would likely increase by 2.3 per cent from 2018, reflecting ‘potential impacts to the US consumer arising from recently announced tariffs.’ It previously forecast growth of 3.3 per cent.”

  • Alibaba promotes non-blockbuster movies
    Alibaba mines for Oscar gold at the Chinese box office / WSJ (paywall)
    The WSJ writes about how “Capernaum,” a Lebanese drama nominated for best foreign-language film at the Oscars, went big in China. “Behind the unlikely performance: Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the e-commerce giant that has succeeded in promoting critically lauded movies to Chinese audiences once used to getting only big-budget offerings from Hollywood.”

  • Debt and credit
    China just made borrowing costs a tiny bit cheaper for companies / Bloomberg (porous paywall)
    “China’s new one-year reference rate for bank loans will start at 4.25%, according to a statement from the central bank on Tuesday. That compares to the 4.24% median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 11 traders and analysts. The previous loan prime rate was 4.31%, while the one-year benchmark lending rate is 4.35%.”
    China’s floundering crackdown on household debt / WSJ (paywall)
    “Last week, in its annual Article IV assessment of the Chinese economy, the International Monetary Fund raised its forecasts for Chinese household debt by several percentage points. The IMF expects household debt to rise to 56.2% of GDP this year, and as high as 67.9% of GDP in 2024. The latter figure would be well above current levels in Japan and the eurozone.”

  • Stock markets and media
    News editor fined for rumors that rattled stock markets / Caixin (paywall)

China’s securities regulator fined four people including an online news editor last week, after it ruled they had started and spread an online rumor in January that the financial watchdog would promote short selling on the country’s stock markets, according to official statements made public on Monday.

On Jan. 28, the first trading day of the new China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) Chairman Yì Huìmǎn’s 易会满 tenure, Chén Yìhéng 陈毅衡 allegedly (link in Chinese) published a post claiming Yi had said at a press briefing that the commission would promote short-selling and delisting mechanisms in China’s stock markets in 2019. Chen falsely attributed the information to Bloomberg, the regulator said.

Baidu late Monday reported its second-quarter profit dropped 62% to 2.41 billion yuan ($342 million) compared with a year ago. Revenue rose 1.4% to 26.33 billion yuan, surpassing the 25.8 billion yuan forecast by analysts polled by FactSet.

Company shares jumped as much as 9.4% in after-hours trading Monday after Baidu released its better-than-expected results.

Baidu’s business, which relies on ads from Chinese retail, health-care and other companies, is considered a gauge for the health of China’s private sector…Online advertising overall fell 9% in the second quarter to 19.2 billion yuan. 

  • On SupChina Access last week: Baidu tanks as Alibaba soars

  • Shanghai Free Trade Zone
    China expands Shanghai free trade zone to pull in investment / Nikkei Asian Review
    “The Chinese government has doubled the size of Shanghai’s only free trade zone…Lin-gang Special Area, where U.S. electric car maker Tesla is building a factory…[is] the original Shanghai free trade zone created in 2013.” 

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT: 

One way to develop a vaccine is to kill a virus before injecting it into an animal. The disabled virus doesn’t make the animal sick, but it prompts the immune system to identify the virus and produce antibodies against it. This approach, however, isn’t consistently effective with all viruses, including the one that causes African swine fever.

It’s why scientists have been working on another type of vaccine, made from a weakened virus rather than a dead one. With African swine fever, the puzzle has been figuring out exactly how to tweak the virus.

The Malawi Police Service, in conjunction with the Department of Parks and Wildlife, have arrested one of Malawi’s most wanted suspected wildlife trafficker, Yunhua Lin.

Lin, 46, a Chinese national, was arrested on Friday, 16 August 2019, in Lilongwe after a three months manhunt… 

He is allegedly involved in the smuggling of elephant ivory, rhino horns, pangolin scales among other trophies and has been on the run following the arrest of nine other Chinese nationals and four Malawians in May this year including his wife Qin Hua Zhang.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

China and Russia have accused the United States of stoking a new arms race by testing a cruise missile, just weeks after Washington withdrew from a cold-war era missile control treaty that would have barred the test launch.

The ground-launched missile, a conventionally-configured version of the nuclear-capable Tomahawk cruise missile, hit its target after over 500 kilometres of flight during Monday’s test, the Pentagon said in a statement.

Nearly 40 people were detained in China for their role in a series of scams which included a claim the headquarters of the United Nations was relocating from New York to the northwestern Chinese city of Xian.

More than 70 people from various parts of China were cheated out of a total of 2 million yuan (US$283,000)… 

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:


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