SCHWEIZER BOTSCHAFT IN BEIJING
EMBASSY OF SWITZERLAND IN BEIJING
AMBASSADE DE SUISSE EN CHINE

Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine

Press review, if not selected: all SinOptic
  22-26.8.16, No. 636  
    Archiv / Archives
Table of contents

^ top ^

 

Foreign Policy

Hostels in southern China told to refuse guests from five Middle Eastern and Asian nations (SCMP)
2016-08-26
Some hostel operators in Guangzhou said police have ordered them to turn away guests from five Asian and Middle East nations until mid next month. Hostels in various parts of the city have confirmed to the South China Morning Post that local police asked them to turn away guests from Afghanistan, Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan starting from this week. The 11th Pan-Pearl River Delta Regional Cooperation and Development Forum was being held in Guangzhou on Thursday and Friday, while the G20 leaders' summit will be hosted in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou on September 4-5. A person at the front desk of a hostel in Yuexiu district acknowledged the measure by referring to a written notice. “We were briefed in a meeting by our supervisor... local police asked us to turn down guests from these five countries until September 10, without giving any reason,” said the person, who did not want to be named. Similar responses were given at other hostels in different parts of Guangzhou, with some saying the ban would run up to October. However, the ban does not apply to five-star hotels like the Garden Hotel or White Swan, or even brand name budget hotels. The ban has not been applied to hostels in other nearby cities including Foshan, Yiwu and Shenzhen. Dr Peng Peng of the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences said the move was not announced to the public but was to reduce security risks at Guangzhou's independent hostels. The move also suggested officials might be concerned about security if some Western state leaders decided to visit Guangzhou after the summit, he added. ^ top ^

China and US to ratify landmark Paris climate deal ahead of G20 summit, sources reveal (SCMP)
2016-08-25
China and the United States are set to jointly announce their ratification of a landmark climate change pact before the G20 summit early next month, the South China Morning Post has learned. Senior climate officials from both countries worked late into the night in Beijing on Tuesday to finalise details, and a bilateral announcement is likely to be made on September 2, according to sources familiar with the issue. President Xi Jinping will meet his US counterpart Barack Obama for the G20 summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, two days later on September 4. “There are still some uncertainties from the US side due to the complicated US system in ratifying such a treaty, but the announcement is still quite likely to be ready by Sept 2,” said a source, who declined to be named. If both sides announce the ratification on the day, it would be the last major joint statement between the two leaders before Obama leaves office. China and the US account for about 38 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the World Resources Institute. By ratifying the Paris Agreement on climate change, Beijing and Washington could generate momentum for the accord to come into effect as a binding international treaty. The pact agreed by representatives from 195 countries in Paris last December aims to keep the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius on pre-industrial levels. Countries began the ratification process on April 22, Earth Day, and by Tuesday, 23 nations had joined, but they account for just 1 per cent of emissions. The treaty will enter into force only after 55 countries representing at least 55 per cent of emissions ratify or join the deal in other ways. China had said earlier it would ratify the accord before the G20 summit in September. In June, the US said it would “work towards” approving the deal before end of the year, with the White House keen to seal a key part of Obama's environmental protection legacy before he leaves office in January. US law allows the nation to join international agreements in a number of ways, including through the authority of the president. With China and US joining, some civil society trackers say they are confident the deal could hit the 55 per cent threshold before the end of the year. On Wednesday, investors managing more than US$13 trillion of assets urged leaders of the Group of Twenty major economies to ratify the deal before the end of December. The 130 investors also called for the G20 to double global investment in clean energy, develop carbon pricing and phase out fossil fuel subsidies. “Governments must ratify the Paris agreement swiftly and have a responsibility to implement policies that drive better disclosure of climate risk, curb fossil fuel subsidies and put in place strong pricing signals sufficient to catalyse the significant private sector investment in low carbon solutions,” said Stephanie Pfeifer, chief executive at Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change. Ratification is expected to play out differently in the US compared with China. While China has “few uncertainties” at home for passing the deal, it could cause controversy within the US, according to Liu Shuang, an officer with Energy Foundation's low-carbon development programme. But the Obama administration's commitment to international frameworks suggests the accord would be passed in a way that would make it difficult for his successors to undo, civil society trackers said. The two countries started extensive cooperation at the leadership level in 2014. In a joint declaration that year, China promised its emissions would peak before 2030, while the US promised to cut emission by at least 26 per cent. That deal is widely regarded as paving the way for the Paris Agreement. ^ top ^

Why does China care so much about stalled dam project in Myanmar? (SCMP)
2016-08-26
Relations between China and Myanmar took a positive turn this month during Aung San Suu Kyi's five-day visit to China as Myanmar's de facto leader. But both sides have yet to work out their differences over the deadlocked Myitsone dam project, which strained bilateral ties five years ago when it was suspended by the Myanmarese government, casting fresh uncertainty over efforts to put bilateral ties back on track. If they value their relationship so much, why is a single China-backed project allowed to stand in the way of the improvement of bilateral ties? Here are some key factors that could help unravel the myths surrounding the Myitsone project. Firstly, China's national prestige, or “face”, is at stake. The suspension of the US$3.6 billion project, one of China's biggest investment projects in Myanmar, plunged bilateral ties to freezing point. But even worse, the halting of the dam by Suu Kyi's predecessor Thein Sein on the eve of China's National Day in 2011 was seen as “a slap in the face” for Beijing, which “deeply hurt the feelings of the Chinese people”, according to Chinese state media. Why? Because Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping and his predecessor Hu Jintao, had personally thrown their weight behind the project. As part of a cascade of seven mega dams on the Irrawaddy, Myanmar's largest river, with investment totalling up to US$20 billion, the Myitsone dam was initiated by Hu and Myanmar's then junta chief, Than Shwe, in 2005. It was given the green light in early 2009 during former propaganda tsar Li Changchun's visit to Myanmar. Xi was also heavily involved in pushing China's dam-building ambitions abroad. During his visit to Myanmar in December 2009, Xi, then vice-president, agreed to help tap into the hydropower potential of Myanmar's second-largest river, the Salween, where a cascade of six dams has been planned. The fate of the Myitsone dam is strikingly similar to a series of dams planned on the headwaters of Salween in China, where it is known as the Nu River. Due to fierce public opposition and environmental concerns, Beijing had to halt the dam building plan on the Nu River for more than a decade. But with China's economic growth slowing and investment in large infrastructure projects seen as a short cut to tackling economic woes, rumours have been rife that dam building may be resumed on the Nu River. Secondly, the Myitsone dam controversy has posed fresh challenges to China's energy security. Resource-rich Myanmar has long been viewed as a viable alternative for China to solve what Hu termed the “Malacca dilemma” in 2003, according to energy and diplomatic observers. While China is reliant on oil imports from the Middle East and Africa for more than 60 per cent of its energy consumption, nearly 80 per cent of those imports have to pass through the narrow, congested Malacca Strait. China's dependence on the Malacca Strait has stoked fears that the country is vulnerable to a maritime energy blockade by the West through the control of vital waterways such as the Malacca Strait and South China Sea. Such deep-rooted worries may be behind China's unusual assertiveness in territorial disputes in the South China Sea. It certainly explains why China has invested so heavily in Myanmar to help build roads, bridges, ports and dams in a bid to tap into the country's extensive oil and gas reserves. “Unlike most other Southeast Asian nations, Myanmar is rich in natural resources such as precious minerals, oil and offshore gas reserves, all of which China badly needs for its own development,” said Du Jifeng, from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “Its geographically strategic position, providing China access to the Indian Ocean, makes it even more important in China's energy diplomacy landscape.” Thanks to China's special friendship with Myanmar, the result of years of political patronage, especially after economic and military sanctions were imposed on the country in 1988, China has been Myanmar's biggest investor and top trade partner. Myanmar became independent from British rule in 1948. The junta came to power after a coup in 1962 and began its five decades of authoritarian rule. The US and other Western nations imposed sweeping economic and military sanctions on Myanmar after the military's bloody crackdown on an uprising in 1988. Despite Western isolation, China increased its economic and military aid to the junta, making Beijing Myanmar's closest ally for the past two decades. China's top three oil companies have been operating in Myanmar on dozens of lucrative contracts for the past two decades. China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) has built a gas pipeline project linking Myanmar's west coast, on the Bay of Bengal, with Yunnan province. After the multibillion-dollar project was completed in 2013, China imported 1.87 billion cubic metres of gas from Myanmar in its first year of pipeline operation. But Myanmar's democratic transition, which started five years ago, has dealt a big blow to China's business interests, with many major dam and energy projects put on hold. “China has so many unfinished projects in Myanmar and it is simply not possible for China to give up those strategically important ones simply because the honeymoon period in bilateral ties is over,” Du said. Analysts say the failure of flagship projects such as Myitsone dam – which would have sent 90 per cent of the electricity it generated to power-hungry China – could cast a long shadow on Beijing's ambitious efforts to expand its diplomatic and economic clout in the region. Chinese leaders, including Xi and Premier Li, urged Suu Kyi during meetings in Beijing to properly handle the disputes over the Myitsone dam, warning of spillover effects for other Chinese-invested projects, which would further hamper a recovery in bilateral ties. Thirdly, Myanmar, on the frontline of China's geopolitical rivalry with the United States and Asian powers such as India and Japan, looms large in China's quest for dominance in the region. Myanmar, which shares a 2,200km long border with China, has been a strategic buffer zone between China and India since the 1950s. While Myanmar has become a corridor for China to enter the Indian Ocean, India has seen its traditional ally Myanmar as a bridgehead in its “Look East” policy towards East and Southeast Asia. Indian media have also expressed concerns over Suu Kyi's decision to choose China as the destination of her first major trip as Myanmar's de facto leader, saying that warming ties between China and Myanmar would inevitably undercut India's security interests. Japan, which cut its aid to Myanmar under US pressure in 2007, has been catching up very quickly in both diplomatic and economic terms since a civilian government was installed in Myanmar. The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid controlled by the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, said early this year that Japan's value-oriented diplomacy, a strategy adopted in 2006 with the aim of supporting the “universal values” of democracy, freedom, human rights, rule of law and the free market, but which has also seen Tokyo seek to counter China's regional influence through chequebook diplomacy, had gained a strong foothold in Myanmar since 2011. Japan's aid and investment have been steadily rising in recent years, with the number of Japanese companies operating in Myanmar increasing about sixfold to nearly 300 firms over the past five years. Although China remains the biggest foreign investor in Myanmar, with more than US$15 billion of direct investment in 126 business projects by February, China's share of total foreign investment in Myanmar has dropped from more than 80 per cent during the junta era to 50 per cent this year. With the bulk of US economic and military sanctions still in place, Singapore, serving as a conduit for foreign investors, including Americans, has been Myanmar's second-biggest foreign investor, with more than US$12 billion of foreign direct investment in 199 business projects, according to official statistics from Myanmar. China's rivalry with its Asian neighbours has been on full display since Suu Kyi's government took office early this year. Tokyo was upset this year by a decision by Suu Kyi's government to grant a Chinese company the contract for a long-planned US$3 billion refinery near a special economic zone in Dawei, southeastern Myanmar, partly sponsored by Japan. There have been reports that Japan and India, which have recently increased diplomatic and security cooperation due to shared concerns about China's growing regional influence, are considering the joint pursuit of strategic interests in Myanmar, which would look beyond the energy and infrastructure sectors and might see them focus on soft power aspects, such as institution-building and developing cultural assets. Last but not least, the Myitsone dam controversy also underlines the vested interests of China's dam building and energy companies and mirrors their dilemma in ambitious overseas expansion efforts. According to sources familiar with the Myitsone project, powerful vested interests, especially large Chinese state-owned enterprises, have tried hard over the years to lobby both the Chinese and Myanmarese governments to push ahead with their ambitious dam building plans. They are also clearly behind Beijing's vigorous campaign to see the suspended dam project revived. The dam was to have been built by China Power Investment Corporation (CPI). Former premier Li Peng's daughter, Li Xiaolin, served as vice-president and chief executive of its Hong Kong-listed unit between 2004 and 2015 and her father was known as a staunch advocate of dam building, including the controversial Three Gorges Dam. According to state media, the Myitsone project was to have been jointly financed by China Three Gorges Corporation and several mainland banks, most notably China Development Bank, which helps support government-linked projects around the world. It is believed huge financial losses were incurred as a result of the suspension of the Myitsone dam project. A People's Daily report in early 2014 said China had invested at least 700 million yuan (HK$815 million) in the project by the time it was halted. It said interest on loans for the project ran as high as 300 million yuan a year and CPI also had to spend tens of millions of yuan on equipment maintenance and other expenses. China's ambassador to Myanmar, Hong Liang, visited the dam site in June and proposed several solutions to the deadlocked project. Myanmar's The Mirror newspaper, reported that he said Myanmar would be liable for US$800 million in compensation if the project was scrapped and would need to pay US$50 million in interest a year before construction was resumed. Hong also suggested that if the dam was allowed to go ahead, Myanmar would be able to earn US$500 million a year in revenue when it was operational. But observers say growing nationalist sentiment in Myanmar makes it very unlikely the Myitsone dam project can be revived. They noted said anti-Chinese protests that broke out in Myanmar during Suu Kyi's China trip would make it impossible for her to cave in to pressure from Beijing. The Myitsone dam is only one of more than a dozen hydropower projects in Myanmar that have been suspended since 2011. Apart from CPI, other major Chinese dam builders, including China Huaneng Group, China Datang Corporation, China Southern Power Grid Corporation and Sinohydro Corporation, have also been hit hard. Observers also say that while it is worth noting that Chinese companies, mostly large, state-owned enterprises, have been the victims of growing anti-Chinese sentiment in Myanmar, they are also the ones to blame for deteriorating bilateral ties in the first place. While those powerful state-owned enterprises have seldom, if ever, met strong opposition in China and other undemocratic countries due to strong government connections, their vested interests have often led them to encounter snags elsewhere. Chinese companies often pay too much attention to forging ties with governments while ignoring environmental and social costs and public opinion. Such insensitivity to local needs and environmental concerns, as well as a lack of transparency about dam construction projects on rivers that cross China's borders and in political hot spots, have not only provoked hard feelings that threaten to ruin their business opportunities but have also made China the unwanted focal point of numerous controversies in recent years. ^ top ^

Indonesian leader Widodo's emphasis on development boosts China ties (SCMP)
2016-08-26
Boosting economic ties with China will top Indonesian President Joko Widodo's agenda at the G20 summit in Hangzhou in September rather than wider Southeast Asian concerns about issues such as territorial disputes in the South China Sea, analysts say. He will be seeking to build on commitments to economic and trade cooperation announced following a meeting with President Xi Jinping at last year's G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey. Widodo and Xi have a lot in common as the leaders of populous developing nations with bad reputations for corruption. The Indonesian leader is a former entrepreneur and governor of Jakarta who rose from a humble background to the top office in 2014 on a wave of public support for his promises of reform and reputation as a down-to-earth, clean politician. Xi is also known for his reformist agenda and an unprecedented crackdown on graft. “Jokowi (Widodo's nickname) seems to have a lot of respect for Xi as somebody who is a can-do reformer, which is how Jokowi views himself... and they both focus on development,” said Aaron Connelly, a research fellow and Indonesian affairs specialist at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney. Indonesia, which sees itself as a rising power in the region, is looking to China for inspiration as it strives to accelerate economic growth. “Indonesian nationalists within the Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the political party serving as the vehicle for Jokowi's presidential bid, look up to China as an Asian role model that has successfully modernised itself and competed effectively against established Western powers that are clearly more privileged by the current global economic rules and institutions,” said Pierre Marthinus, executive director of the Marthinus Academy, a Jakarta-based international relations think tank. Their common interest in development is the key link between the two leaders. Xi was the first foreign leader Widodo met on his first overseas trip as Indonesia's president in November 2014. Widodo was also greeted warmly by Xi in Beijing in March last year, when they pledged to increase maritime cooperation, with Xi promising to support the development of Indonesia's maritime infrastructure through funding from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund. Indonesia is the only Southeast Asian member of the G20. But Marthinus said that unlike his predecessor as Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who promised to represent the interests of other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member states at G20 summits, Widodo was not interested in “summit diplomacy”. “[Indonesia] will be focusing more on its own strategic interest and aspirations as a rising power,” he said. Widodo's centrepiece policy – to build Indonesia into the “global maritime fulcrum” – places great emphasis on accelerating Indonesia's economic growth, securing its borders and protecting the resources, including fish, oil and gas, within its exclusive economic zone. Indonesia's relations with China will have a major impact on all three areas. “Jokowi regards China as an important partner, particularly in terms of infrastructure investment,” Connelly said. “He won't be going to make an impact on the summit, he'll be going for the bilateral opportunities.” China, meanwhile, is well aware of Indonesia's rising influence and eager to capitalise on it. “Indonesia, with the biggest population in Asean, has great influence in the region,” said Du Jifeng, an expert on Southeast Asian politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “China has always put great emphasis on its relations with Indonesia.” Situated between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and abutting the South China Sea, Indonesia is the largest archipelagic country in the world. It is of global significance geopolitically because the Strait of Malacca, a key shipping lane which carries about 40 per cent of world trade, runs between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. In 1990, China and Indonesia resumed diplomatic relations that were suspended 23 years earlier over Beijing's alleged support for a coup attempt by Indonesian communists. Trade between the two countries has been on the rise since then, especially after the implementation of Asean–China Free Trade Area in early 2010, and topped US$50 billion in 2014 according to International Monetary Fund figures. Indonesia is also expected to be the largest Southeast Asian recipient of the US$87 billion in foreign infrastructure investment China has committed to under its One Belt, One Road Initiative. Chinese investment in Indonesia rose 400 per cent year on year in the first quarter of this year. But the bilateral relationship has also experienced occasional strains, with the two countries clashing in recent months over Indonesia's crackdown on Chinese fishing boats caught fishing near Indonesia's Natuna Islands, in the South China Sea. Indonesia has in recent years tried to stay out of territorial disputes in the South China Sea involving China and several other Southeast Asian countries. But when responding to Indonesia's crackdown on Chinese fishing boats in June, Beijing said they had been operating in China's “traditional fishing grounds”. In a televised state of the nation address in mid-August, Widodo vowed to defend “every inch” of Indonesian territory. While it won't be the top agenda item, Widodo is likely to raise the issue when he meets Xi in Hangzhou. “There will efforts from Widodo's side to come to some sort of renewed understanding as to an equilibrium between China and Indonesia in the Natuna Sea,” Connelly said. “Indonesia has been very frustrated about [China's] failure to clarify the nine-dash line,” he added. While both sides have signalled they want to de-escalate the confrontation, China's longstanding refusal to clarify its maritime claims in the South China Sea, despite repeated requests from Indonesia, has made the issue a sticking point in bilateral relations. “Jokowi believed that if Indonesia did not play a particularly active role organising regional opposition against the nine-dash line, then China would leave Indonesia alone,” Connelly said, keeping such disputes away from Indonesia's exclusive economic zone. “But that hasn't happened. There have been [such incidents] three times since March. That dispute is ongoing.” On top of its own disputes with China, both Connelly and Marthinus said Indonesia was also becoming increasingly wary of China's wider actions in the South China Sea. “Indonesia is very eager to accommodate the rise of Chinese power, more so than any other country in the region,” Connelly said. “But what they are most concerned about is the nature of that power. “If China continues to behave in that kind of way, many Indonesian officials are concerned about where that leads in terms of its relations with Indonesia in medium and long term.” Marthinus added many Indonesian academics had similar concerns. “Three out of the four main Indonesian think tanks covering international relations issues are slowly shifting towards a more critical stance on Chinese actions in the South China Sea,” he said. In an interview with Japan's Yomiuri newspaper published in March, Widodo said China's claims to most of the South China Sea had “no legal foundation in international law”. His foreign policy adviser, Rizal Sukma, later said Widodo had been talking about the nine-dash line. In a statement issued after a landmark ruling last month by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that denied China's historical claims over the South China Sea, Indonesia called for all parties to exercise self-restraint and to refrain from any action that could escalate tensions, as well as “to protect the Southeast Asian region particularly from any military activity that could pose a threat to peace and stability”. It also urged efforts to “respect international law”, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which China and the Philippines, which brought the case against China, are signatories. The statement was criticised by Chinese scholars and former diplomats as a departure from Indonesia's impartial stance on the disputes, the Jakarta Post reported. The two countries' flagship economic cooperation project has also run into difficulties. A US$5.5 billion Chinese high-speed rail project in Indonesia, linking Jakarta and Bandung, was halted in January after China failed to submit documents for approval. An Indonesian official complained that some of the documents submitted were in Chinese and Indonesian officials could not read them, the Jakarta Post reported. The high-speed rail project resumed in March but ran into trouble again in April when five Chinese workers were found to be working on it without proper work permits. China's reputation as an investor in Indonesia had already been tarnished by an earlier project – a coal-fired electric power plant in Celukan Bawang in North Bali, which was criticised for being poorly managed and also employing illegal Chinese labour. Its latest high-profile investment in Indonesia will have to be more carefully managed. “This is China's chance to change that impression,” Connelly said. “If it goes badly, it will have very negative impression for years to come.” Sino-Indonesian relations timeline 1950 – China and Indonesia establish diplomatic relations 1965 – Following failed coup attempt, large-scale killings of communists, ethnic Chinese and alleged leftists are perpetrated by Indonesian death squads linked to army 1967 – Suharto becomes president of Indonesia and severs ties with China 1985 – A memorandum of understanding for the re-establishment of direct Sino-Indonesian trade is signed between the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade 1990 – Diplomatic relations between the two countries are restored 1994 – Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui visits Indonesia, angering the government in Beijing 1998 – Ethnic Chinese are targeted in Indonesia during the riots triggered by the Asian financial crisis. The Chinese government expresses concern and asks Indonesian authorities to investigate 2005 – President Hu Jintao visits Indonesia and signs a Sino-Indonesian strategic partnership agreement 2009 – Indonesia detains 75 Chinese fishermen off the Natuna Islands 2010 – Indonesia submits a letter to UN challenging China's expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea 2011 – First joint military training between the People's Liberation Army and Indonesia's armed forces 2012 – Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visits China and Sino-Indonesian deals worth US$17.65 billion are signed 2015 – Indonesian President Joko Widodo issues a joint statement with President Xi Jinping on strengthening the comprehensive strategic partnership between their countries during visit to China Xi attends commemoration marking the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference in Bandung, Indonesia ^ top ^

THAAD deployment undermines China-U.S., China-ROK strategic mutual trust: spokesman (Xinhua)
2016-08-26
The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in the Republic of Korea (ROK) destabilizes the regional strategic balance, and undermines China's strategic interests as well as the strategic mutual trust between China-U.S. and China-ROK. Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense, made these remarks at a regular news briefing. When asked about the upcoming China-Russia drill in the South China Sea, Wu said China and Russia have conducted a third round of consultation during Aug. 16 to Aug. 21, and reached consensus on implementation plans, communication and logistic affairs. The theme of the drill will be "joint defense action at sea." Armies of China, Australia, and the U.S. will conduct a joint drill in Darwin, Australia from Aug. 24 to Sept. 11. Chinese and Australian armies will conduct a joint drill, "panda-kangaroo-2016", in Sydney from Sept. 14 to to Sept. 23, Wu said. Both drills are aimed at deepening understanding and pragmatic military cooperation, Wu said. China's naval and air forces recently conducted routine exercises in the Sea of Japan and the Western Pacific, Wu said. The exercise, in accordance with the international law and practices, was not carried out against any specific country or target, and the Chinese military will continue organizing such routine actions according to schedule, Wu said. Wu also voiced firm opposition to Japan's attempt to send self-defense forces to join U.S. "freedom of navigation" operations in the South China Sea. The Chinese military is resolved to defend the country's territorial sovereignty and maritime interests, and will respond to any threats or challenges, Wu said. ^ top ^

Trump's tariff plan would spark another trade war with China: analysts (Global Times)
2016-08-26
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's proposal to slap tariffs on Chinese exports to the US would renew a damaging trade war between the world's largest economies, where all would end up losers, said analysts. Trump delivered his proposal at a rally on Wednesday in Tampa, Florida. He said that if elected, he would instruct the US Trade Representative to file trade cases against China, both in the US and at the WTO, Fox Business reported. Tariffs would be necessary in some cases "because they have to understand that we're not playing games anymore," he was quoted by Reuters as saying. Trump had previously pledged a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods. "We believe that whoever wins the US election, future US leaders will continue to adopt a basic policy of mutual cooperation with China that benefits US interests and Americans," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told daily news briefing on Thursday. "Since the interdependence between the world's two largest economies is a powerful means to deter each other, Trump's proposal would be difficult to implement," Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies of the China Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. However, a new US-China trade war would erupt if Trump gets elected and implements his proposal, said Song Guoyou, a professor at Fudan University's Center for American Studies, adding that China would retaliate against US exports to China. Echoing Song, Liu told the Global Times that the trade war would lead to a deadlock. Song told the Global Times that trade war would have a negative impact on many areas in both countries, including China's manufacturing industry, US agriculture, airplane manufacturing and the IT industry. Furthermore, a US-China trade war would also drag the rest of the world into trade protectionism, Song added. "I am going to instruct my Treasury Secretary to label China a currency manipulator. Any country that devalues their currency in order to take unfair advantage of the United States will face tariffs to stop the cheating," the 70-year-old real estate tycoon-turned-politician added. Labeling China as a "currency manipulator," Trump would sabotage the current economic exchange mechanism between the two nations and agreements reached so far on the renminbi exchange rate reform, Song said. ^ top ^

China to join Australia, US in exercises (China Daily)
2016-08-26
Beijing confirmed on Thursday that China will hold joint military exercises in September involving Australia and the United States, in addition to its joint naval drill with Russia in the South China Sea next month. Observers said the drills show the steady development of the Chinese military's ties with key Asia-Pacific counterparts and signal efforts to ensure stability to help ease maritime tension in the South China Sea. Wu Qian, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, announced at a briefing in Beijing that China, Australia and the United States will conduct "Exercise Kowari 2016" in Darwin, Australia, from Wednesday to September 11. The exercise, the third among the three countries' ground forces, will involve drills for survival in the wild, Wu said. Additionally, Chinese and Australian troops will hold "Exercise Panda-Kangaroo 2016" in Sydney from September 14 to 23. The exercise will include such tasks as canoeing, Wu said. Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said the Kowari exercise mirrors a "shared readiness to bring the trilateral security relationship forward". The fact that the two annual drills involving Australia will be continued this year "demonstrates Australia's wish to avoid sabotaging its security ties with China", Zhang said. Australia has joined the United States and Japan in pressing China to accept an international arbitration ruling in July in a case unilaterally initiated by the Philippines in its dispute with China in the South China Sea. Zhang said Australia is trying to strike a balance between the US, its traditional security ally, and China, a major economic and trade partner. "It is wise to avoid taking sides between China and the US and stop supporting US provocation against China over the South China Sea issue," Zhang added. In July, the Ministry of National Defense announced that the navies of China and Russia will hold a joint drill in the South China Sea in September to "enhance the capabilities of the two navies to jointly deal with maritime security threats". On Thursday, Wu said the drill will involve "joint maritime defense actions". Yin Zhuo, director of the Expert Consultation Committee of the People's Liberation Army Navy, said it is natural for Beijing and Moscow to hold a drill in the South China Sea this year, since they have previously held exercises in other coastal regions of China. The China-Russia exercise is "out of security consideration" and has no specific target, Yin added. ^ top ^

Improving but still fragile: China's Li Keqiang strikes balanced line on ties after meeting Japanese envoy (SCMP)
2016-08-25
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Thursday ties between China and Japan “remain fragile” even though they have shown signs of improvement. Li made the remarks in a meeting with Shotaro Yachi, a key adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is in Beijing to pave the way for Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet next month. Li called for Japan to properly manage differences with China and to push for cooperation and exchanges to consolidate the momentum of improving Sino-Japanese ties. In a letter presented by Yachi to Li, Abe wrote that Japan was willing to build stable relations with China based on the principle of mutually beneficial strategic ties, state-run CCTV reported. Yachi's three-day visit until Friday comes as the two countries try to create momentum for Abe and Xi to meet on the sidelines of the summit of the Group of 20 in Hangzhou early next month. China is locked in territorial disputes with Japan over a group of islands in the East China Sea – called the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China. Japan controls the islands. The two nations had heated exchanges in recent weeks after China sent more than 200 government and fishing vessels into waters near the islands. In an earlier meeting, Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi said he wanted to “solve various problems” with Japan. “To improve China-Japan relations, I would like to have heart-to-heart discussions with you,” Yang told Yachi at the outset of their meeting in Beijing. The foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea ended their trilateral talks in ­Tokyo on Wednesday. At a meeting with Abe in Tokyo on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the talks, which were held when the three countries were ex­periencing “difficulties in their ­relations”, had maintained the momentum for their cooperation, Xinhua reported. While the recent high-profile interaction between China and Japan has paved the way for possible meetings between Abe and Xi, a Chinese observer said Beijing had doubts on Japan's “sincerity” about mending ties. “The meeting [between Yachi and Yang] is to remind Japan to go back to the four-point consensus, which was signed between the two during their meeting in 2014,” said Lu Yaodong of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The consensus involves agreements to acknowledge that “different positions exist” over the East China Sea disputes and that the two countries will prevent the situation from escalating through dialogue, consultation and crisis management mechanisms. ^ top ^

Belt & Road initiative creating global opportunities: Chinese ambassador to Denmark (Global Times)
2016-08-20
Chinese Ambassador to Denmark Liu Biwei said here on Friday that the Belt and Road initiative has created opportunities for the whole world at a time of a sluggish global economy. It is China's key initiative to boost its all-around opening up against a new backdrop, but at the same time it also brings important opportunities for the overall revitalization of the European continent as well as the whole world, Liu said at the 8th Europe Forum of the Federation of Chinese Professional Association in Europe (FCPAE). "The initiative is China's idea, but the opportunities it has created belong to the world," the Chinese ambassador said at the forum, which was held in the town of Hillerod, some 30 km north of the Danish capital of Copenhagen. According to Deng Zhiguang, chairman of FCPAE, the purpose of this year's forum is to explore new opportunities for Chinese-Europe cooperation under the Belt and Road framework and to attract investment. The forum will also create a networking and knowledge exchanging platform for Danish and European company representatives and Chinese professionals working in Europe. Liu said the forum is an excellent platform to discuss how to enhance mutually-beneficial and win-win cooperation between China and Europe by seizing a new opportunity brought by the initiative. He thus called on all Chinese professionals and experts in Europe to continue to work together and share wisdom so as to bring China and European countries ever closer. "Under the new circumstances, it is of great significance that we jointly build the belt and road, enhance China-Europe cooperation and achieve a win-win outcome," the ambassador said. Established in 2001 in Frankfurt, Germany, FCPAE is an independent and non-profit association of 52 Chinese professional associations in more than a dozen European countries with more than 20,000 members. ^ top ^

China 'builds pier for warships' near disputed Diaoyu Islands: sources (SCMP)
2016-08-19
China has built a new pier for warships at a site under development as a military base near the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, sources close to the matter said on Friday. By building the pier on one of the islands in the Nanji chain off the port of Wenzhou, Beijing is apparently aiming to improve its preparedness to counter Japan and the United States, both critical of China's growing maritime assertiveness, the sources said. The island chain is about 100km closer to the disputed islets than the main island of Japan's Okinawa Prefecture, home to a large portion of US military bases in Japan. The disputed small islands are controlled by Japan, which calls them the Senkaku. China also appears keen to enhance monitoring of the air defence identification zone it declared over the sea in 2013 to fortify its territorial claims. Neither Japan nor the United States have recognised the zone. The sources said the pier was constructed on Nanji Island, the largest in the chain, and several warships have already been seen docking there. The 70 to 80-metre long pier can also accommodate landing craft. The islands already have an advanced radar system in place and a heliport for use by aircraft carrier-based helicopters. Plans are under way to build a runway for military use on the island, but construction does not appear to have started, the sources said. Exercises by military aircraft were held in the area in the spring, they said. Tensions remain high between Japan and China over theDiaoyu Islands. Japan is increasingly concerned about Chinese government vessels' repeated entry into Japanese waters near the chain. A plan for the China Coastguard to build a large-scale base at Wenzhou is underway to boost support for vessels monitoring the Diaoyus. A Japanese citizen was detained in Wenzhou in May last year and later indicted. Before his detention, the man was allegedly investigating a military facility. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China's developed east should better aid poor west: Vice Premier (Xinhua)
2016-08-26
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang asked developed regions in the east to better help their partner regions in the west fight poverty. China has been promoting pairing and cooperation between eastern and western regions in poverty relief for 20 years, and the strategy has played an important role in poverty relief and promoting coordinated regional development. "We have seen significant progress through the cooperation," Wang said on Thursday at a government teleconference on poverty alleviation, calling for more efforts to strengthen east-west partnership. Wang said eastern areas should dispatch more responsible and capable officials to the west, especially those with professional skills and management experience. Industrial cooperation should be strengthened, and governments should ensure stable employment for poor migrant workers from western areas, according to Wang. China has vowed to eliminate poverty by 2020. ^ top ^

Party guidance not to disrupt NGOs (Global Times)
2016-08-26
The ongoing campaign to establish Communist Party of China (CPC) branches at non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across China is part of the authorities' efforts to root out shady or illegal entities, experts said. This will encourage genuine groups to play a bigger role in providing public services that used to be partly shouldered by the government. NGOs that have started to form Party organizations according to government policies said their daily operations are as smooth as before, and that foreign media claims about the Party's "attempt to strengthen its control over the NGOs" are not true. The General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council General Office on Monday jointly issued a guideline to "reform social organizations' management systems and boost their healthy and orderly development." Besides vowing to provide preferential financial and taxation incentives to encourage NGOs to take over many government agencies' previous functions in providing public services, the guidelines also emphasized the Party's role in ensuring the political correctness of NGO operations. "Party organizations in NGOs should unite the masses and ensure the NGOs' correct political directions," the guidelines read, adding that Party organizations should raise questions over important NGO decisions, large expenditures and activities involving overseas organizations. The guideline is a more complete reform plan after the authorities issued a trial guideline over Party construction work at NGOs in September last year. This said if an NGO has three or more Party members, it should establish branch Party organizations. NGOs with fewer Party members can establish joint Party organizations across similar NGOs, the document said. This corresponds with the country's ongoing campaign to revitalize the Party's role in State-owned and private companies in order to unite more people around the Party and reduce corruption and malpractice. In a report on Monday, Radio Free Asia accused the NGO management reform of twisting the roles of NGOs. However, Zheng Gongcheng, a professor on social welfare studies at the Renmin University of China said the reform is mainly aimed at dealing with problems of shady NGOs. "Some NGOs are nothing but knockoff organizations that make money or other gains under the guise of a public-interest entity," Zheng told the Global Times on Thursday. The Ministry of Civil Affairs on August 16 published a list of the 11th batch of "knockoff NGOs," adding to the more than 1,000 self-claimed public-interest organizations it has exposed before. These groups, which have flashy names, such as the "Chinese Healthy Food Association" and the "Global Federation of Chinese Entrepreneurs," were often forged to make money from their target members, previous reports said. Zheng said the latest reform guideline also emphasized the separation of government and NGO affairs, because in the past some NGOs, especially industrial or trade associations that had official connections, had become tools to collect money from member companies. By the end of the first quarter of 2016, there were 664,800 NGOs registered with civil affairs authorities nationwide, the People's Daily reported Tuesday. Party presence Narada Foundation, a Beijing-based charity foundation, established a Party branch in May. The NGO has 11 employees in its Beijing office, three of whom are Party members. "As required by authorities, we established a Party branch," Huang Qingwei, a deputy project director who heads the branch, told the Global Times on Thursday. He said the authorities did not ask the Party branch to interfere with the foundations' daily operations. "The basic role of the Party branch here is to make sure our foundation's political directions are right, and we work to improve the relations between non-Party members and the Party," Huang said. Smaller NGOs, such as Beijing-based Vibrant Community that focuses on children's rights, said they have not heard about instructions from authorities that require them to establish Party organizations. Shen You, director general of Chengdu Birdwatching Society, a 12-year-old NGO based in southwestern China's Chengdu, Sichuan Province, said he has not received any instructions about establishing a Party branch, probably because the NGO is mainly composed of volunteers, and only has one permanent staffer. The society claims more than 300 members. He said he has no problem if his organization is required to have a Party branch, as it can actually help the birdwatching society get in touch with authorities and avoid political mistakes. "The members of our society are so diversified, including foreigners or those from Hong Kong and Taiwan, and I'm not sure if any of them have different purposes by joining us," he said. "We used to get in trouble with the authorities after some of our members got close to forbidden government facilities in the name of birdwatching." ^ top ^

Plan targets antimicrobial resistance (China Daily)
2016-08-26
China announced a State-level plan on Thursday to curb antimicrobial resistance, high-lighting the first multisector effort involving 14 ministries and agencies, including health, agriculture, food and drug, and environmental protection. Previously, major measures fighting antimicrobial resistance, such as stricter control of antibiotic use at medical facilities, were initiated by the health authority. However, that's far from enough, said Xiao Yonghong, a professor at the Institute of Clinical Pharmacology at Peking University and an adviser on the issue to the National Health and Family Planning Commission. "It's a long overdue initiative and demonstrates the government's recognition of the challenge and the resolution to change systematically," he said. The World Health Organization defines antimicrobial resistance as "resistance of a microorganism to an anti-microbial drug that was originally effective for treatment of infections caused by it". A report in the United Kingdom, the "Global Review on AMR", estimated that by 2050, antimicrobial resistance, including antibiotic resistance, could result in 1 million premature deaths in China per year. It also called for joint efforts internationally to tackle the global challenge of AMR, which can spread in part through international trade. Xiao said the upcoming G20 Leaders Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, will include a session on fighting AMR through global cooperation. The effort must start within each country, he added. Under the plan, the Chinese government will intensify international cooperation and exchanges to prevent and control drug-resistant bacteria in the next five years. Martin Taylor, coordinator for health systems and security at the WHO's China office, said the WHO welcomes China's move to introduce a multisector action plan to fight antimicrobial resistance. He said the plan demonstrates China's global leadership on the issue before the G20 summit of international leaders. Taylor said China faces many problems that lead to AMR. There are not enough rapid diagnostic tests to allow physicians to prescribe the correct antibiotic, and over-the-counter sales of antibiotics without prescriptions in some pharmacies continue, he said. Moreover, Taylor cited an over-reliance on antibiotics for prevention and treatment of infections and said hospitals generate revenue from the sale of drugs including antibiotics. Additionally, the public still demands antibiotics when they might not be needed, and the full course of treatment is not always completed, he said. In response, the Chinese government also pledged in the new plan to integrate measures to intensify over-sight in research and development, production, distribution and application of antibiotics in the next five years. All retail drugstores in China should sell antibiotics only when provided with prescriptions by 2020, the plan says. Major public hospitals are required to establish a management mechanism to strictly control antibiotic use. On the agriculture side, veterinarians and employees of poultry and livestock industries will be required to finish training on the proper use of antibiotics by 2020. Xiao said regularly feeding antibiotics to food animals fosters a breeding ground for drug-resistant pathogens that might threaten humans via the food chain. To raise public awareness, the plan calls for all primary and middle school students to be educated on the issue by 2020. "The more you eat antibiotics, the greater the risk of developing AMR," Xiao warned. In addition, it is expected that one or two new antibiotic drugs, and at least five new testing devices developed by Chinese companies or institutes, will be developed and made available by 2020, according to the plan. ^ top ^

Vice Premier urges more efforts to improve domestic trade (Xinhua)
2016-08-25
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang called for more efforts to improve domestic trade to stimulate consumption. To adapt to new economic conditions, China should upgrade its domestic trade by promoting supply-side structural reform, Wang said Wednesday at a government teleconference. The government should improve its policymaking to meet changes in the consumption structure, Wang said, calling for adapting to consumers' demand for quality products, automobiles, services, and green consumption. Wang urged more efforts to improve market order, such as establishing a product traceability system, removing regional barriers and enhancing the consumption circumstance. China should continue to improve e-commerce, trade infrastructure and related laws, Wang said. ^ top ^

China to boost consumer goods quality: premier (Xinhua)
2016-08-25
China will make more efforts to elevate the quality of consumer goods and promote the "Made in China" brand to meet growing demand, Premier Li Keqiang said. The government will introduce compulsory standards on quality, intensify supervision and spur businesses to improve products, according to a statement released Thursday after a State Council conference chaired by the premier. Sectors including food, home appliances, electronics, clothing, cosmetics, daily chemical products and sports goods were highlighted at the meeting. China is seeking an upgrade of its manufacturing sector to meet increasing demand from domestic consumers. An array of measures, such as the supply-side structural reform, have been carried out. The new move to improve product quality came as the latest effort to realize the ambition. Domestic standards will be raised to catch up with global levels, and a series of standards on core manufacturing technology will be established, said the statement, noting industry leaders will be supported to exceed compulsory levels. China will promote the "spirit of the craftsman" and large companies will be encouraged to appoint chief quality officers. Vocational education and skill training should be improved, said the statement. It said businesses will be encouraged to set up funds to reward quality improvement. The government will implement spot checks and introduce a quality record system for businesses, it said. A product quality traceability system and a defective product recall mechanism will be established. Market watchdogs will crack down on counterfeits in online shopping and cross-border trading, it said. It also said an accountability system will be established to hold quality inspection and certification agencies responsible for product quality and safety. In addition, the meeting also agreed to further cut red tape by setting up a negative list for consumer goods management. ^ top ^

Respect, protect nature during development: Xi (Xinhua)
2016-08-24
President Xi Jinping has declared that protection of the ecosystem is "the most important foundation" of sustainable development. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, was speaking during a tour of the northwestern province of Qinghai Monday through Wednesday. Describing the region's ecosystem as its "biggest merit, responsibility and potential," Xi said that measures must be taken to ensure that economic, social and environmental development proceed hand-in-hand. Speaking with local officials, the President spoke of his desire for Qinghai to be a model of eco-friendly development, circular economy and ethnic solidarity. Maintaining healthy development of the economy is a major task for the whole party, said Xi. He urged using new concepts to guide development and making efforts to address structural and mechanism issues and problems that hinder development. Supply-side structural reform is the main thread for economic development and economic work at present and a period to come, said Xi,urging efforts to optimize the supply of products and services and raise the overall quality and efficiency of the supply chain. Qinghai shoulders the important responsibility to protect the Sanjiangyuan region (the source of China's three major rivers), Xi said. He ordered coordinated implementation of projects such as energy conservation and emission reduction, beautiful cities and countryside, natural reserves, ecological protection around the Qinghai Lake and desertification control, and gradually returning arable land to grassland and forest. During the tour, Xi visited the Qinghai environmental monitoring center. At the center, he watched real-time monitoring of the source of the Yellow River, a Qinghai-Tibet Railway bridge and other locations, while chatting with center staff. Speaking through the video phone system, Xi urged local people of various ethnic groups to jointly protect their lakes, grassland, rivers and wildlife. Visiting a solar power company in Xining, Xi saw a solar cell production line and asked about various aspects of the production process. Speaking highly of Qinghai's accomplishments in clean energy, he said good planning, policy support and guidance are vital to the orderly development of the photovoltaic power industry. He asked state-owned enterprises to take the lead in innovation, produce more and better products and play a bigger role in leading innovation-driven development. Xi visited Chaerhan Salt Lake in Qaidam Basin, which is China's biggest salt lake. The region has been making use of the lake to develop its salination industry since the 1950s. On the lakeside wharf, Xi was briefed on the development of circular economy in the area. He said the Chaerhan boasts the most important of Qinghai's resources and a strategic resource for the whole country. Xi spoke of the need to balance exploitation and protection of resources and to create industrial processes, techniques and skills featuring low consumption, fewer emmissions and high returns. In Changjiangyuan Village, Xi was warmly welcomed by Tibetan villagers who moved there in 2004, away from the sources of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers. Protection of the sources of the three rivers involve the relocation of people formerly residing in those places. In a villager's house, Xi was delighted to see that the villagers' standard of living was relatively high, enjoying stable income, basic health insurance and old-age insurance. POVERTY RELIEF At newly-built Banyan Village in Huzhu Tu Autonomous County, Xi met families relocated from another area. In the new house of a Tu ethnic family, Xi watched a video of the old village where they had lived and said that relocation is an effective way to relieve poverty. He stressed the importance of listening to what the villagers want and letting them participate in planning their new villages. "The building of new villages should be integrated with measures to promote production and employment, improve basic public services and protect ethnic, regional and cultural features and styles," Xi said. Poverty relief is not easy, Xi said, urging party and government officials at all levels to be firm and precise in their efforts to help people shake off poverty. "Ethnic unity is a lifeline for people of all ethnic groups," Xi said, calling for guiding people of various ethnic groups to live with each other in harmony, maintain solidarity and seek progress together. On religious affairs, Xi said efforts should be made to guide religions to adapt to socialism with Chinese characteristics and make religions in the country follow a sinicized direction. Xi urged Party organizations at all levels to strictly follow the rules in all circumstances, with leading officials setting the example for others. During the visit, Xi, who is chairman of the Central Military Commission, also met with military officers stationed in Qinghai. ^ top ^

China issues regulation to tighten cyber security (Xinhua)
2016-08-24
Chinese authorities have unveiled a document on Internet regulation in a bid to beef up cyber security, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said Wednesday. The guidelines were issued by the CAC; the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China; and the Standardization Administration of China (SAC). According to the document, mandatory national standards will be introduced to regulate the fields of major information technology infrastructure protection and classified networks. Authorities will accelerate the introduction of standards in cyber security, personal information protection, cyber security information sharing and other fields. The new standards will be in line with the country's laws and regulations. The document also requires the establishment of an information sharing mechanism for major cyber projects and unified national standards to reduce the burden for companies and to improve the country's overall cyber security, said Gao Lin, secretary general of the SAC. According to an online survey by the Internet Society of China in June, 54 percent of respondents said they believed there was rampant leaking of private information online, with 84 percent said they had personally suffered from information leaks. The economic losses incurred by online fraud and the leaking of private information leakage in China totaled 91.5 billion yuan from the second half of 2015 to the first half of this year. ^ top ^

China addresses post-relocation issue in poverty relief (Xinhua)
2016-08-23
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has demanded more to done to improve the skills of people who have been relocated as part of poverty relief efforts. China plans to end poverty by 2020, in part by relocating 10 million people over the next 5 years from barren or geographically disadvantaged areas to start new lives elsewhere. "Alleviating poverty through relocation is a key aspect of our strategy," Li said in a message to a national meeting on the matter. The two-day meeting ended on Tuesday in Guiyang, capital of southwest China's Guizhou Province. There are still around 70 million people living below the poverty line in China, many in harsh conditions without roads, water or power. "Fighting poverty is an arduous, complicated and urgent task, which demands a strong sense of responsibility and mission," Li said. ^ top ^

How Chinese rights lawyer's courtroom mea culpa went off script (SCMP)
2016-08-22
Zhou Shifeng's final statement did not come quite as expected. Like the other three activists tried in Tianjin at the start of the month, the head of Beijing's Feng­rui law firm, where more than 10 employees were arrested last year in a crackdown on civil society, was supposed to read from a script. He was supposed to express little beyond regret for his “subversive” acts and gratitude towards the prosecutors and judges, who sent him to jail for seven years, for handling the case “fairly”. It was also supposed to hit the headlines the next day. But under the watch of attendees including journalists from the South China Morning Post and four overseas news organisations invited by the Ministry of Public Security, he delivered something very different. In a 10-minute final statement, the Peking University law school master's degree holder praised China's legal system, saying it was “so much beyond the Western rule of law”, and that the trial would “stand the test of the world”. The praise was not included in the official transcript published hours later. His speech was condensed into a few paragraphs, in which he pleaded guilty and thanked the court for its fairness. There was also no reference to Zhou delivering his statement with his arms outstretched as if on a street soapbox, before court police gently pressed them down. The judge managed to interrupt after a few attempts. “The trial fully represents the fairness of a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics,” Zhou said after the verdict. It was unclear if Zhou was being sarcastic or genuine, and the same confusion hung over two interviews arranged by the authorities later that day. Former colleague Huang Liqun was one of two interviewees designated to speak to the media. Just hours earlier, Huang had been in court testifying against Zhou. After Huang's testimony, Zhou offered a surprising apology. “I'm sorry for what my behaviour dragged you and other colleagues into,” he said, facing Huang, who looked straight ahead at the judge. “I'm sorry, Brother Liqun.” Talking to the media, Huang rejected Zhou's apology as “against the requirements of the law”. “The court asked him if he had anything related to the case to ask me. He said yes, but it turned out to be a personal statement... He lied to the court,” Huang said of Zhou's apology. “He called me Brother Liqun, as if he were a very decent man... It's hypocritical.” Out on bail, Huang said he was struggling to make ends meet as no law firm would hire him. “I'm very poor at the moment. I'm basically living with the help of my relatives and friends.” It was unclear what Huang, who looked at his palm several times before the interview, left unsaid. But some details were omitted from official reports and transcripts of another trial. After the trial of activist Hu Shigen, a court summary turned Hu's reference to “thoughts of Western democracy” into simply “reactionary thoughts”. A slight change was also made to Hu's statement about China's transition to a democracy. The public transcript quoted him as saying: “Once bloodshed breaks out between the government and the people, it will create a chance for international intervention.” But it omitted the start of Hu's sentence in court: “We don't want bloodshed to happen, but...” Compared to previous cases, the court was more responsive to doubts cast by overseas media. After it was pointed out that the relatives of activist Zhai Yanmin were absent, the court released a statement the next day in which Zhou purportedly said he had stopped his relatives from going to the trial. And after reports about blocked traffic and the heavy police presence around the court building during the trial, journalists were invited to film the perfectly unhindered traffic at the front gate – but only after the trial had ended. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Hong Kong's New Territories East proves to be election battleground for youth vote (SCMP)
2016-08-26
With 22 candidates jostling for just nine seats in the New Territories East, experts say young voters will inevitably decide the winner in the fiercely contested constituency. The constituency has been a pan-democrat stronghold in ­previous elections. In the past two Legislative Council elections, pan-democrats won over half the seats – five out of seven in 2008 and six out of nine in 2012. But even with five incumbent pan-democrats in the constituency running again in the ­September 4 election, the chances of retaining all those seats have ­diminished with the arrival of the localist camp in the political arena. Supporters of localist candidates tend to be younger, and New Territories East has the highest proportion of young voters among all of the five constituencies with 27 per cent of voters under the age of 35. The results from the by-election in February provided a ­glaring indication of the support for localism in the constituency when Hong Kong Indigenous' Edward Leung Tin-kei won an eye-catching 66,524 votes. Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, said the ability of Leung to draw youngsters to polling booths was the key reason for his success. In his analysis, the academic highlighted that the turnout rate of voters under the age of 30 had increased significantly in the by-election earlier this year to an average of 44.85 per cent, ­compared with 36 per cent during the district council elections in 2015. “If the desire of youngsters to vote maintains at a high level, this could work in the favour of localists,” Choy said. Leung, however, will not be contesting the New Territories East constituency after he was ­disqualified from the election race last month. Instead, Youngspiration's Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang will run as substitute for the Hong Kong Indigenous spokesman. In light of this development, Dr Chung Kim-wah, a political scientist at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said it was unclear if the Youngspiration candidate would retain the same level of support that Edward Leung ­received in February. “None of the radical pan-democrats ran in the by-election, so the results from that cannot be used to predict how [Baggio Leung] will fare,” Chung said, ­referring to the League of Social Democrats' Leung Kwok-hung and People Power's Raymond Chan Chi-chuen. The League of Social Democrats' incumbent won 48,295 votes in the 2012 election, the highest of all candidates in the constituency. Chan, meanwhile, won 38,042 votes, the fifth highest. Chung said the emergence of the localist camp may affect the results of both incumbents on polling day. As of yesterday, University of Hong Kong polls ranked the League of Social Democrats ­candidate fifth in terms of his ­popularity. Chan was placed 14th. On Monday, after polls showed the popularity rate of Chan at a meagre 0.5 per cent, ­rumours began to circulate that the People Power candidate could drop out of the race. Chan denied the claims, ­stating in a Facebook live broadcast that he had no intention of dropping out, saying he had been working hard on his campaign. “I don't know who started to spread the rumour... but whatever your reason, making things up out of thin air is really poor,” he said. Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu of the Civic Party and Elizabeth Quat of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong were the only two candidates whose popularity ratings reached double figures, according to the same poll. Choy stopped short of ­forecasting the winners in the New Territories East election, saying it was too difficult to predict. “The popularity rating of many of the candidates only ­differs within one or two percentage points,” he said. “On top of that, there are no clear patterns from the rolling poll to suggest who would likely win the final few seats.” ^ top ^

In Hong Kong's poorest constituency, pro-Beijing lawyer again looks to win Legco seat at expense of divided rivals (SCMP)
2016-08-26
Kowloon East is probably the most predictable battlefield among the five geographical constituencies in the Legislative Council elections. Vying for the five seats are 12 lists of candidates, of whom eight are pro-democracy and four pro-establishment. It is expected that each camp will, as in the past, safely win two seats each, leaving the question as to who will take the fifth and last seat – a pro-Beijing lawyer incumbent or a controversial localist? Kowloon East is arguably the poorest constituency among the five, with 87 per cent of the population living in public rental housing. According to census data in 2011, the median household monthly income in Kwun Tong district stood at HK$15,960, the lowest among the 18 districts in the city. Wong Tai Sin, the other component forming Kowloon East, was third lowest with a median of HK$17,000. Arising from the neighbourhood are a host of livelihood issues, including the redevelopment of Kwun Tong town centre and a shortage of hospital beds to cope with the ageing population. The four major parties – the Democrats and Civic Party of the pan-democratic camp on one hand, and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and Federation of Trade Unions of the pro-Beijing camp on the other – have been able to take one seat each previously. The two camps gained the same 30 per cent vote share in the last election in 2012. The fifth seat was taken by lawyer Paul Tse Wai-chun, a pro-Beijing independent, after a tight race. Tse won because on the other side three pan-democratic radical candidates – League of Social Democrats' Andrew To Kwan-hang, People Power's Wong Yeung-tat and independent Mandy Tam Heung-man – were competing among themselves. The three radicals combined bagged 69,301 votes in total, or 24 per cent of the votes, compared to Tse's 38,546 votes, which was 13.5 per cent. Critics then said if such competition had been avoided, they would not have handed victory to Tse. This time round, Tse – dubbed “godson of Western District” in political circles due to his close ties with Beijing's liaison office located there – is again seen to have the upper hand on the fifth seat. While the four major parties are expected to keep their seats, contesting the last seat with Tse are six pan-democrats and localists. While Tam and Wong are back, entering the scene is the Labour Party's chairwoman, Suzanne Wu Sui-shan, independence advocate Chan Chak-to, People Power's Tam Tak-chi and former Democrat Lui Wing-kei. It is expected that the even keener competition on the pan-democratic and localist side could further dilute the vote share of each of the candidates. Two polls, by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme and by Hong Kong Research Association, have shown Tse could again enjoy a marginal victory, closely followed by Wong. ^ top ^

More spots open up for Hong Kong-Japan working holiday scheme (SCMP)
2016-08-26
A popular working holiday exchange scheme between Hong Kong and Japan will be expanded, with spots for six times more young people. The Labour Department yesterday announced that the quota for the Japan edition of the Working Holiday Scheme will be raised to 1,500 people per year. Japan was added to the programme in 2010 and about 1,700 young Hongkongers and 450 young Japanese have taken part in the exchange. Welcoming the increase, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said: “The substantial increase in the quota will provide more opportunities for [young people] from both places to broaden their horizons through living and working temporarily in Hong Kong or Japan while [on holiday]. It will also enhance the cultural exchange between the two places.” The programme was designed to promote cultural exchange between young Hongkongers and their counterparts from 10 other participating nations, including New Zealand, Australia, South Korea and the United Kingdom, with 71,000 joining the scheme from the SAR. Japan is considered one of the most-favoured tourist destinations for Hongkongers, and it is also the city's third-largest trading partner. ^ top ^

Former UK ambassador to Myanmar appointed as new consul general to Hong Kong and Macau from next month (SCMP)
2016-08-25
Britain's former ambassador to Myanmar has been appointed as the new consul general to Hong Kong and Macau from next month. Andrew Heyn, a 26-year veteran of the British civil service, replaces Caroline Wilson, who will transfer to an unnamed diplomatic posting elsewhere. Since joining the Foreign Office, London's incoming top diplomat to Hong Kong has served in Venezuela, Portugal and Ireland before taking up his role in Myanmar in 2009, a posting that witnessed the re-emergence of the country and the release of de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Most recently, Heyn had been working from London and the Cabinet Office spearheading ­governance reform, a role described as being “at the heart” of the British government. In a statement, Heyn said: “I am very honoured to be given this opportunity to experience the extraordinary vitality of Hong Kong first hand. “The new Foreign Secretary has talked about creating a new identity for the UK abroad – a Global Britain which is open for business, committed to peace and security, and a leading supporter of the international rules-based system. “Our relationship with Hong Kong will be a key part of this process with our long-standing ties across many different spheres.” The appointment of Heyn had been planned for several months, prior to Britain's exit from the European Union which saw the reshuffle across its government leading to a new prime minister and cabinet. According to the consulate, Heyn is a “keen” tennis player and fisherman. It is unknown whether the new consul general will cast a line out into Victoria Harbour, with angling being one of the recreational activities suggested by Chief ­Executive Leung Chun-ying as part of the government's waterfront vision for Hong Kong Island. Heyn will move to Hong Kong with his wife Jane and daughter Emma. In June, the United States ­appointed top economic official Kurt Tong – previously the US ambassador for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and deputy chief of mission in Tokyo – to replace Clifford Hart as America's point-man in Hong Kong. The European Union's office in Hong Kong and Macau saw the departure of head Vincent Piket, while Canada will be appointing a new chief representative. Singapore and Australia are also expected by insiders to replace their consul generals. ^ top ^

Two Hong Kong TV stations to stop broadcasts of rolling poll results (SCMP)
2016-08-25
Two television stations which are sponsoring a rolling poll on the Legislative Council elections have stopped broadcasting the results, after a co-sponsoring political group announced it will make use of the data for electioneering. As media organisations, Cable TV and Now TV said it would be “inappropriate” for them to continue working together with the political group. The poll, conducted by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme, has sparked controversy since it was launched late last month. Last week, it was criticised by several political parties, whose candidates were shown as lagging, for having a small sample size, with only 100 to 300 people in each of the five geographical constituencies. The pollsters cited budget constraints, adding it would raise the size closer to the election. In a statement yesterday, Cable TV said it found out only on Wednesday that co-sponsor Power for Democracy was planning to make use of some of the poll data to compile a large-scale survey, to be released on September 2, two days before polling day. “Power for Democracy has... [said] the survey with 5,000 [people] will be indicative and helpful for political parties to adjust their strategies and win more seats,” the statement read. “Cable TV considers it is not appropriate for itself, as a media organisation, to co-sponsor an opinion poll for electioneering,” it added. It will stop showing the results today. Under the law, broadcasts must be politically neutral, with equal treatment given to candidates during the election period. On the first day the poll results were announced, the HKU pollsters stated in a press release the survey was co-sponsored by the two stations, online news portal HK01 and Power for Democracy. Cable TV news editor Lam Miu-yan had noted the group's participation, but said her station was not aware it planned to use the data for the “5,000-people survey”. Now TV said it had never before co-sponsored a survey with a political body, and it was not informed of Power for Democracy's participation during negotiations on the poll contract with HKU. Both stations said they have not decided on whether to withdraw sponsorships or not. Karie Pang Ka-lai, assistant director of HKU's public opinion programme, said her team did not expect the political group to come up with “a different purpose” for the data after the deal was made but stressed that the pollsters' independence had not been compromised. Power for Democracy, meanwhile, said it was “shocked” and “did not understand” the broadcasters' decision. ^ top ^

Britain looks to Hong Kong and mainland China for post-Brexit trade talks (SCMP)
2016-08-23
China and Hong Kong will be prioritised in Britain's post-Brexit trade talks, Richard Graham, the head of a British parliamentary committee on China relations, told the Post. During talks with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Monday, Graham said it was a priority to strengthen UK-Hong Kong links and to take advantage of opportunities from both sides with a potential free-trade agreement and the One Belt, One Road initiative. “This is our opportunity now to decide what we and our partners really want to have in a free-trade agreement and that might be slightly different from what the European Union wants,” he said. “I would prioritise the whole of Asia and I would prioritise Hong Kong and China within that, and then the Asean countries.” Graham said he wanted to see Hong Kong sign a free-trade deal as soon as Britain formally exits the European Union, and included Beijing as part of the first wave of countries he would recommend to the Department for International Trade to seal commercial agreements. He said he saw no reason why informal talks could not begin and added that an agreement would symbolise the closeness of London and the SAR.He claimed the Hong Kong government had given off “good vibes”, and that it was keen to do a deal soon. Graham said a deal with Hong Kong was not likely to be complex, with few taxes imposed on imported goods and services. The British MP is also visiting the Philippines and Indonesia for trade talks as the prime minister's Asean envoy. London hopes informal talks with Hong Kong can begin as soon as Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is scheduled to visit London towards the end of September. Britain ranks as Hong Kong's 12th largest trading partner and the second largest among the 28 EU member states. Total trade between the two was valued at ­HK$100 billion in 2015. “The UK-Hong Kong relationship, it is special, it has been going on for a long time. It's going to continue to increase and expand,” Graham said. ^ top ^

Hong Kong urged to adopt British 'first-past-the-post' election system to weed out more extreme candidates (SCMP)
2016-08-23
Hong Kong needs a British-style voting system which could weed out more extreme candidates, the head of a British parliamentary committee on China relations has told the South China Morning Post in an exclusive interview. Richard Graham, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary China Group, said in comments made ahead of next month's Legislative Council elections that Hong Kong should adopt a one person, one vote system, which would make councillors more accountable to their constituents. The system allows one candidate with the highest number of votes to be returned in a single-seat constituency. This was used in the 1995 Legco elections, when the Democratic Party won 12 out of 20 directly elected seats. A proportional representation system was introduced in 1998 – the first polls held after the handover. Candidates are returned on the basis of a “quota”, with some being allocated according to the “largest remainder”. This means candidates – including some from fringe parties – can be returned with a low proportion of the vote. This voting structure has led to a more fragmented legislature. The Conservative MP said he thought the Legco election framework was becoming a barrier to the executive and preventing Hong Kong from becoming a more dynamic city. “I am elected by a first-past-the-post system and it is infinitely less complicated than proportional representation,” Graham said. “It means that fringe candidates very rarely succeed whereas under proportional representation, it is more possible for them to do so. Also you have a direct responsibility to your constituents.” Chinese University political commentator Ivan Choy Chi-keung said the previous administration fixated only on not allowing the Democratic Party to control the legislature, ignoring warnings that proportional representation would be a fillip for radical parties. “The existing system has created vested interests, and got seats for smaller parties. So it is difficult to convince them to give up their existing advantage in the new system,” he said. Meanwhile, six pro-independence candidates have been barred from running in the Legco polls, raising fears that political rights and freedom of speech are being curtailed. While Graham would not comment on why they were banned, he maintained: “With a first-past-the-post system, candidates with extreme views on the whole don't get elected, so it's less of an issue.” But he stressed “everyone clearly wants to see fair elections”. The MP for Gloucester in southwest England stopped over in Hong Kong for talks with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and two potential rivals for the top post – finance chief John Tsang Chun-wah and retiring Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing. Graham also touched on the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers, including British citizen Lee Po. He said: “The most important thing going forward... is that 'one country, two systems' and all the freedoms it implies remain in place. That's the key to confidence, to investment, to the UK presence here and actually to a wider community overall.” A spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said: “The HK government conducts public elections in accordance with the relevant legislation approved by the Legislative Council. We will not comment on remarks made by individuals.” ^ top ^

More than half of Hong Kong ethnic minority electors likely to vote, but many others don't know how to register (SCMP)
2016-08-23
More than half of ethnic minority electors are likely to vote in next month's Legislative Council polls, according to a survey by two concern groups. But electoral information remained lacking for non-Chinese-speaking residents as around 70 per cent of those who said they did not register to vote said they did not know how to do so. Half of publicity materials for candidates collected for the study did not have English information. “Candidates should be more attentive to the needs of ethnic minorities. Greater effort should be made by the government to help ethnic minorities know about the election,” said Moses Mui Wai-keung, chief family and community service officer in the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, which jointly conducted the survey with Hong Kong Christian Service. The survey, which was conducted from June to last month, identified 476 eligible voters out of the 704 people interviewed. Only 55 per cent of those eligible were registered to vote – a figure lower than the overall rate of 73.5 per cent in the city. Any permanent resident aged 18 or more who lives in the city regularly and has not been disqualified from registration is eligible to become a voter. Despite a lower registration rate, 55 per cent of interviewed voters said they would vote in the Legco elections. That was higher than the overall voter turnout rates in the last two Legco elections – 45 per cent in 2008 and 53 per cent in 2012. For the 29 per cent of eligible residents who said they did not register to vote, the top reasons given were unfamiliarity with the local election system, failure to identify a candidate who could represent them and a lack of information about how to register. However, some respondents said they did not know whether they were registered. “I really want to vote, but I didn't know how to register,” said Perveen Akhtar, a 36-year-old Hong Kong-born Pakistani. “When I asked how I could register, I was only told that it was too late,” said Akhtar in fluent Cantonese. Researchers examined the publicity material of the nine candidates running for a “super seat”, who are chosen in a territory-wide vote, and found that only half of their materials, including introductions to candidates, promotion leaflets and websites, had English versions. ^ top ^

Pro-independence localist groups on the rise in Hong Kong schools (SCMP)
2016-08-22
Student activists have set up at least 21 localist groups in schools to discuss independence for Hong Kong, and some of them are not ruling out the use of violence to achieve separatist goals. The revelation came yesterday as politicians, educators, students and parents continued to argue over how teachers could handle independence discussions in schools without losing their jobs. Executive councillor Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun waded into the debate by stating that independence talk was “too complicated” for school campuses. The Education Bureau set off a storm by warning a week ago that teachers risked disqualification if they encouraged students to engage in pro-independence talk. Education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim later said students could only hold such discussions under the supervision of teachers and within the limits of the Basic Law. Ng has ruled out setting guidelines for schools, leaving it to the “professionalism” of teachers and principals. But critics are calling for more clarity on the restrictions, with a Basic Law expert asking the government to specify whether promoting independence is indeed unlawful. The Post found at least 21 localist school groups have been set up through Facebook, including 16 that were reported earlier, in response to calls by activist group Studentlocalism. Another group had closed its Facebook page. New concern groups have emerged on Facebook in the past week, including one from Tung Chung Catholic School and another from Wong Cho Bau Secondary School operated by the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation Of Education Workers. Tony Chung Hon-lam, a Studentlocalism convenor, said more recruits were signing up for his group, from “sometimes not even one a week” to five or six a week, after it came into the spotlight. The group has imposed a tight vetting system for members, requiring them to fill forms with details of their Facebook and Instagram accounts for background checks. Those who insisted on only rational, non-violent action would be rejected, he explained. Chung would not rule out the use of violence to achieve their goals. A spokesman of a localist student concern group at Munsang College in Kowloon also told the Post it supported “any means of action in order to defend our autonomy”. But Vegas Chan Pui-chung from a localist organisation at Ying Wa College in Kowloon said his group was against the use of violence as it believed secondary school pupils were too young to be exposed to such dangers. Fanny Law, a former top education official, called on a radio programme for pro-independence groups to be banned from schools, and their representatives to be stopped from leading student unions. Law, a close adviser to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, said the historical context of discussing independence was “too complicated” for schools, and that secondary school students could be misled without a thorough understanding of context, such as the First Opium War and the drafting process of the Basic Law, the city's mini-constitution. “It is understandable that young people get frustrated about the current situation in Hong Kong, but independence cannot solve all problems,” she said. Law also urged teachers to avoid bringing up the topic during class discussions and suggested that the family backgrounds of students advocating independence campaigns should be looked into to better understand what was driving them towards such taboo talk. ^ top ^

Four themes that have defined Hong Kong's Legco elections tussles so far (SCMP)
2016-08-22
Candidates in the Legislative Council elections have been crossing verbal swords at numerous forums over the past two weeks and yet no camp appears to be in the lead for a big win and no single issue seems to be capturing voters' attention. At least that is the picture observers are painting at the halfway mark of the campaign in the run-up to polling day on September 4. Uncertainty and chaos marked the start of the hustings when six potential candidates advocating independence were banned under rules announced less than 48 hours before nominations began. And more than a dozen veteran lawmakers from parties across the spectrum left the scene. Entering it is a band of young localists. or candidates who demand varying degrees of greater autonomy from the mainland, leaving traditional pan-democrats anxious about losing ground. Here is a look at four issues defining the campaign so far: 1. Chief executive, who? CE election takes back seat in debates The question of whether Leung Chun-ying deserved support for a second term once seemed like an albatross around the necks of pro-establishment candidates. In the February by-election, the pro-Beijing camp's hot favourite Holden Chow Ho-ding was embarrassed time and again when he was grilled by Civic Party's Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu on whether he would support the unpopular Leung to run again next year. Chow could not bring himself to answer either way, because his party had no stance and any answer was potentially costly. A “yes” could turn off undecided voters; a “no” could be risky because Beijing had not yet signalled whether it would back Leung. His ambivalence made him appear shifty. But by last month, pan-democrats could no longer drag down rivals with the Leung question. With outgoing Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah indicating interest and thus presenting more choices, it is much easier for pro-Beijing candidates to dodge the question. The model answer has been provided by Chow's colleague, Starry Lee Wai-king. The chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said at a radio forum: “We are very happy to see that both Jasper Tsang and John Tsang have indicated their interest in the job. It's expected and reasonable for DAB to support Jasper Tsang, the party's founding chairman, should he throw his hat into the ring.” 2. Slanging matches in crowded battlefield With a record number of 84 lists of candidates vying for 35 seats in geographical constituencies, the forums have been reduced to arenas for bickering and mud-slinging. The election watchdog's “equal time” principle, which requires broadcasters to allocate exactly the same amount of time to each candidate in a debate, means each team of candidates has barely a few minutes to introduce their platforms and take on their rivals. The most chaotic battlefield is New Territories East, where 22 lists of candidates are vying for nine seats. The debates have become superficial and fragmented, said Ma Ngok, a political scientist at the Chinese University. “There is not a single issue that was thoroughly discussed by the candidates,” Ma said. “The debates have provided little reference value for voters to decide whom to vote for.” He also observed that the chaos stood in stark contrast to the last election in 2012, which coincided with the days-long protests over the national education classes controversy. Candidates then had to state their stance whether they agreed with the government's proposal to introduce what opponents called “brainwashing classes” for national education in schools. The widespread opposition to the proposal helped pan-democrats amass votes. In the current campaign, there have been forums dedicated to certain livelihood issues but the response has been lukewarm. At a forum on welfare policy organised by the Society for Community Organisation, three out of 15 candidates in Kowloon West were absent, and two others left it to lower-ranking colleagues, who are second on their candidates' list, to attend the event. 3. Infighting among localists The entry of a dozen localists to this election has added a new dimension to the battlefield, which used to be fights between only pan-democrats and the pro-establishment. Unlike the six candidates who have been disqualified for their unequivocal advocacy for Hong Kong independence, these localists make varying calls, ranging from “sustaining the Basic Law” with amendments that protect Hongkongers' interest to advancing self-determination. But they are hardly marching in solidarity. At a televised forum for Hong Kong Island constituency, former Occupy Central student leader Nathan Law Kwun-chung sought to differentiate himself from Alvin Cheng Kam-mun, after Cheng identified himself as “the only localist candidate in the constituency”. “I call for self-determination, but he talks about sustaining the Basic Law. Note the difference,” Law retorted. Law's party, Demosisto, has pledged to organise a referendum in 10 years for Hongkongers to decide on the city's future. It neither advocates independence nor rules it out as an option in the future referendum. Some localists have also come under attack by older radicals. At the same forum, Christopher Lau Gar-hung accused Cheng of being a “fake” localist, arguing that his advocacy of “sustaining” the Basic Law was no different from supporting Beijing's continued grip over Hong Kong. Lau's People Power, a non-localist group that played a key role in Legco filibustering and was once considered radical, is seen by critics to be the most vulnerable to losing its base to the new radicals on the block, the localists. 4. Up in arms over rolling poll The rolling poll conducted by Hong Kong University's public opinion programme, which has served as a useful reference for parties and voters in the past, has come under scrutiny for its methodology, in particular for its small sample size. The poll, sponsored by three media organisations and a pro-democracy group, has shown some key candidates of established parties in both camps – who are second-generation members running to replace their veterans – lingering at marginal positions and even falling out. It also shows several localists could win seats. While People Power and the League of Social Democrats have publicly doubted whether the poll is scientific, other parties have responded by boosting their campaigns and, in some cases, making “emergency appeals” to voters. The Democratic Party has invited former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang to canvass for its three rookie candidates. Its former chairman, Dr Yeung Sum, said it was the first time that Chan is offering such “wide-scale” help to the party, which he feared was now facing an “unprecedented challenge”. “We are worried that voters would decide to give up on our candidates and vote for others because of the poll results,” he said, adding Chan's backing would help appeal to middle-class and moderate voters. The poll findings have also troubled DAB's Gary Chan Hak-kan, an incumbent seeking his third term as a lawmaker for New Territories East, where seven pro-establishment candidates and 15 others are bidding for nine seats. “The poll and the fact that there are many candidates in my camp indeed suggest my situation is not optimistic,” Chan said. He has invited his party's heavyweights, Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and Tam Yiu-chung, to stump in his neighbourhoods. Whether their presence can save him will be clear, come election day. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan's Tsai Ing-wen orders revamp of military strategy, weapons upgrade (SCMP)
2016-08-26
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen urged the island's armed forces to change their culture and update their approach as the island carried out its annual military exercises. She demanded that the island's defence ministry submit a draft for the reforms by January. “The challenges the military faces today come from two areas: limitations from outside and insufficiencies from inside,” Tsai told soldiers taking part in the four days of drills, known as the Han Kuang, in Pingtung county, southern Taiwan. “Every step the military takes should follow guidelines,” Tsai said. Her comments came after two fatal army accidents within the past one and a half months. In one, three Taiwanese soldiers were killed when their tank fell off a bridge amid heavy rain after a drill preparing for the Han Kuang exercises last Tuesday. Relations between Taiwan and mainland China have been strained since Tsai's independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office in May. Meanwhile, the Taiwanese military has been condemned by the public and even military experts as too weak compared to the People's Liberation Army. Lin Chong-pin, a former deputy defence minister for Taiwan, said its military had long-standing problems, including a “bad culture brought from the mainland” when the Kuomintang led by Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the civil war to communist forces. “One of the characteristics of the [Taiwanese] army is, military leaders say something... their subordinates dare not say otherwise,” Lin said. “Sometimes subordinates even try to guess the top commander's thinking, and do something to please him. That's very dangerous.” Lin said another problem was a huge gap in fighting capability between the Taiwanese army and their key rival, the PLA. Unlike Taiwan's army, the PLA had undergone a series of reforms to streamline its bulky force and make it nimble and quick to react, Lin said. “The PLA always has reviews after their drills, whether they are sole exercises or joint drills. But [the Taiwanese] army doesn't have this tradition, even in the aftermath of the 1995-1996 missile crisis,” Lin said. The incident saw the PLA carry out a series of missile tests in the Taiwan Strait between July 21, 1995 and March 23, 1996, after then-Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui voiced his “two-state theory”. “I am one of the witnesses to the crisis. The [Taiwanese] army has never done any review,” said Lin, who was then vice-chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council. Lin said Taiwan's military had lost direction, and needed to decide “why they are there, where they are going and what they are fighting for”. Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said that unlike former president Chen Shui-bian, who was also from the DPP, Tsai had more “security sense” and determination to carry out reforms. ^ top ^

Taiwan's vice-president to visit Vatican amid signs Beijing and Holy See drawing closer (SCMP)
2016-08-24
Taiwan will send its first envoy in three years to visit the Vatican – it's sole ally in Europe – in a bid to cement ties as signs grow that Beijing and the Holy See are working towards resuming relations. Taiwanese Vice-President Chen Chien-jen, a Catholic who has long had ties with the Vatican, would leave next week for the canonisation of Mother Teresa and meet senior officials, attend a mass and visit Assisi, birthplace of St Francis, during a six-day visit, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday. “We share the same values with the Holy See based on religious freedom and human rights. Our relations with the Holy See are very stable and there's no problem looking from now to the future,” deputy foreign minister Wu Chih-chung said, when announcing the trip. Mainland still sees self-ruling Taiwan as part of its territory and demands that allies of Beijing must renege any official ties with the island. There was a truce in the battle for friends under previous Beijing-friendly president Ma Ying-jeou. But former Taiwan ally Gambia established ties with Beijing, two months after mainland-sceptic Tsai Ing-wen was elected president in January. There is speculation that Panama might follow suit. Chen's visit comes after the bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal John Tong Hon, said recently the mainland was willing to reach an “understanding” with the Vatican over the contentious issue of the appointment of bishops. The Holy See is one of only 22 states that recognise Taipei instead of Beijing. In 2013, Ma became the first Taiwanese leader to meet the pope when he attended the inauguration of Pope Francis, sparking an angry response from Beijing despite improving cross-strait ties at that time. There are an estimated 12 million Catholics on the mainland, but the Vatican has not had diplomatic relations with Beijing since 1951. Previous attempts to restore ties have floundered over Beijing's insistence that the Vatican must give up its recognition of Taiwan and promise not to interfere in religious issues on the mainland. But in May the Vatican's secretary of state, Pietro Parolin, said relations between Beijing and the Catholic Church were “in a positive phase”. In February, Pope Francis lavished praise on the mainland in a move widely seen as part of Vatican moves to improve relations, pointedly avoiding any mention of Chinese restrictions on freedom of worship. ^ top ^

Dark cross-strait clouds hang over Shanghai-Taipei forum as officials call for respect (SCMP)
2016-08-23
Anti-mainland protests continued to dog a top Shanghai official in Taipei on Tuesday as an annual cross-strait city forum took place under the shadow of worsening relations between Beijing and the island. Protesters shouted “Expel Sha Hailin” and “Expel propaganda communist” outside the hotel hosting the Shanghai-Taipei City Forum. Three agreements between the two cities were signed on the event's opening day, including cooperation deals on film festivals and marathons. Sha, who is attending the forum, is a member of the Communist Party's Standing Committee in Shanghai and head of the city's United Front Work Department. Addressing the conference, Sha said his trip to the island was “open and transparent” and called for mutual understanding and respect. He stressed that the forum was not being held in a “foreign city”. He said “the political basis for peaceful development of cross-strait relations is the Chinese identity” and made explicit references to “one China” and “the 1992 consensus”, two phrases that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, has avoided. “I believe most Taiwanese support peaceful unification and closer exchanges and cooperation between the two cities,” Sha said. “Some Taiwanese who opposed the forum either lacked understanding of the actual situation or did it on purpose.” Wrapping up the event, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je said the forum succeeded not because Taipei acknowledged the “one China” principle but because of friendship between the two cities. “When we understand and respect Beijing's insistence on some aspects, we hope Beijing can understand and respect Taiwan's insistence on democracy and freedom,” Ko said. Sha is the highest-level mainland official to visit Taiwan since Tsai took office in May 20. Cross-strait exchanges were cut amid Beijing's demand that Taipei recognise the “1992 consensus”, an understanding that both sides acknowledge there is only one China, but each has its own interpretation of what that means. Mainland Affairs Council Minister Katharine Chang said Taiwan's new government had a different understanding of the “1992 consensus” from that held by the previous Kuomintang ­government. Chang said peaceful development of cross-strait ties should comply with various statutes, including the island's constitution. ^ top ^

China reaffirms firm opposition to "Taiwan independence" (Global Times)
216-08-22
China firmly opposes any acts or words supporting "Taiwan independence," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said on Monday in response to Taiwan's possible application for UN membership. According to reports, Tsai Ming Shian, a senior member of the "Taiwan United Nations Alliance," urged Taiwan's new leader Tsai Ing-Wen to write to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to apply for membership last week. The official in charge of foreign affairs in Taiwan replied on Thursday that the Taiwan authority will not promote efforts to join the United Nations. Lu said it is known to all that the United Nations is an inter-governmental organization consisting of sovereign states. "Only a sovereign state can apply for a membership," he said. There is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is a part of China, said Lu. The Chinese government and people firmly oppose any form of "Taiwan independence" secessionist activities, said Lu. "Any attempt to challenge the one-China policy or create 'two Chinas' or 'one China, one Taiwan' will not succeed," he said. ^ top ^

Pro-independence activists stage protest at airport as mainland official visits Taiwan (SCMP)
2016-08-22
Taiwanese shouting anti-communist slogans staged an airport protest on Monday against a visit by a top Shanghai official which they see as intended to promote China's unification with Taiwan. Sha Hailin, a standing committee member of the Communist Party in the city and head of the United Front Work Department in China's commercial capital, is the highest-level mainlander to visit since cross-strait ties worsened under Taiwan's new government. He arrived in Taipei for an annual forum on municipal exchanges as protesters shouted “Sha, go back to China!” at the capital's Songshan airport. Dozens of demonstrators waved placards reading “Expel propaganda communist, defend Taiwan's sovereignty” and “[Taipei mayor] Ko Wen-je sells out Taiwan”. Some supporters also rallied outside the airport with welcome signs. While most demonstrators were cordoned off, one man holding a poster got into the airport arrivals hall and shouted “Sha Hailin, get out!” as Sha walked by. The protester scuffled briefly with policemen before he was taken away. Sha, who heads the visiting delegation in place of Shanghai Mayor Yang Xiong, made no comment to reporters but waved to supporters. Relations with mainland China have grown increasing frosty since Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party won the presidency in January. Beijing is highly suspicious of Tsai because her party is traditionally pro-independence and has warned her against any attempt at a breakaway. Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office announced it had suspended official contact with Taipei after Tsai's government, which took office in May, failed publicly to accept the “one China” principle which governed relations under her predecessor. Taiwan has been self-ruling since splitting with the mainland in 1949 following a civil war, but has never formally declared independence. Beijing still sees it as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. Critics claim Sha, as Shanghai's propaganda chief, intends to push during his visit for reunification and accuse Taipei mayor Ko of “selling out” to Beijing. “We are very angry and we refuse China's propaganda to reunify Taiwan. Taiwan is an independent country. We must maintain our sovereignty and dignity,” said protester Sherry Huang from the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union party. “China has long wanted to annex Taiwan and we don't need to continue exchanges with it,” said protester Hsu Ya-chi. The solidarity union said it planned another demonstration on Monday night at a welcome dinner for the Shanghai delegation in Taipei city hall and vowed to protest throughout Sha's stay. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Irregular session of parliament opens (Montsame)
2016-08-25
Irregular session of the State Great Khural opened at 10.00 am on Thursday to discuss 23 urgent issues mostly on improving the socio-economy of Mongolia. It is expected the irregular session will continue until September 25. Speaker of parliament M.Enkhbold made the opening remarks at the session, saying that parliament will discuss vital issues of ensuring a sustainable development of the national economy and finance and overcoming current crisis with less damage. “The budgetary and financial situation is in difficult situation now. The flow of foreign investment has been declining year to year, and the socio-economic indicators are lowering against international average levels. Now we should realistically analyze the situation and seek proper ways to overcome these problems,” the Speaker stressed. ^ top ^

Cabinet meeting in brief (Montsame)
2016-08-25
The cabinet meeting on Wednesday discussed a draft law on compensation of the pension insurance commission for herders and freelance businessmen. The Ministers backed the bill in terms of concept and considered as necessity to scrutinize the bill and make clear the implementation term. - B.Baatartsogt, Head of the Department of Mineral Resources and Oil was authorized to establish a product-sharing contract with the “Smart oil investment limited” LLC. - The cabinet discussed and backed in principle a draft amendment to the law on pension and allowance given from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF). If the amendment is passed, the law will come into force on January 1, 2017. - A.Tsogtsetseg, the Minister of Health presented final results of the 4th national program on reproductive health. She was obliged to formulate a new version of the program in fourth quarter of this year. ^ top ^

Heads of authorities appointed (Montsame)
2015-08-25
In accordance with decisions of the cabinet made Wednesday, Yo.Bat-Erdene was appointed as deputy head of the General Authority of Customs. - Based on a decision of court, D.Monkhtor, incumbent head of the Authority of Fair Competitiveness and Consumers, was discharged from the post. B.Lhagvaa came to this post. - Board members of the “Erdenes MGL” were appointed, and independent members will be appointed by an open selection. ^ top ^

Parliamentarians meet Asia Foundation's delegation (Montsame)
2016-08-25
Head of the parliamentary Standing committee on security and foreign policy J.Enkhbayar; head of the Standing committee on state structure N.Enkhbold; and A.Undraa MP met Wednesday a delegation of the Asia Foundation (AF), an international developmental NGO. At meeting, the sides exchanged views on projects and programs to be co-implemented by the AF, the government of Mongolia and state organizations. The AF has branches in 18 countries, and it opened in Mongolia in 1990 with purposes to strengthen the democracy, to support the good governance and transparency, to empower women, to reduce corruption rate and to encourage environmental restoration. The AF delegates expressed the willingness to broaden the cooperation with Mongolia in good governance, combating corruption and fortifying the democracy. Present at the meeting were Suzanne Siskel, the AF executive director on action affairs; Dr Gordon Hein, senior vice president of programs at the AF; William Stadden Cole, senior director for program strategy; Sagar Prasai, the AF country director for India; Meloney Lindberg, the AF's country representative in Mongolia; and Diana Fernandez, deputy country representative of the AF in Mongolia. ^ top ^

Capability power plants to be maximized (Montsame)
2016-08-25
In frames of works for providing regions lacking in energy with electricity and ensuring the winter preparations for 2017-2018, permanent capability of the #3 thermal power station in Ulaanbaatar will be maximized by 250 MWT, and the power plant in Dornod aimag's Choibalsan--by 50 MWT. At its meeting on Wednesday, the cabinet tasked the relevant Ministers to commence a project on maximizing the capability of power plants and to resolve financial matters. ^ top ^

Draft 2016-2020 governmental action program to be submitted to parliament (Montsame)
2016-08-24
At its expanded meeting held Tuesday, the cabinet discussed a draft governmental action program for 2016-2020, and decided to submit it to parliament, reflecting proposals from local authorities. This program has been worked out based on the Concept on Sustainable Development until 2030, the election program of the Mongolian People's Party (MPP) and views from people, civil society organizations, contracts and documents. Main objectives of the program are to revive the national economy which is in difficult situation in a short time, to support social sectors by accelerate the economic growth and to improve the people's livelihood. The program also sets certain goals to empower the public service, to maximize professionalism of public servants, to make the public services quicker and more transparent and to strengthen the national security by fortifying the social trust. The governmental action program has 350 clauses in four chapters. ^ top ^

Household average monetary income declines (Montsame)
2016-08-22
According to results of the Household Socio-Economic Survey in the second quarter of 2016, household average monetary income per month reached MNT 874.4 thousand which decreased by MNT 101.3 thousand or 10.4% against the previous year. As of the second quarter of this year, household average monetary expenditure per month was MNT 948.9 thousand which decreased by MNT 30.3 thousand or 3.1% against the previous year. In the period, the number of households with income of below MNT 300 thousand per month reached 118.9 thousand which accounted for 13.8% of total households. Households with MNT 300-500 thousand income reached 163.7 thousand (17.0% of total households), households with MNT 500-900 thousand--265.4 thousand (30.8% of total households), and households with above MNT 2,100 thousand--37 thousand (4.3% of total households). Against the previous year, the number of households with below MNT 300 thousand increased by 23.2 thousand or 2.2 units, while the households with MNT 700-900 thousand also increased by 10.6 thousand or 0.6 units. ^ top ^

7th Mongolia-China Media Forum held (Montsame)
2016-08-22
The seventh Mongolia-China Media Forum took place on August 19-21 in Khentii aimag, Mongolia. This year's forum brought together almost 100 people including authorities of the Confederation of Mongolian Journalists, the MONTSAME news agency, the Mongolian National Public Radio and Television, representatives of TV channels, newspapers and local media organizations. China was represented at the forum by Cui Yuying, director of China's State Council Information Office; Ulaan, a member of the Inner Mongolian Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), head of the Propaganda Division and chairwoman of the Inner Mongolian Society of Cultural Ties with Foreign Countries; and Chen Baochuan, head of the Media Service of the Inner Mongolian People's Government. The attendees delivered reports and exchanged views concerning a role of media organizations and journalists in widening the Mongolia-China relations and cooperation, ways of expanding media organizations of the countries and collaboration of media and journalists in resolving urgent problems in the present globalizing society. A member of the State Great Khural D.Tsogtbaatar delivered a report themed “New circumstance for international relations and Mongolia-China relations”. The participants said they are thankful to Khentii aimag's administration for successfully hosting the forum. Following the meeting, they toured historical sites in the aimag and got familiar with great construction works. The next year's forum will take place in Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China. ^ top ^

Training-seminar for local authorities commences (Montsame)
2016-08-22
This seminar started on Monday in the State House to present the governmental policy and actions for next four years to heads of the Citizens' Representative Khurals (Council) and governors of aimags and the capital city. Head of the Cabinet Secretariat for Government J.Monkhbat made the opening remarks at the seminar, and wished the attendees successfully took part in the event. Noting that a department on local management and regulation has been set up within the Cabinet Secretariat's structure, K.Monkhbat emphasized that this department has responsibilities for collaborating with the local authorities in all issues. Organized by the department, the training-seminar is being attended by the Prime Minister and members of the cabinet to give information on policies and goals for 2016-2020 and to share views with the local authorities on relevant issues. Some scholars and researchers will give lessons on laws and legal landscape as well. In accordance with the event's schedule, heads of aimags and the capital city will sign a document on pledge of their responsibilities to be established with the Prime Minister. Furthermore, the participants will hear a presentation about a clarification to be performed in the 2016 budget as well as present situation of the national budget and finance. ^ top ^

Third annual 2016 American Days Expo to commence (Montsame)
2016-08-19
AmCham Mongolia's third annual 2016 American Days Expo, co-hosted by the United States Embassy in Ulaanbaatar, will take place on September 24-25 at Misheel Expo Center, Ulaanbaatar. The two-day exhibition will have a special emphasis on showcasing hundreds of U.S. products and services to the public at large and aims to build broader awareness of the capacity of companies in Mongolia that are offering world-leading expertise and technology. The second annual 2015 American Days Expo was a huge success featuring over 80 exhibitors and nearly ten thousand visitors. This year, AmCham is anticipating even more exhibitors and visitors. The 2016 American Days Expo is open to any company who distributes or sells an American product or services, the AmCham website says. AmCham members who distribute an American product or service are entitled to one premier booth for free and a special Early Bird Rate is available until August 31, 2016. In addition, returning exhibitors receive a 10% discount on booth fees. This exhibition will provide its participants with opportunities to exhibit and sell your goods and services to a large consumer audience including the general public, wholesale buyers, and fellow members of the business community; to elevate the visibility of your organization and gain valuable exposure; to identify real business development and networking opportunities; and to participate in the event program and showcase your company to an engaged consumer audience with minimal financial investment. ^ top ^

 

Ms. Annina Burri
Embassy of Switzerland
 

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
 
Page created and hosted by SinOptic Back to the top of the page To SinOptic - Services and Studies on the Chinese World's Homepage