Thousands protest face mask ban, ‘interim government’ declared in Hong Kong

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Our word of the day is: Declaration of Hong Kong interim government (香港临时政府宣言 xiānggǎng línshí zhèngfǔ xuānyán).

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


1. Thousands protest face mask ban, ‘interim government’ declared in Hong Kong

The BBC reports

Thousands have taken part in unplanned protests in Hong Kong after the territory’s government announced a face mask ban, which came into effect at midnight (16:00 GMT)… Reports on Friday said a 14-year-old had been shot in the leg…

Today will be the last time demonstrators can hide their faces legally. Anonymity has become a key part of this movement but many fear that the introduction of this emergency law could lead to further restrictions.

“After darkness fell, crowds set fire to two metro stations and vandalized shops and businesses considered pro-China, leading riot police to respond with tear gas,” according to the Guardian

Some protesters declared the establishment of an “interim government” (临时政府 línshí zhèngfǔ) as the “Hong Kong SAR Government is completely controlled by Beijing and cannot represent the people of Hong Kong.” Radio Free Asia has a video (in Chinese).

Other news from the City of Protest:

“Beijing has thrown its weight behind the Hong Kong government’s controversial ban on people wearing masks at public assemblies, declaring the move ‘extremely necessary’ and calling for more forceful steps to curb violence and restore order in the city,” reports the South China Morning Post

“In an unprecedented move, Hong Kong’s rail operator has shut down all services after demonstrations and unrest broke out across the city on Friday night,” according to the Hong Kong Free Press.  

“Tycoon Li Ka-shing [李嘉诚 Lǐ Jiāchéng] has donated HK$1 billion ($127.5 million) to help Hong Kong’s small and medium-sized entrepreneurs withstand the twin setbacks of a slowing global economy and the city’s grinding protest crisis,” reports the South China Morning Post. 

“Malaysia’s prime minister said Friday Hong Kong’s embattled leader should resign over the city’s increasingly violent pro-democracy protests and warned China would take ‘harsh action’ to end the demonstrations,” reports Agence France-Presse

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad — who at 94 is the world’s oldest leader — said Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam [林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é] “is in a dilemma.”

“She has to obey the masters, at the same time she has to ask her conscience… Her conscience says that the people of Hong Kong are right in rejecting the (extradition) law. But on the other hand, she knows the consequence of rejecting the law.”

2. Trump promised Xi to be quiet about Hong Kong

“During a private phone call in June, President Donald Trump promised Chinese President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 that the US would remain quiet on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong while trade talks continued,” CNN reports

The record of the call was “moved to a highly-classified, codeword-protected system, greatly limiting the number of administration officials who were aware of the conversation,” sources said, and two speeches by then U.S. general counsel in Hong Kong, Kurt Tong, were canceled to keep Trump’s promise. The CNN report confirms and adds detail to a Financial Times report from July 10

Trade talks are still to start on October 10. Axios calls them “huge.” Politico says Trump has thrown “an impeachment stink bomb” with his suggestion Thursday that Beijing should investigate Joe Biden. 

“In a Congress where it’s almost impossible to get anything significant done, four U.S. companies in the freight car business have persuaded the House and Senate to pass legislation that would withhold federal funds for any municipal project using CRRC cars,” reports Bloomberg (porous paywall). CRRC is China Railway Rolling Stock Corp., a gargantuan rail group with business all over the world.

The U.S. Commerce Department “said in preliminary determination on Thursday that China was dumping wooden cabinets in the United States at margins ranging from 4.5 to 262.2 percent,” reports Reuters

3. Want a mobile number? Scan your face for Big Brother!

Quartz reports (porous paywall):

China is taking every measure it can to verify the identities of its over 850 million mobile internet users. From December 1, people applying for new mobile and data services will have to have their faces scanned by telecom providers, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a September 27 statement (link in Chinese).

MIIT said the step was part of its efforts to “safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of citizens in the cyberspace” and to control phone and internet fraud. In addition to the facial-recognition test, phone users are also banned from passing their mobile phone numbers to others, and encouraged to check if numbers are registered under their name without their consent.

4. New reports from Xinjiang

NBC has a TV news package that includes interviews with Uyghurs in Turkey, footage inside detention centers, and the correspondent asking the director of one internment camp if he thought separating a mother from her four-year-old daughter was “brutal.”

Weather Reports: Voices from Xinjiang is an illustrated series of stories by Ben Mauk, who in 2018 “began to travel to Kazakhstan to interview the family members of Xinjiang’s imprisoned and disappeared.”

I also interviewed former detainees who described their own experiences. Most had crossed from China into Kazakhstan in the weeks, months, and years before our meeting, either by applying for residency and citizenship or by escaping across the border. The result is an oral history of life in contemporary Xinjiang. To my knowledge, it is the first document of its kind.

“A Uyghur refugee living in Belgium complained on Tuesday that Chinese authorities had cracked down on his family after they applied for the right to join him,” reports Agence France-Presse

Speaking at a Vatican conference on religious freedom, “U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday slammed China over its repressive policies against Muslim Uyghurs…while calling on the international community to join Washington in protecting religious freedom,” reports Radio Free Asia.   


Here are the stories that caught our eye this week:

  • Beijing celebrated National Day on October 1 with a massive military parade, featuring 15,000 service members and powerful new equipment such as the DF-41 hypersonic missile and the DF-17 ballistic missile-launched hypersonic glide-vehicle. General Secretary Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 also gave a speech in which he declared, “No force can ever undermine China’s status,” and urged the uniting of “all of China’s children,” including those across the Taiwan Strait — an idea that Taiwan immediately rejected. On the day after the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, state media unveiled a new slogan: “A new era of striving” (奋斗新时代 fèndòu xīn shídài). 

  • In Hong Kong, National Day saw widespread chaos, as protesters clashed with police in over a dozen locations, and the first live shots were fired by police, two of them hitting an 18-year-old protester in the chest, sending him to the hospital for days. The police said the officer’s actions were motivated by nothing but self-defense, but a leaked memo showed that the day before the shooting, the Hong Kong police force had loosened its guidelines on the use of deadly force. 

  • Trump urged China to interfere in the U.S. election by investigating his chief political rival, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter, who has done business in China. But as the New York Times puts it, “the president’s claims bear little if any relation to the known facts.” 

  • PayPal has become the first foreign payment platform to enter China to provide online payment services, with the approval of its 70 percent equity stake in GoPay (Guofubao Information Technology Co. Ltd.). PayPal will face gargantuan competitors in WeChat Wallet and Alipay.

  • The next round of U.S.-China trade talks is confirmed for October 10 in Washington, D.C. Early this week, the Trump administration weaseled away from a proposal floated last week to limit U.S. investment in Chinese companies, after it spooked financial markets. 

  • Smartphone maker Transsion filed for an IPO on Shanghai’s STAR Market. Huawei promptly sued Transsion for intellectual property infringement. 

  • Chinese-Australian writer Yáng Héngjūn 楊恒均 is being shackled in chains and interrogated in a detention center in Beijing, according to reports. 

  • Jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti became the first Chinese dissident to receive the 2019 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, named after the Czech playwright and politician who opposed Soviet communism. 

  • World opinion on China has become more negative,according to the Pew Research Center’s annual Global Attitudes Survey. Canada and Sweden had some of the biggest drops in favorable opinion on China, though public opinion in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Tunisia also soured considerably.


BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

China’s Baidu is betting that the smart speaker will be the next smartphone…

“The early signs are that when these devices enter people’s homes they become the core of that home,” [Baidu’s vice-president for smart devices] said in an interview. “That is why all the leading [Chinese technology] companies are making smart speakers.” … 

But it is Baidu which has taken the lead, despite only launching a low-cost smart speaker in April last year. In the second quarter it overtook not only Alibaba but also Google, to sell the second most smart speakers globally after Amazon.

Overall China sales have also overtaken those in the US and in the next quarter, more than twice as many smart speakers could be sold in China, some 12.6m, than in the US, according to research firm Canalys.

“Domestic film My People, My Country [我和我的祖国 wǒ hé wǒ de zǔguó] continued to lead the Chinese mainland box office on Thursday, its fourth day of screening, figures from the China Movie Data Information Network showed Friday.”

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT: 

“China will provide up to 5 million yuan ($700,000) in subsidies for modern facilities installed in newly built hog farms and offer assistance for expanding operations under a six-point road map for increasing pork production unveiled last month.”

Despite significant improvements in air quality, China still faces a grim situation in air pollution control because of high emissions, the head of the country’s top environmental watchdog said.

The 74 major Chinese cities that adopted a new air monitoring standard in 2013 saw their average concentration of PM2.5-tiny particulate matter that is a health hazard-drop by 41.7 percent over the past six years, Lǐ Gànjié 李干杰, minister of ecology and environment, said at a news conference on Sunday.

The average density of sulfur dioxide in cities above prefecture-level across the country declined from 35 micrograms per cubic meter to 14 mcg per cu m last year, down by 60 percent, he said.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

Vietnam accused a Chinese oil-surveying vessel and coastguard escorts of territorial violations by widening their activities after entering the country’s exclusive economic zone and operating within offshore blocks for three months.

As of Friday, the ship called the Haiyang Dizhi 8 has made several passes through the foreign-owned blocks off the coast of central Vietnam after leaving Chinese-controlled Fiery Cross Reef on September 28, according to Marine Traffic satellite tracking data.

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

A growing number of Chinese viral short videos are reuploaded on Western social media accounts, bringing them global attention. And in most cases, the original creators are not even aware of it… 

While one of his short videos originally posted on Kuaishou racked up nearly 12 million views on Twitter, Liu’s life remains relatively unchanged. When TechNode reached out to Liu last Thursday, he was busy harvesting corn in a small village in northern China’s Hebei Province.

An enormous secondary market for special-edition sneakers is emerging in China, fueled by the growing popularity of street fashion and digital platforms that allow sneakerheads to trade shoes like stock market shares. The market has become so hot that it is even attracting professional investors who previously traded in other speculative assets like bitcoin, raising concerns of a sneaker bubble. 

Lauren Teixeira profiles Xú Xiǎodōng 徐晓冬, a mixed martial arts fighter who is not shy about sharing his opinions online. 


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

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