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Briefings

Beijing’s New Central Leading, not Coordination, Group for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs

After the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Coordination Group for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs was recently elevated to the Central Leading Group for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, the group leader Han Zheng met with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam in Beijing. According to Beijing’s mouthpiece, the Xinhua News Agency, Han said that the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp law making body, will pass laws in the next step to “punish the very few people who commit serious crimes and activities that endanger national security.”

Other attendees at the meeting were Zhao Kezhi, deputy head of the Leading Group and Minister of Public Security, and Xia Baolong, Vice Chair of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and another deputy head of the Leading Group.

This was the first appearance of the Central Leading Group for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs. In 2003, the CCP set up the Central Coordination Group for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, the coordination mechanism for Hong Kong and Macao issues. Han Zheng, Vice Premier of the State Council, has been the head of the Coordination Group since 2018.

Liu Zhaojia from the Beijing based China Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, said that this organizational change, from Coordination Group to Leading Group, shows that Beijing is now exerting a higher authority to direct relevant ministries and agencies to deal with the Hong Kong issue. In the organizational structure of the Chinese Communist Party, “Commission” stays at the highest level, followed by “Leadership Group”, then by “Coordination Group.” At present, Hong Kong has been involved in the game play between China and the US, so the elevation of the body along the power ladder is no surprise.

Source: Central News Agency, June 3, 2020
https://www.cna.com.tw/news/acn/202006030370.aspx

Beijing’s Top Security Apparatus Considers Necessity of Setting up Agency in Hong Kong

Article 4 of the Hong Kong national security law, which Beijing recently approved, requires Hong Kong to establish institutions to protect national security and provides for a central government presence in Hong Kong to maintain national security.

The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission is the Chinese Communist Party’s top apparatus that oversees all legal enforcement authorities, including the police force. Its official website states that it is very necessary for the central government to establish dedicated agencies in Hong Kong. “In the national security arena of Hong Kong, one should not only ‘set up defense lines’ but should also ‘pitch camp.’ Both are necessary and effective means to perform the duties of maintaining national security.”

The article also explained two adjustments in the draft of the bill. The article points to the revision that adds the word “activities” after the “conduct” so that the term becomes “conduct and activities that endanger national security.” The addition allows not only personal conduct but also organized activities (to be covered), making the coverage of the law “more precise.”

The article claimed that the change will mean those “who engage in division, subversion, terrorist acts and activities will not take a chance, and the law shall not be challenged.”

In the sentence that the Chief Executive of Hong Kong should “carry out promotion and education of national security,” the word “promotion” is deleted. The article considers the change to be an emphasis on the attitude toward national security education. “National security education should not stop with propaganda; it should have a real effect and enter the heart of every Hong Kong citizen.”

Source: Central News Agency, May 30, 2020
https://www.cna.com.tw/news/acn/202005300229.aspx

China to Increase the Proportion of New Graduates among the Military Recruits

China’s Ministry of Education and the National Defense Mobilization Department under the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Central Military Commission (CMC) jointly issued a notice on enlisting college graduates in 2020. The notice requires that the recruitment offices and education departments (education committees) of the governments of all provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) give a top priority to college graduates when recruiting for the military. The notice also asked to optimize the structure of the recruits from the college graduates by increasing the proportion of recent graduates, so as to furnish the military with more high-quality soldiers. Local governments have been told to set up medical check-up stations that accommodate the current epidemic prevention and control, and establish an unimpeded green channel for college graduates to enlist in the military.

Source: People’s Daily, June 3, 3020
http://paper.people.com.cn/rmrb/html/2020-06/03/nw.D110000renmrb_20200603_4-06.htm

China’s Premier: 600 Million Have a Monthly Income of US$140

China’s Premier Li Keqiang said at a press conference that China is a developing a country with a large population, with an average annual per capita disposable income of 30,000 yuan (US$4,213.30). There are 600 million people who have low and middle incomes, whose average monthly income is merely 1,000 yuan (US$ 140.40).

Li Keqiang added, “It may be difficult even to rent an apartment with income of 1,000 yuan in a medium-sized city.” Li promised to make people’s livelihood a high priority.

According to People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, a Chinese and foreign press conferences was held on the afternoon of the 28th, after the closing of the 13th National People’s Congress of China. It was when the media questioned Li Keqiang that he made the above remarks.

Li Keqiang said that the task of poverty alleviation is a “sophisticated commitment” that the CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping made to the entire society and that it must be completed as scheduled this year. Originally, there were 5 million people living in poverty. Under the impact of this epidemic, some more people may have fallen back to poverty, and the task of poverty alleviation has become even tougher.

Source: Central News Agency, May 29, 2020
https://www.cna.com.tw/news/acn/202005290046.aspx

LTN: For HK, China Is Betting on the International Community Staying with Lip Services Only

Major Taiwanese news network Liberty Times Network (LTN) recently reported that Beijing’s new HK National Security Law sent a shockwave across the world. However, Beijing probably did not make this decision casually or in a hurry. Instead, this could very likely have been a carefully calculated move based on the bet that Beijing may not pay a geopolitical price. The international community has frequently condemned Beijing’s rude and unlawful activities, but rarely did people see tangible action taken against Communist China as a meaningful punishment. While the whole world is busy dealing with the pandemic, Beijing has been knocking down fishing ships near Vietnam, attacking the newly elected Taiwanese president, and confronting Indian troops on India’s border in the Himalayas. Since President Xi Jinping came into power, China has stopped the model of quietly raising its soft power globally. China is now no longer a country that feels ashamed of being a dictatorship. Instead it is betting that the world will once again just do lip service and China will not face any real punishment.

Source: LTN, May 25, 2020
https://news.ltn.com.tw/news/world/breakingnews/3176756

RFI Chinese: The British Prime Minister to Reduce Huawei 5G Involvement to Zero

Radio France Internationale (RFI) Chinese Edition recently reported that, based on British sources, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked his government to prepare a new plan, in the next three years, to reduce Huawei’s involvement in the nation’s 5G infrastructure development to zero. Several things triggered this new move. One was the increasing pressure from within the Conservative Party on national security concerns. The second was the British general public’s distrust of the Chinese government as a result of the widespread damage that the coronavirus caused. The earlier British plan of keeping a percentage of Huawei involvement had already disappointed Washington and cast a shadow on the intelligence-sharing among Western allies. The United States also accused China of subsidizing Huawei so it could eat into international telecommunication market shares. After Brexit, the British government has been negotiating with the EU to establish a new relationship and has also started talks with the United States for a new free trade agreement.

Source: RFI Chinese, May 23, 2020
https://bit.ly/2MawmGZ

Average HK Residents Responded to the New HK National Security Law

When the Mainland communist government introduced the Hong Kong National Security Law, the average Hong Kong local residents immediate response was to go to the banks in Hong Kong. According to Radio France Internationale (RFI) Chinese Edition, as soon as the new law’s draft was submitted, foreign exchange stores across Hong Kong were immediately overwhelmed by customers converting HK Dollars to US Dollars. A typical exchange store could reach over US$1 million in cash exchange within one hour. British Pounds and Japanese Yen also ran out fast. Many customers of Chinese banks nearly emptied their money in HK Dollars and immediately opened US Dollar accounts in local branches of U.S. banks or Singapore banks. In the meantime, the major Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily reported that the locals took another immediate action to download VPN (Virtual Private Network) apps, which help users avoid being monitored by authorities. On May 21, Apple’s HK AppStore reported seven of the top ten downloads were VPN apps. The download volume was 120 times more than the previous day. Mainland China is well-known for its tight control over Internet access and most of the World’s popular social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, are blocked in China. Meanwhile, immigration service providers also saw a sharp increase in immigration inquires.

Sources:

(1) RFI Chinese, May 30, 2020
https://bit.ly/2XKXmC7

(2) Apple Daily, May 22, 2020
https://tw.appledaily.com/international/20200522/25YVFLSQXAKTJJ65PXYDQUMXBA/

Will Street Vendor Business Model Help China’s Economic Recovery?

“As the U.S. opened the era of private spaceship economy (SpaceX program), China restarted its street vendor economy.” These are popular words on China’s Internet lately. Facing the economic pressure from COVID 19, China recently loosened up its control over street vendors. In March, the Chengdu City Management Committee issued new regulations to allow residents or local businesses to setup vendor booths on the street. By May 21, the city had 2,234 temporary street vendors which created over 100,000 jobs and enabled 98 percent of the restaurants to re-open their businesses. Since then, a number of cities and provinces, including Shanghai, Gansu, Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Hebei have followed their lead.

In 2005, China launched “civilized city” evaluation nationwide. In order to be recognized for their achievements while ensuring public stability, local municipal governments around China launched severe attacks on street vendors. There were numerous bloody incidents reported when urban administrators used violent force on street vendors. On May 27, 15 years later, the Office of the Central Guidance Commission on Building Spiritual Civilization issued a new guideline and stated that street vendors will not be part of the measures for the civilized city evaluation. Meanwhile a number of official media also published articles to praise the street vendor model.

There were heated discussions online about this policy change. Some people commented that Beijing is obviously concerned about social and political stability and economic recovery, so they have to give the public some leeway. Some people said, ”Now it’s time to encourage street vendors. Obviously, we are not doing that well financially.” In the recent government work report the State Council issued, “protect” and “stabilize” are two key words that were frequently mentioned. China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s recent statement during the press conference at the People’s Congress was also shocking. Li said that there are 600 million people in China who only have a monthly income of 1,000 yuan (US$140) and can hardly afford rent in a mid-sized city. A recent report showed that due to COVID 19, 80 percent of the small and medium-sized factories in the Pearl River Delta region that used to rely on orders from overseas are facing order cancellation and most of them are staying idle.

Source:
Epoch Times, May 31, 2020
https://www.epochtimes.com/gb/20/5/31/n12150806.htm
Xinhua, June 1, 2020
http://www.xinhuanet.com/fortune/2020-06/01/c_1126057426.htm

Pandemic: Over 40 Percent of China’s Cinemas May Go Bust

According to a survey that the China Film Association released on May 27, 2020, the pandemic has had a severe adverse impact on the entire Chinese film industry. The survey was conducted in April, with questionnaires sent to select, mature, dynamic, and market-competitive cinemas. Four in ten cinemas may permanently close down. Since February, all cinemas have been in the red.

 

The survey showed that the national box office revenue for the first quarter dropped 88 percent year on year to 2.23 billion yuan (US$312 million). The cinemas with more than 2,000 seats saw the box office revenue decrease by 87.7 percent year-on-year. Those with 500-2000 seats by dropped 88 percent and smaller ones with less than 500 seats by 91.3 percent.

 

Over 90 percent of those surveyed were pessimistic about the short term prospects. Half believed that it will take at least 3 to 6 months to reach the same level as before the pandemic and 37 percent of the theaters believed that it will take more than half a year.

 

As many as 42 percent of the cinemas surveyed responded they are at risk of “closing the door.” Only 10 percent indicated that they may change hands and continue to operate. Finally, 28 percent said they are “waiting for the headquarters’ arrangements.”

 

The China Film Association estimated that if cinemas reopened in June and revenues gradually recovered to 90 percent of last year’s levels within six months, the box office revenue would be reduced by about 60 percent year-on-year for 2020.

 

In 2015, China surpassed the United States to become the country with the largest number of screens in the world, over 70,000 screens in 12,480 cinemas in 2019. Its annual box office revenue accounted for about a quarter of the world’s total. As of 2019, it was the second-largest film market in the world.  China has been the largest overseas box office for Hollywood and in 2019 contributed 5.4 percent to the growth of the global film industry.

 

Sources: Sina.com, May 29, 2020. 

https://ent.sina.com.cn/m/c/2020-05-29/doc-iircuyvi5682505.shtml?cre=tianyi&mod=pcent&loc=2&r=25&rfunc=100&tj=none&tr=25

Taiwan Develops Humanitarian Assistance Program for Hong Kong Citizens

As Beijing pushed forward and imposed a new national security law on Hong Kong, Chen Ming-Tong, Minister of the Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), announced on Thursday May 29 that Taiwan developed the Hong Kong Humanitarian Assistance Action Plan in accordance with Article 18 of the “Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong & Macao Affairs.” The plan contains four principles: the government takes the lead; MAC is in charge of cross-agency collaboration; the government establishes and implements a legal entity; funding comes from the government’s budget.

Chen made it clear that Taiwan will adopt a two-part policy and treat Hong Kong citizens and the Hong Kong government separately. It will definitely not treat the Hong Kong people the same as it treats the people from mainland China. “Article 18 is for the Hong Kong people who want to come to Taiwan. For example, if a person is a financial professional or has technological talent and he wants to come to Taiwan, we have an overall plan to make it more convenient. The policy objective includes what happens after people come, how they deal with their resettlement, and how they take care of their lives. All of these are in this action plan.”

Chen added, “As the golden standard of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy has declined, we must have second thoughts. In the past we regarded Hong Kong as the third (independent) place in politics. Now, with Beijing’s imposition of the National Security Law, then, on the issue of national security, does the Hong Kong government carry out its own will or Beijing’s? Because the national security goal of Beijing is to unify Taiwan and wipe out the Republic of China, we have concerns about our national security. At this point, Article 60 applies to the future situation of the Hong Kong government. We must evaluate and may consider suspending part of the act if it jeopardizes our national security.” Article 60 of the “Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong & Macao Affairs” is a provision to enable Taiwan to respond when “any change occurs in the situation of Hong Kong or Macau such that the implementation of this Act endangers the security of Taiwan.”

Source: Radio Free Asia, May 28, 2020
https://www.rfa.org/cantonese/news/htm/tw-guidelines-05282020063302.html