Connect with us

Business

Hong Kong’s blurring border with China a sign of things to come

Published

on

Hong Kong's territory is fast being subsumed into Beijing's blueprint for southern China
Share this:

From the hill in northernmost Hong Kong where Jasper Law stood, the border with China was obvious — a narrow river dividing farmlands and fishponds from the gleaming skyscrapers of megacity Shenzhen.

Friday is the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s transition from British to Chinese rule.

While the view from the hilltops of Lok Ma Chau suggests Hong Kong remains clearly distinct from mainland China, the territory is fast being subsumed into Beijing’s blueprint for southern China.

And as the border is chipped away, the lack of public consultation has done little to ease the lingering discomfort some Hong Kongers feel about living on the mainland’s doorstep.

“In the 25 years since the handover, the border has become more and more blurry,” said Law, a pro-democracy politician from the border area.

The softening boundary has preoccupied many Hong Kongers.

And it was one of the catalysts for the huge democracy protests in the finance hub three years ago, a movement initially triggered by an attempt to allow extraditions to China’s mainland.

Beijing’s subsequent crackdown has only sped up Hong Kong’s absorption.

– Security agents roam free –

The integration of Hong Kong’s population and economy with mainland China has been under way for decades.

Between 1997 and 2021, more than 1.1 million people migrated from China via a limited-quota “one-way permit” scheme, almost a seventh of Hong Kong’s current population.

Mandarin was increasingly pushed in schools, sparking resentment among those who felt the city’s distinct Cantonese culture was being eroded. 

Hong Kong’s borders were also tweaked, most notably in the 2010s with an expansion of China’s high-speed rail into the city.

Part of the terminus in Hong Kong came under Chinese jurisdiction, meaning the mainland’s Communist Party-controlled legal system applied there.

Beijing’s imposition of a sweeping national security law to curb dissent following the 2019 protests has further eroded the legal firewall between Hong Kong and the mainland.

Under the law, which was imposed by Beijing directly rather than passed through the legislature, the mainland’s security agents can now operate freely in Hong Kong, immune from the city’s laws.

Beijing says it can now also try the most serious national security offences in mainland China.

And the Covid-19 pandemic has further whittled away at the boundaries.

While the border has been mostly closed under China’s strict zero-Covid rules, mainland medics were granted exemptions to work in Hong Kong’s hospitals.

Construction teams were also sent across the border to build emergency health facilities, even constructing a new bridge with Shenzhen to ease their travel.

– ‘Power imbalance’ –

Hong Kong’s government now plans to transform the border area with a two-decade plan that will place integration with Shenzhen at the heart of economic development in the city’s northernmost areas, shifting focus away from Hong Kong’s glitzy Victoria Harbour.

Dubbed the “Northern Metropolis”, the HK$100 billion ($12.7 billion) project envisages building a new megacity next to Shenzhen — a new node in Beijing’s “Greater Bay Area” ambitions to create a Chinese Silicon Valley connecting Hong Kong and multiple cities in neighbouring Guangdong province.

The government says the new metropolis will create 650,000 new jobs as well as much-needed new homes in one of the world’s least affordable cities.

Veteran urban planner Kenneth To said he thought the government’s vision was far from coherent, and bemoaned the small circle of vested interests that dominated discussion on development in Hong Kong. 

“The power imbalance is worrying,” he told AFP.

But Jack Lam, a mobile phone accessories seller who lives in a district near the border, was more upbeat. 

“When the population increases, you can expect more development to come, there will be more people starting businesses for sure,” the 35-year-old said.

Share this:

Business

Uber courts drivers by letting them pick rides

Published

on

By

Uber drivers in the United States who had to accept ride requests before learning where they were headed will soon be seeing details of trips being sought along with the fares
Share this:

Uber on Friday said it will let drivers in the United States see trip details before deciding whether to accept them — a new feature long sought by drivers.

A common lament by drivers at the app-summoned ride platform has been that they have to accept a request before learning where trips will take them, or how profitable they will be.

“Our new trip request screen makes it easier for drivers to decide if a trip is worth their time and effort by providing all the details — including exactly how much they’ll earn and where they’re going — upfront,” chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in a blog post.

Revealing details only once a driver had accepted a trip was seen as a way to ensure riders would get picked up promptly, and not be snubbed because they were headed to locations deemed undesirable by drivers.

But Khosrowshahi said drivers have made it clear that they want more flexibility and choice.

Uber said the new feature, called Upfront Fares, was tested in several cities and was a success with drivers while resulting in shorter wait times for passengers.

The ride-sharing firm will also shift from sending drivers a single ride request at a time, to letting them pick from a list of detailed passenger requests in an area.

Uber is engaged in a long-term effort to prove that its business model is socially and economy viable.

The “gig economy” — which uses temporary independent contractors for short-term tasks — has grown rapidly since Uber’s launch in 2009 and is promoted as a flexible way for people to earn money without the constraints of a full-time job.

But there has been growing backlash in countries around the world about the conditions and dangers gig workers face.

Uber driver ranks — which shrank during the Covid-19 pandemic — have not rebounded as quickly as demand for rides, and soaring fuel costs have made the gigs less attractive.

The firm in March announced a surcharge on both rides and Uber Eats meal deliveries that would go directly to drivers to help offset high fuel prices.

Share this:
Continue Reading

Business

Elon Musk fires back at Twitter in court battle

Published

on

By

Court rules require Elon Musk to provide a public version of his 'confidential' counter claims against Twitter as the court battle over holding him to the terms of the $44 bn buyout deal heads for trial in October.
Share this:

Elon Musk on Friday filed claims against Twitter as he fights back against the tech firm’s lawsuit demanding he be held to his $44 billion buyout deal.

Musk’s counter-suit was submitted along with a legal defense against Twitter’s claim that the billionaire is contractually bound to complete the deal he inked in April to buy Twitter, the Chancery Court in the state of Delaware said in a notice.

The 164-page filing was submitted as being “confidential,” meaning the documents were not accessible by the public, the notice indicated.

Rules of the court, however, require Musk to submit a public version of the filing with trade secrets or other sensitive information redacted.

A judge has ordered a five-day trial over Twitter’s lawsuit against Musk to begin on October 17.

The Tesla boss wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but then in July announced he was “terminating” their agreement on accusations the firm misled him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts.

Twitter, whose stock price closed at $41.61 on Friday, has stuck by its estimates regarding accounts run by software “bots” rather than people, and argued that Musk is contriving excuses to back out of the contract.

The social media platform has urged shareholders to endorse the deal, setting a vote on the merger for September 13.

“We are committed to closing the merger on the price and terms agreed upon with Mr. Musk,” Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal and board chairman Bret Taylor said in a copy of a letter to investors.

Billions of dollars are at stake, but so is the future of Twitter, which Musk has said should allow any legal speech — an absolutist position that has sparked fears the network could be used to incite violence.

Share this:
Continue Reading

Business

Musk, Twitter get Oct. 17 trial in buyout fight

Published

on

By

Twitter is due to face off with Tesla boss Elon Musk on October 17 in the US state of Delaware in a buyout trial
Share this:

Twitter’s lawsuit to force Elon Musk to complete his $44 billion buyout bid is set to go to trial on October 17, a US judge has ordered, in a case with major stakes for both sides.

The trial is due to open in a court in the eastern state of Delaware and is set to last five days to decide whether Musk can walk away from the deal.

The Tesla boss wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but then in July announced he was “terminating” their agreement on accusations the firm misled him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts.

Twitter has countered by saying Musk already agreed to the deal and can’t back out now.

An order from the judge handling the case, Kathaleen McCormick, lays out an expedited schedule to resolve a fight that has left Twitter in limbo.

She reminds both sides that they “shall cooperate in good faith” on matters like handing over information to each other, a key topic that can result in delays. 

Billions of dollars are at stake, but so is the future of Twitter, which Musk has said should allow any legal speech — an absolutist position that has sparked fears the network could be used to incite violence.

Twitter blamed disappointing results last week on “headwinds,” including the uncertainty imposed on the company by Musk’s chaotic buyout bid.

Share this:
Continue Reading

Featured