Beijing denies plans to replace Carrie Lam

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Dear Access member,

Our word of the day is to dismiss and replace (撤换 chèhuàn), which you can read about in our first story. If this newsletter were a tabloid newspaper, I’d headline it: Beijing has a little Lam, and denies she’s got to go.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

SupChina illustration for a story last month on how Carrie Lam’s announcement of the extradition bill withdrawal was widely perceived as “too little, too late” by protesters. 

1. Beijing denies plans to replace Carrie Lam 

The Financial Times reports (paywall):

The Chinese government is drawing up a plan to replace Carrie Lam [林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é], Hong Kong’s leader, with an “interim” chief executive following violent protests against her administration, according to people briefed on the deliberations. 

The people said that if Xí Jìnpíng 习近平, China’s president, decided to go ahead, Ms Lam’s successor would be installed by March and cover the remainder of her term, which ends in 2022. They would not necessarily stay on for a full five-year term afterwards…

Leading candidates to succeed Ms Lam include Norman Chan [陳德霖 Chén Délín], former head of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, and Henry Tang [唐英年 Táng Yīngnián], son of a textile magnate who has also served as the territory’s financial secretary and chief secretary for administration, the people added. 

Beijing denies the story: “China’s Foreign Ministry slammed reports on Wednesday that the central government was planning to replace Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, calling such reports ‘political rumors with ulterior motives,’” says the nationalist rag Global Times. That newspaper’s editor went a little further on Twitter:

Western media is adept at making up stories like this. Such news report can be used as a tool to interfere in Hong Kong situation. UK media works like political fighter in reporting Hong Kong riots.

Other news from the City of Protest:

“Hong Kong’s extradition bill, declared ‘dead’ months ago by the government, was finally buried on Wednesday with the formal withdrawal of the much-hated legislation which sparked the city’s worst crisis in decades,” reports the South China Morning Post

But the move is unlikely to end months of unrest “as it met just one of five demands of pro-democracy demonstrators,” according to Reuters. The other four demands are:

  • An independent inquiry into alleged police misconduct.

  • The government to cease characterizing the protests as “riots.”

  • Amnesty for arrested protesters.

  • Complete universal suffrage. 

The murder suspect whose case was the stated reason for implementing the extradition law was released from prison in Hong Kong today. Chan Tong-kai (陳同佳 Chén Tóngjiā) is “wanted by Taiwan authorities on suspicion of murdering his Hong Kong girlfriend while the pair were on vacation in the democratic island,” according to Radio Free Asia, or see the South China Morning Post. After his release, Chan told reporters, “I’m willing to surrender myself to Taiwan and serve my sentence there for what I did wrong.”  

2. Is China losing the media war?

There is no question that whether the subject is internment camps in Xinjiang or the Hong Kong protests, Beijing is winning the propaganda and media war at home. Public opinion seems in line with the Party’s narrative. Even if it’s not, dissenting views are ruthlessly censored and suppressed. 

But it’s different outside the Great Firewall. “From Hong Kong to the NBA, how China is losing the media war” reads a headline in the Nikkei Asian Review (porous paywall). The article focuses on how guerrilla media tactics adopted by protesters in Hong Kong “have amplified and broadcast their demands, exposed police aggression, and helped to give a human face to a pro-democracy movement that has vacillated between peaceful protest and violent resistance.” Meanwhile, the hopeless communication efforts from the Hong Kong and Beijing governments leave them “looking isolated and out of touch.”

Here are some other stories from around the globe that show the limits of Beijing’s ability to push its own narrative: 

“A Malaysian-made, pro-Beijing comic book distributed in schools in the Southeast Asian nation has sparked outrage for suggesting Malays who support China’s Muslim Uygurs are radicals, with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also condemning the publication,” according to the South China Morning Post.

NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal has spoken out “in support of a basketball executive’s comments that sparked a row between the NBA and China,” reports the BBC: “The basketball legend said Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey ‘was right’ to tweet support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.”

Nonetheless, a Tencent stream of an NBA match between the Lakers and the Clippers got “a cool 15 million concurrent viewers,” per this tweet by Jordan Schneider. But “CCTV is sticking to its pledge to drop National Basketball Association coverage two weeks after a league official’s Twitter post roiled its business in the mainland,” according to Bloomberg (porous paywall). 

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert did a segment mocking American sports media companies that cave in to China: Watch on Twitter here

“Vietnam has ordered a vehicle importer to remove navigation apps that show maps reflecting Chinese territorial claims that are rejected by Hanoi, adding to a wave of resistance against maps showing the ‘nine-dash line,’” reports the South China Morning Post

3. Another doctor murdered at work 

Police arrested a man after a doctor was stabbed to death while on duty at a hospital in Lanzhou, Gansu Province, reports the South China Morning Post. The suspect has cancer and had surgery at the hospital three years ago, when the murdered doctor was in charge. 

Since 2001, “at least 36 Chinese doctors and medical staff have been killed in hospitals,” according to a since-disappeared posting on Chinese medical info site cited by the SCMP. Aside from the fatalities, there are tens of thousands of violent altercations between hospital staff and patients every year in China. They are so common that they have inspired a new slang word in Mandarin Chinese, yinao (医闹 yīnào), which roughly translates as “medical ruckus.”

From a 2014 Berkeley Journal article on yinao:

These disputes can take various forms, including the display of corpses at a hospital, the blockade of a hospital entrance, the destruction of property, attacks against health professionals, and in some cases, the employment of gangs by patients’ families in order to pressure medical institutions for more compensation in instances of malpractice. 

—Jeremy Goldkorn


President Trump and many of his top advisers have identified China’s technological ambitions as a national security threat and want to limit the type of American technology that can be sold overseas. But a plan to do just that has encountered stiff resistance from some in the administration, who argue that imposing too many constraints could backfire and undermine American industry

First- and second-tier cities
1. Chengdu, Sichuan 
2. Shenzhen, Guangdong 
3. Beijing
4. Lanzhou, Gansu  
5. Zhengzhou, Henan 
6. Xi’an, Shaanxi 
7. Guiyang, Guizhou
8. Changchun, Jilin  
9. Wuhan, Hubei 
10. Xiamen, Fujian  

Third-tier cities
1. Dongguan, Guangdong  
2. Nantong, Jiangsu  
3. Zhuhai, Guangdong  
4. Taizhou, Jiangsu 
5. Dazhou, Sichuan
6. Yingtan, Jiangxi
7. Luohe, Henan
8. Anshun, Guizhou
9. Suzhou, Jiangsu 
10. Ma’anshan, Anhui  

From December 1, tourists from 53 countries can gain entry without a visa to 20 cities through the ports for up to 144 hours… Visitors need a current passport and tickets to a destination outside China that are valid within the visa-free period to gain entry…

The 53 countries include the United States, Canada, European Union members, Russia, Japan and South Korea, South American nations such as Brazil and Argentina, as well as Scandinavia and Gulf Arab states.

Industrial bellwether Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N) reported a drop in sales in the United States and China in the third quarter, leading it to cut its outlook for the year and adding to evidence that the global economy is firmly on the decline.

In the first six months of 2019, only 36 new start-ups with a valuation of at least $1bn were fostered in China, according to Shanghai-based research company Hurun Report, a 30 per cent fall on the same period in 2018. It is also a stark climbdown from last year, where Hurun data showed Chinese unicorns were being created at a rate of one every 3.8 days.


What do young Chinese people think about the climate emergency?

No survey has asked this specific question, but it’s reasonable to say climate isn’t one of the issues university students care most about. In February this year, a survey by found their top concerns to be education (79.8 percent) and employment (77.1 percent), followed by housing, healthcare and entrepreneurship. The environment was sixth of the nine topics. Climate change wasn’t even specified.


The document [in Chinese] stressed efforts to improve governance of ethnic affairs, guarantee the legal rights and interests of citizens of different ethnic groups and resolutely crack down on criminal acts sabotaging ethnic unity and causing ethnic separation.

Work on ethnic unity should expand its focus to grassroots-level units, including communities, rural areas, schools, enterprises and military companies, said the document.

It asked to deepen publicity and education work on ethnic unity, push for the inheritance and development of fine traditional Chinese culture and expand the online space for ethnic unity publicity and education.

The document also asked for efforts to promote exchanges, communication and integration between different ethnic groups.

Though international law recognizes the gendered nature of mass atrocities, the world has paid little attention to the gender disparities of China’s campaign against the Uyghurs. 

Monash University has struck a $10 million research agreement with a Chinese state-owned aerospace company that was last week linked to a global industrial espionage campaign.

The deal with Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) — to be formally signed in Beijing on Wednesday with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews as a witness — has prompted fresh warnings about the risks of research collaboration with Chinese entities.

A 20-year-old University of Queensland student is taking the Chinese government’s most senior representative in the state to court over allegations the consul general accused him of anti-Chinese separatism and exposed him to death threats.

  • Grumbling about Chinese-built railway in Kenya
    Idle Sh25 billion Naivasha line to delay SGR’s benefits / Business Daily (Kenya)
    Yesterday, we noted that the East African nation of Tanzania has pushed back against Chinese demands in the port development project at Bagamoyo. There are rumblings of discontent in neighboring Kenya, too: 

More than 20 kilometres of the recently launched Nairobi-Naivasha standard gauge railway (SGR) will remain unused, raising further questions about the immediate benefits of the mega project to Kenyan taxpayers.

Passengers will only use 100 kilometres of the railway line from Nairobi to Suswa out of the 120 kilometres that Kenya built using a Sh150 billion ($1.45 billion) Chinese loan.

This means that taxpayers are unlikely to get immediate benefits from the remaining 20 kilometres, which would become useful if the SGR were extended to Kisumu and later to the Ugandan border.

The evidence to date suggests China has not been engaged in deliberate ‘debt trap’ diplomacy in the Pacific. Nonetheless, the sheer scale of China’s lending and its lack of strong institutional mechanisms to protect the debt sustainability of borrowing countries poses clear risks. 

Chinese lending is more intense as a share of GDP in smaller economies. If China wants to remain a major development financier in the Pacific without fulfilling the debt trap accusations of its critics, it will need to substantially restructure its approach, including by adopting formal lending rules similar to those of the multilateral development banks.

All 54 African states were represented at the first Russia-Africa Summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, with Putin set to meet leaders for bilateral talks during the gathering [which] is in many ways borrowing from China’s playbook…

Trade between Russia and Africa has more than doubled in the past five years to more than US$20 billion… Putin said Russia would be looking “double this trade, at least” within the next four to five years.” He also said that Russia had written off more than US$20 billion of African debt. 


  • Chinese countryside internet culture goes global
    An interview with the viral Chinese stunt drinker who became our king / Deadspin
    “One day late last month, Liú Shìchāo 刘世超, a 33-year-old farmer in China’s northern Hebei province, awoke to a flood of messages that he had become famous on a foreign social networking platform called Twitter. Liu had never heard of this app.”
    Lauren Teixeira interviews the self-described Hebei Fatty (河北胖仔 Héběi pàngzǎi — pàngzǎi being a pun on 胖子 pàngzi, meaning fat person), who is now on Twitter himself.

  • Peony or plum blossom?
    Flower power: Understanding China’s national flower debate / Sixth Tone
    “Seven decades after its founding, the People’s Republic of China has yet to pick a national flower — but not for lack of trying.”


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