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Income Statement – November 2017

November 18, 2017 Board minutes

FCC Hong Kong calls for immediate release of Reuters journalists held in Myanmar

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong calls for the immediate release of Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, two Myanmar journalists with the Reuters news agency who were arrested on Wednesday.

Reuters journalists Wa Lone (L) and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are based in Myanmar, pose for a picture at the Reuters office in Yangon, Myanmar December 11, 2017. Picture taken December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Antoni Slodkowski Reuters journalists Wa Lone (L) and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are based in Myanmar, pose for a picture at the Reuters office in Yangon, Myanmar December 11, 2017. Picture taken December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Antoni Slodkowski

The pair have been charged under a section of the Official Secrets Act that carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. The government has released a photograph of them wearing handcuffs with documents displayed before them.

Reuters has expressed its outrage over the arrest and accused Myanmar authorities of an attack on press freedom.

The US State Department has also voiced concern for the “safety and security of international reporters who are simply just trying to do their jobs”.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have both recently reported on the refugee crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where a deadly military “clearance operation” has resulted in more than 600,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims fleeing into Bangladesh.

Their arrest is part of a deepening crackdown on freedom of expression in Myanmar, which is facing severe criticism from the international community for its handling of the Rohingya crisis.

Journalists have been banned from travelling independently to northern Rakhine to investigate the circumstances of the crackdown, and verify refugees’ accounts of murder, mass rape and burning of villages by security forces.

In November, two foreign journalists along with their interpreter and driver were sentenced to two months imprisonment for filming with a drone without official permission. And in June three journalists were detained in war-torn northern Shan state and spent two months in custody.

As Myanmar undertakes its transition to democracy, it is vital that the country respects the beneficial role of a free and independent media and ensures that journalists are able to do their work without threat of retaliation.

The arrest of these two Myanmar journalists under the Official Secrets Act is unacceptable and counterproductive in a country aiming to take its place in the international community after decades of military rule.

Who are the winners and losers in the war for China’s wallet?

The war for China’s wallet is being won through consumerism as industries like manufacturing and finance find it increasingly difficult – and costly – to do business there, according to the founder of a top market research group.

Shaun Rein gave insights into how to do business in China at the FCC club breakfast. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Shaun Rein gave insights into how to do business in China at the FCC club breakfast. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

Additionally, protectionism and nationalism are driving mainland Chinese consumers to buy domestic goods rather than foreign made products, said Shaun Rein, author of the new book The War For China’s Wallet which aims to help companies understand how to profit from China’’s outbound economic plans.

At the centre of this domestic boom is President Xi Jinping, who has consolidated Communist Party power by taking firmer control of business and overseas investment. The world’s largest or second largest trading partner for most countries, China is seen as the obvious destination for foreign investment. But President Xi’s campaigns, such as the crackdown on corruption, and the economic punishment of countries that speak out against China, has created an environment of mistrust among those trying to do business in the country.

“I think it’s clear that not everyone will make money in China,” said Rein, managing director of CMR China, adding: “If you’re on the consumer side, there’s lots of money.

“China is no longer a cheap place to do business. The cost of doing business is crazy high,” he said at the December 12 club breakfast.

Rein pointed out that foreign brands including KFC and Starbucks make a huge profit in China. But he warned that multinationals were increasingly adhering to the political goals of Beijing in order to operate there. Publicly backing the One Belt, One Road initiative – President Xi’s development strategy to establish trade routes between Eurasian countries – is one way of staying in favour with the Communist Party. Those who speak out against China, said Rein, risk economic punishment or outright banishment. He gave the example of the Philippines, whose mango imports to China were blocked after an international tribunal on territorial disputes ruled in favour of the Philippines. The block was lifted once Rodrigo Duterte came to power in the Philippines and declared allegiance to China over America.

“The theme of the book is that China punishes and rewards countries,” Rein said. But he added that now China has also started punishing foreign companies for the actions of their countries’ governments, citing South Korea’s Lotte Group, which provided land in South Korea for the U.S. THAAD missile system.

Rein said the “methodical, systematic plan” to garner support for the One Belt, One Road initiative was the result of a “divide and conquer” strategy on the part of the Chinese government.

He predicted that multinational financial services would continue to suffer in China, but that foreign insurance companies would flourish, as would wealth management.

How North Korea’s burgeoning middle class is painting a new picture of life in the DPRK

The traditional picture painted by the media of North Koreans as an impoverished people is outdated thanks to a burgeoning middle class – but the dark days of starvation may not be far away if sanctions continue to be imposed on the world’s most isolated nation.

Author Nick Bonner showed graphics from his new book, Made in North Korea: Graphics from Everyday Life. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Author Nick Bonner showed graphics from his new book, Made in North Korea: Graphics from Everyday Life. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

That was the opinion of Nick Bonner, author, filmmaker and founder of a North Korean tour group who shared his insights into the DPRK having spent the last 25 years traveling to and from it.

Bonner’s new book, Made in North Korea: Graphics from Everyday Life, uses an extensive collection of graphics and North Korean propaganda artwork to tell the story of how the country has evolved over the last two decades.

Through slides showing various graphics and products, like cigarette packets, he explained how colour illustrated eras the country was going through: vibrant primary colours in the 1970s to promote the country’s virtues, against the greys and browns of the 90s during North Korea’s economic crisis which resulted in widespread famine.

The landscape architect first visited North Korea in 1993, which then inspired him to start Koryo Tours – a Beijing-based travel agency specialising in travel to North Korea. Bonner has produced three award-winning documentaries about the country, as well as North Korea’s first ‘girl power’ movie — ‘Comrade Kim goes Flying’ — which became the first-ever North Korean film to be shown to a public audience in South Korea.

But today’s North Korea – particularly its capital, Pyongyang, paints a different picture. Using his own photographs – one showing a child on a shiny red bicycle carrying a dried fish – Bonner showed the wealth element in the country’s everyday life. Some of this influence came from China, he said.

“Shops in the Metro are full of Chinese (made) rubbish – things that glow, things that are shiny,” he said, adding that market reform in 2002 meant that the import of foreign products brought about greater prosperity. “With products coming in from abroad…it’s given North Korea a kick to make their own products and repackage them.”

However, sanctions imposed as a result of leader Kim Jong-un’s ongoing spat with United States President Donald Trump could see a return to the North Korea of old, Bonner warned, adding that it would be more productive to engage the country rather than isolate it further.

There’s hope for the Ganges but the biggest clean-up push is yet to materialise, says author Victor Mallet

The Ganges – a river so revered that she is worshipped as a goddess by Indians. Yet the world’s third largest river is highly polluted by the 400 million people who live on her banks.

Journalist, author and FCC board member Victor Mallet discussed the threats facing India's Ganges river. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Journalist, author and FCC board member Victor Mallet discussed the threats facing India’s Ganges river. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

And, ironically, part of the reason for this abuse of the sacred river is its goddess status: many Indians simply believe that there is nothing they can do to harm it, said journalist and author Victor Mallet during a club lunch on his new book, River of Life, River of Death: The Ganges and India’s Future.

The book, the result of years fo research on the environmental issues affecting the Ganges – believed to be the embodiment of Ma Ganga, Hinduism’s mother-goddess – explores how India’s government could derive “co-benefits” in other areas of society by sanitising the river, such as creating jobs and lightening the burden on healthcare.

“Indians are killing the Ganges and, in turn, the Ganges is killing Indians,” Mallet, an FCC board member, explained.

Flowing from the eastern Himalayas, through the Plain of North India and into Bangladesh, the river is now under serious threat from human sewage, toxic waste, antibiotics, fertiliser and pesticides, he said. A series of dams along its course means that, in places, it can sometimes run dry outside of monsoon season. And a lack of accountability within successive Indian governments has played a large part in the decline of the river, Mallet added.

However, Mallet is optimistic that the river can be saved. He draws comparisons with other rivers such as the Thames and the Rhine, once both heavily polluted but now home to thriving ecosystems. He was also hopeful that India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, would deliver on his promise of cleaning up the river.

“He’s very much committed verbally to doing this,” Mallet said, “but there’s a debate as to whether he could have done more.”

Mallet noted a further problem: that the campaigners he had spoken to in India during his extensive research for the book had turned out to be the same people who had spoken to writers decades before – indicating that “a lot of young Indians are not really engaged in what should be an important mission”.

He concluded: “There are small signs of progress but the biggest push has not started yet.”

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