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Westlake Legal Group > Demonstrations, Protests and Riots

Hong Kong Protesters Are Targeting Starbucks. Apple Could Be Next.

Westlake Legal Group 15hk-boycott-1-facebookJumbo Hong Kong Protesters Are Targeting Starbucks. Apple Could Be Next. Starbucks Corporation Politics and Government McDonald's Corporation Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Demonstrations, Protests and Riots Cathay Pacific Airways Boycotts Beijing (China) Activision Blizzard Inc

HONG KONG — One company is the world’s largest coffee chain. Another runs a Japanese restaurant empire. A third makes some of the most popular online games on the planet.

The global businesses — Starbucks, Yoshinoya and Activision Blizzard — would seem far removed from the political discontent in Hong Kong. But to some of the pro-democracy protesters there, and a growing number of their global allies, the companies are seen, rightly or wrongly, as sympathizers with the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, and as legitimate targets for boycotts or even vandalism.

Protesters are documenting what they see as the companies’ ties to China, then circulating the information on mobile apps and websites — sometimes based on mere rumor, or on comments made by executives or their family members. Starbucks and Yoshinoya have been repeatedly targeted because of the owner of their Hong Kong franchises, while Activision Blizzard, the maker of World of Warcraft, has been subject to boycotts for attempting to censor a pro-democracy player in Hong Kong.

The monthslong protests and their fraught politics are rippling overseas, ensnaring an ever wider range of corporations and executives, no matter their nationality. All have spent years cultivating their brands, but now find their reputations in jeopardy over any suggestion that they don’t support the protesters.

Some companies are in the awkward position of trying to dodge questions about the issue, to avoid offending either China, with its vast market, or Hong Kong activists, who have fervent support among Westerners and Taiwanese. After a single recent tweet, the N.B.A. found itself caught between both sides.

“All corporations here are walking on eggshells when it comes to what they say, whether it’s about Hong Kong or about the mainland,” said David Webb, a shareholder activist in Hong Kong.

The companies’ vulnerabilities are growing, as activists turn increasingly to vandalism and to boycotts. And Hong Kong’s reputation as a hub of freewheeling capitalism, with one of the world’s most business-friendly environments, is already suffering. These days, workers regularly sweep up glass from shops with broken windows, as shuttered storefronts with graffiti sit in the shadows of gleaming skyscrapers.

Last weekend, protesters called for rallies in shopping malls and a boycott of allegedly pro-China restaurants and stores — with a small, hard-core contingent encouraging the “renovating” (smashing) or “decorating” (spray-painting graffiti) of those locations.

At a Starbucks branch in the Tseung Kwan O district, a few protesters used hammers and a fire extinguisher to smash glass shelves, while others threw plates and trays on the ground. “The heavens will destroy the Communist Party” was spray-painted on a counter.

Some protesters attacked subway stations, including with Molotov cocktails. Many believe the MTR Corporation, the company that operates the subway, has been working with local officials to undermine protests by shutting down some stations, ending service early and, once, closing the entire system.

“The outbreak of vandalism or violence in an operating station will endanger the safety of other passengers and MTR staff,” the company said in explaining the closures.

“When I see people destroying public facilities and stores, I feel pained because you still need money to repair it,” said Michelle Tang, a 40-year-old sales worker. “I want it to be peaceful and free again,” she said of Hong Kong. “Now I wouldn’t dare say anything if people were smashing glass around me.”

As the movement settles into a prolonged campaign, activists are systematically pushing for broader boycotts.

One group developed an app, WhatsGap, that tells residents which restaurants to patronize and which ones to avoid. The ones considered friendly to the protests appear on a map of Hong Kong marked in yellow, while those considered hostile have a black marker. The developers plan to add shops.

“For a lot of people not on the front line, these are things they can do,” said Alison Yung, 36, an events planner, who backs the protests. “They can support the movement this way.”

At universities, students are handing out cards with lists of businesses to boycott and staging sit-ins at establishments on campus. Twice last month, people occupied the cafeteria of S.H. Ho College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The cafeteria’s caterer is Maxim’s Group, which is also the franchise owner of Starbucks in Hong Kong. Maxim’s has drawn the ire of activists because the founder’s daughter, Annie Wu Suk-ching, said last month in a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council that the protesters were “rioters” who did not represent Hong Kong.

Maxim’s released a statement saying that Ms. Wu had no position at the company, and that it hoped “all parties” in the ongoing political conflict “will resolve their differences.”

Starbucks did not answer an email request for comment.

Yoshinoya also got the attention of activists when its Hong Kong executives fired an advertising agency that created a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page mocking the police. Hop Hing Group, which operates Yoshinoya in Hong Kong, did not return a call seeking comment.

The chief executive of Best Mart 360, a local convenience store chain, was accused of having ties to gangs from Fujian Province in mainland China that have clashed with protesters. (Best Mart 360 has denied any such ties.)

McDonald’s presents a dilemma for the movement. The chain is ubiquitous in Hong Kong (and open 24 hours), and some people have shown their support for the protesters by buying them McDonald’s coupons, to keep them going through the long demonstrations. But some activists have pointed out that McDonald’s sold an 80 percent stake in its China and Hong Kong business in 2017 to a private equity group comprised of Citic, a Chinese state-owned conglomerate, and the Carlyle Group, based in New York.

International support for the protests has made the issue harder for companies to navigate.

Last week, the Chinese government punished the N.B.A. after Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, posted a tweet in support of the protests. After the league distanced itself from Mr. Morey, some Americans began showing up at games with “Free Hong Kong” posters and banners, and members of Congress chastised the N.B.A.

Activision Blizzard faced a similar backlash after it suspended an e-sports player in Hong Kong, Chung Ng Wai, for voicing support for the movement during a live broadcast. It forced the player, who goes by the name Blitzchung, to forfeit a reported $10,000 in prize money. Many gamers called for a boycott of the company; dozens of Blizzard employees staged a walkout in protest at the company’s California headquarters; and members of Congress spoke up, too.

Blizzard said last Friday it would restore the prize money to Mr. Chung and reduce his suspension to six months, while asserting that the company’s relationship with China had not played a role in the original decision.

Whether the backlash against global brands will result in financial damage is unclear. Some actions taken by the protesters may not have much effect by themselves.

For example, protesters have been calling for a boycott of Cathay Pacific because the airline, under pressure from Beijing, has fired or punished employees who are part of the movement. But for anyone who wants to fly directly from Hong Kong to a Chinese city, it is impossible in most cases to avoid taking either Cathay or a Chinese state-owned airline. Flights between Hong Kong and mainland China are emptier than usual these days not because of a boycott, but because many Chinese want to avoid the protests.

Some activists have made mistakes in choosing which businesses to target. That was the case with Shanghai Commercial Bank. Activists vandalized at least one branch, apparently thinking the chain was based in mainland China.

But the bank is based in Hong Kong. Its motto is “serving the community.”

Tiffany May contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Hong Kong Protesters Are Targeting Starbucks. McDonalds Could Be Next.

Westlake Legal Group 15hk-boycott-1-facebookJumbo Hong Kong Protesters Are Targeting Starbucks. McDonalds Could Be Next. Starbucks Corporation Politics and Government McDonald's Corporation Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Demonstrations, Protests and Riots Cathay Pacific Airways Boycotts Beijing (China) Activision Blizzard Inc

HONG KONG — One company is the world’s largest coffee chain. Another runs a Japanese restaurant empire. A third makes some of the most popular online games on the planet.

The global businesses — Starbucks, Yoshinoya and Activision Blizzard — would seem far removed from the political discontent in Hong Kong. But to some of the pro-democracy protesters there, and a growing number of their global allies, the companies are seen, rightly or wrongly, as sympathizers with the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, and as legitimate targets for boycotts or even vandalism.

Protesters are documenting what they see as the companies’ ties to China, then circulating the information on mobile apps and websites — sometimes based on mere rumor, or on comments made by executives or their family members. Starbucks and Yoshinoya have been repeatedly targeted because of the owner of their Hong Kong franchises, while Activision Blizzard, the maker of World of Warcraft, has been subject to boycotts for attempting to censor a pro-democracy player in Hong Kong.

The monthslong protests and their fraught politics are rippling overseas, ensnaring an ever wider range of corporations and executives, no matter their nationality. All have spent years cultivating their brands, but now find their reputations in jeopardy over any suggestion that they don’t support the protesters.

Some companies are in the awkward position of trying to dodge questions about the issue, to avoid offending either China, with its vast market, or Hong Kong activists, who have fervent support among Westerners and Taiwanese. After a single recent tweet, the N.B.A. found itself caught between both sides.

“All corporations here are walking on eggshells when it comes to what they say, whether it’s about Hong Kong or about the mainland,” said David Webb, a shareholder activist in Hong Kong.

The companies’ vulnerabilities are growing, as activists turn increasingly to vandalism and to boycotts. And Hong Kong’s reputation as a hub of freewheeling capitalism, with one of the world’s most business-friendly environments, is already suffering. These days, workers regularly sweep up glass from shops with broken windows, as shuttered storefronts with graffiti sit in the shadows of gleaming skyscrapers.

Last weekend, protesters called for rallies in shopping malls and a boycott of allegedly pro-China restaurants and stores — with a small, hard-core contingent encouraging the “renovating” (smashing) or “decorating” (spray-painting graffiti) of those locations.

At a Starbucks branch in the Tseung Kwan O district, a few protesters used hammers and a fire extinguisher to smash glass shelves, while others threw plates and trays on the ground. “The heavens will destroy the Communist Party” was spray-painted on a counter.

Some protesters attacked subway stations, including with Molotov cocktails. Many believe the MTR Corporation, the company that operates the subway, has been working with local officials to undermine protests by shutting down some stations, ending service early and, once, closing the entire system.

“The outbreak of vandalism or violence in an operating station will endanger the safety of other passengers and MTR staff,” the company said in explaining the closures.

“When I see people destroying public facilities and stores, I feel pained because you still need money to repair it,” said Michelle Tang, a 40-year-old sales worker. “I want it to be peaceful and free again,” she said of Hong Kong. “Now I wouldn’t dare say anything if people were smashing glass around me.”

As the movement settles into a prolonged campaign, activists are systematically pushing for broader boycotts.

One group developed an app, WhatsGap, that tells residents which restaurants to patronize and which ones to avoid. The ones considered friendly to the protests appear on a map of Hong Kong marked in yellow, while those considered hostile have a black marker. The developers plan to add shops.

“For a lot of people not on the front line, these are things they can do,” said Alison Yung, 36, an events planner, who backs the protests. “They can support the movement this way.”

At universities, students are handing out cards with lists of businesses to boycott and staging sit-ins at establishments on campus. Twice last month, people occupied the cafeteria of S.H. Ho College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The cafeteria’s caterer is Maxim’s Group, which is also the franchise owner of Starbucks in Hong Kong. Maxim’s has drawn the ire of activists because the founder’s daughter, Annie Wu Suk-ching, said last month in a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council that the protesters were “rioters” who did not represent Hong Kong.

Maxim’s released a statement saying that Ms. Wu had no position at the company, and that it hoped “all parties” in the ongoing political conflict “will resolve their differences.”

Starbucks did not answer an email request for comment.

Yoshinoya also got the attention of activists when its Hong Kong executives fired an advertising agency that created a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page mocking the police. Hop Hing Group, which operates Yoshinoya in Hong Kong, did not return a call seeking comment.

The chief executive of Best Mart 360, a local convenience store chain, was accused having ties to gangs from Fujian Province in mainland China that have clashed with protesters. (Best Mart 360 has denied any such ties.)

McDonald’s presents a dilemma for the movement. The chain is ubiquitous in Hong Kong (and open 24 hours), and some people have shown their support for the protesters by buying them McDonald’s coupons, to keep them going through the long demonstrations. But some activists have pointed out that McDonald’s sold an 80 percent stake in its China and Hong Kong business in 2017 to a private equity group comprised of Citic, a Chinese state-owned conglomerate, and the Carlyle Group, based in New York.

International support for the protests has made the issue harder for companies to navigate.

Last week, the Chinese government punished the N.B.A. after Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, posted a tweet in support of the protests. After the league distanced itself from Mr. Morey, some Americans began showing up at games with “Free Hong Kong” posters and banners, and members of Congress chastised the N.B.A.

Activision Blizzard faced a similar backlash after it suspended an e-sports player in Hong Kong, Chung Ng Wai, for voicing support for the movement during a live broadcast. It forced the player, who goes by the name Blitzchung, to forfeit a reported $10,000 in prize money. Many gamers called for a boycott of the company; dozens of Blizzard employees staged a walkout in protest at the company’s California headquarters; and members of Congress spoke up, too.

Blizzard said last Friday it would restore the prize money to Mr. Chung and reduce his suspension to six months, while asserting that the company’s relationship with China had not played a role in the original decision.

Whether the backlash against global brands will deliver a financial hit remains to be seen. Some actions being contemplated by the protesters are not likely to have much effect.

Whether the backlash against global brands will result in financial damage is unclear. Some actions taken by the protesters may not have much effect by themselves.

For example, protesters have been calling for a boycott of Cathay Pacific because the airline, under pressure from Beijing, has fired or punished employees who are part of the movement. But for anyone who wants to fly directly from Hong Kong to a Chinese city, it is impossible in most cases to avoid taking either Cathay or a Chinese state-owned airline. Flights between Hong Kong and mainland China are emptier than usual these days not because of a boycott, but because many Chinese want to avoid the protests.

Some activists have made mistakes in choosing which businesses to target. That was the case with Shanghai Commercial Bank. Activists vandalized at least one branch, apparently thinking the chain was based in mainland China.

But the bank is based in Hong Kong. Its motto is “serving the community.”

Tiffany May contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

With No End to Unrest in Sight, Hong Kong’s Economic Pain Deepens

Westlake Legal Group 13hk-economy-1-facebookJumbo With No End to Unrest in Sight, Hong Kong’s Economic Pain Deepens Politics and Government Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Economic Conditions and Trends Demonstrations, Protests and Riots Communist Party of China

HONG KONG — It was the second day of Golden Week, usually one of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping periods, and Matthew Tam and his co-workers at a jewelry store were looking as lonely as a band of Maytag repairmen, surrounded by display cases of luxury watches with nary a customer in sight.

Sales at the store, in the once-teeming shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui, have plummeted 90 percent in recent months, thanks in large part to the evaporation of tourists from mainland China who have been staying away since antigovernment protests began in June.

“It’s quite worrying,” said Mr. Tam, 56, who relies almost entirely on commissions for his income. “I don’t know how much longer I can endure.”

Hoteliers, salesclerks, restaurateurs and tour guides across Hong Kong have been racked by similar fears as footage of tear gas-shrouded clashes between riot police officers and furious protesters are broadcast around the world, scaring off potential visitors.

With the city’s Beijing-backed leadership refusing to concede to the protesters’ demands for free elections and an independent investigation into allegations of police misconduct, an unmistakable sense of alarm is spreading among both small-business owners and corporate executives who see no way out of the impasse.

“People are hunkering down but it’s really starting to hurt, and the longer this goes on, the gloomier the picture starts to feel,” said Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, who has lived in the city for nearly two decades.

The pall thickened after the Hong Kong leadership invoked emergency powers to ban the wearing of face masks during street rallies, a move that prompted fresh unrest and fury among those already angered by a slow erosion of civil liberties. The government has avoided harsher measures for now, but the prospect of restrictions like a curfew remains widely discussed.

“Emergency ordinances, face-mask bans and curfews are not the best way to restore business confidence,” Ms. Joseph said.

The tourism industry is a major driver of Hong Kong’s economy that alone keeps several hundred thousand people employed. But the overall number of tourists arriving in this semiautonomous territory has plummeted. Arrivals at Hong Kong’s international airport in August fell nearly 40 percent from a year earlier, even before the violence at protests escalated.

The falloff has been especially steep among mainlanders, who made up more than three-quarters of the 65 million people arriving here last year. The flow of visitors from mainland China nose-dived 55 percent during Golden Week.

The numbers are stark. Hotel occupancy rates are roughly 60 percent, down from 91 percent earlier this year. Retail sales dipped by 23 percent in August, the steepest decline on record. Many economists believe the city’s economy is slipping into recession.

The deepening crisis is reflected in a cascade of cancellations of major events like the Hong Kong Tennis Open, the Hong Kong Cyclothon, and the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival, all of which had been scheduled for this month.

For now, international finance and real estate, other pillars of the Hong Kong economy, have been largely unscathed. Corporate leaders worry, however, about the long-term impact to Hong Kong’s reputation as a stable hub for multinationals in greater China, especially if a crackdown leads to serious bloodshed or Beijing tries to interfere with the city’s hallowed independent court system.

Anxiety over shifting sentiments was heightened by a Goldman Sachs report estimating that at least $3 billion in investment had in recent months shifted from Hong Kong to Singapore, another former British colony and a regional rival for international finance. Law firms, global banks and trading companies have been drawing up contingency plans for the worst-case scenario.

There have been some reports of layoffs, and a few of the city’s ritziest hotels have been forcing employees to take unpaid leaves or have their wages temporarily trimmed.

“We really want the violence to stop as soon as possible so Hong Kong can be promoted around the world as a safe place,” said Ronald Wu, executive director of Gray Line Tours of Hong Kong, which has seen its business drop by more than half.

Alice Chan, executive director of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, said only 16 tour groups arrived during the first few days of the Golden Week holiday, compared with the 110 that arrived daily last year.

Ms. Chan said antipathy toward Hong Kong spiked in August after protesters shut down the airport and attacked two men from mainland China. The spectacle of protesters burning the national flag on other occasions, she said, also has not helped. “These incidents have hurt the feelings of mainlanders,” she said.

On the mainland, China’s state-run propaganda machine has cast the protests as a riotous anti-China separatist movement orchestrated by the United States and other countries eager to tear the motherland apart. Chinese censors have blocked news reports and images that present the protesters’ yearning for democracy and their fear of being subsumed into the mainland’s authoritarian maw.

Hong Kong Disneyland would normally have been crammed with mainlanders during the holiday, but this year, the protests clearly dented the mood at the Happiest Place on Earth. The vast parking lots were mostly empty, just three of 16 ticket windows were open, and lines for many attractions were short or nonexistent.

Zhou Wenhua, 38, a real estate sales executive from Shanghai, was thrilled. “If we went to Shanghai Disneyland this week, we wouldn’t be able to move,” she said after taking her family on a spin through the It’s a Small World ride on an otherwise empty boat.

Unlike many mainlanders roaming the park in mouse ears and gnawing on roast turkey legs, grilled fish balls and pressed squid, Ms. Zhou was willing to talk about the protests, which she described as an “insurrection.”

In an echo of Beijing’s narrative, she cast the participants as spoiled children unappreciative of the Chinese government and its achievements. “Without the Communist Party, China would still be impoverished and weak,” she said. “They really should stop their rioting.”

Not that she had witnessed the protests firsthand. Ms. Zhou and her family had spent the previous two nights cloistered at their downtown hotel room, dining on room service.

Locals, fearful of impromptu subway shutdowns that can leave them stranded, are also less likely to meet friends or dine out. The West Kowloon Cultural District, a $3 billion, decade-long project that opened to sold-out performances this year, has seen ticket sales plunge. For the first time this month, district officials canceled several events in anticipation of protests and transportation shutdowns.

For many, the looming question is whether a prolonged or precipitous economic decline will chip away at popular support for the movement. A few business owners shook their heads in dismay over the vandalism and disruptions to public transport, though they asked to remain anonymous given the growing vigilante-style attacks on those the protesters deem hostile to their cause.

Surrounded by display cases stacked full with $70,000 Rolexes and $20,000 Tudor watches, Cherry Chang, 30, the owner of a small store in Tsim Sha Tsui, the shopping district, said sales have halved over the last few months. Still, she said she was willing to endure short-term financial pain for the loftier goals of genuine democracy and the preservation of the city’s generous civil liberties.

“I don’t mind losing money to support certain ideals,” she said.

Cheuk-Yan Lee, general secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, which supports the protest movement, said he thought most Hong Kongers would blame the government for any hardship, not the protesters. The bigger threat, he said, is losing the freedoms and reliably independent courts that coaxed so many international companies to set up shop here in the first place.

“What will really hurt Hong Kong is not a brief drop in consumption but a loss of faith from global investors,” he said. “Instead of suppressing the protests, the government needs to revive confidence in the rule of law. Otherwise, we will just end up being another Chinese city.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

China’s Political Correctness: One Country, No Arguments

Westlake Legal Group 11newworld-1-facebookJumbo China’s Political Correctness: One Country, No Arguments Propaganda Politics and Government Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Demonstrations, Protests and Riots China Censorship

Hong Kong’s protests have disrupted Yang Yang’s family life. Though the 29-year-old lives in mainland China, he was inspired by the demonstrations to write a song about freedom and upload it to the internet. When censors deleted it, he complained to his family.

They weren’t sympathetic. “How can you support Hong Kong separatists?” they asked. “How can you be anti-China?” His mother threatened to disown him. Before Mr. Yang left on a trip to Japan in August, his father said he hoped his son would die there.

Hong Kong’s protests have inflamed tensions in the semiautonomous Chinese city, but passions in the mainland have been just as heated — and, seemingly, almost exclusively against the demonstrators.

A pro-protest tweet by a Houston Rockets executive, Daryl Morey, ignited a firestorm of anger against the N.B.A., demonstrating the depth of feeling. Joe Tsai, the only N.B.A. owner of Chinese descent, said all of China — yes, more than one billion people — felt the same way.

“The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland,” he wrote. “This issue is non-negotiable.”

For Westerners, this is strange language. You don’t hear about the common feelings of 300 million Americans or 60 million Brits, especially in the era of Donald Trump and Brexit.

Yet, in China, there is some truth to it. Of course, it’s a vast country brimming with opinions. But the Communist Party has spent decades preparing the Chinese people for a moment like this. The stir over Hong Kong shows, in dramatic fashion, how successful it has been, and how the world could be shaped by it.

“As soon as the Communist Party pushes the patriotism button, Chinese will rise up like zombies to unite against the foreign forces, be it Japan or N.B.A.,” said Mr. Yang, the singer-songwriter. “They don’t always know why they’re against those things. In fact, many Chinese like Japan and the N.B.A.”

Until Thursday, when China’s internet minders dialed down the passions, the Chinese online world was filled with denunciations of the protests. Some Chinese people have even scaled the Great Firewall, China’s highly effective online censorship system, to post anti-protest messages on services like Facebook and Instagram that their own government doesn’t want them to see.

Their comments reflect a narrative that China’s top-down education system delivers from a young age. A united China, a country with a common purpose, can stand strong against outsiders, according to this narrative. A divided China could slip backward, losing decades of progress and plunging the country back into chaos.

Any Chinese person who has gone to elementary school or watched television news can explain the tale of China’s 100 years of humiliation. Starting with the Opium Wars in the 19th century, foreign powers bullied a weak and backward China into turning Hong Kong and Macau into European colonies. Students must memorize the unequal treaties the Qing dynasty signed during that period.

There’s even a name for it: “national humiliation education.”

This narrative glosses over a lot of history, including the cruelty of Mao’s revolution, the starving of millions during Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the madness of his decade-long Cultural Revolution. When it does include the 1989 crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square, the protest and its aftermath is mentioned in one sentence and portrayed vaguely as a political incident.

These lessons and propaganda sound crude, but they work. For years, I regarded Chris Patten, the last Hong Kong governor under the British rule, as “a sinner condemned by history.” That’s what state media called him, especially after he approved spending heavily to build Hong Kong’s new airport, leading to accusations of waste. Today, I regularly use that airport, a marvel of modern transportation, as do millions of others.

Of course, my friends and I watched with great pride Hong Kong’s handover ceremony from Britain to China in 1997. Territorial integrity achieved!

At the graduate school of journalism at Columbia University in 2002, one American student told me about his trip to Tibet. I was so incensed by his remarks that I blurted out, “Tibet is part of China!”

For Westerners, perhaps one way to understand would be to read “Educated,” a memoir by Tara Westover about escaping her survivalist Mormon family in the mountains of Idaho. It has nothing to do with China. But her struggle to unlearn what her parents taught her felt familiar to me after I left China and began to learn its history on my own.

The rise of the internet and China’s opening were supposed to widen views there. Instead, the party is narrowing them more. Education officials over the past two years have been increasingly enforcing a widely ignored 2004 effort to make education even more Chinese focused.

In some middle school history books, the Cultural Revolution is described as “a detour in the Communist Party’s expedition,” rather than as a mistake. Some universities have replaced textbooks by Western academics such as Milton Friedman and N. Gregory Mankiw with books written under a program called “Marxist theory research and building project.”

Textbook publishers have cut back on essays by Lu Xun, a writer known for his acerbic criticism of the nationalist government in the 1920s and 1930s. They were once a mainstay of school texts, but some Chinese people have used his articles to criticize current events. One, about how Chinese people should welcome criticism from foreigners, was posted on the social media platform Weibo this past week after the N.B.A. debacle, then was pulled down.

Already, China has become more effective at delivering its message to its people. Slogans that I learned without much conviction more than 30 years ago — like “Without the Communist Party, there would be no China” — are making a comeback.

These lessons might seem removed from the situation in Hong Kong, where the protesters are mainly Chinese, not foreigners. But state media has portrayed the protests as foreign driven, sometimes identifying Western bystanders and journalists — including one working for The New York Times — as American instigators.

State media also portrays the protests as a push for Hong Kong independence from China, a direct effort to tap into those feelings of territorial integrity. That thought has echoed. Mr. Tsai, the N.B.A. owner, called the protests “a separatist movement.”

But only a fringe group of protesters support full independence from the mainland. The five core demands of the protesters don’t include it. It’s an important distinction, one that Mr. Tsai’s newspaper — The South China Morning Post, owned by Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant where Mr. Tsai is executive vice chairman — is careful to make.

For China, the big danger is that it will become even more intolerant of criticism and different opinions.

A Chinese blogger wrote this week that a renovation project at a top Beijing middle school was causing widespread health issues, giving students bloody noses several times a day. The reaction was strong, and strongly against him. Many students told him there was nothing wrong with their school and even if there was, it was none of his business. “He should have shut his mouth just like N.B.A.’s Morey,” wrote one commenter.

Mr. Yang, the singer-songwriter, said “all hell broke loose” after his family and members of his band learned that he supported the Hong Kong protests. His younger brother told him he was sick in his mind. Former classmates castigated him online.

“The Hong Kong protests have definitely made them a lot more patriotic,” he said.

Over the years, he had tried to show people around him the videos of the Tiananmen Square crackdown and other events. His family told him that he should look at the brighter side of the history. The party has since provided education, jobs and pensions, they said.

“I feel as alone as an island,” he said. “I’m surrounded by very familiar strangers.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

China’s Political Correctness: One Country, No Arguments

Westlake Legal Group 11newworld-1-facebookJumbo China’s Political Correctness: One Country, No Arguments Propaganda Politics and Government Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Demonstrations, Protests and Riots China Censorship

Hong Kong’s protests have disrupted Yang Yang’s family life. Though the 29-year-old lives in mainland China, he was inspired by the demonstrations to write a song about freedom and upload it to the internet. When censors deleted it, he complained to his family.

They weren’t sympathetic. “How can you support Hong Kong separatists?” they asked. “How can you be anti-China?” His mother threatened to disown him. Before Mr. Yang left on a trip to Japan in August, his father said he hoped his son would die there.

Hong Kong’s protests have inflamed tensions in the semiautonomous Chinese city, but passions in the mainland have been just as heated — and, seemingly, almost exclusively against the demonstrators.

A pro-protest tweet by a Houston Rockets executive, Daryl Morey, ignited a firestorm of anger against the N.B.A., demonstrating the depth of feeling. Joe Tsai, the only N.B.A. owner of Chinese descent, said all of China — yes, more than one billion people — felt the same way.

“The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland,” he wrote. “This issue is non-negotiable.”

For Westerners, this is strange language. You don’t hear about the common feelings of 300 million Americans or 60 million Brits, especially in the era of Donald Trump and Brexit.

Yet, in China, there is some truth to it. Of course, it’s a vast country brimming with opinions. But the Communist Party has spent decades preparing the Chinese people for a moment like this. The stir over Hong Kong shows, in dramatic fashion, how successful it has been, and how the world could be shaped by it.

“As soon as the Communist Party pushes the patriotism button, Chinese will rise up like zombies to unite against the foreign forces, be it Japan or N.B.A.,” said Mr. Yang, the singer-songwriter. “They don’t always know why they’re against those things. In fact, many Chinese like Japan and the N.B.A.”

Until Thursday, when China’s internet minders dialed down the passions, the Chinese online world was filled with denunciations of the protests. Some Chinese people have even scaled the Great Firewall, China’s highly effective online censorship system, to post anti-protest messages on services like Facebook and Instagram that their own government doesn’t want them to see.

Their comments reflect a narrative that China’s top-down education system delivers from a young age. A united China, a country with a common purpose, can stand strong against outsiders, according to this narrative. A divided China could slip backward, losing decades of progress and plunging the country back into chaos.

Any Chinese person who has gone to elementary school or watched television news can explain the tale of China’s 100 years of humiliation. Starting with the Opium Wars in the 19th century, foreign powers bullied a weak and backward China into turning Hong Kong and Macau into European colonies. Students must memorize the unequal treaties the Qing dynasty signed during that period.

There’s even a name for it: “national humiliation education.”

This narrative glosses over a lot of history, including the cruelty of Mao’s revolution, the starving of millions during Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the madness of his decade-long Cultural Revolution. When it does include the 1989 crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square, the protest and its aftermath is mentioned in one sentence and portrayed vaguely as a political incident.

These lessons and propaganda sound crude, but they work. For years, I regarded Chris Patten, the last Hong Kong governor under the British rule, as “a sinner condemned by history.” That’s what state media called him, especially after he approved spending heavily to build Hong Kong’s new airport, leading to accusations of waste. Today, I regularly use that airport, a marvel of modern transportation, as do millions of others.

Of course, my friends and I watched with great pride Hong Kong’s handover ceremony from Britain to China in 1997. Territorial integrity achieved!

At the graduate school of journalism at Columbia University in 2002, one American student told me about his trip to Tibet. I was so incensed by his remarks that I blurted out, “Tibet is part of China!”

For Westerners, perhaps one way to understand would be to read “Educated,” a memoir by Tara Westover about escaping her survivalist Mormon family in the mountains of Idaho. It has nothing to do with China. But her struggle to unlearn what her parents taught her felt familiar to me after I left China and began to learn its history on my own.

The rise of the internet and China’s opening were supposed to widen views there. Instead, the party is narrowing them more. Education officials over the past two years have been increasingly enforcing a widely ignored 2004 effort to make education even more Chinese focused.

In some middle school history books, the Cultural Revolution is described as “a detour in the Communist Party’s expedition,” rather than as a mistake. Some universities have replaced textbooks by Western academics such as Milton Friedman and N. Gregory Mankiw with books written under a program called “Marxist theory research and building project.”

Textbook publishers have cut back on essays by Lu Xun, a writer known for his acerbic criticism of the nationalist government in the 1920s and 1930s. They were once a mainstay of school texts, but some Chinese people have used his articles to criticize current events. One, about how Chinese people should welcome criticism from foreigners, was posted on the social media platform Weibo this past week after the N.B.A. debacle, then was pulled down.

Already, China has become more effective at delivering its message to its people. Slogans that I learned without much conviction more than 30 years ago — like “Without the Communist Party, there would be no China” — are making a comeback.

These lessons might seem removed from the situation in Hong Kong, where the protesters are mainly Chinese, not foreigners. But state media has portrayed the protests as foreign driven, sometimes identifying Western bystanders and journalists — including one working for The New York Times — as American instigators.

State media also portrays the protests as a push for Hong Kong independence from China, a direct effort to tap into those feelings of territorial integrity. That thought has echoed. Mr. Tsai, the N.B.A. owner, called the protests “a separatist movement.”

But only a fringe group of protesters support full independence from the mainland. The five core demands of the protesters don’t include it. It’s an important distinction, one that Mr. Tsai’s newspaper — The South China Morning Post, owned by Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant where Mr. Tsai is executive vice chairman — is careful to make.

For China, the big danger is that it will become even more intolerant of criticism and different opinions.

A Chinese blogger wrote this week that a renovation project at a top Beijing middle school was causing widespread health issues, giving students bloody noses several times a day. The reaction was strong, and strongly against him. Many students told him there was nothing wrong with their school and even if there was, it was none of his business. “He should have shut his mouth just like N.B.A.’s Morey,” wrote one commenter.

Mr. Yang, the singer-songwriter, said “all hell broke loose” after his family and members of his band learned that he supported the Hong Kong protests. His younger brother told him he was sick in his mind. Former classmates castigated him online.

“The Hong Kong protests have definitely made them a lot more patriotic,” he said.

Over the years, he had tried to show people around him the videos of the Tiananmen Square crackdown and other events. His family told him that he should look at the brighter side of the history. The party has since provided education, jobs and pensions, they said.

“I feel as alone as an island,” he said. “I’m surrounded by very familiar strangers.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The Radical Manifesto Embraced by Google Workers and Uber Drivers

Just before 20,000 Google employees left their desks last fall to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment, a debate broke out among the hundreds of workers involved in formulating a list of demands.

Some workers argued that they could win fairer pay policies and a full accounting of harassment claims by filing lawsuits or seeking to unionize.

But the argument that gained the upper hand, especially as the debate escalated in the weeks after the walkout, held that those approaches would be futile, according to two people involved. Those who felt this way contended that only a less formal, worker-led organization could succeed, by waging mass resistance or implicitly threatening to do so.

This view, based on century-old ideas, did not emerge in a vacuum. It can be traced in part to a book called “Labor Law for the Rank and Filer,” which many Googlers had read and discussed.

Its authors are a longtime labor historian, Staughton Lynd, and an organizer, Daniel Gross. They identify with a strain of unionism popularized in the early 1900s by the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical labor group known as the Wobblies that defined itself in opposition to mainstream trade unions.

The book has been “incredibly helpful in thinking through options for action, ways of building collective power, and giving workers who often aren’t familiar with labor law some working knowledge that can guide decision making,” said Meredith Whittaker, a leader of the walkout who left Google in July after more than a dozen years at the company.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 09pamphlet4-articleLarge The Radical Manifesto Embraced by Google Workers and Uber Drivers Strikes Organized Labor Lynd, Staughton Labor and Jobs Industrial Workers of the World Gross, Daniel Demonstrations, Protests and Riots

Staughton Lynd, a historian long active in labor and civil-rights causes, wrote the first edition of “Labor Law for the Rank and Filer” in 1978. He turns 90 next month.CreditDustin Franz for The New York Times

And Googlers aren’t the only ones who have drawn inspiration from the book. Workers at the crowdfunding company Kickstarter, the site of a recent union campaign, have studied it. Organizers with one of the largest Uber driver groups say the ideas have influenced them as well.

Ares Geovanos, a longtime volunteer for the Tech Workers Coalition, which seeks to organize workers across the industry, said the book’s key contention — that a dedicated group of employees can accomplish more through actions like strikes than by formal efforts to certify a union — had gained traction partly because it reflects reality: Most tech workers have traditionally been reluctant to organize.

“A lot of the struggles will necessarily be with a strong minority due to the narratives around working in the industry and ideological baggage of the work force,” Mr. Geovanos said by email. He said he first stumbled across “Labor Law for the Rank and Filer” while searching online for a do-it-yourself guide to organizing. His group later led training sessions based on the book that Google workers attended.

Mr. Lynd and Mr. Gross lay out a practical guide for staging a kind of workplace revolution that upends the balance of power between management and labor.

They explain, for example, when striking workers enjoy strong legal protections (in taking aim at unfair labor practices like retaliation) and when they are more exposed (in strikes focused strictly on economic demands). They discuss the circumstances under which workers can take their concerns to the media, such as a news conference in which coffee shop employees disclosed evidence of rat and insect infestations.

But more broadly, the book serves as a polemic contrasting mainstream “business unions” with what the Wobblies refer to as “solidarity unions” — that is, worker-led groups that are not typically certified as exclusive bargaining agents under federal law and therefore don’t need to win majority support to exist.

The business union “is controlled from the top down by officers and staff (usually white males) who are not regularly employed at the workplace,” Mr. Lynd and Mr. Gross write. They complain that a business union is preoccupied with achieving a bargaining agreement that requires workers to give up the right to strike and any say in the company’s major decisions.

When there is trouble at the workplace, they write, “the union member calls a steward or business agent and hopes that some bureaucratic process disconnected from the rank and file will right the wrong.”

In a solidarity union, by contrast, the workers “decide together on a course of direct action to right the wrong, which the workers will lead.” Solidarity unions may seek written agreements with management, but they are loath to make them overly comprehensive, at the risk of letting management get too comfortable.

Mr. Lynd, who will turn 90 in November, is something of a Forrest Gump figure in progressive politics. He taught history at Spelman College in Atlanta in the early 1960s and served as director of the Freedom Schools program in Mississippi, which brought activists from around the country to help teach and organize African-American students.

He joined the Yale faculty in 1964 but found himself without tenure prospects after making a trip to Hanoi with the antiwar activist Tom Hayden during the Vietnam War.

He and his wife, Alice, moved to Chicago, but he struggled to land another faculty position. “I was kicked out of academia,” Mr. Lynd said. They took jobs with the organizer Saul Alinsky, and Mr. Lynd later attended law school there. In the mid-1970s they moved to the Youngstown, Ohio, area, where Mr. Lynd represented workers and later prisoners, and have lived there ever since. Mr. Lynd’s first edition of “Labor Law for the Rank and Filer” was published in 1978.

In the early 2000s, he met Mr. Gross, nearly 50 years his junior, during a trip to Brooklyn for a conference. They stayed in touch after Mr. Gross went to work at Starbucks, where he was fired in 2006 while helping to lead a solidarity union that he co-founded, the IWW Starbucks Workers Union.

“I was an all-star barista, and all of a sudden they thought I forgot how to make a cup of coffee,” Mr. Gross said. Starbucks declined to comment for this article, but said at the time that Mr. Gross had been fired for an inappropriate remark to a manager. Mr. Gross said the remark was a simple plea not to fire a colleague.

Mr. Gross, who later graduated from Fordham Law School, prefers unpretentious professional titles. More than once in our conversation he used “fellow worker” as an honorific, as someone might use “doctor” or “professor.” “Fellow Worker Little was another martyr in the copper industry,” he said, alluding to Frank Little, a revered organizer in the Wobblies’ heyday.

Since law school, Mr. Gross has led Brandworkers, a group that organizes employees in the specialty food-making business. On a Saturday in August, he joined workers in leafleting outside a Manhattan cafe over its patronage of a bakery that the group accuses of hurting workers by mishandling an immigration audit.

Mr. Gross collaborated on a revised edition of “Labor Law for the Rank and Filer” with Mr. Lynd in 2008, with an update in 2011. About three years ago, Mr. Geovanos of the Tech Workers Coalition came across the book, and the group incorporated it into a seminar that became the basis of a standard training session.

Mr. Geovanos said tech workers were quick to absorb the book’s lessons. “We do breakout exercises and scenarios based on the material so I get to see people apply the learnings immediately,” he said by email.

While applauding the grass-roots organizing that the book has helped inspire, union leaders have cautioned that solidarity unions can be exhausting for workers to sustain and that they leave workers vulnerable to company retaliation. “You don’t have the law behind you to protect you like you would if you have recognized agents like a union,” Liz Shuler, the secretary-treasurer of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said in an interview.

But many Google activists have come to share Mr. Lynd’s and Mr. Gross’s ambivalence about traditional unions. “They can work for some workers, but we need to be thinking about the organizational form we’re adopting and how to build power for the long run,” Ms. Whittaker said.

Ivan Pardo, a leader of Rideshare Drivers United, a group representing more than 5,000 Uber and Lyft drivers in Southern California, said the views of Mr. Gross, with whom he speaks regularly, “definitely pervaded the way I think.”

Mr. Pardo’s group has criticized efforts by mainstream unions to broker a deal with Uber and Lyft that would allow drivers to organize but could require them to give up other rights. He said Mr. Gross had helped give him confidence that drivers could have influence by building their own organization and striking and protesting rather than making such concessions.

Mr. Gross sees a key advantage of the solidarity model in some of the recent successes by nonunionized workers. The need to win a majority of workers, typically in a secret ballot election, makes formally certified unions relatively easy to resist, he said. If a company hangs on through the election, union organizers often pack up and leave.

But solidarity unions can challenge employers for years without an election. “What Uber and Lyft workers are doing, what tech workers are doing, game workers,” he said, “it’s very resilient and robust and very difficult to stamp out. There’s no institution that’s going to call it quits one day.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The Radical Guidebook Embraced by Google Workers and Uber Drivers

Just before 20,000 Google employees left their desks last fall to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment, a debate broke out among the hundreds of workers involved in formulating a list of demands.

Some workers argued that they could win fairer pay policies and a full accounting of harassment claims by filing lawsuits or seeking to unionize.

But the argument that gained the upper hand, especially as the debate escalated in the weeks after the walkout, held that those approaches would be futile, according to two people involved. Those who felt this way contended that only a less formal, worker-led organization could succeed, by waging mass resistance or implicitly threatening to do so.

This view, based on century-old ideas, did not emerge in a vacuum. It can be traced in part to a book called “Labor Law for the Rank and Filer,” which many Googlers had read and discussed.

Its authors are a longtime labor historian, Staughton Lynd, and an organizer, Daniel Gross. They identify with a strain of unionism popularized in the early 1900s by the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical labor group known as the Wobblies that defined itself in opposition to mainstream trade unions.

The book has been “incredibly helpful in thinking through options for action, ways of building collective power, and giving workers who often aren’t familiar with labor law some working knowledge that can guide decision making,” said Meredith Whittaker, a leader of the walkout who left Google in July after more than a dozen years at the company.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 09pamphlet4-articleLarge The Radical Guidebook Embraced by Google Workers and Uber Drivers Strikes Organized Labor Lynd, Staughton Labor and Jobs Industrial Workers of the World Gross, Daniel Demonstrations, Protests and Riots

Staughton Lynd, a historian long active in labor and civil-rights causes, wrote the first edition of “Labor Law for the Rank and Filer” in 1978. He turns 90 next month.CreditDustin Franz for The New York Times

And Googlers aren’t the only ones who have drawn inspiration from the book. Workers at the crowdfunding company Kickstarter, the site of a recent union campaign, have studied it. Organizers with one of the largest Uber driver groups say the ideas have influenced them as well.

Ares Geovanos, a longtime volunteer for the Tech Workers Coalition, which seeks to organize workers across the industry, said the book’s key contention — that a dedicated group of employees can accomplish more through actions like strikes than by formal efforts to certify a union — had gained traction partly because it reflects reality: Most tech workers have traditionally been reluctant to organize.

“A lot of the struggles will necessarily be with a strong minority due to the narratives around working in the industry and ideological baggage of the work force,” Mr. Geovanos said by email. He said he first stumbled across “Labor Law for the Rank and Filer” while searching online for a do-it-yourself guide to organizing. His group later led training sessions based on the book that Google workers attended.

Mr. Lynd and Mr. Gross lay out a practical guide for staging a kind of workplace revolution that upends the balance of power between management and labor.

They explain, for example, when striking workers enjoy strong legal protections (in taking aim at unfair labor practices like retaliation) and when they are more exposed (in strikes focused strictly on economic demands). They discuss the circumstances under which workers can take their concerns to the media, such as a news conference in which coffee shop employees disclosed evidence of rat and insect infestations.

But more broadly, the book serves as a polemic contrasting mainstream “business unions” with what the Wobblies refer to as “solidarity unions” — that is, worker-led groups that are not typically certified as exclusive bargaining agents under federal law and therefore don’t need to win majority support to exist.

The business union “is controlled from the top down by officers and staff (usually white males) who are not regularly employed at the workplace,” Mr. Lynd and Mr. Gross write. They complain that a business union is preoccupied with achieving a bargaining agreement that requires workers to give up the right to strike and any say in the company’s major decisions.

When there is trouble at the workplace, they write, “the union member calls a steward or business agent and hopes that some bureaucratic process disconnected from the rank and file will right the wrong.”

In a solidarity union, by contrast, the workers “decide together on a course of direct action to right the wrong, which the workers will lead.” Solidarity unions may seek written agreements with management, but they are loath to make them overly comprehensive, at the risk of letting management get too comfortable.

Mr. Lynd, who will turn 90 in November, is something of a Forrest Gump figure in progressive politics. He taught history at Spelman College in Atlanta in the early 1960s and served as director of the Freedom Schools program in Mississippi, which brought activists from around the country to help teach and organize African-American students.

He joined the Yale faculty in 1964 but found himself without tenure prospects after making a trip to Hanoi with the antiwar activist Tom Hayden during the Vietnam War.

He and his wife, Alice, moved to Chicago, but he struggled to land another faculty position. “I was kicked out of academia,” Mr. Lynd said. They took jobs with the organizer Saul Alinsky, and Mr. Lynd later attended law school there. In the mid-1970s they moved to the Youngstown, Ohio, area, where Mr. Lynd represented workers and later prisoners, and have lived there ever since. Mr. Lynd’s first edition of “Labor Law for the Rank and Filer” was published in 1978.

In the early 2000s, he met Mr. Gross, nearly 50 years his junior, during a trip to Brooklyn for a conference. They stayed in touch after Mr. Gross went to work at Starbucks, where he was fired in 2006 while helping to lead a solidarity union that he co-founded, the IWW Starbucks Workers Union.

“I was an all-star barista, and all of a sudden they thought I forgot how to make a cup of coffee,” Mr. Gross said. Starbucks declined to comment for this article, but said at the time that Mr. Gross had been fired for an inappropriate remark to a manager. Mr. Gross said the remark was a simple plea not to fire a colleague.

Mr. Gross, who later graduated from Fordham Law School, prefers unpretentious professional titles. More than once in our conversation he used “fellow worker” as an honorific, as someone might use “doctor” or “professor.” “Fellow Worker Little was another martyr in the copper industry,” he said, alluding to Frank Little, a revered organizer in the Wobblies’ heyday.

Since law school, Mr. Gross has led Brandworkers, a group that organizes employees in the specialty food-making business. On a Saturday in August, he joined workers in leafleting outside a Manhattan cafe over its patronage of a bakery that the group accuses of hurting workers by mishandling an immigration audit.

Mr. Gross collaborated on a revised edition of “Labor Law for the Rank and Filer” with Mr. Lynd in 2008, with an update in 2011. About three years ago, Mr. Geovanos of the Tech Workers Coalition came across the book, and the group incorporated it into a seminar that became the basis of a standard training session.

Mr. Geovanos said tech workers were quick to absorb the book’s lessons. “We do breakout exercises and scenarios based on the material so I get to see people apply the learnings immediately,” he said by email.

While applauding the grass-roots organizing that the book has helped inspire, union leaders have cautioned that solidarity unions can be exhausting for workers to sustain and that they leave workers vulnerable to company retaliation. “You don’t have the law behind you to protect you like you would if you have recognized agents like a union,” Liz Shuler, the secretary-treasurer of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said in an interview.

But many Google activists have come to share Mr. Lynd’s and Mr. Gross’s ambivalence about traditional unions. “They can work for some workers, but we need to be thinking about the organizational form we’re adopting and how to build power for the long run,” Ms. Whittaker said.

Ivan Pardo, a leader of Rideshare Drivers United, a group representing more than 5,000 Uber and Lyft drivers in Southern California, said the views of Mr. Gross, with whom he speaks regularly, “definitely pervaded the way I think.”

Mr. Pardo’s group has criticized efforts by mainstream unions to broker a deal with Uber and Lyft that would allow drivers to organize but could require them to give up other rights. He said Mr. Gross had helped give him confidence that drivers could have influence by building their own organization and striking and protesting rather than making such concessions.

Mr. Gross sees a key advantage of the solidarity model in some of the recent successes by nonunionized workers. The need to win a majority of workers, typically in a secret ballot election, makes formally certified unions relatively easy to resist, he said. If a company hangs on through the election, union organizers often pack up and leave.

But solidarity unions can challenge employers for years without an election. “What Uber and Lyft workers are doing, what tech workers are doing, game workers,” he said, “it’s very resilient and robust and very difficult to stamp out. There’s no institution that’s going to call it quits one day.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Apple Removes App That Tracked Hong Kong Police

Westlake Legal Group 10apple-1sub-facebookJumbo Apple Removes App That Tracked Hong Kong Police Software Politics and Government Mobile Applications Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Demonstrations, Protests and Riots China Apple Inc

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple removed an app late Wednesday that enabled protesters in Hong Kong to track police, a day after facing intense criticism from Chinese state media for it, plunging the technology giant deeper into the complicated politics of a country that is fundamental to its business.

Apple said it was withdrawing the app, called HKmap.live, from its App Store just days after approving it because authorities in Hong Kong said protesters were using it to attack police in the semiautonomous city.

A day earlier, People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, published an editorial that accused Apple of aiding “rioters” in Hong Kong. “Letting poisonous software have its way is a betrayal of the Chinese people’s feelings,” said the article, which was written under a pseudonym that translates into “Calming the Waves.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Apple said, “The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement. This app violates our guidelines and local laws.”

With its reversal, Apple joins a growing list of corporations that are trying to navigate the fraught political situation between China and Hong Kong, where antigovernment protests have unfolded for months.

[Here’s how Hong Kong’s protests have evolved into a broader pushback against Beijing.]

That minefield was evident this week when the N.B.A. was drawn into the tensions by a Houston Rockets executive who tweeted his support of the Hong Kong protests. The tweet prompted a backlash from Chinese authorities, leading to apologies by the Rockets and ultimately the cancellation of broadcasts of N.B.A. games in China, which is one of the N.B.A.’s largest markets.

Companies ranging from Marriott to United Airlines to Versace have also had to backtrack on perceived slights to the Chinese government in the past, such as customer surveys that suggested Taiwan was an independent nation. All the firms are having to balance the enormous economic opportunity in China, with its 1.4 billion consumers, with the negative public image of capitulating to an authoritarian government.

No multinational company arguably has as much at stake in China as Apple. The Silicon Valley giant assembles nearly all of its products in China and counts the country as its No. 3 market after the United States and Europe. It tallied $32.5 billion in sales in the greater China region, which includes Taiwan and Hong Kong, in the nine months ended June 30. Apple’s stock price often rises or falls depending on how it is performing in China.

Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has become a deft diplomat in China. He has traveled there frequently and attended numerous Chinese government events. In recent months, Mr. Cook has argued for moderation in the trade war between the United States and China. Unlike in the United States, where he regularly speaks out on political issues like gun control and immigration, he has largely remained silent on Chinese politics, including the clashes in Hong Kong.

In late 2017, Mr. Cook said at a conference that while he disagrees with some Chinese policies, Apple must comply with local laws. “Each country in the world decides their laws and their regulations, and so your choice is: Do you participate? Or do you stand on the sideline and yell at how things should be?” he said. “You get in the arena, because nothing ever changes from the sideline.”

Given Apple’s stature as one of the world’s most valuable public companies, its actions in China are closely watched. Maya Wang, a senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong, said Apple’s decision to remove the Hong Kong app would embolden the Chinese Communist Party.

“I think the party concludes from this that intimidation, harassment and pressure work for most people, in most places,” she said.

A Twitter account that claimed to be run by the developer of HKmap.live said in a brief exchange on Wednesday that Apple’s reasoning for the app’s removal — that protesters were using it to attack police — was false.

“That is ridiculous,” said the person running the account, who declined to provide a name or elaborate further. The HKmap.live Twitter account later tweeted that it would “never solicit, promote, or encourage criminal activity.”

The HKmap.live app shows a map of Hong Kong with updates from users on the location of police, their water cannons and safe zones, among other things. Apple initially rejected the app for enabling users to evade police, the app’s Twitter account said last week. Several days later, the account tweeted that Apple had reversed course and approved the app. The app soon became the most downloaded travel app in Hong Kong — and criticism from mainland China began.

After the People’s Daily editorial, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “anyone with a conscience and a sense of justice” should boycott the app.

Supporters of the app have argued it helps Hong Kong residents avoid clashes between police and protesters.

Apple also pulled the app of the news organization Quartz from the App Store in China less than two weeks ago. Quartz, which has been covering the Hong Kong protests, said that Apple sent it a vague notice about removing its app “because it includes content that is illegal in China.” Apple did not clarify what content was illegal, Quartz said. A Quartz editor tweeted that Apple removed it “at the request of China.”

Zach Seward, Quartz’s chief executive, said in a statement, “We abhor this kind of government censorship of the internet, and have great coverage of how to get around such bans around the world,” and included a link to its articles about software designed to dodge censorship.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the Quartz app on Wednesday.

Apple has removed other apps in China that it allows elsewhere, including The New York Times app and some services that enabled Chinese users to circumvent the government’s internet restrictions.

Apple has long prided itself on how every app in the App Store is approved by one of its employees, unlike the largely automated approach used by Google on Android phones. Apple employs teams of app reviewers who must meet quotas for reviewing apps, including dozens of Chinese-language specialists, according to former app reviewers. Apps that pose tricky policy questions are deliberated in weekly meetings of a review board of senior executives, led by Phil Schiller, a longtime Apple executive who heads the App Store.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

China Is a Minefield, and Foreign Firms Keep Hitting New Tripwires

BEIJING — For international companies looking to do business in China, the rules were once simple. Don’t talk about the 3 T’s: Tibet, Taiwan and the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

No longer. Fast-changing geopolitical tensions, growing nationalism and the rise of social media in China have made it increasingly difficult for multinationals to navigate commerce in the Communist country. As the National Basketball Association has discovered with a tweet about the Hong Kong protests, tripwires abound. Take the “wrong” stance on one of any number of issues — Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, for instance — and you risk upsetting a country of 1.4 billion consumers and losing access to a hugely profitable market.

Now, multinational companies are increasingly struggling with one question: how to be apolitical in an increasingly politicized and punitive China.

“You used to know what would get everyone fired up,” said James McGregor, chairman of the greater China region for the consulting firm APCO Worldwide. “And now you don’t know. You just wake up and discover something new.”

Until recently, the issues that made China angry were fairly predictable. Earlier this year, the German company Leica Camera created a stir with a promotional video featuring the “Tank Man,” the unknown person who boldly confronted a convoy of tanks during the bloody 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement. (Leica says it did not commission the film.)

Around the same time, eagle-eyed Chinese internet users began calling out companies for not clearly indicating on websites, customer surveys and products that certain territories claimed by China, like Tibet and the self-governing island of Taiwan, were part of the country. Gap, Marriott, United Airlines and others were forced to make internal adjustments and, in some cases, apologize.

This summer, when antigovernment protests in Hong Kong began to heat up, such sensitivities reached new heights. And China lashed out more aggressively, in part because it was playing defense against growing global support for the demonstrators.

The N.B.A. has been in damage-control mode over the issue for days. On Friday, Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, posted a message on Twitter that said: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” Not long after, Mr. Morey’s tweet was deleted and the league quickly began damage control.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 08china-biz2-articleLarge China Is a Minefield, and Foreign Firms Keep Hitting New Tripwires Social Media Politics and Government National Basketball Assn Morey, Daryl Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Demonstrations, Protests and Riots China basketball

Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, expressed support for the protesters in Hong Kong with a post on Twitter.CreditMichael Stravato for The New York Times

But anger still simmered. Social media platforms like WeChat and Sina Weibo were flooded with messages declaring a boycott against the N.B.A., which has a huge fan base in China. On Tuesday afternoon, CCTV, the state broadcaster, canceled plans to broadcast preseason N.B.A. games. Previously, Tencent Sports, a popular sports broadcaster, had announced that it would stop all live streaming and coverage of the Houston Rockets.

“The N.B.A. has been in cooperation with China for many years,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a regular news briefing on Tuesday. “It knows clearly in its heart what to say and what to do.”

The league has also been getting flak in the United States for appearing to kowtow to China, prompting a longer, more reflective statement on Tuesday. While the N.B.A. commissioner, Adam Silver, continued to express the league’s “affinity” for China, he also said that it couldn’t regulate its employees’ speech.

For businesses, China’s national ire has tended to focus on a single issue, despite the changing targets: the country’s sovereignty.

Earlier this summer, Givenchy, Coach and Versace each apologized to China for producing T-shirts that seemed to identify Hong Kong, along with other places claimed by Beijing, as an independent country. They all stopped selling the clothes.

Navigating the potential for backlash in China’s commercial landscape now involves managing not just products, but employees and anyone else affiliated with a company.

As the pro-democracy movement took hold in Hong Kong this summer, Cathay Pacific Airways, the city’s flagship airline, came under immense pressure from Beijing to discipline employees who were sympathetic to the protesters. In a matter of days, Cathay’s chief executive was replaced and several employees, including a pilot, were fired.

On Tuesday, the American video game company Blizzard suspended a Hong Kong player and rescinded his prize money after he donned goggles and a respirator — items that have come to symbolize the protests — and called for the liberation of the city in a post-match interview. Blizzard is a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, which is partially owned by the Chinese company Tencent.

In a statement on Tuesday, Blizzard said the player had violated a competition rule barring any act that “brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image.”

“While we stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our e-sports competitions must abide by the official competition rules,” the company said.

The political land mines aren’t always easy to see.

The upscale jeweler Tiffany found itself at the center of a social media firestorm on Monday after posting an image of a model covering her eye with her right hand. To many Chinese internet users, the gesture evoked another symbol of the Hong Kong protests: a woman shot in the eye with a police beanbag round during a demonstration, whose image later appeared in countless posters and memes.

The photo posted by Tiffany had been taken in May, before the protests started. But it was a no-win situation for the company, which had already warned investors that it would be hurt by the drop in tourism amid the protests in Hong Kong, its fourth-largest market by sales. Mainland China is a much larger market, and the company has been rapidly expanding its presence there.

The photo “was in no way intended to be a political statement of any kind,” a spokesman for Tiffany said in an emailed statement, after the offending tweet was deleted. “We regret that it may be perceived as such, and in turn have removed the image from our digital and social media channels and will discontinue its use effective immediately.”

The backlash can go both ways.

In an effort not to run afoul of the mainland, Vans recently removed several entries from its annual sneaker design contest that alluded to the protests in Hong Kong. After that, several streetwear stores in Hong Kong pulled all Vans products from their shelves.

“Creativity is one of the keys to solving our social problems,” said Second Kill, a streetwear store in the Mong Kok district, in an Instagram post announcing its decision to stop selling Vans products. “Neither creativity nor public opinion can be erased.”

The N.B.A. on Tuesday appeared to temper its earlier apology over Mr. Morey’s tweet, seemingly to respond to criticism in both China and the United States.

For those “who question our motivation, this is about more than growing our business,” Mr. Silver, the league’s commissioner, said in a statement. He said basketball could be “an important form of people-to-people exchange that deepens ties” but noted that the two countries had different political systems.

“It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the N.B.A. to adjudicate those issues,” Mr. Silver said in the statement.

“However,” he added, “the N.B.A. will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on those issues.”

Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting from Beijing. Claire Fu and Zoe Mou contributed research from Beijing.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

For Companies in China, Political Hazards Are Getting Harder to See

BEIJING — For international companies looking to do business in China, the rules were once simple. Don’t talk about the 3 T’s: Tibet, Taiwan and the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

No longer. Fast-changing geopolitical tensions, growing nationalism and the rise of social media in China have made it increasingly difficult for multinationals to navigate commerce in the Communist country. As the National Basketball Association has discovered with a tweet about the Hong Kong protests, tripwires abound. Take the “wrong” stance on one of any number of issues — Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, for instance — and you risk upsetting a country of 1.4 billion consumers and losing access to a hugely profitable market.

Now, multinational companies are increasingly struggling with one question: how to be apolitical in an increasingly politicized and punitive China.

“You used to know what would get everyone fired up,” said James McGregor, chairman of the greater China region for the consulting firm APCO Worldwide. “And now you don’t know. You just wake up and discover something new.”

Until recently, the issues that made China angry were fairly predictable. Earlier this year, the German company Leica Camera created a stir with a promotional video featuring the “Tank Man,” the unknown person who boldly confronted a convoy of tanks during the bloody 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement. (Leica says it did not commission the film.)

Around the same time, eagle-eyed Chinese internet users began calling out companies for not clearly indicating on websites, customer surveys and products that certain territories claimed by China, like Tibet and the self-governing island of Taiwan, were part of the country. Gap, Marriott, United Airlines and others were forced to make internal adjustments and, in some cases, apologize.

This summer, when antigovernment protests in Hong Kong began to heat up, such sensitivities reached new heights. And China lashed out more aggressively, in part because it was playing defense against growing global support for the demonstrators.

The N.B.A. has been in damage-control mode over the issue for days. On Friday, Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, posted a message on Twitter that said: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” Not long after, Mr. Morey’s tweet was deleted and the league quickly apologized.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 08china-biz2-articleLarge For Companies in China, Political Hazards Are Getting Harder to See Social Media Politics and Government National Basketball Assn Morey, Daryl Hong Kong Protests (2019) Hong Kong Demonstrations, Protests and Riots China basketball

Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, expressed support for the protesters in Hong Kong with a post on Twitter.CreditMichael Stravato for The New York Times

But anger still simmered. Social media platforms like WeChat and Sina Weibo were flooded with messages declaring a boycott against the N.B.A., which has a huge fan base in China. On Tuesday afternoon, CCTV, the state broadcaster, canceled plans to broadcast preseason N.B.A. games. Previously, Tencent Sports, a popular sports broadcaster, had announced that it would stop all live streaming and coverage of the Houston Rockets.

“The N.B.A. has been in cooperation with China for many years,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a regular news briefing on Tuesday. “It knows clearly in its heart what to say and what to do.”

The league has also been getting flak in the United States for appearing to kowtow to China, prompting a longer, more reflective statement on Tuesday. While the N.B.A. commissioner, Adam Silver, continued to express the league’s “affinity” for China, he also said that it couldn’t regulate its employees’ speech.

For businesses, China’s national ire has tended to focus on a single issue, despite the changing targets: the country’s sovereignty.

Earlier this summer, Givenchy, Coach and Versace each apologized to China for producing T-shirts that seemed to identify Hong Kong, along with other places claimed by Beijing, as an independent country. They all stopped selling the clothes.

Navigating the potential for backlash in China’s commercial landscape now involves managing not just products, but employees and anyone else affiliated with a company.

As the pro-democracy movement took hold in Hong Kong this summer, Cathay Pacific Airways, the city’s flagship airline, came under immense pressure from Beijing to discipline employees who were sympathetic to the protesters. In a matter of days, Cathay’s chief executive was replaced and several employees, including a pilot, were fired.

On Tuesday, the American video game company Blizzard suspended a Hong Kong player and rescinded his prize money after he donned goggles and a respirator — items that have come to symbolize the protests — and called for the liberation of the city in a post-match interview. Blizzard is a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, which is partially owned by the Chinese company Tencent.

In a statement on Tuesday, Blizzard said the player had violated a competition rule barring any act that “brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image.”

“While we stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our e-sports competitions must abide by the official competition rules,” the company said.

The political land mines aren’t always easy to see.

The upscale jeweler Tiffany found itself at the center of a social media firestorm on Monday after posting an image of a model covering her eye with her right hand. To many Chinese internet users, the gesture evoked another symbol of the Hong Kong protests: a woman shot in the eye with a police beanbag round during a demonstration, whose image later appeared in countless posters and memes.

The photo posted by Tiffany had been taken in May, before the protests started. But it was a no-win situation for the company, which had already warned investors that it would be hurt by the drop in tourism amid the protests in Hong Kong, its fourth-largest market by sales. Mainland China is a much larger market, and the company has been rapidly expanding its presence there.

The photo “was in no way intended to be a political statement of any kind,” a spokesman for Tiffany said in an emailed statement, after the offending tweet was deleted. “We regret that it may be perceived as such, and in turn have removed the image from our digital and social media channels and will discontinue its use effective immediately.”

The backlash can go both ways.

In an effort not to run afoul of the mainland, Vans recently removed several entries from its annual sneaker design contest that alluded to the protests in Hong Kong. After that, several streetwear stores in Hong Kong pulled all Vans products from their shelves.

“Creativity is one of the keys to solving our social problems,” said Second Kill, a streetwear store in the Mong Kok district, in an Instagram post announcing its decision to stop selling Vans products. “Neither creativity nor public opinion can be erased.”

The N.B.A. on Tuesday appeared to temper its earlier apology over Mr. Morey’s tweet, seemingly to respond to criticism in both China and the United States.

For those “who question our motivation, this is about more than growing our business,” Mr. Silver, the league’s commissioner, said in a statement. He said basketball could be “an important form of people-to-people exchange that deepens ties” but noted that the two countries had different political systems.

“It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the N.B.A. to adjudicate those issues,” Mr. Silver said in the statement.

“However,” he added, “the N.B.A. will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on those issues.”

Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting from Beijing. Claire Fu and Zoe Mou contributed research from Beijing.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com