Briefs | China passes amendments outlawing insulting national flag


The Standing Committee of China’s congress on Saturday passed amendments to a law that will criminalize the intentional insulting of the national flag and emblem, after anti-government protesters in Hong Kong last year desecrated the Chinese flag. According to the newly amended National Flag and National Emblem Law, which will take effect on Jan. 1, those who intentionally burn, mutilate, paint, deface or trample the flag and emblem in public will be investigated for criminal responsibility. The law also states that that national flag must not be discarded, displayed upside down or used in any manner that impairs the dignity of the flag. The revised law will also apply to offices in Hong Kong and Macao that are set up by the central government. The amendments to the law were proposed after anti-government protesters in Hong Kong last year trampled on the Chinese flag, prompting an outcry in China.

Hong Kong could halt plan for vacancy tax on apartments

The Hong Kong government is considering suspending a plan that would have introduced a vacancy tax on new housing stock, the Transport and Housing Bureau said. The reconsideration was prompted by community feedback and the state of the economy, a bureau spokesperson said. Hong Kong has been battered by last year’s anti-government protests and the coronavirus pandemic, with the government forecasting a contraction of as much as 8%. The move to squash the tax would be a relief for property developers, who would have been subject to a hefty tax and jail time if they failed to sell new apartments. Hong Kong had 44,890 vacant new homes as of late 2019, representing 3.7% of the city’s total stock, and a decrease from 2018’s 4.3%, according to government data. The plan to tax vacant new homes was among Carrie Lam’s proposed policies to tackle the city’s sky-high property prices in 2018.

Shenzhen given greater autonomy to attract investment

China announced measures that will grant its southern boomtown Shenzhen more autonomy as Beijing seeks to raise the profile of the region as a tech and financial hub amid tensions with the U.S. The National Development and Reform Commission published a list of reforms for Shenzhen on Sunday that include steps for financial markets, intellectual property protection, economic legislation and talent attraction. The supporting policies for Shenzhen are more than those given to the free trade zone in China’s southern island province Hainan, according to state media. In a speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of Shenzhen’s establishment as a special economic zone on Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said foreign investors’ interests should be better looked after through measures including protecting intellectual rights. The city is home to some of China’s leading technology giants, including Huawei Technologies Co. and Tencent Holdings Ltd., and is a crucial part of Beijing’s plan to drive economic integration with Hong Kong and Macau into the Greater Bay Area.

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