Countdown to the Chinese New Year around the world for the year of the mouse


A live countdown to the Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year) for Hong Kong, Hanoi, Vietnam, and New York on January 25, 2020.

While most of the world celebrates the New Year on January 1, many people also celebrate the traditional new year based on the lunar calendar. Celebrate as the clock strikes midnight and the new year arrives. Happy New Year from the Youtube Battles community! 🙂

At the beginning of this year we did a live countdown to 2020 with coverage for all 35 time zones in the world so that everyone could celebrate the moment as the clock struck midnight in their time zone on New Years Eve and the new year began. As the day progressed, the countdown was updated to show the next time zones to hit the year 2020.

Chinese New Year 2020 falls on January 25 | Human World …

春晚合家欢系列之同一种乡愁 | 订阅CCTV春晚

北京时间1月24日20:00,2020年中央广播电视总台春节联欢晚会将如约而至!锁定CCTV春晚频道,春晚直播等你来看,我们不见不散!
2020年中央广播电视总台春节联欢晚会直播地址:https://bit.ly/2R6DIOK

Celebrating Spring Festival with KOLs at the CGTN office 四位外国网红齐聚央视大楼喜迎春节

 

 

Moderate gains for year of the rat – StarProperty



Chinese people around the world prepare for the year of the mouse

People in Qingdao, East China’s Shandong Province pick hangings with Chinese character “Fu (fortune)” at a market on Monday. Photo: cnsphoto

The Chinese Lunar New Year will arrive on Saturday. Chinese people across the country and around the world are preparing to welcome the year of mouse with various traditions.

Chinese people value celebrating the New Year with families.

As of Monday, the national railway has served 12.24 million trips within 11 days since the peak travel season started, a 19.8 percent year-on-year increase. A total of 1,370 temporary trains have been added, China National Radio reported Tuesday.

Traditional conventions in Spring Festival vary across China.

In Chaozhou, South China’s Guangdong Province, people march with god sculptures from temples. “The gong and drum band would follow the firecrackers in the march,” Chen Aijing, a Chaozhou resident, told the Global Times.

“Each village would have different dates to celebrate. There would be performance for Chaozhou operas and traditional puppet play,” she said.

Several days before the New Year day, people in Guangzhou, Guangdong’s capital city go shopping in “Flower Street” where one can buy almost anything. On December 28 of the Lunar Calendar, families clean their houses. On the New Year Day, they make rice cakes, according to Zhao Shi, a local resident.

In Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei Province, there used to be dragon and lion dances, but the convention has been replaced by a lighting show. “Dried fish, meat and sausages are a must for Spring Festival,” a local university student Wu Han said.

Wu interns in Chongli, North China’s Hebei Province. Due to the spread of pneumonia in his home city, Wu hesitated whether he would return home.

In the northeastern provinces, people usually stay indoors during the festival due to cold temperatures.

“Watching the Spring Festival gala is a must for us,” Lun Yu, a resident from Da-

qing, Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, told the Global Times on Tuesday. Her big family gathers together on the New Year eve and makes dumplings with fillings of sauerkraut and pork. The dumplings are served on the table right at midnight.

For Chinese living overseas, it is often difficult for them to go home at Spring Festival. Tina Ma, who lives in Melbourne, Australia, decided to visit a friend in Brisbane. “We plan to have a big meal and watch the gala on the internet,” she told the Global Times.

Police officers perform traditional dance at a Spring Festival gala in Du’an Yao autonomous county, South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on Sunday. Photo: cnsphoto

Colored lanterns featuring the Red Army displayed in Zunyi, Southwest China’s Guizhou Province. Photo: cnsphoto

A child is attracted by holiday decorations at a Spring Festival market in San Francisco. Photo: cnsphoto

A child tries the head decoration of Chakhar clan in Hohhot, North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at an event to celebrate Spring Festival. Photo: cnsphoto

A man is writing couplets at the National Library of China in Beijing on Tuesday. An Exhibition on folk arts and intangible cultural heritage about Spring Festival kicks off here. Photo: Li Hao/GT

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Spring Festival dinner tables underscore digital advantage

From Norwegian salmon, Bostonian lobsters to Chilean cherries, the dinner tables of Chinese people have never been more globalized in the run-up to the Lunar New Year, the most important reunion time for Chinese families.

What’s behind the most important feast for Chinese points to the key to China’s economic appeal – the government’s opening-up efforts, growing consumer demand for diversified choices and better quality, and a digital economy that helps accelerate the country’s consumption upgrading.

As China is shifting toward a consumption-based economy, its rising household consumption and enhanced opening-up to the outside world indicate the great potential of the Chinese market, which attracts attention from foreign companies and exporters.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s retail sales rose 8 percent year-on-year to some 41.16 trillion yuan ($6 trillion) in 2019, with the contribution of consumption to GDP expansion reaching 57.8 percent and remaining the top growth engine for the economy. Moreover, the country’s per capita GDP exceeded the $10,000-mark last year. By any measure, there is still plenty of room for China’s consumption to grow.

But most importantly, a large-scale digital market has taken shape in China, offering a significant boost to consumption, which may be the biggest difference between China’s consumer market and those in other countries. With the upgrading of internet services, the popularization of e-commerce and the change of consumption habits, China’s internet generation of consumers have become accustomed to buying all their daily necessities online. Such efficiency and simplicity have greatly encouraged consumption innovations, providing more and better goods and services options for consumers.

In the process of promoting its consumption upgrading, China’s digital economy has not just boosted its foreign trade but also offered a lift to the rural economy. According to information from Tmall, it sold 190 million kilograms of agricultural commodities during a shopping campaign in early January this year, with income for each participating farmer increasing by 1,037 yuan.

With the rise of the digital economy, Chinese farmers are also using the tool to expand marketing channels for their output so as to improve the living standards. That’s a big difference between China and India. While rural Chinese are embracing the internet and making use of it, Indians in rural regions are resisting the shifts e-commerce will bring, which somehow explains the great vitality in the Chinese economy.

In short, China’s economic prowess lies largely in its digital economy, which sees all parts of society connect with one another to generate continuous momentum for the country to maintain strong growth.

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Chinese people to celebrate festival despite disease impact

The specter of the Wuhan novel coronavirus hovers over China with at least 544 confirmed cases across the country, and most provinces have reportedly had suspected cases, but due to the approach of the most important festival in Chinese tradition – Chinese New Year – many people across the nation maintained optimistic and will go ahead to celebrate the festival.

 

Celebration for Chinese Lunar New Year held in Chinatown of Yangon
Celebration for Chinese Lunar New Year held in Chinatown of Yangon

S.Korea’s real GDP growth hits 10-year low in 2019

South Korea’s real gross domestic product (GDP), adjusted for inflation, posted the lowest growth in 10 years last year, central bank data showed Wednesday.

S.Korea posts lowest growth in a decade

South Korea’s economy expanded at its slowest pace for a decade last year, the central bank said Wednesday.

Chinese economy in good position for future growth: US economist

The Chinese economy is in a good position for future growth as the country is making headway in further reform and opening-up at an appropriate pace, a senior US economist has said.

Tariff war risk may go beyond economic loss

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Washington’s unsustainable deficit hangs over global economy


With the widening US budget gap, it is no longer a secret that such a high level of federal spending is unsustainable and the resulting debt burden has become a worry for the global economy.

According to data from the US Treasury Department, the federal budget deficit went on the rise in 2019, hitting $1.02 trillion and marking the first calendar year the deficit has exceeded $1 trillion since 2012. Given the country’s tax revenues, government spending is obviously on an unsustainable path. While total government receipts grew 5 percent in 2019, federal spending increased at a faster pace of 7.5 percent.

More worryingly, as the economy slows amid headwinds, it is basically impossible for the US government to make ends meet by raising tax revenues. So based on the current trend, it will probably become a norm for the annual federal deficit to top $1 trillion in the future.

Undoubtedly, massive fiscal deficits will prompt a steady rise in public debt. According to data released by the Treasury Department on November 1, the US national debt surpassed $23 trillion for the first time in history. The figure is equivalent to about 110 percent of the country’s GDP.

Of course, it should be acknowledged that US Treasury bonds are still considered safe-haven assets in the current uncertain global markets as they are seen as secure due to their strong ratings. Treasury securities held by foreign holders amounted to $6.78 trillion as of the end of October 2019, up $580 billion compared with a year earlier, according to Treasury data issued on December 16, 2019.

In the meantime, however, the share of US debt held by foreign holders has fallen from a peak of 34.1 percent in July 2012 to about 29 percent today. The decline also reflects the accelerated expansion of US debt issuance.

So far there is no sign of any sort of sustained plan for narrowing the US deficit to at least rein in its debt expansion. Nor does the government show any sign of urgency on this issue. Maybe the only response from the Trump administration is to pressure the Federal Reserve to cut rates, a move that could help lower its interest payments on debt and devalue its currency to ease the debt burden.

Such surge in irresponsibility could be attributed to two factors – its high creditworthiness and the financial supremacy of the US dollar. Since a collapse of the US economy may cause an economic disaster around the world, the US government could be better off counting on the world to pay the bill.

Sadly, there is no way out under the current circumstances, and the only hope now is that Americans will take some concrete measures to reverse the trend before a debt crisis truly breaks out.

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US gains limited from changed China policy


The year 2019 has been one in which US sought to reconstruct its relations with China.

First, the US reset the premise of its policies toward China. From former president Bill Clinton to Barack Obama, Washington used to consider living with a rising China conditionally as the precondition; but since Donald Trump took office, he has changed the relatively friendly premise into a hostile one. Trying to slow down China’s development and preventing the country from surpassing or even replacing the US have become the real intention of his China policy.

Second, the US reframed its relations with China, taking economic and trade ties as the turning point, as well as putting in more efforts in diplomacy, security, politics and culture. The key tools in its reconstruction of economic and trade ties were the war of tariffs, technology and finance.

During 2019, the trade war launched by the US against China saw many ups and downs. The number of products on which the two sides slapped duties reached an unprecedented scale. With the escalating tech war against China, the US Commerce Department added Huawei and 70 affiliates to its “entity list.” Besides, China was listed as a currency manipulator by the US Department of Treasury.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration carried out a whole-of-government approach to compete with China and imposed all-round pressure on China.

The US has continued to meddle in Taiwan-related affairs. The Trump administration approved the sale of 66 F-16 fighters to Taiwan in August, the biggest military transaction between the US and Taiwan. Then US National Security Advisor John Bolton’s meeting with Taiwan’s National Security Council (NSC) head David Lee in the White House in May indicated the upgrade of US-Taiwan relations, which happened for the first time since 1950s.

Most seriously, the US was trying to promote Taiwan’s status as a sovereign state. In the Indo-Pacific Strategy Report issued by US Department of Defense, Taiwan was publicly listed as a country; and the Coordination Council for North American Affairs was changed into Taiwan Council for US Affairs.

In 2019, US so-called freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea were much more aggressive. The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was also besieged and smeared by the US. The US Indo-Pacific Strategy is meant to counter China’s BRI.

Additionally, the US has stepped up competition with China politically and ideologically and kept attacking China’s political system.

In terms of the issues of Xinjiang and Hong Kong, US interference was way more blatant than before. The US even passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, in order to legalize its future interference in the Hong Kong issue. Moreover, the US attacked China’s governance in Xinjiang. Not only did the Ministry of Commerce impose export control over 28 Chinese business entities, but the US Department of State also announced visa restrictions against Chinese officials and their relatives. US Congress, furthermore, passed the so-called Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, keeping up the pressure on China even more.

The series of measures the Trump administration employed to restructure the China-US relationship framework are aggressive.

The Trump administration is trying to change the way China and US interact. It believes that Washington should abandon the engagement policy and cooperation should give way to strategic competition and that the US must pressure China to make concessions. That being the case, the Trump administration has changed the approach of engagement and hedging, reduced engagement and cooperation, and increased confrontation and conflicts with China.

When some hawks within the Trump government talk about China-US competition, what they really want are confrontation and conflict. Many working-level dialogue mechanisms established during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations are no longer in operation. Now Washington resorts to trade, technological and financial wars as well as sanctions. How far can the US go in this way?

First, it depends on how much price the US is willing to pay. Competition, decoupling, confrontation, and non-cooperation all come at a price. The US-launched trade war against China has impacted US agricultural and manufacturing industries and forced consumers to pay more, while the technological war has put the US high-tech industry under risk of losing the Chinese market. Escalating military competition with China means a significant increase in US military expenditure. Restricting China-US people-to-people exchanges will also cause losses to American universities and research institutions.

In fact, with the negative effects of the Trump administration’s China policy increasingly becoming apparent, doubts within the US have grown. Although the US elites have generally reached a consensus on a tougher stance against China, they have yet to agree on how much price the US can pay.

Second, China-US relations are the result of bilateral interactions and cannot be unilaterally decided by the US. Facing heightened US pressure, China is exploring more effective ways to respond. Beijing is not afraid of competition.

Finally, the attitudes of the international community and the US allies matter. The China policy and other foreign policies of the Trump administration not only aimed at maximizing US interests, but also have the features of protectionism and unilateralism. The trade war against China has damaged global industrial and value chains, undermining the interests of other countries including US allies.

To sum up, although the US has benefited from its China policy recalibration, its gains are limited. How far will the US move to restructure its relations with China go? It hinges on the changes in US domestic politics as well as China’s will and art in wrangling with the US.

By Wu Xinbo Source:Global Times – The author is dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University.
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Unfair to impose blanket tax on property owners


THE Penang government should first study the assessment rates for different categories of properties before imposing a blanket tax on everyone which is unfair, says Citizen Awareness Chant Group (Chant) legal adviser Citizen Awareness Chant Group (Chant) (pic).He said the state should look into the categories of assessment rates like those imposed in developed countries before imposing the rates on ratepayers.

“The lowest charged fees should be for the disabled (OKU) owners and those in the B40 group.

“For owner-occupied properties, they should be charged a lower rate and the highest rates should be imposed for commercial and industrial offices, ” he said at a press conference at Jalan Pykett on Wednesday.

Yan Lee said although commercial properties like restaurants and hawker complexes would be paying higher assessment, it is fair as commercial properties have more rubbish to be cleared.

“These premises frequently take up the cost for public health inspection and council cleaning services.

“So, there should be a categorisation of how the rates are charged, like different rates for properties that are also rented out, vacant or used for commercial purposes, ” he added.

Yan Lee said in developed countries, there are categories which include owner occupied, rented out properties, unoccupied properties, rented out long-term or Airbnb properties, residential properties used for offices and industrial properties.

“But, as the state is moving forward and following the footsteps of a developed country, there is also the question of how these categories can be monitored.

“In this case, the state should consider having an enforcement team like in Australia to check on the properties at random.

“With the usage of a digital camera similar to those used for parking fine routines, photos can be taken when checks are done on the properties.

“We hope the state would do a study to look into this and try to implement the system, along with imposing different rates for the different properties, ” he said.

Earlier, it was announced that an assessment rate review would see almost all residential property owners in Penang paying more in assessment taxes.

On the island, a total of 255,280 out of the 263,544 property owners would have to pay more in the revised assessment tax, while the increase would involve 196,347 out of 215,586 houses on the mainland.

Following the announcement, the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and Seberang Prai City Council (MBSP) started hearing sessions for objections against the review in October.

It was reported that MBPP had received a total of 54,459 objections from over 322,000 ratepayers, while MBSP received a total 40,666 objections from 327,000 ratepayers.

Meanwhile, Yan Lee said that in the case of the parcel rent, (previously known as the quit rent), commissions should be applied based on how the land is used.

“The increase in the quit rent was announced earlier from RM10 to RM30. Quantum-wise, the amount is not a lot, but percentage wise, it is a lot, ” he said.

Earlier, the quit rent came into effect where rates are calculated based on the total plot of land which the building was built on and rates for parcel rent are based on the size of each unit.

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Macao-rise with China while Hongkong in decline, why?


Chinese President Xi Jinping (front C) and his wife Peng Liyuan (behind Xi) walk on the red carpet in front of outgoing Macao Chief Executive Fernando Chui (C) and incoming chief executive Ho Iat Seng (blue tie)
after Xi and his wife’s arrival at the Macau International Airport in Macao on Wednesday, ahead of celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the handover from Portugal to China. Photo: AFP :
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Macao in Transition: Witness to History / Macao in Transition: Rising Stars

HK, Macao share more differences than similarities

Hong Kong and Macao, China’s two Special Administrative Regions (SARs) practicing the “one country, two systems” principle, share more differences than similarities, while Hong Kong’s social turbulence offers Macao a lesson, observers and analysts said.

From the former Portuguese colony to the world’s gaming hub, Macao is poised to become the richest place, overtaking Qatar with the highest per capita gross domestic product on a purchasing power parity basis by 2020. The small city, with a land area of 32.9 square kilometers, has seen its economic growth skyrocket by over 700 percent over the past two decades and become a city with high social welfare.

While Macao is embracing the 20th anniversary celebration of its return to China, it has been praised again for setting a good example of implementing the “one country, two systems” principle, especially as Hong Kong, which returned to the motherland two years before Macao, has been engulfed in months of anti-government protests.

During President Xi Jinping’s visit to Macao from Wednesday to Friday to attend events marking the 20th anniversary of Macao’s return, he is expected to announce a series of favorable policies aimed at diversifying the city’s gaming-dependent economy into a financial center, according to media reports. And such a move is considered as a reward to Hong Kong’s neighboring city for avoiding anti-government protests, according to observers, and some suggested that promoting Macao as a new financial center could be an alternative to Hong Kong.

However, former officials and experts claimed that though the two SARs shared common ground such as a high-degree of autonomy, judicial independence and freedom of the press, they have differences in the way they handle relations with the central government and interpret the “one country, two systems” principle. Instead of simply labeling Macao a “good student” or “golden child” as the city is immune to anti-government protests spiraling next door, it should take a look at the fundamental reasons why the two cities are different from historical, cultural and social perspectives, local observers suggested.

Two SARs’ differences

As Hong Kong protesters identify themselves as Hongkongers instead of Chinese, Macao people believe that rejecting their Chinese nationality unacceptable, Wu Zhiliang, president of the Macau Foundation, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

“Macao people have a deep understanding of the word ‘return’,” Wu said, noting that it is not about changing the national flag, or shifting from the governor of Macao to chief executive of Macao SAR government, it is about integrating into the country’s whole governance and strategic development plans.

Opposition groups in Hong Kong consider any move of the central government as intervention that erodes its high degree of autonomy, as the central government could not take any gesture, which is a misunderstanding of the “one country, two systems” principle, and is not accepted by people in Macao.

“When Macao comes up with new policies, it always takes the country’s development plans into consideration,” Wu said.

For instance, when the central government launched an anti-corruption campaign years ago, Macao imposed restrictions on cross-border financing involving Chinese funds, although it had heavily weighed on its pillar gaming industry, local representatives said.

“Compared to Hong Kong, there is no such mentality of worshiping Western political systems and social values here in Macao, though it has always been under the mixed influence of Eastern and Western cultures, and people treat those two equally,” Wu said.

Unlike Hong Kong, which has been heavily influenced by the West, Macao has a stronger attachment to Chinese culture and values due to its “historical genes.”

In the colonial period of Macao, Portuguese control had seen its influence over local communities declining, drawing a contrast with the relatively sophisticated way British authorities took in ruling Hong Kong before handing it over to China.

“There has been no strong cultural penetration of the West in Macao society, which had not been affected by Western social value either,” Susana Chou, former president of the Legislative Assembly of Macao, told the Global Times on Tuesday. “For example, when the Hotel of Lisboa was inaugurated years ago, many people in Macao did not know where ‘Lisboa’ is. Could you image Hong Kong people not knowing where London is? ” she asked.

While Hong Kong opposition lawmakers turned debates for rolling out policies into political battles, lawmakers in Macao are not against the Constitution, nor the Basic Law and the Communist Party of China, the former president said, noting that they would come up with different ideas to help roll out better policies.

“It’s also inaccurate to say the Legislative Assembly of Macao is the SAR government’s affiliate, as we also criticize our government officials a lot. And the assembly often rejects the proposals made by the government,” Chou said, noting that the opposition is based on concrete arguments rather than disapproving everything because of its political stance.

Lesson to learn

Considering Macao’s historical ties with the mainland, there has been no room for separatism, Wu noted. “But what has happened in Hong Kong would lead us to reflect on deep-rooted questions in Macao, particularly issues concerning Macao youth,” he said.

Behind Hong Kong’s chaos lie deep-seated social problems, as the majority of arrested radical protesters who trashed the rule of law were youngsters. Although Macao is not facing the same issue, the problems with Hong Kong youth could be seen as a warning sign for the city, observers said.

“We lack a fairer and transparent mechanism for Macao young people to climb toward upper society, and also the numbers of skilled positions are limited,” Wu said, noting that the local talent policy is still protective.

“If Macao further opens up its market, could local youth become as competitive as talent from outside? And will talent inflow accelerate social conflicts and anxiety of local youth?” he asked.

While Hong Kong and Macao both share freedom of speech and an open internet, information has been circulating freely on social media and many Macao young people have been well informed about Hong Kong’s social unrest for months. When the students were asked about questions on Hong Kong police brutality, many rationally discuss the matter with teachers instead of arguing with their peers and making one-sided judgments, Wu noted.

“Young people could easily influence each other, which is inevitable. It’s up to how teachers and parents guide them,” he said.

Macao has gained a higher degree of autonomy thanks to the confidence and trust of the central government, which, observers said, creates a positive cycle.

On the contrary, if Hong Kong’s opposition groups continue to touch the redline of the central government, it might lead to reevaluation of political risks in Hong Kong by the central government and the expected political reforms could hardly make any progress in the city, observers said.

The virtuous cycle established between the central government and Macao as well as between Macao and the mainland could to some extent serve as a reference for Hong Kong, they noted.

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More heartaches than happiness


Many investors get their fingers burned in dubious money-making schemes

M Mall in Penang where MBI investors can exchange their virtual coins is now almost deserted.

IT may seem like it was not so long ago that money-game was practically on everybody’s lips especially here in Penang,

My close friend even invested in MBI Group International which was one of the most popular investment schemes then.

At its peak, one would be considered the odd one out for not investing in the scheme.

How times have changed. Now, my friend is telling me that he has not heard from his upline for months.

It was a far cry from the time when the upline would tell him how good the scheme was, and even spell out a time frame to cash in on the investments.

Most investors have now resigned to the fact that their investments are as good as gone. They feel ashamed to lodge police reports and many just suffer in silence for fear of people teasing them.

However, their counterparts from China were less forgiving.

In October, hundreds of them staged a peaceful protest near the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Wailing and sobbing, they urged the Chinese government to help them recover the hundreds of million ringgit they had invested in the Penang-based company.

In Penang, several groups of Chinese investors also vented their frustration at a hotel and the jetty of an island resort here, where both properties are said to be associated with the company.

The last we heard, three of them even went to the extent of dropping fake bombs at a house in Bukit Gambier out of desperation.

The house belongs to the son of MBI Group International founder Tedy Teow. Luckily, no untoward incidents took place.

Another friend of mine told me that he started believing in karma after putting faith in the money- game.

He is now convinced that what goes around, comes around. This is his story.

He put in a sum of money in BTC I-system, a scheme which claimed to invest in bitcoin digital currency.

Without even knowing how the investment works, he managed to get back his capital within two months, plus a few thousand of ringgits extra in the next few months. Then the scheme collapsed.

He then took the plunge again in another scheme. He was confident of easy money again, especially after being told he was among the first few to join the investment. He was not so lucky this time.

The profit that he got in the first investment ended up paying for the second scheme that went bust.

I have seen many people whose relationship with family members had become strained all because of these dubious schemes.

Direct Selling Association of Malaysia (DSAM) president Datuk Tan Chong Guan reminded the public that there is no free lunch in this world.

“Where there is no sales but a return is promised on investments, this is a sign that it is a money-game, or a pyramid scheme, ” he was quoted then.

If you still could not figure out or get a clear explanation on how the investment will make money, then you better opt out.

If it involves any chain-recruitment that offers commissions for bringing in new affiliates, or sophisticated or complicated investment schemes that sound too alien, then you better avoid it.

Always remember that one has to work hard to earn one’s keep.

But believe me, money-game would always re-emerge in other forms, just like the online scams as long as there is human greed.

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Malaysian authorities crack down on virtual money operator, MBI Group International

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Smooth operation: Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ministry
enforcement director Datuk Mohd Roslan Mahayudin (centre) giving a press
conference on the raids which yielded luxury vehicles and cash. Despite the crackdown by the authorities, investors continue to patronise M Mall, which is operated by MBI.

 

Dawn raids on MBI

Key member of MBI Group International remanded 98 bank accounts
containing RM209mil frozen to date Three luxury cars and cash seized

Two virtual coin get-rich schemes red-flagged by Malaysian Central Bank

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Shocked! Najib’s actions showed personal interest beyond that of public office — judge


KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 11): Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali took an hour to deliver his decision today that the prosecution has successfully established a prima facie case against former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak on all seven charges in the SRC International Sdn Bhd trial.

What was significant was that the judge devoted half an hour to just one charge, namely abuse of power.

Najib also faces three criminal breach of trust charges and three money-laundering charges in relation to the alleged embezzlement of RM42 million from SRC in 2014 and 2015.

On the power abuse charge, Justice Nazlan said evidence adduced by the prosecution showed that the series of actions taken by Najib in respect of SRC showed personal interest beyond that of public office.

Najib, who is also the member of parliament for Pekan and former Barisan Nasional chairman, had agreed to the recommendation made by the Economic Planning Unit to approve a RM20 million launching grant for SRC when the company initially applied for a RM3 billion grant, the judge noted.

“Before SRC was placed under 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), SRC’s Articles of Association under Section 67 stipulates that the accused as PM has the power to appoint and remove the members of the board of directors of the company,” the judge said.

More importantly, Justice Nazlan said Najib responded to a letter dated June 3, 2011 from SRC’s former chief executive officer (CEO) and managing director, Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, who sought a RM3.95 billion loan.

“Najib made a notation on the letter addressed to the Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP) CEO Datuk Azian Mohd Noh stating in fact that he was agreeing to it, and wanted Azian to look into it.

“It should be highlighted that KWAP is a statutory institution which in effect reports to the finance minister and KWAP board members and whose investment panel members are appointed by the finance minister, under Section 6 and 7 of the KWAP Act,” the judge said.

Najib the ultimate boss

Justice Nazlan said Najib had informed then Treasury secretary-general and KWAP chairman Tan Sri Dr Wan Abdul Aziz Wan Abdullah to expedite the approval of the SRC loan, and that this happened after Wan Abdul Aziz and Azian had briefed Najib that KWAP was initially considering extending a loan of only RM1 billion.

“Crucially, Wan Abdul Aziz testified under cross-examination that he did not consider the said communication with the accused as an instruction from Najib. In addition Azian, the former KWAP CEO, testified there was no legal compulsion. She could not deny that there was a certain amount of influence in the notation directed to her in the June 3, 2011 letter.

“This was due to the fact that Azian felt Najib was the PM and the minister in charge of KWAP and her “ultimate boss”,” the judge said, adding that before KWAP approved the loan, SRC had written to the finance ministry seeking a government guarantee in anticipation of the RM2 billion loan.

The judge also noted the deputy secretary-general of Treasury, Datuk Mat Noor Nawi, had testified that the transfer of the share of ownership of SRC from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) to Ministry of Finance Incorporated was executed by Najib, who was also the finance minister.

Justice Nazlan said the series of conduct and involvement of Najib with regard to SRC, if viewed in totality, cannot be construed as purely being a lawful exercise of his official duty as either the prime minister, finance minister or advisor emeritus of SRC.

“This is because such conduct and involvement was beyond the ordinary and outside the usual conduct or involvement expected of a prime minister and finance minister, similarly circumstanced.

“Such conduct and involvement exhibited by the accused instead serves only to demonstrate the existence of private and personal interest on the part of the accused in SRC, which interest, in my judgement, is in the nature that is envisaged under the law to fall within the ambit of Section 23 of the MACC Act,” the judge ruled.

Justice Nazlan further reasoned that the argument that Najib had not given any instructions or directions but merely made requests and had no role to play in securing the KWAP loan cannot withstand the court’s scrutiny.

He said if these were couched as mere requests it is manifest that they were made by Najib because they were meant to be obeyed.

“Everyone else in the picture was in a position subordinate to the accused. These included the secretary-general of the Treasury and the (then) Second Finance Minister (Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah),” he said.

Justice Nazlan said the prosecution has also showed that Najib participated in the decision-making process at the meetings of the Cabinet, which the ex-premier chaired and where the two government guarantees for the loans extended by KWAP to SRC were approved.

This, he said, is clearly is a decision or action taken by Najib in relation to the government guarantee, which was to guarantee KWAP the repayment of the loan by SRC, in which Najib had an interest of a nature that is caught under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009.

“In fact the accused himself, as the PM who chaired the meetings, had tabled the Cabinet paper on the second government guarantee at the meeting which approved the same on Feb 8, 2012.

“There was no disclosure, let alone any attempt to excuse himself from the deliberation on the Cabinet papers at the either of the said meetings,” he said, adding that Najib also subsequently chaired a cabinet meeting where a short-term loan was approved when SRC nearly defaulted KWAP payment.

“Given the accused’s control over SRC, he could cause the transfers of RM42 million which were through intermediary companies credited into his personal accounts and eventuality utilised and spent to his own advantage. This is gratification to the accused pure and simple,” he said, in ruling that Najib has to enter his defence on the abuse of power charge.

Najib is charged under Section 23 of the MACC Act for allegedly using his position as the prime minister and finance minister to commit bribery involving RM42 million when he participated in or was involved in the decision to provide government guarantees for loans from the Retirement Fund Inc to SRC amounting to RM4 billion.

He is alleged to have committed the offence at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya between Aug 17, 2011 and Feb 8, 2012. If convicted, he faces a jail term of up to 20 years, and a fine of not less than five times the amount or value received or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

The Edge is reporting the proceedings of the SRC trial live.

Users of The Edge Markets app may tap here to access the live report.


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