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World's biggest debate contest axed livestream of Hong Kong topic as Chinese spectators staged walkout – Hong Kong Free Press



The world’s biggest debate tournament has been embroiled in a row over censorship after it hosted a debate on Hong Kong democracy but later removed all online traces of the match.

bangkok thailand world universities debating championship wudc

Photo: Thailand WUDC 2020.

Last Friday, four top teams debated the motion “This House, as China, would grant universal suffrage to Hong Kong citizens” during the grand finals of the World Universities Debating Championship’s (WUDC) open category. The event was held at Assumption University in Bangkok, Thailand and drew over 240 participating universities from 50 different countries.

The motion was divisive among attendees with some Chinese spectators walking out part-way through. It was unclear whether they left voluntarily, or were told to leave.

“The debate started out pretty well…[then] I saw a bunch of people who are ethnically Chinese getting up and leaving,” a Hong Kong debater who witnessed the final told HKFP. “A whole row of people got up.”

The match was livestreamed on the competition’s official Facebook page, though viewers said it was halted mid-stream and the post later deleted. The motion was also removed from the contest’s official website.

WUDC organisers also anonymised the names of all Chinese and Hong Kong debaters and adjudicators on the results page, which would normally be accessible to the public. Some participants also requested their names be removed – including the two Oxford University champions.

In a public statement, the WUDC Equity Team said that “there was no involvement or pressure from any national body, embassy or official to ‘make the finals go away.’” It also urged people not to ask for more information, so as to avoid intruding into the “privacy and welfare” of the relevant parties.

The Equity Team – which was responsible for the competition’s code of conduct and resolving complaints – said that the livestream was removed because grand final competitors did not consent to appear on camera.

“This was true of most speakers in the round, and was communicated to the organising committee just before the round. However, due to language barriers and some miscommunication, the livestream continued to happen,” the statement read. “Once we found out, we decided to remove the video, [because] preserving what remained of speeches that were consented to would have been simply of little value to the community at large.”

bangkok thailand world universities debating championship wudc

Photo: Thailand WUDC 2020.

The Equity Team also decided to proactively allow debaters to redact their names from the results page after they were “made acutely aware of how speakers in the final and some other members of the community felt.”

The statement did not disclose whether the Equity Team received any complaints about the motion, and HKFP has contacted them for further comment.

Alleged Chinese pressure

Speaking to HKFP on condition of anonymity, the Hong Kong debater said that one of her teammates was part of the group that walked out of the grand final. Towards the end of the match, she discovered that the group was no longer at the competition venue.

“One of our teammates, who was a mainland student, had disappeared. We were all trying to look for him,” she said. “Then we received a message that said, he got on a bus to go back to the hotel, and that all the other mainland students had left as well.”

Her teammate refused to tell her if he was coerced into leaving and later rejoined the team for dinner, she said.

bangkok thailand world universities debating championship wudc

The Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Center (BITEC), where the WUDC grand finals were held. Photo: Thailand WUDC 2020.

As the results were announced at dinner, the Hong Kong participant said that she was “surprised and upset” to learn that organisers redacted the names of Chinese and Hong Kong contenders – as a debater’s international ranking is often seen as a badge of honour.

“One of the Hong Kong debaters approached the [organisers] and they said they had done so as a precautionary measure,” she said.

Most of the anonymised teams – given labels such as Candle, Briefcase and Hamburger – were labelled as belonging to the English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) categories.

A senior figure in the Chinese debating community, also speaking to HKFP on condition of anonymity, said he was not aware of any organised attempt to pressure Chinese attendees to walk out: “Quite a number of Chinese stayed till the end,” he said, adding that he didn’t know of any intervention by Chinese officials.

Citing second-hand accounts, he said that one of the Chinese teams at WUDC reported the Hong Kong motion to a senior teacher and “asked if it was fine.” He added: “The response they got from the senior teacher who was not in Bangkok seems to be ‘It is okay, no worries.’”

bangkok thailand world universities debating championship wudc

Photo: Thailand WUDC 2020.

As for the redaction of names, he said a request was filed to the Equity Team to ensure that Chinese participants would be able to attend future WUDCs.

Several Chinese debaters and adjudicators turned down HKFP’s requests for comment, with one saying that he was not given permission to speak to the press. Another told HKFP that turning the media spotlight on the issue may “cause trouble” for people in China – though it was unclear what the expected backlash would be.

The senior Chinese figure acknowledged that there was a “fear of trouble” among the Chinese debating circuit, but he was unsure if threats of backlash were real: “If there is ever any backlash, it is more likely that leftist university officials would reduce or cut support to debating, due to the fear of trouble,” he said. “Even so, apparently not all university officials are left.”

Censorship fears

In university-level debate tournaments, motions are usually set by an “adjudication core” made up of experienced and respected debaters. However, motions for competitions held in China had long been subject to external vetting.

Samuel Chan, a former ESL Champion at WUDC from Hong Kong, said that some motions would be instantly vetoed, sometimes by teachers who may not be familiar with the debating world: “In the past, the red line is Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang – now I suppose we can add Hong Kong to the list,” Chan told HKFP.

He said he had seen plenty of examples of self-censorship during his time competing and teaching in China, including at the 2015 Northeast Asia Open (NEAO) in Beijing where he served as part of the adjudication core.

According to Chan, the 2015 tournament was interrupted after a Chinese debater called the Public Security Bureau after losing a match on Taiwan independence. “She was very angry and reported us to the Public Security Bureau, and said that we were subverting China,” Chan said.

bangkok thailand world universities debating championship wudc

Assumption University. Photo: Thailand WUDC 2020.

“That night, she said that her safety was threatened and public security agents surrounded the whole hotel. The next morning, they surrounded the competition venue as well and took us in for questioning.”

Afterwards, the school did not want to continue hosting the tournament and some Chinese teams quit, Chan added. The adjudication core “wriggled out” of questioning by the Chinese authorities, and conducted the remaining rounds at the hotel.

Chan said that, sometimes, action may be taken out of self-censorship and fear of repercussions, rather than any official suppression. “Most of the time it’s not top-down, it’s the xiaofenhong reporting it up,” he said, referring to the nickname of young pro-Beijing radicals.

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Photo: May James/HKFP.

Removing traces of the recent Hong Kong protests from the 2020 WUDC has raised new fears of the Chinese government exerting influence abroad. Chan told HKFP that it was “saddening and unfortunate” that debaters had to compromise their ideals during a debate tournament.

He said that it was entirely appropriate for the adjudication core to pick Hong Kong as a motion, and there are many ways for the topic to be addressed: “The [Hong Kong motion] embodied the spirit of the tournament, which is that you want to find a highly controversial topic, and have intellectuals debate it on the world stage.”

However, the redaction proved that the Chinese Communist Party had extended its influence to make people self-censor, Chan said: “Even for a group of so-called elites debating Hong Kong in a relatively safe environment, they still have this fear.”

“This shows how the values of the free world are eroding, and no point of our discourse is safe – even if you are outside of China. Unfortunately, I believe that this proves a debate tournament cannot be divorced from geopolitical reality.”

Additional reporting: Kris Cheng.

Hong Kong Free Press relies on direct reader support. Help safeguard independent journalism and press freedom as we invest more in freelancers, overtime, safety gear & insurance during this summer’s protests. 10 ways to support us.

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Oil's rally hinges on what happens at next OPEC+ meeting –



Oil closed at the highest level since early March, buoyed by optimism that OPEC+ will rebalance the market. But the rally could turn on what happens at the alliance’s June meeting.

The producer group reached a preliminary agreement Wednesday to extend historic output curbs for an extra month, with Saudi Arabia and Russia drawing a hard line on cheating, and insisting that countries make up for past non-compliance by deepening future cuts. Their stance injects some uncertainty into the market, which has rallied from historic lows but remains vulnerable to ongoing demand weakness and a persistent supply glut.

In the U.S., the outlook for fuel consumption dimmed after U.S. government data showed that diesel demand fell to a 21-year low last week while inventories rose to the highest level since 2010. Gasoline supplies also swelled, suggesting consumption isn’t rebounding as quickly as initially thought. The builds in fuel stockpiles offset a larger-than-expected decline in crude inventories.

Futures in New York fluctuated between gains and losses amid the conflicting market signals. While West Texas Intermediate crude ended the session one per cent higher, prices declined after the close.

“We’re in wait-and-see mode,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research Inc. The question now is not whether OPEC+ will extend cuts but by how much, he said. “If they extend until the end of the year, that will encourage optimism on the part of buyers.”

Russia and Saudi Arabia, the de-facto leaders of OPEC+, are putting pressure on Iraq, Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Angola to make firm commitments they will improve compliance, and also to make up for past wrongs. The OPEC+ leaders are demanding the four countries compensate for non-compliance in May — and potentially in June — by cutting extra in July, August and September, according to the people familiar with the situation. That’s a painful prospect for those producers, already struggling with the budget impact of low prices.

The ultimatum comes as higher prices have already spurred some U.S. producers to bring wells back online. EOG Resources Inc., America’s largest shale-focused producer, and Permian producer Parsley Energy Inc. both said they’re preparing to ramp up output just weeks after turning off the taps.

• U.S. West Texas Intermediate rose 48 cents US to settle at US$37.29 a barrel in New York.
• Brent rose 22 cents US to US$39.79 a barrel in London. The global benchmark crude had earlier topped US$40 for the first time since March.

The OPEC+ leaders expect to hold a meeting on June 10, according to people familiar with the matter. But negotiations continue with the aim of simply ratifying the accord at the virtual gathering, according to the people.

–With assistance from Olivia Raimonde, Grant Smith, Javier Blas and Evgenia Pismennaya.

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Dow Notches Third-Straight Win as Bets on Faster Economic Recovery Continue –



© Reuters.

By Yasin Ebrahim – The Dow climbed for the third-straight session as hopes of a faster economic recovery were given a boost on Wednesday amid signs the Covid-19 pandemic’s grip on the economy has passed.

The rose 2.05%, or 527 points, the gained 1.36%, while the added 0.78%.

With just days to go until Friday’s crucial nonfarm payrolls report, ADP (NASDAQ:) said that private payrolls fell by 2.76 million jobs in May, confounding economists’ for a drop of 9 million.

That marked a significant improvement from the 19.5 million job cuts seen in April, raising hopes the labor market losses have bottomed.

The services sector, which accounts for about two-thirds of overall economic growth, is also showing signs of life, with activity rising from the lowest level in 11 years in April.

 data for May showed a reading of 45.4, above forecasts for a reading of 44.

The duo of upbeat economic reports stoked investor hopes of a quicker economic rebound, underpinning cyclical sectors like financials and industrials.  

Financials jumped 4.4%, with banks leading the charge. JPMorgan (NYSE:NYSE:) was up 5.4%, Bank of America (NYSE:NYSE:) up 4.5% and Citigroup (NYSE:NYSE:) up 4.9%.

In industrials, Boeing (NYSE:) rallied 13% after reaching a compensation package and a new delivery deal with travel company TUI Group over the grounding of its 737 Max planes.

On the earnings front, Zoom Video Communications (NASDAQ:) jumped 6% after reporting first-quarter results that markedly beat expectations on the bottom and top lines as the pandemic spurred demand for its videoconferencing software.

Canada Goose (NYSE:) rose 18% after reporting a better-than-expected fiscal fourth-quarter profit. The outerwear retailer also said it would increase focus on direct-to-consumer sales in the early stages of the reopening phase.

Elsewhere, Warner Music (NASDAQ:) made a bright start to life as a publicly-traded company, rallying 21%. The music label company had priced its offering of 77 million shares at $25 per share.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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2 Stocks to Buy and Hold Forever – The Motley Fool Canada



For part-time investors, it can be difficult to stay on top of your portfolio holdings. This is especially true during times of significant volatility. It is why investors should choose which stocks to buy carefully. 

If you don’t have the time to actively monitor your positions, owning over 50 stocks may not be the right approach. If you are holding a large portfolio in an effort to diversify, you may be over extending yourself. 

The purpose of diversification is to reduce unsystematic risk. Research has shown that the benefits of diversification tops out at around 30 positions. The diversification benefits only inch up marginally for every position added afterwards. 

Keeping all this in mind, what is the best approach for the part-time retail investors? Identify stocks to buy that can be held forever. These are best-in-class, blue chip stocks that will act as foundational stocks in a portfolio. 

Railway stocks to buy

The railway industry is dominated by two players, Canadian Pacific Rail (TSX:CP)(NYSE:CP) and Canadian National Railway (TSX:CNR)(NYSE:CNI). They form a duopoly and as such, have some of the widest moats in the country. 

Although both make excellent investments, the top stock to buy today is CN Rail. The railway is trading at 4.47  times book value, a steep discount to peer CP Rail (6.73). CN Rail’s debt burden is also much less, with a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.79. For its part, CP Rail’s D/E ratio is sitting at 1.28.

Similarly, CN Rail is a Canadian Dividend Aristocrat. It has a dividend growth streak that spans 24 years, the tenth longest in the country. At 1.94%, the yield is also double that of CP Rail (0.94%). Over the past decade, CN Rail has averaged 15.6% annual dividend growth. 

Looking forward, analysts are expecting a down year in 2020 – not surprising given the current pandemic. Still, the company is only expected to see earnings dip by about 8% before rebounding in a big way (+17%) in 2021.

CN Rail is one of the safest stocks to buy. You can buy without having to check up on the company daily to see if the investment thesis has changed. 

A top bank

In today’s environment, financial stocks are under pressure. Not even Canada’s Big Banks are immune, and most are sitting on significant losses. However, recent results are proving once again that Canada’s banks are resilient and are top stocks to buy — perhaps none more so than Royal Bank of Canada (TSX:RY)(NYSE:RY)

As Canada’s largest bank, it has the means to come out on the other side of this pandemic on solid footing. Just as it did during the Financial Crisis, it appears that RBC will escape the current pandemic with a dividend cut. 

Now yielding 4.84%, investors can lock in a yield close to record highs. During this pandemic, Royal Bank has been the best-performing bank. Despite losing 13.06% of its value, it is far outpacing the majority of its peers. 

Despite bouncing off March lows, Royal Bank is still trading at only 1.6 times book value and 11.44 times earnings. Both of which are below historical averages. 

RBC is proving once again to be a top stock to buy and is one of the best hold forever options for investors. Unless the entire economy and banking system goes belly up, investors can sleep well knowing Royal Bank is anchoring their portfolios with stable and reliable returns.

If you are looking for other top stocks to buy today, check out the attractive investment opportunities.

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Fool contributor Mat Litalien owns shares of Canadian National Railway. David Gardner owns shares of Canadian National Railway. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Canadian National Railway. The Motley Fool recommends Canadian National Railway.

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