Asian Insider July 8: New direction for Hong Kong

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.

HONGKONGERS TARGET BEIJING

Hong Kong’s mass demonstrations started as a protest against an extradition bill that would have helped rendition some potential offenders to the mainland. Now, in their fourth mass demonstration in a month, the protesters are targeting more than the city’s government -- taking aim at Beijing itself. 

The peaceful march, from Salisbury Garden in the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district to West Kowloon station, was the first to be held outside of Hong Kong Island since major demonstrations began last month, says China Correspondent Danson Cheong, currently in Hong Kong to beef up our coverage of the turmoil.. But, he says,  the turnout was much smaller than that of the first two Sunday protests last month, when one million people took to the streets on June 9 and two million turned out on June 16.

Organisers said 230,000 took part yesterday, but police pegged the figure at just 56,000. The idea, they said, was that visitors from the mainland could take Hong Kong's unhappiness over the Bill back to "all corners of China".

JAPANESE HARDBALL SEOUL

Most Japanese approve of the government's decision to tighten controls on exports to South Korea of specialist materials vital to its tech industry, a poll showed on Monday (July 8), as a long-running dispute over colonial history threatens to damage business ties between the neighbours.

Bloomberg News said some 58 per cent of respondents to the poll carried out by the Japan News Network, or JNN, said they approved of the government's policy, compared with 24 per cent who did not. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday reiterated denials that the checks were a form of retaliation against South Korea for recent court rulings holding Japanese companies liable for cases of forced labour before and during World War II. Japanese officials have said the judgments damaged trust between the US allies and risked undermining the 1965 treaty that forms the basis of their relations.

CHINA’S VC BUST

Venture deals in China plummeted in the second quarter as investors pulled back amid unpredictable trade talks and growing concerns about start-up valuations. The value of investments in the country tumbled 77 per cent to US$9.4 billion (S$12.78 billion) in the second quarter from a year earlier, while the number of deals roughly halved to 692, according to the market research firm Preqin, cited by Bloomberg News. That may signal the end of a five-year surge in venture capital investment that fostered a new generation of start-ups from ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing to TikTok-parent Bytedance Ltd.

The second quarter of 2018 marked the peak for China venture deals with a total of US$41.3 billion invested. That included a US$14 billion round for digital payments giant Ant Financial and US$3 billion for e-commerce upstart Pinduoduo Inc. By comparison, the largest venture deal in the second quarter of 2019 was a US$1 billion investment in JD Health, the health care affiliate of e-commerce provider JD.com Inc.

 "We're seeing real stress in the system for the first time," said Gary Rieschel, a founding partner at Qiming Venture Partners who has worked in China and the US "We have never seen a downturn in the China market. For 20 years, it's been pretty much up and to the right."

FRESHMEN FALLING

Caught in the crossfire of the US-China trade war, Chinese students are looking for alternative study destinations - threatening to turn off an important source of revenue for American universities.China accounts for nearly a third of foreign students on US campuses who pour billions of dollars into the economy, but in March their numbers dropped for the first time in a decade.

Visa delays, concerns over being shut out of research projects and safety fears have turned off Chinese students, according to several admissions consultancies and nearly a dozen parents and students interviewed by AFP. Rival education powerhouses such as Britain, Australia and Canada are the biggest beneficiaries, a survey by New Oriental China's biggest private education provider said.

Japan and South Korea - traditional study abroad destinations for the Chinese elite - and parts of Europe, especially Germany and Scandinavian countries with strong engineering programmes, have also seen an uptick in applications, the survey found.

The chilling effect started mid-last year, after US President Donald Trump's administration slashed the visa duration of students in science and technology fields from five years to one in some cases.

SINGAPORE HIGH JINKS

James Bond’s favourite airline is in the news -- for irregular behaviour that would probably make the mythical British spy, famed for his suave ways, squirm uncomfortably. Three British Airways (BA) crew members have been suspended and could lose their jobs after they allegedly ran naked in a Singapore hotel, our sister publication The New Paper says, citing a report in The Sun. 

The two men and a woman, who have been sent home, were part of a drinking session during a stopover in Singapore. Last year, BA cabin crew were linked to a case of outrage of modesty in a Singapore hotel.

British media reported that a crew member had allegedly raped an air stewardess while on a stopover here. The incident allegedly occurred during "an off-duty drinks party", the Daily Mail reported. The incident was believed to have occurred at Hotel Jen Tanglin, The Straits Times reported. Several British and international news sites have reported that Johannesburg, Las Vegas, Bangkok and Singapore are some of the cities where BA employees are notorious for their behaviour.

Other developments:

We had a feast of stories over the weekend. Here are a few you should not miss:

- A special report on Hong Kong, the Special Administrative Region that was handed back to China by departing British colonialists in 1997. Regional Correspondent Elizabeth Law, East Asia Editor Goh Sui Noi and others contributed to this package. Read it here: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/whats-eating-hong-kong

- Remember all those flights disrupted by unauthorised drones at Gatwick and Heathrow, so me of the world's busiest airports? Well, Southeast Asian hub Singapore-Changi had its share of the menace this month. Senior Aviation Correspondent Karamjit Kaur discusses how Singapore is trying to cope with unmanned aerial vehicles, which, like it or not, will simply not fly away.

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/transport/drones-boon-or-bane

- Last year, when the Malaysian king abdicated, there was speculation that it was linked to his relationship with a Russian beauty queen. Now, former Miss Moscow Oksana Voevodina has gone public on Instagram about her life as the Sultan of Kelantan's royal consort, confirming that the King had taken a Russian wife, says Trinna Leong.

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/russian-consort-reveals-royal-life-with-sultan-of-kelantan-on-instagram

 - Why would a woman want to join Islamic State?  Europol recently reported that women are now playing a greater role in ISIS, "both in front-line fighting and terrorist activities in the West". In these two articles one explains why some women join the terror group while the other argues that those who join ISIS should be treated as would-be terrorists, not victims.

https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/why-some-women-join-isis and https://www.straitstimes.com/world/unremorseful-isis-bride-is-not-a-victim-she-betrayed-britain
 

That is all for the day, folks. Track us on www.straitstimes.com for the latest on Asia. Meanwhile, seize the day!

Ravi