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
  21-25.11.16, No. 649  
    Archiv / Archives
Table of contents

DPRK

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Foreign Policy

China, EU political, business heavyweights end Hamburg Summit (Xinhua)
2016-11-25
Several European and Chinese political and business heavyweights delivered speeches here on Thursday to mark the end of the two-day Hamburg Summit "China Meets Europe". The summit drew numbers of senior officials, entrepreneurs and leading scholars from China and the European Union (EU) to discuss the most important issues in Sino-European economic relations. Nikolaus Schuees, conference chairman, also former president of Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, expressed his thanks to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, saying that his "third participation in the conference shows that bilateral German-Chinese relations are closer than ever". "Chinese investments will continue to be very welcome," also said Steinmeier on Thursday at the conclusion of the conference. The minister hoped that the cooperation between the two countries will be even more intensified in areas beyond politics and economy. Fritz Horst Melsheimer, president of Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, emphasised Hamburg's importance as a part of the "new Silk Road". The shift in the Chinese economy to greater innovation and sustainability is not automatically a threat. Instead, this transition opens up new opportunities for investment and market access on both sides, provided that there is a clear understanding of the conditions for this closer cooperation, he added. At the summit there were many discussions relating to the Chinese initiative on a new Silk Road, said Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz. "As Hamburg's Mayor, I am delighted that one end of this road is located in our city. This applies both to the sea-routes via ship and to the trans-continental routes via rail," said Scholz. Cooperation rather than confrontation is a useful concept in international relations, he said, adding that especially here in Hamburg, "we are highly aware of the importance of China's role in the global economy". China's development is an opportunity for the world, said Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong in her keynote speech, adding that the Belt and Road Initiative is to turn China's opportunities into opportunities for the world and achieve common prosperity. The summit which was scheduled for Nov. 23 and 24 this year in the northern German city of Hamburg delivered discussions, keynote speeches and panel meetings focusing on various topics, such as the fallout from Brexit, China's economic transition, the Belt and Road Initiative and boosting efficiency in industrial manufacturing. Initiated by Hamburg Chamber of Commerce in 2004, the biennial summit serve as an important platform for discussing China-EU economic cooperation. ^ top ^

China-Philippines ties, cooperation in new development period, spokesman (Xinhua)
2016-11-24
Bilateral relations and cooperation between China and the Philippines have stepped into a new development period, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Thursday. Geng made the comments at a daily press conference when briefing reporters on bilateral cooperation on trade and investment as well as in other fields. The two countries have begun to implement the deals reached during Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to China last month. Representatives from the National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Commerce, and Ministry of Agriculture have been despatched to the Philippines to work with their counterparts there, Geng told a daily press briefing. Achievements have been made in areas of economy and trade, investment, tourism and agriculture, Geng added. Duterte's state visit to China was in October. It was his first official visit to a foreign country outside the ASEAN since he took office in June. In their meeting last month, President Xi Jinping and Duterte agreed that their countries would properly handle differences and achieve full improvement and greater progress in bilateral ties. The visit by Duterte to Beijing was a marking that bilateral ties and cooperation stepped into a new development period, said Geng. China and the Philippines possess unique advantages in conducting cooperation on trade and investment, as the two countries are close to each other and compliment each other economically, said Geng. China supports the efforts made by the people of the Philippines to push economic development under the leadership of Duterte, the spokesperson said. "We believe cooperation between the two countries will benefit both peoples," Geng said. ^ top ^

China, U.S. expect more cooperation in next JCCT (Xinhua)
2016-11-24
China and the United States on Wednesday concluded an annual high-level dialogue with "productive" results, expecting more cooperation through the talks in the next U.S. administration. China and the United States have "reached agreements on a number of issues with positive outcomes," said Zhang Xiangchen, China's deputy international trade representative with the Ministry of Commerce. He made the remarks at the closing press briefings of the 27th Session of the China-U.S. Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), the last high-level economic dialogue between the two countries under the (Barack) Obama administration. "In the meeting both China and the United States spoke highly of the important and indispensable role of the JCCT mechanism in expanding two-way trade and economic cooperation," said Zhang. "The role of the JCCT is to expand this (U.S.-China) relationship by addressing commercial challenges head on and producing concrete results for both our countries," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. "We have had a productive day," she said. "Now and into the future, the JCCT is an opportunity for us to build a legacy of cooperation, respect, and stronger U.S.-China economic ties," said Pritzker. "JCCT is the oldest economic forum between our two countries and remains a cornerstone of our economic engagement with China. It is a meaningful tool for stronger and better relationships between our two countries," said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. "Today's outcome is just one step in the path forward to a stronger, more fair, more open trade and investment relationship with China and we are looking forward to that work continuing in the month in a year ahead," he said. During this year's JCCT, representatives from government delegations and business community of both countries had close contact on 12 important issues related to bilateral economic relation in a series of activities, making outcomes on a number of areas including innovation policies, two-way investment, intellectual property rights protection and enforcement, as well as digital economy and food safety. Launched in 1983, the JCCT was the first high-level economic dialogue mechanism between China and the United States, and plays an important role in China-U.S. economic cooperation and addressing their economic and trade frictions. ^ top ^

Tibet's exiled Dalai Lama says he wants to meet US president-elect Donald Trump (SCMP)
2016-11-23
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said on Wednesday that he would visit US president-elect Donald Trump, a meeting that would infuriate Beijing which views the Nobel Peace Prize-winning monk as a dangerous separatist. The Dalai Lama said during a visit to the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator that he had always considered the United States a “leading nation of the free world” when asked about the US presidential election. “I think there are some problems to go to United States, so I will go to see the new president,” he told reporters, without elaborating. President Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama at the White House in June despite a warning by China that it would damage diplomatic relations. It was Obama's fourth White House meeting with the Dalai Lama in the past eight years. The Dalai Lama brushed off some of the US election campaign rhetoric. “Sometimes I feel during election the candidate has more freedom to express. Once elected, having the responsibility, then they have to tell you their sort of vision, their works according to reality.” China regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist, although he says he merely seeks genuine autonomy for his Himalayan homeland Tibet, which Communist Chinese troops “peacefully liberated” in 1950. China has been angered by Mongolia's decision to allow him to visit. Mongolia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement to the Montsame news agency that the government had nothing to do with the trip, which they said was arranged by Mongolian Buddhists. After the Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia in 2006, China briefly cancelled flights between Beijing and Ulan Bator. Beijing frequently expresses its anger with countries that host the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 following a failed uprising against the Chinese. Rights groups and exiles accuse China of trampling on the religious and cultural rights of the Tibetan people, charges strongly denied by Beijing, which says its rule has brought prosperity to a once backward region. ^ top ^

Beijing condemns Seoul and Tokyo over deal to swap defence intelligence (SCMP)
2016-11-24
China lashed out on Wednesday at Japan and South Korea for creating instability on the Korean peninsula, after the two nations signed a controversial agreement to share defence intelligence. South Korea said the deal was “necessary” in the face of a growing military threat from Pyongyang, which has conducted two nuclear tests this year. But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Japan and South Korea still had a “cold war mentality” and that the agreement would “intensify antagonism and confrontation on the Korean peninsula”. “The situation facing the Korean peninsula is sensitive and complicated. Relevant countries should respect security concerns of regional countries when carrying out military cooperation, instead of taking the opposite direction,” Geng said. With the accord, Japan and South Korea are to share more intelligence on regional security, especially regarding North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. South Korea's defence ministry said Pyongyang was ready to conduct additional nuclear tests and missile launches at any time. “Since we can now utilise Japan's intelligence capability to effectively deal with North Korea's escalating nuclear and missile threats, it will enhance our security,” it said in a statement. Japan's foreign ministry said the deal would allow the two governments to “share information even more smoothly and swiftly”. Seoul and Tokyo currently use Washington as an intermediary when sharing military intelligence on Pyongyang under a deal signed in 2014. The new agreement is controversial in South Korea, where the legacy of Japan's harsh 1910-45 rule of the Korean peninsula is a deep well of anti-Japanese sentiment and a belief Tokyo has not properly atoned for its abuses. South Korea and Japan were on the verge of signing an intelligence-sharing deal in June 2012, but Seoul backtracked in response to a public outcry. Noting Tokyo's surveillance assets and geographic location, South Korea's defence ministry said the deal would be a “big help” in better analysing Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes and collecting more intelligence about its submarine-launched ballistic missiles. North Korea has slammed the military pact, labelling it as “a dangerous act” that would further raise already-elevated tensions on the Korean peninsula and open a door to Japan's “re-invasion”. The contentious issue comes as South Korean President Park Geun-hye faces calls for her resignation over a corruption scandal. The deal has been fiercely opposed by South Korean opposition parties and activists, who point to Seoul's failure to seek public support and historical sensitivities. South Korea's main opposition party has called the deal “unpatriotic and humiliating” and has threatened to impeach Defence Minister Han Min-koo if it is pushed through. Japan has been proactively seeking bilateral or multilateral defence cooperation with other Asian countries to balance China's growing influence over the past years. Stephan Nagy, an associate professor at Japan's International Christian University, said in a talk in Beijing that Japan's latest approach was in line with US president-elect Donald Trump's view that East Asian countries should shoulder more of their security burden. A commentary published by the Global Times, affiliated with the state-run People's Daily, said closer military cooperation between Japan and South Korea would further consolidate the existing US-Japanese and US-South Korean alliance. Closer military cooperation between Tokyo and Seoul, along with a planned US anti-missile system in South Korea, would “severely damage China's geopolitical interests and national security structure”, it said. “South Korea has switched to a new security strategy single-sided with the US and Japan,” the commentary said. “It has opened a Pandora's box.” It added that the accord might upset the strategic balance in Northeast Asia, triggering an arms race in the region and damaging ties between Beijing and Seoul. ^ top ^

Spotlight: Xi wraps up LatAm tour as China's regional, global role growing bigger (Xinhua)
2016-11-24
Chinese President Xi Jinping left the Chilean capital of Santiago Wednesday morning after wrapping up his state visits to Ecuador, Peru and Chile, and attendance at the 24th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting in Lima, Peru. It was the third and fourth time for Xi, respectively, to visit Latin America and attend the APEC meeting since his taking office in 2013, through which analysts see a bigger role of China in regional and global affairs. COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS During his week-long trip, President Xi held talks with his Ecuadorian counterpart Rafael Correa and Chilean counterpart Michelle Bachelet, and they decided to lift China's relationship with Ecuador and Chile respectively to a comprehensive strategic partnership. Xi also met his Peruvian counterpart Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and they agreed to further enhance the comprehensive strategic partnership of the two countries, which was established in 2013. Although there is no clear definition of the "comprehensive strategic partnership," it is usually regarded the highest level in China's diplomatic intimacy with other countries. Political willingness and the need for economic cooperation are often two pillars, among others, of the partnership, said Zhang Lili, a professor with China Foreign Affairs University. Ecuador is an important country in Latin America, said Xi, on the first visit by a Chinese president to Ecuador over the past 36 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations. Echoing Xi, Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa believed that China, as the world's second-largest economy with a high speed of growth, can play a very important role in bolstering Ecuador's development, especially against the backdrop of low oil prices. Since President Correa came into power in 2007, Ecuador has focused on deepening ties with China. The Ecuadorian president's first official trip to Beijing took place in the same year. In 2015, on Correa's second China visit, he and Xi agreed to elevate the bilateral ties to the level of strategic partnership, only one year before the upgrade to the latest level. Economic cooperation grew fast as well. Despite the long distance, China has become Ecuador's third largest trading partner, with two-way trade reaching 4.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2015, quadrupling in just 10 years. And Ecuador is now a major destination for Chinese investment and financing in Latin America. Chinese investment and financing in Ecuador has exceeded 10 billion dollars, supporting hundreds of projects including major infrastructure projects such as the Coca Codo Sinclair hydropower plant, seven other hydropower plants and a dozen of highways. On Thursday, President Correa himself went to the Quito airport to welcome the Chinese president. On Friday, Correa saw Xi off at the airport. Situations may vary in Peru and Chile, but the willingness for cooperation is alike. Peruvian President Kuczynski visited China in September this year, only six weeks after his inauguration, and two months before Xi's visit to Peru. During Xi's visit to Chile, China and the Latin American country decided to initiate negotiations on upgrading their free trade agreement (FTA) as soon as possible. The two countries signed their FTA in 2005. Bilateral trade volume has grown four-fold since the FTA went into effect in 2006. China is now Chile's largest trading partner, its largest export destination and the largest buyer of its copper products. On Tuesday, Chilean President Bachelet also expressed her country's intention of joining the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. "The elevation of the bilateral relationships shows the growing willingness for bilateral cooperation between China and these countries,"said Wu Hongying, director of the Latin America office of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. CHINA-LATAM COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY While addressing the Peruvian Congress on Monday, Xi called on China and Latin American countries to strengthen dialogue on global issues and boost cooperation on domestic development, in a bid to better build their community of common destiny on a new starting point in history. The natural sense of recognition to each other and the shared sense of mission have made us look at our relationship from a strategic and long-term perspective, Xi said, noting that China and Latin American countries can understand and support each other on core interests and major concerns. Xi proposed that China and Latin America and the Caribbean hold high the banner of peaceful development and cooperation, seek synergy between their development strategies, speed up and upgrade practical cooperation and bring benefits to both peoples. Xi noted that China will firmly support Latin American countries in seeking development paths suited to their national conditions, gaining greater strength and prosperity through unity, and playing a bigger role in regional and international affairs. The Chinese president also announced that in the next three years, China will increase the number of training opportunities of various kinds for Latin America and the Caribbean to 10,000. On Tuesday, Xi, accompanied by his Chilean counterpart Bachelet, attended a summit of Chinese and Latin American media executives in Santiago, at which he urged Chinese and Latin American media agencies to jointly expand their influence and introduce to the world a more realistic image of China and Latin America. "It was the third time that President Xi has set foot in Latin America since 2013, which shows how much attention he pays to the ties between China and Latin America," Wu said. From May 31 to June 6, 2013, Xi made state visits to Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico. In July 2014, Xi paid state visits to Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba. Moreover, a forum between China and Latin America was established to steer the overall cooperation between China and the region. The first ministerial meeting of the China-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Forum was then held in Beijing in January 2015, marking the start of a new era that features all-round cooperation between the two sides. In 2015, the trade volume between China and Latin America reached 236.5 billion dollars, up more than 20-fold during the past decade, according to Chinese official statistics. In 2016, China-Latin America relations have moved forward with the setup of new platforms such as the China-Latin America cultural exchange year and the forum of China-Latin America cooperation between local governments. Currently, China is the second-largest trade partner and third-largest investment source country of Latin America, while Latin America is China's seventh-largest trade partner, and important overseas investment destination. ADVOCACY FOR FREE TRADE AREA OF THE ASIA-PACIFIC At the APEC CEO summit in Lima, President Xi renewed his call for pushing forward the building of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), saying it is a strategic initiative critical for the long-term prosperity of the Asia-Pacific. "We should firmly pursue the FTAAP as an institutional mechanism for ensuring an open economy in the Asia-Pacific," he told global business leaders, emphasizing openness is the lifeblood of the Asia-Pacific economy. The FTAAP process was launched at the 2014 APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Beijing with the endorsement of a roadmap. A "collective strategic study" was subsequently conducted, as agreed by the APEC members, and the result should be reported to the economic leaders by the end of 2016. Once established, the FTAAP, the largest free trade area in the world,can unleash much greater economic vigor than other regional trade arrangements and add an estimated 2.4 trillion U.S. dollars of output to the global economy. "We have an obligation to continue the core agenda. Perhaps the first issue is the adoption of the collective strategic study, which was required by the Beijing Roadmap," Raul Salazar, APEC affairs director at the Peruvian Foreign Ministry, told Xinhua in Lima. Economic globalization, open economy, regional inter-connectivity, and reform and innovation were key words of Xi's speech, which was encouraging under the current international situation. As protectionism and isolationism are on the rise in Europe and North America, China's leadership grows stronger, providing commercial openness, cooperation and multilateralism, the leading Chilean newspaper El Mercurio said in its editorial release on Tuesday. With the future of the U.S.-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) dims under U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, the alternative Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) occupied the center stage at the APEC meeting in Peru. The 16-member RCEP, composed of the 10 member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India, missed its negotiation deadline last year, but with the uncertainty of TPP, RCEP has regained attention at the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting. Analysts believe that the RCEP will become the main path toward the final realization of a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific. "We must energize trade and investment to drive growth, make free trade arrangements more open and inclusive and uphold the multilateral trading regime," said the Chinese president. Xi's proposal was echoed by other APEC leaders, as they reaffirmed their commitment that the FTAAP should be built upon ongoing regional undertakings, and through possible pathways including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. "We reiterate our commitment to the eventual realization of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific as a major instrument to further deepen APEC's regional economic integration agenda," reads the declaration after the Economic Leaders' Meeting. "That China's push for FTAAP has won positive response from APEC members shows China's special role in the region, which will also help increase the region's part in global recovery," said Wu, the Chinese scholar. ^ top ^

China, Germany agree on co-op in statistics gathering (Xinhua)
2016-11-23
China and Germany have signed an agreement to strengthen bilateral cooperation in statistics gathering and analysis. The agreement, which covers related programs in the coming three years, was signed by Ning Jizhe, commissioner of National Bureau of Statistics of China, and his German counterpart Dieter Sarreither during Ning's visit on Nov. 18-19. Ning is also vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of China. During his meeting with Sarreither, Ning said cooperation on statistics between China and Germany has been fruitful thanks to high-level mutual trust and the complementary nature of such cooperation. Ning and Sarreither exchanged views on how to deepen cooperation in areas such as statistics systems, strategic planning, employment statistics and trainings on international statistics. Both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation on statistics collection in building industry and pricing approaches on real estate. ^ top ^

China raises security in region near fighting in Myanmar (SCMP)
2016-11-22
Security in the region of Yunnan province near Myanmar has been stepped up since fighting between Myanmese government troops and rebel militias erupted on Sunday. Police officers have been deployed at a highway exit to Wanding – a township on Yunnan's border with Myanmar – to check the identification documents of passers-by, due to a flood of refugees from Myanmar. Chinese armed border police have set up several temporary checkpoints along the Wanding River, as it is possible to wade across the shallow waterway to enter China. The sound of artillery fire could be heard in Wanding coming from the opposite side of the river yesterday. Chinese authorities are trying to shelter thousands of refugees from Myanmar, most of them ethnic Chinese, who are crossing the border to escape fighting between government troops and rebel militias. “The number of refugees fleeing Myanmar to China is increasing day after day, and they are almost all ethnic Chinese living or working in Myanmar,” a staff member at the Chinese embassy in Yangon said. “The embassy and consulate general in Mandalay have received a lot of requests for help from Chinese nationals. “We are still negotiating with local authorities in China to come up with better measures to see how to settle them in a proper way.” Wanding hotels are fully booked, and some hotels have even added extra beds in corridors to accommodate refugees. Local officials in Wanding have set up a huge shelter for the refugees. State-owned China Daily cited embassy spokesman Pan Xuesong in Yangon as saying that China had taken in more than 3,000 refugees fleeing Myanmar by yesterday. But local authorities prohibited journalists, especially overseas reporters, from entering the shelters for interviews. Refugees also told journalists that the Chinese authorities had warned them not to speak to the media. Non-locals were also prohibited from taking pictures outside the camp. Uniformed armed police watched everyone who approached the temporary shelters, and expelled any who took pictures of the refugees. Four rebel militias have attacked security forces in the north of Myanmar, dealing a major blow to civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi's goal of ending decades of ethnically motivated conflict in the country. China, which has been alarmed by previous fighting along the porous border, has put its armed forces on high alert and called for all sides of the conflict to exercise restraint. Stray shells had fallen in Wanding, causing minor damage and injuring a Chinese civilian, state television reported. The Global Times newspaper reported that a Chinese government building in Wanding had been lightly damaged. The sudden escalation of fighting comes as Myanmar's government grapples with a conflict in northwestern Rakhine state that has seen hundreds of Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh, posing a new challenge to Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi. She swept to power in Myanmar last year on promises of national reconciliation. Fighting along the border has also pushed thousands of people into China in the past. Beijing was furious last year after five Chinese residents were killed when fighting in Myanmar spilled across the border. ^ top ^

China, South Africa to cement cooperation, party-to-party exchanges (Xinhua)
2016-11-22
Visiting Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao said Tuesday that China is ready to deepen cooperation and party-to-party exchanges with South Africa. China and South Africa, both of which are major emerging and developing countries as well as members of the BRICS cooperation mechanism, are seeing their bilateral ties gain increasing global influence and strategic importance, Li said during a meeting with Gwede Mantashe, secretary general of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC). Li said that leaders of the two countries frequently exchange opinions regarding development of bilateral ties as well as major issues of mutual concern. He said China stands ready to implement the consensus reached by the heads of state of the two countries and the outcome of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit held last December in Johannesburg, South Africa. China will continue to deepen political mutual trust, strengthen economic and trade cooperation as well as people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and further advance the comprehensive strategic partnership with South Africa, said the Chinese vice president. He added that the Communist Party of China (CPC) is willing to deepen the party-to-party exchanges and cooperation with the ANC and bring relations between the two parties to a new level. Mantashe, for his part, said that South Africa is grateful for China's long-term support and help in the country's economic and social development, and is willing to deepen its friendly cooperative relations with China in various fields. During his meeting with Li, Mantashe said the ANC values its friendly relations with the CPC, and has gained immensely from exchanges and cooperation with the Chinese ruling party. He added that the ANC is willing to further learn from China's Party-building experience and deepen exchanges with the CPC over state governance. ^ top ^

Who and what are behind Myanmar's long-running civil war on China's doorstep? (SCMP)
2016-11-21
Conflict between ethnic-minority militias and government forces has flared up again in northern Myanmar close to the Chinese border, endangering the peace process promoted by Myanmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi and causing instability on China's border. Who are fighting? The three armed ethnic groups behind the surprise attacks in the border area of northern Myanmar's Shan State since early Sunday are the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Kokang's Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), according to Xinhua. The three groups did not sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement between the Myanmese government and eight ethnic groups last year. The accord was one of the key political outcomes of Myanmar's transition period under former president Thein Sein. The KIA is the military wing of the Kachin Independence Organisation, a political group comprising ethnic Kachins in northern Myanmar. It has clashed regularly with Myanmar's military since 2011, when a 17-year ceasefire between the two broke down. The Kachins are a coalition of at least six tribes whose homeland encircles territory in Yunnan in China and Northeast India, in addition to Kachin State in Myanmar. The TNLA is the armed wing of the Palaung State Liberation Front and promotes self-determination for the Ta'ang people, a Mon-Khmer ethnic minority living in Shan State, Yunnan and Northern Thailand. The TNLA is well known for its opposition to opium poppy cultivation, which is a major contributor to Myanmar's economy and concentrated in the Shan and Kachin states. The MNDAA, also known as the Kokang Army, is led by ethnic-Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng and is an active insurgent group in the Chinese-speaking Kokang region, an area in the northern part of Shan State on the border with Yunnan. The MNDAA emerged from the remnants of the Communist Party of Burma, a powerful Chinese-backed guerrilla force that battled the Myanmese government before splintering in 1989, according to Reuters. The MNDAA was involved in what was called the biggest outbreak of fighting between ethnic groups and government troops in Myanmar in August, 2009 when government troops took over their Kokang region in a conflict that pushed tens of thousands of refugees into China. Why are they fighting? The conflict between government and ethnic minority forces dates back to the end of the second world war and the end of British colonial rule in 1948. Fighting in past decades was largely fueled by feuds, competition over natural resources, and demands for more autonomy. The conflicts have resulted in a central part of the country dominated by the majority Burmese, surrounded by various ethnic minority populations who form the majority in their own areas. Most of Myanmar's ethnic groups are now concentrated within particular regions corresponding more or less to the states named after the seven ethnic nationalities: Karen, Kachin, Mon, Arakanese, Karenni, Chin and Shan, according to reports. Suu Kyi is trying to forge a nationwide peace agreement between all ethnic groups after years of war in Myanmar's many border regions, but ethnic minorities have a deep-rooted mistrust of the central government. What is China's involvement? China has publicly distanced itself from Myanmar's internal conflicts and sought to position itself as a mediator over the years, despite accusations that its projects in Myanmar have been one of the major triggers for the fighting. China has been accused of tolerating or aiding rebels along its 2,200km border with Myanmar as its neighbour leans towards the West, but there is little evidence to support those claims. On the surface, China provides humanitarian support to people fleeing across the border to escape the fighting. The Chinese government offered food and medical supplies to an estimated 50,000 Kokang civilians who poured into southwest China last year after fighting erupted between the Myanmese Army and Kokang rebels. ^ top ^

China pledges to deepen military cooperation with Tanzania (Xinhua)
2016-11-21
China is willing to work together with Tanzania to constantly deepen bilateral military cooperation and boost their military ties, said Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, on Monday. Fan made this remark when he wrapped up his three-day official visit to Tanzania, where he met with Tanzanian President John Magufuli and Defense and National Service Minister Hussein Ali Hassan Mwinyi, and visited Tanzanian troops and academy. Fan appreciated Tanzania's achievements in national and military construction, saying his visit to the country is aimed at implementing the consensus reached by the heads of state of the two countries and further advance relations between the two countries. Fan also said that China has maintained long-term and close military exchanges with Tanzania as good friends and will carry forward the friendship. Magufuli expressed thanks for China's tremendous support and selfless assistance to Tanzania over the years, saying the Tanzania-China friendship is Tanzania's precious treasure. Tanzania is willing to conduct all-round exchanges and cooperation with China in political, economic, military and other fields to benefit the peoples of the two countries, he said. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping, Abe meet briefly on Apec sidelines... but China, Japan give differing accounts of it (SCMP)
2016-11-21
China's President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have met briefly on the sidelines of a two-day Apec summit in Lima, Peru. Yasuhisa Kawamura, a spokesman for Abe, said the two Asian leaders “stepped a couple of paces towards each other” after a group meeting of 21 leaders on Sunday morning and the meeting “was a natural movement”. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a one-line statement that Xi had a brief conversation with Abe in Lima “at the invitation of the Japanese side”. Abe told Xi that Japan was looking forward to two important anniversaries to improve ties between Japan and China, Kawamura said. These were the 45th anniversary of the normalisation of diplomatic relations between the two nations next year and the 40th anniversary of the Japan-China peace and friendship treaty, which falls in 2018, he said. Japan is hosting a China–Japan–South Korea summit before the end of this year and Abe would like to “have a fruitful meeting” with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the Japanese spokesman said. Xi told Abe he would also like to “promote productive discussion and manage pending issues in an appropriate manner and control national emotion and sentiment”, according to Kawamura. Chinese spokesman Lu said in his statement that Xi had expressed China's stance and principles on the development of Sino-Japanese ties. Xi told Abe in September on the sidelines of a G20 summit in China that Japan should “put aside disruptions” to put the countries ties back on a normal track. September's meeting marked the two leaders' first one-on-one talks in 17 months. Ties between China and Japan have been strained over issues including territorial disputes in the East China Sea. ^ top ^

Tianjin FTZ launches China-Europe freight train (Xinhua)
2016-11-21
A freight train departed a pilot economic zone in the northern coastal city of Tianjin for the first time Monday morning. Loaded with 104 containers of construction materials, it is the first China-Europe freight train to leave the Tianjin Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ), and is set to arrive in Minsk, capital of Belarus, around December 4. The train will leave China via Erlianhaote Customs in northern China's Inner Mongolia and head to the China-Belarus Industrial Park in Minsk, according to the administrative committee for Tianjin Dongjiang Port Area. The return trip will carry goods to China, including wood products from Belarus and surrounding countries. Scheduled to operate 20 times per year, the Tianjin-Minsk freight train will carry an annual total of 30,000 tonnes of goods, the committee said. As the new China-Europe freight train service opens, the Dongjiang Port Area will play an important role in linking the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road with the Silk Road Economic Belt, the committee said. The freight service is set to expand to more European cities in the future. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

One of China's most prominent rights activists missing, feared detained by authorities (SCMP)
2016-11-25
The wife of prominent rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong expressed grave fears for her husband on Thursday, several days after he disappeared on his way from Changsha in Hunan province to Beijing. Jin Bianling, Jiang's wife, who fled to the United States with the couple's daughter in 2013, said her husband vanished after visiting Chen Guiqiu, the wife of lawyer Xie Yang, who was detained in a crackdown on rights advocates last year. “Three days ago, my husband Jiang Tianyong suddenly disappeared and remained unreachable. He has been subjected to repeated cruel torture, detention and often disappeared but none of these could drive him away from his work as a human rights lawyer in China,” Jin said in an online statement. Jiang had also reportedly tried and failed to visit Xie at a Changsha detention centre with two of Xie's lawyers. “On Monday night at around 10pm, Jiang told me he had already bought a train ticket to Beijing, but I couldn't reach him after that,” Jin said yesterday. “We tried to file a police report in Changsha but the local police office told us to file one with police in Beijing. “A person can't just vanish into thin air... What worries me the most is his health and his personal safety.” Jin said her husband disappeared for two months in 2011 during the so-called Chinese jasmine revolution, a democratic movement that was soon quashed by the authorities. “He returned home having lost nearly 20 pounds and suffered from severe memory loss,” Jin said on Thursday. Jin said she was forced to leave the country with their daughter after national security personnel trailed them wherever they went and guarded their home around the clock. “After leaving the country, Jiang did not maintain a fixed residence as he sleeps over at different friends' homes to avoid contact with security agents,” she said. Amnesty International Hong Kong also expressed concerns about Jiang's welfare. Jiang was detained for 15 days in 2014 with Tang Jitian and two other lawyers investigating the illegal detention of several Falun Gong members in Heilongjiang province. ^ top ^

Laid-off GE Lighting China workers 'may protest over payouts' (SCMP)
2016-11-25
Some workers laid off from General Electric (GE) Lighting China are expected to protest over compensation next week following the company's decision to pull out of the Asian and Latin American markets, a mainland newspaper reported on Thursday. GE Lighting, which accounts for about 7 per cent of the conglomerate's income, announced it would withdraw from the markets on November 30. Shanghai-based newspaper China Business News quoted one company source as saying: “There are about 100 employees working at GE Lighting's Shanghai headquarters now, with hundreds of others at its branches in Beijing, Nanjing, Chongqing and other major Chinese cities.” The report said some of the retrenched workers were not satisfied with severance payments and might stage a protest in the Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park in Shanghai. GE China said on Thursday that its decision to pull out of the lighting business in China was a difficult one and had “absolutely nothing to do with the job performance of our China team”. “We have offered all our Chinese employees compensation packages that are higher than the country's mandatory standards and there is no differentiation between levels,” the company said in a statement on its website. “We have reached agreements with most of our China employees as well as alternative job offers for some within the company,” it said. ^ top ^

National roads project will leave 'no village' behind (China Daily)
2016-11-25
Every village in China will have access to asphalt roads by 2020, as part of efforts to lift more rural areas out of poverty, the vice-minister of transport said on Thursday. "By 2020, most impoverished areas will have access to freeways, and counties will be connected to highways where possible," Dai Dongchang said at a news conference in Beijing arranged by the State Council Information Office. "Townships and villages will have asphalt roads and operational buses, and a comprehensive transport network will be formed. No village will be left behind." Transportation is a fundamental requirement for social and economic development, he said. "Better roads lead to better lives." The central government has set a goal to lift 70 million people out of poverty and build a moderately well-off society by 2020. To achieve this, the ministry has set a series of goals for the next five years to link poverty-stricken and isolated areas with the outside world, including: ・ Renovating 16,000 kilometers of freeways and about 46,000 km of highways by 2020; ・ Constructing about 195,000 km of asphalt road between townships and villages by 2019; ・ Supporting 1,177 poverty-stricken counties in building better roads, almost double the number in the previous five years; ・ Improving safety on rural highways by renovating 300,000 km, including upgrading 15,000 bridges and widening lanes. Ou Qingping, deputy director of the State Council Leading Group of Poverty Alleviation and Development, said when he visits poor regions, the most urgent need is to build roads. "I visited a poverty-stricken village in Luocheng county in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region last year," he said. "I asked the village head what had been most effective in alleviating poverty in the past few years and he said road access. "Because of the road, the village's sugar cane can now be transported to the outside world and sells for a considerable price." In Aksupa township, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, villagers grow cotton and rear sheep. "Many villages are near the Taklamakan desert, very isolated and have little access to transport links," said Li Xinyun, a township government employee. "Because of this, many villagers live in poverty. In the past two years, many villages have gained access to asphalt roads, and it's become much more convenient to transport agricultural products and make good money. "Families that had 100 sheep now can breed 300 because they can easily transport livestock to market," he said. ^ top ^

Progress hailed in campaign against domestic violence (China Daily)
2016-11-25
Front-line defenders in the fight against domestic violence hailed China's progress on Thursday at a roundtable discussion in Beijing, one day ahead of the 17th International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Dozens of participants, including police officers, judges, social workers, local government officials and NGO workers, said the nation's efforts were bolstered by the Anti-Domestic Violence Law that took effect in March. They also pointed to areas where improvements are needed in putting the law into effect. Song Xiuyan, vice-president of the All China Women's Federation, which held the discussion, said the law shows China's strong stance in protecting families, women and children. Evidence of its effect is seen in the 347 legal files where restraining orders were approved, according to court records. These orders, which are new in such cases, are designed to prevent continuation of abuse. The new law added psychological abuse to domestic violence in an effort to match international standards. Liu Shuangyu, vice-president of Beijing Third Intermediate People's Court, said despite the updated definition, it is not easy to collect evidence of emotional torture. Liu added that she finds it challenging to find ways to provide mental care and protection to victims when they go through court procedures. Xia Yinlan, vice-president of the China Association of Marriage and Family Studies, said the law is just the first step in protecting the victims of domestic violence. More follow-up education and public campaigns are needed to raise people's awareness and make the law work, Xia said. ^ top ^

China dispatches more environment inspection teams (Xinhua)
2016-11-24
China's central government has organized a second group of inspection teams who will review local-government environmental protection efforts, the latest move in fighting pollution and environmental degradation. Seven inspection teams will be dispatched to seven provincial regions including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong starting Thursday, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Thursday. The inspection will last about one month, said the ministry. China had held more than 3,000 governmental officials accountable for lazy environmental protection efforts by the end of September, following the first round inspections. Punishments include removal from official posts. The officials were held accountable for activities including using land in natural reserves for city construction purposes, as well as worsening air and water quality. ^ top ^

Facebook's 'censorship tool may not open doors' in China (SCMP)
2016-11-24
Facebook might still struggle to get back into the Chinese market even if it develops a censorship tool to screen content from users' feeds, an analyst said on Wednesday. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Facebook had quietly built software that could suppress posts from news feeds in specific geographic areas, igniting concerns over privacy and human rights. Facebook would not conduct the censorship itself, but would offer the software to a third party for it to monitor posts and take full control to decide what should show up in users' feeds, the report said. The third party was most likely to be a partner Chinese firm, and there was no indication that Facebook had offered the tool to Chinese authorities, it said. A Facebook spokeswoman said the company had “not made any decision on our approach to China”, but it would not confirm or deny whether it was developing censorship software. Facebook, the world's biggest social media network, has long sought to return to the world's largest market of internet users since it was banned on the mainland after the deadly Uygur riots in Xinjiang in 2009. William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, said the idea of handling off the authority to a Chinese partner company to monitor stories across the network and suppress certain news was “incredibly worrying”. “This would not only blatantly violate the right to freedom of expression, but it should also be seen in the context of a country in which people are being given heavy prison terms for expressing their political views on social media and in which the government has openly expressed interest in using big data to control the actions of its own citizens,” Nee said. Beijing Foreign Studies University communications professor Qiao Mu said that even with the censorship tool Facebook might still find it hard to get back into the mainland because the software might not live up to the government's standard. “There is a limit to how much censorship you can do and the effectiveness varies. All Chinese social media and websites have censorship, but users can often find ways around it, and the government is already having a hard time dealing with that,” Qiao said. “There is so much to censor that it is not something software alone can solve – it needs a massive amount of manpower.” With Facebook eager to expand its user base beyond its existing markets, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has launched a series of charm offensives to try to win over Chinese authorities, including learning Putonghua and meeting the country's internet tycoons, and regulators. ^ top ^

Vice Premier stresses understanding geographic conditions (Xinhua)
2016-11-22
Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli called on authorities to improve their understanding of the nation's geographic conditions and promote the use of geographic data. Zhang made the remarks at a conference on the first census of national geographic conditions. The census began in 2013 and finished in early 2016. Understanding the country's geographic conditions is significant for mapping out national policies, Zhang said. He said authorities should share the results of the national census and make them available to different departments and regions. The information should be used to provide better service for the people. Authorities should also improve the way they monitor geographic information and promote the development of surveying and mapping industries, he said. ^ top ^

China mulls reform on communist youth league in university (Xinhua)
2016-11-21
Communist Youth Leagues (CYL) on Chinese university campuses will become more energetic and firm in their communist beliefs, according to a plan released by the Central Committee of the CYL and the Ministry of Education on Monday. Steering committees and a joint conference system will be established by CYL committees and educational departments, the plan said. CYL university committees should operate under the guidance of the Party committee, and increase the proportion of non-cadre students and young teachers in its congress. CYL should educate university students in an all-round way, providing consultation and help in job seeking, counseling, and welfare activities, according to the plan. The plan also said the work of CYL will be taken into consideration when evaluating the Party-building work of the university, taking up 10 percent of the total score. The Party Committee in each university should call at least one special meeting each year on improving the CYL work. ^ top ^

CMC issues regulation to improve real-combat military training (Xinhua)
2016-11-21
China's Central Military Commission (CMC) has issued a regulation on improving real combat abilities in military training. The regulation provided criteria for implementing real-combat military training. The regulation said that prominent problems in military training should be rectified and military training should be carried out based on battlefield situations. The regulation also demanded intensified training through strict assessment and improved support resources for military training. Discipline inspection departments should function well and punish violators in a timely manner, according to the regulation. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the armed police force should stipulate concrete measures to implement the criteria to raise combat ability in military training, the regulation said. ^ top ^

Cabinet reshuffles senior positions (Xinhua)
2016-11-21
The State Council, China's cabinet, has announced a reshuffle of several senior officials, according to a circular issued Monday. Gou Zhongwen will replace Liu Peng as head of the General Administration of Sport, and as the Executive President of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Cai Qi will replace Wang Anshun as Executive President of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Meanwhile, Chen Zhigang will replace Zheng Wenkai as deputy head of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Beijing to ban polluting cars during smog alerts (SCMP)
2016-11-21
The capital will beginning next year ban highly polluting old cars from being driven whenever air quality alerts are issued in the city or in neighbouring regions, Beijing's environmental protection bureau said on Monday. China has adopted various measures over the years to reduce the blanket of smog that shrouds many of the country's northern cities in the winter, causing hazardous traffic conditions and disrupting daily life. As of February 15, vehicles that did not meet the government's standards on emissions – in practice, those vehicles that are more than 10 years old – would be banned in Beijing's main urban area whenever orange or red alerts were issued in Beijing or neighbouring Hebei province or Tianjin, the bureau said. Motorists with vehicles violating the restrictions would be fined 100 yuan (HK$115) for every four hours they were on the road, it added. Cars at the National 1 or National 2 emissions standards, which the rules are aimed at, only account for 8 per cent of the cars in the city, according to the bureau. But these older cars accounted for more than 30 per cent of smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions, the bureau said. The adjustment to regulations also said that schools would only be closed selectively during alerts, in contrast to the blanket approach that was used originally when Beijing issued its first ever red alert in December. The government has been tweaking the new system since its introduction, working to unify it around the region of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, and in February raised the minimum threshold for issuing alerts. The Beijing municipal government is also taking measures to reduce the emissions of vehicles driven in the capital by using number plate restrictions. This will limit the overall number of cars and provide generous subsidies to electric vehicle purchasers to promote fuel-replacement vehicles. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Top political advisor stresses preservation of Tibetan culture (Xinhua)
2016-11-23
Top Chinese political advisor Yu Zhengsheng underscored the importance of preserving and developing Tibetan culture on Wednesday. Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), made the remarks while meeting with representatives of the third congress of the China Association for the Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture, which was held Wednesday in Beijing. He hailed the association's work in protecting and developing Tibetan culture, boosting communication and exchange among ethnic groups and participating in international communication and cooperation since it was founded. Yu asked the association to safeguard national unity, strengthen ethnic solidarity and improve publicity over Tibet's development. "Civil and social resources should be mobilized to contribute to Tibet's economic development, the well-being of its people and the prosperity of its culture," Yu noted. New association leadership was also elected, with Pagbalha Geleg Namgyae, vice chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, becoming president of the association. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

All residents in China's restive Xinjiang region must hand in passports to police: media (SCMP)
2016-11-24
All residents in China's restive region of Xinjiang must hand in their passports to local police stations for “examination and management”, the Global Times newspaper said on Thursday. “Anyone who needs the passport must apply to the police station,” an anonymous police officer in Aksu prefecture told the paper, adding that the policy had been implemented throughout Xinjiang. Many members of the more than 10 million-strong Muslim Uygur minority in the region have complained about discrimination – including denials of passport applications – as well as controls on their culture and religion. The Global Times article followed numerous reports from cities across the region of tightened passport controls. In mid-October, the public security bureau in the city of Shihezi posted a directive on a verified social media account asking residents to hand in their passports to police. It stated: “Those who refuse to hand them in will bear the responsibility themselves should there be consequences such as being forbidden to go abroad.” The post was later deleted. Photos of other notices posted on social media showed police stations in various counties and in the regional capital, Urumqi, requesting citizens to hand in passports or stating that new documents would no longer be issued. Angry questions about the new restrictions abounded on Chinese social media. “I didn't spend time and money getting a passport to become the focus of the government's safeguarding, or to ask for their instructions every time I go out on holiday,” said one incensed user, from the border district of Tacheng, on the Weibo microblogging website. The blogger added: “If citizens cannot enjoy even basic rights, how can we live? Would the government please give me a sensible reason for this?” A second blogger wrote: “Xinjiang is becoming stranger and stranger, regressing as time goes on.” In June, local state-run media reported that the mostly Kazakh residents of a Xinjiang border district had to give police DNA samples, fingerprints, voiceprints and a “three-dimensional image” in order to apply for certain travel documents, including passports. A Xinjiang official told the Global Times that the new policy tightening was intended to maintain social order in the region. Beijing has regularly accused what it claims are exiled separatist groups, such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, of being behind attacks in Xinjiang, which has seen a wave of deadly unrest. But many independent experts doubt the strength of overseas Uygur groups and their links to global terrorism, with some saying China exaggerates the threat to justify tough security measures in the resource-rich region. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Hong Kong caught in tug of war as customs seize shipment of military vehicles from Taiwan (SCMP)
2016-11-25
Hong Kong has been pitched into the choppy waters of South China Sea diplomacy after it intercepted nine Singapore-bound armoured personnel carriers on a container ship from Taiwan. The seizure – by customs officers at the Kwai Chung container terminal on Wednesday afternoon – comes at a time of cool relations between Beijing and Singapore after the city state backed the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China. Last night, Singapore's Ministry of Defence confirmed ownership of the eight-wheeled armoured infantry vehicles and called for them to be returned “expeditiously”, describing the situation as a “delay due to a request for routine inspections by Hong Kong customs”. “The Terrex ICVs were used by the Singapore Armed Forces in routine overseas training and shipped back via commercial means as with previous exercises. Singapore authorities are providing relevant assistance to Hong Kong customs and expect the shipment to return to Singapore expeditiously,” the ministry said in a statement. Singapore's armed forces conduct overseas training in about a dozen countries including the United States, Australia, Germany and India, and usually hire commercial shippers to transport military equipment, the statement added. However, sources told the Post that the Singaporean authorities would need to contact the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to secure the return of the armoured vehicles. The clutch of tarpaulin-covered vehicles is Hong Kong's biggest seizure of “strategic commodities” in two decades. “Customs officers raised suspicions when they saw the shapes of the vehicles under tarpaulin in an open-topped container,” a Hong Kong government source said. Police bomb disposal officers were called in to check but no explosives were found. “Initial investigation showed the consignment was destined for Singapore,” the source said, adding that it was being shipped back to Singapore after being used in training in Taiwan. Under the city's Import and Export Ordinance, a licence is required for the import, export, re-export or transshipment of strategic commodities. The maximum penalty for failing to obtain a licence is an unlimited fine and seven years' imprisonment. Last night, the armoured vehicles, wrapped in blue and grey covers, were being guarded by customs officers. Taiwanese defence ministry spokesman Major General Chen Chung-chi denied on Thursday that the vehicles were made in Taiwan. “I can tell you that those armoured military carriers … do not belong to the Republic of China,” Chen said. But he refused to say who owned the carriers or why Taiwan had shipped them to Singapore. Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Dong said the military vehicles were AV-81s from Singapore which might have been involved in a military exercise in Taiwan. He said the AV-81 was Singapore's most advanced military vehicle and the discovery could prompt a stern rebuke from Beijing. “Singapore will probably be in big trouble this time because Beijing could use this chance to give the city state a hard time [in retaliation for] Singapore's stand on the South China Sea issue,” he said. Singapore is seen in Chinese circles as backing Manila in an international arbitration case on Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea. “Worse still, the exposure of the carriers in Hong Kong could reveal Singaporean military secrets, including its communication system with the Taiwanese military,” Wong said. Zhang Baohui, a political science professor from Lingnan University, said the armoured carriers issue would be a “weather vane” for ties between China and Singapore. “Apparently, this is just a customs declaration incident, but these are military weapons that the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department can't handle on its own and should report to Beijing,” he said. “If Beijing gives the green light to let [the shipment go through], ties between China and Singapore will improve. If it doesn't, it will become a complicated political issue.” The armoured vehicles were due to be moved to a customs cargo examination facility in Tuen Mun. A disarmed K-21 light tank and an armoured military carrier were confiscated in Hong Kong in September and October 2010 after being displayed at exhibitions in Saudi Arabia and shipped back to the South Korean city of Busan. South Korea later got back the military vehicles through China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ^ top ^

Hong Kong's disqualified localist pair will have to return HK$930,000 each, Legco president says (SCMP)
2016-11-25
Hong Kong's legislature has hit two recently disqualified localist lawmakers with a bill for HK$930,000 each, forcing them to repay the salaries and costs they claimed in advance. Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen announced the move on Thursday to further penalise Youngspiration's Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching after the High Court stripped them of their seats for not taking their oaths properly last month. The decision by the Legco Commission came after a three-hour closed-door meeting on Thursday afternoon. It was not a unanimous call by the commission's nine pro-establishment and four pan-democrat members. Andrew Leung said the commission had relied on the National People's Congress ruling on November 7, which stated that “no corresponding powers and functions shall be exercised and no corresponding entitlements shall be enjoyed by anyone who fails to lawfully and validly take their oath”. “The High Court did not rule on how we should handle their expenses … so we relied on the NPC's ruling in making our decision,” Leung said. “Since public money is involved, we have no choice but to handle it seriously. We will wait for the Court of Appeal's judgment on their appeal first, and then we will send letters to the pair, and give them reasonable time to return the money.” They were paid HK$834,393 each in advance for operating costs, entertainment and travel expenses, and IT and set-up costs following their election win in September. Combined with their monthly salary of HK$95,180, payable since October 1, they received HK$929,573 each. Pro-establishment lawmaker Felix Chung Kwok-pan had previously believed the duo were likely to keep about HK$36,800 each as salary payments for their brief tenure as lawmakers from October 1 to 12. The court ruled last week that the pair had effectively vacated their seats on October 12. “It was unreasonable to expect that under Beijing loyalists' dominance, the commission would make a reasonable decision... The decision was obviously intended to suppress us,” Baggio Leung said in a statement. Barrister and former lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said the repayment issue was likely to be resolved through civil litigation, as it was debatable whether the pair started their tenure on October 1 and spent the money with a wrong intention. The two localists are now raising money to foot the bill. ^ top ^

Hong Kong workers will suffer if public works projects are delayed, lawmakers warned (SCMP)
2016-11-24
The Hong Kong Construction Association has urged lawmakers not to indulge in time-wasting but to focus on scrutinising proposals for public works projects worth HK$90 billion in the coming year. It warned of job losses and pay cuts if projects were delayed and, looking ahead, said the industry faced a shortfall of 50,000 workers in five years due to an ageing workforce and lack of new blood. Thomas Tse Che-wah, the association's chief executive, sounded the alarm bell on Thursday as he envisaged a downward trend in public projects over the next few years with the government failing to deliver a timetable for projects and the Legislative Council embroiled in more filibustering. “The main problem is that the government hasn't kicked off any consultancy studies for the future big projects such as Lantau Island's development and southeastern New Territories development. Without taking this first step, how can we have an idea of the timetable?” he asked. Tse said the government needed to roll out at least HK$70 billion worth of new public projects every year, subject to Legco's approval, in order to keep the construction industry sustainable and the city's development competitive. “The construction of 10 major infrastructure works is approaching the end. To maintain the industry's survival, we need HK$180 billion to HK$210 billion worth of construction projects from both the public and private sectors to be kicked off every year,” he said. Eddie Lam Kin-wing, the association's first vice-president, warned: “For the coming year, we expect Legco to approve HK$70 billion to HK$90 billion worth of public works projects. “But if Legco continues to deploy filibusters to delay these projects or the government puts on hold some major projects to avoid courting controversy, I am afraid there may be lay-offs or pay cuts next year in the industry.” Association president Allan Chan Sau-kit also raised concerns about the acute shortage of manpower in the industry as the government planned to build 90,000 public housing flats by 2021 and a further 190,000 from 2021 to 2026. “At present the number of registered construction workers is about 410,000 with over 41 per cent aged 50 or above. There is a shortfall of 10,000 workers now. In five years these old workers may retire,” he said. “Then how can the industry have sufficient manpower to cope with the overloaded burden in the latter half of the decade?” ^ top ^

High Court judge in oath-taking case no stranger to thorny political issues (SCMP)
2016-11-24
In a society where the public has more confidence in the courts than in the administration, the judge presiding over the oath-taking case – now under appeal – has, in the few years since he was chosen to focus on judicial reviews, already been brought in to rule on a range of thorny political issues from Occupy Central to political reform. Thomas Au Hing-cheung is the judge on the Court of First Instance who specialises in constitutional and administrative law proceedings. A high-flyer in the judiciary, he was appointed as district judge in 2007 and took only two years to be promoted to the High Court. He gave up his Civic Party membership in 2006 before accepting the appointment to be a full-time judge. A lawyer who declined to be named described Mr Justice Au as a judge “with a great sense of humour when not commenting on the law”, but who adopted a “technical” approach to his cases, as opposed to the more creative style of one of his predecessors, Michael Hartmann. In the oath-taking case, some lawyers and scholars had hoped Mr Justice Au would make a speedy delivery of his first judgment to avoid being pre-empted by Beijing's interpretation of the Basic Law. But he handed down his ruling only a week after the interpretation, which came with such specific rules on oaths that some lawyers argued it could, when applied, effectively disqualify localists Sixtus Baggio Leung Chun-hang and Yau Wai-ching. The judge insisted he had been unaffected by Beijing, writing in the judgment that he had arrived at the conclusion using a common law approach to local legislation, and that his conclusion would have been the same “with or without” the interpretation. Mr Justice Au has been asked to rule on several highly contentious matters in the past few years, starting with Occupy Central. In November 2014, the judge authorised police to help two drivers' groups and the owner of a commercial property, who had already obtained injunctions from another judge to clear the sit-in sites, to arrest protesters flouting those orders. Mr Justice Au explained that he had allowed police to step in on the private lawsuit because the rule of law and due administration of justice were at risk of being “seriously challenged and undermined”, as some protesters had been flouting the court orders. “Under the rule of law, even if the defendants are of the view that a court order is wrongly granted, instead of simply disobeying it, they should first comply with it but seek to challenge and argue against that order in court,” he wrote. Last year in April, Mr Justice Au ruled against the government on a review about free-television licencing – a decision described as one that “made Hongkongers in general happy” by the applicant, maverick businessman Ricky Wong Wai-kay. The Executive Council's denial of a free-to-air licence to Wong's Hong Kong Television Network had sparked street protests by his supporters outside the government headquarters for days. Mr Justice Au wrote that it was “unlawful” of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his cabinet to reject Wong because they had failed to follow a 1998 pro-competition policy stipulating there should be no limit to the number of such licences. In the oath-taking case, Justice Au, in his first judgment, asserted that the principle of non-intervention – that the court should not interfere in the legislature – was “subject to constitutional requirements” of the Basic Law, and therefore the court was in a position to adjudicate. However in three previous cases, Mr Justice Au had avoided intervening in the legislature over different political matters. In June 2015, the judge rejected an application by an Occupy Central student leader for a review to overturn the Hong Kong government's decision to adopt a Beijing-decreed framework for political reform. In turning down Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok, Justice Au ruled that local courts had no jurisdiction over Beijing's decision, and that it was still not known whether the proposal would be passed by the Hong Kong legislature. He wrote that the court should not be “interfering in the legislative process and entertaining a pre-enactment challenge”. In August the same year, the judge cited “separation of powers” in a filibustering case. He refused to review the decisions made by Legco finance committee chairman Ng Leung-sing to abruptly end a pan-democratic filibustering attempt over funding for a contentious new-towns plan. Another case in which he refused to intervene in the legislature was the judicial review sought by student activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung, who wanted the court to lower the minimum age of Legco candidates from 21 to 18, his age, so he could run. But Mr Justice Au ruled that the matter was a “political” one. ^ top ^

Was speedy fund approval for Hong Kong cadets linked to favouritism? Home affairs chief denies this (SCMP)
2016-11-24
The home affairs minister has denied any conflict of interest in his bureau's “unusually speedy approval” of funds for a uniformed youth group, of which he is also an honorary adviser. Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah, formerly a pro-Beijing lawmaker, was speaking for the first time after media revelations on Monday that the Home Affairs Bureau had allowed the Hong Kong Army Cadets Association to turn an old school building in Kowloon Bay into their headquarters in June. About a week after the approval, the association, founded last year, was granted HK$30 million by the Board of Management of the Chinese Permanent Cemeteries – a statutory body chaired by Lau as home affairs chief – for the project. Democratic lawmakers – who alleged that the funds approval was “unusually speedy” – and some relatively older uniformed groups had questioned whether the Army Cadets Association was favoured because of connections that go beyond even Lau. Its commander-in-chief is Regina Leung Tong Ching-yee, the wife of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Leung is also an honorary patron along with People's Liberation Army Hong Kong garrison head Major General Tan Benhong and central government liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming. But Lau denied the suggestion of favouritism. “My role in the association is only honorary, I did not take part in its operation. In fact, as home affairs minister, I have honorary roles on dozens of organisations … There was no conflict of interest involved, and the process was absolutely fair,” Lau said. He added that the old school building was granted to the association “in due process”. According to Lau, the government informed all uniformed youth groups about the building's availability earlier this year – three applications were received, and the association was chosen because it was relatively “advantaged in the publicly-announced criteria”. Lau declined to elaborate on how advantaged it is, saying that it was already explained in his bureau's press release earlier this week. “The Board of Management of the Chinese Permanent Cemeteries also approved the funding in due process … and all members of the board were there when the funding was approved,” Lau said. “The speed of approvals depend on whether the applicants' applied according to the procedure … and [when the next meeting was held] after the application was received.” He also said the government attached a great deal of importance on the development of uniformed youth groups and supported every one of them without favouritism or bias. ^ top ^

Hong Kong cinemas won't show Occupy documentary, filmmaker fears (SCMP)
2016-11-24
The director of a documentary about Hong Kong's 2014 “umbrella movement” protests fears it will be hard for his film and others like it to secure a commercial release in the city because cinema operators worry how Beijing will react. “No one will want to screen it commercially because of Ten Years,” says Evans Chan of his film Raise The Umbrellas, referring to the independent film imagining a dystopian Hong Kong in 2025 that was a hit when it went on limited release in 2015 but was dropped by cinemas after Chinese state media criticised it. “All theatres are scared by this film, even a film festival [in Hong Kong].” Chan, who was speaking on Wednesday evening at an informal media preview of his film, has already seen a screening cancelled by the Asia Society Hong Kong. In its 117 minutes, Raise The Umbrellas chronicles the unfolding of the 79-day street occupations in autumn 2014, how they spawned the localist movement in Hong Kong and the recent Legislative Council election. It includes footage from prominent protest supporter Denise Ho Wan-sze's outdoor “freedom” concert in Tai Ping Shan this summer. The veteran documentary maker stresses he sought to make the film even-handed. When he was making it, he says, the first thing his interview subjects would ask was what his position was on the protest movement. “I said that I cannot say my position. I'm supposed to be neutral. I'm a journalist. The umbrella movie may look I'm for one side, but I included anti-Occupy protests in there too,” he says, referring to clips of protest marches organised by Robert Chow Yung's Alliance for Peace and Democracy. “[Former Legislative Council president] Jasper Tsang [Yok-sing] is in there representing the establishment, and [Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying is quoted extensively in it.” Chan says he is disappointed Raise the Umbrellas was not shown at the Asia Society, given it screened a rough cut of the film in December 2015. “You know it is not the programmers' decision, so where does the 'no' come from? But I don't want to antagonise organisations too much. “I'm doing my best to find room for the film to be shown, but I'm not waiting for a screening to be raided either. The window to have films like this shown seems to be closing more and more and I don't see why it has to get to this point. “The government seems to be allergic to independence advocacy, but independence isn't getting widespread support. If anything the government is giving more exposure to it.” Raise the Umbrellas will be shown at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Central on November 28. Many people featured in the documentary will be in attendance, including Ho and fellow singer and Occupy supporter Anthony Wong Yiu-ming, Tsang, pan-democrat politicians Martin Lee Chu-ming and Emily Lau Wai-hing, academic and Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting and student activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung. The film will also be shown on December 4 at the Kowloon City Book Fair 2016. Chan hopes it can be screened at the government-run Hong Kong Film Archive. Vincent Chui, organiser of the Hong Kong Independent Film Festival, doubts any government venue would be willing to co-present the documentary, but says renting the archive's cinema for screenings would not be a problem. The Raise The Umbrellas director describes himself as “the chronicler of Hong Kong history”, having filmed documentaries about the city after the Tiananmen Square incident in June 1989, and people's responses to the city's return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. “I make films not to show what should happen, but how and why it happened, to try to understand something and find a better way of handling it,” he says. ^ top ^

Localist Yau Wai-ching apologises for 'draft' letter to Taiwan's president claiming China stole New Territories (SCMP)
2016-11-23
Disqualified pro-independence lawmaker Yau Wai-ching apologised for causing a misunderstanding after a Taiwanese newspaper published her proposed letter to Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen to call her attention to the recent political turmoil in Hong Kong. The city's constitutional affairs minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen also weighed in on the matter on Wednesday, saying that “no foreign country, official or authorities from other places should interfere with Hong Kong's internal affairs”. Yau wrote on her Facebook page on Tuesday that she had planned to write to Tsai over the recent interpretation of the Basic Law initiated by Beijing, but the letter published by Chinese-language daily Liberty Times was just a draft that had already been rejected. It is understood that it had been turned down by Yau's party, Youngspiration. The drama over the letter fuels Hong Kong's ongoing oath-taking controversy, which will see Yau and fellow localist Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang in court on Thursday to appeal against the ruling that barred them from the Legislative Council. The High Court ruled earlier this month that the duo should be disqualified as they had “declined” to take their oaths by pledging allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation” and insulting the country at their swearing-in ceremony on October 12. Yau argued in the draft letter that the sovereignty of the New Territories did not belong to the mainland according to the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which should deal only with the sovereignty of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. That was because the New Territories became part of the British colony of Hong Kong only after London and the Qing empire signed a lease in 1898, which was supposed to expire in 1997. Since the Qing empire was overthrown in 1911, and the lease – together with two treaties concerning the cession of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon – are now kept by Taiwan authorities, Taipei should explain its stance on the “constitutional status” of the New Territories, Yau urged. She said the New Territories had been “stolen by China for 19 years” after it resumed sovereignty over the city in 1997. Yau also argued that Tsai, who is the leader of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, should show concern over the sovereignty of the New Territories and declare her position on the issue because there were questions over the validity of the Sino-British Joint Declaration after China's top legislative body issued its interpretation of the Basic Law on November 7. The ruling, which stated that lawmakers who refused to take their oaths “sincerely” would be disqualified, was described by Yau as an “obvious breach of articles in the Basic Law and the Joint Declaration”. In Articles 1 and 2 of the Declaration, Beijing declared that “to recover the Hong Kong area (including Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories, hereinafter referred to as Hong Kong) is the common aspiration of the entire Chinese people”, and London declared that it would “restore Hong Kong” to China on July 1, 1997. Basic Law Article 1 states that Hong Kong is “an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China”. On Tuesday night, Yau said on her Facebook page that the version of the letter published by the newspaper was just one of the drafts of a letter for Tsai on the recent interpretation of the Basic Law and the “collapse of 'one country, two systems',” and that the draft had been rejected. She did not explain how it then appeared in the newspaper. “I apologise if I have created [any] misunderstanding for the Liberty Times and the public. I reiterate that I attach great importance to my relationship with Taiwan and would not act recklessly.” Asked about the letter, a spokesman for Taiwan's presidential office said: “Hong Kong people wanted reform and a choice on the life and system they want. The Chinese government should respond positively and conduct dialogues with patience.” Yau said last week she had written to London to complain about Beijing's “meddling” in the former British colony's affairs. Beijing-owned Global Times reported on Wednesday that “Taiwan's presidential office said Yau's letter would be handled by Taipei's Mainland Affairs Council”. The tabloid also quoted Shenzhen University's Hong Kong affairs expert Zhang Dinghuai as saying: “Yau was simply trying to get Taiwan independence forces to back Hong Kong independence and to get media attention. She will not succeed because Hong Kong people will not support such a naïve and laughable cause.” ^ top ^

Hong Kong will have no future if pro-independence activists aren't stopped, pro-Beijing heavyweight Rita Fan says (SCMP)
2016-11-23
Pro-Beijing heavyweight Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, who a month ago dismissed any need for the national parliament to intervene in the city's oath-taking saga, has changed her tune, saying instead that such intervention was “urgently” needed to stop the rising calls for independence in Hong Kong. Fan broke her silence and waded into the debate for the first time since the National People's Congress Standing Committee's interpretation of the Basic Law this month as government information coordinator Andrew Fung Wai-kwong criticised some pro-independence activists for purposefully misinterpreting the Basic Law when they claimed Hong Kong could choose to separate from China 50 years after 1997. Fung wrote in a column in Tuesday's edition of the Chinese-language Metro Daily: “[The year] 2047 is the expiry date for Hong Kong's capitalist system. There is no expiry date for Hong Kong being an inalienable part of China.” Fung later clarified to the media that he had meant to say the city's “previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years”, as stated in Article 5 of the Basic Law. Meanwhile, Fan, Hong Kong's sole representative on the National People's Congress Standing Committee, also said there was no question of Hong Kong becoming independent, adding that the city “would have no future” if the pro-independence activists were not stopped. She defended the interpretation that effectively disqualified Youngspiration localists Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching from assuming office as legislators. Fan said: “The standing committee was not very keen on resorting to interpretation [of the Basic Law]. But when an issue could affect the unification of the country, its territorial integrity, national security and national interest, then we could not afford any procrastination and had to deal with it decisively.” She said the standing committee's intervention was the only “realistic” means to help the Legislative Council resume its normal business. “God knows what else the duo and their supporters in the opposition camp will do in the legislature,” Fan said, referring to the chaos in the Legco chamber when the duo defied orders by the Legco president and forced their way into the chamber in an attempt to take the oath on their own. Fan was in Europe and did not take part in the standing committee meeting earlier this month over the interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law, which touches on oath-taking by major public office holders, including the chief executive and lawmakers, when assuming office. It was Beijing's fifth interpretation of the Basic Law since the 1997 handover. Late last month, Fan said there was no need for the national parliament to interpret the Basic Law over the oath-taking saga, which saw Baggio Leung and Yau declaring allegiance to “the Hong Kong nation” and pronouncing China as “Chee-na”, which sounded like the derogatory “Shina” used by Japanese during wartime. In a bid to block the pro-independence pair from becoming legislators, the government took the case to court last month. Before the judge came up with a ruling, the interpretation was made, marking the first time Beijing had pre-empted Hong Kong courts over a case for which an initial hearing had been held. ^ top ^

Veteran lawyer vows competitive race for Hong Kong's top job (SCMP)
2016-11-22
The leader of a cohort of legal professionals and scholars in with a chance of winning seats on the body that selects Hong Kong's next leader has promised a competitive election and accused Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying of obfuscating the city's rule of law with “Chinese characteristics”. Senior counsel Edward Chan King-sang, who leads ProDem21, told the Post on Tuesday: “We want to have a [chief executive] who can actually uphold the rule of law. We do not want rule of law with Chinese characteristics.” The veteran lawyer has teamed up with 20 barristers, solicitors and legal scholars to compete for 30 places for the legal sector who will form part of the 1,200-member Election Committee that picks the city's leader in March in what critics deem a small-circle election. If elected, Chan said he and his fellow lawyers would use their nominating power to “make the election a competitive one”. A total of 37 contenders will be vying for the 30 seats. Pro-democracy candidates would come mostly from Chan's group and PanDem9, led by former lawmakers Alan Leong Ka-kit SC and Albert Ho Chun-yan. Former Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah SC is also in the running. Citing his frustration with the chief executive, Chan said Leung was divisive, did not uphold the rule of law and was reversing democracy. He criticised Leung, who has yet to reveal whether he would run for a second term, for his claim of being transcendent over all branches of the government, saying this was not the rule of law that lawyers in Hong Kong, a common law jurisdiction, had learned at law school. Although he disagreed with the use of derogatory language by two localist lawmakers while taking their oaths in October, it was “unnecessary” for the chief executive to be involved as a plaintiff in lodging an unprecedented legal challenge against the legislature to stop them retaking their oaths. The court ruled that Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching should lose their seats for insulting China and advocating independence. This followed Beijing's interpretation of the Basic Law that lawmakers must take their oaths sincerely, accurately and completely. Chan said the interpretation was “legislating for Hong Kong”. He also weighed in on former judge Woo Kwok-hing, the only person so far to enter the chief executive race, saying that they resonated with him more than other possible contenders. But it was too early to decide whether to give him their support, he said. He said that although Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, tipped to be a potential runner, boasted experience in government, this was not a must. Chan said they supported competition because it would force candidates to reveal their vision, by which they would be bound after they were elected. An ideal candidate, he said, had to support real democracy and the rule of law while solving financial and social issues. “It should be real autonomy,” he added. Solicitor Michael Vidler, who is in Chan's group, said candidates should “fight for Hong Kong” rather than “just do the bidding of China”. Chan said his group would not be complacent, citing their contender Catherine Mun Lee-ming's result in the Legislative Council elections in September. Mun bagged 1,496 votes, or 30 per cent of the total, and failed to unseat her only rival, pan-democrat Dennis Kwok. The number of votes secured by the “less well-known solicitor” was “slightly alarming”, Chan said. Tong believed he was a “better choice” than the pro-democracy candidates as he was able to communicate with more potential chief executive contenders. ^ top ^

President Xi Jinping approves of work, but don't over-interpret remarks, says CY Leung (SCMP)
2016-11-22
Hong Kong's leader says one should not “over-interpret” President Xi Jinping's remarks about his work, nor link it to his possible re-election next year. On Tuesday morning, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying spoke briefly again about his meeting with Xi upon returning from a trip to Peru where he attended the Apec summit. Xi had met Leung for 45 minutes at the sideline of the summit, telling Leung “to continue to implement policies in a comprehensive manner”, among other matters. Asked by reporters whether Xi's use of the word “continue” alluded to support for a second term as Hong Kong's chief executive, Leung would only say: “We shouldn't over-interpret the president's words.” “We met for 45 minutes – It's a long time. The president fully acknowledges my work, and the work of the HKSAR government,” he added. At the closed-door meeting, Xi also urged Leung to “resolutely safeguard national unity and maintain social and political stability”. Leung said Xi was “very concerned about Hong Kong”, but also “very supportive” of his administration's handling of the row over two localist lawmakers who were disqualified for insulting China while taking their Legislative Council oaths. Leung also said the government would continue to promote trade liberalisation and economic development, noting that leaders at the Apec summit were concerned about the possible impact of Brexit on world trade, and the “unexpected result” of the United States presidential election, where Donald Trump won. Meanwhile, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who was acting in Leung's position while he was away, was asked about her purported retirement plan after chairing the Executive Council meeting Tuesday morning. Lam was quizzed about whether she had said at a closed-door event that she would “retire” in June – a seemingly contradictory rumour since she is tipped to run in the city's leadership race next March. “I will not publicly repeat what I said at a closed-door function,” she replied. ^ top ^

For once, government would do well by doing nothing (SCMP)
2016-11-22
Our government has an uncanny ability to create trouble for itself. The latest is a proposal to set up a food bazaar for hawkers during the upcoming Lunar New Year in Mong Kok. Food and health chief Ko Wing-man has denied the plan is to pre-empt disturbance in light of the Mong Kok riot in February. Whatever you say, Dr Ko. Predictably, neighbours and their district council representatives are up in arms against the plan. The Yau Tsim Mong District Council has consulted building owners' corporations as well as residents of 10 buildings near Macpherson Playground – the proposed location of the bazaar. All of them oppose the plan as they fear excessive noise well into the night. It's hard to see how the government plan would work. The idea is to accommodate 40 hawkers at a single location from January 28 to 30. But they can't use fire to cook food, only electric cooking devices. That might be difficult. Every year during the Lunar New Year festivities, many hawkers ply their trade. What about those who work outside the playground, as there are bound to be many? Do hygiene inspectors crack down on them, thereby risking another riot? In the past, inspectors had turned a blind eye to hawkers who lined the streets of Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po during that period. For some reason, the government decided to crack down this year. But while the initial disturbance in February had to do with disputes between inspectors and illegal hawkers, the subsequent mayhem had nothing to do with hawkers' rights. It was an anti-government riot, a repeat of the 2014 Occupy movement's confrontation with the police. It was too bad that the government and pro-establishment lawmakers rejected a proposal by pan-democrats to form a commission to look into the real causes of the riot. That might have given the government genuine insights into widespread social discontent, especially among the young. It would also be a good opportunity for people to air their grievances and for us to listen. The latest government plan for hawkers is counterproductive as it has already upset many residents in the district. Here's some free advice. Do what you have always done: nothing. Take it easy on hawkers once a year. Then everyone is happy. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Chen Ying-chen: a literary lion in search of one China (SCMP)
2016-11-24
Friends, literary critics and politicians paid tribute on Wednesday to leftist Taiwanese writer and former political prisoner Chen Ying-chen, who died in Beijing on Tuesday after a long illness. He was 79. Literary critic Yao Yi-wei said Chen's work was “filled with messages of love” that also possessed a “deep melancholy, an eternal sadness that is as heavy as a mountain”. Burn in Hsinchu in northern Taiwan in 1937, Chen was known both as a novelist and the founder of political magazine Ren Jian, or Among the People. Chen was a supporter of unification with the mainland and the idea of a unifying Chinese national identity. Unlike many other dissidents and political activists of his era, he was not part of Taiwan's independence movement or a member of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party. He became politically active in the late 1950s and was first arrested in 1968 by the then ruling Kuomintang for “leading pro-communist activities”, resulting in his imprisonment on Green Island off Taitung county until 1973. Chen was arrested again six years later but released quickly after protests by a group of prominent activists and writers. In 1985, he launched Ren Jian magazine, reporting on political oppression under the KMT's martial law and the plight of the working class during the island's industrialisation. He famously debated writer and academic Chen Fang-ming on the differences between Taiwanese and Chinese literature in 2000. In 2006, he left Taiwan for Beijing to take up a teaching position at Renmin University. But in September that year, he suffered two strokes and had been bedridden since. He reportedly wanted to return to his hometown in Taiwan, but fears for his health prevented him making the long trip. Chen wrote a series of novels exploring the lives of workers, farmers and grass-roots people exploited by the authorities and by capitalism. His best known works including My Brother Kang-hsiung, The Noodle Stand, The Generals, The Comedy of Tang Chien and Home Coming. Since the 1980s, he has been viewed by many as “Taiwan's greatest author”, according to Jeffrey Kinkley, a leading American sinologist. Critic Yeh Shih-tao described Chen's writing as “sensitively reflecting a restless time and a tumultuous society, depicting the hardships endured by multitudes of people, particularly intellectuals, in Taiwan.” Friend and writer Chi Chi said Chen's later works leaned toward “Chinese unification” and criticised the impact of “American capitalism” on Taiwan, Central News Agency reported. His brother, Chen Ying-ho, still lives in Taiwan and was informed of his death before it was made known to the general public, CNA said. ^ top ^

First lady Peng Liyuan's brother attends Taiwan funeral (SCMP)
2016-11-23
The funeral in Taiwan of an uncle of first lady Peng Liyuan became a chance for both of the island's political parties to show goodwill to Beijing. The wife of President Xi Jinping did not attend the funeral of Lee Hsin-kai, who died on the island at 86 on November 11. Instead, Peng Lei, her brother, went to Chiayi in southern Taiwan to pay final respects on behalf of the family. Lee fled from Shandong province to Taiwan during China's civil war in the late 1940s as a student. Although he held no senior government posts and had lived a quiet life as a school teacher, Lee's funeral was attended by Hung Hsiu-chu, the chairwoman of the Kuomintang party. Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan's former president, sent a wreath. And although Ma's successor Tsai Ing-wen signed a wreath, she did so in her capacity as Democratic Progressive Party chairwoman. According to Taiwan's Central News Agency, Peng was greeted by staff from the Straits Exchange Foundation, the island's semiofficial agency in charge of cross-strait affairs. Peng kept a low profile during his visit to Taiwan, avoiding the limelight and making no public comments. While the funeral quickly became a heated topic in Taiwanese newspapers, neither it nor Peng's visit was given much mention in mainland media. Search results for the name Lee Hsin-kai led to almost no related news on the social media platform Weibo. ^ top ^

Top political advisor stresses opposition to "Taiwan independence" (Xinhua)
2016-11-23
Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, meets with a Taiwan lawmakers delegation, led by Yao Eng-chi, in Beijing, capital of China, Nov. 23, 2016. (Xinhua/Zhang Duo) BEIJING, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- Top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng on Wednesday emphasized the need to oppose "Taiwan independence". Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, made the remarks when meeting with a Taiwan lawmakers delegation, led by Yao Eng-chi. Yu said that mainland political advisors and Taiwan lawmakers have cooperated on cross-Strait communication and peaceful development of cross-Strait relations. The island's current authorities refused to acknowledge the 1992 Consensus and disagree that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one China, gravely threatening the development of cross-Strait relations, Yu said. He stressed the adherence to the 1992 Consensus that embodies the one-China principle and firmly opposing "Taiwan independence" secessionist forces and their activities. Yu called on compatriots from both sides to increase communication and strive for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Yu also expressed his hope for an improved exchange mechanism and more exchanges between young people from both sides of the Strait. ^ top ^

In post-TPP world, Taiwan 'must reach new trade deal with US' (SCMP)
2016-11-23
Taipei must forge a new deal with Washington to tackle the economic challenges posed by US plans to scrap a Pacific Rim trade deal, analysts said on Tuesday. US president-elect Donald Trump declared this week that the United States would pull out of the 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during his first 100 days in office. Trump's announcement immediately triggered concerns in the Asia-Pacific, with Japan saying the Pacific Rim trade pact would be meaningless without US involvement. Analysts said Taipei must quickly build ties with the incoming US administration by signing either a bilateral investment deal or a free-trade pact, or risk economic fallout. With cross-strait ties at an impasse over President Tsai Ing-wen's unwillingness to publicly acknowledge the “1992 consensus”, Taipei had hoped to join the TPP to ease the island's reliance on the mainland. Analysts said Trump's protectionist approach and decision to ditch the TPP would pose great challenges for Taiwan, which depends on exports. “In terms of global deployment, it means we might come to a dead end if we can no longer access the TPP,” said Kan Kamhon, director of the Institute of Economics at Academia Sinica. Beijing has viewed Taiwan as a part of the mainland since the end of a civil war in 1949. It has suspended communication and exchanges with Taiwan to try to pressure Tsai, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, to accept the consensus and its “one China” principle since she took office in May. Edward Chen I-hsin, professor of American studies at Tamkang University, said the government could improve ties with the mainland in a bid to join the Beijing-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) of 16 Asian and Pacific countries. “Without the TPP or RCEP, it would be difficult for Taiwan to... diversify its trade and develop its economy, given that Taiwan does not have a huge domestic market like those of the US and the mainland,” Chen said. But Kung Ming-hsin, deputy director of the Cabinet's National Development Council, was optimistic about prospects for private-sector cooperation between Taiwan and the US, saying Taiwan should work out new strategies to reconnect with Washington. Kung also said the government would step up efforts to sign a bilateral investment agreement with the United States and, if possible, join the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, a deal proposed by Apec. Taiwan's Liberty Times quoted Tsai as saying that in addition to the US and the mainland, there were other players with major economic clout and influence in the region. She said her administration would strengthen economic links with Asean countries, South Asia, New Zealand and Australia to offset uncertainties in the future. ^ top ^

Taiwan's ailing TransAsia Airways shuts down due to financial woes (SCMP)
2016-11-22
Taiwan's troubled airliner TransAsia Airway on Tuesday announced that it is dissolving itself due to mounting financial difficulties. Speaking at a hastily called press conference, the company's chairman Vincent Lin said the regional carrier was losing NT$10 million (about US$90,000) daily, or NT$200 million to NT$300 million monthly. “Why dissolve now? The company is not yet bankrupt, it still has more assets than debts. So the company does not want to wait until it's bankrupt,” Lin said. Doing so now was in the best interests of its employees, customers and creditors, he said, adding that shareholders would meet in mid-January to approve the decision of the board of directors. Earlier in the day, TransAsia Airway, which has a poor safety record, suspended all its scheduled services for the day, affecting 5,000 people and 84 flights, including seven domestic, five international and seven cross-strait routes. Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration slapped the airline with a fine of NT$3 million for the suspension. TransAsia also issued a request to the Taiwan Stock Exchange to suspend trading in its shares. The bourse approved the request but fined the company NT$1 million for disclosing the suspension via a statement rather than by holding a news conference. The Executive Yuan said the Financial Supervisory Commission and Ministry of Justice would launch an investigation into the carrier on suspicion of illegal insider trading. The company's booking service was shut down on Monday afternoon, prompting many to suspect it would suspend flights. The carrier first denied the speculation, but then confirmed later in the day that it would suspend services for one day on Tuesday. The move by Taiwan's third-largest carrier came as a shock to the island's airline and tourism industries as well as the government. TransAsia has reported losses in each of the previous six quarters up to the end of September, hurt by a downturn in business following a disastrous crash on outlying Penghu Island in July 2014 and another in a suburb of Taipei in February last year. The 65-year-old airline has a total of 44 routes, about 60 per cent of which operate between Taiwan and China. The declining number of Chinese tourists since Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen took office in May delivered a blow to the company. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China 'to participate actively in trade deals regardless of direction of TPP and RCEP pacts' (SCMP)
2016-11-24
China said it will actively participate in bilateral and multilateral trade deals with the aim of deepening reform and opening up its economy – regardless of the direction the Trans Pacific Partnership or the Beijing-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) might take. The statement follows US President-elect Donald Trump saying he would withdraw the United States from the international Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which excludes China – putting RCEP, a rival pact that excludes the US, as the front-runner for new free trade deals in the region. When asked for clarification on the specifics of the planned reform, Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said in a briefing on Thursday that the intended reform was “comprehensive” and included economic reform. China would push for RCEP negotiations to be speeded up and concluded soon, with full respect for the core status of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in the deal, Shen said. China's President Xi Jinping pledged at this month's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Peru to open up the economy further, as leaders of Asia-Pacific countries sought new free-trade options following Trump's victory, after a campaign that saw him promise to scrap or renegotiate trade deals. The RCEP, which includes Australia, India and more than a dozen other nations, is seen as perhaps the only path to the broader Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), to which Apec aspires. Observers said China would be handed the opportunity to reshape the rules for global trade and profit from a more isolated US if Trump carried out his pledge to abandon the landmark TPP pact. The TPP's likely demise has been welcomed by state media in China, where the deal had been criticised as a naked attempt to boost US influence in the region and contain the Asian giant. The Communist Party mouthpiece, People's Daily, said in a Thursday commentary that the TPP's goal had been “to establish America's economic dominance by excluding and suppressing China with economic containment”. Trump's new course would “see China benefiting most from increased US protectionism”, the often nationalist Global Times newspaper said, adding the world's second-largest economy could “pick up the slack” and “lead free trade”. The real estate mogul's insurgent presidential bid was built in part on a pledge to overturn trade deals that he said had drained American jobs and destroyed its industrial heartlands. China and the US have jockeyed for influence on the global diplomatic stage in recent years, as Beijing seeks a diplomatic heft to match its growing economic might. It regularly refers to its relationship with Washington as a “new model of major power relations”, implicitly putting itself on an equal footing with the US. “If the United States walks away from the TPP, it could open the door for China to develop its own Asian free-trade area,” analysts at IHS Global Insight said in a note. But China's putative position as a champion of free trade contrasts with domestic restrictions that prevent foreign companies from competing in a variety of sectors, often forcing them to partner with local competitors and share vital technology. Authorities have also frequently shown their willingness to use trade as a cudgel to punish countries who run afoul of Beijing, for example banning banana imports from the Philippines during a dispute over the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. The TPP is the product of years of tough negotiations, and the high environmental and labour standards it imposes on members – unlike RCEP – meant that many of the governments that signed up had to wage political battles to do so. There is the clear potential for fallout if the deal fails because of a change of heart by its prime instigator. Instead, Washington's Asian allies may seek to build a more stable and long-lasting partnership with China, whose governing party has not changed since 1949. That could give Beijing more sway in both economic and strategic disputes, such as over the resource-rich South China Sea. Beijing will “press ahead with the economic integration process” in the Asia-Pacific region, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters on Wednesday. But he denied any ulterior motives. “We should prevent politicising of free trade arrangements, and we hope that all countries can stop reading too much into the free trade arrangements through a geopolitical perspective,” he said. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

UN Security Council to discuss new NK sanctions (Global Times)
2016-11-24
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said on Thursday that the UN Security Council is discussing a draft on sanctions against North Korea in response to questions on whether China and the US have reached agreement on the issue. It would be a big improvement if China and the US could reach an agreement on new UN sanctions on North Korea over the nuclear test issues, but China is unlikely to accept all the terms proposed by the US over humanitarian concerns, an expert said. However, Reuters reported on Thursday that China and the US have reached an agreement on new sanctions, which aims to crack down on North Korea's coal exports and lists new names for targeted sanctions of a global travel ban and asset freeze. North Korea keeps ignoring China's opposition to nuclear tests, which pose a great threat to China's security and also affect Sino-South Korean and Sino-US relationships, Zheng Jiyong, director of Fudan University's Center for Korean Studies, told the Global Times on Thursday. It would be a big improvement if the US and China could reach an agreement. However, out of humanitarian concerns, China is unlikely to accept all the terms the US is proposing, said Zheng. Russia is delaying action on the draft resolution, a senior diplomat was quoted by Reuters as saying, adding China could persuade Russia to agree to the new sanctions. In March 2016, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2270, which imposed the toughest sanctions against North Korea so far. ^ top ^

Ambassador hands over humanitarian assistance to North Korean side (Montsame)
2016-11-22
Mongolian Ambassador to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea S.Tsoggerel has handed over humanitarian aid from the Government of Mongolia, in connection with the disastrious flood that hit North Korea in late September, to the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of DPRK Ri Kil Song. The Ambassador noted that Mongolia is helping the people of disaster-stricken region with warm blankets and clothes. Mr Ri Kil Song extended gratitude to the Government and people of Mongolia, who are extending the helping hand in the distressful times after a natural calamity, and emphasized that the aid will serve as physical and mental support to the citizens, who were suffering the disaster. ^ top ^

DPRK Embassy makes statement (Montsame)
2016-11-21
In conjunction with the UN release of a resolution over human rights in North Korea, the Ambassador of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Hong Kyu made a statement on November 18. The resolution discussed at the Third Committee of the 71st session of UNGA meeting expressed concerns about exploitation of North Korean work forces. The statement made by the DPRK Ambassador says “Our workers are working in foreign countries only guided by their free will and demands. They have full right to decide whether to return back home or not. Presently, about 2,500 North Korean nationals are employed in the construction, light industry and healthcare sectors of Mongolia in compliance with an agreement on exchange of work forces and specialists concluded between Mongolia and DPRK. Providing them with favorable conditions to work and live is a priority provision of contract made between corresponding companies in strict compliance with the pertinent legislation and regulations of the given country. The North Korean workers working in Mongolia all have official visas and permissions and officially pay social insurance fees and income taxes in accordance with the Mongolian legislation”. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Dalai Lama's visit hurt the political foundation of China-Mongolia relations (gogoMongolia)
2016-11-24
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama paid his 9th visit, with the last being in 2011, to Mongolia on November 18-22. A day after his arrival, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama greeted devout Mongolians at the Gandantegchinlen Monastery, the centre for Buddhism in Mongolia, on November 19. On the next day, His Holiness delivered a unique teaching to his Mongolian followers reaching over 10 thousand people, jammed in the 5,000-seating capacity sports complex of Buyant Ukhaa. The purpose of his teaching in Ulaanbaatar was to enhance Mongolia's benefaction, and therefore, to diminish the obstacles and traverses in Mongolia's path to prosperity. Moreover, The Dalai Lama took part in a discussion called 'Science and Teachings of the Buddha.' The 14th Dalai Lama had first visited Mongolia in 1979. When he arrived back in 2002, the Chinese side had protested the visit and had closed the border with Mongolia for two days. In 2016, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China released three statements with regard to the 14th Dalai Lama's Visit to Mongolia. Deputy Prime Minister of Mongolia U. Khurelsukh was scheduled to pay a working visit to China to attend the inter-governmental meeting to be held on November 28. However, the Chinese side has indefinitely postponed the meeting on mining and energy. Spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Geng Shuang's delivered remarks explaining the reason for cancelling the meeting. "We have expressed our solemn position on Dalai's visit to Mongolia. The erroneous action taken by the Mongolian side on Dalai's visit has hurt the political foundation of China-Mongolia relations and has exerted a negative impact on the development of bilateral relations. The Chinese side requires the Mongolian side to genuinely respect China's core interests and major concerns, take effective steps to remove the negative impact caused by its erroneous action and bring the China-Mongolia relations back to the track of sound and steady growth," he said. Earlier, on November 20, Shuang had stated that in sheer disregard of China's repeated dissuasion, Mongolia had insisted on inviting the 14th Dalai Lama for a visit. The Chinese side is dissatisfied with and opposed to this step. He added that the 14th Dalai Lama is a political exile who has long been engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion, with the aim of breaking Tibet away from China. The Chinese side firmly opposes any anti-China separatist activities conducted by Dalai in any capacity or name in any country and opposes all forms of contact by officials of any country with him. China has urged Mongolia to see through the nature of the Dalai clique, respect China's core interests and major concerns and take concrete actions to remove the negative effects, so as to prevent the disruption of the sound development of China-Mongolia relations. However, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ts.Munkh-Orgil has given a statement on the Dalai Lama`s visit. “The Government of Mongolia has nothing to do with the visit”, he stated. Moreover, he emphasised that the 9th visit of the Dalai Lama to Mongolia is taking place at the invitation of the Center of Mongolian Buddhists – The Gandantegchinlen Monastery, and is a solely religious courtesy. He added that the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ts.Munkh-Orgil`s visit to China and Russian-Mongolian-China trilateral ministers meeting have cancelled. In regards, we will discuss with China on the cancellation of these meetings, said Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia. ^ top ^

Government hopes Mongolia-China meetings would be re-arranged soon (Montsame)
2016-11-24
The Chinese side has canceled several planned meetings and events, including a visit of the Deputy Prime Minister of Mongolia to the People's Republic of China. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of PRC has condemned Mongolia for hosting the Dalai Lama and stated that Mongolia must take concrete actions to remove negative effects on bilateral ties. MONTSAME Agency has clarified about the situation from the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ts.Munkh-Orgil. The latter said that Chinese side has notified of the cancellation of several visits from Mongolia yesterday. “Among the visits and meetings were, the planned consultative meeting between the State Great Khural of Mongolia and the parliament of China, which takes place every two years and considers important matters between legislatures. It was cancelled”. “A working group, led by Deputy PM U.Khurelsukh was supposed to meet with the group headed by the Chairman of the Development and Reform Commission of China. The meeting was intended for negotiations on soft loans and the projects on Tavantolgoi railroad, copper plant and coal gasification. Unfortunately, the Chinese side responded this visit was unacceptable”. Moreover, I was expecting to pay a visit at the invitation of the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs to review the results of Deputy PM U.Khurelsukh's visit, and discuss preparation for a visit of the Prime Minister of Mongolia to China, expected next year. The Chinese side have notified us, but not officially that this visit might also be postponed”. “The Minister of Road and Transport Development of Mongolia and the Minister of Road and Transport of China and Russia were supposed to sign a tri-partite agreement during the Asia-Pacific Ministeral Conference on Transport, to be held in Moscow on December 5-7. We assumed this action might also be postponed and expressed out regret to the Chinese side”. Furthermore, our side has released an explanation that the visit by the Dalai Lama was not motivated by or related to politics, and only aimed at delivering his teachings to the Buddhists of Mongolia. We also expressed our hope that these canceled meetings and visits will be re-arranged soon. Our explanation made clear that there was no involvement on the part of the government and politicians of Mongolia in inviting the Dalai Lama, that this visit was organized by religious organizations led by the Khamba Lama of the Gandantegchinlen Monastery of Ulaanbaatar D.Choijamts, that state and religion are separate in Mongolia, therefore, the Government has nothing to do with the Dalai Lama's visit, and that the government has shown as equal respect to the faithful of Mongolia as they have shown to the religious leader's visit to Mongolia”, concluded the Minister. ^ top ^

Kh.Badamsuren appointed EMC Director-General (Montsame)
2016-11-24
The Board of Directors of the Erdenet Mining Corporation appointed Kh.Badamsuren the next Director-General. A former member of parliament, Kh.Badamsuren is currently holding the position of Vice Minister of Mining and Heavy Industry. He has been working for the public service for the past 32 years. Kh.Badamsuren started his career as a specialist in the Mining Division, then became the chief engineer for mining sector and the head of Mining Division of the former Ministry of Geology and Mining in 1980-1987. He worked as the chief engineer for mining sector and head of Joint Venture Division of the former Ministry of Energy, Geology and Mining Industry in 1987-1989, and as the first deputy director of the Bor-Undur Mine in 1989-1994, the Director-Geneal of the Mongolia-Russian Joint MongolRosTsvetmet Venture in 1994-2006, the Director of Department for Geology, Mining and Heavy Industry of the former Ministry of Industry and Commerce in 2007-2008. He was elected to the parliament in 2008 and served until 2012. Kh.Badamsuren had been working as the director of copper concentrate extraction and purification unit under the former Ministry of Industry from 2015 until he was appointed the Vice Minister of Mining and Heavy Industry.. ^ top ^

Government to cover expenses for kidney hemodialysis treatment (Montsame)
2016-11-24
The cabinet passed a resolution, in accordance with which, the Government is to cover expenses of hemodialysis treatment for patients suffering from chronic kidney failure. A total of 169 hemodialysis machines are operational at 27 public and private medical institutions. On the national level, 564 people are required to have hemodialysis treatment and 2-3 new patients each day are diagnosed with kidney failure. These patients are in need to receive hemodialysis treatment three times a week. Each treatment costs around MNT 100-120 thousand, which totals some MNT 20 million for a year. The government will cover these expenses for the patients. ^ top ^

UB to host Mongolia-Russia Intergovernmental Commission Meeting (Montsame)
2016-11-24
The sides have arranged to hold the next meeting of the Mongolia-Russia Intergovernmental Commission in Ulaanbaatar on December 11-13. On Wednesday, the cabinet approved the general directions of the Mongolian part, which will be led by Deputy PM U.Khurelsukh. The Intergovernmental Commission will address a broad range of key issues of bilateral cooperation in the fields of trade, economy, infrastructure, transport, mining, energy and humanities. ^ top ^

Working group to be formed to amend constitution (Montsame)
2016-11-24
At its regular meeting on Wednesday, the cabinet resolved to set up a working group in charge of developing the draft amendments to the Constitution. An expanded representation of scholars, researchers and lawyers, specialized in constitutional law will be involved. Chief of the Cabinet Secretariat and Minister of Mongolia J.Munkhbat and Minister of Justice and Domestic Affairs S.Byambatsogt were assigned to present the composition of the working group to the cabinet at the next cabinet meeting. ^ top ^

Moody's downgrades Mongolia's rating (SCMP)
2016-11-23
Moody's Investors Service has downgraded Mongolia's long-term issuer and senior unsecured ratings from B3 to Caa1 due to “heightened uncertainty” regarding the government's ability to meet it's direct and indirect debt service obligations over the next two years and to shore up external liquidity. Moody's stated, “Moody's expectation that the budget deficit will remain wider for longer than previously expected, which combined with a weaker growth outlook in the coming two years, will raise the government's debt burden to elevated levels.” This comes at a time when the debt obligations of the country have reached 800 million USD, 7.5 percent of the GDP projected in 2017. Development Bank of Mongolia LLC will start paying 580 million USD in March 2017. Refinancing these debt obligations would only add to the government's already high reliance on market debt, in an environment in which demand for its debt has fallen and interest costs have risen. Moody's stated that the sustainability of the country's external payments position will depend on whether or not the government can receive funding and loans from international organizations such as the IMF and countries such as China. The report highlighted that it was not clear if the government would be able to secure the funding required to overcome its debt pressures. According to their report, “Based on the government's supplementary budget for 2016, we now expect the budget deficit will reach 19.5 percent of GDP from just five percent of GDP in 2015, the largest in Moody's sovereign rating universe.” Moody's projects that the steep fiscal deficit in 2016 will take many years to reverse, even though the government has committed to fiscal consolidation and has implemented a detailed economic stabilization plan. “With limited room to cut spending or generate revenues until mining production and exports significantly ramp up, deficits will remain in double digits in 2017 and 2018,” the report highlighted. The Ministry of Finance and Mongol Bank have responded to the downgrade, stating, “The downgrade is not reflective of the current situation.” ^ top ^

Mongolia braces for another deadly winter (The UB Post)
2016-11-23
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) reports that so far, 23 soums of nine provinces in Mongolia are experiencing white dzud, a severe winter phenomenon with heavy snowstorms and temperature plunges below -40 degree celsius, and warned the public to not to travel within the country if possible. According to the NEMA, dzud has struck 18 soums of eight provinces, specifically Sagsai soum of Bayan-Ulgii Province; Khangal soum of Bulgan Province; Darkhan soum of Darkhan-Uul Province; Dashbalbal and Choibalsan soums of Dornod Province; Orkhon, Yuruu, Zuunburen, Sukhbaatar, Khushaat and Khuder soums of Selenge Province; Baruunturuun, Zuunkhangai, Malchin and Naranbulag soums of Uvs Province; Renchinlkhumbe soum of Khuvsgul Province; and Bunder and Dadal soums of Khentii Province. Weather conditions have worsened into white dzud in Teshig soum of Bulgan Province; Shariin Gol and Khongor soums of Darkhan-Uul Province; Bayan-Uul, Bayantumen, Khulunbuir, Tsagaan-Ovoo and Sergelen soums of Dornod Province; Bayankhairkhan, Bayantes and Songino soums of Zavkhan Province, Jargalant soum of Orkhon Province; Zuungovi, Sangil, Turgen and Tes soums in Uvs Province; Ulaan-Uul, Tsetserleg and Khatgal soums of Khuvsgul Province; Mandal, Tushig and Tsagaannuur soums of Selenge Province; and Norovlin soum of Khentii Province. Altogether 23 soums of nine provinces have been affected. The Deputy Prime Minister has sent an emergency working group to review and evaluate the situation in each province in relation to winter preparation. The Minister or Roads and Transportation has approved Resolution No.43, and dispatched around 190 trucks and snow plows. Ulaanbaatar Mayor urges public involvement in snow removal Ulaanbaatar Mayor S.Batbold notified to take measures involving the public, including students and soldiers, in the occasion that another unforeseen and extreme natural disaster occurs. He gave orders to associated agencies and departments on urgent measures to take within the next two weeks after explaining some challenges and difficulties being faced by residents due to the recent heavy snowfall and sudden temperature drop. Mayor S.Batbold also ordered government agencies to finish snow removal works within and outside of the capital by next Monday with assistance from soldiers, students and high school students. New campaign to support herders The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry has initiated a charity campaign for herders, following warning of dzud, which is a phenomenon unique to Mongolia, this winter. Livestock in MongoliaThe ministry is encouraging the public, agencies, companies, embassies, donor countries and international organizations to donate warm clothing, food, medication for livestock, coal, hay, animal feed, insulation materials and other useful items for herders through the campaign, aimed to prevent potential risks and loss in the agricultural sector and help herders overcome severe winter conditions and natural phenomenon during the winter. At present, winter preparation work is at 82.8 percent completion nationwide, according to the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry. However, continuous heavy snowfall since early October has left half the nation covered in snow and ice. A spokesperson from the ministry emphasized that more than 70 percent of the provinces in Mongolia are in serious situation and likely to face tremendous losses at this rate. ^ top ^

New greenhouses bring Mongolians fresh vegetables during winter (The UB Post)
2016-11-23
Mongolian farmers are seeing success with a project to grow six different vegetables in greenhouses, including cucumbers, tomatoes, salad greens, and spinach, ready for harvest within 45 days during winter using heated soil. Mongolia has been implementing a three-phase project to grow vegetables in greenhouses using renewable energy since 2014. The project has been proven to be effective as farmers have collected their first harvest and are getting ready to continue the project during the winter with support from the Ministry of Energy. Soil heating technology is widely used by Japanese farmers to enhance vegetable growth and increase yields for greenhouse tomatoes and other vegetables. Spokesperson of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry Ts.Tumurtulga explained that it's possible to heat soil by installing heating pipes five meters underground. A soil-heated greenhouse can maintain a temperature of 0 to 1 degrees Celsius even if the outside temperature is -30 degrees Celsius, Ts.Tumurtulga stated. “We're able to plant and harvest vegetables within 45 to 50 days with this technology,” said N.Zandanshagai, the project's engineer. “The greenhouse is 240 square meters in size. During the summer, we're able to harvest 3.5 kg of vegetables from an area of two square meters. As for winter, the harvest volume decreases slightly, to around one kg.” N.Zandanshagai claims that spinach grows best in greenhouses during winter. Ministry spokesperson Ts.Tumurtulga emphasized that Mongolian producers could fully meet domestic demand for tomatoes, spinach, cucumbers, and other greenhouse vegetables if the project is expanded. He added that soil heating technology costs up to 30 percent less than other methods for supplying heat to greenhouses. ^ top ^

T.Shimizu: “Mongolia can restore its economic growth within 3 years” (Montsame)
2016-11-23
Pirme Minister J.Erdenebat praised Japanese Ambassador Takenori Shimizu as “a senior diplomat and Mongolist, who has dedicated nearly 40 years of his life to making even closer friendship between our two countries”, and welcomed accomplishments made within the past five years of office of Shimizu. The two sides held a meeting on Tuesday at the State House. Between 2011 and 2016, Pirme Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe paid three visits to Mongolia, President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj visited to Japan twice. Also, Mongolia has organized three visits at the level of parliament speakers and four—at the PM level. PM J.Erdenebat underlined the most important step forward was the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement, which took force in June. “It seems like I arrived here just yesterday, and returning tomorrow”, said the Ambassador and added that Mongolia could not fully utilize its potentials of growth in the recent years. Mongolia's economic growth can be restored within three years, if the government takes proper actions, he noted and wished the Premier's support for the incoming Ambassador of Japan. The Mongolian Premier highlighted once again that Ambassador Shimizu is a close friend deeply attached to Mongolia, and that he hopes Mr Shimizu would go on maintaining close contacts with Mongolia through promoting Mongolia in Japan, encouraging businesspeople of the two countries, and helping to draw more investments to Mongolia. At the end, he wished Mr Shimizu happiness and wellbeing.  ^ top ^

Tavantolgoi coal price almost doubled (gogoMongolia)
2016-11-22
A government working group and Erdenes Tavantolgoi JSC have negotiated with the operating TTJVCO company on coal price, and settled on commercializing a ton of coal from Tavantolgoi mine for USD 50, which is 80 percent or 1.8 times higher against the previous quarter. It is estimated that a ton of coal from the East Tsankhi mine can be sold for USD 60, in considering the coal price index and the global market coal price increase. The Erdenes Tavantolgoi JSC also launched the development of the West Tsankhi mine with a purpose to pay more revenue to the government budget. A consortium of Mongolian companies – SGS, Khishig Arvin and Monnis – has been selected as the main operator at the West Tsankhi, and is expected to produce 1.1 million tons of coal within the first two months. With the simultaneous operations at both West and East Tsankhi mines, it is expected to pay some USD 100 million in tax to the Government, extinguish the debt to Chalco and TTJVCo and increase the foreign currency flow in Mongolia. Tavantolgoi mine will create 5,000 more vacancies as well. ^ top ^

FM Ts.Munkh-Orgil: Government has nothing to do with Dalai Lama's visit (Montsame)
2016-11-21
In connection with the ongoing visit of the spiritual leader 14th Dalai Lama, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ts.Munkh-Orgil has given a statement. “The Government of Mongolia has nothing to do with the visit”, he stated. Also, he emphasized that the ninth visit of the Dalai Lama to Mongolia is taking place at the invitation of the Center of Mongolian Buddhists – The Gandantegchinlen Monastery, and is a absolutely religious courtesy. ^ top ^

Parliament approves economic recovery bill (The UB Post)
2016-11-21
On November 17, Parliament passed a bill on steps to be taken after approval of the state budget. The bill focuses on supporting economic growth, decreasing costs for banking services and loans,strengthening the banking system, researching the feasibility of foreign banks entering the domestic market, and improving legal regulations. The topic of allowing foreign banks to operate in the country has been the subject of much debate and speculation. Many economists and politicians have been wary of allowing foreign banks to operate in Mongolia, with many stating the potential risk to the interests of domestic banks and consumers. Many proponents of the approved bill have stated that the presence of foreign banks could drive down interest rates, as many economists have noted that interest rates in Mongolia are too high. Also included in the bill are articles about developing financing for housing projects and implementing the government's mortgage loan program in a way that is sustainable for the economy. These two tasks were delegated to Cabinet, Mongol Bank, and the Financial Regulatory Commission. ^ 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.
 
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