Moody’s Downgrades China Over Worries About Its Growing Debt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

SHANGHAI — Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its credit rating on China’s sovereign debt by a notch on Wednesday, saying that the steady buildup of debt in the Chinese economy would erode the country’s financial strength in the coming years.

In a bluntly worded statement, Moody’s said that the Chinese government remained committed to achieving high economic growth despite slowing productivity gains and a shrinking population of working-age adults. The only way for China to achieve that high growth is to allow its debt to continue to grow as a way to stimulate the economy, Moody’s warned.

”The downgrade reflects Moody’s expectation that China’s financial strength will erode somewhat over the coming years, with economywide debt continuing to rise as potential growth slows,” the credit rating firm said.

Moody’s moved down China’s debt rating to A1 from Aa3, but changed its outlook for further ratings adjustments to stable, from negative.

Moody’s action is still likely to anger Chinese officials, who have tried hard to persuade the Chinese public and the international financial community that they have the country’s debt troubles well in hand.

Stock markets in China and Hong Kong opened slightly lower on Wednesday on the news. The Australian dollar, which is widely considered a barometer of investor sentiment about China because Australia sells so much of its raw materials to that country, weakened against the United States dollar.

Israeli Jets Strike Inside Syria; Military Site Near Palmyra Reportedly Targeted

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Israeli jets strike inside Syria; military site near Palmyra reportedly targeted

An Israeli fighter jet takes off from the Ramat David ar base, southeast of Haifa, in June.

Story highlights

  • Syria says strikes targeted military site near Palmyra
  • Israeli jets make incursions inside Syria, but IDF rarely confirms it

Jerusalem (CNN) In the most serious clash between Israeli and Syrian forces since the start of the Syrian conflict six-years ago, Israeli aircraft struck several targets in Syria overnight, the Israeli military said Friday.

Israel targeted a military site near the ancient city of Palmyra, the Syrian military said, in what would be one of its deepest airstrikes inside Syrian territory since the civil war began there.
Palmyra, once held by ISIS and retaken by the Syrian government, is strategically important to both the regime and its opponents.
Most of Israel’s reported strikes have been around the capital of Damascus, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
In response, Syrian forces fired anti-aircraft missiles at the Israeli jets, saying they downed one aircraft and hit another. Israeli vehemently denied the assertions, calling them “absolutely not true.”
“At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF aircraft compromised,” a statement from the Israel Defense Forces said. The statement is unusual in that Israel rarely comments on airstrikes in Syria.
The intercept triggered alarm sirens in the Jordan Valley. Shrapnel from the explosion, which was heard as far south as Jerusalem, landed in western Jordan, the Jordanian military said.

Israel denies Syrian claim it downed Israeli plane

Israel denies Syrian claim it downed an Israeli plane
Syria’s latest claims are reminiscent of its statement in September about downing an Israeli aircraft near Quneitra, close to the Golan Heights. Israel seized parts of that region from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War.
The Israeli military said then that Syria fired two anti-aircraft missiles at its jets targeting artillery positions, but both missiles missed. They were fired long after Israeli jets left the area, the military added.

Arrow missile defense

One of the missiles overnight was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow missile defense system, marking its first operational use. Arrow, Israel’s ballistic missile defense system and the long-range version of its Iron Dome, is designed to intercept missiles outside the atmosphere.
The use came more than a year after the first successful Arrow-3 intercept test was carried out in December 2015. At that time, Israeli officials would not say when the missile would become operational.
The Israeli military would not explain why Arrow was used against an anti-aircraft missile, fueling speculation that Israel was either testing the Arrow missile or that its Iron Dome missile defense system wasn’t within range of downing the anti-aircraft missile.

Taking aim at weapons smuggling

Israel has long focused on stopping the transfer of weapons from Syria to terror groups.
In December, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told a delegation of European Union envoys that Israel will “prevent the smuggling of sophisticated weapons, military equipment and weapons of mass destruction from Syria to Hezbollah.”
It was another acknowledgement of Israel’s ongoing operations in Syria. Last April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Israel has struck Syria “dozens of times,” breaking with the policy of remaining quiet about involvement in its war-torn northern neighbor.
Netanyahu returned last week from Moscow, where he reaffirmed Israel’s military coordination with Russia in the skies over Syria. The two countries established the coordination last year to avoid conflicts in Syrian airspace, ostensibly to allow both countries to operate freely. Netanyahu also expressed his concerns about a growing Iranian presence in Syria.

Repeated incursions

Israel has attempted to stay out of Syria’s civil war but has reportedly struck the country multiple times in the past, often taking aim at weapons shipments intended for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
As recently as late February, Syrian media reported that Israeli jets hit military positions and weapons convoys near Damascus.
In November 2012, Israel fired warning shots toward Syria after a mortar shell hit an Israeli military post, the first time Israel had fired on Syria across the Golan Heights since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Israeli jets have been hitting targets in Syria since at least 2013, when US officials told CNN they believed IDF jets had struck nside Syrian territory.
In 2014, the Syrian government and an opposition group both said an IDF strike had hit Damascus’ suburbs and airport.

Israel wary of Russian military buildup in Syria

 Israel wary of Russian military buildup in Syria
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency characterized those strikes as “a flagrant attack on Syria, targeting two safe areas in (the) Damascus countryside in Dimas and near Damascus International Airport.”
Israeli strikes have also gone after ISIS fighters inside Syria. Late last year, IDF troops operating in the disputed Golan region came under fire from militants of the ISIS affiliate Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.
The soldiers fired back, triggering an exchange of gunfire. A subsequent Israeli airstrike destroyed a vehicle carrying four militants, Lerner said.

Hong Kong goes Crazy For ‘Hero’ Policeman

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

Hong Kong goes crazy for ‘hero’ policeman

  • From the section Asia
Ifzal Zaffar Image copyright HONG KONG POLICE

A 20-year-old Hong Kong policeman has swept to fame online after he talked a suicidal Pakistani man out of killing himself – in fluent Urdu.

The man had climbed a 20-metre-high (65ft) crane at a construction site, and police were called to the scene.

Ifzal Zaffar, who is of Pakistani descent, duly climbed up too and addressed him in their shared language.

The man agreed to come down, and was taken to hospital.

Constable Zaffer, who also speaks fluent Cantonese, said he was simply following his training.

“I used the techniques we learned at the academy … I think he felt safer knowing that I could talk to him in his own language,” he told Apple Daily.

The young man joined the force just under a year ago, and is said to be the only officer of Pakistani origin in the district.

He arrived via a Hong Kong police scheme to recruit non-Chinese officers, called Operation Gemstone.

Constable Zaffer’s handling of the delicate situation won him praise from superiors – and a social media fan club.

“He is very handsome yet having a golden heart,” gushed Facebook user Nuna Priya.

“Mr IFZAL ZAFFAR, many citizen support you, please keep on serving the society. Thanks!!!” wrote Baba Bebe Wong.

As netizens commended his integrity and professionalism, the Muslim Council of Hong Kong also joined the chorus of support.

“Bravo to this young man and thank you to the HK police force for bringing him in,” it said.

“Hope more such stories can be seen to show HK is indeed a multi-cultural city.”

China’s Premier Says Hong Kong Will Never Be Allowed Independence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Hong Kong (CNN) China’s second highest-ranking politician criticized calls for Hong Kong independence in a speech to the nation’s parliament Sunday.

Speaking at the opening of the annual National People’s Congress, Premier Li Keqiang said calls from within the city to go it alone would “lead nowhere.”
This was the first time “Hong Kong independence” has ever been mentioned in any Chinese premier’s annual address.
“We will continue to implement, both to the letter and in spirit, the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’,” Li said, referring to the doctrine by which Hong Kong maintained certain freedoms and rights after it passed from British rule to Chinese in 1997.
“We pledge our full support to the chief executives and governments of (Hong Kong and Macau) in exercising law-based governance, growing their economies, improving people’s well-being, advancing democracy and promoting social harmony,” Li said.
Macau, a small island near Hong Kong, is also a special administered region of China.
He also had strong words for those who might seek independence for Taiwan. Officially the Republic of China, Taiwan has been self-governing since 1949, but Beijing claims it as an inalienable part of its territory.
“(China) will resolutely oppose and contain separatist activities for Taiwan independence,” Li said. “We will never tolerate any activity, in any form or name, which attempts to separate Taiwan from the motherland.”
Growing trend?
Within Hong Kong, calls for independence from China have been growing since the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests ended in no reforms to the existing political system.
For 79 days, thousands of protesters occupied Hong Kong’s financial district and elsewhere to demand true universal suffrage — one person, one vote, without the interference of Beijing.
The crowd was eventually dispersed by police, and organizers vowed to push for change by other means.
Hong Kong voters elect pro-democracy activists
In parliamentary elections last year, several pro-independence candidates were blocked from standing, but there was nevertheless a pronounced swing towards so-called localist parties, which support anything from greater autonomy to full self-rule.
Two pro-independence lawmakers who were elected never managed to take their seats however, having been ejected by the courts for failing to take their oaths of office properly after they staged a curse word-filled protest during the swearing-in process.
The intervention by Beijing into that case sparked more concerns by many Hong Kongers that the city’s autonomy — as guaranteed by “One Country, Two Systems” — is being eroded.

Fears

Anti-American views clear in new China propaganda

Beijing has always reacted angrily towards any promotion of independence for its special administered regions of Hong Kong and Macau, or suggestions from self-ruled Taiwan that the island should seek full legal independence.
A bizarre propaganda video posted online by the Chinese Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the country’s top prosecutor’s office, in August contrasted apocalyptic images of Syria and Iraq with bucolic views of China today.
“The haze of ‘domestic and international concerns’ has not dispersed from the Chinese sky,” the video said.
“Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan separatism, as well as dissident leaders, lawyers who would fight until death and other agents of Western forces are damaging China’s internal stability and harmony. Behind all these incidents, we can often catch a glimpse of the dark shadow of the Stars and Stripes.”
Speaking to the South China Morning Post Sunday, political advisory body delegate Tam Yiu-chung said the mention of Hong Kong independence by Li shows that “Beijing is very concerned about the problem.”
“The central government would not tolerate it … it’s a very serious problem,” Tam said.
Some commentators have predicted that Hong Kong’s next leader, who will be chosen by a Beijing-dominated “election committee” later this month, will be told to crack down harder on pro-independence sentiment.
“(They) might be asked by Beijing to enact Article 23,” Chinese University of Hong Kong professor Willy Lam told CNN last year, referring to a hugely controversial anti-subversion law that led to mass street protests in 2003 and the eventual resignation of then Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.

Mainland China To Hong Kong Trade Drops 7.1% In First 11 Months Of 216

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Mainland-HK trade drops 7.1% in first 11 months

THE Chinese mainland’s trade with Hong Kong totaled US$274 billion in the first 11 months of 2016, down 7.1 percent year on year, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

The value accounted for 8.3 percent of the mainland’s total overseas trade in the January-November period.

Mainland exports to Hong Kong hit US$258 billion, a decrease of 9.3 percent year on year, while the mainland’s imports from the region saw an increase of 51.9 percent to US$16.1 billion.

Hong Kong is the mainland’s fourth-largest trading partner and third-largest export market, according to the ministry.

The mainland approved 11,309 Hong Kong-invested projects from January to November, with the actual use of Hong Kong capital reaching US$72.8 billion, down 6.8 percent from the same period of last year.

By the end of November, the mainland had approved 397,522 Hong Kong-invested projects, with the actual use of Hong Kong capital reaching US$906 billion, accounting for 51.6 percent of the mainland’s actual use of overseas capital.

China: President Jinping Says Stability Is Needed To Help Global Markets As China Beats Their War Drums

 

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Stability needed next year for stronger global economy

FOR China and the world to witness stronger economic growth next year, one thing is needed: stability.

For an international market trapped in fluctuations during a year of surprising events, a new direction in 2017 is a must, something discussed at a recently ended annual economic policy meeting in Beijing.

“Seeking progress while maintaining stability” was the main theme of this year’s Central Economic Work Conference, according to a statement released by the conference on Friday. Economic priorities for 2017 were also be hammered out.

With a gross domestic product (GDP) accounting for over 15 percent of the global total, China’s growth at 6.7 percent in the third quarter, or between 6.5 percent and 7 percent annually, represents a natural and significant contribution to global economic stability.

That is true more than ever since the International Monetary Fund in October revised down global growth to 3.1 percent for 2016 and 3.4 percent for 2017.

Moreover, the spillover of China’s new economic policies will be strongly felt in the ongoing joint construction of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, which will see development of countries along its route.

STABILITY WITH CONTINUED SUPPLY-SIDE STRUCTURAL REFORM

In combination with the growth trend in the second half of 2016, the important messages Chinese policymakers convey at the key annual economic conference will highlight a clear reform course for the world’s second largest economy.

Stability is a prerequisite for reforms, commented Margit Molnar, head of the China Desk of the Economics Department of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Having dealt with such flashpoints like the asset bubble and local government debt, China will help prevent systematic risks, creating conditions for continuing the supply-side structural reform, he told Xinhua.

The economic work conference has maintained supply-side structural reform as necessary for stable growth, with a continued focus on upgrading the country’s economic structure.

Reforms which focus on expanding effective supply in a dynamic supply-demand equilibrium, will promote stability, said Zhao Yao, professor with the business school of Rutgers University in the United States.

LONG-TERM MOVES TO COOL DOWN REAL ESTATE

Homes are for living in rather than speculation, the conference stressed, proposing to use financial, land, taxation, investment and other instruments to establish a fundamental and long-term system to curb real estate bubbles and market volatilities.

Guo Shengxiang, dean of the Australian think tank Academy of APEC Creative Finance, described the idea as “forward-looking”.

“It will be a good news, to stabilize the market, improve people’s well-being and facilitate the development of the real economy,” he said.

The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp. (HKSB) believes measures to cool down real estate will not thwart China’s economic recovery.

Without a complete tightening of monetary policy, the impact of government regulations could be neutralized by infrastructure investment with financial support, it said.

PRUDENT AND NEUTRAL MONETARY POLICY AGAINST RISKS

The conference defines China’s monetary policies for 2017 as “prudent and neutral”, promising better adjustments to ensure stable liquidity.

Monetary policymaking should adapt to changes in the use of money supply tools, and further efforts are needed for smoother policy transmission, it said.

China will keep the yuan basically stable, while improving the flexibility of exchange rates.

“The stance shows the government is trying to find a subtle balance between stabilizing growth and controlling asset bubbles,” noted Hong Hao, chief China strategist at BOCOM International.

Earlier, a Standard Chartered Bank report predicted financial and monetary policy instruments available to the Chinese government would suffice to support China’s growth in the coming years.

China: Says Stability Is Needed For Stronger Global Economy As They Beat The War Drums In The South China Sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Stability needed next year for stronger global economy

FOR China and the world to witness stronger economic growth next year, one thing is needed: stability.

For an international market trapped in fluctuations during a year of surprising events, a new direction in 2017 is a must, something discussed at a recently ended annual economic policy meeting in Beijing.

“Seeking progress while maintaining stability” was the main theme of this year’s Central Economic Work Conference, according to a statement released by the conference on Friday. Economic priorities for 2017 were also be hammered out.

With a gross domestic product (GDP) accounting for over 15 percent of the global total, China’s growth at 6.7 percent in the third quarter, or between 6.5 percent and 7 percent annually, represents a natural and significant contribution to global economic stability.

That is true more than ever since the International Monetary Fund in October revised down global growth to 3.1 percent for 2016 and 3.4 percent for 2017.

Moreover, the spillover of China’s new economic policies will be strongly felt in the ongoing joint construction of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, which will see development of countries along its route.

STABILITY WITH CONTINUED SUPPLY-SIDE STRUCTURAL REFORM

In combination with the growth trend in the second half of 2016, the important messages Chinese policymakers convey at the key annual economic conference will highlight a clear reform course for the world’s second largest economy.

Stability is a prerequisite for reforms, commented Margit Molnar, head of the China Desk of the Economics Department of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Having dealt with such flashpoints like the asset bubble and local government debt, China will help prevent systematic risks, creating conditions for continuing the supply-side structural reform, he told Xinhua.

The economic work conference has maintained supply-side structural reform as necessary for stable growth, with a continued focus on upgrading the country’s economic structure.

Reforms which focus on expanding effective supply in a dynamic supply-demand equilibrium, will promote stability, said Zhao Yao, professor with the business school of Rutgers University in the United States.

LONG-TERM MOVES TO COOL DOWN REAL ESTATE

Homes are for living in rather than speculation, the conference stressed, proposing to use financial, land, taxation, investment and other instruments to establish a fundamental and long-term system to curb real estate bubbles and market volatilities.

Guo Shengxiang, dean of the Australian think tank Academy of APEC Creative Finance, described the idea as “forward-looking”.

“It will be a good news, to stabilize the market, improve people’s well-being and facilitate the development of the real economy,” he said.

The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp. (HKSB) believes measures to cool down real estate will not thwart China’s economic recovery.

Without a complete tightening of monetary policy, the impact of government regulations could be neutralized by infrastructure investment with financail support, it said.

PRUDENT AND NEUTRAL MONETARY POLICY AGAINST RISKS

The conference defines China’s monetary policies for 2017 as “prudent and neutral”, promising better adjustments to ensure stable liquidity.

Monetary policymaking should adapt to changes in the use of money supply tools, and further efforts are needed for smoother policy transmission, it said.

China will keep the yuan basically stable, while improving the flexibility of exchange rates.

“The stance shows the government is trying to find a subtle balance between stabilizing growth and controlling asset bubbles,” noted Hong Hao, chief China strategist at BOCOM International.

Earlier, a Standard Chartered Bank report predicted financial and monetary policy instruments available to the Chinese government would suffice to support China’s growth in the coming years.

Donald Trump Stands Up For An Ally And “Leaders” Don’t Like It: To Bad!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ASSOCIATED PRESS AND THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

Beijing has lodged a protest with the United States over a call between US President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen, the foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday.

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“We have already made solemn representations about it to the relevant US side. It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world. Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,” the statement said.

Earlier China’s foreign minister said Saturday he hopes Beijing’s relations with the US would not be “interfered with or damaged” after President-elect Donald Trump broke with decades-long diplomatic tradition and spoke directly with Taiwan’s leader.

It is highly unusual, probably unprecedented, for a US president or president-elect to speak directly with a leader of Taiwan, a self-governing island the US broke diplomatic ties with in 1979.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the call between Taiwan’s president and Trump was “just a small trick by Taiwan” that he believed would not change US policy toward China, according to Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV.

“The one-China policy is the cornerstone of the healthy development of China-US relations and we hope this political foundation will not be interfered with or damaged,” Wang was quoted as saying.

Washington has pursued a so-called “one China” policy since 1979, when it shifted diplomatic recognition of China from the government in Taiwan to the communist government on the mainland. Under that policy, the US recognizes Beijing as representing China but retains unofficial ties with Taiwan.

A statement from Trump’s transition team said he spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who offered her congratulations.

“During the discussion, they noted the close economic, political, and security ties … between Taiwan and the United States. President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year,” the statement said.

Trump tweeted later: “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!”

About an hour later, Trump groused about the reaction to the call. “Interesting how the US sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call,” he tweeted.

The Taiwanese presidential office issued a statement early Saturday saying Trump and Tsai discussed issues affecting Asia and the future of US relations with Taiwan.

“The (Taiwanese) president is looking forward to strengthening bilateral interactions and contacts as well as setting up closer cooperative relations,” the statement said.

“The president also told US President-elect Trump that she hopes the US will continue to support Taiwan’s efforts in having more opportunities to participate in and contribute to international affairs in the future,” Tsai’s office said.

It said the two also “shared ideas and concepts” on “promoting domestic economic development and strengthening national defense” to improve the lives of ordinary people.

The White House learned of the conversation after it had taken place, said a senior Obama administration official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive diplomatic relations involved.

China’s embassy in Washington, its foreign ministry in Beijing and Taiwan Affairs Office did not respond to requests for comment.

Friday’s call is the starkest example yet of how Trump has flouted diplomatic conventions since he won the Nov. 8 election. He has apparently undertaken calls with foreign leaders without guidance customarily lent by the State Department, which oversees US diplomacy.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

China Confiscates Singapore Military Equipment They Bought From Taiwan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Warning against Taiwan military ties

CHINA yesterday warned countries against maintaining military ties with Taiwan, after Singaporean armored troop carriers were seized en route from the island.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China was verifying reports that Hong Kong customs had seized nine Singapore troop carriers and other equipment in 12 containers being shipped from Taiwan after military exercises.

Hong Kong customs said its officers were still investigating the shipment.

“The entry and exit of foreign personnel and goods in the Hong Kong special administrative region should respect its relevant laws,” Geng said.

“I wish to reiterate that the Chinese government consistently and resolutely opposes any form of official exchanges, including military exchanges and cooperation, between countries with which we have diplomatic relations and the Taiwan region.”

The seizure comes amid rising tensions between China and Singapore, which has deepened its security relationship with the United States over the past year.

Regional diplomatic sources say Chinese officials are particularly concerned at Singapore’s hosting of increased deployments of US P-8 Poseidon surveillance planes, which are equipped with various sensors that can target China’s expanding Hainan-based submarine fleet.

Singapore has had a long-standing if low-key military relationship with Taiwan. Singaporean defense experts say the Singaporean military still maintains a small semi-permanent presence in Taiwan, with larger numbers of infantry troops being sent to the island for annual training drills.

It has gradually reduced that training, moving to other facilities in Australia and India, but is unlikely to pull out of Taiwan completely, experts said.

Singapore defense ministry officials said yesterday that the shipment involved no ammunition or sensitive equipment, and it had earlier contracted commercial shipping line APL to handle the cargo.

“APL was required to comply with all regulations including … obtaining the necessary permits required to transit through ports,” a ministry statement said.

APL staff are now working with Hong Kong officials to free the shipment, aided by Singaporean diplomats and military officials, it said.

An APL spokesman confirmed the discussions. “APL is committed to ensuring cargo security as well as full compliance with all regulatory and trade requirements in its conduct of business,” he said.

APL is a subsidiary of the French-based CMA CGM Group.

Hong Kong: British Banker Rurik Jutting (Butcher) Guilty 2 Counts Of Murder Jailed For Life

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘TIME’)

British Banker Rurik Jutting Found Guilty in Hong Kong Murder Trial and Jailed For Life

Rurik Jutting has been found guilty for the murder of two Indonesian women at his luxury apartment.

Rurik Jutting, the 31-year-old British former banker who in the fall of 2014 tortured and murdered two Indonesian women in his luxury high-rise apartment in Hong Kong, has been found guilty of murder. He will be jailed for life.

Jutting, appearing healthier and many pounds lighter than he was when he was arrested just over two years ago, was stoic when the jury delivered its unanimous verdict in Hong Kong’s High Court on Tuesday afternoon. He had pleaded not guilty to murdering 23-year-old Sumarti Ningsih and 28-year-old Seneng Mujiasih, but guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of “diminished responsibility.” His defense attempted to bolster this claim by pointing to various disorders that supposedly impacted Jutting’s capacity to act rationally: narcissistic personality disorder, cocaine-and-alcohol-abuse disorders, and sexual-sadism disorder.

A smattering of applause went around the public gallery of the courtroom when the jury’s foreman read the verdict.

Justice Michael Stuart-Moore said: “You get prison for life. That is all. You can go now, thank you.”

In a statement he wrote that was read by his barrister, Tim Owen, Jutting expressed remorse.

“As has been commented on throughout the hearings, my actions in the deaths of Sumarti Ningsih and Seneng Mujiasih in the days preceding the deaths was horrific, even by the standards of homicide trials,” Jutting wrote. “The nine jurors were attentive and thoughtful. They have delivered a verdict to which I cannot have any objection”

He said he remained “haunted daily” by the crimes.

“We have been made to dredge the very depths of depravity in the defendant’s descriptions of what he did in three days of torture,” Justice Stuart-Moore said after the jury was read. “He describes himself as evil and a monster. Neither description is adequate to bring home the horror of what he did.”

In a statement released yesterday, Seneng’s family stressed the financial hardship her death had caused. “Our family hope the perpetrator can be punished as heavily as possible,” the statement read.

The verdict marks the end of a two-week trial that was alternatively gruesome, awkward and tedious. It was, Justice Stuart-Moore said on the first day of the trial on Oct. 24, a particularly strange legal affair: a murder trial in which the most incriminating evidence — the iPhone footage shot by Jutting both leading up to and immediately after the killings — was willfully created by the defendant himself.

HONG KONG-INDONESIA-BRITAIN-CRIME-MURDER-JUTTING
Tengku Bahar—AFP/Getty ImagesIndonesian migrant workers hold up placards during a vigil for slain colleagues Seneng Mujiasih and Sumarti Ningsih on the eve of the murder trial for British banker Rurik Jutting, in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park on Oct. 23, 2016

It was in these videos that the nine members of jury became apprised of what happened on the 31st floor of the J Residence, a luxury apartment building in Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district, during the last week of October 2014.

In the early hours of Oct. 25, Jutting left his apartment and made his way into the thick of Wan Chai, a bustling neighborhood famous for neon-lit bars with names like Club Bunny, where scantily clad girls linger out front.

There, he met Sumarti, a single mother who, in 2011, had left her infant son with family in Indonesia and came to find work in Hong Kong as a domestic helper — one of hundreds of thousands of such women in the former British colony, many of them from the Philippines and Indonesia. Like some of her peers, Sumarti occasionally moon lighted as a sex worker for extra income.

Jutting, who had been transferred by Bank of America Merrill Lynch from London to Hong Kong in the fall of 2013 had paid Ningsih for sex before. On that occasion, he had become so violent that she had offered to refund half his money if he would let her go home. Following his arrest, Jutting told police that to bring her home on the night of Oct. 25, he had to offer a particularly large sum to coerce her. He contacted her on his cell phone, in which she was saved simply as “Indo,” for Indonesian.

She consented, and together they returned to his apartment. By Jutting’s account, things escalated quickly.

“I made her get naked,” he said to his iPhone camera shortly after her death. “I held her throat, then she tried to force me off her. But there’s nothing she could do.”

For three days, he kept her prisoner. He said he bound her, beat her, violated her sexually, and at one point forced her to eat his excrement. He finally killed her by slitting her throat as she licked his toilet bowl.

After killing her, he dragged her body into his shower, and later shoved it into a suitcase he put on his balcony, and began to record the hours of monologue that two years later would be used to incriminate him. Heavily under the influence of drugs, alcohol, and sleep deprivation, he babbled about his cocaine addiction, his history of sadistic fantasies, and Sumarti herself.

“I learned more about that girl over three days than I have about people I’ve worked with for years,” he said to the camera. “She is — was — a remarkable person. Many of the finest people I’ve known have been prostitutes.”

British Banker Rurik Jutting To Appear In Court Over Murder Charges With Killing Two Women in Hong Kong
Bloomberg/Getty ImagesA police officer stands guard as a prison vehicle escorting Rurik Jutting, a former Bank of America Merrill Lynch employee, leaves the High Court in Hong Kong on Oct. 24, 2016

In the days that followed, Jutting continued to binge on cocaine and Red Bull as Sumarti’s body began to decay on his balcony. He did not leave his apartment, subsisting on Pizza Express delivery and spending “virtually every minute reading and watching pornography,” as he later told police. Eventually, he said, he “had a plan to torture.”

“I realized how much I enjoyed that combination of alcohol and cocaine and physical torture – it gave me a sense of enjoyment I’d never had with anything,” he later told police. “I knew I would do it again.”

Eventually, he left his apartment, going first to a sex shop in Lan Kwai Fong, a nightlife district near downtown that is popular with expatriates and tourists, to buy bondage rope and other items. On his way home, he stopped at a hardware store, purchasing nails, sandpaper and a blowtorch, which he planned to use for torture.

“Let’s be clear about these, I am going to use these to torture someone in the most inhumane way possible,” he said.

However, when he solicited Seneng on the night of Halloween, leaving his apartment and returning with her shortly after midnight, there was no prolonged period of torture, unlike with Sumarti. The court heard that Seneng began screaming after finding a knife on Jutting’s couch, prompting him to quickly cut her throat.

He was, at that point, reportedly delirious, hallucinating that police and “special forces” were outside his apartment, preparing to seize him. He eventually called 999, Hong Kong’s emergency hotline, and asked if he could surrender. The dispatcher evenly asked if they could instead send officers to his home, and he complied. He was arrested by dawn.

Jutting has spent the past two years in prison in Hong Kong, where he has been interviewed by several psychiatrists who have served as witnesses for the defense during the trial. On the stand, Dr. Richard Latham and Professor Derek Perkins have rendered a portrait of a man with incredibly high intelligence — he recorded an IQ score of 137 — but sadistic tendencies and a pathological narcissism that rendered him incapable of emotionally handling blows to his ego.

When, as an adolescent, he applied and was accepted to Winchester College, a prestigious boarding school in the U.K., he was reportedly devastated that he came sixth in the scholarship assessment, rather than first. Later, after graduating from Cambridge with a first-class degree in history but a second-class degree in law, he challenged university administrators regarding the latter, claiming the examiners “did not understand him well enough,” which Perkins attributed to an entrenched “sense of entitlement.”

INDONESIA-BRITAIN-HONG KONG-CRIME-MURDER
Dida Nuswantara—AFP/Getty ImagesRelatives and villagers carry the coffin of Sumarti Ningsih, one of two Indonesian women murdered by British banker Rurik Jutting in Hong Kong, during her funeral at Gandrungmangu village, in Cilacap, Indonesia’s Central Java province, on Nov. 12, 2014

After Cambridge, in 2008, he forewent plans to practice law and instead took a job at Barclays in London in the structured-capital-markets division, then moved to Bank of America Merrill Lynch in 2010. Around this time, the court heard, he began drinking excessively, going on long binges where he would solicit sex workers and do cocaine with them. (He would later admit that he had spent “more than a million dollars” on sex workers in the two years preceding the killings.)

His professional performance gradually began to suffer. In September 2013, Bank of America Merrill Lynch moved him from London to Hong Kong, allegedly to “get him out-of-the-way” after an investigation into a dubious tax product he had tried to sell in Luxembourg, the court heard.

The defense’s expert witnesses inferred that it was the move to Hong Kong that precipitated his final mental collapse. He had no social life, instead spending his time drinking copious amounts of liquor and wine in his luxury residential tower and seeing sex workers from the neon-lit bars nearby. He traveled to the U.K. for a friend’s wedding in March 2014, where he reportedly did so much cocaine that he missed a work meeting in London. He blamed his absence on having HIV.

His physical and mental atrophy continued upon his return to Hong Kong, and in September 2014, he found a cocaine dealer of his own, who was named to the court simply as Marvin. Marvin, the court heard, was bringing Jutting massive sums of cocaine on a regular basis; the defendant claimed he was doing several grams in a day.

From there, his apparent decline into instability was rapid. He rarely went to work; when he did, he did so erratically, showing up only for short stretches. He later described his rage and humiliation when his boss send a junior employee to look for him at home. He spent his days watching and reading violent pornography that trafficked in themes like rape, kidnapping and torture.

The defense concedes that parole for Jutting is highly unlikely to impossible. Asked outside the courtroom if he was surprised by the verdict, Michael Vidler, Jutting’s attorney, simply shrugged. “The jury has spoken,” he said.

Justice Stuart-Moore said that if Jutting applied for transfer to a British prison, “the English authorities will know exactly the type of person they are dealing with.”

— With reporting by Yenni Kwok / Hong Kong

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