HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s legislature approved a contentious bill Thursday that makes it illegal to insult the Chinese national anthem.
The legislation was approved after pro-democracy opposition lawmakers tried to disrupt the vote. The bill was passed with 41 lawmakers voting for it and just one voting against. Most of the pro-democracy lawmakers boycotted the vote out of protest.
The pro-democracy camp sees the anthem bill as an infringement of freedom of expression and the greater rights that residents of the semi-autonomous city have compared to mainland China.
The pro-Beijing majority said the law was necessary for Hong Kong citizens to show appropriate respect for the anthem.
Those found guilty of intentionally abusing the “March of the Volunteers” face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 50,000 Hong Kong dollars ($6,450).
The legislative debate was earlier suspended after pro-democracy lawmakers staged a protest, with one dropping a pot of pungent liquid in the chamber.
Raising a sign that said “A murderous regime stinks for ten thousand years,” lawmaker Ray Chan walked to the front with the pot hidden inside a Chinese paper lantern. When security guards tried to stop him, he dropped the lantern and the pot, and was ejected from the meeting. Another lawmaker who accompanied him was also ejected.
The chamber was evacuated and police and firemen were called in to investigate the incident.
When the meeting resumed, pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui again splashed some liquid at the front of the meeting room and was escorted out. Legislative Council President Andrew Leung called such behavior irresponsible and childish, before calling for the vote.
The contentious debate over the bill comes after China’s ceremonial national legislature formally approved a decision last week to enact a national security law for Hong Kong that could see Chinese security agents posted in the city.
The national security law is aimed at curbing subversive activity, with Beijing pushing for it after a monthslong pro-democracy protest movement at times saw violent clashes between police and protesters.
While experts have warned that the law could imperil Hong Kong’s status as one of the world’s best places to do business, at least two banks with a strong Asian presence have publicly backed the decision.
HSBC said in a Chinese social media post that it “respects and supports all laws that stabilize Hong Kong’s social order,” while Standard Chartered said it believed the national security law would “help maintain the long-term economic and social stability of Hong Kong.”
Opponents of the anthem bill and the national security law see them as signs of Beijing’s tightening control over the territory.
Beijing began pushing for the anthem law after Hong Kong soccer fans jeered the national anthem at international matches in 2015. As anti-government protests engulfed Hong Kong last year, thousands of fans booed loudly and turned their backs when the anthem was played at a World Cup qualifier match against Iran in September. FIFA later fined the Hong Kong Football Association over the incident.
The legislative session on Thursday coincided with the 31st anniversary of China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
Before debate began, pro-democracy lawmakers stood in silence to mark the anniversary and put up signs on their desks that said “Do not forget June 4, the hearts of the people will not die."
Hong Kong's parliament on Thursday voted to pass a controversial bill banning disresepect of the Chinese national anthem.
Police and firefighters were earlier called to Hong Kong's legislature after two pro-democracy lawmakers spilled a foul-smelling liquid in the chamber in protest of China's crackdown on a protest in Tiananmen Square, which took place 31 years ago on June 4.
The disturbance briefly disrupted the legislature's debate of a controversial bill that makes it a crime to disrespect China's national anthem in Hong Kong.
During the debate, lawmakers Eddie Chu and Ray Chan rushed to the front of the chamber and splashed out a pungent fluid as guards attempted to control them.
The disruption took place after pro-establishment lawmakers vetoed most amendments to the anthem bill proposed by democrats.
'A murderous state stinks forever'
The law regulates when the Chinese national anthem is to be played in Hong Kong and how people should behave in reaction to it.
Violators face up to three years in jail and/or fines of up to HK$50,000 ($6,450, €5,913). It requires "all individuals and organisations" to respect the national a them and to play and sing it on "appropriate occasions."
"A murderous state stinks forever. What we did today is to remind the world that we should never forgive the Chinese Communist Party for killing its own people 31 years ago," Chu said after the disruption. He and Chan were later removed from the chamber.
Read more: Hong Kong bans Tiananmen massacre vigil citing coronavirus crisis
Tiananmen commemoration pushed inside
Tensions in the semi-autonomous city have been high since last week, when Beijing approved moving ahead with national security laws that would penalize secession, subversion, and foreign interference in Hong Kong.
Several foreign powers and human rights groups condemned the move. But China and the Beijing-backed Hong Kong government have said the bill does not pose a threat to the city's autonomy.
Thursday's vote took place as people around Hong Kong prepared to honor the memory of the the bloody 1989 crackdown on a student-led demonstration in Hong Kong's Tiananmen Square by the Chinese military.
In place of an annual gathering that in the past has attracted tens of thousands of people, observers across the city will light candles at home.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, public gatherings in Hong Kong have been limited to no more than eight people.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Ministry of the Interior (MOI) is offering a maximum award of NT$20,000 (US$670) to those who provide tip-offs about foreigners who have overstayed their visas as a three-month amnesty program nears its end.
On Thursday (June 4), the MOI announced that it will be offering rewards of between NT$2,000 and NT$20,000 to those who provide information on those who overstay their visas. In addition, it will offer a NT$1,000 reward for those who report illegal cross-border marriage matchmaking ads.
According to a press release the MOI issued on Thursday, members of the public can apply to the ministry for a reward if they report cases of foreigners who are staying in the country illegally or beyond the limit of their visas. It added that while rewards will be offered for information on cross-border marriage ads posted by illegal brokers, there will be no reward for reporting illegal international matchmaking itself.
If an informant reports three or fewer foreign nationals whose visas have expired, the MOI will provide a reward of NT$2,000 for each overstayer, reported Newtalk. If the information leads the capture of four to six, the reward rises to NT$5,000 per person.
The reward rises to NT$10,000 for the arrest of seven to nine overstayers. The maximum reward of NT$20,000 per person will be given if an informant is able to expose 10 or more.
In order to avoid illegal detention, employers and brokers will not be eligible for these rewards. However, workers who are being investigated by the National Immigration Agency (NIA) for working illegally in Taiwan are still eligible for the rewards if they provide information on overstayers.
A program launched by the NIA in March to encourage foreign citizens who overstay their visas to turn themselves in is set to end on June 30. Under the program, overstayers who turn themselves in will receive a reduced fine of NT$2,000 and will not be placed under detention or face an entry ban.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Thursday (June 4) said that although it is relaxing domestic travel restrictions on Sunday (June 7), it won't open its doors to international travelers until the pandemic in other countries is under better control.
During the daily press conference on Thursday afternoon, Minister of Health and Welfare and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) was asked if Japan allowed Taiwanese tourists, would Taiwan reciprocate by allowing Japanese tourists into the country. He responded by saying tourists would need to follow the quarantine measures dictated by Taiwan.
Chen stressed the pandemic situation is different from country to country. He said that each nation has its own responsibilities to its own people, so the standards are unalike.
He said that for the time being, the CECC is planning on monitoring how the relaxation of epidemic prevention rules goes starting June 7, before considering opening the doors to international travel. Chen said that opening up Taiwan to international visitors without having fully contained the outbreak within the country is flirting with disaster.
Referring to his previous comment about the principle of reciprocity in deciding on the terms of opening up to travelers from a given country, Chen said, "Reciprocity is that you can accept me, I can accept you, not that we are both the same" — meaning Taiwan will not necessarily shorten quarantine times for travelers even though their home country has done so for Taiwanese.
As for industrial and economic trade exchanges between Taiwan and other countries, Chen said that discussions will be held on how to shorten quarantine times while still ensuring safety. He said this is something that will happen in the future, but it's not a simple matter of, "You've completely opened up where you are, so we completely open up ourselves, too."
On Monday, Chen warned Taiwanese wanting to visit Japan the pandemic has not yet been fully brought under control and traveling there is not yet advisable.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Friday (June 5) announced zero new cases of Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), marking 54 days without a new local infection.
During his daily press conference on Friday afternoon, Minister of Health and Welfare and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) announced there were no new cases of coronavirus for the fourth day in a row. Taiwan's total number of cases still stands at 443.
The CECC announced it had received 170 reports of people with suspected symptoms on Thursday (June 4). Since the outbreak began, Taiwan has carried out 73,040 COVID-19 tests, with 72,089 coming back negative.
Taiwan has now extended its streak of no new local infections to 54 days, nearing the CECC's target of four 14-day incubation periods to relax nationwide epidemic prevention measures. Out of 443 total confirmed cases, 352 were imported, 55 were local, and 36 came from the Navy's "Goodwill Fleet."
Up until now, seven individuals have succumbed to the disease, while 429 have been released from hospital isolation. This leaves only seven people still undergoing treatment for COVID-19 in Taiwan.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is slowing down, the wearing of masks will no longer be compulsory on trains beginning June 7, according to new proposals from the Ministry of Transportation, reports said Wednesday (June 3).
The relaxation will apply to Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) trains and to high-speed rail trains, but not to local Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) systems, the Liberty Times reported. In addition, allowing travelers not to wear masks will only be applicable if sufficient social distance can be maintained; similar changes will also apply to post offices, the report said.
At the entrance to train stations, passengers will still have their temperature measured and will be asked to wear a mask; while on board, the sale of food, drinks and other products will be resumed from June 7, according to the report. Domestic airlines will also be allowed to offer beverages during the flight.
Some categories of TRA trains will make standing-room tickets available on weekends, but only for a maximum of 120 passengers per train.
June 7 has been chosen as the date to end tough restrictions, because it comes at the close of four consecutive infectiousness periods of 14 days each. On Wednesday, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) reported no new coronavirus cases, marking the 52nd consecutive day without local transmissions.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Prosecutors on Wednesday (June 3) brought a charge of involuntary manslaughter against a driver whose car ran over and killed a drunken man who was lying in the road.
According to an investigation by the Taipei District Prosecutors Office, Chu Yang-chiu (朱仰丘), the son of former legislator Chu Kao-cheng (朱高正), took a taxi after having consumed alcohol on January 13, CNA reported. When the taxi arrived at a traffic light on Huanhe Road in Xindian, New Taipei City, Chu suddenly asked to get out of the taxi.
Taking into account that Huanhe Road was an expressway, the taxi driver did not consent to the request and planned to turn left onto Zhongzheng Road after the traffic light to let Chu disembark; however, Chu opened the car door by himself and got out of the car.
After stepping out of the taxi, Chu was so drunk that he lay down in the expressway. A driver surnamed Yi was driving towards the scene, but when he became aware that a person was lying on the ground, it was too late for him to dodge and his car struck Chu and ran him over.
The prosecutor's investigation indicated that Chu suffered from multiple fractures and died in hospital.
By examining dashcam video clips of other cars passing by the scene, prosecutors found that Chiu was still alive before Yi arrived and that there was adequate lighting available. Therefore, prosecutors brought a charge of involuntary manslaughter against Yi for not paying attention to the road conditions ahead.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As tensions with China continue to ratchet up, Taiwan's military on Wednesday (June 3) released footage of machine guns blazing during a night exercise off the coast of Matsu Island.
Taiwan Today, which is run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), on Wednesday posted to its Twitter feed stunning footage of glowing tracer fire from antiaircraft guns as part of a live-fire exercise. According to the post, the drill was staged by the Matsu Defense Command (MDC) at Renai Village in Nangan Township, also known as Matsu Island.
The island is part of a cluster of tiny islands that comprise Lienchiang County and are situated only 19 kilometers off the coast of communist China's Fujian province. In a clear signal to Beijing, the tweet emphasized that the drill showed that the "fighting men & women" of the defense forces in Matsu are "highly trained & combat-ready."
The post then closed by defiantly declaring "Make no mistake: Taiwan is an island of resilience." The tweet was likely a signal that the country is ready to fend off any aggression by China amid the passage of the new draconian security law for Hong Kong and the fact that it removed the usage of the term "peaceful unification" from its annual work report released during the National People's Congress (NPC).
It is also likely in response to a planned simulated invasion of one of Taiwan's outer islands which China will stage off the coast of Hainan in August. The drill will reportedly include both of China's aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and Shandong.
Based on previous live-fire drills on the island, the guns were likely Browning .50 caliber machine guns mounted on domestically-manufactured CM-21 Armored Vehicles.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Peggy Chen (陳佩琪), wife of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), and a councilwoman have been butting heads over Taiwan's claim that it warned the World Health Organization (WHO) about possible human-to-human transmission of COVID-19.
Chen took to Facebook on Sunday (May 31) to criticize as "far-fetched" the Ministry of Health and Welfare's (MOHW) claim that it sent an e-mail to the WHO warning about the new coronavirus epidemic in Wuhan, China.
In response, Taipei City Councilor Chien Hsu-pei (簡舒培) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) complained about Chen during a city council meeting, saying that her comment did not make sense and asking that the mayor's wife avoid further comment on the matter, lest it affect city administration. To appease the councilwoman, Mayor Ko said that he "will ask her to talk less,".
However, the mayor's wife made more Facebook posts Monday night, explaining that she is not working for the city government and certainly not on its payroll. "What have I done that could have dragged the city government team down?" she asked.
Noting that she is a doctor at Taipei City Hospital, Chen said that if she had made any wrong comments, the city council can send a letter to the hospital and ask them to fire her.
Chen later asked the councilwoman whether doctors are entitled to express their opinions about matters related to the pandemic, Taiwan's response, or the WHO.
The councilwoman posted to Facebook Tuesday to counterattack Chen, saying that she has been totally unbecoming in her role as the mayor's wife and has seriously affected the city government's image.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) responded Tuesday (June 2) to reports of Taiwan being excluded from several countries' border control relaxation, saying the Taiwanese government fully respects decisions made by members of the global community.
Despite its successful pandemic prevention measures, Taiwan was reportedly not listed as a partnering country for several international travel bubbles. Japan, New Zealand, Greece, and Australia have all announced their plans to ease entry bans on visitors from selected nations but Taiwan is not one of them.
National Taiwan University College of Public Health Dean Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權) said he was especially surprised by Taiwan's exclusion in Greece's list of accepted countries for tourists. He said nations with higher risks of coronavirus infections, including China and South Korea, are listed so there is no reason why the Mediterranean nation should disallow Taiwanese visitors.
During a daily press conference on Tuesday, MOFA Spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) stressed that the Taiwanese authorities will respect policies implemented by foreign governments on the basis that they will respect Taiwan's decisions in return. She added that the country's exclusion from travel bubbles will not affect how it carries out its travel policies for international tourists.
Ou said experts from Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) will only allow foreign visitors under the premise that the Taiwanese will be safe from contracting the virus. She also promised that the Taiwanese government will continue to contact other countries about resuming bilateral travel.