Huawei launches ‘fastest’ AI cluster, challenging Google in computing; unveils flagship Mate 30 series, along with Watch GT 2 smartwatch and Vision TV snap on like a pro!


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 Snap on like a pro, Mate

Huawei Launches ‘World’s Fastest AI Training  Cluster

Huawei launches “world’s fastest AI training cluster” – Verdict

Huawei launches Atlas 900, world’s fastest AI training cluster

Focus on computing could challenge industry leaders like Google: analysts

Visitors check out devices at the Huawei Connect 2019 in Shanghai on Wednesday. Photo: Shen Weiduo/GT

Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies on Wednesday unveiled its ambition in the computing sector by laying out its strategy for the $2 trillion sector and releasing what it claims to be the world’s fastest artificial intelligence (AI) training cluster, the Atlas 900, a move that industry analysts said could challenge industry giants like Google.

Huawei’s foray into the computing area also comes after steady progress it made in 5G businesses and the proprietary operating system HarmonyOS, showing the industry giant’s defiance and resilience amid the US intensified crackdown over the past year. it also marks another milestone for the company, said analysts.

“When most people think Huawei, they think connections…But our work doesn’t stop at connectivity. Both connections and computing are key,” Ken Hu (Houkun), deputy chairman of Huawei, spoke of Huawei’s ambitions in the industry at the Huawei Connect 2019, an annual conference held by the industry giant in Shanghai, which runs from Wednesday to Friday.

“In terms of Huawei’s investment, they’re equally important. In the past, we mostly talked about connections. Today I’d like to focus on computing,” Hu said. The future of computing is a massive market worth more than $2 trillion by 2023, where Huawei wants to carve out a space.

Huawei also introduced sectors it will focus on in the industry, including architectural innovation, investment in its all-scenario processors and the construction of an open ecosystem, which will involve an investment of another $1.5 billion in its developer program.

From the launch of its chip series and proprietary operating system to servers, to the computing layout, it is stepping up efforts to build up a comprehensive ability amid the US’ intensified crackdown, Xiang Ligang, a Beijing-based veteran industry analyst, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Xiang said these moves indicate the US crackdown will not contain the company’s growth.

Apart from the official debut of its computing strategy, Huawei on Wednesday also unveiled the Atlas 900, which it claimed is the fastest AI training cluster that combines the power of thousands of its proprietary Ascend processors.

Building on the technical strength it has developed over the past decade, Huawei said that Atlas 900 takes only 59.8 seconds to train ResNet-50, a type of artificial neural network that is the gold standard for measuring AI training performance. This is 10 seconds faster than the previous world record.

“The layout in the computing sector and launch of training clusters mainly aim to serve as rivals to industry giants like Google, which now has the strongest computing power in the world. The world’s major breakthroughs in the AI sector also come from Google,” Jiang Junmu, chief writer at the telecom industry news website c114.com.cn, who covers Huawei closely, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The biggest barrier to AI development is the lack of computing ability, but this is also where Huawei sees opportunity, Jiang said.


US ban effect

Being on a US blacklist since May 16, which restricts many US companies from selling products to Huawei, has cast a shadow on its businesses. While playing down the US effect, Hu said on Wednesday during the opening remarks that “Huawei has been doing just fine, like the good weather in Shanghai today.”

He told reporters that Huawei has secured more than 50 contracts even amid the baseless security accusations from the US, and the number is still increasing. He estimated that 5G businesses will start contributing to revenue by the end of next year with the full roll-out of 5G services in China.

Still, insiders pointed out uncertainties for the giant. For instance, the company, which is also the world’s second-largest smartphone maker, is scheduled to launch a high-end smartphone Mate 30 series on Thursday. Whether the new handset will be able to run Google’s Android operating system and apps may affect its sales.

Huawei rotating chairman Eric Xu (Zhijun) said last month that while the impact of the US curbs was weaker than previously expected, there would still be at least $10 billion in losses in its smartphone unit’s revenue this year.

An insider told the Global Times on the sidelines of the conference that it’s unclear whether Huawei’s own computing architecture and proprietary HarmonyOS could support its devices and meet consumer expectations.

“The company is doing OK, but it still has holes to be fixed in the face of unclear prospects,” the insider said.
Newspaper headline: Huawei launches ‘fastest’ AI cluster

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Huawei unveils flagship Mate 30 series, along with Watch GT 2 smartwatch and Vision TV


Design-wise, the Mate 30 Pro comes with anarrow notch, slim bezels and an edge-to-edge Horizon Display, whichcurves at an 88° angle, to maximise the screen real estate. — Photos:KHOR SOW YEE/The Star

Huawei has unveiled its latest flagship smartphones, the Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro – along with a Mate 30 Pro Porsche variant and a Mate 30 Pro 5G model – at a launch event in Munich, Germany.

The Mate 30 range is powered by the new Kirin 990 SoC chipset. The 5G models, however, are powered by the Kirin 990 5G chipset – the first to integrate both processing units and a 5G modem on the same chip – making these devices the “world’s first second-generation 5G smartphones that support 4K video calls”, claims Huawei.

“The era of 5G is an opportunity to rethink the smartphone technology and the Huawei Mate 30 series is the ultimate expression of what’s possible,” said Huawei business group CEO Richard Yu.

Design-wise, the Mate 30 Pro comes with a narrow notch, slim bezels and an edge-to-edge Horizon Display, which curves at an 88° angle, to maximise the screen real estate.

It has also eliminated the side volume buttons and replaced them with virtual keys, allowing users to position them on either side of the phone – a handy feature for both left- and right-handed users.

The Mate 30 series sports a triple/quad camera system, with a ring design surrounded by a metallic “halo”.

Mate 30 Pro has a 40-megapixel SuperSensing camera with wide-angle lens, a 40-megapixel camera with ultra-wide angle lens, an 8-megapixel camera with telephoto lens, and a 3D depth sensing camera.

Mate 30 Pro has a 40-megapixel SuperSensing camera with wide-angle lens, a 40-megapixel camera with ultra-wide angle lens, an 8-megapixel camera with telephoto lens, and a 3D depth sensing camera.

For the Mate 30, this comprises a 40-megapixel SuperSensing camera, a 16-megapixel camera with ultra wide-angle lens and an 8-megapixel camera with telephoto lens.

The smartphone also boasts optical image stabilisation (OIS), along with laser focus, which together are capable of 2.5cm macro photography and max ISO of 204800.

Meanwhile, its larger sibling the Mate 30 Pro comes with a 40-megapixel SuperSensing camera with wide-angle lens, a 40-megapixel camera with ultra-wide angle lens, an 8-megapixel camera with telephoto lens, and a 3D depth sensing camera.

The SuperSensing camera features a dual main-camera system with a max video ISO rating of 51200 to capture videos at super slow-motion at up to 7,680fps (frames per second), as well as 4K ultra-wide angle low-light time-lapse video and real-time Bokeh.

The second of the dual-camera system promises brilliant results in low-light conditions with ISO 409600 light sensitivity.

Huawei says that the 8-megapixel camera on the phones offer 3x optical zoom, 5x hybrid zoom and up to 30x digital zoom.

The front-facing camera on the Mate 30 also comes with 3D depth sensing that is purportedly able to deliver pro-Bokeh effects with accurate depth-of-field info for selfies and portraits.

The front-facing camera on the Mate 30 also comes with 3D depth sensing that is purportedly able to deliver pro-Bokeh effects with accurate depth-of-field info for selfies and portraits.

The front-facing camera also comes with 3D depth sensing that is purportedly able to deliver pro-Bokeh effects with accurate depth-of-field info for selfies and portraits.

Other features include an always-on display with a lock screen that changes colour throughout the day, AI gesture control for contactless interaction, HiCar smart travel for seamless connectivity with a car’s on-board communication and entertainment systems, 3D face unlock and in-screen fingerprint sensor (Mate 30 Pro only).

Huawei has eliminated the side volume buttons and replaced them with virtual ones on the Mate 30 Pro (pic) and Mate 30.

Huawei has eliminated the side volume buttons and replaced them with virtual ones on the Mate 30 Pro (pic) and Mate 30.

The 6.62in Mate 30 has a 4,200mAh battery, while the 6.53in Mate 30 Pro has with a 4,500mAh battery. Both support fast wired and wireless charging, while the Mate 30 Pro provides upgraded reverse wireless charging for other compatible devices.

The Huawei Mate 30 with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage will retail at €799 (RM3.700), while the Mate 30 Pro with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage will go for €1,099 (RM5,100) for the non-5G version and €1,199 (RM5,550) for the 5G model.

The phones will be available in Emerald Green, Space Silver, Cosmic Purple, and Black, while the Forest Green and Orange will be available in vegan leather.

The Porsche Design Huawei Mate 30 RS, a variant of the Pro, has 12GB RAM and 512GB storage, and will be available in red or black with leather finishing on the back and will retail at €2,095 (RM9,700).

Local prices and availability have yet to be announced.

Besides the Mate series, Huawei also announced the Watch GT 2, which is powered by the Kirin A1 chip and boasts a claimed battery life of 14 days per charge.

It will also come with new functions such as 15 smart workout modes with 10 training modes just for running, an enhanced music player, and the ability to answer voice calls on the watch via Bluetooth.

The Huawei Watch GT 2 smartwatch will come in two sizes; a 42mm version with a 1.2in Amoled display and a 46mm version with a 1.39in Amoled display, and will be available in October for €229 (RM1,050) and €249 (RM1,150), respectively.

Huawei also announced the availability of its FreeBuds 3 wireless Bluetooth earphones which feature active noise cancellation and ultra-low audio latency.

The black and white versions of FreeBuds 3 will be available in China, Europe, Middle East, Russia, Asia Pacific and Latin America from November at €179 (RM850).

One more device that was revealed was a TV dubbed Huawei Vision, with a 4K quantum dot screen (55in, 65in, 75in) and refresh rate of up to 120Hz, as well as “perceptive AI-eye” function with AI video call, face recognition and tracking features, and control centre for smart home devices. However, no pricing or availability was announced.

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Recession fears can by itself be a self-fulfilling prophecy


 

AS talk of a recession picks up, a veteran fund manager, Ang Kok Heng of Phillip Capital Management Sdn Bhd, correctly points out that the Malaysian stock market has been in “recession” in five of the six years since 2014.

Hence, he does not envisage how it can get worse for the Malaysian stock market if the global economy does go into a recession next year. Fears of a global recession have picked up pace based on the behaviour of the US yield curve.

The yield curve, which charts the spreads of US debt papers of various tenures, has inverted several times in the past few weeks. Most people would not understand what an inverted yield curve means.

Simply put, it means long-dated debt papers of 10 years giving lower returns compared to shorter-term debt papers such as two-year US Treasuries. It causes what is called an inverted yield curve.

It goes against the normal behaviour of US Treasury yields because long-term debt papers should give a higher return than short-term papers.

The consequence of an inverted yield curve is that it will lead to banks reducing their lending activities because their margins are narrow. Eventually, it results in companies reducing their activities and the country going into a slowdown or recession.

An inverted yield curve has been the precursor to all past recessions (see diagram).

However, there are some who are disputing the fears of an impending global recession based on the behaviour of the bond yield curve. Their reason is that the bond yields are not behaving as what they should due to the governments all around the world printing money to keep interest rates artificially low since 2009.

Interest rates have become so low to the extent that European banks are offering no returns on deposits. This means depositors do not get any money for keeping their money in the banks. Borrowers instead get discounts on their installments.

It’s happening in Europe because government bond yields there have turned negative.

For instance, the yield on 10-year Switzerland bonds is negative 0.74%, while German bonds of a similar tenure yield negative 0.52%. From France to Denmark, government debt papers have negative yields.

Only some countries such as Portugal and Spain still have positive yields on their debt papers.

Analysts believe that this has resulted in investors resorting to buying US debt papers that still offer positive yields. Hence, the price of bonds across all tenures in the US has gone up, causing their yields to come down.

The search for yields has also resulted in the narrowing of the difference between what the two-year and 10-year debt papers offer. And there have been several occasions in the last one month when the yield on the 10-year paper was lower than the two-year debt papers.

Apart from the behaviour of the yield curve, the other indicator that is seen as a precursor to a recession is the declining manufacturing sector all around the world caused by the trade war between the US and China. The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which is a leading indicator to assess the state of the economy, has been declining for all major economies.

For Malaysia, the PMI has been less than the 50-point benchmark for almost a year now. The same trend is seen in China, while the indicator has started to decline in the US in the last few months, which some see as a result of the trade war.

The trade war has caused supply disruptions, impacting the manufacturing sector.

However, there are other indicators that do not indicate a recession is imminent.

Banks are fairly well-capitalised and have pulled the brakes on lending. We do not hear of banks being impacted by major corporate defaults except for some financial institutions in China. Malaysian banks, for instance, have weathered the storm quite well so far, thanks to Bank Negara keeping a tight rein on their lending activities.

There has not been any run-up in asset prices. Property prices in countries such as Malaysia have remained subdued since 2015 after Bank Negara pulled the brakes on lending. Since 2014, Bursa Malaysia has closed lower every year, except for 2017.

The only exception of rising asset prices is Wall Street that has soared to record highs. Stock prices are hitting all-time highs due to improved earnings growth.

Technology companies such as Apple and Amazon are US$1 trillion companies. The other technology companies such as Facebook and Alphabet are enjoying growing valuations because of earnings growth.

No other stock exchange in the world has such a large concentration of technology companies than the exchanges on Wall Street. All technology companies, even from China, want to list on Wall Street.

Even Alibaba is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and not in Hong Kong.

It has been 11 years since the last recession, but the world’s central banks have resumed their printing of cheap money to keep interest rates low. The European Central Bank has resumed quantitative easing, while the US Federal Reserve is reducing interest rates. In essence, central banks are taking these measures to prevent a slowing economy going into recession.

In the meantime, it has caused fear among people and companies. Companies are holding back on spending, and in fact, cutting down on their debt.

A clear indicator is in the US where companies raised the most amount of corporate debt. Apple and Disney raised US$7bil worth of debt papers to reduce their borrowings.

In Malaysia, corporations have been deleveraging for the past few years in anticipation of a slowdown. Companies are not expanding, as indicated by the declining private-sector gross capital formation.

It is only reasonable for companies and people to save for the upcoming rainy days. Even governments are cautious in spending. For instance, in the upcoming Budget 2020, many are expecting the government to start spending. But there is also a view that the government will adopt a cautious stance as it continues to strengthen its balance sheet and reduce debts.

If nobody spends for fear of a recession, it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Most people are expecting a recession, meaning negative growth. Fear of a recession has translated into a slowdown that the world and Malaysia are experiencing. If this fear continues to perpetuate, a recession would be a self-fulling prophecy.

It is good to be fearful, but being too fearful and conservative will also result in lost opportunity.

As Ang of Phillip Capital puts it, in times when fears of a recession seap in, cash must be held to seize opportunities. Holding cash as an investment is not a wise option.

By M. SHANMUGAM , The views expressed here are solely that of the writer. Source link

 

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KUALA LUMPUR: Asian markets started the week on a weak note amid escalating trade war concerns after the US and China announced plans for additional tariffs against each other.

Locally, the FBM KLCI stayed in negative territory for the whole of yesterday, before paring losses to close 8.8 points or 0.55% lower at 1,600.53 points. Before the closing, the index hovered below 1,595, falling 1.17% to an intraday low of 1,590.51.

Despite the fall, the local index was among the least affected by the regional selldown, compared with other Asian indices. The biggest loser among the regional indices was Japan’s Nikkei 225, falling 2.17% to 20,261.04. This was followed by Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index and the Taiwan Stock Exchange, down 1.91% and 1.74% respectively. India’s Sensex notably closed 2.16% higher.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore’s Straits Times Index was the biggest decliner, down 1.45% at 3,065.33, and the Jakarta Composite index closed 0.66% lower at 6,214.51.

Last Friday, US President Donald Trump announced an additional duty on some US$550 billion worth of targeted Chinese goods, following China’s move to hike trade levies on US$75 billion worth of US goods.

Trump said US tariffs on US$250 billion of Chinese imports will increase from 25% to 30% on Oct 1, while an additional 5% tax on US$300 billion worth of Chinese goods — raising the tariff to 15% from 10% — starts on Sept 1.

The president made it clear that the US was responding to China’s threat of additional tariffs on US$75 billion of goods including soybeans, automobiles and oil.

“This looks like a tit-for-tat [response] and I don’t see an easy resolution to the trade war, as there seems to be no middle ground between the US and China. It is very unsettling for the market because there is no direction from day to day,” said Inter-Pacific Securities Sdn Bhd research head Pong Teng Siew.

However, the tensions eased a bit towards the later part of yesterday, as Chinese Vice Premier Liu He said China was willing to resolve the trade dispute through calm negotiations, stating the nation was against the escalation of the conflict.

Trump responded positively to China’s suggestion and, on the sidelines of a summit in France, had hailed Chinese President Xi Jinping as a great leader and welcomed the latter’s desire for calm negotiations.

It remains to be seen how the trade dispute will be resolved, given the constant retaliatory tariffs between the two economic behemoths since early last year.

Several trade talks between the two nations have not brought any solutions to the trade war, still affecting investor sentiments towards global markets. For the KLCI, the trade war remains a major factor affecting analysts’ forecasts.

Kenanga Research said the index’s underlying trend remains bearish but does not discount the possibility of a technical rebound as the KLCI has been in oversold territory for about a month. “Look out for overhead resistance levels at 1,630 and 1,650. If selling pressure continues, the key support levels to keep an eye on are 1,570 and 1,550,” Kenanga Research wrote in a note yesterday. – Source link
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A new cold war in trade wars also is a tech war and currency war now !


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Poised for correction: A file picture showing a woman walking by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo. After 10 years of continued rise in asset prices, markets are poised for correction. — AP

Tariffs are here to stay and likely to disrupt the 10-year economic cycle

IF investors ever needed a reminder that not all is right with the equities market, the shock waves the world capital markets, including Bursa Malaysia, had to endure earlier this week are proof enough.

Most stock markets are at the tailend of a 10-year bull run, although the same cannot be said for Bursa Malaysia which has generally has been more bearish than others in the last five years. Going by the current trends, Bursa Malaysia is likely to finish the year lower, which if it happens will be the fourth time in the last five years.

But the leading platform in the world which sets the pace for global flow of capital – the Wall Street – has been hitting new highs although it corrects from time to time largely due to the tweets from President Donald Trump.

Wall Street’s run started in May 2009 and seems to have the strength to carry on for a few more legs, defying conventional logic that economic boom-bust cycles corrects after 10 years. Other stock markets have had good and bad times since 2009 but the US has been consistently on the rise.

The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Nasdaq and S&P 500, which charts the broader market, have all hit news highs. Bursa Malaysia on the other hand has languished between the 1, 600 and 1, 700 levels, with only one year of positive returns since 2014.

There are several reasons for Bursa Malaysia’s poor performance compared with other markets. For instance, the United States slashed tax rates, which spurred earnings of companies and has the best technology companies listed there. It’s not the same elsewhere in the world.

Nevertheless, after 10 years of continued rise in asset prices due to the combination of a low interest rate environment and advancement in technology, the markets are poised for correction. Until earlier this week, nobody had an inkling of an idea where and how the correction will take place.

However, after President’s Trump latest statement that the US would impose 10% tariff on an additional US$300bil worth of exports from China, it clearly underlines that the trade war is here to stay.

If anybody had a view that the trade war would end if President Trump does not retain his position in the US elections next year, they are wrong. Even some Democrats are leaning towards imposing tariff as measure to help the US keep its competitive edge in the world economy.

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A 25% tariff has already been imposed on US$250bil worth of China’s exports to the United States since March this year.

It is bringing in billions to the US coffers with some going towards helping the farmers overcome the woes of the trade war. The person who takes over from Trump is not likely to dismantle the structure.

Any other president will want to get more from China, which is led by the influential President Xi Jinping, who is seen as the most powerful man that rules the second biggest economy in the world after the late chairman Mao Zedong.

China has retaliated by imposing tariffs on US$110bil worth of imports from the US so far including the produce from farms. It has also allowed the yuan to weaken, sparking concerns that the trade war is evolving into a currency war.Latest data from China shows that the exports are still growing and imports dropping in July even though there is a trade war, suggesting that President Xi will not yield to pressure from the US easily.

A new cold war in the form of the trade war has emerged. As a result, it has caused upheavals in the capital markets that should worry investors.

There have been significant shifts in asset prices from bonds to equities and commodities such as oil. Among all asset classes, dramatic movement in bond prices of government debt papers is the first to feel the impact from the trade war.

This is on the back of increasing certainty that the Federal Reserve and other major central banks will reduce interest rates more aggressively to stimulate the sagging economy. It has caused for money to seek safe haven such as US government debt papers.

For instance the yields on the 10-year US debt paper is 1.69% now. It was 1.9% a week ago and 2.06% a month ago. The yields moves inversely with the price of the bonds.

The yields on the five- and two-year government debt papers have also moved by up 18 points in the last one week. Such movements on billions of dollars will have an impact in the months to come.

The trade war has caused a major disruption in the global supply chain, evidence of the economy slowing globally.

If anybody wants any evidence of the disruption in global supply chain, they only need to go to the KLIA cargo complex and see for themselves the number of idle lorries that do not have enough cargo to move about.

In Malaysia’s case, apart from a slowdown in movement of goods around the world, the uncertainties in Hong Kong have exacerbated the situation.

The combined effects of the trade war, China’s economic uncertainties and Hong Kong’s future as Asia’s financial hub will only be felt in the fourth quarter of this year.

Until then, asset prices will continue to adjust to the new norm.

The views expressed here are solely that of the writer. Source link 

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The cost and funding of the Hong Kong violence in CIA innumerable US regime-change, a price on freedom


Protesters in protective gear holding up a symbolic yellow umbrella and an American flag while marching through the Sha Tin District in Hong Kong earlier in the month. Sights such as these are fuelling  speculation about foreign involvement in the ongoing protests. — AP

https://youtu.be/huXI39jtq1sThousands rally to denounce violence and support Hong Kong police

https://youtu.be/tOw6kfhS1NsAnnie Wu: Young HK people need to learn to become Chinese

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and likewise, in the pursuit of democracy, there will always be casualties.

ONE of the most avid speculations about the Hong Kong protests is whether the CIA is involved, and this talk is fuelled, no less, by warnings from the Chinese to the US to keep out of Hong Kong’s affairs.

Last week, former HK chief executive Tung Chee-hwa was more ominous, openly accusing the US and Taiwan of orchestrating “well-organised” recent protests.

The first retaliatory strike from China on Taiwan was the ban on solo travellers, involving 47 mainland cities to Taiwan, which will cost the island state US$900mil (RM3.75bil) in tourism dollars by January.

Let’s look at these accusations rationally, though. It’s impossible for the CIA to hire such a massive crowd in Hong Kong.

The anger is real, though, and the spontaneity of the protests speaks for itself.

There has been growing frustration among the people, especially the younger generation, over what they see as the decline in living standards, and many now don’t see a future in the city.

The amendment to the Extradition Law has touched a nerve among HK citizens because many perceive they would not get justice or due legal rights under China’s mainland rule.

Let’s put it this way, the judicial independence in China isn’t ranked highly by international standards, and even Chinese nationals complain about it.

HK citizens are concerned that their city will be like any other mainland Chinese city, where the citizens’ freedom could be compromised, although one wonders how many of these protesters truly believe they would ever get extradited to China in the first place.

The Bill is, essentially, a manifestation of the frustrations that have built up, and its timing allowed for that volcanic eruption of anger.

It’s unlikely the young protesters were aware that HK has, in fact, extradition agreements with 20 countries, including Britain and the United States. From China’s point of view, why can’t there be one with the mainland?

Against this backdrop, with students on summer holidays, the perfect concoction was created, building up a massive protest for an international audience.

The timing couldn’t have been worse for HK chief executive Carrie Lam to push the Bill through – this is the season of protests, coinciding with the anniversaries of the Tiananmen Square incident and British handover of HK to China on July 1, 1997.

By now, it’s clear that Lam is a technocrat who isn’t politically savvy, and her lack of learned leadership during a crisis shows her shortcomings in being the best person to helm HK, even though China continues to back her.

The Bill has been suspended since June 15 until further notice, but not withdrawn. She has said the legislation process was a complete failure and that “the Bill is dead”, but she hasn’t enacted any legislative process to withdraw the proposal either.

So protests will likely continue, but nothing is free, and that includes the business of organising well-planned weekly protests.

Over the past month, the media has been reporting that groups involved in the protests have received significant funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), “a CIA soft-power cut-out that has played a critical role in innumerable US regime-change operations, ” according to writer Alexander Rubinstein.

The report claimed that the NED has four main branches, at least two of which are active in Hong Kong: the Solidarity Center (SC) and National Democratic Institute (NDI).

“The latter has been active in Hong Kong since 1997, and NED funding for Hong Kong-based groups has been consistent, ” Louisa Greve, vice president of programmes for Asia, Middle East and North Africa, was quoted.

While NED funding for groups in Hong Kong goes back to 1994, 1997 was when the British returned the territory to China, it was reported.

The report said in 2018, NED granted US$155, 000 (RM645, 885) to SC and US$200, 000 (RM833, 400) to NDI for work in Hong Kong, and US$90, 000 (RM375, 000) to Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor (HKHRM), which isn’t a branch of NED, but a partner in Hong Kong. Between 1995 and 2013, HKHRM received more than US$1.9mil (RM7.9mil) in funds from the NED.

This isn’t the first time the NED’s name has cropped up either.

During the 2014 Occupy protests, the spectre of NED in the protests and the foreign philosophies it represented also came up.

The NED was set up in 1983 to channel grants for “promoting democracy” and it’s said that it receives US$100mil (RM416mil) annually from the relevant agencies.

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai has also been accused of funding the protests. He has taken it a step further by meeting US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington DC to discuss the Bill and the city’s situation.

Lai is the owner of Next Digital, which publishes both the pro-democracy Apple Daily and Next Magazine, among others.

Predictably, the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong issued a statement saying it has lodged a solemn representation at the US Consulate General in Hong Kong to ask the US to stop its “mistaken words and deeds”.

A spokesperson for the local Commissioner’s Office said that it strongly opposed foreign forces interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs.

“The US side clearly knows who Jimmy Lai is, what his stance is, and what his role is in Hong Kong society. Top US government officials have ulterior motives and sent a seriously wrong signal when they queued up to meet such a person at this sensitive time of Hong Kong – we express our strong discontent and opposition, ” it said.

In 2014, the South China Morning Post reported that Lai spent millions funding the Occupy Central protests.

The SCMP reported that Lai’s group offered extensive advice – including propaganda material – to the Occupy Central organisers, whom Lai dismissed in private as “idealist scholars” who “couldn’t make the cut without help”.

The emails were leaked by the same person who sent documents detailing the Next Media chairman’s political donations to various pan-democrats two weeks ago. It isn’t clear how the documents were obtained, though.

One of the exchanges between Lai and his top aide, Mark Simon, indicates that Lai spent some HK$3mil (RM1.6mil) to HK$3.5mil (RM1.8mil) to help the plebiscite. The email did not detail how the money was spent, only mentioning that the costs included “advertisements and billboards”.

In a rebuttal, Lai said that while he had donated large sums of money to politicians in the pro-democracy camp, he had not given a cent to the co-founders of Occupy Central. His newspaper, though, had given the movement discounts for advertisements.

China cannot be faulted for seeing shadows of foreign influence in the protests. It doesn’t help that protesters, pressing for independence, are waving colonial British and US flags, and what began as peaceful protests has now degenerated into riots, a term the demonstrators have also challenged and protested.

There is much irony in the HK protests. The late kung fu legend, Bruce Lee, has become an icon in the protests because of his philosophical advice to “be formless, shapeless, like water, ” in his role as Li Tsung, a martial-arts instructor in Longstreet, a US TV series.

Basically, the protesters should take on the HK police with a new tactic: formless, shapeless protests in scattered parts of the territory, aimed at wearing the authorities down.

But older folks like me would probably remember a better scene in the movie Fist Of Fury, where he kicked and smashed a sign at the gate of Huangpu Park which read, “No dogs and Chinese allowed”. The park in Shanghai was closed to the Chinese between 1890 and 1928.

It has been said, according to some reports, period photographs show a sign listing 10 regulations, the first of which was that “The Gardens are reserved for the Foreign Community”, with the fourth being “Dogs and bicycles are not admitted”. Any way you cut it; the Chinese weren’t allowed in the foreign settlement.

What has happened in HK is that the protests’ demands have grown exponentially, bordering on calls to be independent and free from China. Tragically, it has also become more violent by the day.

In calling for freedom of speech, citizens who disagreed with the protesters have found themselves beaten up, which seems to go against the grain.

When violence committed on the police and those who disagree are embraced or encouraged as part of a democratic process, and the destruction of public properties is accepted as a minor price for freedom, then something has gone badly wrong.

By Wong Chun Wai who began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 35 years in various capacities and roles. He is now editorial and corporate affairs adviser to the group, after having served as group managing director/chief executive officer. On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

chunwai@thestar.com.my

http://www.wongchunwai.com/

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