Premier League Cancels China Broadcast Deal

premier-league-fixtures-today
The Premier League was put on hold mid-March due to COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: Twitter/Premier League.

 

 

The Premier League terminated a lucrative broadcasting contract with its licensee in China on Thursday, dealing a further blow to the English top-flight as clubs adjust to heavy losses as a result of the coronavirus.

Streaming service PPTV agreed a reported $700 million (£524 million) deal for the right to broadcast all 380 Premier League matches per season from 2019 to 2022.

However, the first season of that deal was hit by the coronavirus pandemic with a three-month shutdown between March and June before the season was completed behind closed doors.

PPTV reportedly failed to make a £160 million payment due in March for coverage of the 2019/20 season.

“The Premier League confirms that it has today terminated its agreements for Premier League coverage in China with its licensee in that territory,” the Premier League said in a statement.

“The Premier League will not be commenting further on the matter at this stage.”

The English top-flight is already facing huge losses due to coronavirus.

The new season is set to start on September 12 in empty stadiums, while domestic and international broadcasters were due rebates because of the disruption to the 2019/20 season.

PP said in a statement that after many rounds of talks disagreements remained on the value of the rights.

“Regrettably, we have not reached an agreement with the Premier League,” it said.

“Despite PP paying more than the copyright cycle fee to Premier League in advance, as agreed, PP will terminate its cooperation with the Premier League.”

It remains to be seen whether the Premier League will be able to negotiate a new rights deal in China on similar terms due to challenging economic and political conditions.

Last season was marked by political tensions between Britain and China.

In December, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV pulled a game between Arsenal and Manchester City from its programme after Gunners midfielder Mesut Ozil expressed support for mainly Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Relations between the two countries have also soured as the British government has ordered the phased removal of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from its 5G network.

It also offered citizenship to millions of Hong Kong nationals in response to a sweeping new security law that Beijing has imposed on the former British colony.

AFP

Cathay Pacific Reports First-Half Loss Of US$1.27 Billion

(FILES) This file photo taken on August 12, 2019 shows the Cathay Pacific check-in area empty as all flights have been cancelled after protesters occupied Hong Kong’s international airport during continued unrest in the territory. – Troubled Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific said it lost 1.27 billion USD in the first half of this year, the latest major airline to reveal how badly the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has eviscerated its business. (Photo by VIVEK PRAKASH / AFP)

 

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific said Wednesday it lost HK$9.9 billion (US$1.27 billion) in the first half of this year as the coronavirus pandemic sent passenger numbers tumbling, eviscerating its business.

Before the pandemic, Cathay Pacific was one of Asia’s largest international airlines and the world’s fifth-largest air cargo carrier. But it has been battered by the evaporation of global travel.

“The first six months of 2020 were the most challenging that the Cathay Pacific Group has faced in its more than 70-year history,” chairman Patrick Healy said in a stark statement announcing the results.

“The global health crisis has decimated the travel industry and the future remains highly uncertain, with most analysts suggesting that it will take years to recover to pre-crisis levels.”

The airline said it carried 4.4 million passengers in the first six months of 2020 — a 76 percent plunge on-year — as the coronavirus burst out of central China and spread around the world.

At the height of the global lockdowns in April and May, Cathay Pacific’s entire fleet was averaging just 500 passengers a day.

Cargo remained the lone bright spot, rising nine percent on-year to HK$11.2 billion. Demand was driven up by a squeeze on space for cargo, which is often carried in the holds of passenger planes.

Despite the grim results, Cathay’s share price rose 12 percent on Wednesday, its biggest one-day jump since 2008.

Bloomberg News said the rally was caused by a tweet by China’s state-run tabloid Global Times saying Hong Kong’s airport may soon restart transfer flights to the mainland.

The paper gave no source for its tweet but investors were buoyed because transfer flights could give Cathay some much-needed extra passengers.

Unlike other big international carriers, Cathay has no domestic market to fall back on, and it was already under pressure after months of huge protests in Hong Kong last year caused passenger numbers to plunge.

It was also punished by Beijing last year when some of its 33,000 employees expressed support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

– Rescue package –

Healy said 2020 had started promisingly, with signs that demand was beginning to return after the sometimes-violent protests had put travellers off visiting the financial hub.

But then the pandemic struck.

In response to the health crisis, Cathay Pacific has tried to save cash by reducing capacity, cutting executive pay, introducing voluntary leave schemes and slashing other non-essential costs.

It has so far refrained from any large-scale job cuts.

Hong Kong’s government also came to its rescue earlier this year with a HK$39 billion recapitalisation plan.

The deal allowed Cathay Pacific to raise some HK$11.7 billion in a rights issue on the basis of seven rights shares for every 11 existing shares held.

Preference shares were sold to the government via Aviation 2020, a new company it owns, for HK$19.5 billion and warrants for HK$1.95 billion, subject to adjustment.

In return, Aviation 2020 received two “observers” to attend board meetings.

Healy predicted little optimism for business picking up any time soon, quoting the International Air Transport Association as saying global travel is unlikely to reach pre-pandemic levels until at least 2024.

And he said Asia-Pacific airlines were likely to suffer for longer given spiralling tensions between the United States and China.

“With a global recession looming, and geopolitical tensions intensifying, trade will likely come under significant pressure,” he said.

“And this is expected to have a negative impact on both air travel and cargo demand.”

AFP

Hong Media Tycoon, Jimmy Lai, Arrested Under New Security Law

Police cordon off the street outside the Next Media publishing offices as authorities conduct a search of the premises after the company's founder Jimmy Lai was arrested under the new national security law in Hong kong on August 10, 2020. ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP
Police cordon off the street outside the Next Media publishing offices as authorities conduct a search of the premises after the company’s founder Jimmy Lai was arrested under the new national security law in Hong Kong on August 10, 2020. ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP

 

Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai was arrested Monday and led in handcuffs through his newspaper office as police raided the building, part of a sweeping crackdown on dissent since China imposed a security law on the city.

Lai, 71, was among nine people detained on charges including colluding with foreign forces — one of the new national security offences — and fraud in an operation targeting his Next Digital publishing group.

It was the latest police operation against dissidents under the sweeping new law introduced at the end of June.

Two of Lai’s sons were among those detained, a police source told AFP as well as Wilson Li, a former pro-democracy activist who describes himself as a freelance videographer working for Britain’s ITV News.

The most serious national security crimes carry up to life in jail.

Journalists working at Lai’s Apple Daily broadcasted dramatic footage on Facebook of some 200 police officers conducting the raid, and the newspaper’s chief editor Law Wai-kwong demanding a warrant from officers.

Apple’s staff were ordered to leave their seats and line up so police could check their identities as officers conducted searches across the newsroom.

At one point Lai was present, in handcuffs and surrounded by officers.

Police said the search was conducted with a court warrant which was shown to staff.

‘Assault on free press’

Chris Yeung, president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, described the police action as “shocking and terrifying”.

“This is unprecedented, and would be unimaginable only one or two months ago,” he said.

In this file photo taken on May 18, 2020, Hong Kong media tycoon and founder of the Apple Daily newspaper Jimmy Lai (C) arrives at the West Kowloon Magistrates Court for charges related to last year's protests in Hong Kong. Anthony WALLACE / AFP
In this file photo taken on May 18, 2020, Hong Kong media tycoon and founder of the Apple Daily newspaper Jimmy Lai (C) arrives at the West Kowloon Magistrates Court for charges related to last year’s protests in Hong Kong. Anthony WALLACE / AFP

 

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong said the raid signalled “a dark new phase” that “upended” previous assurances by China and Hong Kong’s government that the national security law would not end press freedoms.

Chris Patten, the last colonial governor of Hong Kong, accused authorities of carrying out “the most outrageous assault yet on what is left of Hong Kong’s free press”.

The security law was introduced in a bid to quell last year’s huge and often violent pro-democracy protests, and authorities have since wielded their new powers to pursue the city’s democracy camp, sparking criticism from Western nations and sanctions from the United States.

Lai’s Apple Daily and Next Magazine are unapologetically pro-democracy and critical of Beijing.

They are enormously popular but funded almost entirely out of Lai’s pocket because few companies dare advertise with them lest they incur Beijing’s wrath.

After Lai’s arrest, Next Digital shares soared more than 250 percent as supporters made online calls for people to buy the stock.

Across the border, few Hong Kongers generate the level of personal vitriol from Beijing that Lai does.

China routinely calls him a “traitor” and a “black hand” behind last year’s protests.

A small group of Beijing supporters celebrated by popping champagne outside Lai’s offices on Monday afternoon.

Lai spoke to AFP in mid-June, two weeks before the new security law was imposed on Hong Kong.

“I’m prepared for prison,” he said.

He described Beijing’s new security law as “a death knell for Hong Kong” and said he feared authorities would come after his journalists.

He also brushed off the collusion allegations, saying Hong Kongers had a right to meet with foreign politicians.

Sweeping new law

Beijing’s new law targets secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.

Both China and Hong Kong have said it will not affect freedoms and only targets a minority.

Police cordon off the street outside the Next Media publishing offices as authorities conduct a search of the premises after the company's founder Jimmy Lai was arrested under the new national security law in Hong kong on August 10, 2020. ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP
Police cordon off the street outside the Next Media publishing offices as authorities conduct a search of the premises after the company’s founder Jimmy Lai was arrested under the new national security law in Hong kong on August 10, 2020. ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP

 

But its broadly worded provisions criminalised certain political speech overnight, such as advocating sanctions, greater autonomy or independence for Hong Kong.

Critics, including many Western nations, believe the law has ended the key liberties and autonomy that Beijing promised Hong Kong could keep after its 1997 handover by Britain.

Washington last week responded by imposing sanctions on a group of Chinese and Hong Kong officials — including the city’s leader Carrie Lam.

The law’s introduction has coincided with ramped-up police action against democracy supporters.

About two dozen — including Lai — have been charged for defying a police ban to attend a Tiananmen remembrance vigil in early June. Lai and many others are also being prosecuted for taking part in last year’s protests.

Last month a dozen high-profile pro-democracy figures were disqualified from standing in local elections for holding unacceptable political views.

The banned opinions included being critical of the security law and campaigning to win a majority in the city’s partially-elected legislature in order to block government laws.

Shortly after the disqualifications, city leader Lam postponed the elections for a year, citing a surge in coronavirus cases.

 

AFP

China Says It Opposes ‘Barbarous’ Hong Kong Sanctions By US

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom (not pictured) during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on January 28, 2020. 
Naohiko Hatta / AFP

 

 

China’s office in Hong Kong on Saturday denounced Washington’s decision to sanction key officials over sliding freedoms in the business hub, calling the move “barbarous and rude”.

“The ill intentions of US politicians to support people who are anti-China and messing up Hong Kong have been clearly revealed,” Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong said in a statement.

 

-AFP

US Imposes Sanctions On Hong Kong’s Top Leader

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 31, 2020. Anthony WALLACE / AFP
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 31, 2020. Anthony WALLACE / AFP

 

The United States slapped sanctions Friday on Hong Kong’s top leader, a new salvo in a major escalation against Beijing after ordering sweeping restrictions on Chinese-owned social media giants TikTok and WeChat.

In the most significant US action on Hong Kong since Beijing imposed a tough security law, the Treasury Department said it was freezing US assets of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 other senior officials.

The move also criminalizes any US financial transactions with the 11 officials, who include Hong Kong’s police commissioner, its security secretary and China’s top official in the international financial hub.

“Today’s actions send a clear message that the Hong Kong authorities’ actions are unacceptable,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

Pompeo said the law — which bans subversion and other perceived offenses — violated promises made by China before Britain handed back the territory in 1997.

“The United States stands with the Hong Kong people,” Pompeo said.

The Treasury Department said Lam “is directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes.”

The security law imposed in late June has sent a chill through Hong Kong, which saw massive and sometimes destructive pro-democracy protests last year.

Authorities have since delayed elections, citing the coronavirus pandemic and, according to Beijing, issued arrest warrants for six pro-democracy activists living in exile.

Clock ticks for TikTok

The tough new measures come three months ahead of US elections, in which President Donald Trump is trailing in the polls.

Critics say that his hardening turn on China is meant to deflect blame from his own handling of COVID-19, from which the United States has suffered the deadliest toll of any country.

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on August 01, 2020 shows the logo of the social media video sharing app Tiktok displayed on a tablet screen in Paris, and US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 30, 2020. JIM WATSON, Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Late Thursday, Trump made good on threats against WeChat and TikTok — two apps with major audiences.

In an executive order, Trump gave Americans 45 days to stop doing business with the Chinese platforms, effectively setting a deadline for a potential, under-pressure sale of TikTok to Microsoft.

The president cited national security concerns for the moves, which also threw into doubt the American operations of WeChat’s parent firm, Tencent, a powerful player in the video gaming industry and one of the world’s richest companies.

China voiced outrage at the move, which comes as Trump also steps up pressure on the trade and security fronts.

“At the expense of the rights and interests of US users and companies, the US… is carrying out arbitrary political manipulation and suppression,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

Tencent dives

The new restrictions sent Tencent shares into a spin, with the issue tanking as much as 10 percent at one point in Hong Kong trade, wiping almost $50 billion off its market capitalization.

Trump’s order claims TikTok  — whose kaleidoscopic feeds of short video clips feature everything from hair-dye tutorials to dance routines and jokes about daily life — could be used by China to track the locations of federal employees, build dossiers on people for blackmail and conduct corporate espionage.

A man walks past a sign for Tencent, the parent company of Chinese social media giant WeChat, outside the Tencent headquarters in Beijing on August 7, 2020. GREG BAKER / AFP
A man walks past a sign for Tencent, the parent company of Chinese social media giant WeChat, outside the Tencent headquarters in Beijing on August 7, 2020. GREG BAKER / AFP

 

TikTok, which has repeatedly denied sharing data with Beijing, said it was “shocked” by the order “issued without any due process.”

The app owned by Chinese-based ByteDance vowed to “pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure… our company and our users are treated fairly.”

WeChat is a messaging, social media and electronic payment platform and is reported to have more than a billion users, with many preferring it to email.

Repercussions for US?

Daniel Castro of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said the US actions were likely to be counterproductive.

“There is no security justification for banning an app merely because it is owned by a Chinese company,” Castro said.

A woman watches a video of influencer Mowada al-Adham, who was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of violation public morals, on the video-sharing app TikTok in Egypt’s capital Cairo on July 28, 2020. Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

 

“Allegations of security risks should be backed by hard evidence, not unsubstantiated innuendo. American tech companies stand to lose significant global market share if other countries follow a similar standard and block US tech companies from their markets because of concerns about US government surveillance.”

Trump has effectively set a deadline of mid-September for TikTok to be acquired by a US firm or be banned in the United States, leading Microsoft to accelerate its talks to buy it.

The TikTok mobile app has been downloaded about 175 million times in the US and more than a billion times around the world.

The latest US actions follow a protracted battle over Huawei, the Chinese network and smartphone giant accused by the Trump administration of being a tool for espionage.

 

 

AFP

Hong Kong Postpones Elections For One Year Over COVID-19

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 31, 2020. Anthony WALLACE / AFP
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 31, 2020. Anthony WALLACE / AFP

 

Hong Kong’s democracy supporters were dealt a huge blow Friday as authorities postponed local elections for a year because of the coronavirus, capping a devastating month of political disqualifications, arrests for social media posts and activists fleeing overseas.

The city’s democracy camp has come under sustained attack since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law last month — a move China’s leaders described as a “sword” hanging over the head of its critics.

The ensuing weeks have sent a chill through a city used to speaking its mind and supposedly guaranteed certain freedoms and autonomy in a “One Country, Two Systems” deal agreed ahead of its 1997 handover from Britain.

On Friday evening chief executive Carrie Lam, a pro-Beijing appointee, announced that September elections for the financial hub’s legislature would be delayed for a year using emergency anti-virus powers.

This file photo taken on November 24, 2019 shows political campaigners holding up signs to arriving voters during the district council elections in North Point in Hong Kong.  VIVEK PRAKASH / AFP
This file photo taken on November 24, 2019 shows political campaigners holding up signs to arriving voters during the district council elections in North Point in Hong Kong. VIVEK PRAKASH / AFP

 

She denied the move was a political decision to hobble the city’s opposition.

“I am only paying attention to the current pandemic situation,” she said.

Beijing welcomed the move as “necessary, reasonable and legal”.

But the decision infuriated democracy supporters who had warned against any move to delay the polls, accusing authorities of using the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid a drubbing at the ballot box.

“This is a sleazy, contemptible political act to help thwart any victory on the part of the democrats in the original election,” opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo told AFP, warning that public anger could explode.

The postponement came a day after a dozen prominent democracy activists were barred from standing for election because their political views were deemed unacceptable.

“Beyond any doubt (this) is the most scandalous election fraud era in Hong Kong history,” Joshua Wong, one of the city’s most recognisable democracy figures, told reporters Friday before the elections were postponed.

Wong was one of those disqualified, along with other young firebrand activists and some older, more moderate democracy campaigners.

Banned political views

Hong Kong is not a democracy — its leader is chosen by pro-Beijing committees.

But half of its legislature’s 70 seats are directly elected, offering the city’s 7.5 million residents a rare chance to have their voices heard at the ballot box.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (C) speaks during a press conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 31, 2020.  Anthony WALLACE / AFP
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (C) speaks during a press conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 31, 2020. Anthony WALLACE / AFP

 

Planning to capitalise on last year’s huge and often violent anti-Beijing protests, democracy activists had been hoping to win their first-ever majority in September.

But officials have begun scrubbing ballot lists of candidates.

Examples given by authorities of unacceptable political views have included criticising the new security law, campaigning to win a legislation-blocking majority and refusing to recognise China’s sovereignty.

Earlier in the day a coalition of democracy parties warned any bid to delay the elections would herald “the complete collapse of our constitutional system”.

Around half of Hong Kong’s nearly 3,300 COVID-19 cases have been detected in the past month alone and authorities fear hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed.

According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, at least 68 elections worldwide have been postponed because of the virus, while 49 went ahead.

New security law

Hong Kong is going through its most politically turbulent period since its return to Chinese rule, and last year seven straight months of pro-democracy protests swept the city.

The pandemic and mass arrests have helped throttle the movement, but anger towards Beijing still seethes.

This file photo taken on July 11, 2020 shows information posters posted on a wall at a New Territories East polling station during a primary election in Hong Kong. May JAMES / AFP
This file photo taken on July 11, 2020 shows information posters posted on a wall at a New Territories East polling station during a primary election in Hong Kong. May JAMES / AFP

 

In response, China imposed its security law on June 30, bypassing the legislature and keeping the contents of the law secret until it was enacted.

Beijing said the law would restore stability and not impact political freedoms.

It targets four types of crime — subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces — with up to life in prison.

But the broadly worded law instantly outlawed certain political views such as promoting independence or greater autonomy for Hong Kong.

One provision bans “inciting hatred” towards the government.

Critics, including many Western nations, say it has demolished the “One Country, Two Systems” model.

Since it came into force, some political parties have disbanded while at least three prominent Beijing critics have fled overseas.

Libraries and schools have pulled books deemed to be in breach of the new law.

At least 15 arrests have been made so far.

On Wednesday four students were arrested under the new law for “inciting secession” through posts on social media.

Others have been arrested for shouting pro-independence and other protest slogans, or possessing objects emblazoned with them.

A man who allegedly drove his motorbike into a group of police officers while flying an independence flag was the first to be charged under the law, with terrorism and secession offences.

Hong Kong Leader Says Coronavirus Now Spreading ‘Out Of Control’

Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) contractors prepare to take part in a cleaning and disinfection of Pei Ho Street Market in the Sham Shui Po district of Hong Kong on July 17, 2020, as the city experiences another spike in COVID-19 coronavirus cases. ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP

 

 

The deadly coronavirus is spreading out of control in Hong Kong with a record 100 new cases confirmed, the finance hub’s leader said Sunday as she tightened social distancing measures to tackle the sudden surge in infections.

The finance hub was one of the first places to be struck by the virus when it emerged from central China.

But the city had impressive success in tackling the disease, all but ending local transmissions by late June.

However, in the last two weeks, infections have spiked once more and doctors fear the new outbreak is now spreading undetected in the densely packed territory of 7.5 million people.

Read Also: Stranded Nigerian Woman Delivered Of Quadruplets In Dubai Calls For Help

On Sunday chief executive Carrie Lam said more than 500 infections had been confirmed in the last fortnight alone, nearly a third since the outbreak began.

On Sunday 108 new infections were recorded by health authorities, a daily high for the finance hub, bringing the total to 1,886 cases.

“I think the situation is really critical and there is no sign the situation is being brought under control,” Lam told reporters.

Lam announced new social distancing measures last week, shuttering many businesses including bars, gyms and nightclubs, and ordering everyone to wear masks on public transport.

Restaurants were ordered to only offer takeout services in the evenings.

On Sunday Lam announced even more regulations, including plans to make it compulsory to wear masks inside any public indoor venue — and a new order for non-essential civil servants to work for home.

As hospital wards fill, officials are also scrambling to build a further 2,000 isolation rooms on barren land near the city’s Disneyland resort to monitor and treat those who test positive, she added.

Hong Kong was already mired in recession when the pandemic hit thanks to the US-China trade war and months of political unrest last year.

The new partial lockdown has compounded the economic misery.

On Sunday, Lam called for landlords to look at lowering rents in the notoriously expensive city where inequality is rampant.

She said further social distancing measures would be rolled out if the daily infection rate did not ease in coming days.

However, she said she was keen to avoid ordering people to remain at home.

“We can’t just make a simple and extreme move to cut everything at once,” Lam said.

Authorities say testing will be ramped up, targeting high-risk populations such as taxi drivers and restaurant workers after clusters were found within their ranks.

Some of the new infections have swept through elderly care homes, a major cause of concern given how deadly the coronavirus is to older people.

So far twelve people have been died after contracting the virus in Hong Kong — four in the last fortnight.

Lam said officials would try to strike a balance between protecting health and keeping the economy partially afloat.

“It’s hard to tell what kind of measures we will need to roll out… many places have ordered people to stay home,” she said.

“We haven’t adopted that in the last six months because we wanted to maintain a normal life for everyone.”

Hong Kong To Shut All Schools After Virus Cases Spike

File photo: Students of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) participate in a march towards HKUST president Wei Shyy’s lodge in Hong Kong on November 8, 2019, following the death earlier in the day of student Alex Chow, 22, who was taken unconscious to hospital early on November 4 following late-night clashes between police and protesters.  Philip FONG / AFP

 

Hong Kong will close all schools after the territory reported a spike in locally transmitted coronavirus infections, the city’s education minister said Friday.

The government has ordered all schools to close from Monday, bringing forward the start of the summer holidays, Kevin Yeung said, after the city recorded 34 locally transmitted cases on Thursday.

AFP

Domestic Workers Among Few Hong Kongers Who Will Miss Tiktok

A photo taken on December 14, 2018 in Paris shows the logo of the application TikTok. - TikTok, is a Chinese short-form video-sharing app, which has proved wildly popular this year. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)
A photo taken on December 14, 2018 in Paris shows the logo of the application TikTok. – TikTok, is a Chinese short-form video-sharing app, which has proved wildly popular this year. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

 

 

TikTok’s exit from Hong Kong was met with a shrug among many locals who distrust the Chinese social media platform, but the app had been embraced by many foreign domestic workers as a way to creatively escape the drudgery of their toil.

The globally popular video-sharing app was used by many of the city’s 370,000 foreign helpers, as they are commonly known in the finance hub.

In between cooking, cleaning and childcare duties in Hong Kong’s cramped family homes they filmed creative, witty and sometimes scathing insights into their daily lives.

But this week TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, said it would no longer work in Hong Kong after a new security law imposed by Beijing gave authorities sweeping powers to police local users.

Joane, a domestic worker from the Philippines, said she was “a bit sad” to see the app go.

“It also helped me release some stress,” she told AFP.

“Being away from family, financial problems, stress from work” are among the challenges faced by helpers in the city, she said, adding that the app’s popularity had taken off since the coronavirus pandemic meant workers like her were often stuck at home.

Poorly paid domestic workers, primarily from the Philippines and Indonesia, are the cogs that keep Hong Kong’s economic engine running, enabling both parents of a family to hold down full-time jobs in the notoriously expensive city.

Domestic workers must live with their employers in Hong Kong’s tiny flats, are only entitled to one day off a week and often grapple with stressful work environments.

“When (your) employer makes you… non-stop do this and do that and do this and so on,” reads the text in a video Joane posted in May.

“Breathe in, breathe out… And say ‘yes ma’am, yes sir’.”

– Limited traction –
So popular is TikTok among women like Joane that the hashtag #ofwhk — “overseas foreign worker Hong Kong” — has been viewed nearly 12 million times on the platform.

Local recruitment specialist Mirian Sim said she began using the app herself to communicate with and recruit migrant workers when she noticed how big its user base had become.

“I started using it as a way to bond with our existing helpers, to spread positive vibes and information for them,” said Sim, whose agency Garford describes itself as an “ethical employment agency” that specialises in hiring Filipino helpers.

But enthusiasm for the platform from foreign workers — and teenagers around the world — stands in stark contrast to the rest of Hong Kong.

TikTok has gained little traction in the city, reporting just 150,000 local users last August.

By comparison, Facebook currently has 5.6 million local users and Instagram has 2.6 million, according to analytics company NapoleonCat.

In a city rocked by anti-Beijing sentiment, few trust ByteDance’s repeated assurances that it does not share any user information with Chinese authorities.

Online forums used by Hong Kong democracy protesters have long advised people against downloading it, echoing security fears raised by the US government.

Joane said domestic workers could ultimately live without the app.

“We find TikTok very entertaining, but I know even if TikTok will be pulled out of Hong Kong, a lot of Filipino domestic workers can still manage,” she said.

“We always find ways to entertain ourselves.”

 

 

AFP

Australia Extends Visas For Hong Kongers

Conservatives Set To Retain Power In Australia
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison talks to the media outside a polling booth during Australia’s general election in Sydney on May 18, 2019.
Saeed KHAN / AFP

 

 

Australia on Thursday extended the visas of around 10,000 Hong Kongers living in the country by five years following China’s security crackdown on the territory.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a pathway to Australian permanent residency would also be offered to Hong Kong citizens currently in the country on student or temporary work visas.

China Censors Hong Kong Internet, US Tech Giants Resist

A photo taken on December 14, 2018 in Paris shows the logo of the application TikTok. - TikTok, is a Chinese short-form video-sharing app, which has proved wildly popular this year. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)
A photo taken on December 14, 2018 in Paris shows the logo of the application TikTok. – TikTok, is a Chinese short-form video-sharing app, which has proved wildly popular this year. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

 

 

China has unveiled new powers to censor Hong Kong’s internet and access user data using its feared national security law — but US tech giants have put up some resistance citing rights concerns.

The online censorship plans were contained in a 116-page government document released on Monday night that also revealed expanded powers for police, allowing warrantless raids and surveillance for some national security investigations.

China imposed the law on semi-autonomous Hong Kong a week ago, targeting subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces — its wording kept secret until the moment it was enacted.

Despite assurances that only a small number of people would be targeted by the law, the new details show it is the most radical change in Hong Kong’s freedoms and rights since Britain handed the city back to China in 1997.

Late Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke out against “Orwellian” moves to censor activists, schools and libraries since the law was enacted.

“Until now, Hong Kong flourished because it allowed free thinking and free speech, under an independent rule of law. No more,” Pompeo said.

– Restore stability –
Under its handover deal with the British, Beijing promised to guarantee until at least 2047 certain liberties and autonomy not seen on the authoritarian mainland.

Years of rising concerns that China’s ruling Communist Party was steadily eroding those freedoms birthed a popular pro-democracy movement, which led to massive and often violent protests for seven months last year.

China has made no secret of its desire to use the law to crush that democracy movement.

“The Hong Kong government will vigorously implement this law,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the city’s Beijing-appointed leader, told reporters on Tuesday.

“And I forewarn those radicals not to attempt to violate this law, or cross the red line, because the consequences of breaching this law are very serious.”

With pro-democracy books quickly pulled out of libraries and schools, the government signalled in the document released on Monday night that it would also expect obedience online.

Police were granted powers to control and remove online information if there were “reasonable grounds” to suspect the data breaches the national security law.

Internet firms and service providers can be ordered to remove the information and their equipment can be seized. Executives can also be hit with fines and up to one year in jail if they refuse to comply.

The companies are also expected to provide identification records and decryption assistance.

– Big tech unease –
However the biggest American tech companies offered some resistance.

Facebook, Google and Twitter said Monday they had put a hold on requests by Hong Kong’s government or police force for information on users.

Facebook and its popular messaging service WhatsApp would deny requests until it had conducted a review of the law that entailed “formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts,” the company said in a statement.

“We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions,” a Facebook spokesman said.

Twitter and Google told AFP that they too would not comply with information requests by Hong Kong authorities in the immediate future.

Twitter told AFP it had “grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law”.

Tik Tok, which is owned by Chinese company Byte Dance, announced it was pulling out of Hong Kong altogether.

“In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” TikTok told AFP.

Tik Tok has become wildly popular amongst youngsters around the world. However many Hong Kongers have distrusted it because of its Chinese ownership.

ByteDance has consistently denied sharing any user data with authorities in China, and was adamant it did not intend to begin to agree to such requests.

In less than a week since the law was enacted, democracy activists and many ordinary people have scrubbed their online profiles of anything that China may deem incriminating.

Monday night’s document also revealed that judicial oversight that previously governed police surveillance powers in Hong Kong had been eliminated when it comes to national security investigations.

Police officers will be able to conduct a search without a warrant if they deem a threat to national security is “urgent”.

“The new rules are scary, as they grant powers to the police force that are normally guarded by the judiciary,” barrister Anson Wong Yu-yat told the South China Morning Post.

China Appoints ‘Tough’ Official To Head New Security Agency In Hong Kong

This file photo taken on December 20, 2011 shows Zheng Yanxiong, then-Communist Party Secretary of Shanwei prefecture, speaking on television as villagers watch the broadcast in Wukan, Guangdong province. MARK RALSTON / AFP
This file photo taken on December 20, 2011 shows Zheng Yanxiong, then-Communist Party Secretary of Shanwei prefecture, speaking on television as villagers watch the broadcast in Wukan, Guangdong province. MARK RALSTON / AFP

 

China appointed a hardliner to head a new national security agency in Hong Kong Friday as police brought the first charges under a sweeping new anti-subversion law that has shaken the semi-autonomous finance hub.

Zheng Yanxiong — a party official best known for tackling protests on the mainland — will lead the office set up by the legislation that empowers mainland security agents to operate in Hong Kong openly for the first time, unbound by the city’s laws.

The appointment came as a man accused of deliberately driving his motorbike into a group of police officers became the first person in Hong Kong to be charged under the new national security law.

China’s authoritarian leaders say the suite of powers will restore stability after a year of protests and will not stifle freedoms.

But police have already begun arresting people for possessing flags and banners while the local government has made clear certain political views, especially calls for independence, are now outlawed.

On Thursday evening Nathan Law, one of the city’s most prominent young activists, announced he had fled overseas to an undisclosed location, fearing arrest days after the pro-democracy party he helped found said it was disbanding.

Many western governments — led by Britain and the United States — have condemned the law and have angered Beijing by threatening to hit back with sanctions or offer sanctuary to Hong Kongers.

‘A tough enforcer’

The new national security agency is just one new element of Beijing’s landmark law targeting subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.

The office has investigation and prosecution powers and will monitor intelligence related to national security and process cases, in some circumstances handing them over to the mainland for trial.

Zheng rose through the ranks of the local government in southern Guangdong province which borders Hong Kong, to serve as secretary general of the provincial Communist Party committee.

The 56-year-old is known as a hardliner who stamped out often-violent anti-corruption protests that erupted in Wukan, a village in the province, in 2011 after a local activist died in police custody.

“He is a tough enforcer, a law and order person,” Willy Lam, an expert on China’s Communist Party at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told AFP.

Hong Kong was rocked by several months of huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests last year, a movement which Beijing has vowed to end with its new security law.

China has dismissed protesters’ demands for greater democracy and portrayed the unrest as a foreign plot to destabilise the motherland.

It has sought to ramp up oversight on Hong Kong’s government.

On Friday, the State Council also named Luo Huining — the current director of Beijing’s Liaison Office in the city — as the national security adviser to the newly-formed national security commission, chaired by Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

A loyalist of president Xi Jinping, Luo built a reputation for enforcing Communist Party discipline and tackling corruption.

Hong Kong’s mini-constitution forbids mainland officials from interfering in the running of Hong Kong’s day-to-day affairs.

But Beijing has argued national security is purely the purview of central authorities.

Court charges

The most serious offences carry up to life in jail.

On Friday afternoon, Tong Ying-kit, 23, was charged with the first national security crimes — terrorism and inciting secession.

A police source told AFP Tong drove his motorbike into a group of police officers on Wednesday during protests against the security law, wounding three.

Video footage captured by local television showed a man on an orange motorbike with a flag reading “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times” — a popular pro-democracy slogan — moments before it hit a group of riot police.

Hong Kong’s government have announced that using the phrase “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our times” is illegal under the secession and subversion provisions.

 

AFP