TIME Telecommunications

Hong Kong Billionaire Li Ka-shing Eyes British O2 Telecoms Network

Li Ka-shing, Victor Li
Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, right, and his son Victor Li, react during a press conference in Hong Kong Friday, Jan. 9, 2015. Vincent Yu—AP

Acquiring O2 may allow a merger with Li's Three mobile network

Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing is negotiating to spend almost $15 billion to acquire O2, Britain’s second-largest mobile network.

Taking over O2, currently owned by Spain’s Telefonica, would allow Li, 86, to merge the company with Three mobile network, which is currently owned by his firm Hutchison Whampoa. That would create Britain’s largest mobile telecommunications group, reports the BBC.

Hutchison shares increased by 4% after reports of a potential deal emerged, but negotiations with Telefonica are expected to take weeks. The purchase may also be hampered if European industry regulators perceive the move infringes on competition protocols.

In a bid to restructure his business empire, which spans everything from telecommunications to ports, Li, who until he was overtaken by Alibaba boss Jack Ma this year was the richest man in Asia, has spent nearly $30 billion this year acquiring foreign assets to diversify his Hong Kong holdings.

[BBC]

TIME Gadgets

Watch the Latest Must-Have Smart Toys Unveiled at Asia’s Largest Toy Fair

Marvel at the next generation of smart toys

Asia’s biggest toy-and-game fair has just ended in Hong Kong with smart toys predictably stealing the show.

Organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the four-day Toy and Game Fair boasted around 2,000 exhibitors hailing from over 40 countries, and is the second largest industry event in the world.

One big trend for 2015 saw traditional toys getting a high-tech makeover.

“The global trend nowadays is talking about technology and innovation,” Sophia Chong, assistant executive director for HKTDC, tells TIME. “So all buyers wanting something new are looking for technology that can be implanted or integrated with traditional play things.”

Educational toys that feature interactive learning were a big hit at the show. Learning Alphabet With Alpaca, from APPS1010, teaches kids how to spell by using augmented reality, imposing a computer-generated image on the user’s view of the real world. The app can even link up to social media so parents can become involved in their children’s play.

But the “toy” that dazzled most was the Inspire advanced drone system from DJI. It comes equipped with a professional 4K super high-resolution camera, state-of-the-art landscape positioning system and has dual controls so the pilot can focus on navigating while the camera operator simply shoots the film.

“The concept of 4K is something that’s four times better than HD, so it’s able to be shown on the big screen at the cinema,” says Lou Tze-ming, managing director for Windrider RSB Aviation, suppliers for DJI. “It’s the highest level in the industry.”

The Toy and Game Fair was run concurrently with the 2015 Baby Products Fair, the International Licensing Show and International Stationary Fair, and aims to connect businesses and buyers from all around the globe.

“The overriding element is internationality,” says Chong. “It is very important for [exporters] to get into the market place and to show to the buyers their newest products.”

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Student Leader Joshua Wong Questioned Over Pro-Democracy Protests

HONG KONG-CHINA-POLITICS-DEMOCRACY
Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong is pictured outside the High Court in Hong Kong on Jan. 8, 2015 Philippe Lopez—AFP/Getty Images

Authorities have begun cracking down on organizers of the city's so-called Umbrella Revolution

Correction appended: Jan. 16, 2015

Student leaders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations, including 18-year-old Joshua Wong, were questioned on Friday with various offenses relating to the civil-disobedience movement.

“I was held for three hours and I was arrested on charges of calling for, inciting and participating in an unauthorized assembly,” Wong, the leader of the student group Scholarism, told reporters at the city’s police headquarters, according to Agence France-Presse.

Wong was named one of TIME’s Most Influential Teens of 2014.

Authorities in the Chinese special administrative region have recently begun targeting those connected with the protests, which paralyzed downtown areas of this freewheeling financial hub for three months.

Demonstrators were demanding the right to freely elect the head of the city’s government by 2017. Authorities in Beijing insist on first vetting all candidates.

The original version of this story incorrectly described Wong’s encounter with police on Dec. 16, 2015. He was questioned.

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Media Mogul Jimmy Lai Targeted By Petrol Bombs

Demonstrators Continue to Occupy Streets As Xi Calls Hong Kong Protests Illegal
Jimmy Lai, chairman of Next Media Ltd., sits for a photograph in a tent outside the Central Government Offices in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong, China, on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. Lam Yik Fei—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The prominent democracy campaigner has long been an outspoken critic of the Beijing government

Unidentified attackers targeted prominent Hong Kong democracy figure and media mogul Jimmy Lai on Monday, throwing petrol bombs at his residence and the office of the liberal newspaper he founded.

Security camera footage uploaded to the website of the newspaper, Apple Daily, shows a masked man driving up to Lai’s home and throwing a gasoline bomb at the gate, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A similar bomb targeted the headquarters of the paper’s parent company Next Media Ltd. in a separate incident.

“I am fine. I am not scared,” said Lai, who resigned as chairman of Next Media last month after being arrested for his role in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests.

Lai, an outspoken critic of the Beijing government, has been the target of violence in the past, as has Apple Daily.

[WSJ]

TIME Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Authorities Want to Take Teen Protesters From Their Families

Two 14-year-olds may be taken into care for participating in pro-democracy gatherings

Authorities in Hong Kong are seeking to take two children from their families for participating in the city’s pro-democracy demonstrations, in a heavy-handed move that could become a new rallying point for protesters.

One, a 14-year-old girl, was on Monday sent to a children’s home for three weeks while social-welfare investigators review an application brought by the Hong Kong police to remove the child from her father’s care. She was released from the juvenile home on bail on Wednesday night, her lawyer, Jonathan Man, tells TIME.

The girl was arrested in the early hours of Dec. 23 for drawing chalk flowers on the Lennon Wall, a curving swath of concrete leading to the city’s Central Government Offices that was covered with messages and slogans during the so-called Umbrella Revolution.

The other child, also 14, was arrested in November, during the dismantling of a street occupation. He has been allowed to stay with his parents while awaiting another hearing on Jan. 12.

Neither child has been charged with a crime.

Hong Kong media published images of what were said to be the girl’s chalk drawings, which were widely shared on social media.

Patricia Ho, a lawyer who has represented both children, says that the effort to remove the children from their homes is “disproportionate” to their circumstances. Such a drastic measure, she said, is usually reserved for cases where a child’s parents abandon them or when the child is engaging in serious self-harm, including prostitution or selling or using drugs.

“That is not the case here,” says Ho. “There is no severe issue that would affect their right to be with their families.”

“So all I can think of then is that police are using whatever mechanism they can think of to stop teenagers from participating in any protest,” she says.

Hong Kong police said in an emailed statement that an application to transfer a child from his or her home is filed based on numerous factors, including academic background and prior arrest records. Such an application is submitted in “the best interest of the subject child/juvenile without any political consideration,” the statement said.

The Hong Kong democracy movement is primarily student driven, and many teenagers were arrested for participating in street occupations that began on Sept. 28 and lasted until mid-December. High school students in uniform were a common sight on the barricades and in the study areas built at protest sites so that students fighting for free elections would not fall behind on homework.

Though the streets have been cleared, demonstrators have returned nightly to Mong Kok — a blue-collar district on the teeming Kowloon peninsula — under the guise of doing holiday shopping or caroling. Hong Kong police said in a statement Tuesday that children as young as 13 years old were among the 49 people arrested in Mong Kok over the Christmas holiday weekend for offenses including disorderly conduct.

Meanwhile, two democratic legislators on Wednesday visited the children’s home where the girl — referred to on Twitter as Chalk Girl, or the Chalktivist — is being detained, and posed for photographs with copies of her chalk drawing. Scholarism, the high-school-student group that has jointly helmed the protests with its undergraduate counterpart, the Hong Kong Federation of Students, also organized a group of supporters to color the pavement outside the children’s home in chalk flowers.

Ho says the girl has had one prior encounter with police, in which she was the victim of a bullying incident at school, and lives with her father, who suffers from serious hearing loss. The boy is a good student from a “really lovely family,” Ho says.

The lawyer also says that the girl cried in court on learning she would be sent to a children’s home to await the court’s decision and that the father has promised “to go to great lengths” to ensure that his daughter can remain with him, including making a desperate pledge to follow her everywhere.

“She couldn’t understand why she couldn’t go home with her father,” says Ho. “She was very worried she would spent New Year’s Eve in custody.”

The girl, released Wednesday evening, must abide by bail conditions including a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, says Man, who is currently representing the teenager. She and her father “were quite relieved to go home for New Year’s Eve as a family,” he says.

TIME Hong Kong

Christmas Comes Early for Hong Kong, as Van Spills Millions of Dollars on Road

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Getty Images/Imagemore

Good all year long? An accidental cash windfall tested Hong Kongers' niceness on Christmas Eve

Christmas came early for some Hong Kongers on Wednesday afternoon, when a security van spilled 35 million Hong Kong dollars, or more than $4.5 million, in cash on a major thoroughfare.

The sudden bounty — believed to be the gift of the van’s faulty rear door — brought traffic in this city’s congested Wan Chai district to a sudden halt, the South China Morning Post reports. The unexpected, and unintentional, present also presented Hong Kongers with a choice: play nice, keep calm and carry on; or test Santa, keep calm and, well, carry off.

It appears that many were not terribly up to niceness this particular afternoon. With traffic surprised to a stop, passengers ducked out of their cars and onlookers scurried into the dreamlike scene to ferret some of the loot out of the road, local media video footage shows. The cash was packaged in bundles of 500 Hong Kong dollar bills, or about $64, and some bills floated loose onto the street.

Police estimated that about 15 million Hong Kong dollars, or around $2 million, went missing and encouraged the opportunists to give back their Christmas Eve hauls, warning that taking the cash was a “very serious crime.”

Christmas, however, did not come at all for the British security firm responsible for transporting the cash. The agency, G4S, told the South China Morning Post it expects to be liable for losses.

[South China Morning Post]

TIME Hong Kong

Billionaire Hong Kong Tycoon and Former Official Jailed for Corruption

In this photo taken through a tinted glass, former Hong Kong Chief Secretary Rafael Hui, right, is escorted by a staff member from Hong Kong Correctional Services inside a van outside the High Court in Hong Kong on Dec. 19, 2014 Vincent Yu—AP

Case seen as a victory for transparency in China's freewheeling financial hub

The former No. 2 official in the Hong Kong government, Rafael Hui, and billionaire Thomas Kwok — until last week co-chairman of the world’s second largest property developer by market value, Sun Hung Kai — were sentenced Tuesday to 7½ and five years in prison respectively on graft charges.

Hui was ordered to pay the Hong Kong government $1.4 million, equivalent to the bribe he had been found guilty of accepting from Kwok, the South China Morning Post reports.

The two are the most prominent Hong Kongers to date to be snared by the city’s Independent Commission Against Corruption. They were found guilty last week of colluding in the early to middle part of the past decade to ensure advantages for Sun Hung Kai.

“It is vitally important in these times the Hong Kong government and business community remain and are seen to remain corruption-free,” said Judge Andrew Macrae, before delivering his sentence on the 66-year-old Hui and 63-year-old Kwok.

Kwok’s top aide Thomas Chan and ex-stock-exchange official Francis Kwan were also sentenced to six and five years respectively. His brother Raymond Kwok was acquitted of all charges.

[SCMP]

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Billionaire Convicted of Conspiracy to Bribe Top Official

Thomas Kwok
Thomas Kwok, co-chairman of Hong Kong developer Sun Hung Kai Properties, arrives at the High Court in Hong Kong on Dec. 19, 2014 Kin Cheung—AP

Thomas Kwok has a net worth of over $10 billion, making him one of Asia's richest people

Hong Kong billionaire Thomas Kwok was convicted of conspiring to bribe one of the city’s former top officials on Friday, following five days of deliberations by a nine-member jury.

Kwok was found guilty of colluding with Hong Kong’s former No.2 government official Rafael Hui to make payments of $1.1 million and ensure favorable treatment for his real estate company, Bloomberg reports.

Kwok’s brother Raymond, who was also arrested in March 2012 and is co-chairman of the world’s second largest real estate company Sun Hung Kai, was cleared of all charges, while two others were convicted for their role in the scandal.

Both brothers are worth around $10 billion each, placing them in the top tier of Asia’s richest people.

Hui, the former chief secretary of Hong Kong, was convicted on five charges including conspiracy to accept bribes while he was in office.

[Bloomberg]

TIME Macau

You Now Can’t Use Umbrellas Around China’s Leader, Even if It Rains

Xi Jinping Peng Liyuan
In this photo provided by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, and his wife Peng Liyuan, center right, wave as they arrive at the international airport in Macau on Dec. 19, 2014 Cheong Kam Ka—AP

Umbrellas have become a symbol of democracy, creating a farcical dilemma for Communist Party leaders

Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution has turned the humble brolly into such a potent symbol of democracy that it appears China’s President Xi Jinping does not want them in his presence.

When Xi landed in the gaming enclave of Macau on Friday, journalists waiting to cover his arrival were told not to use umbrellas — even though it was raining. Media were given raincoats instead, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) reported.

No one in the official greeting party for the Chinese leader used umbrellas, either, Agence France-Presse remarked.

It was unclear who had made the Orwellian decision to banish umbrellas. Airport authorities in Macau claimed that it was too windy to hold umbrellas, lest they supposedly flew out of hands and endangered aircraft.

According to the Hong Kong Observatory’s website, Macau experienced northerly winds of no more than 19 km/h on Friday.

Umbrellas became a political icon after Hong Kong demonstrators used them to protect themselves against police pepper spray and batons during their 79-day fight for free elections. The street occupations ended on Dec. 15, but umbrellas have remained a poignant symbol of resistance against considerable odds.

That may put China’s political leaders, in their expensive gray suits, in a farcical bind over how to stay dry at public functions when the weather is against them.

In late October, a photo of Xi holding an umbrella — taken a year earlier, when umbrellas had no political connotations — won China’s top journalism prize. However, it was quickly turned into a meme by democracy protesters, and into life-size cardboard cutouts that were erected in the protest areas, where posing for a photo with the President, umbrella unfurled, became a must for visitors.

Xi is in Macau for two days to commemorate the gambling hub’s 15th year back in China’s hands, after centuries of colonial rule under the Portuguese. He is expected to use his presence there to gently dissuade the Chinese enclave — which, like Hong Kong, is governed under a “one country, two systems” formula — from going the way of unruly Hong Kong, where dissidents are agitating for the right to freely elect the head of the city’s government.

TIME Macau

Chinese President Xi Jinping to Visit a Restive Macau

China's President Xi attends a meeting with former U.S. President Clinton at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing
China's President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with former U.S. President Bill Clinton at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov. 18, 2013 Jason Lee—Reuters

Is Macau the next Hong Kong? Not if Beijing has its way

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Macau on Friday to commemorate the tiny enclave’s 15th anniversary of its transfer from Portuguese rule back to China’s hands.

During his visit, Xi will undertake the unenviable task of laying the groundwork to make sure that Macau, a metropolis of casinos and the only place in China where casino gambling is legal, does not go the way of Hong Kong, the rogue city awash in political discontent, Reuters reports.

That will be challenging: amidst Xi’s nationwide crackdown on corruption, Macau’s booming casinos, widely seen as salves to political woes here, are experiencing an unprecedented slump — its six biggest operators saw revenues slashed by about $75 billion this year. Meanwhile, a fledgling democratic movement has emerged out of frustrations with rising inequality and other social ills in this gambling hub.

Macau is in name a cousin to Hong Kong, with which its shares its designation as a Chinese special administrative region and enjoys certain rights and privileges alien on the mainland. However, it has in practice hewed much more closely to the mainland than Hong Kong.

Read more at Reuters

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