Jack Ma Ends 20-Year Reign Over Alibaba Wealth Creation Empire


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Behind Hong Kong’s chaos lie deep-seated social ills



Chief Executive of China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Carrie Lam speaks during a media session in Hong Kong, south China, Sept 5, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

Economist: Island needs closer ties with China to improve

“Seclusion brings no development opportunity for Hong Kong,” said economist Lau Pui-King. “Some youngsters don’t understand that Hong Kong would be even worse if it is secluded from the Chinese mainland.”

“To come out of the current economic difficulty, Hong Kong needs to be linked with the Chinese mainland much closer and more effectively,” she said.

HONG KONG – Kwong loves the pure adrenaline rush he gets when he takes his motorcycle out on the weekends to light up his lackluster life.

The 35-year-old lives with his parents in an old and cramped apartment in the New Territories of Hong Kong. He has a girlfriend but is hesitant to get married and start a family.

“The rent is so high, and there is no way I can afford an apartment,” said Kwong, who earns 15,000 HK dollars ($1,950) a month. Renting a 30-square meter one-bedroom apartment would cost him about two-thirds of his salary.

“Future? I don’t think much about it, just passing each day as it is,” he said.

Kwong’s words reflect the grievances among many people in Hong Kong, particularly the young. Many vented their discontent in prolonged streets protests that have rocked Hong Kong since June.

The demonstrations, which started over two planned amendments to Hong Kong’s ordinances concerning fugitive offenders, widened and turned violent over the past months.

“After more than two months of social unrest, it is obvious to many that discontentment extends far beyond the bill,” said Carrie Lam, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), referring to the now-withdrawn amendments.

To Lam, the discontent covers political, economic and social issues, including the often-mentioned problems relating to housing and land supply, income distribution, social justice and mobility and opportunities, for the public to be fully engaged in the HKSAR government’s decision-making.

“We can discuss all these issues in our new dialogue platform,” she said.

HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam visits a transitional housing project of the Lok Sin Tong Benevolent Society Kowloon in Hong Kong, south China, Aug 9, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]


UNAFFORDABLE HOUSES

For nine straight years, housing in Hong Kong has been ranked as the least affordable in the world. Homes in the city got further out of reach for most residents, according to Demographia, an urban planning policy consultancy. The city’s median property price climbed to 7.16 million HK dollars in 2019, or 20.9 times the median household income in 2018, up from 19.4 times from a year earlier.

In the latest case of house transaction, an apartment of 353 square feet (about 33 square meters) at Mong Kok in central Kowloon was sold at 5.2 million HK dollars in September, according to the registered data from Centaline Property Agency Limited.

For those fortunate enough to have bought an apartment, many have to spend a large part of their monthly income on a mortgage. For those who have not bought any property yet, it is common to spend more than 10,000 HK dollars in rent, while saving every penny up for a multi-million HK dollar down payment.

From 2004 to 2018, the property price increased by 4.4 fold, while income stagnated, statistics show. From 2008 to 2017, average real wage growth in Hong Kong was merely 0.1 percent, according to a global wage report by the International Labor Organization. Homeownership dropped from 53 percent to 48.9 percent from 2003 to 2018.

Efforts of the HKSAR government to increase land supply to stem home prices from soaring also went futile amid endless quarrels. Of Hong Kong’s total 1,100 square kilometers of land area, only 24.3 percent has been developed, with land for residential use accounting for a mere 6.9 percent, according to data from the HKSAR government.

Social worker Jack Wong, 29, lives in an apartment bought by his parents. “I’m lucky. Most of my friends still have to share apartments with their parents. My cousin has been married for seven years, but he is still saving for his down payment, so he has to live at his parents’ house,” he said.

“The older generation changed from having nothing to having something. We, the younger generation, thought we had something, but it turns out we have nothing,” he said.


MIDDLE CLASS’ ANXIETY

While young people complain about having few opportunities for upward mobility, Hong Kong’s middle class, which should have long been stalwarts of the society, are under great economic pressure and in fear of falling behind.

It is not easy to be middle class in Hong Kong, one of the world’s most expensive cities. To join the rank, a household needs to earn at least 55,000 HK dollars, or $7,000, a month, according to Paul Yip Siu-fai, a senior lecturer at the University of Hong Kong. About 10 percent of the households in the city are up to the rank.

Earning that much can be counted as rich in many parts of the world. But in Hong Kong, the money is still tight if you have a child to raise and elderly to support.

Housing is the biggest burden for the average middle-class resident. The cost of having a child is another headache in Hong Kong, where pricey extra-curricular activities and private tutoring are considered necessary to win in the fierce competition.

Fears of descending to the low-income group are real for the middle class. Many think they belong to the middle class only in education and cultural identity, but their living conditions are not much better than the impoverished, said Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, former secretary for transport and housing of the HKSAR government.

Civil servants and teachers, who earn much more than the average income, are traditionally considered middle class. But Cheung found out in a survey that many of them could not afford to have their own apartment, with some even living in the narrow rooms of partitioned apartments.

“We don’t belong to the low-income group, but we could just rent an apartment now,” said Lee, a teacher at a secondary school in Hong Kong.

Lee and her husband earned nearly 1.3 million HK dollars a year, but a 50-square meter apartment is the best they could rent now for a five-member family. She preferred not to give her full name as she feels her situation is embarrassing.

“We want to save more money to buy a house near prestigious elementary schools for our kids,” Lee said. “If our kids can’t go to a good school, it’ll be very tough in the future.”

A woman walks near the Harbour City in Hong Kong, south China, Aug 27, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]


CHANGING ECONOMIC STRUCTURE

In the 1970s, nearly half of Hong Kong’s labor force were industrial workers when manufacturing thrived in Hong Kong. During the 1980s, Hong Kong’s finance, shipping, trade and logistics and service industries started to boom.

Since then, the economic landscape began to change amid subsequent industrial upgrading.

Due to the hollowing out of the manufacturing industry, the wealth gap in Hong Kong widened and the class division worsened. Despite the prosperity of finance, trade and tourism in recent years, more than 1.37 million people are living below the poverty line in Hong Kong, home to more than 7 million.

Working career options are now limited, leaving little hope for the youngsters to move up the social ranks.

As a result, Hong Kong’s social class has largely been solidified in the 21st century, with the richest people dominated by property developers and their families.

The Gini coefficient, which measures the inequality of income distribution, reached a new high of 0.539 in 2016, far above the warning level of 0.4, according to data by the HKSAR government’s Census and Statistics Department. The greater the number toward one, the more inequal in income distribution.

Though the HKSAR government tried to narrow the wealth gap, many people in Hong Kong said they are not sharing the fruits of economic prosperity, the young and those low-income groups in particular.

STAGNATING POLITICAL BARRIERS

What makes the deep-seated problems in Hong Kong such a hard nut to crack? The reason is complicated, according to observers, partly due to the containment in the current political structure that leads to governance difficulty, partly due to a doctrinaire implementation of the principle of “small government, big market,” or laisser faire, and most importantly due to the opposition’s “say no for none’s sake” that stirs political confrontation and sends Hong Kong into a dilemma of discussions without decisions, or making decisions without execution.

Over the past 22 years, the successive HKSAR governments have tried many times to tackle these problems by rolling out affordable housing programs and narrowing the rich-poor gap.

For example, to make houses more affordable, Tung Chee-hwa, the first HKSAR chief executive, proposed in 1997 to build at least 85,000 flats every year in the public and private sectors, raise the homeownership rate to 70 percent in 10 years and reduce the average waiting time for public rental housing to three years.

Such plans, however, went aborted as home prices plunged in Hong Kong amid the Asian financial crisis in 1998.

“Since Hong Kong’s return, many economic and livelihood issues would not be as politicized as they are now, should the HKSAR government have introduced more policies and better social security arrangements to address those problems,” said Tian Feilong, a law expert of the “one country, two systems” center with the Beijing-based Beihang University.

To carry out major policies or push forward major bills, the HKSAR government needs to garner the support of two-thirds majority at the Legislative Council (LegCo).

The HKSAR government’s previous motions, be it economic policies or fiscal appropriations, were impeded by the opposition time and again at the LegCo, regardless of the interests of the majority of Hong Kong residents and the long-term development of the society.

The HKSAR government sought in 2012 to establish the Innovation and Technology Bureau to ride the global wave of innovative startups, diversify its economic structure and bring more opportunities for young people. Such efforts, however, were obstructed by the opposition at the LegCo in defiance of repeated calls by the public. After three years, the proposal to create the bureau was finally passed by the LegCo.

In another case, a Hong Kong resident, incited by the opposition, appealed in 2010 for a judicial review of the construction plan of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. Though the HKSAR government won the lawsuit after more than a year of court proceedings, 6.5 billion HK dollars of taxpayers’ money had been wasted in the increased construction costs of the bridge’s Hong Kong section due to the delay.

As time passed, problems remained unsolved, so did public discontent.

Repeated political bickering stalled Hong Kong’s social progress amid the sparring, and the opposition created a false target and blamed the Chinese mainland for those deep-seated problems.

Lau Pui-King, an economist in Hong Kong, snubbed the opposition’s resistance of or even antagonism to the Chinese mainland, saying such thinking of secluding Hong Kong from the entire country could end nowhere but push the city down an abyss.

“Seclusion brings no development opportunity for Hong Kong,” Lau said. “Some youngsters don’t understand that Hong Kong would be even worse if it is secluded from the Chinese mainland.”

“To come out of the current economic difficulty, Hong Kong needs to be linked with the Chinese mainland much closer and more effectively,” she said.

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A meaningless Merdeka


This Merdeka is a meaningless Merdeka for the nation as it entrenches itself into old political mindsets. A meaningless Merdeka …mysinchew.sinchew.com.my

By Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi

After 21 years of writing ideas, criticisms and advice for Malaysians, Malays and those in power in academic, religious and political institutions, I have no more to give. Malaysia is on a certain road of destruction with the Malay Muslims driving it to the ground. I have looked hard and deep into many other ways than I have mentioned and I have no more ideas to bring to the table.

This is the most difficult article to write for me and I have thought many times to just call up Sin Chew and refuse a requested writing for the first time in my entire career as an academic. I see no more hope for this country. The Malays will eventually destroy itself and others with it. The only hope for the idea of a Malaysia lies in the nations of Sabah and Sarawak. If these two quit the partnership, then the idea of Malaysia is just a joke. If I were younger by three decades, I would take my family outside this country and resettle in others or at least in neighboring Singapore and the nations of Sabah and Sarawak. At least they still have teh tarik there.

With muftis sounding like gangsters in a terrible movie plot and unchecked by their patrons, the Malays will continue to be educated in that manner. With veteran Malay politicians and businessmen helming the fate of the country, the Old Malaysia has just been given a new lease of life by a heart-bypass. With academia still counting their H-indexes and SCOPUS papers, these institutions of learning will continue to be irrelevant entities to social and political development getting fat by the tax payers money and their own sense of self grandeur. Religion, academia and politics of the Malays are safely entrenched to bring the country to a precipice of oblivion.

The editors of this article wants to know from me what can be changed? Well, I no longer have any more ideas except to say…save yourself and your family by hunkering down, tightening the stomach and strategically plan for the children to be placed outside this country.

I have now begun to seriously think about such a strategy for two of my children. There is nothing here in Malaysia that would be anything of a dignified existence of a person.

When a mufti with extremely low knowledge on the history of the Indian people can make simplistic and racist statements about them, and get away without any reprimand or reminder from his patrons, then the game is ended. When he calls on hardworking and dedicated groups of Chinese educationist to be outlawed without measuring their six decades of contribution, what dignity is there left? Worse, when a peddler of religious capitalism comes to this country blaring insults not only to other religions but also the presence of our own community of generations of people, ministers have dinner with him with smiling photo ops. Susah-lah ini macam.

Then there is a political party with Islam as its name spew venoms of Islamic brotherhood being more important than citizenry and that those who oppose the peddler of religious evangelism from another country as enemies of Islam, and the police sits quietly without any reaction. Apa lagi nak cerita?

I have trained myself to be an expert at identifying success and failure in everything I do. I can also expertly predict success and failure in some things others do. I can definitely say that Malaysia is a failure. It was failing badly before May 9th 2018, it has failed even worse after merely over a year.

In the beginning, this failure was caused by a reluctance of the Malay voters to change. Then, this failure was fueled by the marriage of the two discredited Malay parties. Now, the trust of the people has been totally betrayed by the smallest and least ideological party which happens to helm the leadership and is engineering a 1990s come-back formula.

Unless a miracle happens, Malaysia will be the first country to be listed as the ‘fourth world’ of a three world category. We will go nowhere, be no ‘thing’ and simply become stuck to the ground with our old ideas about economy, education, religion and having no sense of dignity to others and the world. When one day, Muslims will be rejected entry into most countries of the world as with their favorite penceramah, then the old Malay proverb of sudah jatuh ditimpa tangga or sudah jatuh baru tertenggadah becomes a stark reality.

What is this miracle that may reignite the fires of Malaysia? Only three things. First, by a stroke of miracle, the civil society restrategize itself with other existing political parties and puts up 70 independent candidates to oust the cancerous elements in PH and combine with the dignified parties of Sarawak and Sabah, then there may be a chance.

How hard is it to find 70 credible candidates of all races dedicated to nation building? The names are already on my computer list. The civil society, good and nation-conscious NGOs can work together with the grassroots of rejuvenated veteran parties that lost their shorts in the last election. Those civil leaders appointed by the PH must return to the fold when the time of GE15 draws closer.

The second miracle would be 100,000 Malay children and more to come out of their UEC education and these children must be tracked and given support so that they can be the savior of a nation from the old bigotry of Muslims and Malays in the public schools.

That is why Malay political parties despise the UEC as the new Malays who are trilingual and globalized networked with China and the West will reformulate new national constructs based on their times with the other communities in the UEC schools.

Regardless of whether the PH government will recognize or not, I see the UEC as the only savior of this nation. The sons and daughters rejected by the majority of their own race will come back to revive the idea of Malaysia and thus, we Malaysians must ensure that the UEC survives and thrive.

Those of our sons and daughters educated in the international schools with international curriculum would be the other force that can cure an ailing nation, and that too must be protected and expanded so that it becomes affordable to send our children too. Leave the public schools entrenched in its own issues and problems.

The third miracle would be the private education tertiary institutions. These institutions have gone through the economic gauntlet and is now secure with a mixed group of academics to lead the nation where public universities fail in their own ethno-centric constructs of self-delusion and irrelevant academia. If these private universities can wake up to fill the minds of young Malaysians with the right mind set and ideas to lead the future, than the future can be theirs for the taking.

Private universities must get out of their balance sheet mindset and show that they can take over what was left out by the big brother universities and strike out on their own. The private university academics can form their own Professor Council and produce strategies for real impactful research and ideas that can move Malaysia 50 years into the future and pool its student talents to research and recharge industries linking the world. The future industries are in a mapless world and do not require a Malay Majlis Perbandaran to give the okay to start a factory. The new ‘factories’ are in cyberspace and offshore. Countries will work with these students who do not display any sense of ethnic or religious superiority complex and shun those that do. The world belongs to the private enterprise as government fails to change because of Old Politics.

The third miracle would be the pooling of resources by private companies and enterprises across a maples world to provide financial and infra-structure backings to clear thinking and hard working graduates and young skilled individuals freeing itself from any governmental ‘requirements’. Again, governments do not control cyberspace and off shore dealings. Malaysians will be everywhere in the world working, living, playing and worshipping while still rooted to their ‘tanah tumpah darah ku’.

This Merdeka is a meaningless Merdeka for the nation as it entrenches itself into old political mindsets. But this Merdeka is a new Merdeka for all Malaysians who love the idea of living with deep respect to each other’s faith and cultures and working with each other for mutual prosperity.

What we need is a Merdeka from the old rules of the game towards a new game play of global dimension that frees us from the old 90s ball and chains.

To save this Malaysia, our children must ‘leave the present Malaysia’ and embrace the future Malaysia that lies beyond its shores into a global and universal construct rooted in our traditional faiths and cultures.

(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at UCSI University.)

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Resolve race, religion and education to aspire for a better, the real new Malaysia


A short year since the first change in government gave the people hope for a resetting of the national direction, grave doubts about the pace of scope of reforms are clouding the mood for Merdeka Day.

The risk of political instability, economic pain for modest income-earners and worsening communal relations have left many wondering what has gone wrong with the dream of a New Malaysia.

In our Special Report this issue in conjunction with Merdeka, find out what the country’s young people are wishing for the nation amid the cacophony of noises. Contributors include co-founder of #Undi18 Qyira Yusri, Zahirah Zulkifly from Teach For Malaysia and lawyer Melissa Sasidaran, among others.

On the economic front, the country is better off today than decades ago, but the income gap between the B40, M40 and T20 has actually grown. This underscores the fact that economic growth has not been equally distributed to all levels of society.

Of concern is whether there will be sustained income and unemployment growth for all segments of society, especially the lower and middle-income groups.

Then there is the issue of navigating the country’s economy to the right path towards new growth engines that is sustainable and inclusive.

This would mean addressing the various challenges facing the country such as low productivity growth and capital efficiency, continued non-optimal investment in capital-intensive and value-added industries and automation, skills gap for the future workforce, among others.

My aspirations for our 62nd Merdeka

SIXTY-TWO years ago in 1957, Malaya gained independence. The new nation was blessed with a multiracial and multi-religious society and abundant natural resources and natural beauty.

There were serious challenges facing the new nation then, but we were blessed with honest, strong, competent and dedicated founding fathers and able leaders who provided good governance, set up credible national institutions like parliament, the judiciary, security and civil services.

Most importantly, poverty, which was widespread at independence, was considerably reduced as we moved forward, thanks to assertive rural development policies.

The country was also blessed with high economic growth and dubbed a tiger economy. There was little corruption and cronyism for many years after Merdeka.

The economy has since grown faster and developed more strongly in the last 61 years, and the country has progressed in peace and harmony except for the aberration of the 1969 riots.

We were more united then and shared a strong national family spirit. We emphasised and enjoyed our commonality and universality as Malayan and then as Malaysians.

After 60 years of being governed by one political party, we realised that we had been going off the track with rising corruption, cronyism and fracturing national unity, religious intolerance, racism and widening income inequality.

That was when we as a nation said “enough is enough” and elected a new government in our uniquely democratic Malaysian way. Thank God for the fundamental change and transition towards greater socioeconomic, political and institutional reforms and revitalisation of our country under the Pakatan Harapan government.

But we have to work harder to stick to the straight and narrow path and not go off the rails again.

So, on this auspicious 62nd Merdeka Day anniversary, can we all resolve to develop a new national consensus and mould a New Malaysia Policy (NMP)?

To do this, we need to:

1. Apply the NEP to all Malaysians regardless of race or religion. Make the NEP a needs-based socioeconomic policy and end the race-based policy as practised now. This change in policy will remove the sense of alienation that most non-Malays and even many neglected bumiputra now feel;

2. Show greater priority in increasing the opportunities for the B40 groups of all races to earn higher incomes through better and more skills-based education and training programmes;

3. Reject compulsory training in some non-academic studies that are not directly related to improving the present generally low quality of education at almost all levels. Provide more technical and vocational training and use English to teach science subjects. This is essential to make our graduates more employable and get a more rounded education;

4. There should be equal business and employment opportunities in both the government and private sectors. The civil service and business sectors have to be more multiracial in their employment make-up. One way to encourage more multiracial ownership and balanced employment in the private sector in the context of the new policy of “Shared Prosperity” would be to provide new tax incentives in Budget 2020;

5. National schools could teach our mother tongues to encourage higher multiracial attendance. The current perception of national schools being Islamic schools needs to be corrected. They could then become schools of choice;

6. The present campaign against corruption, cronyism and money politics must be stepped up. Continuation of any elements of these very bad practices will undermine national interest and the public’s well-being and welfare;

7. The government must take a harder stand against hate speech and those who promote racial and religious conflict. Foreign speakers and external financing that promote social unrest should be dealt with more sternly and quickly. The

government should not protect these undesirable troublemakers, both foreign and local, who can cause major disunity and instability;

8. Public institutions should be further strengthened and made more independent of any political interference. This is essential to safeguard the integrity and sustainability and, indeed, the very sovereignty of our nation;

9. With climate change and global warming becoming more critical, we must not look at short-term profits and neglect the longer-term devastation of Mother Earth; and

10. As far as possible, we should preach and practise universal human rights in a more sincere and serious way. We can always protect our religious and cultural values and adopt human rights at the same time.

On our 62nd Merdeka Day anniversary, let us all pledge to protect our precious Constitution, live by the principles of the Rukun Negara and resolve to aspire for a better Malaysia.

May God continue to bless our beloved country and people. Selamat Hari Merdeka 2019.

TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM, Chairman Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies –
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Race and religion, the sorry state of our unity


It is sad that mistrust among the different
races is rising even after 62 years of independence, with the various
communities having little interaction or empathy.

IN 10 days, we will mark our 62nd year of Merdeka but unlike last year when elation was in the air with a new government in Putrajaya, the prevailing mood is one of melancholy.

A year on, there is not much to show that we are doing better as a nation in terms of national unity and cohesion.

Instead, the deep fissures that threaten the very structure of the country have become more obvious, as seen daily on social media.

It is no exaggeration to say that highly provocative and sensitive comments stirring unrest among the people have become the norm.

Race and religion remain the most divisive issues, as they were under the previous six-decade-long administration but with the comparatively freer media today, they are being stoked to incite animosity and even flagrant threats of violence.

On Aug 14, a man threatened to behead lawyer Syahredzan Johan for urging the withdrawal of controversial preacher Zakir Naik’s permanent resident status in Malaysia. The 28-year-old security guard has been arrested and is being held under remand.

Last Saturday, an appalling video of man unsheathing three menacing weapons – a parang, a sword and katana (Samurai blade) went viral.

In the three-minute clip, he is heard threatening “impudent non-Malays” with violence as he demonstrates his supposed “invincibility” from harm by running the blades across his abdomen, hands and neck.

On Monday, police arrested a 43-year-old officer over a Facebook posting inciting Muslims to shed the blood of non-believers last Wednesday.

The man urged Muslims to “sharpen their parangs for kafir (infidels) who may want to become like sacrificial cows”.

Shockingly, the suspect is said to be an assistant director with the Islamic Development Department Malaysia (Jakim).

In the wake of such provocations, the Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has set up email and WhatsApp hotlines to lodge complaints against those who insult race, religion or the royal institution.

It’s tragic that mistrust among the different races is rising even after 62 years of independence. Malaysia is more fragmented with its disparate communities having little interaction or empathy for each other.

In the elation following Pakatan Harapan’s victory in last year’s election, hopes were raised for “Malaysia Baru”, a resetting of the nation towards a more progressive and equitable society.

The new vision, Shared Prosperity 2030, as announced by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in May to mark Pakatan Harapan’s first year in power, was aimed at ensuring fair, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth; fostering unity; celebrating cultural diversity; and creating decent living standards for all Malaysians.

But events and issues over the past few months, such as the move to introduce khat calligraphy, the resistance by Chinese educationist group Dong Zong, the furore against controversial Indian Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik and the Selangor government’s plan to allow for one parent to unilaterally convert a child to Islam, have shown that the new government is not much different from the old Barisan Nasional when it comes to matters that are inextricably linked to race and religion.

With Umno and PAS upping the ante in playing the race card and the Pakatan Harapan’s ebbing support in the Malay heartland, the new government has been treading very carefully.

In April, the government withdrew from the Rome Statute, after a storm of protests from Umno, PAS and Malay NGOs, which claimed that acceding to the treaty covering the International Criminal Court (ICC) would affect the sovereignty of the Malay Rulers.

Last year, it retreated from assenting to the International Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) after similar protests.

As for the case of Zakir, who faces criminal charges of money laundering and instigating terrorism in India, non-Muslim Malaysians were dumbfounded by his hobnobbing with the Prime Minister, Education Minister Maszlee Malik and de facto Islamic Affairs Minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa, especially when the preacher openly supported the previous administration during GE14.

The government’s earlier stance of refusing to deport the televangelist, who was given Malaysian permanent resident status by the previous government in 2015, was seen as a move to appease the Malay/Islamic vote bank.

But things have changed drastically for Zakir, who attracted a crowd of 70,000 and was treated like a VIP during a mammoth rally on Aug 3.

He is being investigated for intentional insults to provoke a breach of the peace by making disparaging remarks against Malaysian Indians and Chinese. He has also been effectively barred from speaking across the country.

On Sunday, Dr Mahathir said Zakir had “crossed the line” by delving into politics and stirring racial tension in the country.

Among other things, he was supposed to have said that Malaysian Indians were more loyal to the Narendra Modi government in India and described the Malaysian Chinese community as “old guests” who should go back to China before he is made to leave the country.

Claiming that his remarks were taken out of context, Zakir has filed legal action against Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran, Penang Deputy Chief Minister Dr P. Ramasamy, Bagan Dalam assemblyman Satees Muniandy, Klang MP Charles Santiago and former ambassador Datuk Dennis Ignatius.

Dr Mahathir’s assurance that the rule of law will be imposed on the preacher has somewhat allayed fears that the government would treat him with kid gloves to placate his supporters.

The last thing our already tattered state of unity needs is a foreign agitator adding fuel to fire.

Media consultant M. Veera Pandiyan likes this view of Mark Twain: Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. The views expressed here are entirely the columnist’s own. – Source link
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Hong Kong youth deceived by West: ‘I go to Yale, you go to jail’ mocks agitator followers


A Hong Kong resident (center) holds the widely circulated cartoon featuring a Hong Kong police officer’s back as he stands alone against protesters. Photo: Yang Sheng/GT

What went wrong with Hong Kong’s education? Is it one root-cause of the current hostility how these young people are being educated?

Crisis in Hong Kong / Integrity of global leadership

In the past two months, the radical protesters in Hong Kong, who consist of many young people and students who are infatuated with the West, have continuously showed their extremism through cyber bullying and real violence by provoking other residents of the city and people from the mainland, which prompted local experts and even many young students who disagree with them to speak out.

“I go to Yale, you go to jail” is a comment spreading in Chinese social media to mock young radical protesters in Hong Kong willing to be used by radical and foreign forces. The mockery was in reference to Nathan Law Kwun-chung, a main agitator behind the  Hong Kong riots, who has left Hong Kong to study at Yale University, while calling on many of his peers to remain on the streets.

Not only Law, but other masterminds, including opposition politicians Martin Lee Chu-ming and Claudia Mo Man-ching, have refused to send their own children to stand with protesters and conduct unlawful activities. Some of their children have been living overseas or studying at universities in Western countries.

Since June 9, Hong Kong police have arrested 748 protesters for attacking police and many of them are young people.

This is truly sad because many ignorant and naïve young students are obviously being used by agitators and some US politicians who are trying to put pressure on China during the China-US trade negotiations, said Cheung Yuen Sum, a Hong Kong commentator and convener of Hong Kong-based think tank IDEA4HK. “More sadly, they don’t admit or realize that they are being used. They are sick.”

Patriotic Hong Kong residents pose for photos with the Chinese national flag at Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor on early Sunday morning. The banner reads “Opposing foreign forces’ interference in Hong Kong affair! Traitors get out of China!”Photo: Chen Qingqing/GT

Unbelievable ignorance

Law said on his Facebook page that he is just changing place to continue the “fight for Hong Kong.” Agitators like him going to Western countries like the US and the UK did not stop inciting trouble but continued to ask politicians of these countries to voice support for them and pressure China.

On Friday, a rally organized by pro-West organizations asking for help from the US and the UK was held at Chater Garden in Hong Kong. Some of the participants went too far to ask the UK to “re-exercise the Treaty of Nanking and Treaty of Tientsin” which were two unjust treaties that the Qing Dynasty signed with the British Empire after the Opium War that allowed Britain to colonize Hong Kong and start selling opium products to China.

In 2014, during the Occupy Central movement, Tang Chi-tak and Hui Sin-tung, two student representatives from Hong Kong, testified to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament, urging their former colonial master to “re-exercise the Treaty of Nanking and Treaty of Tientsin.”

Experts said this is hopelessly ignorant, and that these young people didn’t read the treaties at all before they made such remarks. They also have no idea about how powerful China is now.

Victor Chan, 33, vice chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Young Commentators, said that many of the Hong Kong young people have no idea what happened in the Middle East and Africa as many countries have already paid the price of Western forces aiding local “democratic movement.”

“Have they forgotten what happened in Libya and Syria after the Arab Spring?” Foreign intervention will bring chaos and death, and those young people’s ideas are unrealistic and dangerous, Chan noted.

Hijacking others

It’s very hard to change the mentality of young Hong Kong people today, as society is divided, and many young people are actively involved in protests.

However, those young protesters are also divided into three groups: a group of core radical protesters who piloted demonstrations; a group of fervent protesters as “dare-to-die troops”; and a group of young students who have been deceived, said Chan Cheuk-hay, president of the HKCT Institute of Higher Education.

For the third group, their views could be easily influenced. “The majority is those young students whose opinions could easily change. The recent attack on a mainland passenger and a reporter at the Hong Kong airport made them reflect on recent protests,” he said.

Many young people and students from top universities, like the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, disagree with radical protesters or anti-mainland activists, but they prefer to keep a low profile because they are afraid of being bullied by radical classmates.

Some of those who agreed to be interviewed by Global Times reporters requested anonymity. Michael Wong, 22, from Hong Kong Baptist University told the Global Times that “they [radical students] said they are fighting for democracy and human rights, but they call everyone who disagrees with them and defends the government enemies, and treat them with violence and insults. Is this the democracy they are fighting for?” –  Source link

 

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E-cig & vape devices targeting teens


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Some of the latest e-cig and vape devices are cheap, as small as your thumb and can even be worn as a watch. Tobacco control experts say awareness among parents and teachers are crucial in keeping this new addiction out of schools. 

LET’S be clear – e-cigs and vape (ECV) are electronic drug delivery devices that can be used with the likes of meth and marijuana, warns Universiti Malaya Centre of Addiction Sciences (UMCAS) chief coordinator and the varsity’s Nicotine Addiction Research & Collaboration Group (NARCC) coordinator, Assoc Prof Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin.

The smoking cessation specialist says there’s a chance that students using ECV will be exposed to other drugs.

“And it’s likely they’ll face the same problems – like poor grades – as students who smoke.”

Dr Amer Siddiq was commenting on findings published in the July edition of the Journal of Criminal Justice.

‘It’s all the rage! Exploring the nuances in the link between vaping and adolescent delinquency’ suggests that there may be something “criminogenic about vaping among adolescents”. But the strength of the relationship between vaping and delinquency depends on what is being vaped, with marijuana vaping being most heavily correlated with delinquency.

Dr Nur Amani@Natasha Ahmad Tajuddin, the lead of the NARCC smoking prevention programme in schools, says when the use of ECV is related to crimes like theft, violence, fighting, bullying, and running away from home, more effort is needed to curb the habit.

“Parents must realise that ECV has negative health, mental, economic and academic impact on youths.”

Young at risk.

Four years ago, ECV use among students was less than 3% because the devices were too pricey for most teenagers, Assoc Prof Dr Anne Yee notes..

According to the Tobacco and E-cigarette Survey among Malaysian Adolescents 2016 (Tecma), a whopping 36.9% of students start on the devices between the ages of 14 and 15, and now, we’re seeing a spike in teenage use..

Easily passed-off as a smart watch, thumb drive or pen, the eye-catching devices look like the latest fashion accessories, says the addiction psychiatry expert and UMCAS member..

“Sellers are going all out to push the product to teens by making it cheaper and more accessible..

“Many even give it free to attract young customers. Drug pushers use the same tactic to get people hooked so that they keep coming back.”.

These days, huge, eye-catching banners adorn night markets with traders openly displaying their wares. Clearly, the colourful e-liquid bottles with fancy names were designed for kids, teenagers and women, she says. These are groups that may never smoke yet we’re turning them into ECV users..

“If sellers are targeting adult smokers who want to quit, they wouldn’t need gimmicks. Why make such fancy designs?”.

Dr Nur Amani says a recent study reported that 22% of children aged between 11 and 15 in England, use ECV compared to 18% who start smoking..

“This is because ECV ads are appealing. Here we have celebrities promoting ECV on social media to entice kids.”.

Dr Amer Siddiq says more needs to be done to prevent a new generation of nicotine addicts from emerging..

“ECV isn’t safe. The devices could burn and the e-liquids could be adulterated.”.

While studies have shown that children and adolescents see ECV as cool, pleasurable and fun to use, Dr Nur Amani says there’s a pattern of kids from lower socio-economic income groups being targeted by unscrupulous sellers..

Getting the girls.

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan says teachers nationwide are noticing a rise in ECV use among girls..

“This is scary because with cigarettes, it was mostly just the boys. But these devices are popular among both boys and girls.”.

Dr Yee is worried because nicotine is being touted as a way to lose weight. It’s like what drug pushers tell women about meth..

As it is, more young girls are experimenting with e-cigs as compared to cigarettes..

Cute cartoon packaging and fruity flavours are aimed at female non-smokers.

Society still has a negative perception of women who smoke. But with ECV, the message is that even ‘‘good girls’’ use it because it’s fashionable and can help you lose weight, adds Dr Yee.

In December last year, The Star highlighted how ECV and e-liquids were promoted as weight management aids.

“Even e-liquids that claim to be nicotine-free contain the drug. And you’ll never know for sure how much nicotine is inside. It could be equal to 20 cigarettes.

“A nicotine high lasts for less than two hours before the craving starts. So getting youngsters hooked on ECV is a business tactic, ” explains Dr Yee.

If your kids are turning to cigarettes, ECV or drugs, it could be because they’re bored or have no one to turn to, she says, adding that children who feel a sense of belonging in the family don’t need these harmful distractions.


Easily addicted

Dr Yee says teenagers are much more susceptible to addiction compared to adults. Some even start to have nicotine cravings after just one try.

“The teenage brain has yet to mature. That’s why adolescents are more impulsive, emotional and susceptible to advertisements aimed at influencing their behaviour.”

Parents whose children are already smoking aren’t helping by getting them an ECV. While it’s better than a tobacco cigarette, ECV is harmful for non-smokers.

When inhaled, tiny chemical particles in the e-liquids can enter the bloodstream and cause long-term harm.

Those between the ages of 10 and 18, adds Dr Nur Amani, are especially vulnerable to addiction.

The medical doctor says e-liquids contain toxic materials like lead, arsenic, manganese and chromium. Exposure to even small amounts can worsen symptoms of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

ECV use among varsity students is also worrying, says Dr Amer Siddiq, who was among the researches behind The use of e-cigarettes among university students in Malaysia journal paper published in December.

The study, funded by the Education Ministry, involved 1, 302 students in six Malaysian varsities.

“Over 40% of students smoke and use ECV. This means that ECV has not helped them quit smoking, ” he says, adding that some users even experienced adverse effects like dizziness, coughs and headaches.

Anti-vape campaign

The Education Ministry recently announced that it would intensify awareness campaigns after claims of ECV being freely distributed among students, and photos of youths vaping, went viral.

Calling on parents and society to stop students from bringing the devices to schools, the ministry’s director-general Datuk Dr Amin Senin notes that ECV has become the norm these days – becoming more sophisticated and difficult to distinguish from other electronic gadgets.

Welcoming the ministry’s move, Dr Nur Amani feels it’s important to get tobacco cessation experts onboard to work with teachers.

More awareness campaigns need to be conducted by health scientists, educationists, politicians and non-governmental organisations, to show that ECV use is not “normal behaviour”.

Group activities, instead of talks, work better to impart knowledge. And, it’s more sustainable.

“The children themselves can then act as ‘peer experts’. The impact is greater when the message is shared by those of the same age group.”

Campaigns can be effective if we target parents and teachers, says Dr Yee.

With children and adolescents, the more you say no, the more they will want to try it, she says, adding that parents shouldn’t over-react if they find their child smoking, using ECV or taking drugs.

“It’s not the end of the world. Be an ally to your children instead of acting like the police.”

She suggests talking to children about the dangers out there instead of sweeping things under the carpet.

“Make them realise that sellers only want to make money by getting youths hooked on an addictive habit whether it’s nicotine or drugs.”

The Health and Education Ministries are already working together on the Kotak (Kesihatan Oral Tanpa Asap Rokok) programme to highlight the harms of cigarettes and its related products, says Dr Amer Siddiq.

But with the introduction of newer ECV models, there’s a need to raise awareness among the adults

Citing some pod-and-USB-like devices as examples, he says these have very high nicotine content but most parents and teachers don’t know about them.

Recently, children were mimicking vaping because of what they see on social media, Dr Amer Siddiq says in reference to the crackdown on Ghost Smoke – a candy consumed by sucking on a straw to produce a vapour-like effect.

“The Kotak programme must be enhanced to cover ECV and its dangers especially the impact on young developing brains.”

NUTP’s Tan says most teachers are in a cocoon when it comes to ECV.

“We need to expose teachers to this new threat so that they know what to look out for.

“And teachers must be given more authority. Since we cannot cane and are vulnerable to lawsuits, we want legislation that compels parents of problematic students to come to school and be responsible for their kids’ behaviour.”

UM, says Dr Nur Amani, has been conducting educational and advocacy programmes in schools through its No-Cotine Club and Community and Sustainability Centre (UMCARES).

Trained students go to colleges and schools to carry out activities that de-normalise smoking and vaping, she says.

“Soon we’ll be approaching 80 partner schools to tell our children that EVC is not just ‘evaporated water’.

“The effects are harmful and it’s haram for Muslims. Hopefully when they go home, they’ll share the message with their parents.”

Smoking and IR 4.0

ECV will be among the hot topics at the upcoming KL Nicotine Addiction International Conference (KLNAC) 2020, says its organising chairman Dr Amer Siddiq.

As the country moves towards realising the National Strategic Plan to make Malaysia smoke-free by 2045, it’s crucial to look at all forms of technology that can prevent the uptake of cigarettes, he says.

“We’ve decided on the theme ‘Mission IR 4.0: Redesign Tobacco Control’ because of the emergence of various disruptive technologies that can either assist quitting, prevent youths from starting the habit, or attract people to smoking.

“ECV was initially touted as a way to help smokers quit but we’ve seen how Juul has ended up enticing youths to take it up instead.”

UM, he says, is already using data and technology in its tobacco control efforts.

The varsity’s dental group is working on an app for school children to prevent initiation to smoking.

And, Dr Yee is collecting data to match smokers with cessation apps that are right for them.

“We’ve thousands of smoking cessation apps yet the success rate is only 25%. Each app caters to specific personalities so we’re trying to match smokers with apps that cater to their preferences. This will ensure a higher success rate.”

By CHRISTINA CHIN – Source link

Teens the target for vape products


Cause for concern: Subbarow showing the smart watch vape gadget at the CAP office in Jalan Masjid Negeri, Penang.

GEORGE TOWN: Vape products in all shapes and sizes have been flooding the market, including those targeting schoolchildren.

Besides vape pens and chocolates, the latest is the vape smart watch.

The gadget, which has a strap and detachable watch, is being sold openly in shops for RM132 each.

“These watches can cost less than RM130 and some students are using pooled money to buy and share them.

“They also pay RM50 for a 30ml bottle of liquid nicotine, ” said Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) education officer N.V. Subbarow.

He said recently, teachers in two schools in the state seized vape gadgets from students, showing a disturbing trend of students vaping.

“They look like regular smart watches and teachers may not easily identify them. The liquid is poured into the detachable watch face unit, and the vaping device is shared among the students.

“One can easily lay their hands on the China-made product as they seem to be used by schoolchildren. This could lead to serious health issues.

“The government may have banned cigarettes in schools or public places, but the law still allows e-cigarettes. Sadly, many unscrupulous traders are promoting these products as gifts, ” he said in an interview.

Subbarow also claimed that a preschool teacher confiscated a “cigarette pad” from a five-year-old recently.

“When you roll each page torn off from the small note pad, it looks like a cigarette. This seems to be a plaything among the children.

“There is like a pattern now where smoking is being promoted at an early age, which would have disastrous effects on a growing child. There are no laws stopping profiteering from these gadgets, ” he said.

Subbarow added that students often got away with vaping, compared to smoking cigarettes because they come in many flavours and are water-based, without emanating much smoke or smell.

“The fruity flavours of apple, orange or strawberry cause the vapers to have fresh breath, making it difficult for teachers and parents to know if their children are vaping, ” he said.

When met, two 16-year-olds from a school in Jelutong, who were vaping near the CAP office at Jalan Masjid Negeri, said they bought an e-cigarette for RM100 and liquid nicotine for RM50 and that they smoked outside the school.

One of them said he had borrowed money from another friend and it was nothing new as many peers in his school have e-cigarettes.He said they would also meet after school for vaping sessions.

Subbarow cautioned that thousands have died from lung infections and other diseases due to smoking, which is higher than those who were killed in accidents.

“Our checks in about eight schools showed that the situation is critical. Prompt action must be taken to address the issue, including amending the laws to ban vaping in public places.

“The anti-vape campaign started five years ago when vaping was a hot issue but it soon fizzled out as the Health Ministry did not follow through, ” he said.

“It’s time for drastic action or we’ll lose an entire generation, who will end up becoming vaping addicts.”

By R. SEKARANSource link
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