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Hong Kong, Beijing, And Shanghai Now Connected Through New High-Speed Sleeper Train Service 

A new high-speed sleeper train service is available in China for passengers looking to go from Hong Kong to Beijing or Shanghai. The new travel option officially began on June 15th.

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Real Estate Developer China Evergrande Ordered By Hong Kong To Liquidate 

A Hong Kong court has ordered the world’s most heavily indebted real estate developer, China Evergrande, to undergo liquidation after the company failed to restructure the $300 billion it owed to banks and bondholders.

 Hong Kong Overwhelmed With Exponential Rise In Covid-19 Cases 

According to Carrie Lam, the head of the city administration in Hong Kong, the city has been overwhelmed by new Covid-19 infections, which have surged within the past two weeks. Daily cases are 20 times higher when compared to two weeks ago, leaving many hospital’s struggling to keep up with the influx. 

“The onslaught of the fifth wave of the epidemic has dealt a heavy blow to Hong Kong and overwhelmed the city’s capacity of handling. Patients are having to wait longer to access isolation facilities. The situation is highly undesirable and the government feels worried and sorry about it.”

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China has stated that it will be helping Hong Kong with testing, treatment, quarantine efforts, and securing resources like rapid antigen tests and protective gear for healthcare workers. 

Deaths in Hong Kong have remained low, especially when compared to the impact of the virus on the city when the pandemic first began. However, at the rate they’re going now, Hong Kong is expecting up to 28,000 new cases to appear by the end of March. 

Hospital beds for Covid-19 patients are currently at 90% occupancy, according to the city’s Hospital Authority. Isolation facilities are also nearing full capacity, so the city is prioritizing elderly individuals and children who are in serious conditions.

According to the authorities, there are around 1,000 people waiting to be hospitalized currently. Hong Kong in general has experienced about 24,000 infections and more than 200 deaths since the pandemic first began, which proportionately is less than many other small major cities. 

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Lam said authorities would “spare no effort to implement the dynamic zero coronavirus infection strategy in Hong Kong, which, like mainland China, seeks to curb outbreaks as soon as they occur, in contrast with many other places that are trying to live with COVID.”

Currently residents of Hong Kong are banned from attending public gatherings of more than two people, while public locations like schools, churches, and gyms are shut down. Dining in restaurants is banned after 6 p.m. and most individuals are working remotely. 

Strict flight restrictions have been in place for two years now, making Hong Kong one of the world’s most isolated major cities. 

The city’s Legislative Council is set to discuss putting $27 billion HK ($3.46 billion in America) into an anti-epidemic fund which would support businesses and individuals that have been economically impacted by the pandemic and the strict social distancing measures that have been in place.

Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Media Outlet Forced To Close After Raids And Arrests

Hong Kong’s Stand News, a nonprofit, pro-democracy media outlet, was forced to shut down Wednesday after over 200 police officers swiftly initiated a raid on its office and arrested several editors, journalists, and other members.

According to the Associated Press, Stand News’ website and social media will be taken down, while all of the outlets’ employees have been released immediately. Authorities additionally seized what they referred to as “relevant” journalist materials, while freezing News Stands’ assets.

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Among the several arrested was pop star Denise Ho, a board member who CNN notes became the face of the pro-democratic movement in Hong Kong, having appeared before the United Nations and the U.S. Congress.

Others taken include former editor-in-chief Chung Pui-Keun, socialite Christine Fang, legislator Margaret Ng, and acting chief editor Patrick Lam. The police National Security Department has yet to officially refer to their detainees by names, only specifying ages and genders in press releases.

According to the national security police, those arrested were accused of “conspiracy to publish seditious material,” a law that goes back all the way to British colonialism times. AP noted that if found guilty, the convicted could face up to two years in prison and a fine up to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars, or $640 U.S. dollars.

In a press conference, police National Security Department senior superintendent Li Kwai-wah claimed they weren’t targeting only reporters and media, but “national security offenses.” As to how the media could avoid committing offenses, Li simply stated to “not be biased,” and that reporters should know to be responsible. “That’s all I can give you,” Li said.

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In June, Apple Daily was also shut down by Hong Kong authorities for similar “seditious” writing and had $2.5 million of its assets frozen. Editor — as well as the founder, Jimmy Lai Chee-ying — have been given new sedition charges as they continue to await their trial.

Following Apply Daily’s shutdown, Stand News suspended their subscriptions in addition to removing  older op-ed and comment pieces. This was done as a way to prevent their supporters’ money from being wasted in the event they were cracked down on as well.

Now, others are worried that Stand News’ end could signal the death of democracy in the region. Speaking to The Guardian, exiled pro-democracy advocate expressed that other outlets using freedom of speech could see similar consequences.

“They are making it illegal to do honest reporting. If you ‘incite hatred’ to the government by reporting truthful news, you are also subject to this law, which means you can only talk about the positive side of the government now. This is the signal they are trying to send.”

In a statement, the Hong Kong Journalist Association (HKJA) also showed their concern over the arrests while urging the government to protect press freedom in accordance with the Basic Law, a mini constitution. HKJA also acknowledge that their own chairman — and Stand News deputy assignment editor — Ronson Chan Ron-sing while taken by police. The AP  reported Chan was later released.

Journalism isn’t the only platform where Hong Kong is limiting democracy and freedom of speech. NBC News noted that no politicians from any pro-democratic party ran during the Chinese territory’s legislative election held in late Dec. Many have been either barred from running, are in prison, or exiled.

9 Arrested Over Plot To Plant Bombs Around Hong Kong 

This Tuesday Hong Kong police arrested nine people due to suspicion that they were engaging in terrorist activity. The officers made the arrest after it was uncovered that the group was attempting to make explosives to allegedly plant around the city. 

Hong Kong is currently rather politically divided, and the past two years have been especially futile. Massive pro-democracy protests have erupted all throughout the city, as well as China in general, and these arrests come just one year after Beijing imposed strict security laws. 

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Of the nine individuals arrested six of them are secondary school students. The group was attempting to make the explosive chemical triacetone triperoxide (TATP) in a homemade laboratory hostel, according to police reports. 

Police claimed “the group planned to use the TATP to bomb court buildings, cross-harbor tunnels, railways, and even planned to put some of these explosives in trash bins on the street to maximize damage caused by society.” 

The authorities said they seized an apparatus and raw materials that would typically be used to make the TATP, as well as trace amounts of the explosive as well. Operating manuals and about 80,000 Hong Kong dollars in cash was also taken in at the scene. 

Police froze around 600,000 Hong Kong dollars worth of assets that may also be linked to the bombing plot. The group was allegedly planning on setting off all the explosives as they left the city of Hong Kong for good.

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TATP is unfortunately a very common chemical among terrorist organizations and groups. Since 2019, Hong Kong police have made multiple arrests over alleged bomb plots and for making TATP illegally. 

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam spoke at a news briefing this week to discuss the threats of violence that Hong Kong is facing. 

“I hope members of the public will openly condemn threats of violence. They should not be wrongly influenced by the idea that there is only government tyranny. They should not be influenced into thinking that they can find excuses to inflict violence.”

Lam claimed that an envelope of white powder had been sent to her office but police concluded this Tuesday that the substance didn’t initially seem to be dangerous, but further tests would still be performed to make sure.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong Will Give $1,200 To Each Of Its Citizens

Hong Kong has been in the news quite a bit within the past six months. Between ongoing protests regarding discontent with the current political climate and the more recent coronavirus outbreak, the citizens of Hong Kong deserve to feel safe again. 

The protests and health emergency in Hong Kong has caused its economy to slump into a recession during the third quarter of 2019; the city is also expected to record its first budget deficit in 15 years due to the declining economy. Financial Secretary Paul Chan expects the situation to only get worse, however, the  government is implementing a program to give its citizens a bit of a financial cushion during these trying times. 

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Paul Chan addressing the Legislative Council, Feb. 26th 2020

The metropolitan and financial hub made an announcement on Wednesday (2/26) in which they stated that every Hong Kong resident over the age of eighteen will receive 10,000 yen (about $1,200) as a part of a 120 billion yen stimulus package that is meant to be distributed amongst the cities citizens. The program is estimated to benefit around seven million people. 

“Hong Kong’s economy is facing enormous challenges this year. The outlook is far from promising in the near term. Hong Kong’s economy has been dragged by a host of headwinds that percolated last year, including fallout from months of mass protests, the ongoing US-China trade war and the slowing global economy. Now, it is also confronting the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has dealt a severe blow to economic activities and sentiment in Hong Kong,” Chan said to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.

Chan went on to explain that the money will be coming from a fund that was specifically established “in view of the deteriorating economic and employment conditions as a result of the coronavirus epidemic.” In addition to the financial compensation of 10,000 yen, Chan also stated that income tax would be greatly slashed for certain residents depending on their income bracket, however, they predict that it will benefit up to 2 million Hong Kong taxpayers, based on census data. 

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Additionally, housing authorities are giving low-income individuals who are living in public housing a month of free rent and the same perk will be given to 200,000 residents living in underprivileged households, which will also be determined by financial census data. The goal of all of this is to prevent the economy from getting any worse, and maintaining where it is now so that there’s more of a chance that it will bounce back. 

The budget deficit for 2020 is already way above what Hong Kong is used too, so it’s important that the government tries to protect its citizens, especially when they have a multitude of other issues to be concerned with, like their general health and safety. Luckily, Hong Kong has about $145 billion in fiscal reserves as a financial cushion to combat the deficit and benefit its citizens. In the long run, the city should be able to reverse the economic damage that has been inflicted. 

“[I] believe the economy will be able to bounce back in the long term. Although the impact of the epidemic on our economy in the near term could possibly be greater than that of the SARS outbreak in 2003 … Hong Kong’s economic fundamentals remain solid. The economy of Hong Kong should be able to recover once the epidemic is over,” Chan said.

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2019’s Most Popular Travel Destinations

2019 was a huge year for international travel. UK based market research company Euromonitor International recently measured and listed the top 100 travel destinations people visited within the past year, and some of the results may surprise you. While Hong Kong has been making major world news headlines due to its political unrest and civilian protests, it remained the number one travel destination for 2019. So much so that Euromonitor reports that by the time the month is up the city will have been visited by 26 million travelers this year alone. The protests have led to an 8.7% decline compared to last year’s stats; however, that didn’t stop the metropolitan city from being at the top of the list.

The decrease in travel isn’t isolated to just Hong Kong. Over-tourism and tourist misconduct has become a growing issue, and has already lead to a lot of restrictive travel policies, especially in Europe. Europe and Asia are the two continents that typically take over Euromonitor’s list every year. However, this year due to a combination of the stricter tourism policies in Europe and an increase in Chinese tourists travelling to other countries within the continent, Asia has dominated the entirety of the list, but Europe and some spots in America are also mixed in there. 

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Hong Kong

Euromonitor reports that Asia had the fastest growth in international traveler arrivals. This is also most likely due to the extreme size of Asia and the many different cultures and countries available for travel lovers to go to. Bangkok and London took the second and third spot on the list; Euromonitor is able to measure all of this information by pulling airline data and marking the parts that show international travelers who spend over 24 hours in their destination. This year, they measured travelers who went to over 400 different cities. 

Since the company uses airline data, international travel via cruise ship or any other possible mode of transportation is not taken into account. The reports for 2019 indicated that Asia was the most popular destination for tourists this year, followed by Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa. The reports also predict that European travel is on a relatively steady decline, and Singapore, which took spot number 5 on the list, is the travel destination that will likely gain the most popularity in 2020. Singapore offers a very authentic and engaging tourism market that allows travelers to fully engulf themselves in their culture and beautiful landscapes, which is why it increased in popularity by almost 6% this year. 

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Bangkok, Thailand

Euromonitor also reports that in general, tourism is down, and a lot of it has to do with travelers wanting a more “localized” experience. 

“They are proving popular as travelers seek newer, more localized experiences and less crowded locations. The popularity and increased number of low-cost carriers to these destinations has also favored the growth of previously less explored destinations,” says Euromonitor

This is mostly in regards to European travelers, and their desire to branch out more within their own continent. Travelling from country to country is a lot easier in Europe, as there are many forms of public transportation that go all over the continent. It’s for this reason that a majority of European tourists are mainly remaining in Europe, or going “across the pond” to scratch their traveler’s itch. Below is the top 20 list of top travel destinations based on collective data from 2018 and 2019, according to CNN

Euromonitor’s Top 20 Cities:

1. Hong Kong
2. Bangkok, Thailand
3. London, England
4. Macau
5. Singapore
6. Paris, France
7. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
8. New York City, USA
9. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
10. Istanbul, Turkey
11. Delhi, India
12. Antalya, Turkey
13. Shenzhen, China
14. Mumbai, India
15. Phuket, Thailand
16. Rome, Italy
17. Tokyo, Japan
18. Pattaya, Thailand
19. Taipei, Taiwan
20. Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Hong Kong Protest

After Pro-Democracy Candidates Win in Hong Kong, China Blames US

The city of Hong Kong has for months been embroiled in violent pro-democracy protests, and a recent election during which pro-democracy candidates won in a landslide has proven that the majority of Hong Kong citizens support the expansion of civil liberties in the territory. While the election was relatively minor politically, as it was limited to district councils, it was broadly seen both by people in Hong Kong and in China as a referendum on the protests. In a historic victory for Hong Kong democracy, around 70% of the eligible population turned out to vote, resulting in several pro-China officials being replaced with candidates favored by protestors across the territory.

Beijing was caught off-guard by the results of the election, as the Chinese government believed that a silent pro-Beijing majority lived in Hong Kong and that voters would side with pro-Beijing politicians in order to end the chaos and violence. After the election disproved this theory, however, Chinese state-run media was initially silent, marking a major change from its pre-election rhetoric, which consisted of arguments predicting an electoral rebuke of protestors. In fact, the state-run media did not even report the results of the election at first, instead announcing that the ballots had been cast and that protests had disrupted the electoral process. Eventually, the Chinese government decided on a strategy for framing their electoral loss by placing the blame on a foreign actor, namely the United States.

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Blaming the West for domestic problems is a favorite tactic among Chinese officials, and the Chinese people react positively to nationalistic messages of this sort. However, the fact that the Chinese government had to switch propaganda tactics so suddenly reflects not only the extent of their loss, but also their own lack of understanding of the political crisis that has animated six months of massive protests. Although there’s no strong evidence that the US interfered with Hong Kong’s recent election, this message is useful for the Chinese as it allows them to shift blame away from themselves and away from the people of Hong Kong.

For months, Beijing’s portrayal of the Hong Kong protestors was that they were violent thugs looking to tear apart the party by colluding with foreign powers. There is little, if any truth to this claim, which has lost a significant amount of credibility after the election, which represented a tremendous embrace of democracy by the Hong Kong people, both in terms of the number of people who voted and how they voted. The fact that Beijing was caught so off-guard by this result also suggests that the Chinese government, at least in part, believes their own propaganda, and doesn’t understand the extent of the outrage felt by the people of Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong’s leadership, which remains firmly in the pro-Beijing camp, sought to downplay the results of the election. Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam acknowledged that people in the territory are upset, but argued against the view that the election had broad implications. After the election, Chinese officials complained about a bill passed by the US Congress called the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which supports the protests. Notably, however, President Trump has remained relatively quiet about the protests, instead focusing on his trade war with China.

The future of Hong Kong’s government remains unclear, but neither side of the conflict shows signs of backing down. Hong Kong protests continue to this day, and enjoy wide support from the territory’s citizens, but China is an extremely powerful country that has ramped up its attacks on the pro-democracy advocates. For the citizens of Hong Kong, particularly the young protestors, the gradual loss of democracy in the territory is unacceptable, and they will go to remarkable lengths to ensure that Hong Kong maintains its autonomy.

Hong Kong Protest

Hong Kong Protests Escalate As 1,000 Citizens Detained at University

The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have been ongoing for several months now and show no signs of slowing anytime soon, and are in fact escalating in intensity as a Hong Kong university was transformed into a battlefield between police and demonstrators, which ended with hundreds of young people jailed. Roughly a dozen protestors remain inside the school after heavily armed police officers surrounded the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, arresting many protestors who eventually surrendered to the authorities. Some students were able to escape without being captured by police by rappelling from a bridge to be rescued by motorbike drivers, while others unsuccessfully attempted to use a sewage pipe to escape. 

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The protests began as a response to proposed legislation to make it easier to extradite Hong Kong residents to China which was feared to impact Hong Kong’s independence and political freedoms. While the legislation in question has since been withdrawn, the aim of the protests has expanded to demand a stronger democracy in Hong Kong, further independence from China, and greater police accountability. The police have escalated their attempts to quell the protestors, using live ammunition on multiple occasions. These actions have only emboldened protesters, who have used bows and arrows and homemade weapons such as molotov cocktails in their ongoing battles with the police. At PolyU, police used tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets against protestors, who retaliated with violence. As the battle at the university concluded, protestors were searched by police and those who were older than 18 were arrested. According to Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, around 200 of the protestors were minors.

The recent events at PolyU resulted in the greatest number of arrests in a single day since the protests began several months ago, and many protesters received serious charges such as rioting and possession of offensive weapons

The dozen protestors who remain, many of whom are high school and university students, have said that they will neither leave the university nor surrender to police, in essence waiting for officers to enter the university and arrest them. Except for the few remaining protesters, the campus has been totally deserted, with debris littered throughout, and unused petrol bombs and pro-democracy grafitti were found on the campus. Roughly 80 people were treated for injuries at the Hong Kong Hospital Authority, and around 200 people were sent to other hospitals. Protesters have set fire to bridges connecting the university to a nearby train station and have destroyed other property as well. The recent events at PolyU resulted in the greatest number of arrests in a single day since the protests began several months ago, and many protesters received serious charges such as rioting and possession of offensive weapons, which carries the threat of serious prison time, leading to reluctance on the part of protesters to surrender to police.

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Last week, protestors clashed with the police at another university, the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Over 3,900 Molotov Cocktails were seized at this university, and Kwok Ka-chuen, a spokesman for the police, described the university as a “manufacturing base” for these weapons. At the same time as this drama unfolded at these Hong Kong universities, a Hong Kong court overturned a ban on face masks instituted by Beijing in an attempt to curb the tremendously disruptive protests. The Hong Kong High Court found that this ban violated the constitution of the Hong Kong territory, which is called the Basic Law. The Congress has taken the unusual step of criticizing the court’s decision, saying that the finding “seriously weakened the lawful governing power” of Hong Kong’s government. While this would be an extreme step, the National People’s Congress has the authority to change the Basic Law, meaning they could institute changes that would make the face mask ban legal, potentially having broader implications for civil liberties in the territory generally. 

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Hong Kong Protests Escalate, Threatening Society

The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have only grown more intense as time has progressed, despite the introduction of measures designed to curb frequent and massive demonstrations such as the withdrawal of a bill that would have allowed extradition of political dissidents to China and the instatement of a face-mask ban and curfews designed to discourage dissent. While the loosely-organized but nonetheless formidable protestors remained non-violent for several months, recent escalations by both demonstrators and police have led to the development of a more dangerous and confrontational relationship between the two, with no signs of de-escalation anytime soon. In fact, the situation has become so precarious that Hong Kong police worry about the impending collapse of the rule of law, particularly in the aftermath of the shooting of one protestor and the setting on fire of a supporter of Beijing on Monday.

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After five months of intense protests and the ongoing failure of the Hong Kong government to satisfy most of the protestors’ demands, demonstrators remain unrelenting despite growing increasingly frustrated with government inaction, creating an environment more hospitable to violence and other anti-social behavior. As the protests went on, police resorted to increasingly-violent counter-protest strategies, deploying tear gas and using water cannons and rubber bullets against demonstrators who threw bricks and molotov cocktails, destroying property. October 1st of this year marked a turning point in the use of violence against protestors in Hong Kong, as police shot an 18-year old protestor in the chest at point-blank range, leaving him in critical condition. 

As neither demonstrators nor the government seem willing to compromise or relent, the ongoing intense protests are bound to gradually erode Hong Kong society for as long as they continue.

Yesterday, police again used live rounds against a protestor, firing at point-blank range in an area where demonstrators were blocking traffic, after which police deployed pepper spray to disperse protestors as onlookers accused them of murder. In a separate, unrelated incident yesterday, protesters doused a man who was criticizing the protests with gasoline and lit him on fire. Both individuals survived the attacks and are being treated in hospitals, in serious condition. The city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has been ramping up her rhetoric against the protests, warning that they could “take Hong Kong to the road of ruin” and placing blame squarely on pro-democracy advocates, calling them “the enemy of the people” and accusing them of selfishly paralyzing the city. She added that she thought it was extremely unlikely that more protests would lead to further concessions from the government. In addition to physical violence, the unrest has included property destruction, as protestors have swarmed universities, destroying windows and fixtures by throwing bricks and setting things on fire. Throughout Hong Kong, classes at many universities were canceled as officials grappled with repairing the damage and preparing for future unrest.

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Nine people have committed suicide in connection with the protests, as political frustration and the erosion of democratic norms have caused mental health issues among Hong Kong’s youth, many of whom are deeply politically engaged. In addition, a man died after sustaining serious injuries during a fall in a car park where police were using tear gas to break up protests. Though no one has yet been directly killed by police or protestors, further deaths are all but inevitable as long as protests continue. Police say that in the last week they have arrested 266 people in connection with the protests, and as the number of active protesters is estimated to be in the millions, the number of arrests is sure to climb. Furthermore, months of protests have had a destructive effect on Hong Kong’s tourism industry and economy more broadly, as the once-safe city is now subject to frequent, violent interruptions to everyday life, and critical city infrastructure remains in a state of disrepair. 

Hong Kong is scheduled to hold local elections this month. Due to Hong Kong’s political structure, however, the outcome of these elections are unlikely to have a strong impact on the government, and are especially unlikely to appease protestors. As neither demonstrators nor the government seem willing to compromise or relent, the ongoing intense protests are bound to gradually erode Hong Kong society for as long as they continue.