“It is easier for China to increase its fleet numbers as it is the world’s biggest shipbuilder. They have immense shipyard capacities, which the US lacks, as its commercial shipbuilding has been thrown into disarray over the past decades,” says Vasily Kashin, Far East researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
China said Monday it will suspend U.S. military ship and aircraft visits to Hong Kong and sanction several American pro-democracy and human rights groups in retaliation for the signing into law of legislation supporting anti-government protests in the semi-autonomous territory. While the nature of the sanctions remained unclear, the move followed Chinese warnings that the U.S. would bear the costs if the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was approved. The steps are “in response to America’s unreasonable behavior,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing, adding that the legislation seriously interfered in China’s internal affairs. The law, signed last Wednesday by President Donald Trump, mandates sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses and requires an annual review of the favorable trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong. The legislation was backed by U.S. lawmakers who are sympathetic to the protesters and have criticized Hong Kong police for cracking down on the pro-democracy movement. Police say their use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other force is a necessary response to escalating violence by the protesters, who have blocked major roads and thrown gasoline bombs back at officers in riot gear. Hong Kong has been living with almost nonstop protests for six months. The movement’s demands include democratic elections and an investigation into the police response. More fundamentally, the protesters and others in Hong Kong fear that China is eroding the rights and freedoms they have under a “one country, two systems”
Tightening control over efforts to manage the upheaval in Hong Kong, the Chinese leadership has set up a crisis command centre on the mainland side of the border and is considering replacing its official liaison to the restive semi-autonomous city, people familiar with the matter said. As violent protests roil Hong Kong, top Chinese leaders in recent months have been managing their response from a villa on the outskirts of Shenzhen, bypassing the formal bureaucracy through which Beijing has supervised the financial hub for two decades. Ordinarily, communications between Beijing and Hong Kong are conducted through a Chinese government body: the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong. The Liaison Office is housed in a Hong Kong skyscraper stacked with surveillance cameras, ringed by steel barricades and topped by a reinforced glass globe. In a sign of dissatisfaction with the Liaison Office’s handling of the crisis, Beijing is considering potential replacements for the body’s director, Wang Zhimin, two people familiar with the situation said. Wang is the most senior mainland political official stationed in Hong Kong. The office has come in for criticism in Hong Kong and China for misjudging the situation in the city. “The Liaison Office has been mingling with the rich people and mainland elites in the city and isolated itself from the people,” a Chinese official said. “This needs to be changed.” The Liaison Office may face increased pressure after city voters delivered a resounding defeat to pro-Beijing parties in local district elections
Beijing is drawing up a plan to remove Hong Kong’s beleaguered Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the Financial Times reported Wednesday, after nearly five months of pro-democracy unrest. The pro-Beijing leader has faced sustained criticism from protesters in the semi-autonomous city. So far, the Chinese central government has given its support to her and the Hong Kong police, calling the demonstrators “rioters” and condemning the violence. But according to the FT report, which quoted unnamed figures briefed on the deliberations, Beijing is drawing up a plan to replace her with an interim chief executive. However, sources told the newspaper that the plan would be dependent on the situation in the city first stabilising so that Beijing is not seen as giving in to violence. Lam’s office said it would not comment on speculation. Hong Kong has been battered by 20 weeks of protests and with no political solution in sight, clashes have intensified each month. Earlier this month, Lam — who has refused to grant any major concessions to protesters — invoked a colonial-era emergency law to ban face masks, setting off a new wave of protests and vandalism that shut down much of the city’s transport network. One of the protest leaders, Jimmy Sham, was hospitalised after being attacked by unknown assailants wielding hammers last week. If President Xi Jinping decides to go ahead with the plan to remove Lam, the report said her replacement would be installed by March. Leading candidates being considered to replace her reportedly include Norman
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam warned Tuesday that the Chinese military could step in if an uprising for democratic reforms that has rocked the city for months “becomes so bad” but reiterated the government still hopes to resolve the crisis itself. Lam urged foreign critics to accept that the four months of protests marked by escalating violence were no longer “a peaceful movement for democracy.” She said seeking Chinese intervention was provided for under Hong Kong’s constitution but that she cannot reveal under what circumstances she will do so. “I still strongly feel that we should find the solutions ourselves. That is also the position of the central government that Hong Kong should tackle the problem on her own but if the situation becomes so bad, then no options could be ruled out if we want Hong Kong to at least have another chance,” she told a news conference. The protests started in June over a now-shelved extradition bill that would have allowed some criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial but have since morphed into a larger anti-government movement. Protesters say the bill is an example of Beijing’s increasing influence over the former British colony, which was promised a high level of autonomy when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The unrest had pummeled tourism and hurt businesses in the global financial hub, further bruising the city’s economy as it grapples with effects of the U.S.-China trade war. President Donald Trump on Monday urged Chinese