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TRADE WARS
Hong Kong firm beats Brexit blues with record City skycraper deal
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) July 27, 2017


China is 'landlord' to Hong Kong says justice chief
Hong Kong (AFP) July 27, 2017 - Controversy over a new cross-border rail link which will see mainland laws enforced in a Hong Kong train station escalated Thursday after the justice chief likened China to the city's "landlord".

It comes at a time when fears are worsening that Hong Kong's freedoms are under threat from an increasingly assertive Beijing.

There are already concerns that Chinese operatives are working undercover after the alleged abductions of a city bookseller and a reclusive mainland businessman.

The high-speed rail line between Hong Kong and the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, 80 miles away, is due to open in 2018.

Its Hong Kong terminus will be in the heart of the semi-autonomous city, on its famous harbourfront, not near the boundary with China that lies further north.

But the Beijing-friendly government wants to create a joint immigration point which would mean parts of the station, the platforms and the train cabins would fall under Chinese jurisdiction and would be patrolled by mainland officials.

Critics say the plan is a clear breach of the city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which guarantees freedoms unseen on the mainland and prohibits its law enforcers operating in Hong Kong.

Justice secretary Rimsky Yuen stoked opponents by likening the arrangement to the relationship between a landlord and tenant.

"The landlord has rented a house to me and then realised he didn't have enough space and asks me, can you rent a room to me? He has that right," he said on a radio talk show Wednesday.

Yuen's comments alarmed the pro-democracy camp which has now formed a concern group.

"If China is our landlord, that means they could ask us to give back land any time," opposition lawmaker Tanya Chan told AFP Thursday.

Barrister and former lawmaker Margaret Ng said there was no legal basis for the move to create what the government is calling a "mainland port area" on Hong Kong soil.

The territory's boundaries are protected by its constitution, she said.

"If you choose to carve out part of it and call it something else, then we lose our protection altogether," said Ng.

There are already transport connections between Hong Kong and the mainland, but Chinese immigration checks are done on the other side of the border.

The government insists the plan will save travel time and says it does not breach local laws because Hong Kong's land and natural resources are "state property".

Yuen said the arrangement would not diminish the rights of Hong Kong people, who are used to freedom of expression and accessing social media sites like Facebook, which are banned in China.

But when asked by reporters whether passengers would need to change their behaviour in mainland parts of the station, Yuen said they would be treated as if they had crossed into China at any other Hong Kong border point.

The new high-speed rail line is one of a number of cross-border infrastructure projects which have increased concern that Hong Kong is being swallowed up by the mainland.

A Hong Kong firm struck a record deal for a London skyscraper on Thursday amid a rise in foreign investment in property since the Brexit vote, but a slump in domestic demand hit the profits of real estate agent Foxtons.

Condiment-maker Lee Kum Kee, a family business that is best known for its oyster sauce, is buying up the building nicknamed the "Walkie Talkie" for 1.3 billion (1.5 billion euros, $1.7 billion), the highest price ever for an office building in Britain.

The iconic 34-storey skyscraper in London's insurance district, with three-tiered sky garden and restaurant on top, hit the headlines just after being built when it was blamed for damaging a car by reflecting the sun's rays.

"This is the UK's largest ever office deal," Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial property giant which advised on the deal, said in a statement.

"Since the vote to leave the EU, capital targeting London from the Asia-Pacific region has increased to record levels," said James Beckham, head of London capital markets at the property company.

"This is partly due to currency fluctuations but is more indicated of longer-term confidence in London and investment strategies which are not derailed by short-term political uncertainty," he said.

The deal comes months after Chinese property magnate Cheung Chung Kiu bought another London landmark -- the "Cheesegrater" building -- for 1.15 billion.

The previous highest price for a single piece of British commercial property was the HSBC tower in Canary Wharf which was bought by the Qatar Investment Authority in December 2014 for 1.175 billion.

The value of the pound dropped sharply against the euro and the dollar following Britain's vote last year to leave the European Union, making foreign investment into Britain more attractive.

While that has boosted some parts of the property market, sales have slowed down overall because many Britons have been hit by the inflationary pressures caused by the increase in the price of imports.

London estate agent Foxtons said it had fallen victim to the lower demand on Thursday as it reported a 64-percent drop in pre-tax profits for the first six months of the year from the same period last year.

Profits fell to 3.8 million from 10.5 million.

Foxtons boss Nic Budden said in a statement that the company's performance "has been further impacted by unprecedented economic and political uncertainty".

The Foxtons announcement was the latest sign of a cooling in Britain's property market as what happens in London tends to have a knock-on effect around the country.

Banks approved the lowest number of new home mortgages for nine months in June, according to data released this week by trade association UK Finance.

Official data earlier this month meanwhile showed that house price growth is slowing, at 4.7 percent in the 12 months to May.

TRADE WARS
China's Xi calls for more imports and more 'open economy'
Beijing (AFP) July 18, 2017
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for an increase in imports and fewer restrictions for foreign investors as Beijing comes under pressure from the US and Europe to provide a more level playing field for companies in the country. Donald Trump has railed against China's massive trade surplus while the European Union and US companies have complained about a lack of access to the huge mark ... read more

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