Beijing’s Hong Kong Strategy: More Arrests, No Concessions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Beijing’s Hong Kong Strategy: More Arrests, No Concessions

ImageProtesters and riot police officers clashed in the Tsuen Wan district of Hong Kong on Sunday. Officials say many more demonstrators will be arrested.
Credit Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — The arrests on Friday of prominent democracy lawmakers and activists in Hong Kong reflect a tactical escalation by China’s leaders to curb the recent street violence, but which could prolong the protests for many months.

Officials in Beijing, along with the Hong Kong government that answers to them, have decided on a policy of stepped-up arrests of demonstrators, who would be publicly labeled the most radical of the activists, according to Hong Kong cabinet members and leaders of the local pro-Beijing establishment.

In interviews over the past two weeks, these local political figures stressed that China wants the Hong Kong police to carry out the arrests — not Chinese soldiers, whose intervention in the city’s affairs would be unprecedented.

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Beijing has also ruled out making concessions to the demonstrators, they said. With protest leaders also vowing not to back down, the officials acknowledged that the price of the strategy could be months of acrimony, possibly stretching into 2020.

“I hope we can start the process of reconciliation before the end of the year,” Ronny Tong, a member of Hong Kong’s Executive Council, or cabinet, said in an interview last week.

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Credit Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

Beijing and Hong Kong officials are betting that the protests will gradually die down as the police detain the most hard-line demonstrators, and that public opinion will turn more decisively against the use of violence, said Lau Siu-kai, a longtime adviser to the Chinese government on Hong Kong policy.

The Hong Kong police said on Friday that they had arrested more than 900 people this summer in connection with the protests. Some of the local political figures estimated that as many as 4,000 protesters were seen by the authorities as radicals, but that it was unclear how many would eventually face legal action.

The police, who have been accused by demonstrators and international rights groups of using excessive force, have “not used their capacity to suppress the protests” until very recently, said Mr. Lau, who ran the city’s policy planning agency for a decade until 2012.

With broad public backing from mainland China, “the mood of the police was lifted up and they became even more ferocious in putting down the protests,” said Mr. Lau, who is now vice chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a semiofficial advisory body set up by Beijing.

With China’s hard-line leader, Xi Jinping, dealing with a trade war with the United States, a strategy of attrition in Hong Kong could be seen as preferable to a rash approach that might risk spiraling into a major crisis.

But it is far from clear how much success the authorities will have with their strategy of arresting protesters, resisting concessions and delaying negotiations. The arrests have begun to draw criticism from around the world.

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Credit Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

The handful of democracy activists and lawmakers who were arrested on Friday have relatively moderate reputations. They include Joshua Wong, who rose to global prominence with the so-called Umbrella Movement protests in 2014, and who has publicly called this summer for protesters not to use violence. Mr. Wong and another activist, Agnes Chow, were later released on bail.

Demonstrators have contended that at least some of the violence attributed to them may have been instigated by undercover police agents. The police have acknowledged infiltrating the protests with officers dressed to look like demonstrators.

Protesters also suspect the authorities of involvement in a spate of attacks on democracy activists by men armed with sticks, baseball bats and even meat cleavers. Similar incidents in Hong Kong over the years have been linked to organized crime groups, which have a history of ties to Beijing.

The mutual distrust has become so great that not only are the authorities and pro-democracy activists not holding talks, but the informal contacts that once existed between the government and the older generation of activists — who, themselves, are mistrusted by many of the younger protesters — have essentially come to a halt.

Each side has worried that any effort to quietly negotiate a deal would be torpedoed by leaks, embarrassing anyone who might try to strike a compromise. From the government’s point of view, those fears were realized when Carrie Lam, the chief executive, met with local young people this week, only for a recording to be leaked to Apple Daily, a pro-democracy media outlet.

Democracy advocates consider Mrs. Lam a puppet of China’s leaders, but they have also ruled out talks with the Liaison Office, which represents Beijing’s interests in Hong Kong.

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Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, two prominent pro-democracy activists who were arrested on Friday, spoke to the news media after being released on bail.
Credit Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

“This is the situation we are in: absolutely no back channel and total distrust between the two sides,” said Alan Leong, the leader of the Civic Party, one of Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy parties.

“How would I in my right mind walk into the Liaison Office — that would upset the whole unity” of the democracy movement, he added.

The democracy advocates have agreed not to criticize the violent tactics of some of the younger protesters — a turnaround for many of the older activists, who have shunned violence since Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997. Some pro-democracy lawmakers with decades-long track records of opposition to Beijing say they have been characterized as sellouts by hard-line protesters when they suggested compromising or refraining from violence.

“They will not listen to us, they think we are all outdated,” said Anson Chan, a longtime campaigner for democracy who was Hong Kong’s second-highest official in the years immediately before and after the 1997 handover.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Lam announced plans for a “platform for dialogue” to find a way out of the political quagmire. But she has sought to meet with neutral community leaders, not the opposition, and she has already ruled out accepting any of the protesters’ five demands, which include universal suffrage, amnesty for protesters and an investigation of the police’s conduct.

Given how polarized the city is now, it has been hard to find neutral figures with whom Mrs. Lam could meet, said Mr. Tong, the cabinet member, who is working on the matter for the chief executive.

Image

Credit Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

Mr. Lau, the adviser to Beijing, said that democracy advocates were overestimating the extent to which Chinese leaders worried about being embarrassed internationally by the protests.

He said they paid more attention to how events in Hong Kong were seen within mainland China, adding that public perceptions there of disorder in Hong Kong had led to a nationalistic wave of support for Beijing.

The Chinese government has pushed those perceptions itself, through the state media’s misleading coverage of the protests.

The Chinese military’s police conducted large exercises just across the border from Hong Kong this month as a show of force. But those exercises were aimed at showing that China is prepared for any contingency, and were not a preamble to any plan for actual deployment in Hong Kong, Mr. Lau and others familiar with the exercises said.

The maneuvers followed plans, drafted years ago, for clearing hostile crowds who establish prolonged control of large urban areas — a tactic that Hong Kong protesters used for months in 2014, but have largely avoided this year.

Martin Lee, a veteran pro-democracy campaigner and founder of the Hong Kong Democratic Party, said that Beijing did not want anything to mar its Oct. 1 celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Beijing “won’t allow bloodshed to happen in Hong Kong before then — after Oct. 1, beginning on the 2nd, I don’t know,” Mr. Lee said.

Keith Bradsher was the Hong Kong bureau chief of The New York Times from 2002 to 2016 and is now the Shanghai bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter: @KeithBradsher.

Austin Ramzy contributed reporting from Hong Kong, and Chris Buckley from Beijing.

A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: From Beijing, More Arrests In Hong Kong. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

5 Beautiful Temples to Visit in China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 Beautiful Temples to Visit in China

China is one of the world’s most innovative and progressive countries, yet step away from the modernity and you’ll discover a country that maintains a firm grip on its ancient cultures and spirituality. There’s hundreds of fascinating temples and shrines scattered across this great land that offer a glimpse into the centuries-old philosophies of Buddhism and Taoism. To see them all could take a lifetime, so we’ve chosen five of the most beautiful to get you started.

Dafo Temple, Gansu Province

Credit: gionnixxx/iStock

Constructed during the Western Xia dynasty, this 2nd-century temple is one of the last-surviving wooden landmarks from the era located in China. It’s often called the “Great Buddha Temple”, a reference to the 115-foot-long sleeping Buddha that greets you in the main hall. Sculptures of arhats, who are Buddhists that have gained enlightenment, surround the giant statue, as do murals of classic Chinese stories such as Journey to the West and Classic of Mountain and Seas. Legend states that a Yuan Dynasty queen lived there and gave birth to the Mongolian warrior Kublai Khan.

Hanging Temple (Xuankong Si), Shanxi Province

Credit: Dashu Xinganling/Shutterstock.com

Little can prepare you for your first sight of this series of pagodas set precariously on a cliff face at the base of Mount Heng. Time Magazine included the temple in its list of Top 10 Precarious Buildings, and it is easy to see why when studying the interconnecting walkways and long supporting stilts, which are embedded into the rocks. Despite giving the impression that it will fall at any moment, the temple has stood firm for 1,400 years. Even more impressive when it is said the foundations were laid by a solitary monk. In addition to its magnificent structure, the temple is the only place in China where Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism are all practiced.

Labrang Monastery, Gansu Province

Credit: Marcin Szymczak/Shutterstock.com

Established in 1709, Labrang Monastery plays host to the largest group of monks outside of Tibet and, at one point, provided residence for up to 4,000 of them. A great way to experience its serene beauty is to follow the inner kora, a 2.2-mile pathway of prayer wheels that pass numerous chapels and temple halls. Guided tours provide access to some halls and the chance to observe the monks’ activities first hand. Get here at sunrise to see the monks praying, or come at dusk to hear them chanting sutras.

Longmen Cave Temples, Henan Province

Credit: YinYang/iStockphoto

On an almost 1-mile long stretch of the Yi River waterfront is a collection of 2,300 caves that have existed since around 493 A.D. Each cave is etched into limestone cliffs and features some of the finest known examples of art from the Northern Wei and Tang dynasties. There’s over 110,000 statues and 60 Buddhist pagodas. Among the most striking statues are the huge Buddhas in the Guyangdong Cave and Three Binyang Cave. Such is the value of the caves that they have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

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In the heart of Beijing is a masterpiece of Chinese architecture that dates back to 1406. The main temple, the triple-tier circular Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, stands magnificently on a square marble base. This square-round contrast stems from the ancient Chinese belief of a round heaven and square Earth. The four inner, 12 middle, and 12 outer columns of the hall’s brightly-colored interior symbolize the four seasons, 12 months, and 12 Chinese zodiac hours. Landscaped gardens and pine woods encompass the temple and the entire complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

5 Cities With the Largest Subway Systems

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 Cities With the Largest Subway Systems

A great subway system is a badge of honor for a city. As writers at City Metric, a website devoted to exploring topics that affect the lives of city-dwellers, discovered, there are lots of ways to measure such a system. Maybe it’s by how many people ride a specific subway in a day or year, or maybe it’s by how many stations there are around a city.

For the purposes of this article, we looked at subways with the longest routes. Here are the top five largest subway systems in the world.

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, South Korea

Credit: Savvapanf Photo/Shutterstock.com

332 km/206 miles

More than two billion people ride the particularly high-tech subway system in Seoul each year. It’s known for its tech, including screens displaying important messages and internet access on its cars. The first line was built in the 1970’s, and today the system includes 22 lines that are still being expanded. Plus, it’s relatively cheap and known for its cleanliness, and all directional signs are written in three languages, including English.

New York City, New York, U.S.A.

New York City, New York, U.S.A.

Credit: William Perugini/Shutterstock.com

373 km/232 miles

The much older New York City subway system opened in 1904. Nearly six million people utilize the transit system every day, at about 470 stations — more than any other system in the world. Most of those stations operate 24 hours a day.

London, England

London, England

Credit: andrea flisi/Shutterstock.com

402 km/250 miles

The London Underground, sometimes called the Tube, opened in the 1860’s. Despite the name, most of the lines were built just below the surface with the “cut and cover” method, and many of the newer tracks are above ground. The system includes 11 lines and about 200 stations, and carries about five million daily passengers today.

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Beijing, China

Beijing, China

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527 km/327 miles

With almost 11 million daily riders, this is the world’s busiest subway system. It first opened in 1969 and had only two lines for decades, before undergoing a rapid expansion in 2002. And those 11 million daily riders are expected to expand to 18 million by 2021. By then, the subway will account for 60 percent of the city’s public transit ridership.

Shanghai, China

Shanghai, China

Credit: Arwin Adityavarna/iStock

548 km/341 miles

The largest subway system in the world by route length is still expanding, with plans to add seven new lines by 2025. It’s a system that links provinces and provides inter-city transportation — or at least, it will soon. On a regular day, 10 million people use the system. The most recent expansions to the system opened in December.

India studying early Chinese proposals on boundary issue

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

India studying early Chinese proposals on boundary issue

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is evaluating the “early harvest” proposals sent by Beijing to build trust between the two sides ahead of the meeting.

INDIA Updated: Aug 18, 2019 08:15 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, Beijing/ New Delhi
Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way.
Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way. (HT File Photo )

The 22nd round of the India-China Special Representatives dialogue on the boundary issue will take place in New Delhi in mid-September. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is evaluating the “early harvest” proposals sent by Beijing to build trust between the two sides ahead of the meeting.

Dates for the meeting between Doval and Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi, the interlocutors, haven’t yet been finalized, Hindustan Times learns from Chinese and Indian diplomats.

The foreign ministers dialogue on August 11-13 in Beijing and the Special Representative talks are precursors to the October 11-12 informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in India for which Varanasi is being considered as the potential venue.

Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way, and that Wang had sent “early harvest” proposals to India.

Neither side is willing to share the contents of the proposals. However, Beijing, as indicated by HT’s conversations with Chinese diplomats, is showing no signs of changing any positions with New Delhi, be it India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or full political support to its “all weather ally” Pakistan.

The trust factor between the two sides has also taken a hit after China, joined by the United Kingdom, still living in its imperial past, supported Pakistan in the informal United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Monday against the Narendra Modi government’s decision to nullify Article 370 and Article 35 A of the Indian Constitution pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir.

The overall sense from the UNSC meeting was that both countries were hopelessly outnumbered and out maneuvered in their quest for a formal outcome by the remaining 13 members led by the US and France.

In his meeting this month in Beijing with State Councillor Wang, who is also foreign minister, external affairs minister S Jaishankar had made it very clear that both countries should be sensitive to each other’s core concerns. “If Beijing wants India to support One China that includes Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, then it also must support One India,” said a top official.

Indian diplomats based in the US said the latest Chinese move in support of Pakistan on Kashmir will lead to a cooling of ties; Article 370 and Article 35 A have nothing to do with beaching either the UN Charter or the 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan, they say. Despite Chinese diplomats vehemently denying it, Beijing wants to play elder brother to South Asia as the dominant power in the region and will support Pakistan for its own economic and strategic interests.

In the circumstances, mutual trust between the two countries can only be built if President Xi, or Xi Dada (elder brother as he is called), can overrule the status quoits in Beijing and opt for a mutually beneficial and mutually acceptable solution to the long-pending dispute over the boundary.

First Published: Aug 18, 2019 07:07 IST

China will never buckle under Washington’s old trick of trade bullying

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

China will never buckle under Washington’s old trick of trade bullying

Xinhua

Despite calling the just-concluded China-US trade talks in Shanghai “constructive” and hoping for more “positive dialogue,” the White House on Thursday announced plans to impose extra tariffs on Chinese imports from September 1.

Washington’s unilateral escalation of trade disputes is a serious breach of trust after the two sides reached in June consensus to restart trade talks on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

Apart from undermining the momentum of the newly resumed China-US trade talks, the US flip-flopping again exemplifies Washington’s unworthiness in striking a deal and its disturbing propensity for bullying.

The US administration should bear in mind that its bullying and tariff threat, which has not worked in the past, will not work this time.

For over a year, the US-initiated trade disputes with China have bogged down not just economic growth of the two countries but that of the whole world. Meanwhile, an increasingly capricious Washington is harming the current world order with more uncertainties.

As the US administration is ready to impose a 10 percent tariff on the remaining 300 billion US dollars of Chinese imports, its sincerity in reaching a mutually beneficial trade deal with Beijing that can accommodate each other’s major concerns has gone bust. It seems that in the eyes of Washington’s China hawks, trade talks are no more than a formality with which to rip China off.

Also, the new twist in China-US trade talks shows that some Washington politicians are trying to play tough against China on trade matters and gain cheap political points as the new cycle of US presidential election is looming.

Unlike previous rounds of taxing Chinese imports, the US administration this time is targeting a wide swath of consumer goods, and therefore, is “using American families as a hostage” in its trade negotiations, according to Matt Priest, president of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America.

While the White House is boasting about taxing China until a trade deal is reached, it should keep in mind that China will only accept a win-win agreement on the basis of mutual respect and equal treatment.

Beijing’s position has been consistent and clear: China does not want a trade war, but it is not afraid of one and will fight one if necessary.

In response to Washington’s tariff assaults since March 2018, China has had to take forceful counter measures. This instance will be no exception.

Still, Beijing remains committed to handling its trade problems with Washington as long as the settlement is based on mutual respect and equality, and conform to China’s core interests. China, which still sees a steady economic growth and boasts enormous potential for further development, will always find a way to withstand any pressure if there no deal is reached.

It is therefore hoped that Washington should drop its fantasy to bring Beijing down to its knees with its same and old tricks of maximum pressure. If it truly wants a deal, then they will need to show some real sincerity first.

10 Most Populated Cities in the World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

10 Most Populated Cities in the World

Earth is home to more than 7.7 billion people and we have to put them somewhere. For millions of people, cities are that somewhere, with everyone existing next to each other with varying degrees of comfort. These are the 10 most populated cities in the world, according to the World Population Review.

Osaka, Japan | 19.2 Million

Credit: xavierarnau/iStock

For tourists, Osaka is about two things. The first is eating. The Japanese term “kuidaore,” which translates to “eat yourself broke” or “eat until you drop,” is frequently used to describe the city. The second is shopping. The city is full of stores, outlets, malls, bodegas, stalls and vendors. Between those two, you should have a pretty good idea of what your itinerary will be full of in Osaka.

Beijing, China | 20 Million

Credit: SeanPavonePhoto/iStock

There’s some irony in the fact that 20 million people have such ready access to the Forbidden City, a palace that traditionally carried strict, and often fatal, punishment for unauthorized visitors. Though not ironic is the fact that Beijing remains the seat of the Chinese government. That was the original point of the Forbidden City, after all.

Mumbai, India | 20.2 Million

Credit: saiko3p/Shutterstock

Mumbai is another one of those old cities that was renamed by the British empire, and has made the modern decision to change back. That’s why some readers may recognize the name Bombay, which was the name of the city up until 1995, when the political party Shiv Sena came to power in the city. Whatever you call it, there are a lot of people living in the city.

Dhaka, Bangladesh | 20.3 Million

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For a city with so many people, we haven’t heard a whole lot about Dhaka. It’s the capital of Bangladesh, so that’s something. It kind of makes it seem like a city of more than 20 million people is some kind of well-kept secret. Not to Bangladeshis, obviously, but to the rest of us.

Cairo, Egypt | 20.5 Million

Credit: Prin Adulyatham/Shutterstock

Unlike the other cities on this list, Cairo’s population growth is apparently on track for disaster. Just 11 years from now, in 2030, the city’s projected to hit 119 million and the government’s scrambling for solutions. Hopefully they figure something out quickly because 11 years is pretty much the blink of an eye when it comes to city planning.

Mexico City, Mexico | 21.7 Million

Credit: DC_Colombia/iStock

Mexico City’s origins are in some very cool terraforming done by the Aztecs. They expanded a small natural island in Lake Texcoco into an island large enough to house their fortified city, Tenochtitlán, by dumping dirt into the lake until the island was big enough. Today, the sprawl of Mexico City has far exceeded what the island could have held.

São Paulo, Brazil | 21.8 Million

Credit: f11photo/Shutterstock

São Paulo’s size caught us a little off guard. Rio de Janeiro is in the news so often that it’s almost like the default Brazilian city. But São Paulo’s population beats Rio’s by millions. It’s a financial center for Brazil but doesn’t sacrifice culture to achieve it. Case in point, São Paulo’s ethnic diversity is huge, with reasonably large Jewish, Japanese, Italian and Arab populations, among others.

Shanghai, China | 26.3 Million

Credit: Sven Hansche/Shutterstock

The fact that Beijing wasn’t the most populous city in China was a little surprising, though we’d say Shanghai would have been our second guess for “largest Chinese city.” Shanghai’s a great place to experience the convergence of old and new Chinese culture and certainly has enough going on that you won’t be bored. Lost maybe, but not bored.

Delhi, India | 29.4 Million

Credit: hadynyah/iStock

Delhi is expanding so much that it’s approaching the next step in the development of cities, where the word city may not even apply anymore. Megacity gets closer, but we’re almost thinking that a modernized form of city-state might be more appropriate. City will work for now, but we imagine there’s going to be an etymologically significant conversation happening in the Indian government soon.

Tokyo, Japan | 37.4 Million

Credit: yongyuan/iStock

Tokyo was the only city that could possibly be expected to top this list, even if you didn’t know the exact population. It’s huge and full of people, two things that seem like simple statements until you actually put them in context. It’s constantly brought up in conversations about population density, city planning and the psychology of living in a huge modern city and is the place to watch if humanity’s going to understand its urban future.

China Eastern releases electronic baggage tag

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

China Eastern releases electronic baggage tag

China Eastern releases electronic baggage tag

Ti Gong

China Eastern Airlines releases a permanent electronic luggage tag at Hongqiao airport on Tuesday.

China Eastern Airlines released a permanent electronic luggage tag at Hongqiao airport on Tuesday that allows travelers to check-in and trace luggage using their mobile phones.

The carrier plans to release the first batch of 4,000 tags to its passengers on flights between Shanghai and Beijing.

The tag has a screen to show the passenger and flight information after coming in contact with a passenger’s electronic tags

smartphone. A chip embedded in the tag lets passengers follow the progress of their luggage on the phone.

“The new tag is convenient and I no longer need to remove the traditional paper tags often stuck tightly on the luggage,” said Li Rui who was one of the first travelers with an electronic tag on a Shanghai-Beijing flight during a trial period.

“It will be better if other carriers can also recognize the tag,” he added.

Some passengers expressed concern. “What if the tag goes missing during transportation,” said a passenger from Beijing surnamed Liu. “The traditional paper tag is difficult to remove but also hard to get lost,” she added.

“It will be better if other carriers can also recognize the tag,” said Li Rui who was among the first batch of travelers experienced the electronic tag on a Shanghai-Beijing flight.

China Eastern platinum card holders can apply for the electronic tag at ticket counters. Other passengers can apply through the airline’s app from Thursday. Frequent travelers between Shanghai and Beijing will have priority.

The service will be expanded to other flights and mainly the hub airports in the future, said Shen Chenyi, general manager of the airline’s luggage control center.

The airline also plans to make bespoke luggage tags for passengers, he added.

The electronic tags were in use during the first test run at Beijing’s new mega airport on July 20 as the sprawling air hub gears up for its opening in September. China Eastern, Shanghai Airlines and China United Airlines operated 12 simulated flights and opened 16 check-in counters at the Daxing International Airport for the exercise.

Previously, China Southern also announced the release of its electronic luggage tags to replace traditional paper tags.

China Eastern releases electronic baggage tag

Ti Gong

The tag, which doesn’t have a battery, has a screen showing passenger and flight information after it is in contact with a passenger’s smartphone.

China Eastern releases electronic baggage tag

Ti Gong

A China Eastern passenger shows his electronic luggage tag at Hongqiao airport on Tuesday.

5 Old Olympics Facilities You Can Still Visit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

5 Old Olympics Facilities You Can Still Visit

The Olympic Games are the leading international sporting events that still bring the world together. Thousands of athletic competitors from more than 200 nations participate and compete for gold, silver, and bronze medals. Media coverage is intense, sports records are broken, and stories of hope, despair, and triumph generate both empathy and world acclaim.

Since the ancient Olympics games held in Olympia, Greece, the winter and summer Olympics evolved into the modern versions we know today, which have taken place at elaborate facilities across the globe. Here are a few you can still visit to relive the glory.

Olympia, Greece: Ancient Olympic Games

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The roots of the Olympic Games are religious and athletic festivals held in honor of Zeus in Olympia on the Peloponnese Peninsula. During classical times, athletics and combat sports such as wrestling, javelin, and horse and chariot racing events were common.

Starting in 776 BC, they continued every four years through Greek and Roman rule until AD 393 when Theodosius suspended them to enforce Christianity. You can immerse yourself in ancient history by exploring the remnants of the once-grand Stadium at Olympia.

Olympia is located a 3.5-hour drive from Athens. Now transformed into a tourist destination, there is plenty to see and do. The archaeological site itself is surrounded by the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games in Antiquity, the Museum of the History of Excavations in Olympia, and the Archaeological Museum of Olympia.

The ancient site lies a brief five-minute walk from the main entrance. The sanctuary includes the gymnasium, the Temple of Hera, the Philippeion, and other fragments of buildings, statues, and monuments.

Berlin, Germany: Olympic Village (1936)

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This is where the Jews were barred from participating in 1936 during the Nazi rule. Berlin was awarded the Olympic contract two years before being taken over by the Nazis. They were the first Olympic games to be broadcast worldwide, and the competitions were not just for athletes but political messages, as well.

The Olympic village was built approximately 20 miles from the western edge of Berlin. The venue includes training facilities, a swimming pool, and low-level dormitories. The 1936 Olympics saw African-American Jesse Owens make history, earning four gold medals in the track and field events and setting three world records in the process. After the Olympics, the facility underwent renovations and became a hospital, then a Soviet military camp. Tours are available; however, be aware that the center is in decay.

Beijing, China: Birds Nest Stadium (2008)

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Designed for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, the National Stadium—perhaps better known as the Bird’s Nest—was the largest facility created for the games. The one-of-a-kind architecture interprets nature in its rendering of a bird’s nest.

The specifications were daunting: The structure needed to be earthquake-proof, with 111,000 tons of steel and struts, yet visually lightweight, airy, and inspiring. As one of Beijing’s top landmarks, it has hosted many competitions and events. Weight throw, discus, track and field, football, and other sporting events were held at the Bird’s Nest.

For the full visual impact, plan your trip at night to see the artistic illumination. Currently, it is used as a soccer stadium but is open for visitors and will host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Athens, Greece: Panathenaic Stadium (2004)

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Located on an ancient stadium site from the fourth century, the Panathenaic Stadium is a famous cultural and historic landmark in Athens, Greece. It is built entirely of marble and shaped as a parallelogram. It hosted the first modern games in 1896, and more recently, the 2004 games in Athens. This is where the iconic Olympic flame begins its trek to the new host city for every winter, summer, and youth games.

The Hellenic Olympic Committee owns, operates and manages the Panathenaic Stadium. Its mission is to advance, sponsor, and guard the Olympic Movement day and night, and to encourage the sporting spirit among the next generations. The modern-day stadium accommodates multi-purpose events for conferences, seminars, and athletics. You can take in classical history on a breathtaking tour with a certified guide, audio guide, or interactive nature journey.

Vancouver, Canada: Olympic Village Condos (2010)

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In 2010, Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The Millennium Development Group built one thousand units to accommodate close to 3,000 athletes and visitors. It is touted as the greenest, most environmentally-friendly complex in the world. The structures use natural solar heating, green roof practices, and other sustainable advances.

Do not expect to see artifacts of the 2010 Olympic Games as the property was re-purposed into a mixed-use community and open-space development. This compound is located on the southeast corner of False Creek, which has hiking, biking, shopping, and dog walking paths in a park near the Olympic Village. Vancouver’s famous (and protected) beaver community has taken up residence in the area.

3 Landmarks From Around the World with Odd Nicknames

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

3 Landmarks From Around the World with Odd Nicknames

Most buildings have memorable features about them, even more so the architectural landmarks that decorate the world’s major cities. Whether it be their designs, extortionate budgets, history or residents, there’s usually something of interest to the general public. There are also landmarks that have inspired curious and affectionate nicknames. Once a new building is unveiled, city and town folk are forever eager to come up with an informal moniker. Here’s three landmarks with odd nicknames and one that triggered a presidential campaign to end the construction of strange-looking designs.

House of World Cultures, Berlin

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On the banks of the river Spree and in the northeastern corner of Tiergarten park is the House of World Cultures (Haus der Kulturen Der Welt), lovingly called The Pregnant Oyster (Die Suchwangere Auster). American architect Hugh Stubbins designed the building in 1957 as the Kongresshalle conference center. Looking at it across the basin from the southern side, it is easy to note the similarities between the parabolic roof and the shell of an oyster. Henry Moore’s sculpture the Living Divided Oval: Butterfly, which is characterized by accentuated curves, stands in the basin. Could it be the oyster’s offspring? Probably not, but perhaps worth pondering.

While you are here, check out the venue’s year-round schedule of art exhibitions, concerts, educational programs, lectures and performing arts. There’s even an aptly named Auster (Oyster) restaurant, which has a menu packed with seafood dishes and traditional German fare.

Centre Pompidou Metz, Metz

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Modern buildings often evoke imaginative nicknames, which is true for the Centre Pompidou Metz.  The Chinese Hat is a hexagonal-shaped building with irregular geometric aspects and a spire rising out of its center, which stands 77 meters tall to commemorate the 1977 year of inauguration. Apparently the Japanese and French architects were fascinated with the technical details of the cane-work pattern of Chinese and Japanese hats. In order to recreate this pattern style, they used almost 10 miles of glued laminated timber. Upon seeing the whitewashed facade for the first time, the then mayor of Metz lobbied to call it The Smurf House. The architects’ wish prevailed.

The building is a venue for modern and contemporary art exhibitions and is a sister institute of Paris’s Centre Pompidou. It draws on a catalogue of some 76,000 works to curate rotating expositions. There’s also guided tours, movie screenings, performing arts and talks.

China Central Television (CCTV) Headquarters, Beijing

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It’s nigh impossible to not turn your attention to the Big Pants Building when wandering through the Beijing Central Business District. That’s because, to an imaginative mind, the 768-feet-tall CCTV Headquarters does resemble a pair of boxer shorts. Breaking from the traditional tower, this glass-fronted landmark is made up of a series of horizontal and vertical sections that produce a contorted 3D facade. A local critic once claimed that the tower replicates a naked woman on her hands and knees, although the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaus profusely denied it.

Ironically, this isn’t the only landmark in China that has been compared to underwear. Featuring twin spires that converge at the top, the British-designed Oriental Arc has an uncanny resemblance to a pair of pants. Both landmarks played a part in Chinese president Xi Jinping calling for an end to weird architecture in 2014.

The Most Populous Cities Throughout History

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

The Most Populous Cities Throughout History

Over the course of human history, the ranking of the most populous cities has changed many times over. Jericho was the most populous city back in 9000 BCE. Now it is Tokyo, thousands of miles away. Population growth, climate change, and political shifts are largely responsible for moving the world’s biggest urban centers, but there are truly countless reasons as to why populations move and fluctuate.

When evaluating the most populous cities throughout history, archaeologists look at the total estimated global population to determine the cultural hubs of the period. Before the widespread use of recorded history, many cultures relied on oral traditions to help keep their chronicles alive. Because of this, it is challenging to calculate how many people lived in cities before recorded history.

But historians have done their best to determine where populations converged throughout history. These cities were at one point considered to be the biggest in the world.

Jericho, West Bank

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Population in 9000 BCE: 2,000; current population: 14,674

Most academics agree that Jericho is among the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places, as settlements have been uncovered dating back to 9000 BCE. Jericho is considered the oldest and most populous city throughout history. It is located near Mt. Nebo and the Dead Sea in what is now the West Bank. The plentiful natural irrigation from the Jordan River makes it an ideal ancient city for long-term habitation.

Uruk, Iraq

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Population in 3500 BCE: 4,000; current population: Uninhabited

Uruk was once an agricultural hub that lay the foundation of Mesopotamia. However, Uruk is no longer inhabited. Nestled between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, Uruk was once a thriving trade center that specializes in local crafts, writing, and grain.

Mari, Syria

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Population in 2400 BCE: 50,000; current population: Uninhabited

Researchers discovered a large population migration from Uruk to Mari, indicating a flourishing trade and livelihood in that region of Mesopotamia. Estimates place the population of Mari, which is located in what is now Syria, at 50,000 people in 2400 BCE. It was the trade capital of the region and had a fully functioning government and recorded history.

Ur, Iraq

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Population in 2100 BCE: 100,000; current population: Uninhabited

Ur was a very rich city in 2100 BCE, with a huge amount of luxury items made from precious metal and semi precious stones. After 500 BCE, Ur was no longer inhabited due to drought and changing river patterns. Today, the Iraqi city of Tell el-Muqayyar is at the site of Ur.

Yinxu, China

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Population in 1300 BCE: 120,000; current population: uninhabited

Eventually, the world’s biggest population centers shifted away from the Middle East. The earliest forms of Chinese writing can be found in the modern day ruins at Yinxu, sometimes written as two words (Yin Xu). At its height, this city was the academic center of the Chinese world.

Carthage, Tunisia

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Population in 300 BCE: 500,000; current population: 20,715

Located in present-day Tunisia, Carthage was an enlightened civilization until drought and famine sped up the decline of this ancient city. It was not until 1985 that the mayors of Carthage and Rome officially ended their 2,000-year-old conflict.

Rome, Italy

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Population in 200 CE: 1,200,000; current population: 2,754,440

What started as a small village a thousand years ago is now a bustling metropolis. In 200 CE, Rome was the most populated city in the world. It is no secret that Rome has been one of the longest occupied settlements and for a good reason. As a center for government, politics, religion, fashion, ancient history, archaeological sites and culture, it is still a top travel destination for millions of people.

Beijing, China

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Population in 1500: 1,000,000; current population: 22,000,000

Still one of the world’s most populous cities, Beijing broke out around 1500, when it relied on grain and monetary taxes from the population to feed and supply the city. However, that was not enough. The population was so large that commerce destroyed all of the forests in the region. This irrevocably changed the ecosystem in the area.

London, England

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Population in 1825: 1,335,000; current population: 13,945,000

During the pinnacle of the British Empire, crime and terror in London ran rampant. The city was considered unsafe. However, this did not stop people from finding their way in the Empire’s capital. Today, it remains a global capital that welcomes millions of visitors every year.

Tokyo, Japan

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Population in 2000: 20,500,000; current population: 36,000,000

After this trip through history, we arrive at the present day. Tokyo is the most populous city in the modern world, home to an astounding 36 million people in its metropolitan area. There was a brief interlude following World War II until Tokyo recovered economically. Prosperity and a strong bond to Japanese tradition, family, and history maintain Tokyo’s high population today.

The draw and allure of cities continue to bring human civilization closer and closer together. Currently, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban centers, and this number is expected to climb. The current practice of census-taking will undoubtedly help future historians.