Hong Kong Photos

Image of the Day: Rainy Hong Kong

🇭🇰 A pic I snapped this morning. ☔️

Man with umbrella in Hong Kong
Man with umbrella in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Journalism Tech

Google Faces Pressure in Hong Kong Over Search Results for National Anthem

That’s the headline on my latest story, out Tuesday. It begins:

HONG KONG—Google is under fire from officials and legislators in Hong Kong over a pro-democracy song that is showing up in search results for the national anthem, raising tensions between American tech giants and authorities as Beijing tries to spread patriotism in the city.

Two members of Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing legislative council in recent days have joined the city’s chief secretary in criticizing the Alphabet Inc. unit for showing the song, “Glory to Hong Kong,” among its top results.

Hong Kong’s official anthem has been China’s “March of The Volunteers” since Beijing regained sovereignty over the former British colony 25 years ago. Antigovernment protesters in 2019 adopted “Glory to Hong Kong”—before the imposition of a national security law—and it has featured prominently on Google and YouTube since then.

That has led to confusion in recent weeks at sporting events when the protest anthem was played, angering local officials and triggering an investigation by the Hong Kong police’s organized crime bureau.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment, though the company has said its search results are determined by algorithms—not by human curation—and that results some might find objectionable can occur when search queries match text on webpages. The company says it only removes content that violates Google’s policies or specific legal obligations.

Last week, a third lawmaker staged a protest with several people at Google’s Hong Kong office. It was a rare show of anger against an American tech firm in a city where access to the internet—unlike in mainland China—has remained mostly unfettered. That is a key reason why global companies operate in the city.

Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, Chief Secretary Eric Chan Kwok-ki, told media outlets in recent weeks that the government was discussing the search results with Google and its video platform, YouTube.

“It’s about dignity and respect,” said one of the lawmakers, Duncan Chiu.

Click through to read the rest.

Hong Kong Tech

Hong Kong’s Crackdown on Dissent Hits Facebook Pages

That’s the headline on my newest story, out yesterday. It begins:

HONG KONG—A national-security crackdown in Hong Kong has extended to Facebook pages on which many workers and residents traded gossip.

Several prominent Facebook pages that were used to share anonymous comments about government and educational institutions in Hong Kong have shut down in recent days, following the arrest last week of two men by national-security police on suspicion of sedition. The men were administrators of a social-media group and suspected of publishing posts that “promote feelings of ill-will,” police said.

Soon after the arrests, a Facebook page called Civil Servant Secrets that had more than 204,000 followers went offline. It displayed a message saying its content was no longer available, which typically means administrators have deleted it. Last month the page hosted a video showing a police officer who appeared to be sleeping in a break room while on duty.

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Hong Kong

Spotted Here in Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Hong Kong License Plate: Macho

A new one for the collection. On a Prius, no less.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong Officials Quarantined After Covid-19 Case at Tapas Birthday Party

That’s the headline on my newest story, out Friday. It begins:

HONG KONG—As Hong Kong officials were warning citizens to exercise caution after the city’s first Omicron cases emerged last week, senior civil servants joined dozens of other partygoers at a tapas restaurant Monday evening to celebrate the birthday of a China lawmaker.

Now some of them are in a government quarantine center after being classified as close contacts of a party guest who later tested positive for Covid-19. Among them are the city’s home affairs secretary, the director of immigration and some legislators.

Images of the event — held in honor of Witman Hung, a local representative to China’s national legislature — emerged shortly before tough new restrictions on nightlife and other venues across the city came into effect Friday, drawing angry comments from some residents on social media.

Hong Kong has some of the world’s strictest testing and quarantine regimens, and tough border controls had kept the city free of community cases for months. That bubble was punctured last week after an aircrew worker, who was later found to have Omicron, broke home quarantine conditions to eat lunch at a restaurant. Several other diners in the venue later tested positive, and health officials have warned that there are now invisible transmission chains in the city, although recorded cases of Covid-19 transmitted in the community have remained just a few.

Click through to read the rest.

Hong Kong Journalism Tech

Hong Kong Tech Conference Postponed as Pandemic Restrictions Isolate Business Hub

That’s the headline on my newest story, out Thursday. It begins:

HONG KONG—Organizers of a prominent international technology conference are postponing a gathering in Hong Kong that was set for March, the latest disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic to the city’s role as a global business hub.

An executive for the Dublin-based company that was organizing the annual RISE Conference said to a participant in an email, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, that uncertainties due to the pandemic have continued, and after much consideration organizers had decided to postpone it until March 2023. A company spokeswoman confirmed the news.

Web Summit, the company that hosts popular conferences that typically draw thousands and feature global technology executives and startup entrepreneurs, was first held in Hong Kong in 2015. Its speakers have included Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. co-founder Joseph Tsai and Stripe Inc. co-founder and President John Collison.

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Hong Kong Journalism Tech

Facebook, Twitter, Google Threaten to Quit Hong Kong Over Proposed Data Laws

That was the headline on an exclusive I had out Monday. It begins:

HONG KONG–Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google have privately warned the Hong Kong government that they could stop offering their services in the city if authorities proceed with planned changes to data-protection laws that could make them liable for the malicious sharing of individuals’ information online.

A letter sent by an industry group that includes the internet firms said companies are concerned that the planned rules to address doxing could put their staff at risk of criminal investigations or prosecutions related to what the firms’ users post online. Doxing refers to the practice of putting people’s personal information online so they can be harassed by others.

Hong Kong’s Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau in May proposed amendments to the city’s data-protection laws that it said were needed to combat doxing, a practice that was prevalent during 2019 protests in the city. The proposals call for punishments of up to 1 million Hong Kong dollars, the equivalent of about $128,800, and up to five years’ imprisonment.

“The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering the services in Hong Kong,” said the previously unreported June 25 letter from the Singapore-based Asia Internet Coalition, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

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Hong Kong

Trip Report: Birdwatching in Hong Kong’s Mai Po Nature Reserve

Despite its urban density and thousands of skyscrapers, Hong Kong is home to significant biodiversity and plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities.

I was surprised, when we moved here last year, to learn about all the hiking available along myriad trails and in the city’s many country parks.

Then early last month we got an opportunity to something I’d never done before: go birding.

Yes, my first organized birding experience took place in a city of more than 7 million people, one of the world’s most densely populated places.

And it was awesome!

Mai Po, just across from Shenzhen

A friend arranged a guided trip, via the Hong Kong WWF, to Mai Po Nature Reserve. As you can see in the map above, this is a large wetlands area near Yuen Long, a town in the north of the city’s New Territories, across the water from Shenzhen.

To get to the the WWF’s Long Ping visitor center, we took the MTR’s West Rail Line, got off at the Long Ping station, and walked from there.

Ours was the aptly-titled “Flap Your Wings” tour, which included transport via shuttle bus to the reserve, a short distance away. Binoculars were provided, as were permits to enter the reserve.

Near the entrance to the reserve
Near the entrance to the reserve

During the five-hour tour, conducted by an expert volunteer guide, we walked along boardwalks built into the mangrove swamps, and stopped at various blinds to look out at the birds on the mudflats.

Many of the creatures, as I understand it, stop over in Hong Kong as they migrate south for the winter, stopping for rest in the wetlands area. I was shooting photos with my iPhone, so didn’t get any good close-ups, but our guide had a spotting scope that we used.

Walking through the mangroves
Walking through the mangroves

I just flew in from
A hint at where birds are heading, or have come from

Looking out from a blind
The view from a blind, looking out at the wetlands

Socially distanced birding
Socially distanced birding


The weather was gorgeous
Fine weather and blue skies

A far cry from skyscrapers downtown
A far cry from skyscrapers

Yours truly
Yours truly

Hard at work

Here’s a list of the birds we saw. I’m sure I’ve missed a few.

  • Northern Shoveler
  • Tufted Duck
  • Great Cormorant
  • Little Grebe
  • Black Wing Stilts
  • Western osprey
  • Saunder’s Gull
  • Wimbrell
  • Chinese Pond Heron
  • Grey Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Little Egret
  • Western Osprey
  • Pied Avocet
  • Whimbrel
  • White Breasted Water Hen
  • Greater Spotted Eagle
  • White-throated Kingfisher
  • Black-crowned Night Heron
  • Black-winged Stilt
  • Oriental Stork
  • And the highlight, due to their rarity: Black Faced Spoonbill

That’s 22, by my count.

An excellent trip. Highly recommended.

Hong Kong Journalism Tech

Facebook Drops Plan to Run Fiber Cable to Hong Kong Amid U.S. Pressure

That’s the headline on my newest story, with my colleague Drew FitzGerald, out Wednesday. It begins:

A Facebook Inc. consortium withdrew its bid to build a new internet conduit between California and Hong Kong after months of pressure from U.S. national-security officials, the latest sign of a deepening rift between the two governments.

The social-media giant told the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in a filing it would withdraw its application to land the Hong Kong-Americas project, known by its abbreviation HKA, pending a new request for “a possibly-reconfigured submarine cable system.”

Facebook and several telecommunications-industry partners first filed for permission to build the fiber-optic cable in 2018. It would have connected two sites in California with branches to Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Click through to read the rest.