[Photo story] A muzzled anxious start to the Rat Year in China
30 Jan 2020
Chinese New Year is usually a time of celebration and feasting, with the festivities stretching all through the first fifteen days of the first lunar month. This year, however, the arrival of the Wuhan coronavirus has put a significant dampener on what is generally the biggest festival of the year for the Chinese. ThinkChina offers a glimpse into the muted welcome for the Year of the Rat.
Visitors offer up prayers on the first day of the first lunar month at Wong Tai Sin temple in Hong Kong, 25 January 2020. (Dale de la Rey/AFP)
When Japan attacked China during the Second Sino-Japanese War, overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia made contributions to China’s war efforts. Among the most prominent community leaders were Tan Kah Kee and Aw Boon Haw, who corralled donations and made separate visits to Chongqing. Historical photo collector Hsu Chung-mao takes us back to that period and shows us the atrocities of war and the indomitable human spirit reflected in old photos.
With the Chinese government about to enact a national security law for Hong Kong, the SAR is worried about its future and people are afraid. Hong Kong columnist Chip Tsao, in his usual abrasive way, notes that over the more than 20 years following Deng Xiaoping's passing and Hong Kong's return, Beijing and Hong Kong have been butting heads to the point that everything now seems to be an irreconcilable, destructive mess. Hong Kong has been taken hostage, he says.
Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan notes that this year’s “two sessions” in China includes a contentious national security law for Hong Kong that has been months in the making. The law is unlikely to go down well in Hong Kong, nor with Hong Kong watchers with vested interests such as the US. What gave Beijing the confidence to push through such a law at this point in time?
Following last year’s protests in Hong Kong, the Beijing central government is all set to roll out new legal measures to plug the gaps in Hong Kong’s national security. The plan for the law was unveiled on 22 May during the opening session of China's annual National People's Congress. The draft proposal said the security law would "guard against, stop and punish any separatism, subversion of the national regime, terrorist group activities and such behaviours that seriously harm national security". Zaobao’s associate editor Han Yong Hong opines that worse days await Hong Kong, as neither side seems to be able to make a concession.
Following a recent controversy over a history question in a national exam about whether Japan did more good than harm to China in the first half of the 20th century, Hong Kong columnist Chip Tsao asks: "Who gets to decide how history is read?"
It was just as 2020 came around, when the world first heard of a new and deadly coronavirus that originated in Wuhan. Since then, as of the time of writing, there have been 7,251 confirmed cases and 170 deaths. For the world's second-largest economy, already in a trade war with the US, the impact of this fresh blow has been significant.
Tourist sites have been closed, transport services halted, and the Chinese government has ordered a lockdown on Wuhan and other cities since 23 January. Companies such as tech giant Tencent have told employees to work from home, while hotpot restaurant chain Haidilao will close all its restaurants in China until the end of the month. Swedish furniture giant Ikea said on 29 January 29 that it had closed all of its 30 stores in mainland China until further notice. McDonald's has shut 300 outlets in China, including all of its branches in Hubei. Domestic and international group tours have been cancelled, while Chinese travellers have been advised to put overseas trips on hold.
Then there is the stigma. Notices have gone up in various establishments in Japan and South Korea turning away visitors from China, while at least one high school in Paris has withdrawn its invitation to a group of students who were set to arrive this week. In Denmark, the Jyllands-Posten newspaper ran an editorial cartoon depicting the Chinese flag with virus symbols instead of stars, prompting the Chinese Embassy there to request an apology, which was denied.
Experts in China and elsewhere have offered different views on how long the coronavirus will take to peak, ranging from a matter of weeks to a few months, perhaps April or May. The only thing that is sure for now is that the coronavirus from Wuhan remains a dark cloud that has yet to break.
This photo story was put together by Candice Chan, ThinkChina.