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Protesters still wearing masks and city subway grinds to a halt – Hong Kong

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Protesters still wearing masks and city subway grinds to a halt – Hong Kong | The Thaiger

Pro-democracy protesters have been marching through Hong Kong today in defiance of a ban on face masks as much of the city grinds to a halt with the subway suspended and swathes of shops and malls shuttered following another night of violence.

The latest act of resistance follows a night of widespread chaos as hardcore protesters trashed dozens of subway stations vandalising shops with mainland China ties, built fires and blocked roads.

Hundreds of protesters, almost all masked, staged the unsanctioned march through the popular shopping district of Causeway Bay, a day after the city’s leader outlawed face coverings at protests invoking colonial-era emergency powers not used for half a century.

As the crowds were marching earlier today, city leader Carrie Lam released a stony-faced video in which she condemned protesters for “a very dark night”.

“We cannot allow rioters any more to destroy our treasured Hong Kong.”

But the march in Causeway Bay, which came despite the city-wide subway closure, showed protesters were still willing to defy the mask ban as they chanted “No rioters, only tyranny” and other popular slogans.

Months of chaos

Hong Kong has been battered by four months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests with tourism dropping, businesses shutting up shop and the Hong Kong leadership unable to quell the simmering tensions.

The rallies were ignited by a now-scrapped plan to allow extraditions to the mainland, which fuelled fears of an erosion of liberties promised under the “one country, two systems” model China uses for the finance hub. After Beijing and local leaders took a hard line, the demonstrations snowballed into a wider movement calling for more democratic freedoms and police accountability.

Lam continues to refuse any major concessions but is struggling to come up with any political solution that might end the chaos, leaving police and demonstrators to fight increasingly violent battles as the city tips into recession.

Hong Kong witnessed its worst clashes to date last Tuesday as China celebrated 70 years of Communist Party rule, with a teenager shot and wounded by police as he attacked an officer.

Yesterday, Lam used a colonial-era law to ban face masks at protests, but it did little to defuse tensions or, indeed, encourage protesters not to wear masks.

“The government doesn’t listen to us. So we are upping our game,” said 32 year old protester Nathalie, as hardcore demonstrators trashed a station in the previously calm neighbourhood of Tseung Kwan O.

In the northern district of Yuen Long, a plain clothes police officer opened fire when he was surrounded in his car and attacked by protesters, a petrol bomb exploding at his feet. Local media reported a teenage boy was shot and wounded in the same district but police would not confirm whether the bullet came from the officer’s gun.

City grinds to a halt

As the city awoke on Saturday, the rail network remained out of action – although the crucial airport service partially re-opened in the afternoon. The subway alone usually carries some four million passengers a day.

Shopping malls were closed, supermarket chains said they would not open and many mainland Chinese banks stayed shuttered, their facades sprayed with graffiti. In some locations, long lines formed at supermarkets as residents stocked up on rice, eggs, toilet paper and other essentials, fearing further clashes.

Police sent text messages urging the public to avoid protests over the three day holiday weekend.

While the increased vandalism has shocked many in a city unused to such scenes, many more moderate activists say they still have sympathy for those using violence.

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Hong Kong

1000s flock to Hong Kong’s Chater Garden for pro-democracy rally

May Taylor

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1000s flock to Hong Kong’s Chater Garden for pro-democracy rally | The Thaiger

PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Last night, Chater Garden, located near government headquarters in the Central district of Hong Kong, was the scene of the city’s first approved rally since the face mask ban came into being about 10 days ago. So far, the face mask ban has been largely ineffectual.

A day after an explosive device was detonated during protests, tens of thousands of demonstrators assembled in the park. They were calling on Washington to approve proposed US legislation that could see some Chinese officials face sanctions.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act aims to review the territory’s special trading status and sanction those responsible for undermining the rights of Hong Kong citizens. It passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee late last month.

The Chinese Government has responded angrily, accusing the US of “interfering in China’s internal affairs” with the aim of harming its interests, and says the law will only serve to worsen the situation in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has been the scene of often violent pro-democracy protests for over four months now, as its citizens call for greater democracy and less interference from Beijing.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Hong Kong

Hong Kong property investors turn to SE Asia

The Thaiger

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Hong Kong property investors turn to SE Asia | The Thaiger

From luxury Singapore apartments to Malaysian seafront condos, Hong Kong investors are shifting cash into Southeast Asian property, demoralised by increasingly violent protests as well as the China-US trade war.

Millions have taken to the streets during four months of pro-democracy demonstrations in the southern Chinese city, hammering tourism while also forcing businesses to lay off staff – and the property sector is feeling the pain. Property stocks in one of the world’s most expensive housing markets have plummeted since June, with developers being forced to offer discounts on new projects and cutting office rents.

Hong Kong businessman Peter Ng bought a condominium on the Malaysian island of Penang – which has a substantial ethnic Chinese population and is popular among Hong Kongers – after the protests erupted.

A 48 year old stock market and property investor told AFP he was worried about long-term damage to the Hong Kong economy if the unrest persists.

“The instability was a catalyst for me. Investors will always look at things like that, political stability.”

And Derek Lee, a Hong Kong businessman who owns a Penang apartment, said he knew others in the semi-autonomous city who were considering investing in south east Asian property because of the unrest.

“People are thinking about how to quicken their ideas, how to make a more stable life,” the 55 year old told AFP. Part of the allure of Malaysia is its relative affordability and prices much lower than Hong Kong.

The Malaysia site of Southeast Asian real estate platform Property Guru has seen a 35 percent increase in visits from Hong Kong, according to its CEO Hari Krishnan.

China-fuelled boom

While Hong Kong’s protests are primarily pushing for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability, the summer of rage has been fuelled by years of simmering anger towards Beijing and the local government over falling living standards and the high costs of living.

Hong Kong’s property market is one of least affordable in the world with sky-high prices fuelled, in part, by wealthy mainlanders snapping up investments in a city which has failed for years to build enough flats to meet demand.

But now mainland Chinese, who traditionally viewed property in Hong Kong as a safe investment, are opting for rival financial hub Singapore as a result of the protests and the US-China trade war, according to observers.

There has been a jump this year in sales of luxury apartments in the city-state, which like Hong Kong is known for pricey property, driven partially by mainland Chinese buyers, according to the consultancy OrangeTee & Tie.

“The protests in Hong Kong have made some of the (mainland Chinese) based there… (more concerned) about investing in Hong Kong real estate, so they carry that investment to Singapore,” said Alan Cheong, executive director of the research and consultancy team at Savills.

As well as hitting China’s economy, trade tensions may have discouraged some Chinese from investing in the West and pushed them towards Singapore, with its mostly ethnic Chinese population.

“I think they don’t want to go to the West.”

Singapore is “the closest country culturally to China other than Hong Kong and I think they feel more comfortable with that”. There are further signs the stable, tightly ruled city is benefiting from the Hong Kong turmoil. Goldman Sachs last week estimated as much as $4 billion flowed out of Hong Kong to Singapore this summer.

And analysts warned there was little hope of Hong Kong’s property market recovering soon.

“Hong Kong property share prices have corrected by about 15 to 25% since July,” said Raymond Cheng, head of Hong Kong and China property at CGS-CIMB Securities International.

Residential sales were still holding up but only when developers offered discounts, office rents were expected to fall by as much as five percent and shop rents were also badly affected, he said.

But despite the unrest, businessman Ng, who will rent his Penang property and has no plans to move there permanently for now, was still hopeful about Hong Kong’s long-term prospects.

“The problem may not be solved in the short term but it is not so serious as pessimists think. Everything is still in the government’s control.”

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

PHOTO: newlaunches.sg

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Hong Kong

Future Future leader Thanathorn denies interfering in Hong Kong issues

May Taylor

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Future Future leader Thanathorn denies interfering in Hong Kong issues | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Thai PBS World

The leader of Thailand’s Future Forward party, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, says the reaction to him being photographed with Joshua Wong, leader of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, is totally overblown and taken out of context.

The picture, taken at a Hong Kong event organised by The Economist magazine where Thanathorn had been invited to speak, went viral on Thai social media, leading to some military figures and other pro-Army groups to accuse him of meddling in Hong Kong’s current turmoil.

Thanathorn strenuously denies the allegations, saying he only met Wong for five minutes, and insists he fully respects China’s position with regard to Hong Kong and the principle of, “One Country, Two Systems”.

But he admits to having looked to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement for inspiration in 2018, when discussing with friends the best way to end the junta’s rule in Thailand. He says in the end, he decided to set up a political party as a means to achieving this.

Posting on Facebook, the politician says he has no intention of getting involved with the Hong Kong push for greater democracy or the protests which have rocked the city for four months now. The Future Forward party leader adds that his mission, and that of his party, is to continue building democracy in Thailand.

Thanathorn says he’s a supporter of freedom of expression and the right to peacefully protest, and does not want to see violence in Hong Kong.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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