MING PAO, THE STANDARD (Hong Kong), LIBERTY TIMES (Taiwan), EPOCH TIMES (USA)
HONG KONG – Is Hong Kong nostalgic for British colonial times?
Hundreds of people turned up in front of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong earlier this week to mark China’s National Day.
They were waving red-white-and-blue colonial flags, a gesture meant to drum up support for more democracy in China, according to Liberty Times.
— George Morrall (@GeorgeMorrall) October 3, 2012
This new trend has been observed in recent demonstrations, according to the Hong Kong Standard.
Ever since the 1997 handover of Hong Kong sovereignty from the United Kingdom to China, the Civil Human Rights Front NGO has held an annual pro-democracy rally every July 1st. These past years, more and more protesters were carrying British colonial flags.
— Badcanto Wordpress (@Badcanto) October 1, 2012
This year has seen more flags than ever, as discontent on the island has soared for a number of reasons: from collusion between business and governmental officials, a growing disparity between the rich and the poor, and human rights and democracy issues.
In recent months, a series of incidents including the mysterious death of Li Wangyang, a Chinese pro-democracy activist and the plan to impose “Chinese patriotic lessons” in Hong Kong’s schools sparked a number of demonstrations.
According to a survey conducted in May by the University of Hong Kong, the resentment towards the Hong Kong government as well as authorities in Beijing has soared to 36% and 32% respectively, the highest since 1997.
Clashes between Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong residents have also aggravated the Hong Kong-China relations. Rich Mainland Chinese flood into Hong Kong to invest in real estate, hiking up property prices to unbelievable heights. Pregnant women from Mainland China cross the border to give birth in Hong Kong’s hospitals, so that their children can obtain the special administration region’s passport. This has contributed to the intensification of resentment against the Chinese.
It’s doubtful that Hong Kong nationals are actually attached to British colonial times. They are just showing their dissatisfaction with Chinese rule. Still, some do explicitly state that they miss the “Good old days.”
Fifteen years after the handover of Hong Kong to China, says the Epoch Times, a US-based Chinese media, “If we lived a happier, freer and more dignified life today than before, would there be so many people cherishing the memory of British rule?!”
It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.
PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.
Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.
Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.
Share capital of one billion
The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).
The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.
Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.
While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.
The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down
Raising Initial Coin Offering
Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.
For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."
What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".
Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.
Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.
Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.
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