Links for Monday, April 6, 2020 - SupChina
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Links for Monday, April 6, 2020

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY:

Retail investors in Hong Kong have threatened legal action against HSBC and will attempt to force the bank to hold an extraordinary general meeting, after it was pressured by UK regulators to cancel its dividend due to the coronavirus crisis.

The controversy surrounding the suspension of HSBC’s annual payout to shareholders for the first time in nearly 75 years has again highlighted the lender’s complicated situation in Hong Kong, where it derives most of its profits before tax.

China is edging toward what could be its first credit downturn in decades, as personal-loan delinquencies in the country climb during the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent weeks, executives at some Chinese banks and online lending platforms said more consumers have fallen behind on their credit-card and loan payments, which could snowball into higher defaults in the coming months. Some lenders have reduced loan originations as a result, despite regulators’ calls to keep credit flowing across the economy.

Travel bookings for the three-day weekend [marking the Qingming Festival, the annual tomb-sweeping holiday] were up 50% from the weekend before, according to Trip.com, China’s largest travel services company, while hotel bookings increased 60%. Fliggy, an online travel service operated by Alibaba Group Holding, said train reservations doubled and hotel bookings rose 30%.

The crowds flocking to the Huangshan, or Yellow Mountains, in Anhui province highlight the difficulties the country may face in future as it tries to get back to normal while keeping COVID-19 under control.

Starting from Saturday, the Anhui provincial government had been offering free entry to 29 sites, including Huangshan, to boost visitor numbers…

But on Sunday the park authorities said it would have to close because the number of visitors had reached its daily limit of 20,000 and urged people to visit other sites or come to the mountains at another time.

  • Some 460,000 Chinese firms shut in the first quarter amid fallout from the coronavirus.
  • Registration of new firms between January and March fell 29% from a year earlier.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said there’s no evidence that any drug is in short supply because China or another country is blocking critical ingredients from flowing into the U.S. market.

“We don’t have any evidence that there is a drug in short supply because of anyone blocking the active pharmaceutical ingredients in the drugs,” Hahn said in an interview with Fox News.

Today, NYSE-listed Chinese live-streaming platform Huya announced that Tencent Holdings, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Linen Investment Limited, exercised its option to acquire additional shares in the company to increase its voting power in Huya to 50.9% (on a calculated based on the total issued and outstanding shares of Huya) and became the company’s largest shareholder.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

China’s drastic decision to lock down the central city of Wuhan has cut the number of coronavirus cases exported from the country to other parts of the world by more than 75%, according to a study by a team of international scientists [reported in two papers published in Science magazine].

The restrictions also dramatically curbed the number of domestic infections, another team found.

  • Don’t touch your face mask
    Coronavirus can stay on face masks for up to a week, study finds / SCMP
    “Pathogen that causes COVID-19 is gone within three hours from surfaces like printing and tissue paper, but can last for days on banknotes, stainless steel and plastic, researchers from University of Hong Kong say.”
  • Pangolins most likely host of COVID-19 virus — study
    Identifying SARS-CoV-2 related coronaviruses in Malayan pangolins / Nature
    Summarized by William Yang on Twitter: “Latest on the origin of SARS-CoV-2 — A study identified pangolin as the most likely host of the coronavirus that caused the COVID19 pandemic worldwide. The animal in the study was “seized in anti-smuggling operations in southern China.”

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS:

The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon church, plans to open its first temple in mainland China at a time when Beijing has been clamping down steadily on religious freedoms.

The temple in the eastern Chinese city of Shanghai will help fill a gap left by renovation work since last July at the church’s temple in Hong Kong, Russell M. Nelson, president of the church, announced on Sunday.

“Because we respect the laws and regulations of the People’s Republic of China, the Church does not send proselytizing missionaries there; nor will we do so now,” he said.

A former cardiac surgeon, Nelson has spent time in China, studied Mandarin and was granted an honorary professorship by China’s Shandong University School of Medicine.

In January, the church sent two planeloads of protective medical equipment to the Children’s Medical Center in Shanghai to help manage the coronavirus outbreak.

Taiwan has intensified its efforts to raise its global profile by offering to donate urgently needed face masks and medical aids to other countries — a move that has angered Beijing.

…Foreign ministry spokesman Huá Chūnyíng 华春莹 said Taiwan prohibited the export of masks when the outbreak was at its height on the Chinese mainland, and said the island should not play any “political tricks” to gain accession to the World Health Organisation.

Li’s [a heart specialist at Wuhan No. 4 Hospital] trauma stands in stark contrast to the image projected by China’s media, which is filled with articles and broadcasts glorifying the government’s response to the epidemic. Amid so much exultation, Li is increasingly reluctant to express fears or concerns to others around him. He has become a different man — one who understands that “life is fragile and weak.”

A leading Chinese human rights lawyer has been released from prison after almost five years behind bars, his wife said Sunday.

But [王全璋 Wáng Quánzhāng] has yet to return home to his family in Beijing and was instead escorted Sunday to a property he owns in eastern Shandong province for 14 days in quarantine as a precaution against the coronavirus, according to wife Lǐ Wénzú 李文足.

  • Official news agency Xinhua says the three died in Saturday’s attack in the province of Ituri
  • Central African country is major source of cobalt and copper but armed rebels pose a persistent risk

SOCIETY AND CULTURE:

Across the country, authorities have restricted access to grave sites in a bid to avoid a resurgence in the spread of coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease Covid-19. Officials suspended group gatherings and encouraged families to conduct “online” tomb-sweeping instead.

Throughout New York and New Jersey, small groups from the Chinese-American community are uniting to fight the pandemic in this country even as they face racist remarks and some physical attacks. Using mostly WeChat, they are creating vast networks and rallying their contacts here and in China to procure supplies for doctors and nurses in need.

The action of dodging responsibilities is called “甩锅” [shuǎi guō] in Chinese idiom, which literally means “tossing a pan.”  

This whole toss pan comedy has been played between central government and local government, in China, U.S., and many more.

To inform, criticize, and warn, please join me in this Toss Pan Dance.  

Rhode Island School of Design student Yangyang Ding has created a series of metal instruments to help Mandarin speakers pronounce difficult English sounds.

The 12 pronunciation tools, some of which are adapted from dental instruments, wrap around the jawline, press down the tongue or curl lips in various ways depending on the intended phonetic sound.

As the virus spread, Wuhan quickly captured the world’s attention. For many Americans, this was the first time they had ever heard of the city — and in the frightening context of coronavirus.

She [Laura Gao] decided to make a comic telling her own story and highlighting her favorite parts of the city.

The comic has sections highlighting Wuhan’s history, architecture and economy. That includes the city’s most famous landmark the Yellow Crane Tower. Gao writes, that in the sun, it shines like gold.

[T]hey [the government] had transformed the city into an archipelago of walled-off residential compounds. It was an eye-catching defense for an invisible foe.

…What went on behind them was a mystery: They were almost exactly the height of the average adult male, meaning you had no idea who, if anyone, was on the other side.

…As the city brought the outbreak under control, residents started to break through the barriers that separated them — sometimes literally, using drills.

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