Will Hong Kong invoke emergency powers?

Access Archive

Dear Access member,

Our word of the day is “anti-mask law” (禁蒙面法 jìn méngmiàn fǎ), one of many restrictions that the Hong Kong government could put into place as soon as this weekend if the Executive Council decides to invoke the colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance. 

Some job openings, events, and resources you may be interested in:

—Lucas Niewenhuis, Associate Editor


1. Will Hong Kong invoke emergency powers?

Local Hong Kong media have indicated that the city government is considering invoking emergency powers not used in over 50 years to crack down on protesters on the 18th weekend of unrest. Per the Hong Kong Free Press:

Media outlets TVB and SCMP [have] cited unnamed sources as saying that the Executive Council will hold a special meeting on Friday to approve an anti-mask law using the Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO), before the government announces the measure. News outlet HK01 said the announcement may come on Saturday.

The ERO is a colonial-era law that gives the chief executive unlimited power in the event of an “emergency or public danger.” The ERO, introduced in 1922, has not been used since the 1967 leftist riots.

The South China Morning Post notes that the ERO can be invoked without approval by the Legislative Council, though LegCo would be “able to amend or strike down the law after implementation.” However, the source for the paper’s story stated that the “Legislative Council…will only meet on October 16 at the earliest.”

We noted yesterday a SCMP report on two police associations — the Junior Police Officers’ Association and the Hong Kong Police Inspectors’ Association — that backed invoking the ERO, particularly to enforce a curfew. But the ERO is, as the HKFP notes, “unlimited” in its scope, and per the SCMP, would give the government powers for “media censorship, arrests, deportations, the control of ports and all transport, the appropriation of property, and the authority to enter and search premises.”

This would play into one of protesters’ key fears —that Hong Kong is becoming more like China in its governance. New York Times reporter Paul Mozur looks at this through the lens of technology and surveillance:

Umbrellas…are now commonly deployed to shield protester activities — and sometimes violence — from the digital eyes of cameras and smartphones. In late July, protesters painted black the lenses of cameras in front of Beijing’s liaison office in the city.

Since then, Hong Kong protesters have smashed cameras to bits. In the subway, cameras are frequently covered in clear plastic wrapping, an attempt to protect a hardware now hunted. In August, protesters pulled down a smart lamppost out of fear it was equipped with artificial-intelligence-powered surveillance software. (Most likely it was not.) The moment showed how at times the protests in Hong Kong are responding not to the realities on the ground, but to fears of what could happen under stronger controls by Beijing.

Mozur comments on Twitter how the anti-mask law would be seen by protesters: “A faceless, badgeless police force confronting protesters not allowed to cover their faces would be a metaphor for the opacity and lack of accountability in China.”

Other stories from the City of Protest:

“Hong Kong police loosened their internal guidelines for using lethal force a day before an officer fired live ammunition at a student protester,” according to a leaked memo obtained by Apple Daily and Stand News, per the Hong Kong Free Press. The new guidelines say that officers are “permitted to use lethal force such as live rounds when facing an assault that causes, or is ‘relatively likely’ to cause, death or serious injury,” whereas the previous guidelines required officers to “ascertain whether the assailant had ‘intent’ to cause death or serious injury before lethal force could be used.” 

The protester who was shot has been charged with rioting and assaulting officers, but could not appear in court today, since he was still in the hospital recovering from surgery removing a bullet three centimeters from his heart, the HKFP reports. There were “multi-district protests” today against the police shooting, the HKFP separately notes

2. Trump: ‘China should start an investigation into the Bidens’

Politico reports that Trump has directly urged China to investigate the family of his political rival:

President Donald Trump on Thursday openly called for China to launch an investigation into the Bidens, boldly engaging on national television in activity similar to the allegations at the heart of Democrats’ rapidly intensifying impeachment probe.

[Trump] brought up China unprompted when asked what action he wanted his Ukrainian counterpart to take… 

“Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, they would start a major investigation into the Bidens. It’s a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens,” the president told reporters about Ukraine. “Likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens. Because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.”… 

Trump noted — also unprompted — that Chinese negotiators would be in town next week as the high-stakes trade talks resume, with potentially billions of dollars in tariffs on the line.

“I have a lot of options on China,” he said of the trade talks, “but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.”

If the offer of a transaction with China to interfere with the U.S. election in Trump’s favor weren’t obvious enough, Trump then went on to say that he might bring up the issue personally with Xi Jinping, per Aaron Blake at the Washington Post:

[Trump] added later that he had not brought the matter up with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but that he might.

“I haven’t, but it’s certainly something we can start thinking about because I’m sure that President Xi does not like being under that kind of scrutiny where billions of dollars is taken out of his country by a guy that just got kicked out of the Navy,” Trump said. “He got kicked out of the Navy. All of a sudden he’s getting billions of dollars. You know what they call that? They call that a payoff.”

It’s not clear exactly what Trump is alleging here, nor has it been when Trump has previously invoked China while talking about the Bidens.

China probably wouldn’t want to get involved in interfering in the U.S. presidential election — and with the impeachment hearings, Beijing probably feels even less need to make concessions to Trump than in previous months — but Trump has now said outright that he would be delighted if they did so. 

—Lucas Niewenhuis


BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

The provider of shared workspace has run into challenges, including lower-priced competition and a cooling Chinese economy… 

With the recent departure of Chief Executive Adam Neumann and the company’s scuttled initial public offering, We is scrapping its high-growth strategy and looking to slow its expansion and cut losses. That means pulling back on ventures in China and other less-profitable overseas markets, say real-estate executives and people close to the company.

  • Online education competition
    NetEase’s Youdao unit files for $300 million IPO in New York / Caixin (paywall)
    “Youdao competes in a crowded online education market with many rivals, including New Oriental Education & Technology Group, VIPKid, and iTutorGroup. Consequently, it faces rising teacher costs and narrowing margins. The costs of retaining teachers nearly doubled in the first half to 60.8 million yuan, Youdao disclosed.”

  • Sportswear IPO
    Chinese retailer Topsports raises $1.01bn in Hong Kong IPO / Nikkei Asian Review (porous paywall)
    “The stock is expected to be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange’s main board on Oct. 10. Topsports was the largest sportswear retailer in China by estimated total sales value in 2018 with a market share of 15.9%.”

  • The toll of African swine fever
    China’s hog herd may drop by 55% due to fatal swine fever, says Rabobank / Reuters via CNBC
    “China’s hog herd fell by half in the first eight months of 2019 due to a devastating outbreak of African swine fever and will likely shrink by 55% by the end of the year, analysts at Rabobank said on Wednesday… Rabobank said in the report it expects China’s pork production to fall by 10% to 15% in 2020, on top of a 25% drop in 2019.” 

  • Samsung factory shutdown
    Samsung ends mobile phone production in China / Reuters
    “The shutdown of Samsung’s last China phone factory comes after it cut production at the plant in the southern city of Huizhou in June and suspended another factory late last year, underscoring stiff competition in the country.”

  • Video game livestreaming
    A closer look at China’s video game livestreaming duopoly / TechNode via China Film Insider

China’s leading game streaming platforms, Huya and Douyu, control over 60% of the industry. The current market expectation is for this number to grow even higher with further consolidation. Huya went public in May 2018, while Douyu recently IPO’ed in July 2019, both in the US. Huya is more than 80% larger than Douyu with a ~$4.9 billion valuation, vs. Douyu’s ~$2.7 billion valuation as of August 26. Moreover, compared to Douyu, Huya has a slightly higher tilt towards game streaming with over 50% revenue derived from gaming, compared to 45% for Douyu.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT: 

  • Scarcity of usable water along the Yangtze
    Half of Yangtze provinces are water stressed / Chinadialogue
    A “report from China Water Risk finds…six of the 11 provinces on the Yangtze river economic belt (YREB) are water stressed. Those six provinces account for one-third of China’s population and GDP. Shanghai and Jiangsu are facing ‘extremely high’ baseline water stress, with agriculture, industry and services consuming 90% or more of usable water in an average year, according to data from the World Resources Institute quoted in the report.”

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

Scott Morrison has declared sovereign nations need to eschew an “unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy” and the world needs to avoid “negative globalism” in a major foreign policy lecture at the Lowy Institute… 

Morrison also dug in behind the rationale he floated in last week’s address to the Chicago Institute for Global Affairs that China was now a newly developed economy, not a developing one.

The “Einheitsfront” enabled European Communist parties “to preserve their revolutionary identity in non-revolutionary times“; Xi Jinping’s 2015 call to build a “broadest (possible) patriotic united front” is attempting to preserve and extend the CCP by upping ideological influencing, not just in China but around the world, including in Germany.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

Edgar Ng Hon-lam bought a government-subsidised flat under the Housing Authority’s Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) in 2018, a year after he tied the knot with his then boyfriend Henry Li Yik-ho in London, a High Court filing said.

But their plan to share a home together hit a wall when it later emerged the organization’s policy only allowed Ng to cohabit with his family, a status Li did not have under the rules, Ng argued in his judicial challenge.


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The Chinese National Day holiday is usually a battle royale of big-budget blockbusters of various genres, whose releases are carefully timed to take advantage of what’s dubbed “Golden Week” starting on October 1. But this year, instead of movies with different themes competing against one another, the holiday box office was dominated by movies with a common theme: patriotism

Mainland college student in Hong Kong claims on-campus harassment over Chinese national flag in dorm room

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Joe Kahn, the managing editor of the New York Times and the paper’s former Beijing bureau chief, moderates the discussion with Ezra Vogel, the eminent Harvard University professor and author, and Orville Schell, author and the director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society.