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Three Arrested in Hong Kong for Allegedly Insulting Chinese National Anthem

Three Hong Kong citizens were arrested on June 6 at a football stadium for allegedly insulting the national anthem of the People’s Republic of China.

The World Cup Asian qualifying match between Hong Kong and Iran was held at the Hong Kong Stadium on the night of the June 6. As is customary, the Chinese national anthem was played before the match.

The police stated that during the playing of the national anthem, the three arrested individuals either turned their backs to the field or did not stand up, violating Hong Kong’s National Anthem Ordinance. They were subsequently removed from the stadium and arrested.

The case is currently under investigation by Hong Kong’s Serious Crime Team. All three individuals have been released on bail and will have to report to the police early next month.

After the 2014 “Occupy Central” movement in Hong Kong, the city saw a local rise in anti-China sentiment. During international football matches, large groups of fans would boo during the Chinese national anthem.

In June 2020, the “National Anthem Ordinance” came into effect, criminalizing improper use of the national anthem as well as the public, intentional insult of the anthem. The ordinance stipulates that insulting the national anthem can result in a HK$50,000 fine or 3 years imprisonment.

Source: Central News Agency (Taiwan), June 7, 2024
https://www.cna.com.tw/news/acn/202406070057.aspx

China’s Communist Party Members Revised Disciplinary Code Details “Hundred Sins”

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) nearly 100 million members are studying a newly revised set of “Disciplinary Regulations.” The regulations contain over 100 provisions, leading Hong Kong media outlet Ming Pao to sarcastically comment that members who can avoid violating any of them are almost “saints” or “perfect people.”

According to the commentary in Ming Pao, the revised regulations list 158 disciplinary violations for party members. These include bans on religious beliefs, stock trading, and joining alumni or hometown associations without approval.

First introduced in 2003 and frequently revised since, the latest version of the CCP’s “Disciplinary Regulations” took effect on January 1st, 2023 after the latest revisions were finalized in December 2022. Violations span six categories: political, organizational, integrity, mass relations, work, and life.

On the political discipline front, publicly expressing “right-wing” views that “adhere to the position of bourgeois liberalization and oppose the Four Cardinal Principles,” as well as “ultra-leftist” opposition to China’s reform and opening up policies, are considered violations. Newly added are violations like “opportunistic networking” and “associating with ‘political fraudsters.'”

“Political fraudsters” refer to those who claim high-level connections to officials, those who claim to have “special backgrounds” as experts/masters, and those who ingratiate themselves with local politicians to facilitate promotions or to resolve legal cases for personal gain.

The Ming Pao commentary noted that, while some violations like “failing to resolutely implement central policies” are clear, others like “pursuing sensual pleasures and vulgar interests” or “inaction, false action, and slow action” are more vague and hard to interpret.

Source: Central News Agency (Taiwan), June 11, 2024
https://www.cna.com.tw/news/acn/202406110039.aspx

Divided Reactions in China as Students Wave Palestinian Flags After College Entrance Exams

During China’s national college entrance examination on June 7th, multiple exam sites witnessed students waving Palestinian flags and expressing support for Palestine after leaving the exam rooms. Some students even actively approached media outlets to voice their stance. Police officers were also seen confiscating flags from some students, though no punishments were reported.

This occurred at exam sites across multiple provinces, including Hunan, Henan, Shandong, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu and Jiangxi. Students raised Palestinian flags after exams, with some holding Chinese flags alongside. In Jiangsu, police confiscated flags from two students. At a youth music festival in Shaanxi, an audience member’s Palestinian flag was confiscated by security staff.

While no punishments of students were reported, the incidents revealed divides in Chinese society’s perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some believed that students should prioritize Chinese domestic issues, while others saw the students’ flag waving as aligning with Beijing’s official pro-Palestinian stance.

The student flag-waving sparked divergent reactions online. A plurality of online commentators expressed views that, since Chinese state-run media have been severely criticizing Western support for Israel, the students’ expression of solidarity for Palestine is merely following the Chinese government media’s “safe” (politically-correct) stance. Some speculated that the students are not acting independently but rather that there are forces orchestrating these students’ actions behind the scenes. Overseas Chinese who are critical of the Chinese government took the opportunity to mock the students, suggesting that they should go protest in Gaza themselves.

Source: Central News Agency (Taiwan), June 10, 2024
https://www.cna.com.tw/news/acn/202406100181.aspx

Georgia Bets on China for Black Sea Port, Jeopardizing Ties to the West

The Georgian government announced that a Chinese consortium will build a strategic port on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, a move that could strain Georgia’s relations with the West. The decision comes just after Georgia’s parliament attempted to pass a controversial “foreign agents” law.

The Chinese consortium that will build the port includes Chinese state-owned enterprises with a history of international controversies, ranging from fraud allegations in the Philippines to bribery in Bangladesh. Two of the companies in the consortium have even been banned from participating in World Bank-funded construction projects. This choice by the Georgian government could further escalate tensions between Georgia and the West.

The port project in Anaklia, a small Black Sea resort town, is seen as a critical part of the “Middle Corridor,” a global trade network between Europe and Asia. Critics worry that giving China control over this key port would allow them to dominate a crucial trade route.

The main company in the Chinese port-building consortium is the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), a key player in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Despite its global presence, CCCC faces scrutiny for its overseas practices. These include fraud scandals in the Philippines and contract termination controversies in Tanzania.

The Georgian port deal marks the country’s second attempt to build a deep-sea port in Anaklia; a previous attempt led by Georgia’s TBC Bank and the U.S. firm Conti International was canceled in 2020 amid political controversies.

Some see the timing of the Georgian government’s decision regarding port construction as a message about Georgia’s geopolitical leanings. The move comes at a time when Georgia’s relationship with the West is already strained due to the Georgian “foreign agents” law. According to Wikipedia, the foreign agents law “would require non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to register as foreign agents or ‘organizations carrying the interests of a foreign power’ and disclose the sources of their income if the funds they receive from abroad amount to more than 20% of their total revenue.”

Sources:

Voice of America, June 4, 2024
https://www.voachinese.com/a/china-georgia-controversial-blacksea-project/7641737.html

Wikipedia, Retrieved Jun 6, 2024
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2023%E2%80%932024_Georgian_protests

China’s Live Streaming Boom: Riches for Few, a Struggle for Most

According to an article written by a Chinese academic, China’s live streaming industry is booming, with 15.08 million people making live-streaming into their primary occupation. Around 98% of these streamers may struggle to make ends meet, however. Industry insiders note that many “overnight” internet celebrities are actually backed by professional teams.

China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security recently added “internet streamer” as an official occupation, aiming to reduce societal prejudice against live streamers. As China’s economy slows, more young people are joining the ranks of the live streamers. Over 60% of streamers are aged 18-29, with 95.2% earning less than ¥5,000 ($700) monthly. Only 0.4% make over ¥100,000 ($14,000), meaning that 2% of the streamers earn 80% of all the streamers’ income.

One example is Guo Youcai, who gained 10 million followers in 10 days by singing 90s hits at a train station. His success briefly turned his small town into a tourist hotspot. His fame was short-lived, however, due to accusations levied against him saying that he is a “social toxin.”

Experts suggest that such “overnight” successes are often orchestrated by behind-the-scenes teams who craft relatable stories that resonate with lower-class aspirations. While streaming can offer higher earnings than entry-level jobs, insiders are pessimistic about the industry’s future as China’s economy declines.

Source: Central News Agency (Taiwan), June 1, 2024
https://www.cna.com.tw/news/acn/202406010114.aspx

Chinese Banks Recruit Debt Collectors Amid Loan Woes

Several Chinese banks, including Sanxiang Bank, China Everbright Bank, and WeBank, are actively recruiting debt collection professionals in response to rising frequency of non-performing loans. This trend reflects attention being paid to financial risk in China’s banking sector.

Sanxiang Bank, a privately-owned bank in central China, announced on May 31 that it is seeking seven senior debt collection managers with at least five years of experience. Their responsibilities will include developing collection strategies, managing teams, and analyzing data to optimize collection efforts.

The move comes as Sanxiang Bank’s non-performing loan rate reached 1.75% in 2023, up 0.22 percentage points from 2022. More alarmingly, the bank’s overdue loan balance rose by 5.20 billion yuan to a new total of 13.41 billion yuan, with the overdue loan rate climbing to 3.61%, a 1.16 percentage point increase.

This trend is not isolated. China Everbright Bank and WeBank have also posted job openings for debt collectors. The surge in recruitment reflects the banking sector’s growing unease over loan quality. On May 15, the National Internet Finance Association of China issued guidelines for post-loan collection, advising financial institutions to strengthen their debt collection management and even suggesting the creation of specialized departments for this purpose.

Source: Central News Agency (Taiwan), June 4, 2024
https://www.cna.com.tw/news/acn/202406040295.aspx

China’s Metro Systems Mired in Debt Despite Increasing Revenue and Government Subsidies

An analysis of 2023 financial reports from 29 Chinese cities’ metro companies revealed that all surveyed companies operated at a loss after government subsidies were deducted. The combined debt of these metro firms reached a staggering 4.3 trillion yuan (US$613 billion). Over the past four years, debt levels have risen annually across Chinese metro systems.

Media reports indicate that, while most metro operators saw revenue increases in 2023, many experienced profit declines despite rising government subsidies. In terms of revenue, Shenzhen Metro remained the nationwide leader, earning 25.15 billion yuan (US$3.59 billion) in 2023 – up 1.18 billion yuan (US$168 million) from the prior year. After subtracting 730 million yuan (US$104 million) in government subsidies, however, Shenzhen Metro posted a 180 million yuan (US$25.6 million) net loss.

Beijing Metro was among the most profitable in China, with a 2.4 billion yuan (US$342 million) net profit in 2023. However, it received a massive 25.34 billion yuan (US$3.61 billion) in government subsidies. After Beijing and Shenzhen, the Chinese metro companies with the highest net profits were those of Chengdu, Tianjin, Changchun, Qingdao, Ningbo, Nanjing, and Fuzhou. Of the 29 firms analyzed, 25 saw rising revenues but 17 suffered declining profits. Excluding subsidies, all posted a loss.

Fundamental drivers of ballooning metro debt include poor management, corruption scandals, and local officials pursuing “vanity projects” to boost their political credentials, leading to excessive subway construction and debt accumulation. These issues stem from systemic factors within China.

Source: Radio Free Asia, May 27, 2024
https://www.rfa.org/mandarin/yataibaodao/jingmao/ql-05272024000605.html

China Establishes $48 Billion Phase III National Semiconductor Fund

China has established a “Phase III National Semiconductor Fund” with a registered capital of 344 billion yuan ($48 billion) as part of efforts to build a national team for the semiconductor industry. The Ministry of Finance is the largest shareholder of the fund, with a 17.44% stake.

According to media reports, the National Integrated Circuit Industry Phase III Investment Fund Co., Ltd. was officially established on May 24th, with Zhang Xin as the legal representative. The company’s business scope includes private equity fund management, venture capital fund management services, equity investment, investment management, and asset management activities.

The fund’s other shareholders include state-owned policy banks, state-owned enterprises, and major commercial banks. The National Semiconductor Phase I and II Funds were established in 2014 and 2019 with registered capital of 98.72 billion yuan and 204.15 billion yuan, respectively.

Analysts suggest that, while the previous two funding phases focused on semiconductor equipment and materials, Phase III may prioritize investment in high-value products like High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) and advanced DRAM chips.

The establishment of national semiconductor funds reflects China’s long-term strategic plan to boost its semiconductor industry through substantial financial support, aiming to achieve self-sufficiency in critical technologies. The Chinese government appears committed to strengthening China’s semiconductor capabilities and reducing reliance on foreign suppliers.

Source: Central News Agency (Taiwan), May 27
https://www.cna.com.tw/news/acn/202405270165.aspx