Hong Kong holds opening ceremony for Express Rail Link to mainland



Hong Kong holds opening ceremony for Express Rail Link to mainland


Imagine China

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, (6-R), the Governor of Guangdong Province Ma Xingrui, (6-L) and other Chinese government representatives officiate at the opening ceremony of the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link at Hong Kong West Kowloon Station in Hong Kong, China, 22 September 2018.

The opening ceremony of the Hong Kong Section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link was held Saturday at Hong Kong West Kowloon Station, one day ahead of the official operation of the first high-speed train from Hong Kong to the mainland.

The opening of the XRL marks Hong Kong’s official connection with the national high-speed railway network, Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, said at the opening ceremony.

On the B1 Level of the station, Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Tung Chee-hwa, Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Leung Chun-ying, Governor of Guangdong province Ma Xingrui, Director of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council Zhang Xiaoming, Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong SAR Wang Zhimin and other officials officiated the opening ceremony.

“Pearl of the Orient” and other songs played by Hong Kong violinist Yao Jue and Hong Kong String Orchestra as well as the video narrating the development of the railway in Guangdong and Hong Kong commenced the opening ceremony.

Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Ma Xingrui, General Manager of China Railway Corporation Lu Dongfu and Chairman of the MTR Corporation Ma Si-hang delivered speeches at the ceremony.

Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Ma Xingrui also unveiled a display embodying the official operation of the West Kowloon Station, the terminal of the cross-boarder high-speed rail trains between Hong Kong and the mainland.

The US may sail a warship around Taiwan in an attempt to back up China



The US may sail a warship around Taiwan in an attempt to back up China

US Navy uss lassen
The USS Lassen (DDG 82) patrolling the eastern Pacific Ocean.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.
  • The United States is considering sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait, US officials say.
  • A US warship passage, should it happen, could be seen in Taiwan as a fresh sign of support by President Donald Trump after a series of Chinese military exercises around the self-ruled island.
  • China has alarmed Taiwan by ramping up military exercises this year, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the island and sending its carrier through the narrow Taiwan Strait.

WASHINGTON — The United States is considering sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait, US officials say, in a move that could provoke a sharp reaction from Beijing at a time when Sino-US ties are under pressure from trade disputes and the North Korean nuclear crisis.

A US warship passage, should it happen, could be seen in Taiwan as a fresh sign of support by President Donald Trump after a series of Chinese military exercises around the self-ruled island. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory.

US officials told Reuters that the United States had already examined plans for an aircraft carrier passage once this year but ultimately did not pursue them, perhaps because of concerns about upsetting China.

The last time a US aircraft carrier transited the Taiwan Strait was in 2007, during the George W. Bush administration, and some US military officials believe a carrier transit is overdue.

Another less provocative option would be resuming the periodic, but still infrequent, passages by other US Navy ships through the strait, the latest of which was in July.

The Pentagon declined to comment on any potential future operations, and it was unclear how soon a passage might take place.

Speaking in Beijing, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, urged the United States to prudently handle the Taiwan issue so as to avoid harming bilateral ties and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait region.

“We have repeatedly emphasized that the Taiwan issue is the most important and sensitive core issue in the China-US relationship,” she said at a daily news briefing on Tuesday.

Trump, who in 2016 broke protocol as president-elect by taking a phone call from Taiwan’s president, has toned down his rhetoric about Taiwan in recent months as he seeks China’s aid in the nuclear standoff with North Korea.

The United States and China are also trying to find their way out of a major trade dispute that has seen the world’s two economic heavyweights threaten tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth up to $150 billion.

China has alarmed Taiwan by ramping up military exercises this year, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the island and sending its carrier through the narrow Taiwan Strait separating it from Taiwan.

“They’re turning up the heat,” a fourth US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the US’s view of Chinese activities around Taiwan.

Separately, it now appears unlikely the United States will send top officials to a June 12 dedication ceremony for the new American Institute in Taiwan, America’s de facto embassy in Taiwan. Washington does not have formal ties with Taipei.

US officials told Reuters that the date clashed with the planned June 12 summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but added that there would be another opportunity to commemorate the institute’s unveiling in September.

Case-by-case arms sales

Since taking office, Trump has approved a $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan and angered Beijing by signing legislation encouraging visits by senior US officials to Taiwan. Trump also named John Bolton, known as a strong Taiwan supporter, as his national security adviser.

The fourth US official told Reuters that Washington aimed to change the way it approaches arms sales requests from Taiwan to address them on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to bundling them together.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers at the US-Taiwan Business Council trade association said that moving away from bundling — a practice in place for a decade — would be better for Taipei’s defense needs, treating it more like a regular security partner.

“We get into difficulty when we treat Taiwan differently, which opens the door for the politicization of the [arms sales] process,” Hammond-Chambers said.

Military experts say that the balance of power between Taiwan and China has shifted decisively in China’s favor in recent years and that China could easily overwhelm the island unless US forces came quickly to Taiwan’s aid.

The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it is unclear whether Washington would want to be dragged into war with China over the island.

Asked about US obligations to Taiwan, Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, noted that Washington had sold Taiwan more than $15 billion worth of weaponry since 2010.

“We have a vital interest in upholding the current rules-based international order, which features a strong, prosperous, and democratic Taiwan,” Logan said.

SEE ALSO: US disregards Beijing’s nonsense, says it can take down South China Sea islands

Is Hong Kong Set To Go Up In Flames As The People Buck Against Communist Leaders?



Hong Kong Protest Turns Violent as Anxiety Over China’s Interference Rises

Police stop demonstrators as they protest in Hong Kong
Tyrone Siu—Reuters Police stop demonstrators as they protest against what they call Beijing’s interference over local politics and the rule of law in Hong Kong, China November 6, 2016.

Police used pepper spray and batons on protesters who stormed a barricade

A massive protest in Hong Kong turned violent Sunday night when demonstrators attempted to storm a police barricade outside the Chinese government’s headquarters, prompting officers to retaliate with pepper spray and batons.

The protest began peacefully earlier in the day: with thousands of people marching across town to decry Beijing’s controversial decision this week to effectively decide the fate of two radical lawmakers who call for the semi-autonomous territory’s outright independence from China. The maverick legislators, 25-year-old Yau Wai-ching and 30-year-old Sixtus “Baggio” Leung, who came to political prominence in the wake of the 2014 pro-democracy protests, have been the subject of scandal since they gave their oaths of office on Oct. 12. The pair refused to pledge allegiance to Hong Kong’s constitution, the Basic Law, and instead swore fealty to the “Hong Kong Nation” — the oath required them to swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

Read More: China Will Intervene in the Case of Hong Kong’s Pro-Independence Lawmakers

On Friday, the Hong Kong government announced that Beijing would step in and interpret the Basic Law accordingly to decide if Yau and Leung would still be able to take their seats. The issue is currently being decided in a local court, but at a meeting on Sunday with Hong Kong’s representatives to Beijing, Zhang Xiaoming, mainland China’s most senior official in Hong Kong, said Beijing would “absolutely” not permit pro-independence politicians to serve as lawmakers, according to the South China Morning Post.

Beijing’s actions in the matter have widely been seen as a violation of Hong Kong’s constitutional principle known as “one country, two systems,” enacted in 1997 when the British returned the former colony to China.

Under this system, Hong Kongers maintain the right to freedom of speech and protest, freedoms that citizens of mainland China do not enjoy. On Sunday, as many as 10,000 people marched nearly 2.5 miles from the district of Wan Chai to the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government, Beijing’s nerve center in the territory. The demonstrators were civil but spirited, speaking out against what they say is Chinese encroachment in Hong Kong and a local government that has failed to defend their constitutional rights.

Read More: Court in Hong Kong Hears Case Against Two Pro-Independence Lawmakers

“The [Chinese government] stepped over the line. It’s a blatant violation of the Basic Law to take the initiative to interpret it,” 25-year-old Francis Chung, who works in the financial sector, tells TIME. “I’m rather pessimistic regarding Hong Kong’s way forward, but I’ll do what I can, come out and march.”

When the crowd approached the Liaison Office, however, they faced a police barricade. Prominent activist figures like 20-year-old Joshua Wong, a figurehead of the 2014 pro-democracy protests known as the Umbrella Revolution, gave rousing speeches.

“It’s time for us to show our disagreement with the communist regime’s suppression of Hong Kong’s rule of law and judicial independence,” Wong tells TIME. “The number of participants of today’s protest to the Liaison Office is the highest in three years. It shows the anger of Hong Kongers with the suppression.”

It is unclear what or who prompted some members of the crowd to storm the police barricade shortly after 8 p.m. local time. In the preceding hour, officers unfurled banners urging the protesters to stop charging or they would use force. After beating back demonstrators with their batons, the police used pepper spray. Still, the crowd continued to push against the metal grate, unfurling umbrellas — an icon of the Umbrella Revolution — to protect themselves.

The scuffle was promptly subdued, but as of 9:15 p.m. demonstrators continued to occupy the streets around the Liaison Office.

Read More: Chaos Again at Hong Kong’s Legislature as Chinese Intervention Said to Loom Large

The protest marked the crescendo of months of simmering political tensions in Hong Kong. Hostility towards what many see as China’s impingement on the city has mounted since late last year, when five local booksellers, who sold works critical of mainland leaders, disappeared and resurfaced months later in the custody of mainland police. The unease precipitated an unprecedented movement demanding Hong Kong’s independence from China — a call deemed seditious by mainland authorities and also the Hong Kong government, seen by many as Beijing’s proxy power. Several pro-independence candidates were barred from running in the Sept. 4 Legislative Council elections.

When asked in an interview with TIME on Saturday — less than 24 hours before Sunday’s clashes — if she believed the popular unrest in Hong Kong would grow violent, and if she would join in if it did, Yau replied in the affirmative.

“I’m the people’s lawmaker, and I have to give my support to them,” she said. “I’ve taken my oath to them.”

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