The store at Tampines mall is the first LCS in Singapore to have its own dedicated ‘adults corner’ where the more complicated sets such as the Lego Technic series and Lego Star Wars are displayed.
The store at Tampines mall is the first LCS in Singapore to have its own dedicated ‘adults corner’ where the more complicated sets such as the Lego Technic series and Lego Star Wars are displayed.
Iran said that Israel and an exiled opposition group used new and "complex" methods to assassinate its leading nuclear scientist, as it buried him Monday in a funeral befitting a top "martyr".
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has confirmed another five COVID-19 cases in Singapore as of noon on Monday (30 November), taking the total to 58,218.
Hong Kong authorities are warning of an even more severe fourth wave of coronavirus infections after identifying a new group of cases at three restaurants that may be linked to the ever-expanding “super-spreader” dance venue cluster.More than 10 servers, cleaners and patrons at the three restaurants – Stellar House in Wan Chai, 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Central, and Chuen Cheung Kui in Sheung Wan – have been confirmed sick, with authorities adding the venues to the mandatory testing list.The city recorded 115 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, the highest daily increase since August 1, when it saw 125 new infections. Of those, 62 were linked to the dance venue cluster, bringing the city's largest coronavirus outbreak so far to 479 cases.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.“We have yet to find any epidemiological links between the cases from the three restaurants, but we won’t rule out the possibility that we have not found infected people who visited these places,” said Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch.“We are very concerned, because both staff and customers have been infected,” she added.It was difficult to determine exactly how the virus had spread within the restaurants, but authorities have classified the cases as a cluster because front-of-house servers, chefs, cleaners and patrons had all been infected, indicating an outbreak.It was possible for staff and customers to pass the coronavirus to each other, especially if they had been chatting, Chuang said.Hongkongers face hefty fines for ignoring Covid-19 test note from doctorChuang also did not rule out the possibility that the restaurant infections could be linked to the still-growing dance venue cluster, which is being regarded as a “super-spreader” group.“The dance cluster is so big, it is also likely the [restaurant cases] came from them, but we would still have to wait for the genetic analysis to be sure,” she said.“Looking at the situation now, it seems the fourth wave will be more severe than the previous one.”Chuang noted that people from the dance venue cluster also took part in other activities outside of dancing, such as teaching piano or classes at community centres, meaning they could have spread the virus to a wide range of people in society.Separately, a staff member at the Fong Shu Chuen Day Activity Centre and Hostel, operated by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, was also among Sunday’s infections, while a resident also tested preliminarily positive, prompting the evacuation of nearly 50 residents.The centre provides day training for people with intellectual disabilities, and Chuang said the situation sometimes made mask-wearing on the premises difficult. Dance off: the niche Hong Kong social scene behind city’s biggest Covid-19 clusterA staff member at another centre run by the Tung Wah Group in Tai Kok Tsui, the Ho Yuk Ching Willow Lodge, which provides care services to the elderly, has also tested preliminary positive for the coronavirus.Health authorities are still unsure if residents at the homes had left the centres at any time.Several schools will also have to shut down, including Saint Clare’s Primary School in Sai Ying Pun, where all staff and students must undergo testing after a 10-year-old student tested positive.St. Paul’s Co-educational College and Cho Yiu Catholic Primary School will also have to be closed temporarily, as they were attended by close contacts of confirmed infections.Sunday’s confirmed infections also included 24 with unknown origins, among them housewives who did not leave home much, and other individuals who had attended many social gatherings, Chuang said.She urged people to reduce any unnecessary gatherings and cancel dining events to minimise the chances of catching or spreading the virus to more people.More from South China Morning Post: * Hong Kong fourth wave: schools to close until after Christmas holidays as city confirms 115 new Covid-19 cases * Coronavirus: infection fears among Hong Kong’s wealthy as cases emerge in private clubs * Covid-19 patients in Hong Kong spreading infection to more people, expert warns, as new cases surge to 92 amid hospital outbreak fearsThis article Hong Kong’s fourth coronavirus wave ‘will be more severe’ than the last, authorities warn, as new restaurant cluster emerges first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
US President Donald Trump's administration wages its last major policy fight before the Supreme Court Monday as it seeks to exclude undocumented immigrants from the population count used to determine states' representation in Congress.
Britain has announced a new partnership with the Japanese telecoms firm NEC following its decision to ban the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies from its 5G network.On Monday, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said the British operators “must stop installing any Huawei equipment” from September next year — an earlier date than had been expected.The decision is part of Downing Street’s road map for the complete removal of high-risk vendor equipment from the UK’s 5G networks, alongside a new £250 million (US$333 million) strategy to diversify the telecoms market with plans for a National Telecoms Lab and trials with NEC.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.Next year the UK will hold the presidency of the Group of Seven nations, a platform it has hopes will expand to include South Korea, India and Australia. It has identified 5G technology as a promising field for collaboration between the 10 democracies, or D10.“Today I am setting out a clear path for the complete removal of high-risk vendors from our 5G networks,” Dowden said. Britain commits US$333 million to help carriers replace Huawei 5G“This will be done through new and unprecedented powers to identify and ban telecoms equipment which poses a threat to our national security. We are also publishing a new strategy to make sure we are never again dependent on a handful of telecoms vendors for the smooth and secure running of our networks,” he added.NEC is expected to deliver live 5G open radio access network (RAN) – a new way of building telecoms networks where components from different suppliers can be used in a single mobile network – within the UK in 2021.The British government decided to ban Huawei in July amid heightened tension with Beijing over the issue of Hong Kong and pressure from Washington, which views the firm as a security risk.Under the British government’s 5G plan, domestic phone companies will not be able to buy any new Huawei components for their 5G networks after the end of this year. All existing equipment made by the Shenzhen-based company will be removed from the 5G infrastructure by 2027.This article Britain turns to Japanese telecoms firm NEC after banning China’s Huawei from 5G network first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian nuclear scientist whose assassination the Islamic republic has blamed on Israel, was little known before his death, but one thing is certain: he was important.
PM Lee Hsien Loong said this on the first day of his defamation suit against The Online Citizen’s chief editor Terry Xu on Monday (30 November).
She is back to her old self, confident in her leadership, unapologetic about what she has done to restore order, and more resolute than ever about fixing Hong Kong’s problems her way, regardless of the polarisation in society and the blame many continue to place on her for last year’s social turmoil.That was the crux of the message from Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in a wide-ranging interview with the Post on Sunday.Beginning with the escalating fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, on a day when the city reported an alarming surge of 115 new cases, Lam made it clear that her government would enforce stricter containment measures and impose tougher penalties on those who breached social-distancing rules.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.“Having seen what we have seen in this latest wave, I do feel quite strongly that this is a time really to get tough,” she said, warning that the next two weeks would be “very critical”. How do I relax? I don’t. Hong Kong leader’s life of no hobbies, only work“In getting tougher with the people’s behaviour, with the business behaviour, I think there’s still room, whether the law can be enhanced to make certain things compulsory.”As an example, she cited the current fine for breaking social-distancing rules: “I do feel that a HK$2,000 [US$258] fixed penalty ticket is no longer effective.”Lam admitted that Hong Kong had been a “bit unlucky” to be hit by the pandemic following a long period of social unrest sparked by her extradition bill.The political and social polarisation, mistrust of the government and non-compliant behaviour had an impact on the city’s anti-epidemic work, she noted.“Our strategy is we roll out measures one after another and try to adjust as we go on,” Lam said. “If you impose a very strong deterrent from day one, we could end up with some of the things that we are now seeing in central or western Europe. People went on the streets to protest, ‘you are taking away my freedoms, my rights’, and so on.”She said civil servants were already working from home to some extent, but the government would have to take the lead for the private sector to follow.“We could be more aggressive and we would have something to tell the civil servants maybe in a day or two about more extensive work from home, or perhaps going back to the toughest period that we have seen,” she said.On the political front, Lam dismissed the notion of showing remorse for her part in triggering the city’s worst political and social upheaval since its 1997 return to Chinese sovereignty by trying to bulldoze through with her ill-fated extradition bill last year. The bill would have allowed the transfer of fugitives between Hong Kong and mainland China, but opponents fearing it would be abused to crack down on dissidents in the city took to the streets in a massive backlash that was marked by violent street protests.The bill was withdrawn, but it led to Beijing’s imposition of a sweeping national security law that fundamentally changed the city, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces – offences that anti-government activists are now being arrested and prosecuted for. Hong Kong’s ‘zero infection’ target in Covid-19 fight stirs doubts“I do not feel guilty. What wrong have I done? I have introduced a piece of legislation for very good reasons,” she said, insisting that her administration’s only fault was in its failure to fully explain the bill and effectively counter the narrative against it.“Hong Kong has changed for the good. Hong Kong now has a national security law that ensures safety and security that would not make Hong Kong a gaping hole for national security for the People’s Republic of China,” she argued.“So the central government could have higher confidence in allowing Hong Kong to better integrate into the national development … hence there would be more opportunities for Hong Kong people, especially the younger generation, and they will have a better future.”The brunt of public hatred directed at her and the isolation she found herself in at the height of the anti-government protests had been tough, she said, but she had emerged more resolute and confident.“I could only say that I have regained confidence. After having gone through such a traumatic period, when the whole society seemed to be saying that the government wasn’t doing the right thing, when people, or even friends and colleagues around you, were pressing me to do things that I did not feel [were] right … but under that sort of undue pressure, anyone, any human being will lose a bit of confidence, let alone all those personal attacks and intimidation on myself, on my family and so on,” she said. Hong Kong’s leader in her own words on protests, turmoil and the future“So I could only tell that now, I’m back to my old self.”While Beijing has been calling for judicial reform in Hong Kong, which has sparked concerns about what that would mean for the city’s much-prized judicial independence, Lam did not see a conflict.“Now judicial reform and judicial independence are two separate things. The judiciary is an institution in Hong Kong’s political structure under the Basic Law. So for any institution, if there’s any room for improvement, you could always reform,” she said.“But under no circumstances would independence of the judiciary in terms of adjudicating cases be interfered with, because that is in the Basic Law, so nobody should contemplate to tell the judges how to adjudicate, not even the chief executive.”Lam did not seem to be expecting any immediate change in Hong Kong’s strained relationship with the US under President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration, given the wider context of Sino-American trade and political tensions.While she has become the city’s first leader to avoid travelling to the US after being sanctioned by Washington for her role in implementing the national security legislation, she said she would continue to do her utmost in engaging with the international community, regardless of the presidency. ‘Return of peace’ to Legco restores Lam’s faith in Hong Kong political system“We did try to engage, but they still did this to us, these unjustified sanctions. Sometimes, I feel bad because Hong Kong people did not have that – I don’t know how to describe – to resist and counter these sanctions on Hong Kong, as if they have nothing to do with it,” she said.“They are affecting Hong Kong’s trade. They are seriously affecting Hong Kong’s shipping. I’m still trying to find solutions to the damage done to Hong Kong’s shipping industry as a result of the US administration unilaterally pulling out of a bilateral agreement that we signed.”The chief executive tried to downplay the trend of Hongkongers emigrating to other countries in what could be the largest scale since 1997.“After all this social unrest, violence on the streets, closure of the airport and the epidemic, the residential property prices have perhaps moderated by [only] 3 or 4 per cent. That is the proxy of confidence in this city,” she said.“Even if there are more people leaving Hong Kong for good, that is a personal choice. I hope that people will be able to objectively look at the situation and ask themselves, is that the Hong Kong they like to see, as of last year, or do they want to see a Hong Kong which is still stable, prosperous and able to move forward?” Hong Kong policy address ‘wasn’t exactly a confidence booster’Lam refused to be drawn into answering whether she would seek a second term as chief executive, but agreed that anyone with such ambitions was in for a rough ride.“This is one of the toughest jobs for any leader in the world by virtue because of ‘one country, two systems’,” she said. “I can’t think of another place where the leader has dual accountability. He or she is accountable to the people of Hong Kong and to the Central People’s Government. Especially when the system in Hong Kong is so very different from the system on the mainland … So who would like to, or who is willing to do this tough job?”Additional reporting by Cheryl HengMore from South China Morning Post: * Carrie Lam interview: Hong Kong’s leader in her own words on protests, political turmoil and what next for the city * Plan to expand voting for Hong Kong residents living in mainland China may not take shape by next year, Chief Executive Carrie Lam says * Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam defends liberal studies reform, and says subject was not meant to be debate exercise on current affairsThis article Unapologetic over last year’s unrest and ready to get tough on the pandemic, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is ‘back to her old self’ first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
MOH has confirmed the detection of eight new cases of COVID-19 infection in Singapore, including one local transmission, as of noon on Sunday (29 November).
A suicide car bomber struck an army base in Afghanistan on Sunday killing at least 30 security personnel, officials said, in one of the deadliest attacks targeting government forces in months.
As a Biden administration takes the reins in Washington, the stakes have never been higher for the US relationship with China and the rest of Asia. In the third part of a post-US-election series, Washington correspondent Jacob Fromer explores how the president-elect will deal with a rising and more assertive Beijing on the defence front.On January 20, when President-elect Joe Biden takes his oath of office, he will oversee a US Navy that used to be the biggest in the world.Now, the world’s biggest navy belongs to China – a milestone that the Pentagon disclosed in September, and one that will surely be on Biden’s mind while he and his defence advisers plot how to deal with a rising and assertive Beijing.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.“[China] is a very relentless and ruthless competitor,” said Paul Heer, who spent decades as an intelligence analyst for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and served as the US government’s national intelligence officer for East Asia. “And we have to be very cautious and very much aware of that.”It will be up to Biden to decide how to respond, if at all, to Chinese shows of force along its borders: its sabre-rattling towards Taiwan, its artificial island construction in the South China Sea and its border skirmishes with India, high in the Himalayas.“We’re a Pacific power,” Biden wrote in an essay last month. With US-China tensions soaring, and both countries seeing each other increasingly as adversaries, Beijing may put that to the test.In Washington today, voices calling for warmer ties and more dialogue with Beijing are rare, and both parties routinely condemn China’s rights abuses in places like Hong Kong and Xinjiang. There is widespread distrust of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, viewed in the capital as a dangerous authoritarian leader.Last year, the Trump administration created a new, senior-level position at the Pentagon solely focused on China. It is currently held by Chad Sbragia, a China specialist in the US military. Taiwan starts building submarine fleet amid military threats from BeijingThere is political pressure on Biden to hold a hard line with China, and all of Biden’s defence, intelligence and foreign policy picks will likely face intense scrutiny of their China positions at their Senate confirmation hearings.His incoming national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and his choice for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, are both alumni of the Obama administration. Sullivan does not need Senate confirmation for his role.Some Republicans in Congress critical of Beijing have already accused Blinken and Sullivan of being naive about China’s rise. Both have made comments since leaving government suggesting that they now see China as more of a threat to US interests than they did when they last served in government.Biden has not yet named his pick for secretary of defence, but in the Washington rumour mill, Michele Flournoy is widely considered the favourite.In June, Flournoy wrote in Foreign Affairs that if China knew that the US was able to sink every Chinese ship and submarine in the South China Sea within 72 hours, then it might think twice about attacking Taiwan.Amid Beijing’s growing military threats against Taiwan, the Taiwanese military this week also began building its own submarine fleet, and the Trump administration last month moved to complete a US$1.8 billion arms sale to the island.Biden and his advisers will have to decide how far they want to go to help protect it. In Biden’s essay published in October, he committed to “deepening our ties with Taiwan, a leading democracy”. New Chinese engines will allow PLA planes to carry tanks to battlefieldZhou Chenming, a Beijing-based military expert, said Beijing’s resolve to bring Taiwan under its fold “has never gotten enough respect from the US”.“Compared to the past, the [People’s Liberation Army] is more confident, stronger, eager to get world’s recognition, and the last thing the PLA wants is smearing from the outside,” he said.Amid the growing tension, some voices in both countries say that the two governments, including their militaries, should still be able to find ways to cooperate on issues like North Korea, Iran and climate change.“China wants to establish as many communication channels as possible with the US military,” said Zhou.But in Washington, some observers say the US has already tried that kind of military-to-military cooperation with China, and it did not work.Twelve years ago, at the end of the George W Bush administration, China for the first time sent its navy to join global counter-piracy patrols by the Gulf of Aden, on the western edge of the Indian Ocean – thousands of miles from the Chinese coast.The US and its partners welcomed the collaboration as a sign that modern China was emerging as a responsible power.Three months after the celebration, just after Biden and then-president Barack Obama were sworn into office, the mood changed fast: a slew of Chinese vessels were accused of harassing an unarmed American surveillance ship called the USNS Impeccable in the South China Sea. They clashed with water hosepipes and grappling hooks.Obama’s response at the time was to call for more military-to-military dialogue. US actions could raise risk of Taiwan war, says Chinese military researcherIn the years since, China has expanded its naval presence in the Indian Ocean. It opened its first overseas military base in 2017, in Djibouti, on the western edge of the Indian Ocean. The US also has a base in Djibouti.In September, the Pentagon issued its report to Congress that China’s navy, with some 350 ships, is now the biggest in the world, giving Beijing more power and reach around the world.“It just goes to show how quickly China is rising as a serious naval power,” said Toshi Yoshihara, a senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank and the former chair of the US Naval War College’s Asia-Pacific studies programme.“China is now undoubtedly, in addition to its permanent base in Djibouti, a permanent player in the Indian Ocean,” Yoshihara added. “And who would’ve imagined that 10 years ago?”China has doubled down on its claims over the entire South China Sea by building an array of artificial islands there, rejecting its neighbours’ claims to the same territory and flouting an international tribunal that declared China’s actions there illegal.In July, Trump’s State Department announced that it did not recognise nearly any of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.Beyond the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, Biden’s defence team will also be watching the border between China and India, the world‘s largest democracy.Earlier this year in disputed lands along the Himalayas, Chinese troops clashed with Indian troops, reportedly injuring and killing dozens on both sides, high in the mountains, with rocks and sticks. Firearms are banned at the high-elevation border under a 1996 agreement between the two nations. Joe Biden’s foreign policy team to reject Trump’s ‘America First’ mantraManjari Chatterjee Miller, a professor at Boston University who studies China-India relations, said the clashes at the border had pushed India into a closer relationship with the US, which will remain close under Biden.“During the Trump administration, India signed three defence agreements with the US in three years,” she said.In 2017, the Trump administration also revived a defence partnership with India, along with Australia and Japan, known as the “Quad”.But less clear is whether Washington will be able to translate those closer ties into more aggressive resistance against Beijing.“The idea of using India as a counterweight to China has been floating around for a good two decades,” said Miller. “The question has been more whether India would be willing to be a counterweight to China, and the jury is still out on that.”Biden and his team will also have to respond to China’s growing nuclear arsenal.China is one of the world’s oldest nuclear powers, and one of just five recognised by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, along with the US. But analysts say China recently has been modernising its nuclear arsenal in ways that lead some to wonder about their motives.China in the past stuck to what analysts call a “second-strike strategy”, said Rose Gottemoeller, who served as the State Department’s top arms control official during the Obama administration. This means hiding or protecting nuclear weapons, so a country can counter-attack if someone else strikes first. How Biden's administration will engage with China on key issues“Now they seem to be wanting to acquire the big hardware pieces like long-range bombers and submarines,” said Gottemoeller, now at Stanford University. “Those are very expensive to build.”“I guess they think they’re the tools of a great power,” she added. “But I think they do lead to questions as to what their plans are, in terms of nuclear doctrine in the future.”The Trump administration has tried to push China to join nuclear negotiations with the US and Russia, but Beijing insists that those are unnecessary because its stockpile of weapons is smaller.Biden has made clear that whatever challenges await him when he takes office, he and his team plan to embrace American allies as vital partners without whom the US cannot succeed – a contrast with Trump and his own team, who tended to see many of the US military alliances through a transactional lens.On Tuesday, Biden said the US was “ready to confront our adversaries, and not reject our allies”.Drew Thompson, a former US Defence Department official responsible for managing bilateral relations with China, Taiwan and Mongolia, said Biden’s challenge now would be to convince allies to act in support of the US. Xi Jinping sends congratulations to US president-elect Joe BidenThat may work against non-state actors such as terrorist groups or “small pariah states”, said Thompson, now a researcher at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. But he added: “US partners and allies will be much more reluctant to support efforts to push back China or Russia, raising questions about the overall efficacy of the strategy.”Yoshihara said that America’s alliances take on new importance now that China possesses the world’s largest navy.“If we’re looking at the naval balance of power, if you’re only counting ships on the Chinese side and counting ships on the US side, you’re actually missing the picture,” he said.“Because if you add the Japanese navy, the South Korean navy, the Taiwanese navy, the Singaporean navy, the Australian navy and the Indian navy, the picture changes quite dramatically.”Additional reporting by Kristin HuangMore from South China Morning Post: * Joe Biden presidency could reopen a window of opportunity for China: analysts * Taiwan starts building submarine fleet amid military threats from Beijing * How Biden’s administration will engage with China on key issues * Xi Jinping sends congratulations to US president-elect Joe Biden * US under Joe Biden must capitalise on, not thwart, China’s successesThis article ‘We’re a Pacific power’: Joe Biden faces pressure to hold hard line of defence against China first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
Prodding her cows forward with a long stick, Asya Petrosyan drives the herd along the snow-covered Lachin corridor, the last road out of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.
Measures cooling Hong Kong’s residential property market should stay in place given it remains strong and prices continue to leave home ownership beyond the reach of many, according to the city’s finance minister.Paul Chan Mo-po on Sunday made the case not to cut the stamp duties on buying and selling homes after the city leader last Wednesday abolished similar taxes for non-residential properties in response to falling prices and demand during the coronavirus-fuelled economic downturn.Confirming in her policy address that double stamp duty would be scrapped from last Thursday for commercial properties, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said there would however be no changes to the government’s market-cooling strategy for the residential sector.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China. Hong Kong to abolish double stamp duty on commercial property to help small firmsThat means interventions such as the special and buyer’s stamp duties will be kept, on the basis that housing supply remains tight and property prices are still beyond the reach of average households.The double stamp duty, introduced to tackle speculative practices in February 2013, subjected both buyers and sellers to a tax rate of up to 8.5 per cent for non-residential properties valued at more than HK$21.8 million.Echoing Lam’s rationale for leaving the duties in place, Chan said on Sunday that current home prices remained high due to genuine demand and low interest rates.They were also more than double the level before a range of market-cooling measures started to be introduced in 2010, he added.That year the government imposed the special stamp duty to discourage short-term buyers or investors.Despite being in its fifth straight quarter of negative economic growth, Hong Kong’s cumulative drop in home prices within that period was below 3 per cent.Chan said: “These trends and data show that the residential property market has remained firm. Home prices remain far beyond the affordable level for the general public.“There is no room to relax the demand-side management measures for the residential property market at this stage.”The finance chief reiterated that the government must consider four factors when assessing the ongoing suitability of the market-cooling measures: the range and rate of decline in prices, number of transactions, future supply of residential flats and the overall economic situation.“We will closely monitor the market situations and perform ongoing assessments. But there is no need to set a fixed target or time limit for the withdrawal of the cooling measures,” Chan concluded.As for commercial property, Chan said high prices and speculation were no longer an issue since last year’s social unrest and the pandemic.Office sale prices had only risen by about 21 per cent from 2013, while those for retail premises dropped by 1 per cent, while transactions were down by 80 to 90 per cent, Chan said.The government therefore believed that under the current economic downturn, the removal of double stamp duty for non-residential property would not herald a return to the speculation previously witnessed, making it a good time for its withdrawal, he added.Lam said on Wednesday that abolishing the duty would help those commercial flat owners deciding to sell to cope with the financial difficulties caused by the economic downturn.A government source previously said sales of commercial properties had dropped by up to 19 per cent this year, from 4,666 deals last year.Property agents said the move would probably stimulate acquisitions and economic activity, with the potential to spill over to the residential sector and boost home sales.More from South China Morning Post: * Hong Kong to abolish double stamp duty on commercial property in move designed to boost small firms’ cash flows * Hong Kong budget: property cooling measures to remain despite developers’ calls for withdrawalThis article Measures cooling Hong Kong’s residential property market should remain with homes so expensive and sector’s resilience, finance chief says first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
Following years of public outcry and campaigning by American pop star Cher, the "world's loneliest elephant" embarked Sunday on a mammoth move from Pakistan to retirement in a Cambodian sanctuary.
The series is dedicated to inspirational men and women in Singapore leading healthy and active lifestyles. This week: presenter Jade Seah.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi toured Japan and South Korea last week in a bid to court the key US allies, but the prospect of a new president in the White House cast a long shadow over his efforts.The trip also offered an opportunity to gauge the countries’ attitudes towards the incoming Biden administration, and Wang wrapped up his four-day trip on Friday with mixed results.He secured agreements to cooperate on Covid-19 and the economic recovery but an ongoing territorial dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu, or Senkaku, Islands was a major stumbling block to efforts to improve relations.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China. Japan condemns China’s renewed Diaoyu claim days after Wang Yi’s commentsObservers say Wang’s trip is part of Beijing’s efforts to pre-empt the emergence of a stronger anti-China coalition between Washington, Tokyo and Seoul.Beijing fears that relations with the United States will continue to worsen in the final weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, and expects little or no policy shift in the first months after Joe Biden takes office.Wang’s visit, initially scheduled for before the US election, also comes as both Japan and South Korea face a difficult balancing act between China, their top trading partner, and the US, their key security ally.Trump has caused concern among many US allies by questioning the value of these relationships and complaining about the financial burden they impose on Washington. His complaints about the cost of basing troops in South Korea and overtures to the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have also strained relations with Seoul.“If anything, China’s desire to [win over] US allies at a time when the alliance is challenged by US policy itself has been ongoing for quite some time,” said Yun Sun, a senior fellow at the Stimson Centre, a think tank in Washington.The three countries have been working together to fight Covid-19, something that many in China see as “a great opportunity to advance northeast Asian regional cooperation without US involvement”, she noted.Benoit Hardy-Chartrand, an international affairs expert at Temple University in Tokyo, said it was clear that Beijing wanted to stabilise its relationship with two crucial neighbours and advance its interests before Biden took office in January.“China has a lot to gain from a weaker American footing in East Asia, and attempting to undermine Washington’s alliance system and even to bring American allies and partners into its own geopolitical orbit is a strategic priority it has pursued for a few years,” he said. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi calls for stronger ties with South KoreaCompared with his one-day visit to Tokyo, which was largely overshadowed by the maritime dispute, Wang appeared to have had a rather easier time managing relations with Seoul, which some analysts described as lower-hanging fruit.Despite growing anti-China sentiment in the country, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, have managed to steer largely clear of topics such as China’s handling of Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea, to avoid offending Beijing.As a result, both sides reached a 10-point consensus, which included upgrading their diplomatic and security dialogue, stepping up coronavirus cooperation and pushing for a political settlement to the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula.While China appeared more upbeat about building ties with Seoul under the Beijing-friendly Moon, “China’s engaging with South Korea is clearly aimed at undermining the US alliance system in Northeast Asia”, Sun said.“It’s just that South Korea is inevitably entrenched in the alliance arrangement, so things such as THAAD cannot be reversed according to China’s aspirations,” she said, referring to a US ballistic missile defence system installed in South Korea in 2016 that triggered a furious response from Beijing and an unofficial economic boycott.Lee Seong-hyon, director of the Centre for Chinese Studies at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, has argued Wang’s visit was more about the United States than his hosts.In an opinion piece in the Korean Times newspaper, he said Wang’s trip to Seoul and Tokyo, was due to fears that the Biden administration would strengthen their trilateral cooperation to increase the pressure on China.China’s ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming said earlier this month that Seoul would be the first destination President Xi Jinping visited once the coronavirus situation stabilises.But Wang’s visit did not appear to have produced any tangible outcome regarding Xi’s trip, which has already been postponed due to the pandemic.When asked about the issue on Thursday – the day when South Korea reported its biggest daily increase in coronavirus infections – Wang said it could only happen when Covid-19 was under “complete control”. Japan calls on China to take ‘positive action’ on Diaoyu maritime dispute in talks as Wang Yi meets Yoshihide SugaCollin Koh, a research fellow from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said that while Beijing might have pulled Seoul closer economically, South Korea’s formal treaty alliance with the US left it with little wiggle room.“The desire would be to maintain close economic ties with China … while maintaining close security links with the US. On the latter aspect, this would fall short of a security coalition against China – or at least, Seoul wishes to convey the assurance that it isn’t part of such a containment scheme,” he said.But Wang’s attempts to woo Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appeared to have failed to soothe criticism of Beijing’s handling of Hong Kong and renewed tensions over the Diaoyus.Although China wants to keep the territorial dispute separate from other aspects of the two countries’ relations, Japan has refused to budge.Instead, it was brought up at almost every meeting Wang had with Japanese officials, including his counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi.It also overshadowed his first face-to-face meeting with Suga on Wednesday, which lasted about 20 minutes.Citing Japanese government sources, Kyodo reported that Suga had urged China to take “positive action” on the disputed islands, while voicing concern over the situation in Hong Kong following the imposition of a draconian national security law earlier this year.To Beijing’s dismay, Suga also raised both topics during his first phone conversation with Xi soon after he took office in September.Wang told reporters that both sides had agreed to seek better relations, according to the Japan Times, adding: “We will work to ensure that [the dispute] does not affect the development of China-Japan relations going forward.” American troops could be sent to ‘defend the Senkaku Islands’, US commander saysBut Wang’s suggestions that both sides should allow only government ships to sail near the disputed islands were turned down swiftly by Tokyo.Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato and Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party both lashed out at Wang’s remarks, dismissing them as part of China’s attempt to advance its own territorial claims.They also accused two Chinese ships of entering the disputed waters on the day Suga met Wang, adding that incursions such as this happened on an almost daily basis this year.Chinese state news agency Xinhua and the Chinese foreign ministry made no mention of Suga’s comments on the dispute or Hong Kong, instead focusing on Wang’s statement that repeated China’s stance.Liu Jiangyong, a Japanese affairs specialist at Tsinghua University, said the maritime dispute – which caused a dramatic downturn in relations and furious anti-Japanese protests in China in 2013 – had once again become the main barrier to better relations.Liu warned that both sides should tread carefully to avoid the situation spiralling out of control, adding: “While it is imperative to discuss crisis management mechanisms around the disputed waters, we’ll have to tackle the problem at its root, which is the historical origins of the dispute.”Liu also said relations between the two countries remained strained despite shared interests over issues such as trade and the environment.“Japan has long pinned hopes on its treaty alliance with the US to confront China over the maritime dispute. And [former prime minister Shinzo] Abe’s attempt in recent years to expand the alliance with other countries, such as Australia and India, to form a quadrilateral security bloc targeting China has inevitably exacerbated tensions in the region,” he said.Niu Zhongjun, an academic at the China Foreign Affairs University, an affiliate of the foreign ministry, said it was worrying that both Abe and Suga had tried to alter the status quo by inviting the US to intervene.During his first telephone call with Suga two weeks ago, Biden told him that the US-Japan security treaty covered the disputed islands – a clear message to China.“Wang Yi’s Japan visit was a good start for China’s relations with Suga’s administration … But it’s not realistic to have high expectations because at the end of the day, Sino-Japanese relations largely hinge on China’s great power rivalry with the US,” he said.Analysts generally expect Suga to continue Abe’s pragmatic foreign policy. “If anything, China’s assertive policies to date, not least over the East China Sea issue, provided strong justification to continue with Abe’s policies. Even if Suga wishes to change track, he would likely encounter resistance from within the Japanese policy circle,” Koh said.“Both countries will talk nicely on economic cooperation, yet manoeuvre against each other on the security front.”According to Koh, Wang’s high-level meetings with key Japanese policy elites generated some agreement on economics, which helps with the “optics” of the visit.“Beijing could boast that it’s something accomplished from Wang’s trip in furthering ties with Suga – and it’s something to brandish to the Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration,” he said.Observers also said Wang’s trip provided few clues about whether Beijing would treat its neighbours differently in a post-Trump era, especially considering the international backlash it has faced over its initial handling of the coronavirus and “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy.“Perhaps that will have to wait till the Biden administration’s policy is out,” Sun from the Stimson Institute said. She argued China would “theoretically” want to show more benevolence to its neighbours, but had “no problem turning benevolence into coercive punishment when its neighbours refuse to side with China”.According to a poll by the Pew Research Centre published last month, negative perceptions of China have hit a historical high in Japan and South Korea. Seventy-five per cent of South Koreans and 86 per cent of Japanese held unfavourable views on China, while 73 per cent of Americans see China negatively.More from South China Morning Post: * China’s place in a post-Trump world order is about relationships and good timing * Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi calls for stronger ties with South Korea * Can China, Japan and South Korea follow RCEP with their own free-trade deal? * Japan calls on China to take ‘positive action’ on Diaoyu maritime dispute in talks as Wang Yi meets Yoshihide SugaThis article China makes final effort to court Japan and South Korea as Donald Trump heads for the exit first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
A mysterious metal monolith found in the remote desert of the western United States, sparking a national guessing game over how it got there, has apparently disappeared, officials said Saturday.
Three executives were acquitted of charges of defrauding Convoy Global Holdings in Hong Kong, dealing a blow to the financial regulator’s attempt to instil financial discipline and crack down on white-collar malfeasance in the world’s fourth-largest capital market.District Court Judge Ernest Lin Kam-hung cleared former Convoy director Roy Cho Kwai-chee of one charge of publishing false statements in the company’s 2016 annual report on March 29, 2017.Two of Cho’s associates, former chief financial officer Christie Chan Lai-yee, 48, and former executive director Byron Tan Ye-kai, 52, were also found not guilty of charges. The three were charged with attempting to defraud HK$89 million from Convoy to buy a company linked to Cho.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.Convoy, one of the largest advisers of Hong Kong’s Mandatory Pension Fund (MPF) is a crucial piece in the so-called Enigma Network of companies, a cluster of interrelated companies with layers of overlapping shareholdings that have resisted regulatory crackdowns. Hong Kong’s financial regulator has mounted a multi-year campaign to bring the network down on suspicions of fraud, market manipulation and corporate malfeasance.SCMP Explainer: Who’s who in Hong Kong’s Enigma Network of companiesConvoy is one of the largest independent financial advisers in Hong Kong, with more than 100,000 customers. Trading in Convoy‘s shares has been halted since December 2017, and its management has changed after the investigation by the city’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) went public.The company had filed a number of civil lawsuits against Cho and his associates in 2017 and 2018 over HK$4 billion (US$516 million) that was allegedly pilfered from Convoy, including a suit seeking HK$715 million in compensation. Those cases are pending.Cho, 56, was born in India and moved to Hong Kong with his family while in his teens. He undertook medical studies at the University of Hong Kong and eventually qualified as a doctor. Known as “Dr. Cho” by acquaintances and others in the financial industry, he is an active trader of the city’s penny stocks, and was also involved in philanthropic work, including a US$3.2 million donation in 2016 to the Hong Kong University of Education.During the hearing, an ICAC representative told the court that Cho and his associates colluded to have Convoy spend HK$89 million to acquire True Surplus International, an investment company, in September 2016. With the help of his associates, Cho was able to hide the fact that he was a substantial shareholder in Convoy at the time. He was also able to hide the fact that he had a 55 per cent shareholding in True Surplus. The stock exchange was also not aware of the fact that Cho received HK$57 million from the deal, according to the ICAC.The prosecutor failed to bring any evidence – such as mobile phone records – to show collusion by the accused to commit a crime, the judge said today in his verdict at District Court in Wan Chai.“Any problem in Cho not disclosing information of the deal should be the responsibility of the whole board of directors, not just the three [defendants] in this case,” Mr Justice Lin said in his verdict, in Cantonese. “Overall, the prosecutor cannot provide evidence beyond reasonable doubt on the two charges on the three defendants. I rule to acquit all charges.”The three defendants were on bail before the verdict. They left the court separately after the acquittal. Cho allowed scores of reporters and photographers to take picture but did not answer any question.“Thank you for all your hard work,” Cho said as he walked out of the court free from three years of investigations and a year of criminal proceedings.The court adjourned its proceedings for the day, releasing all three defendants from custody, for court fees to be determined on December 7.“The ICAC will continue to collaborate with relevant regulatory bodies to combat corruption and related crimes in the financial sector so as to uphold the integrity of the market, maintain a level playing field for businesses, and Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre,” the anti-graft agency’s spokeswoman said in a statement, adding that the ICAC will study the verdict in consultation with Hong Kong’s justice department before deciding whether to appeal.Today’s acquittal followed a boardroom tussle last week, when Convoy’s second-biggest shareholder Kwok Hui-kwan failed in his second attempt since 2017 to remake the board and management of the company.Convoy is managed by directors and executives backed by the family of Richard Tsai, who paid HK$1.5 billion for a 29.98 per cent stake in a placement of new shares in October 2015 and became its largest shareholder.Kwok, 29, is the son of Kwok Ying-shing, founder of Shenzhen-based developer Kaisa Group Holdings. He spent HK$800 million for his 29.91 per cent stake in Convoy in mid-2017, making him the second-largest shareholder, according to sources.The tussle is the second attempt by Kwok to wrest control of Convoy from the Tsai family when his votes were excluded from a tally. He wants to replace the entire 12-member board with six new candidates including former secretary for financial services and the treasury Frederick Ma Si-hang and legislator Abraham Shek Lai-him.A shareholders’ meeting at Convoy’s Wan Chai office was stopped 10 minutes on November 26 after proceedings began and before votes could be counted. The company said it would postpone the shareholders meeting until January, according to a stock exchange filing.The war of words among the two major shareholders continue. Convoy issued an announcement late last Thursday claiming it had suspended the meeting due to the disruption by Kwok’s representative. Kwok hit back in a paid-advertisement in half a dozen of newspaper on Monday, claiming his representative has done nothing wrong.Convoy has not released its financial statements since the middle of 2017, and has not held any annual meetings among shareholders since then. The stock exchange earlier this year has decided to delist its shares, but the company is appealing against the decision.More from South China Morning Post: * Convoy stymies second-largest shareholder’s bid for board seat, repelling boardroom coup as court verdict looms on fraud case * Mystery buyer attempts to acquire major Convoy shareholder’s stake ahead of crucial vote, court ruling * Roy Cho, alleged mastermind of Hong Kong’s biggest fraud case, denies fresh charge of deceiving staff at Convoy as trial gets under wayThis article Hong Kong court acquits Roy Cho and associates in Convoy’s fraud case, dealing blow to regulator’s crackdown on white collar crime first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
Superstar Cher welcomed "the world's loneliest elephant" to Cambodia Monday to begin a new life at a specialised sanctuary after the creature was rescued from grim conditions in a Pakistani zoo.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Monday Tigray region's dissident leaders had fled west of the regional capital after weeks of fighting, but said federal forces were monitoring them closely and would "attack" them soon.