Hong Kong Cracks Down On Traffickers Of Pregnant Women

Tensions are growing in Hong Kong as more and more wealthy Chinese cross over from the mainland to shop, spend – and give birth. Now the first arrest has been reported of someone accused of helping a woman from China to arrive in Hong Kong just in time to

Hong Kong Cracks Down On Traffickers Of Pregnant Women


HONG KONG - Call it Hong Kong's first reported case of "rich, pregnant and Chinese" trafficking. As more and more wealthy families from the mainland angle to have their children born in Hong Kong, a court in the former British colony has convicted a woman on charges of serving as an intermediary in helping a Chinese woman give birth in Hong Kong, the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily reports.

The cross-border traffic has been booming recently for Chinese women to have their delivery in Hong Kong so their child can obtain residency there. But following a recent outcry from locals, the Hong Kong Immigration Department has begun to crack down.

The alleged trafficker, Xu Li of mainland China, was detained this week after crossing into Hong Kong with Li Xiaohuei, a Chinese woman due to give birth. Right after arriving on Hong Kong territory, Li Xiaohuei immediately asked the immigration officer to call an ambulance for her.

As Xu Li was suspected of acting as an agent for arranging Li's "walk-in" delivery on the island, the Immigration Department detained her and sent her to a local court right away.

According to the accusation, Xu Li has acted as an intermediary since 2010. Her services include accompanying pregnant women to Hong Kong for prenatal examinations, appointments with hospitals, hotel reservations, as well as postnatal care.

The magistrate reprimanded the defendant for acts that endanger the lives of pregnant women and newborn infants, as well as affecting the allocated medical resources in Hong Kong. He noted the public outrage provoked by mainland women besieging the emergency services of Hong Kong hospitals, and disrupting the maternity services available to local women.

The judge added that without the illicit work of the intermediaries, many mainland women wouldn't opt for this "walk-in" delivery method in Hong Kong. Thus the court sentence has to be a deterrent to curb such behavior.

Xu Li was convicted on two charges: for violating her condition of stay - not to conduct any commercial activity within the seven-day entry period; and for her false declaration by denying knowledge of her client.

Tension has been running high between Hong Kong and China, as locals on the former British colony increasingly resent newly wealthy Chinese mainlanders crowding their shops, streets – and hospitals. It has degenerated to public name-calling, as a Chinese professor called the Hongkongese "poodles," while those on the island refer to those coming down from mainland China as "locusts."

Read the full story in Chinese

Photo - hellobo

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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