The stunning new fashion exhibit at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art shows an industry constantly looking back in order to renew itself.
The World Health Organization is looking into controversial research suggesting the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was circulating in Italy months before it was first detected in China, the health body said on Friday, while cautioning against using such data to speculate about the disease’s origins.The WHO plans to run tests with the Italian researchers who made waves earlier this month for their peer-reviewed findings based on tests of blood samples from a cancer screening carried out starting before the pathogen was detected in China.The team found antibodies specific to the coronavirus in over 11 per cent of the 959 subjects. Positive samples dated back to September last year, several months before the world’s first recorded case from early December in China.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.“We’ve reached out to these researchers and they have generously offered to work with us and to collaborate with us on some further studies looking at those samples,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead for Covid-19. Where did Coronavirus originate? These virus sleuths are assessing every theoryBut while the WHO was working with scientists around the world to track and examine any detection or “unusual” published results, the investigation it was leading into the origins of the virus would start in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first cases were detected.“We need to be careful with our speculation here,” Mike Ryan, WHO health emergencies programme executive director, said when asked whether signs that the virus was in Europe earlier than previously known could mean it was circulating in humans outside China before it was found in Wuhan.“It’s highly speculative for us to say that the disease did not emerge in China. But we do know that the first clusters of human cases that were detected were in Wuhan.”He said that to understand the origins of the virus, it was crucial to start the investigation in the city where it was first identified.“After that, the evidence should take us where we need to go, but to speculate on where the virus emerged precisely, without starting where the human disease emerged for us doesn’t represent the best way forward,” he said.The comments come as Chinese officials and state media have ramped up rhetoric, saying that just because the virus was first identified in China did not mean it came from the country.Though scientists generally agree that the virus originated in a bat, before passing into humans, perhaps via an intermediary species, where and how this happened is unknown. The novel virus’s closest known relative was detected in southwestern China.Last month, without providing specific evidence, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist for the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suggested that the pathogen could have originally arrived in China via imported seafood.Chinese health officials linked subsequent sporadic Covid-19 outbreaks in major Chinese cities to refrigerated imported food, though other specialists question whether this could be a significant driver of infection. Officials have yet to release comprehensive information about investigations into the early spread of the virus in Wuhan.Zeng Guang, former Chinese CDC chief epidemiologist, cited the Italian research in a speech at a recent academic conference, saying Wuhan was where the coronavirus was first detected, but it might not be where it originated. WHO names line-up for international team looking into coronavirus originsBut researchers have raised concerns about conclusions drawn from the Italian study. For one, serological testing, which detects antibodies in the blood that indicate if a person has already been infected, is less precise than DNA-based tests that can be done on fresh or frozen samples.Hong Kong University virologist Malik Peiris, who was a key figure in identifying the Sars virus during that outbreak nearly two decades ago, said the data from the Italian study “still needs further clarification”.Due to limitations in how the team extrapolated data from their samples, we “cannot say with confidence this is a genuine result”, he said.The tests could also be picking up other coronaviruses, even an unknown but related virus, according to Gavin Smith, a professor in the emerging infectious diseases programme at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore.“It’s really difficult to tell. It is possible that it could be this Sars-CoV-2 virus, specifically, that they are picking up,” he said, referring to the formal name for the new coronavirus.However, Smith said, if that were the case, “the fact that it is picked up in Italy doesn’t necessarily mean that it started in Italy”.“Based on the weight of historical evidence, it’s likely that it emerged in Asia, but it’s impossible to say anything definite about this [at this time],” he said.Infectious diseases specialist Sanjaya Senanayake from the Australian National University said it would be “very interesting to see if things went that far back”.“This would suggest that [the virus] flew under the radar for a long time,” he said, noting there should be “no stone left unturned” when it came to gathering information on Covid-19.He pointed to other signs of an earlier spread, such as the retrospective discovery of a Covid-19 patient in France in late December, nearly a month before the country confirmed its first cases. Scientists in Italy have also found traces of the new coronavirus in wastewater collected that month.The WHO’s Van Kerkhove said on Friday that global efforts were continuing to understand the spread of the virus, including testing of retrospective wastewater samples and analysis of genome sequences.“There are a lot of sources of information, but ... the [origin] studies need to begin where the first cases were detected in Wuhan,” she said. “Then we follow the science.”More from South China Morning Post: * Coronavirus was on many continents before Wuhan outbreak, Chinese team says * Coronavirus: more heat than light in quest for origin of Covid-19 * China’s ‘bat woman’ virologist rules out Covid-19 virus in fresh tests on old cave samples * Coronavirus: WHO and Chinese experts launch origins mission – onlineThis article Coronavirus: WHO to look at controversial Italian samples in search for origins first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
The Ministry of Health confirmed six new COVID-19 cases in Singapore on Saturday (28 November), taking the country’s total case count to 58,205.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she has "piles of cash" at home as she has no bank account after the United States slapped sanctions on her in response to a draconian security law China imposed on the city.
The officer in charge of the Canadian police detachment at Vancouver’s airport when Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested almost two years ago has defended his advice that Meng should not be taken into custody until she had disembarked from her flight.Testifying in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver on Friday, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Ross Lundie said there were “well-documented” risks involved with arresting someone in the confines of a plane.Meng was arrested on December 1, 2018, but only after she had exited the Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong and had been questioned for almost three hours by border officers.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.Meng’s lawyers have presented the decision to delay the arrest until after the inspection – during which she was questioned and her electronic devices seized – as a covert evidence-gathering exercise orchestrated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in violation of Meng’s rights. They say the decision also flouted the arrest warrant’s directive that Meng should be arrested “immediately”.The US extradition request should be thrown out as a result, they say. Canadian officer denies ‘cover up’ about Meng’s Wanzhou’s phones and FBIOn Friday, Meng’s lawyer, Richard Peck, asked Lundie about his advice to the arresting officer, Constable Winston Yep, and his partner, Constable Gurvinder Dhaliwal, that Meng should only be arrested on the plane if there was “a safety or security issue” that made it necessary.“It’s a very tight space … Definitely not on a plane unless you cannot avoid it,” Lundie said.Lundie was on the stand on the final day of two weeks of witness testimony in the extradition case. The court has heard from a series of Canada Border Services Agency officers and police who played various roles in the border exam and subsequent arrest of Meng on an American warrant, which upended China’s relations with Canada and the United States.However one key officer, retired staff sergeant Ben Chang, has refused to testify. In a court filing in June, Canadian government lawyers representing US interests in the case said they held “witness safety” concerns for Chang, who now lives in the Chinese territory of Macau, and works as a security executive at the Galaxy casino resort. Canada feared for safety of Meng witness in Macau who refuses to testifyThe US seeks to put Meng on trial in New York on charges that she defrauded HSBC by lying about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, putting the bank at risk of breaching US sanctions.Meng, who denies the charges, is living under partial house arrest in one of the two houses she owns in Vancouver while she fights the extradition bid.The treatment of Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, has infuriated China. Soon after her detention, Beijing arrested Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and accused them of spying. Ottawa considers the arrests retaliatory and both men to be victims of hostage-taking.The hearing was adjourned by Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes, who bound Meng over until December 7, when another week of witness testimony will begin.More from South China Morning Post: * Canadian border officer denies trying to help FBI by questioning Meng Wanzhou about Iran * Retired Canadian police officer refuses to testify at Meng Wanzhou’s extradition hearing * Canadian Mountie ‘concluded FBI never got Meng Wanzhou’s phone information’, but her notes say otherwise * Meng Wanzhou: Canada border agent ‘falsified account of questioning’, defence lawyer claims in court * Canadian officer who arrested Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou said she might have put up fight, but boss said there were ‘no safety concerns’This article Meng Wanzhou case: arresting Huawei exec on plane would have been too risky, Canadian officer tells court first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
Pomegranate harvest is in full swing on a field Zhorik Grigoryan nearly lost in the recent fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
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.
Malaysia will go to the polls when the coronavirus pandemic is over, the prime minister said Saturday, two days after winning lawmakers' backing for his government's 2021 budget.
Hong Kong’s exam authority has selected an economics professor from a local university as its new head, after the current chief decided not to renew his contract following a controversy over a history paper question on Sino-Japanese relations.Professor Wei Xiangdong from Lingnan University will succeed So Kwok-sang as secretary general of the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) when So’s term ends next March.“With profound knowledge in e-learning research and rich experience in administration and management, Professor Wei will be able to reinforce the HKEAA’s pursuit of excellence in delivering examinations and assessment to meet educational needs of the community,” said authority chairman Samuel Yung Wing-ki in a statement announcing the appointment.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.Wei’s appointment comes after a tumultuous period for the exam authority.In May, HKEAA, an independent, self-funded statutory body, became the target of pro-establishment politicians and Beijing’s foreign ministry arm in the city over a compulsory question in the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) history paper, which asked students whether they agreed Japan “did more good than harm to China” between 1900 and 1945.They said the question hurt the feelings of the Chinese people who remembered the atrocities committed by the Japanese while the two countries were at war.The Education Bureau then made an unprecedented move to ask the authority to scrap the question – a move some said was political interference into professional work.Three authority employees, including one responsible for developing history questions, quit over the scrapped exam question, or because of reports by pro-Beijing media that accused them of showing strong political affiliations in their social media posts. Hong Kong to rename liberal studies, require students visit mainland ChinaSo later also announced he would not renew his contract when it ended next year, saying he would spend time on his personal vision instead.In her policy address on Wednesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor again name-checked the HKEAA and pointed out the “wrong question” in the history exam. She said she expected the authority would improve its question moderation mechanism to prevent the same thing happening in the future.Though independent, most members of the 17-strong HKEAA council are appointed by the chief executive, including its chairman. The HKEAA appoints the secretary general, which oversees the authority, through its own recruitment process.According to his biography on the Lingnan University website, Wei received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Zhongshan University in China, and a master’s in money, banking and finance, and a PhD in economics from the University of Birmingham.Legislator for the education sector Ip Kin-yuen called Wei’s appointment unexpected, raising some questions about the academic’s ability to manage the city’s exam authority.“Compared to previous secretary generals, who were usually university registrars, Wei was a faculty head. The management skills used are very different,” Ip said, adding that registrars generally had a better grasp of both secondary and tertiary education systems.“Whether or not an academic is suitable to manage it remains to be seen, although Wei’s background in economics and mathematics could be helpful as well.”Ip also said Wei’s attitude towards the core values of the HKEAA, “a strong sense of professionalism, independence and confidentiality”, would be closely watched by many, as it was a sensitive time in light of the recent controversy.More from South China Morning Post: * Two of Hong Kong’s top universities slip down Asia rankings for second year in a row, but researchers say protests were not the reason for dip * Head of Hong Kong exams body says he will not renew contract, just months after controversial history paper question on Japan’s relations with China * Hong Kong exam bosses agree to axe controversial history test question * Give Hong Kong exams body room to sort out controversial Sino-Japanese history question using existing mechanisms, says former chief * Education Bureau finds ‘inadequacies’ in development of history exams for Hong Kong secondary school studentsThis article Hong Kong exams body names Lingnan University economics professor as new head, after chief leaves following controversial DSE history question first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
Every winter, Lorina Sthapit and her cousins would warm their feet in woollen socks freshly knitted by their grandmother.
An Aeroflot delivery of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to EU member Hungary last week has sparked new criticism at home and abroad of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's go-it-alone policies.
China’s Operation Fox Hunt, a state-sanctioned chase around the world for fugitive suspects, relies as much on goodwill between international law enforcement agencies as legalities.As there is currently little love between Beijing and Washington, China is now having a frustrating time trying to get its hands on citizens that fled the country, often under clouds of corruption charges.China and the United States had a standing Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, said Professor Wang Jiangyu, director of the Centre for Chinese and Comparative Law at City University in Hong Kong. But it largely depended on good relations between both sides to work, he said.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.“When the Sino-US relations were normal, such cooperation had been carried out quite effectively before 2018,” he said. “But now, there is no such goodwill to carry out such soft international obligations, given the unprecedented tension.”Wang said both China and the US lost out as a result.According to China, the US is the favoured destination of high-profile fugitives, along with other countries in the “Five Eyes” security alliance – Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Britain.Many of those fleeing criminal charges in China chose those countries because they had better protection of human rights, said associate professor Alfred Wu from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. How the elite 'fox hunt' police task force scours the world for fugitives who have fled overseas“Many trials in the Chinese courts still remain opaque and its human rights protection record also needs improvement,” Wu said. “That made extradition from these countries to China more difficult as many will claim that they will not receive a fair and transparent trial in China.”An example is a Swedish court that last year refused China’s request to extradite former government official Qiao Jianjun on charges of embezzling US$11 million. The court ruled he could face persecution because of his political activities.Qiao was then extradited to the US in June this year to face charges there of money laundering and visa fraud.It has become evident that some fugitives discover a political conscience when they arrive in the West, suggesting criminal suspects are using the human rights card to try to avoid prosecution.While China’s deteriorating ties with Five Eyes nations may undermine present and future law enforcement cooperation, overall, Operation Fox Hunt has already arrested thousands of fugitives.The country reported the repatriation of 2,041 suspects last year and the recovery of 5.4 billion yuan (US$820 million), both an increase of more than 50 per cent from 2018. Why is the Five Eyes intelligence alliance in China’s cross hairs?Fox Hunt was set up in 2014 under the Chinese Ministry of Public Security to chase down officials who fled the country amid allegations of wrongdoing. The operations are part of President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption among bureaucrats and Communist Party officials that has resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of people.Xi’s critics have said the anti-corruption campaign was also a means to remove any political rivals as he cemented control on power. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has also weighed in, saying Fox Hunt is as much a means to silence dissidents overseas as it is to capture criminals.Law enforcement relations got more frosty on October 29 after comments by John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security at the US Department of Justice.He said Fox Hunt repatriation squads operated in the country “without coordination with the US government” and targeted critics of the Communist Party. Fox Hunt employed illegal, unauthorised and often covert techniques outside the bounds of the law, he said.The US comments were “nothing but slander,” according to a response from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the party’s top anti-corruption watchdog, on November 18.The CCDI raised the case of Xu Jin, the former director of the Wuhan Development and Reform Commission, to make its argument.The statement said Xu fled to the US in 2011 with his wife Liu Fang and there was “sufficient evidence” to prove that between 2006 and 2009, they embezzled 198 million yuan through a state-owned land transfer and accepted bribes.In 2012, Interpol issued a “red notice” against the couple, a worldwide alert to police agencies that an individual was a criminal suspect.The attempted repatriation of China’s top 100 fugitives with such red notices appears to have slowed. In 2016, 19 of those on the list were extradited, followed by 13 the next year, and dropping to four in 2018 and six last year.The last reported case was on September 11 last year – the extradition of Huang Ping, former general manager of state-owned Guanghong Huaqiao Aluminium Processing Co.However, the decline in high-profile extraditions might also be a sign of the success of Operation Fox Hunt, or that China has repatriated most of the fugitives in countries it has better relations with, such as Asean nations. Now it must go after those in the West.According to the CCDI, of the 40 people remaining on the 100 most wanted list drawn up in 2015, 35 are suspected to be living in Five Eyes countries.The US has the most at 19. Canada and New Zealand both ranked second, each with six suspects. Australia has three and one is in Britain.If China wants extradition cooperation from those countries, the overall diplomatic language has not helped.The countries in the Five Eyes alliance recently protested against a Beijing decision to oust opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong. Such countries risk “having their eyes poked out” was the response from Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on November 19.Meantime, Wang at City University in Hong Kong said identifying genuine dissidents and corruption suspects could be difficult and unscrupulous lawyers added to the problem through “asylum mills”.US federal immigration officials have investigated immigration lawyers on charges of helping mostly Chinese immigrants to fraudulently obtain asylum, with one probe in 2012 called “Operation Fiction Writer” resulting in the arrest and conviction of lawyers. Thirty-somethings leading China’s fox hunt fugitive chaseA New York lawyer who said he had helped prominent Chinese dissidents to obtain asylum in the US agreed this was a problem.“There are so many people from China applying for asylum and many made negative comments about the Chinese Communist Party only after they came to the US,” said the lawyer, who declined to be named, citing the need to protect his clients.“Although most of the dissidents I handled still managed to get asylum, I am still worried that the fake ones will crowd out the genuine ones.“The people in the FBI will have to answer many questions from the Department of Justice in every extradition case, making sure the extradited will face a fair trial is always a top concern.”More from South China Morning Post: * US warns China over undercover 'Fox Hunt' for corrupt Chinese officials * US-China relations: Beijing sees chance for thaw in ties under Biden, but keeps expectations in check * Family of Hong Kong fugitive detained in Shenzhen calls letter signed by him ploy by authorities * China warns US travelling on ‘wrong road’ after fresh round of sanctions targets more Hong Kong, mainland officialsThis article China-US animosity frustrates Beijing’s ‘Fox Hunt’ for overseas fugitives first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
A federal appeals court on Friday flatly dismissed President Donald Trump's claim that the election was unfair and refused to freeze Joe Biden's win in the key state of Pennsylvania.
Four Hong Kong lawmakers were disqualified from the Legislative Council this month, immediately after Beijing passed a resolution on November 11 stating that legislators could be removed summarily for flouting a number of prohibited acts, including threatening national security and refusing to endorse China’s sovereignty.Their removal prompted all 15 remaining opposition lawmakers to resign. Among those leaving are three prominent lawmakers who have served between eight and 28 years. The Post spoke to James To Kun-sun, Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung and Ip Kin-yuen about their decision to quit, the state of politics in Hong Kong and what lies ahead for them. ‘Pan-dems have not changed, Beijing has lost its tolerance’: James ToOver 28 years in the Legislative Council, Democratic Party veteran James To Kun-sun made a name for himself as a lawmaker who often spoke up on major incidents and difficult cases.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.They included the Hong Kong victims of the 2010 Manila hostage crisis which left nine people dead after an armed man seized a tour bus, the Lamma Island ferry collision two years later that took 39 lives, and most recently, the case of 12 Hongkongers captured at sea by the mainland Chinese coastguard while fleeing to Taiwan.“I was also the first person Edward Snowden approached while he was in Hong Kong,” To revealed, referring to the surveillance whistle-blower who was holed up in the city after fleeing Hawaii in 2013 and before eventually landing in Russia.“I guess my 20-something years’ experience in security affairs, legal background and the fact that I have been careful in my words, prompted people to look for me.”To was a 28-year-old lawyer when he was first elected to Legco in 1991. He held the record as the youngest lawmaker to win a seat until 2016, when 23-year-old pro-democracy activist Nathan Law Kwun-chung was victorious at the polls. Law is now in self-imposed exile in Britain, having left Hong Kong because of the national security law imposed on June 30.Among the old documents, books, thank-you cards and souvenirs unearthed as To prepared to vacate his Legco office was his black schedule book from 1992, documenting his first year as a lawmaker.“I never thought I would serve this long. I was supposed to be in line for retirement, but my colleagues thought I should stay,” said To, now 57. “My biggest regret is that there is not only an absence of universal suffrage in Hong Kong, but also an absence of a real ‘one country, two systems’.”China, which has grown stronger, has lost its toleranceJames To, Democratic Party veteranThe guiding principle put forward by the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping which ensured the freedoms granted to the city would remain unchanged for 50 years after Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China in 1997 was “dead”, To declared.The longest-serving lawmaker before his resignation, To led the opposition’s efforts last year to delay scrutiny of an extradition bill that would end up triggering months of anti-government protests and violence. The bill was later withdrawn, but the repercussions caused an upheaval across Hong Kong’s political landscape.He insisted the pan-democrats had not changed over the decades but had only remained steadfast in pursuing the goal of real universal suffrage for the city.“But China, which has grown stronger, has lost its tolerance,” he said.To likened himself to a “broken cassette”, trying repeatedly for years to persuade Beijing and those who have asked him to explain what the pan-democrat camp wanted, that granting Hong Kong democracy – and even having a pan-democrat as chief executive – would not be the end of the world.“I will still tell them that now they have gone too far and our freedoms have shrunk. I will continue to say it out loud, but it seems a bit naive for me to believe they will listen,” he said.To, who is married with one son, said that for now, he would continue as a member of Yau Tsim Mong District Council to which he was re-elected last year.“If people are still determined to approach me for help despite knowing I’m no longer a lawmaker, I will surely take up their case,” he said.* * * ‘Our sky has fallen apart’: Fernando CheungEntering Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung’s office, one is greeted by the sight of piles of files on welfare and education and more than a dozen charts on the wall, showing the waiting times at various public services.From advocating for job opportunities for the disabled and improved child protection, to assisting those in asylums and prisons, and seeking more places for the elderly in residential care centres, Cheung is well known for his devotion to the vulnerable over 12 years in the Legislative Council.Lately, however, the opposition Labour Party lawmaker has been in the news mainly for political reasons.He was among eight lawmakers and activists arrested earlier this month on charges relating to a chaotic Legco committee meeting in May which descended into shouting and scuffles.Macau-born Cheung, 63, was educated in Hong Kong and the United States and obtained American citizenship before he returned in 1996 to teach social work at Polytechnic University.He gave up his US citizenship to run for Legco in 2004 representing the social welfare sector, and defeated veteran incumbent Cheung Kwok-chu by just 64 votes. Mass resignation of opposition lawmakers after Beijing rules on disqualification“The sky was the limit when I first became a legislator,” he said. “I was soon elected panel chairman for welfare services, and could set agendas and bargain with the government.“At that time, I believed I could do a lot for my sector and the government respected legislators. There were unlimited opportunities.”He lost the 2008 election when he switched to contesting in a geographical constituency. He returned to Legco in 2012, after co-founding the Labour Party with pro-democracy stalwart Lee Cheuk-yan the year before. At its best, the party had four members in the legislature from 2012 to 2016.“Our sky has fallen apart now,” he said. “Things started to change after [former chief executive] Leung Chun-ying got into power, when he targeted and did not respect opposition lawmakers.”Cheung said the situation deteriorated rapidly over the past few months to a year.“Even people like me, regarded as very ‘soft’ protesters, have become Beijing’s target,” he said with a forced smile, recalling how radical protesters during last year’s social unrest criticised him for being too mild and rational.“The way I would describe it is Beijing is purging us.”Cheung announced earlier this year that he would not contest the Legco elections originally scheduled for September.When the polls were postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic and Beijing approved extending Legco’s term by a year, he chose to carry on in order to continue speaking up for the vulnerable in the city, whereas his friends, opposition lawmakers Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Ray Chan Chi-chuen, decided to quit.I have thought about teaching again but I wonder if any of the tertiary institutions would hire pan-democratsFernando CheungDisagreements over whether to quit or stay in Legco for the extended term approved by Beijing caused a split in the opposition camp. “That is history now,” Cheung said.But when Beijing passed the resolution that led to the immediate removal of the four lawmakers, he knew it was all over.“The insulting resolution delivered by Beijing made me reach my limit,” he said. “I understand that for the coming year, it might be hard to assist those in need, but we have no choice.”Cheung, who is married with three children, said for now, he hoped to spend more time with his family, especially his disabled daughter.“I have thought about teaching again but, well, with the new red lines, I wonder if any of the tertiary institutions would hire pan-democrats,” he said.* * * ‘The safest way to be a teacher now might be to just stick to the books’: Ip Kin-yuenIp Kin-yuen’s resignation from the Legislative Council brings to an end his eight years of representing Hong Kong’s education sector.Still in the thick of various educational issues, Ip said he was yet to make time to clear his office at the legislature with just two weeks remaining before he left.Among other things, Ip, the vice-president of the Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU), has been helping two primary school teachers, who have been deregistered, to appeal against the authorities’ decision.The Education Bureau acted against the teachers after finding that one used teaching materials that touched on independence for Hong Kong, and the other taught a distorted history of the first opium war in the 19th century.Ip said the education sector had come under unprecedented pressure over the past year, with pro-establishment figures and officials targeting educators and teaching materials following last year’s protests.“The education sector has been continuously suffocated by various attacks. What we hope to do is to defend ourselves and protect our sector’s integrity,” he said. Are Hong Kong’s teachers radicalising youth? Ex-leader and lawmaker clash over accusationIp, 58, was a secondary school teacher for eight years, a principal for three years, and also taught at the tertiary level for 11 years.He was elected as a lawmaker for the sector in 2012, and re-elected in 2016, both times beating pro-establishment candidates by a significant margin.He believed the sector became a scapegoat following last year’s protests. As a result, he said, teachers now felt more uneasy in class, and schools had become more cautious, afraid of being caught out any time.“What you say, what teaching materials you write, might easily be targeted,” he said. “The safest way to teach nowadays might be to just stick to the books. If this goes on, some very dedicated teachers might choose to leave the profession.”In recent months, Ip and his union have been pressing authorities for more transparency and to reform the system of investigating complaints against teachers’ professional conduct.What you say, what teaching materials you write, might easily be targetedIp Kin-yuenAt least 247 protest-related complaints were received by the authorities between June 2019 and August this year, but he pointed out that many complaints were anonymously filed.The current system gave the government sole power to decide on penalties, he said, unlike in the medical or legal sectors where representatives of each profession dealt with complaints.“We hope to help teachers get fair treatment under a sound investigative procedure,” Ip said.With his exit, there will be no opposition voice for the sector in Legco and he expected pro-establishment lawmakers to push the authorities for “more extreme” changes.There have been strong calls from the pro-establishment camp to “weed out bad apples” in the sector. Some have demanded that the names and schools of teachers found guilty of misconduct be revealed, and urged the government to mete out the heaviest penalties possible in such cases.Ip’s union, the PTU, has also been targeted by the bureau, pro-Beijing figures and state media. It has been branded a politicised group, with some accusing it of stirring young people to commit violence.Ip has not yet decided whether to contest the Legco elections next September.Despite being out of Legco, he stressed that he intended using his PTU role to continue providing checks and balances on the pro-establishment camp.“No matter what, our work will go on,” he said.More from South China Morning Post: * In wake of Legco disqualifications, Hong Kong’s opposition mulls an uncertain future * After Legco disqualifications, Hong Kong’s opposition district councillors fear they’ll be next in government’s crosshairs * Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam declares ‘return of peace’ to Legco, restored faith in political system after Beijing’s lawmakers ruling * Echo chamber or sound politics: how will Hong Kong’s legislature function without an opposition?This article Three Hong Kong opposition politicians explain why they turned their backs on Legislative Council – and where they go from here first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
Travel agencies in countries across the Middle East and Africa say the United Arab Emirates has temporarily halted issuing new visas to their citizens, a so-far unexplained ban on visitors amid both the coronavirus pandemic and the UAE's normalization deal with Israel. Confusion over the UAE visa ban targeting 11 Muslim-majority nations, in addition to Lebanon and Kenya, swirled after a leaked document from Dubai’s state-owned airport free zone surfaced this week, declaring restrictions against a range of nationalities. Emirati authorities have not acknowledged the suspension that comes as the UAE welcomes Israeli tourists for the first time in history, the coronavirus pandemic surges across the region and those searching for work in the federation of seven sheikhdoms increasingly overstay their tourist visas amid a cascade of business shutdowns and lay-offs.
Austria’s defense minister has tested positive for the new coronavirus, becoming the second member of the country’s Cabinet to be infected. The Austria Press Agency reported that her ministry said Sunday Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner is doing well and will work from home. Austria on Nov. 17 deepened lockdown measures in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
China has said recovered Covid-19 patients must wait at least six months before giving blood.The Beijing News reported that the latest policy would be introduced nationwide despite no proof that people can catch Covid-19 through blood transfusions.It cited a medical practitioner in Wuhan, the city where the disease was first identified, who said traces of the virus have been identified in the urine and blood of patients who were being treated for Covid-19.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.The October issue of Blood, a US-based medical journal, also recorded that traces of the virus had been confirmed in the blood of some serious cases.A haematologist told The Beijing News that although genetic material from the coronavirus has rarely been found in blood donated by asymptomatic patients, it was not possible to completely eliminate the risk of infection.“There is still a lack of solid evidence suggesting the novel coronavirus can be transmitted via blood transfusions. But we will halt all blood donations from recently recovered patients for the safety of blood donors and recipients,” said the specialist.The new guidelines, issued by the National Health Commission, also said someone who had been given the Covid 19 vaccine or a flu shot should wait 28 days before donating blood. More heat than light in quest for origin of the new coronavirusResearchers have found that antibodies found in the blood plasma of recovered patients can greatly reduce mortality rates for seriously ill Covid-19 patients.But the newspaper reported that blood donation centres had long stopped collecting plasma for this reason because there were so few cases in China now..More from South China Morning Post: * Where did coronavirus originate? These virus sleuths are assessing every theory * Coronavirus: WHO to look at controversial Italian samples in search for origins * China has zeroed in on frozen food imports as it tries to keep a lid on Covid-19This article China tells recovered Covid-19 patients to wait six months before giving blood first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
Iran's president on Saturday accused arch-foe Israel of acting as a US "mercenary" and seeking to create chaos, vowing Tehran would avenge the assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist.
When Hong Kong’s government began to consider liberal studies teaching two decades ago, the lofty aim was to teach students how to critically evaluate information and distinguish fact from opinion.Similar programmes on social studies or civic education existed in the financial hub, but none were mandatory. The government would spend several years searching for the ideal way – in the words of the No 2 education official at the time – to inspire teenagers to “think more”.“The purpose is to encourage young people to … analyse and discuss international, national and social issues from different perspectives, so as to gain a better understanding of the world around them,” Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun said in 2005 when she was permanent secretary for education and manpower.Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.But within 11 years of its adoption, liberal studies has become a deeply divisive topic and even labelled a disaster by the same man who initially backed its creation, former leader Tung Chee-hwa.Pro-establishment figures blame the subject for breeding a generation of students who are fundamentally opposed to the Chinese central government and resent Beijing’s hand in local affairs. In her policy address on Wednesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced extensive reforms were on the way after warning months earlier the education sector could not become a “chicken without a coop”.But how did a plan that began with such soaring intentions come crashing down so quickly? Ambitious startLiberal studies was a key component of an ambitious plan to overhaul education introduced in 2000 during Tung’s tenure as the first chief executive following the handover from Britain to China in 1997. The secretary for education at the time, Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, viewed liberal studies as a pathway to broaden students’ thinking and increase their awareness of social issues.“The gist of the liberal curriculum’s design is to focus on the student’s personal development, and getting them to have all-rounded knowledge in various aspects such as social, culture, science and technology,” he said in 2004.In its curriculum and assessment guide released three years later, the government said the subject would include teaching contemporary issues so students could develop strategies to critically view information they received. Li supported making the subject mandatory, as did his deputy Law. Liberal studies was adopted in 2009 as one of four compulsory subjects for senior secondary students, along with maths, Chinese and English.Its six modules cover personal development and interpersonal relationships, Hong Kong today, modern China, globalisation, public health, and energy technology and the environment. But schools were given leeway in how they taught the lessons, with no official textbooks required.Students raised on rote learning struggled at first with the open-ended nature of the subject.Top performing teens would pass the other subjects with flying colours only to receive worse than expected grades in liberal studies. But the real problems lay just around the corner. The lines blurThe government was already drawing criticism over its plan to introduce national education courses in schools to strengthen “national identity awareness” and nurture patriotism. In 2012, thousands of students led by activist Johsua Wong Chi-fung staged a protest outside government headquarters against the proposed changes.Many parents were equally suspicious the programme was aimed at winning unquestioning loyalty to the Communist Party. But the pro-establishment camp failed to pay much attention to the debate.That soon changed as pent-up anger towards the government crested into a wave of civil disobedience in 2014 in what became known as the Occupy Central movement. Protesters, many of them from the younger generation, brought parts of the city to a standstill for 79 days as they pushed for greater democratic reforms. Pro-Beijing newspapers ran articles claiming the demands were echoing ideas taught in liberal studies and accused teachers of fomenting dissent in the classrooms. Students who led Occupy Central to gather again for protests’ anniversaryBut that argument was undermined by a report the government released the next year.The Central Policy Unit, the predecessor of the Policy Innovation and Coordination Office, commissioned a study by Chinese University on civic values and engagement among the younger “post-90s” generation. Issued the following year, it found students’ interest in liberal studies had an only limited influence on their civic values and participation in political events.The type of critical thinking the subject sought to foster had not radicalised them. Instead, it encouraged discussion of public issues from multiple perspectives and awareness of the limits of political identity.Tin Fong-chak, a veteran liberal studies teacher and vice-chairman of the pro-democracy Professional Teachers’ Union, pointed to the study as “empirical evidence” that disproved the charge teachers were provoking students.Although the Occupy movement did not achieve political reforms, it did provide a vivid lesson to many young people on the power of directly confronting authorities in the streets.Students bolstered the ranks of the protest movement that erupted last June over a plan to establish an extradition law that would allow suspects to be transferred to the mainland, among other jurisdictions. It rapidly escalated into a wider campaign of grievances that included calls for political change. That September, a commentary from party mouthpiece People’s Daily lashed out at liberal studies as a “toxic” subject that used biased textbooks espousing politicised content.Out of the roughly 10,000 people who had been arrested over charges related to the social unrest as of this September, some 4,000 were students.Tung, currently vice-chairman of China’s top political advisory body, was quick to escalate the debate over liberal studies’ influence on teens when he called the subject a “failure” in July last year.The think tank he founded, Our Hong Kong Foundation, examined how Singapore and Britain had handled similar subjects. The city state’s General Paper was indeed aimed at nurturing an ability to think critically and encouraging them to explore key local and global issues.British students, meanwhile, were pushed to learn about democracy, government and law in a citizenship studies subject. But it noted various methods were used to assess pupils’ progress and some countries avoided open exams.The think tank issued a raft of suggested changes in September, including keeping the subject compulsory, switching the grading system to a simple pass or fail and ensuring all textbooks were scrutinised by authorities.But a government-appointed task force suggested in its report released the same month that the current seven-point grading system should be kept as it is. Sweeping changesIn unveiling details of the reforms, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung signalled a strong break with the past.“Over the years, there have been a lot of associations and usually some not-so-good connotations to the name [of liberal studies],” he said. “As we are now going to refine the subject, we are trying to [give] the subject a new start.”Future students would either pass or fail, half the syllabus would be eliminated and all textbooks subjected to government vetting, expanding on a new voluntary screening scheme. They would also be required to visit the mainland and schools required to strengthen education on national development. In line with the new beginning, the subject would be renamed, but Yeung did not say what the alternatives might be.Although Lam had made known months ago the overhaul was coming, the scope caught many educators off guard.Even an ad hoc committee formed under the government’s Curriculum Development Council last year had been kept in the dark, with members only learning of the plan along with the rest of the public, a source close to the group said. Leader’s warning to schools over teaching of ‘fallacious arguments’ draws fireDiffering opinionsTai Hay-lap, a member of the government’s education commission in the 2000s, agreed that liberal studies had deviated in certain respects from its original goals, including through how university admission exam questions were decided.It was never intended for the subject to feature extensive discussion of local politics and current affairs, he said. But questions on those areas have appeared on the tests in seven of the past 10 years.Teachers would naturally want to prepare students on similar topics.The lack of a vetting mechanism for the textbooks was also a “loophole” that needed to be fixed, Tai argued.“[The government] originally wanted to provide flexibility for the textbooks, but it created problems including [some schools] using various teaching materials, which might even include information that is wrong,” he said.The voluntary vetting scheme was introduced last year and the first batch of books from the city’s dominant six publishers went into use in September. But concerns over censorship were raised after the notion of “separation of powers” in Hong Kong was removed from some textbooks, while criticisms and cartoons centred on the local and central government were watered down or replaced. What is liberal studies in Hong Kong and why is it controversial?But Tai defended the subject from accusations it had radicalised young people, describing some of the claims as “baffling”. Social media played a more important role towards that end, he said.“How many hours do students take for the liberal studies subject every week? Even when we add up the teaching hours, it might still be less than the time teenagers spend on social media. Therefore, how can it play such an important role [in radicalising them]?” he said.Tong Chong-sze, who served as secretary general of the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority between 2011 and 2017, agreed the subject workload was heavy.For instance, a school-based project that accounted for 20 per cent of the final grade took up a significant amount of time and input from students over the three-year course, he said.He called for the subject to be turned into an elective so pupils would have greater opportunity to choose what they wanted to study, but warned some principals had reservations that could lead to many opting out.Pro-establishment lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, who has long been critical of the subject, said some of the greatest weaknesses of the programme were the workload and a lack of oversight.“Teachers are the most important,” she said. “No one is monitoring how they teach with their quality in question. With 250 hours on their hands, they can turn anyone into a really bad shape.”The danger was clear even during the Occupy movement, Leung maintained. “That was one of the peaks as the Professional Teachers’ Union handed out a guideline called Occupy Central 1.0,” she said. “There is a huge gaping hole but no one was monitoring.”Opposition lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, who represents the education sector in the Legislative Council, accused the pro-establishment camp of turning liberal studies into a bogeyman to take the blame for the government’s own mistakes and lack of policy vision for the upcoming generation. Officials, he said, “cannot face the reality”.Tin of the Professional Teachers’ Union said the reform plan had essentially “killed off the subject”. “The aim to improve students’ critical thinking skills in a comprehensive way is gone,” he said.He also hit back at claims teachers were adversely influencing students.“Most of the frontline teachers can tell you that a lot of the students were not actually that interested, with some even dozing off in class,” he said. “At best, those who are more enthusiastic may gain a heightened awareness of social politics but that’s about it.”A liberal studies teacher with more than 10 years of experience, who asked to remain anonymous, said although some individual teachers might have exhibited bias or shared their personal political views in class, he felt the government was trying to pin the blame for student violence on liberal studies.“Indeed, students have learned more about society [and politics],” he said. “But is that the reason why more students have gone into the streets to protest or even turned violent? There are various factors leading to such a result … such as government policies and social conflicts.”Lau Kam-fai, president of Hong Kong Liberal Studies Teachers’ Association, was pessimistic over eliminating the grading system, fearing it would sap pupils’ motivation.“It is only foreseeable that students will put less effort into the subject because no matter how hard they try, they will only get a pass,” he said, noting almost no subjects in Hong Kong were graded in such a way. Caught in the middleForm Six student Carson Tsang Long-hin, who plans to take his university entrance exam next year, said critical thinking skills were the subject’s greatest reward.“The most important skill [to know] in answering questions is we can’t just lean towards one’s stance only,” the 17-year-old said.For example, in addressing a topic on whether the effective containment of infectious diseases in Hong Kong was deeply tied to public health policies, he voiced agreement with the statement, citing data provided in a supplied test question before drawing a counterargument using his own knowledge.Carson said he took part in last year’s protest and admitted he learned about the concept of social movements through the subject.“But I joined the protests not because of liberal studies,” he said. “I am growing up and learning a lot of information … when some government policies will affect my future, it’s necessary for me to fight for myself and everyone else.”For parents, the way the government decided to overhaul a subject is not like what we were familiar with in the pastEiffel Chau, parentEiffel Chau King-lun, chairman at the Hong Kong Parents League for Education Renovation, has an 11-year-old son who will enter secondary school next year. He found the news of the reform plan deeply unsettling.“For parents, the way the government decided to overhaul a subject is not like what we were familiar with in the past,” Chau said. “It can just happen overnight.”He is concerned the new classes might fail to place as strong a focus on critical thinking skills as before.“I believe it will still have some training for that, but will it be like the old approach?” he said. “If all students have to use standardised teaching materials, then the examples they learn from are more or less the same,” he said, noting the lesson time would also be reduced.Parents might have to become more involved in teaching their children about the topic, for example by discussing the daily news from different perspectives, he said.But David Cua Chiu-fai, chairman of the concern group Help Our Next Generation, approved of the planned overhaul and agreed all textbooks should be vetted. With his son entering Form One next September, Cua was uneasy over the content of class materials and how teachers would guide students in lessons.He was especially worried some materials had touched on the idea of breaking the law to achieve what he described as “justice”. Students could learn critical thinking through other subjects, as well, he argued.“It’s just like learning English,” Cua said. “If you study in an English school, you can learn English in many other subjects too.”More from South China Morning Post: * Was liberal studies responsible for radicalising Hong Kong youth during protests, and should it be axed? * Hong Kong education chief denies changes to Liberal Studies textbooks amount to political censorshipThis article The Hong Kong secondary school course that vexes Beijing is headed for a makeover but will it spell the end of critical thinking among students? first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.
A video of officers beating up and racially insulting a black music producer in Paris is the latest in a string of incidents that have put French policing in the spotlight.
A Big Boy restaurant in Michigan’s Thumb region has lost its name after the owners refused to stop indoor dining as part of statewide restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Customers were greeted Friday with Sandusky Diner instead of Sandusky Big Boy, the name for 35 years. Big Boy restaurants are known by their statue of a boy in checkered overalls holding a burger over his head.