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No surprise: Beijing’s pick Lam chosen as Hong Kong’s leader

The Associated Press 10:09 a.m. ET March 26, 2017

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Former Hong Kong chief secretary Carrie Lam, right, waves after she declared her victory in the chief executive election of Hong Kong while her rival candidate, former financial secretary John Tsang stands by her on March 26, 2017. (Photo: Kin Cheung, AP)

HONG KONG —  The candidate favored by China’s Communist leadership was chosen as Hong Kong’s new leader on Sunday, in the first such vote since huge pro-democracy protests erupted over the semiautonomous Chinese city’s election system in 2014.

A committee dominated by pro-Beijing elites selected Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s former No. 2 official, as the financial hub’s chief executive even though she was far less popular than her main rival. Lam received 67% of the votes cast by the 1,194-member committee.

Her victory was hardly a surprise. China’s leaders had lobbied heavily behind the scenes for Lam, 59, who will become Hong Kong’s first female leader and its fourth since British colonial control ended in 1997. After the votes were counted, she bowed to the crowd and shook hands with the second-place finisher, former finance secretary John Tsang.

Some pro-democracy supporters in the official seating area yelled slogans and held up a yellow umbrella, the symbol of the 2014 protests, as the results were announced. The elite election committee was at the root of the protests, with activists decrying the lack of a direct choice by Hong Kong’s 3.8 million registered voters.

Democracy supporters called Sunday’s vote a “fake election” and blasted Beijing for meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs.

Political party Demosisto, founded by the young pro-democracy protest leader Joshua Wong, said in a Facebook post that “this result is a nightmare to Hong Kongers.” It said it would organize “a large civil disobedience protest” when Lam is sworn in July 1.

Lam, a lifelong civil servant, has a reputation as an efficient and pragmatic administrator, but is unpopular with Hong Kongers because she’s seen as a proxy for Beijing and out of touch with ordinary people. Tsang, in contrast, is highly popular because of his easygoing persona and deft use of social media. He was nicknamed “Pringles” or “Uncle Chips” in Cantonese for his signature mustache that drew comparisons to the snack food mascot.

Lam received 777 of the 1,163 validly cast votes. Tsang got 365 votes, or 31%, while the third candidate, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, had 21 votes.

As the next leader of the Asian financial center, Lam will inherit a city roiled by political divisions, including a burgeoning independence movement, and saddled with sluggish economic growth. Many fear that Beijing is tightening control and undermining the “one country, two systems” framework that guarantees Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy. Those fears have been amplified by several cases in recent years, including the secret detention on the mainland of five Hong Kong booksellers and a Chinese tycoon’s suspected abduction in Hong Kong by mainland security agents.

Lam’s ability to soothe tensions relies on how much public

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China embraces killer whale shows, even as SeaWorld ends them

Violet Law, Special for USA TODAY 7:05 a.m. ET March 26, 2017

CLOSE China embraces killer whale shows, even as SeaWorld ends them
China embraces killer whale shows, even as SeaWorld ends them

However, other countries and SeaWorld seem to be phasing out their orca programs at parks. Video provided by Newsy Newslook

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Visitors look at fish in the aquarium inside the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Zhuhai, China, on April 29, 2014. The park claims to be the world's largest ocean theme park. (Photo: Mark Ralston,, AFP/Getty Images)

ZHUHAI, China — Forget the oohs and aahs. The recent debut of killer whales at China’s largest aquarium here has sparked concerns worldwide that the country is repeating similar mistakes that plagued some U.S. marine parks.

China is experiencing a boom in marine parks as an increasing number of Chinese flock to watch the sea creatures perform. That also has resulted in overcrowded tanks, poor water quality and ignorance about marine mammal illnesses at the attractions.

Park operators are ignoring animal welfare and worker safety, according to animal rights activists.

“They are going through a learning curve that is not necessary and completely outdated — and they’re taking an enormous risk,” said Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C., who recently visited some of China's largest marine parks. “A trainer will be injured or killed sooner or later. It’d be sad because it’s totally avoidable.”

China currently has 44 ocean theme parks operating in 24 provinces, and 18 more slated to open, marking a 20% increase in just two years. The country still lacks a breeding program for the mammals, which makes it the world’s most active customer for marine animals caught in the wild.

Rose and other animal rights advocates said China hasn’t heeded the lessons learned by U.S. parks that kept killer whales in captivity. After an orca was implicated in three human deaths over the past three decades, SeaWorld San Diego stopped its orca theatrical shows this year. SeaWorld's parks in Florida and Texas are slated to end the performances in 2019.

"As society's understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing with it," SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby said in a statement earlier this year.

Located in this southern city abutting Macau and billed as China’s Orlando, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom has its trainers nuzzle up to orcas — which the Chinese call “tiger whales" — as though they were house cats. Some of the orcas sport yellow blotches, likely signs of a skin infection on their chins, said Rose.   Even though the orcas are too young to mate, six were packed into one breeding tank.

Chimelong’s management didn’t address specific questions about safety concerns in handling the orcas but said in a statement: “All along we’re very much concerned about the conservation and propagation of these wildlife mammals.”

"The Chinese treat the mammals like commodities that they can throw away,” said Mitchel Kalmanson, whose consulting firm in Florida has overseen deliveries of marine mammals to parks in China. “They figure they can buy more if they can’t keep them alive.”

Chimelong’s orcas were caught in Russian waters and are not yet performing in shows. But beluga whales at Chimelong wow audiences and

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