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
  25-29.4.16, No. 620  
    Archiv / Archives
Table of contents



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Foreign Policy

China passes law giving police sweeping powers over foreign NGOs (SCMP)
The mainland on Thursday passed a controversial law governing foreign non-governmental organisations that grants police huge powers to regulate the groups. Officials say the Law on Domestic Activities of Overseas Nongovernmental Organisations will “facilitate” their activities. The law, which will come into effect on January 1, 2017, stipulates that all foreign NGOs must register with and obtain approval from the police rather than with the Ministry of Civil Affairs like their domestic counterparts. Foreign NGOs with temporary projects are to seek approval and register with police as well. Nearly 10,000 foreign NGOs are present on the mainland, authorities say. The law lists fields in which foreign NGOs will be allowed to work, including economics, education, science and technology, culture, health, sports, environmental protection, disaster and poverty relief, and “other areas”. The Ministry of Public Security will draft a catalogue defining the areas foreign NGOs will be allowed to work in and how to register temporary projects. Hao Yunhong, director of the Ministry of Public Security's Foreign NGO Management Office, said many fields would be included in the catalogue and that the ministry held an “open, tolerant, active and supporting attitude” towards foreign NGOs. “But for those supporting or orchestrating illegal activities in China, we would certainly deal with them in accordance to the law,” Hao said. Guo Linmao, an official with the National People's Congress Standing Committee's Legal Affairs Commission, said the law was an affirmation of foreign NGOs' contribution to China. Yet it also bore in mind the “small number” that conducted “illegal and criminal” activities, and empowered police to deal with them. He said the law granted police the powers because they were already handling foreigners' activities and immigration. Foreign governments and NGOs have criticised the law as limiting the NGOs' operations. “Despite a number of improvements, the law does not dispel our concern that it could make cooperation with German partners more difficult in the future,” said the German ambassador to China, Michael Clauss. “The law continues to focus strongly on security and contains numerous approval and documentation requirements, as well as other norms restricting activities. “For this reason, Germany would have welcomed... another opportunity for consultations.” Lu Jun, founder of Yirenping, which campaigns on health and employment, said the law would “damage the course of charity and public interest in China severely”. Human Rights Watch said the law was developed during a period of growing government hostility towards civil society, and feared it would limit local groups' access to foreign funding and work with foreign organisations. “Civil society groups have been one of the only human rights success stories in China in recent years, and their survival is crucial for the country's future,” Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch said. “So long as repressive restrictions are imposed on some parts of civil society in China, all organisations remain at risk.” ^ top ^

China vows open doors for foreign human rights NGOs (Global Times)
China has promised to keep the doors open to human rights NGOs as the country's top legislature passed its very first law to manage the activities of overseas NGOs. The legislation, coupled with the upcoming enactment of China's first-ever Charity Law, will limit foreign NGOs' influence in certain domestic areas while providing space for domestic NGOs to adapt and survive, analysts said. China welcomes overseas human rights NGOs, Guo Linmao, a legislative official from the National People's Congress (NPC), told a press conference on Thursday, adding that the country will provide favorable conditions and protect their legal rights but will punish any illegal acts according to the law. "As long as overseas NGOs abide by China's laws, they can carry out activities without worry," Guo said, in an effort to dispel concerns from foreign organizations. Although the newly passed law, compared with its second draft, excludes NGOs such as hospitals, schools, research institutes and academic institutions in natural science and engineering from the management scope of police, it will still be applicable to institutions in the social sciences. "In general, China encourages the development of domestic NGOs and the exchanges between them and their foreign counterparts [through such laws], while it wishes to handle some organizations and activities in a more careful manner," He Lijun, a New York-based professor on public administration at Pace University, told the Global Times on Thursday. She also noted that international cooperation is necessary for China's domestic NGOs to grow in a globalized context. The law is expected to come into effect on January 1, 2017. Over 7,000 overseas NGOs mainly in sectors such as environmental protection, science and technology, education and culture have brought useful expertise and funding to the country, said Fu Ying, spokesperson for this year's NPC annual session. Xu Xianming, deputy head of the NPC Law Committee, was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency as saying on Monday that foundations and social service organizations operated by overseas NGOs, which have already registered with the civil affairs department, will be able to continue operating. The Ministry of Public Security and provincial police departments will be responsible for the registration and regulation of overseas NGOs, as stipulated in the previous draft of the legislation. If overseas NGOs plan to operate in China, they shall either directly register with the police or find a Chinese partner to set up cooperation programs that shall be filed with the police, Xinhua reported. Choosing the police instead of civil affairs departments - which manage domestic NGOs to oversee foreign NGOs - shows that China is still conservative about overseas NGOs, even as the country is becoming increasingly open, He Yong, a representative from the Beijing Office of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told the Global Times previously. Chinese authorities are aware and concerned that overseas NGOs can be used by foreign states to promote their objectives and values, or achieve other political agendas. Guo said Thursday that giving the enforcement power to police would help provide more services for overseas NGOs, as the police are also responsible for entry and exit administration as well as managing foreigners' activities in China. In response to the restriction that overseas NGOs are not allowed to raise funds in the Chinese mainland, Guo said that overseas NGOs do not qualify because their representative offices in China are not considered legal entities. China's National People's Congress passed the Charity Law in March to regulate the activities of NGOs, including "banning charity groups and individuals without qualifications from raising money publicly." Despite some of its more controversial articles, analysts said the new Charity Law actually allows for greater accountability for domestic NGO activities. "The Charity Law has expanded the room for various social organizations to develop as it to some extent reduced their barriers to raise funds," He Lijun said. At least China has recognized the variety and significance of NGOs and has gradually pushed forward their development through legislative efforts, she noted. ^ top ^

China, Russia increase joint drills as they deepen defence ties to contain US, their mutual foe (SCMP)
China and Russia will increase military exercises to strengthen security and defence cooperation amid growing tensions in the ­disputed South China Sea. Russian Defence Minister ­Sergey Shoigu unveiled the plan at a meeting with his visiting ­Chinese counterpart Chang ­Wanquan on Wednesday, Tass news agency reported. “We highly appreciate a high level of Russian-Chinese contact both at the state and defence levels,” Shoigu said. “This year we are going to hold more exercises and events than in past years.” Speaking on the sidelines of an international security conference in Moscow, Shoigu said the two nations would conduct both ground and naval exercises. “Certainly, the aim is to strengthen mutually beneficial relations of partnership,” he said. China was willing to deepen defence and security ties with Russia and to maintain “communication and coordination over regional and international hot-button issues”, including anti-terrorism, Xinhua quoted Chang as saying. Both countries “faced a more complicated situation in the sphere of international security”, which required them “to pull together and join efforts”, he said. Shoigu was cited by Xinhua as saying the deepening comprehensive strategic partnership between Beijing and Moscow would help “safeguard peace and stability of the Eurasian region and the world”. Disputes in South China Sea must be resolved between nations involved, not outsiders, says Xi Jinping( The remarks come as Beijing steps up efforts to lobby support ahead of a key international court ruling on the South China Sea disputes, which is widely expected to go against China. Last week, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov that both nations should join hands to oppose “internationalising” the disputes, referring to the ruling from the Permanent Court of ­Arbitration in The Hague due in late May or early June. China and Russia have intensified military exercises over the past year, including several naval exercises conducted last year. China will host the Joint Sea-2016 naval drill later this year. The strengthened defence ties between the two nations, mainly through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation platform, are widely believed to be aimed at countering the United States' growing military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Professor He Qisong, of the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said deep mistrust remained between Beijing and Moscow because of their conflicting interests. The so-called trust and cooperation between the two powers was largely aimed at Washington, he said. Analysts noted that just a day before meeting Chang, Shoigu also pledged to expand military ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Four Asean nations have rival claims to territory in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, in a speech at the Moscow security conference, Chang highlighted the importance of deepening international cooperation in the global fight against terrorism, which posed daunting challenges to China, Xinhua reported. “To fight against terrorism, a comprehensive approach should be taken through political, diplomatic, economic and cultural means in order to eliminate the root of terror,” he said. Chang also lashed out at double standards and ideological bias in the global anti-terror efforts – an apparent reference to Beijing's displeasure with the US-led coalition that has refused to back its crackdown on Uygur militants or Islamic State-linked fighters in Xinjiang. Chang hailed China's “One Belt, One Road” initiative – an economic strategy aimed at advancing the country's diplomatic and security interests – as an effective way to promote peace and stability throughout the region. ^ top ^

China intensifies lobbying of other nations ahead of South China Sea court ruling (SCMP)
China is intensifying its global diplomatic campaign to win ­support ahead of an imminent international court ruling over the South China Sea disputes. The development came yesterday as ­Beijing vowed greater cooperation and to proceed with multinational military exercises with Southeast Asian nations, but also called on countries to back its stance on the territorial disputes – putting many in a dilemma as they have to side with either China or the United States. President Xi Jinping told a group of foreign ministers from Asia and the Middle East that the disputes should be resolved through negotiations between the countries involved. “We insist we should peacefully resolve the disputes through friendly consultations and negotiations with other parties directly involved,” Xi said. Beijing also said it had reached a consensus with Belarus and ­Pakistan – which are not claimant states – that said they respected China's stance on the issue, after separate meetings yesterday with the two nations' foreign ministers on the sidelines of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia. The State Oceanic Administration said Beijing was working on a five-year cooperation plan in the disputed waters between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Xinhua reported. The defence ministry said China would send missile ­destroyer Lanzhou and special forces for a maritime security and anti-terror exercise next month with the bloc in waters between Singapore and Brunei. Beijing is also keen to ­approach nations in Europe and Africa to consolidate its diplomatic base ahead of the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, in a case launched by the Philippines. China says the court has no jurisdiction in the matter. Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also lay claim to the waters in the South China Sea. Beijing says it has agreed with Cambodia, Laos and Brunei that the disputes would not affect Sino-Asean ties. But Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said his country had reached no new agreement with China over the dispute, the Phnom Penh Post reported. Mainland media reported that more than 10 nations were on China's side, and that a statement issued by China, Russia and India said the dispute should be resolved through negotiation. But the diplomatic move has sparked concern over whether Beijing is taking the dispute to the international stage – in contrast to its stance that the matter is a bilateral issue – and may backfire. “Countries in the region want to be able to cooperate with China and have good relations with Beijing; they don't want to face coercion or intimidation on matters of security or economic policy. Claimants would much prefer a peaceful resolution of disputes,” Paul Haenle, director of the ­Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre, said. But Zhu Feng, executive director of Nanjing University's China Centre for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea, said Beijing had “no choice” as the US was also doing the same, referring to an earlier statement made by G7 foreign ministers that expressed opposition to “provocative unilateral actions” in disputed waters. Manoranjan Mohanty, former chairman of the Institute of Chinese Studies in Delhi, said nations were feeling the pressure from both China and the US. The US was also pressuring Asean members over the disputes. ^ top ^

Beijing sees US moves as 'provocations' (China Daily)
Beijing views Washington's "freedom of navigation" operations as both political and military provocations, and it will continue to monitor air and sea activity closely and take any necessary measures, Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Wu Qian told a regular news briefing on Thursday. Wu made the remarks in response to media reports that the United States was planning to carry out a third "freedom of navigation" operation to challenge China's territorial claims in the South China Sea. "We think the US's so-called freedom of navigation operations pose political and military provocations against China, which could easily lead to mishaps in the sea and air, and are extremely dangerous," Wu said. "Freedom of navigation" has become an excuse for the US to meddle in South China Sea disputes, Wu said, adding that free navigation of the South China Sea has never been a problem. The US operations are promoting militarization and endangering stability, he said. Asked about calls by some US senators for stepped-up naval activities in the South China Sea, Wu said: "No matter how frequently US ships come to the South China Sea, that will not change the fact that the islands and adjacent islands are China's inherent territory. It will not stop the pace of China's growth and development. And even more, it will not shake the will of the People's Liberation Army to resolutely safeguard the sovereignty and security of China." On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that even public opinion in the US sees Washington as deliberately enlarging the so-called China threat in the South China Sea. For example, Hua said, The National Interest, a US international affairs magazine, questioned Washington's assertion that China's claims over the South China Sea are affecting international trade in the region, and it asserted that China's activities in the South China Sea have not damaged US national security. Jia Duqiang, a Southeast Asian studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said "freedom of navigation" operations are aimed at provoking China, which serves Washington's "pivot to Asia" strategy. Escalating tensions in the South China Sea are something that Washington wants, Jia said, because by stirring up trouble between China and some ASEAN countries, these countries will depend on the US for security, which facilitates implementation of the US strategy. ^ top ^

Xi addresses CICA foreign ministers' meeting (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed the opening ceremony of the fifth foreign ministers' meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Beijing on Thursday. Xi's speech covered the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and the South China Sea. On the nuclear issue, Xi reiterated China's full adherence to the UN Security Council resolution, and its commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, securing peace and stability on the peninsula and resolving issues through dialogue and negotiation. He urged all the parties involved to exercise restraint, avoid provocation, and pull the nuclear issue back to a track of dialogue and negotiations at an early date. The president said China is always committed to peace and stability in the South China Sea. While China will firmly safeguard its sovereignty, rights and interests, it is willing to peacefully solve the disputes through friendly consultation and dialogue with the countries directly involved, he said. China will work with Southeast Asian nations to make the South China Sea a region of peace, friendship and cooperation, according to Xi. He also touched on a number of other international conflicts and points of crises, calling for more international support for Afghanistan's reconstruction. He said China will play a constructive role in the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan. China supports an "Afghan-led, Afghan-owned" inclusive political reconciliation process, hopes the country can realize peace, stability and development at an early date, and is ready to provide assistance, according to the president. He said China stands for and will continue to help promote a peaceful settlement of the Syrian issue and the Palestine-Israel issue through political negotiation. China has played a constructive role in the signing of a comprehensive agreement on the Iran nuclear issue and will continue to press ahead the implementation by joint efforts with all sides, Xi added. He reaffirmed China's adherence to a peaceful foreign policy, vowing "China will unswervingly take a peaceful path of development, maintain an international order with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter at the core, promote a new-type international relationship featuring cooperation and reciprocity, and be committed to building a common destiny for mankind." The CICA was established in 1992 as a forum for dialogue and consultation on security issues in Asia. It has 26 member countries and 12 countries and international organizations as observers. ^ top ^

'We have the power over China', says Trump in presidential-style address accusing Beijing of 'economic assault' against US (SCMP)
Republican presidential front-runner vowed on Wednesday to use the economic might of the United States to push China to do more on reining in North Korea and accused Beijing of an economic assault against Americans by spying and stealing secrets from the US government and its companies. He laid the blame for China's attitude on US President Barack Obama's administration and his likely rival in presidential elections in November, Hillary Clinton, who used to be the Secretary of State under Obama, calling their policies a “complete disaster.” “We have the leverage, we have the power over China – economic power and people don't understand it,” Trump said in a speech on foreign policy before conservative security experts in Washington. “Our president has allowed China to continue its economic assault on American jobs and wealth, refusing to enforce trade deals and apply leverage on China necessary to rein in North Korea,” the real-estate magnate said, adding Pyongyang has been increasing its aggression under Obama's watch. “He has allowed China to steal government secrets with cyber-attacks and engage in industrial espionage against the United States and its companies.” Relations between the two major powers have see-sawed through the years. Beijing and Washington provided the biggest impetus for reaching a climate deal that was signed by 175 states at the United Nations in New York to rein in climate change and global warming. But the two have also been at odds in the South China Sea where the United States is challenging claims by China over nearly the entire area. Trump said a major part of the fragile and at time fractious relations the US has with China is due to the fact that Beijing shows no respect for the United States. “China respects strength and by letting them take advantage of us economically which they are doing like never before, we have lost all their respect,” the billionaire said in remarks read from a teleprompter. “A strong and smart America is an America that will find a better friend in China. “ The perceived weakness of the US is one reason for issues like the South China Sea. “Look at what China is doing in the South China Sea. They're not supposed to be doing it,” he said. China is locked in a dispute with countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines, a US ally, over parts of the potentially oil-rich region and a major trade route for Asia-Pacific trade. Trump spoke the day after he swept to victory in five US Northeastern states that moved him closer to capturing the Republican Party presidential nomination for the November 8 election. Trump, who was also critical of policies of the last Republican US president, George W. Bush, said he would use America's strength sparingly. He said he would build up the US military to keep pace with Chinese and Russian military programmes but would use American armed forces only when absolutely necessary. “I will not hesitate to deploy military force when there is no alternative. But if America fights, it must fight to win. I will never send our finest into battle unless necessary - and will only do so if we have a plan for victory,” Trump said. He was stern in charging that American allies have benefited from a US defence umbrella but have not paid their fair share. “The countries we defend must pay for the cost of this defense. If not, the US must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves. We have no choice,” Trump said. Trump is a reality TV star who has never held elected office and has built support from his image as an outsider to the Washington political establishment, making him wildly popular in Republican party primaries being held to choose its candidate for president. ^ top ^

The Hague's South China Sea ruling 'likely to cast shadow' over Sino-US dialogue (SCMP)
An upcoming Sino-US dialogue on security and economic affairs will likely be overshadowed by an imminent international ruling on territorial claims in the South China Sea, mainland analysts say. US Secretary of State John ­Kerry, Treasury chief Jack Lew and other top officials will meet State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Vice-Premier Wang Yang in Beijing in June for the US-China Strategic and Economic ­Dialogue (SED), where bilateral, regional and global issues of ­economic and strategic interest will be discussed. But mainland analysts say the talks are likely to be eclipsed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague's ruling of a dispute between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea. The Philippines, which launched the legal action, wants the court to ­declare that China's claims must comply with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The ruling, to come next month or in June, is expected to go against China. Beijing says the court does not have jurisdiction and the dispute should be settled bilaterally. The talks in Beijing would have “great significance” at a time when the South China Sea was featuring prominently in Sino-US ties, said Jia Qingguo, associate dean at Peking University's School of International Studies. His view was shared by Shi Yinhong, director of Renmin University's Centre for American Studies. Shi expected both sides to restate their positions on the regional dispute but not reach any consensus. “The ruling, if announced by that time, is likely to intensify the confrontation [between the two states]”, he said. The US-China Bilateral Investment Treaty is also likely to be high on the agenda. With US President Barack Obama nearing the end of his term, little immediate progress was expected, Shi said. The dialogue would continue to be a platform for the two powers to manage their differences, both analysts said. “But we should lower our expectations because there is a big question about whether Obama will be able to implement any of the agreements,” Jia said. Zhao Kejin, deputy director of Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, said North Korea and the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact would also be discussed. “Even though it would be the Obama administration's last SED, we should not underestimate it. Obama will be keen to [achieve] some milestone results... Whether there will be concrete results depends on... both sides.” The US State Department also said Kerry would join Vice-Premier Liu Yandong (劉延東) for the 7th US-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange. ^ top ^

China, Turkey pledge to strengthen anti-terrorism cooperation (Xinhua)
China and Turkey on Wednesday pledged to strengthen anti-terrorism cooperation, such as fighting the terrorist group the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The pledge came during a meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, who is in Beijing for a foreign ministers' meeting on Asian security. "Anti-terrorism and security cooperation are important components of China-Turkey political trust. Both sides should work closely to combat terrorist organizations including the ETIM, oppose extremism and address illegal immigration," Wang told Cavusoglu. Cavusoglu said Turkey treats China's security concerns as its own and will take all necessary measures to enhance bilateral cooperation in this regard, echoing Wang's remarks about combating illegal immigration and the ETIM. Turkey will continue to attach importance to China's security concerns and will never allow anybody in Turkey to engage in activities that threaten China's security, Cavusoglu said. Cavusoglu came to attend the fifth foreign ministers' meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), on Wednesday and Thursday. As China and Turkey are founding members of the CICA, China is willing to work with Turkey to implement the consensus reached during the fourth CICA summit in Shanghai in 2014, enhance trust among Asian countries, and adhere to resolving problems through dialogue and consultation, Wang said. "China will work with Turkey in the direction of establishing a security structure that is accepted by all sides and represent the trend for regional development," Wang said. Cavusoglu said Turkey will cooperate with China to promote security in Asia. CICA was established in 1992 as a forum for dialogue and consultation on security issues in Asia. It has 26 member countries, including China, India, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, and Thailand. It also includes other countries and international organizations as observers. ^ top ^

South China Sea tensions to dominate Sino-Asean talks in Singapore (SCMP)
Rising tensions in the South China Sea look set to dominate a high-level annual diplomatic event between China and Southeast Asian countries, which opens in Singapore on Wednesday, mainland analysts say. Just weeks before an international court ruling on territorial disputes over the sea, senior diplomats from China and 10 nations from the Association of Southeast Asian nations (Asean) are expected to engage in “heated discussions” during the two-day Sino-Asean talks. This year's event – marking the 25th anniversary of the start of the Sino-Asean dialogue – will be jointly chaired by China's Deputy Foreign Minister, Liu Zhenmin, and the Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, Chee Wee Kiong. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday that apart from making preparations for a Sino-Asean summit in September, the consultation was also aimed at implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed between Asean and China in 2002. Four Asean members – the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei – have rival claims to parts of the sea with China. The Philippines has taken a case against China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The court's ruling, due in late May or early June, is expected to go against China. Beijing has intensified its efforts to seek allies to contest the ruling and claimed over the past week that Brunei, Cambodia and Laos had backed its stance on the dispute. However, Beijing's move has been criticised by several Asean diplomats, who accused China of meddling in Asean's internal affairs and trying to divide the grouping, according to Singapore's The Straits Times. Wang Hanling, an expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the allegations as well as the arbitration case were biased against China. “China has been targeted by the US-led concerted efforts surrounding the South China Sea disputes and Beijing has every reason to fight back,” he said. He said three Asean nations' endorsement of China's stance in the maritime dispute was of “extraordinary significance” ahead of the ruling. Pang Zhongying, of Renmin University of China, also said Beijing's moves laid bare the fact that there were disagreements among Asean nations on the dispute. But he voiced concerns over the escalating war of words over the dispute, saying it could further strain the Sino-Asean ties. ^ top ^

China dismisses Pentagon report on freedom of navigation (Global Times)
China on Tuesday urged the United States to show respect for other countries' sovereignty and security. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying made the statement at a regular press briefing when asked to comment on an annual freedom of navigation report released by the US Department of Defense (DoD) on April 25. According to the DoD Freedom of Navigation Report for the Fiscal Year 2015, the US military conducted "freedom of navigation" operations against 13 countries and regions last year, including China, India and Indonesia. The DoD said on its website that these operations aimed to preserve the rights, freedoms, and lawful use of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law. US freedom of navigation operations last year challenged China's claims of jurisdiction over airspace above the Exclusive Economic Zone(EEZ) and restrictions on foreign aircraft flying through an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, according to the report. "We have taken note of the US report," said Hua, adding that the aim of the DoD freedom of navigation program was, in essence, to advance the US unilateral proposition by force and coercion, by brandishing its naval and air power. In 1979, the United States established the Freedom of Navigation program before the signing of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), said Hua, adding that its aim was to safeguard the US military's maximum freedom and maneuverability to enter the oceans of the world and challenge the new maritime order as a non-signatory of the 1982 UNCLOS. Hua said these moves by the United States are an attempt to dominate maritime order and reflect its logic of hegemony and exceptionalism in its treatment of international law, which it uses when convenient and abandons on unfavorable conditions. She called on the United States to do more that is truly conducive to safeguarding global maritime order as well as regional peace and stability. Media reports said six US Air Force planes performed a flight mission in "international airspace" in the vicinity of Huangyan Island in the South China Sea on April 19. China's Ministry of National Defense on Monday said in a statement that the United States is pushing militarization of the South China Sea in the name of freedom of navigation and overflight. China is concerned about and opposed to actions that threaten the sovereignty and security of countries around the South China Sea and undermine regional peace and stability, according to the statement. ^ top ^

Three Asean nations agree row will not hurt ties: Beijing (SCMP)
China has agreed with Brunei, Cambodia and Laos that the South China Sea territorial dispute should not affect relations between Beijing's and Asean, China's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday. Four members of the 10-member Asean – the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei – have rival claims to parts of the South China Sea with China, which says virtually the entire sea belongs to it. China is the biggest trade partner of many Asean ­nations. Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke to reporters in the Laotian capital, Vientiane, on Saturday and was quoted by his ministry as saying China had reached “an important consensus” with Brunei, Cambodia and Laos. The South China Sea problem was not a China-Asean dispute and it “should not affect China-Asean relations”, the ministry said in a statement, referring to their agreement. China's maritime claims are the regional bloc's most contentious issue, as its members struggle to balance mutual support with their growing economic relations with Beijing. The grouping said in February that land reclamation and escalating activity had increased tension and could undermine peace, security and stability in the region. A military source and mainland maritime experts said China would start land reclamation at the Scarborough Shoal later this year. Zhang Jie, a Southeast Asian affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China was facing mounting pressure to solicit diplomatic support ahead of a ruling on territorial disputes at the UN arbitration court. “With Europe and the G7 taking the side of the US, it is crucial to China how Asean takes the arbitration,” she said. “China could claim victory if Asean did not mention China by name, or did it in an inexplicit way in expressing its stance on the issue.” Laos, which chairs the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this year, held influence in setting the agenda, and Beijing would draw support of other member nations, such as Thailand, Zhang added. The ruling could come next month or in June. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

China introduces poverty delisting policy, stressing transparency (Global Times)
China on Thursday introduced a policy to gradually take people, villages and counties off the country's poverty list, part of the country's efforts to eradicate the entrenched poverty. The process will be strict and transparent and must win the recognition of the people, according to a document jointly published by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council. At the end of 2014, China had 70 million people in the countryside living below the nation's poverty line of 2,300 yuan (about 354 U.S. dollars) in annual income. China aims to eliminate poverty by 2020 when its 13th Five-Year Plan is completed. According to the document, the poverty delisting process should reflect the real situation: Those that are above the standard of "stable" should be delisted while newly-added poor people and those that slip back in poverty should be included so they gain access to poverty relief programs. Poverty delisting should be open and with complete and trackable paper work, ready for third party assessment and supervision. The State Council and local governments will carry out regular and random inspections, and should any significant errors arise they will be held responsible, the document read. ^ top ^

Migrant population growth rate slows (China Daily)
China's migrant workforce reached 277.5 million in 2015, an annual rise of 1.3 percent, but the year-on-year growth rate has been decreasing since 2011, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. A report released by the bureau on Thursday said the growth rate dropped 0.6 percent in 2015, and the percentage of workers younger than 40 years dropped 1.3 percent to 55.2 percent. The average age is 38.6, about four months older than in 2014. The report defines "migrant worker" as a person whose household registration is in a rural area but who doesn't work in the agriculture industry, and those who work outside their hometown for more than six months annually. The slower growth of the migrant-worker population might be a result of the slower growth of income. According to the report, the average monthly salary reached 3,072 yuan ($472), while the annual growth rate dropped 2.6 points to 7.6 percent. In the manufacturing sector, the growth rate dropped to 6.7 percent; the rate in the construction industry dropped to 4.4 percent. In addition, 36.2 percent of migrant workers signed contracts with their employers last year, down from 38 percent in 2014, although the rate of signing short-term contracts-contracts for less than a year-grew by 0.3 percentage points. One percent of migrant workers have unpaid wages owed them, 0.2 percent higher than last year. Unpaid migrant workers, on average had 9,788 yuan in wage arrears in 2015, with year-on-year growth of 2.9 percent. Unlike State-owned corporations, small-scale construction companies usually don't sign contracts with workers, so the risk of wage arrears is greater, said Cui Hao, deputy director of the Overseas Engineering Company of China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group Co. "We have also noticed there are fewer young workers. Most of our workers are between 40 and 50 years old," he said. "It seems that the younger generation is less willing to do heavy physical labor, even though income in the construction industry is higher." Wang Jiahui, a 40-year-old carpenter from Jiangxi province, said the contract he signed contains little about welfare, but lots of restrictions. "I have friends who didn't get paid. They either left with empty hands or took out a lawsuit. But suing employers is a very difficult road," said Wang, adding that he has been working in Guangdong since 1997. "I hope my 15-year-old son can get a good education. I don't want my only son to become a migrant worker." ^ top ^

Xi urges intensified efforts to advance rural reform (Xinhua)
President Xi Jinping has called for more to be done to advance rural reform to ensure that measures result in a solid agricultural sector and improve the well-being of farmers. Xi made the remarks when he presided over a symposium on rural reform in a village in Fengyang County in east China's Anhui Province. Addressing the symposium with local officials on Monday in Xiaogang Village, often referred to as the birthplace of China's rural reform, Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said that work related to agriculture, rural areas, and farmers is the CPC's top priority. In 1978, some farmers in Xiaogang secretly signed an agreement to divide their People's Commune farmland into family plots -- an ingenious idea, albeit illegal at that time. Each plot was to be worked by a family. Their crops were then divided between the government, the collective and the families themselves. This process resulted in bumper grain production and the initiative was soon rolled out across the country, creating a system that combined unified and decentralized management. Xi called the system "an important corner stone" for the CPC's rural policy. There have been great changes in the countryside since the fledgling days of reform and opening up in China. Farmers now have brighter prospects thanks to socialism with Chinese characteristics, Xi said. Xi underscored the important role that agriculture, farmers and the countryside play -- as they are integral to the country's modernization and to the goal of building a moderately prosperous society. The core of deepening rural reform is upholding and improving the basic rural operation system, sticking to collective ownership of rural land, adhering to the fundamental status of household management in agriculture, and insisting on keeping land-contracted relationship stable, said Xi. He called for more pilot programs that explore contracted rural land-use rights, noting that the separation of contract rights and operation rights had been a milestone in rural reform. The key to the program is to respect the wishes of farmers, protect their rights and interests, and ensure grain production, Xi said. Xi explained that developing modern agriculture, increasing farmers' income and building a new socialist countryside are the three major tasks in rural development. More should be done to improve the modern agricultural industrial system, along with the production and management systems, Xi added. He urged CPC officials at all levels to help farmers find ways to solve their problems and increase their income while maintaining rural stability. Farmers are scattered across China's vast countryside and conditions vary from place to place, Xi said. To improve farmers' livelihoods, education, health care, elderly care and housing should all improve, the president said. ^ top ^

Communist Youth League faces reform (Global Times)
China is pressing for reforms to the Communist Youth League (CYL), a powerful organization in charge of ideological cultivation of the country's youth, as pressure mounts on it to be clean, transparent and closely follow the Party's leadership. "The Central Committee of the Communist Youth League has been working on a detailed plan for the organization's reform, which is expected to be released shortly," an official surnamed Zheng from the Central Committee of the CYL told the Global Times on Wednesday. The remark comes two days after the Communist Party of China's (CPC) top anti-graft body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, released the results of an inspection of the CYL, which pointed to the discovery of a number of offenses, ranging from embezzlement to people using their position to seek favors. The CYL provides one of the main paths to political power in China. The organization has groomed some of the country's top officials, including former president Hu Jintao and current Premier Li Keqiang. Recently the CYL has come under fire after receiving criticism for being too elitist and inefficient. "Such problems have cast a shadow on relations between the Party and the people. Some CYL organizations have lost their function as a bridge linking the Party and the public," Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Committee, told the Global Times, adding the reform is timely and necessary. Other analysts, such as Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the anti-corruption research center at Peking University, said the CYL reform could herald other reforms in Party organizations. The CYL has over 88.2 million members and more than 3.87 million grass-roots organizations in China as of 2014. Members are recruited from the age of 14 and can stay until they are 28. Traditionally, being a CYL member could lead to membership of the CPC. The public has in recent years questioned the CYL's role and its transparency. In 2015, real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang became embroiled in an online spat with the CYL's Central Committee. […] Analysts said the reform may focus on democratizing the organization and securing the country's political security through ideological education, as the CYL is considered a pool for future Party officials. "The democratization of the CYL will be a highlight of the reform, which will encourage more youths with no official administrative rank to enter the leadership of the organization," Su said, adding that former CYL officials serving key positions all have administrative ranks as civil servants. "Without stressing the importance of the CYL, youth ideology in China may be affected by other foreign organizations. The reform is necessary to reinforce ideological education among China's youths," Zhuang added. "The reform will not expand the scale of the organization, but instead reduce the number of CYL institutions and staff in order to strengthen its role as a link between the people and the Party, as well as a pool for future Party officials," Zhuang noted. During a conference on improving mass organizations in July 2015, President Xi Jinping said the work of mass organizations is an important component of the CPC's work, and called for the establishment of more powerful organizations, the Xinhua News Agency reported. "The reform will face many challenges and for sure cause some twinges for the organization, as many officials' interests will shrink, and the repositioning of redundant personnel is inevitable. They should change their concepts and approve the reform," Zhuang said. ^ top ^

Xi stresses science and technology (China Daily)
For the second time in a week, President Xi Jinping has emphasized the important role of science and technology in powering China's development. Speaking at a symposium on internet and cyberspace security on April 19 in Beijing, he called for China to make a breakthrough in next-generation internet technologies. On Tuesday, at one of the events highlighted most by Chinese media during his field-study tour of Anhui province, Xi visited the University of Science and Technology of China, in Hefei, the provincial capital. He visited the province from Sunday to Wednesday. At the university's Institute of Advanced Technology, Xi was shown achievements in areas ranging from artificial intelligence to public security, and from drones to alternative energy. He visited the control center of the 2,000-kilometer Beijing-Shanghai quantum communication main network, due to become fully operational in the second half of this year, and the university's Laboratory of Physic Science for Advanced Medical Application. Talking to faculty members, researchers and students, Xi praised the university's recent progress in innovation and new technologies. He urged his audience to show a greater "sense of mission" by educating more people and making greater achievements in the new frontiers of science and technology. An economy of China's size would be unsustainable if it relied entirely on imports for its new science and technologies, Xi said. Zhang Xiaojun, vice-president of Anhui Huami Information Technology, which has investment from Chinese mobile phone producer Xiaomi, was one of the high-tech company leaders who met with the president. He said he thinks Xi's comments will greatly encourage technology companies like his, and he is more confident in serving the Chinese economy with smart wearable gadgets. Yao Hongyu, CEO of Beijing-based cloud computing and big data company Yoyo Systems, said he thought the president was saying in Anhui that the next 10 years is the best time for China to build up its power in new technologies. He said the country's current scientific research capability still lags behind many developed nations, and most of the core components of China's industrial robots are imported. Yao added that it will be "a long and tough journey" for the country to improve its capability on core technologies. He said State-owned companies and government departments should buy domestic brands to support the development of China's science and technology, and the nation needs to develop core technology in fields such as cloud computing and big data. During his Anhui trip, Xi visited the village of Xiaogang, which was one of China's poorest four decades ago and took a lead in the country's economic reform and opening-up in the late 1970s. He also visited mountainous Jinzhai county, where many farmers are beginning to use solar power to change their lives under the government program to eliminate poverty. ^ top ^

Veteran Chinese human rights campaigner Harry Wu dies, aged 79 (SCMP)
Harry Wu, a long-time Chinese human rights campaigner, author and founder of the Laogai Research Foundation, has died. He was 79. Wu died on Tuesday morning while on vacation in Honduras, Laogai Human Rights Organisation administrator Ann Noonan said. The case of death was not immediately known and Wu's son Harrison and former wife China Lee were travelling to the Central American nation to bring home Wu's remains, Noonan said. “He was a real hero,” said Noonan. “Harry's work will continue. It will not stop.” Wu was born into a prosperous family in Shanghai that saw most of its property confiscated following the civil war victory of Mao Zedong's communists in 1949. He studied geology in university, but fell foul of the authorities for his criticism of the Soviet Union, China's then ally, and was sentenced in 1960 at the age 23 to China's prison camp system known as laogai, or “reform through labour”. Laogai was notorious for punishing intellectuals and political prisoners with long sentences and brutal conditions and were blamed by some for causing millions of deaths. According to his autobiography, Wu spent various terms in 12 different camps, experiencing harsh work regimens on farms, coal mines and work sites, along with beatings, torture and near starvation. Released in 1979 following Mao's death three years earlier, Wu moved to the United States in 1985, but returned frequently to China to conduct research on the labour camp system. Wu became a US citizen, but was arrested during a visit to China in 1995 and sentenced to 15 years on espionage charges. He was immediately deported to the US where he continued his work documenting Chinese human rights abuses and was a frequent speaker before Congress and at academic events. His Washington-based Laogai Research Foundation established the Laogai Museum in 2008 to “preserve the memory of the laogai's many victims and serve to educate the public about the atrocities committed by China's communist regime”, according to the foundation's website. China has since formally eliminated laogai along with a milder version known as laojiao, or “reform through education”, although penal labour remains a key feature of the Chinese prison system. ^ top ^

China pollution scandal: air, water in school near toxic site normal, say officials (SCMP)
The quality of air and water near a school hit by a pollution scandal in which nearly 500 pupils have fallen ill, is “normal”, Chinese authorities say – though environmentalists and parents remain sceptical. Air quality at six spots in Changzhou Foreign Language School in eastern Jiangsu province tested similar to two other spots in Changzhou, the local government said on Monday, quoting preliminary investigation results. The findings – from a task force of environmental, medical and health experts from both the local and central governments – also showed that the quality of drinking water and food were within national standards. Parents have complained that their teenage children have been falling ill since the school moved near a site where soil and groundwater had been contaminated by three chemical plants. A CCTV report last week said nearly 500 pupils had developed health problems, including abnormalities in their blood and thyroids, bronchitis, lymphoma and even leukaemia. Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said the quality of the environment might have tested normal for now because the possibly contaminated ground had been covered with clay after parents lodged complaints in January. “There is still a long-term risk because the pollutants may be released in future … Also the current test results cannot reflect the pollution level before [the scandal was revealed],” Ma said. “The toxins will... stay in the soil for a very long time and will pose great harm to the community if they are not completely cleared out.” Ma said the government should tighten its regulations on factory emissions and enact a soil pollution law. A mother whose son was still going to school said she, too, was sceptical about the findings. “[The toxins] are only being covered for now. It's a temporary measure.” The Changzhou government said thyroid nodules had been diagnosed in 247 pupils and superficial lymphadenopathy – a disease affecting the lymph nodes – in another 35. But the mother said the number of pupils affected was much higher. The preliminary investigation also showed that the pollutants left by the chemical plants had not been cleared out from the soil before the school went ahead with its construction. ^ top ^

Explosion in childhood obesity in China 'worst ever', expert says of new study findings (SCMP)
Thirty years ago, for every 100 children and adolescents you came across in China, you'd be hard pressed to find even one who was obese. That situation has drastically changed: in 2014, about one in six boys and one in 11 girls were obese, a new study shows. Researchers say China is paying the price of adopting a Western lifestyle and the findings are a wake-up call for Chinese policymakers to take steps to stem the trend. The 29-year study, published on April 26 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, involved nearly 28,000 rural students from Shandong province. “This is extremely worrying,” says Professor Joep Perk, cardiovascular prevention spokesman for the European Society of Cardiology. “It is the worst explosion of childhood and adolescent obesity that I have ever seen. The study is large and well run, and cannot be ignored. China is set for an escalation of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and the popularity of the Western lifestyle will cost lives.” Dr Zhang Yingxiu, leader of the investigation team at the Shandong Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Shandong University Institute of Preventive Medicine in Jinan, Shandong, says: “China is a large agricultural country and our findings have huge implications for the entire nation. The rises in overweight and obesity coincide with increasing incomes in rural households and we expect this trend to continue in the coming decades in Shandong province and other regions of China.” Data for the study was obtained from six national surveys of schoolchildren carried out by the Department of Education in Shandong between 1985 and 2014. A total of 27,840 rural students aged seven to 18 years had their height and weight measured. Obesity epidemic costs world as much as wars and terrorism, report says Body mass index (BMI) was calculated by taking weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in metres (kg/m²). Overweight and obesity were defined using cut-off points recommended by the Working Group on Obesity in China, the International Obesity Task Force and the World Health Organisation. The prevalence of overweight and obesity in boys increased from 0.74 per cent and 0.03 per cent in 1985 to 16.4 per cent and 17.2 per cent in 2014, and in girls increased from 1.5 per cent and 0.12 per cent in 1985 to 13.9 per cent and 9.1 per cent in 2014, respectively. Rising childhood obesity is not unique to China. In the United States, a new study published online in the journal Obesity shows that overweight and obesity among children aged two to 19 has been continually increasing since 1999, reaching 33.4 per cent in 2014. In particular, the prevalence of severe obesity – correlated to an adult body mass index of 35 or higher – has seen the sharpest increase. In Hong Kong, the rate of overweight and obesity among school children is lower, according to statistics from the Centre for Health Protection. Among primary school students, the combined rate of overweight and obesity rose from 16.1 per cent in 1995/96 to 22.2 per cent in 2008/09 and fell to 20 per cent in 2013/14. For secondary school students, the corresponding rate increased from 13.2 per cent in 1996/97 to 19.5 per cent in 2013/14. China's enormous population and diverse regions compound the situation. “Rural areas of China have been largely ignored in strategies to reduce childhood obesity,” says Zhang. “This is a wake-up call for policymakers that rural China should not be neglected in obesity interventions. We need to educate children on healthy eating and physical activity, and monitor their weight to check if these efforts are making a difference.” The authors speculate that boys are fatter than girls because they are given preferential treatment. The Chinese 2005 National Youth Risk Behaviour Surveillance reported that 4.3 per cent of boys and 2.7 per cent of girls frequently had soft drinks, while 12.7 per cent of boys and 4.3 per cent of girls spent more than two hours per day playing computer games. […] The prevalence of overweight and obesity is rising faster in children (seven to 12 years) than adolescents (13 to 18 years), which the authors say could be because teenagers are more concerned about their appearance. “Adolescents generally pay more attention to their body shape and do more exercise than children,” says Zhang. Rapid social and economic change in the past 30 years in China have been accompanied by nutritional changes, Zhang says. “In China today, people eat more and are less physically active than they were in the past. The traditional Chinese diet has shifted towards one that is high in fat and calories and low in fibre.” Perk says: “This calls for a catastrophe committee in China to stop the alarming rise in childhood and adolescent obesity. They need to return to their former nutritional habits instead of eating junk food. Parents must take some responsibility and point their children in the direction of healthier choices.” ^ top ^

Illegal trade in donated blood on rise in China amid shortage of supplies from donors, says report (SCMP)
The illegal trade in human blood has re-emerged in China two decades after a crackdown in the wake of an HIV contamination scandal, according to a television station report. The business is prospering because while more people can afford surgery in hospitals, there is a nationwide shortage of blood from donors, the report said. Levels of blood donation on the mainland are lower than recommended by the World Health Organisation. It says at least 1 per cent to 3 per cent of the population should donate blood to ensure adequate clinical supplies. Experts said a “blood crisis” had hit 50 out of 70 major cities on the mainland since February, Shandong Satellite Television reported. Eighty per cent of operations had to be postponed in some hospitals due to the lack of donor blood, it said. Blood dealers could easily be found at government-run donor centres and they paid high rates to secure supplies, the report said. Some dealers earned more than 1 million yuan (HK$1.2 million) a year, it said. The commercial sale of blood is banned on the mainland and people convicted can face up to five years in jail. Mainland regulations stipulate that patients who undergo surgery have to buy blood from hospitals. If the blood type they need is out of stock, they have to find family members or friends to donate. The television report said many patients from small towns who visited big city hospitals to get better care did not have friends or relatives who could give blood. Blood dealers recruit donors through the internet and compete with each other to supply the patients at hospitals, the report said. Wang Hongjie, deputy director of the Beijing Red Cross Blood Centre, told China Newsweek magazine that reserves at his organisation were lowest in the weeks before and after the Lunar New Year festival as college students and migrant workers – the biggest donors – returned to their home towns. “At an extremely poor time, the aggregated blood stock in Beijing can support all hospitals across the city for only three days,” he said. One source of comfort is that hygiene standards surrounding donated blood have much improved since the 1990s when huge numbers of people on the mainland were infected with HIV after receiving contaminated supplies from infected donors. Blood is now donated at official centres. Previously, sellers would draw supplies themselves, often in unhygienic conditions and with few checks on donors' medical ­history. In many cases disposable syringes were used repeatedly, massively increasing the risk of infection by viruses such as HIV. ^ top ^

China bans vaccine sales by drug wholesalers as it moves to restore confidence after scandal (SCMP)
China has banned drug wholesalers from selling vaccines, state media said on Monday, after a scandal in which about 570 million yuan (HK$680 million) worth of illegal vaccines were suspected of being sold in dozens of provinces. The rules raise fines for improper handling of vaccines, and prescribe the sacking of government officials guilty of violations, Xinhua said. China is pushing ambitious health-care reforms to improve its home-made medicines, but the vaccine scandal underscores the challenge facing the world's second-biggest drug market in regulating its fragmented supply chain. The new rules, signed by Premier Li Keqiang and adopted on Saturday, toughen the requirements for the distribution of non-compulsory vaccines. According to the new rules, B-class (non-compulsory) vaccines will be distributed in the same way as A-class ones, which are covered by the national compulsory immunisation programme. They now require county health officials to get the vaccines directly from manufacturers before sending them to hospitals, instead of going through wholesalers. Hospitals, clinics and government health authorities must also keep better records of purchases and inventories, with regular monitoring of vaccine temperatures, records of which hospitals must request upon receiving the vaccines. Enterprises and user agencies must also record their circulation and use, so that all vaccines can be tracked across their life cycle. The government planned to set up an electronic vaccine-tracking system, Xinhua reported, but gave no details. Chinese authorities punished 357 officials in the aftermath of the vaccine scandal, which involved millions of illegal trades of vaccines that were improperly stored through a black-market drugs ring. The scandal ignited public anger, and the health authorities have since trying to restore public confidence in vaccines. They have urged people to continue to have their children vaccinated. Immunisation was still the safest, most economic and effective way of preventing, controlling and eradicating communicable diseases, said National Health and Family Planning Commission spokesman Mao Qunan. “The national immunisation programme has been very successful in controlling preventable diseases,” Mao said. ^ top ^

Draft animal protection law worries activists (Global Times)
China is considering changes to its wildlife protection law to remove some captive-bred endangered animals from the country's protection list, a disturbing change that animal rights activists say could lead to extinction of certain species in the country. According to the latest revised draft presented to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) for a second reading on Monday, some animal populations, bred under controlled conditions through mature techniques, could be removed from the protection list and be regulated differently from wild populations, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Different regulations for animal populations bred in captivity and those in the wild are consistent with internationally accepted practices, said a report on the revisions, citing suggestions solicited on the first version of the revised draft. The new draft added carrying out captive breeding programs of those removed from the protection list requires obtaining permits from the authorities, and the sale and utilization of such animals requires special tags issued from the authorities to ensure traceability, Xinhua reported. "It is a worrying sign … Pandas can also be successfully bred under mature techniques. Are we also allowed to remove them from the protection list and eat their meat?" said Zhang Xiaohai, executive secretary-general of Ta Foundation, a Chinese animal protection NGO. The NPC report raised the example of sika deer bred in controlled environments. Apart from sika deer, over 10,000 black bears and thousands of tigers are also held in captivity in China. While bile is extracted from living, caged bears for medical use blatantly, underground markets also exist for tiger meat and tiger bones, said Sun Quanhui, a senior science adviser at World Animal Protection, an international non-profit animal welfare organization. In an article published on China Environment News, Chang Jiwen, a researcher of the Development Research Center of the State Council, proposed making exceptions for species on the appendixes of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), including tigers and bears. He also suggested a ban on captive breeding of CITES species for medical use when supplement medicines are available, along with another ban on animal abuse. In 2003, China started allowing captive breeding of 54 species which there are "mature" breeding technologies, but many of them are foreign species, indicating less impact on native species, Sun told the Global Times. "The industrialization of captive breeding of wildlife animals will give a spur to the market demands, which will lead to poaching." "Many people in China still believe that wildlife preservation can be done through captive breeding. They fail to realize that many different kinds of captive wildlife species are unable to survive in the wild. This means captive breeding is of little help in preventing these species from becoming extinct," Sun said. The revised draft also includes new clauses proscribing production of and business operation on food made from wildlife on China's special State protection list. It also bans eating illegally-purchased wildlife from the protected list, China News Service (CNS) reported. Under China's Criminal Law, those who purchase wildlife products with the knowledge of their endangerment for food or other illegal purposes can be sentenced to more than 10 years in jail under "especially serious circumstances." The draft has in fact left an open door for "legal purchase" which in some way shows that the authorities are more encouraging than discouraging on the utilization of wildlife animal resources, Zhang said, expressing hope for a less discouraging tone in the third reading before the revised draft is passed. "Apart from animal welfare, which is often sacrificed during captive breeding, germplasms (living genetic resources) are often needed from the wild to maintain genetic diversity for captive-bred populations," Sun noted. ^ top ^

Be on guard for foreign religious infiltrators, Chinese president warns (SCMP)
China must guard against religious extremism and foreign infiltration through religion, President Xi Jinping told a high-level meeting on religious affairs on the weekend. Xi also said the internet was a key propaganda front to promote the Communist Party's stand on religion. “We must resolutely resist overseas infiltration through religious means and guard against ideological infringement by extremists,” Xinhua on Saturday quoted Xi as saying. He urged officials to fully implement policies on religious freedom, stressing that religious groups must abide by the party's leadership. Religious groups should “merge religious doctrines with Chinese culture, abide by Chinese laws and regulations, and devote themselves to China's reform and opening-up drive and socialist modernisation to contribute to the realisation of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation,” he was quoted as saying. The remarks come amid criticism that authorities have tightened the rein on religious groups in recent years. In Zhejiang province, local governments have removed more than 1,200 crosses from churches and other buildings in recent years, citing regulations on illegal structures. The campaign ignited angry protests from Christians, especially in Wenzhou, a city with a big Christian community. Zhang Kai, a Christian lawyer who defended the churches, was detained for seven months and paraded on state television on charges of “endangering state security” and “assembling a crowd to disrupt social stability”. Zhang also “admitted” to collaborating with “foreign forces”, but many international human rights watchdogs claimed it was a forced confession. China has stepped up its guard against foreign infiltration across society, clamping down on foreign non-governmental organisations and arresting scores of foreign NGO workers. It also marked National Security Education Day this year with a comic-book-style poster warning young women government workers about dating handsome foreigners, who could turn out to have secret agendas. ^ top ^

Top legislature reviews environmental report (Xinhua)
A report on China's environmental protection record in 2015 was tabled to the top legislature for review on Monday, the first review under the new Environmental Protection Law. At its bi-monthly session from Monday through Thursday, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) began to deliberate a State Council report detailing the environmental situation and status of last year's environmental protection goals. The new Environmental Protection Law, which took effect in early 2015, stipulates that governments at the county level and above should report annually to the people's congress at the same level or its standing committee on the environmental situation and progress of environmental protection goals. The review will help strengthen the top legislature's supervision, ensure the implementation of the new law and set an example for local legislatures to conduct similar reviews. According to the report, the country's environment improved in 2015, but issues such as heavy pollution, ecosystem damage and high environmental risks must still be addressed. Of 338 cities at the prefecture level and above, a total of 73, or 21.6 percent, met national clear air standards, the report said, adding days with good air quality accounted for 76.7 percent of the year and those with heavy pollution made up 3.2 percent. The annual average PM2.5 and PM10 densities in those cities were 42.9 percent and 24.3 percent higher than the national limits, respectively. Meanwhile, ozone pollution has become increasingly prominent, the report noted. It also highlighted serious water pollution in the Haihe, Huaihe, Liaohe and Yellow rivers, and soil contamination in the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and the old industrial base in the country's northeast. China beat its annual target to cut the emissions of principal pollutants in 2015, and met the obligatory environmental targets set for 2011-2015 as scheduled, the report said. Last year, China's emissions of chemical oxygen demand, sulfur dioxide, ammonia nitrogen and oxynitride dropped by 3.1 percent, 5.8 percent, 3.6 percent, and 10.9 percent respectively from the previous year, and by 12.9 percent, 18 percent, 13 percent and 18.6 percent from 2010. The forest coverage rate increased from 20.36 percent in 2010 to 21.66 percent in 2015, with the forest stock volume reaching 15.1 billion cubic meters, according to the report. The report attributed the progress to strengthened legislative work, strict law enforcement and supervision, greater efforts to reduce air, water and soil pollution, industrial restructuring and increased spending. For instance, central government spending on energy conservation and environmental protection rose 13.9 percent year on year to 278.2 billion yuan (42.7 billion U.S. dollars) in 2015, the report showed. This year, China will step up efforts to raise the percentage of good air quality days to 77 percent in cities at the prefecture level and above, contain water pollution and reduce the emissions of air pollutants, the report said. ^ top ^



Real estate tycoon forms 'club' to eliminate rivals: reports (Global Times)
Zhang Yue, former head of the Hebei Provincial Political and Legal Affairs Commission and a member of the province's Party committee, is being probed for corruption, the authorities announced on April 16. Chinese media followed with reports revealing the details of Zhang's connections with controversial businessman Guo Wengui and a disgraced vice minister of State security, describing how they formed a powerful network to demolish political and business competitors. Guo Wengui, boss of real estate company Beijing Zenith Holdings that owns the landmark Pangu Plaza near the Olympic Green in northern Beijing, reportedly created a "Pangu Club" that gathered together senior government officials and rich businessmen. With the help of these powerful friends, Guo got rid of his political and business rivals on his way to the top. But since then, many of Guo's friends have been jailed or put under investigation. Zhang Yue, former head of the Hebei Provincial Political and Legal Affairs Commission and a member of the province's Party committee, is the latest to fall. The Communist Party of China's (CPC) Central Commission of Disciplinary Inspection announced on its website on April 16 that Zhang is being investigated for "seriously violating disciplinary rules." On Sunday, the authorities said the Party has decided to remove Zhang from his CPC posts. Media reports said Zhang's downfall is linked to his part in jailing Guo's rival Qu Long, former head of Beijing Zhongyin Investment. Qu, a former business partner of Guo, broke with Guo over business disputes and tried to report Guo for the illegal practice of "seizing State assets." After Zhang intervened, Qu was jailed on charges of "misappropriation," China Business News quoted multiple sources as saying. In 2013 a Hebei court sentenced Qu to 15 years behind bars. Stocks that Qu owned in two companies in Beijing and Tianjin, and four properties worth more than 11.64 million yuan ($1.79 million), were transferred to Guo's firm. Sources also told the media that Zhang helped Guo in handling other business disputes. On March 31, 2011, Qu was arrested on charges of "illegally possessing firearms," and detained in the police bureau of Chengde, Hebei. Reports said Zhang and Ma Jian, former vice minister of State security, who was also part of Guo's "club," led a dozen people to ambush Qu's car, smashing the car's windows before arresting him. The next day, Guo finished the paperwork to become the major shareholder of China Minzu Securities, previously a State-owned company. A January 2015 official statement said Ma was under investigation for alleged "serious violation of discipline and laws." According to materials acquired by China Business News, in March 2011 when Guo was about to acquire China Minzu Securities, Qu submitted whistle-blowing reports to Party disciplinary authorities accusing Guo of seizing State assets. Guo allegedly told Qu that his days were numbered. Soon after, Qu was arrested. Sources told China Business News that Qu's charges were later changed to misappropriation. Zhang, as head of Hebei's political and legal affairs commission that supervises the province's legal work, interfered in Qu's case, calling it a major case concerning the Ministry of State Security. Zhang called officials at the Chengde Intermediate People's Court during the second hearing, demanding they ensure that Qu receive the "highest punishment." The court ruled that Qu had misappropriated 855 million yuan and sentenced him to 15 years in jail. According to media reports, including an April 22 Beijing News report, Zhang was quickly promoted up the ranks of Beijing's public security bureau, thanks to his wife's connections with China's former security chief Zhou Yongkang. […] Media reports said Zhang was arrogant and had a bad temper, regularly shouting abuse at colleagues during his work. Because of his political power, he was locally known as the "King of Hebei." However, in front of real estate tycoon Guo, Zhang was like a follower, a source close to Zhang and Guo told the China Business News. Once when Li You, former CEO of Beijing-based IT giant Founder Group, was visiting Guo at his office. Guo told Li that "If I ask Zhang Yue to come in two hours, he dares not be late." Indeed, just two hours later Zhang arrived at Guo's office, having rushed to Beijing from Hebei, according to the source. After introducing Li to the Hebei political and legal affairs chief, Guo told Zhang to sit at a chair near the door instead of an empty sofa set aside for guests, the source said. Li later turned against Guo after a business dispute. In January 2015, Li and several other Founder executives were taken away "to assist the authorities in an investigation," according to a report by Caijing magazine. Guo also reportedly brought down Liu Zhihua, a former vice mayor of Beijing, through a sex video he secretly recorded, and won the right to purchase the land on which Pangu Plaza is built. Guo fled overseas before Zhang was put under investigation, and is still at large, reports said. ^ top ^



Shanghai hits real estate brokers with month-long mortgage ban (SCMP)
Shanghai has told commercial banks to cut mortgage ties with six big real estate brokers for a month as it tries to pour administrative cold water on the red-hot ­property market. But observers said the move was unlikely to stop price rises given land shortages appeared to be pushing up the market. The city government said on Saturday that the local banking regulator had slapped a ­one-month ban on six property brokers applying for mortgages on behalf of their clients. The brokers are Lianjia, Pacific Rehouse, 5i5j, Jiaxin Real Estate, Hanyu Property and Renfeng Real Estate. The statement said the brokers illegally secured bank funds, misusing them for mortgage down payments. Homebuyers are supposed to provide down payments, which cannot be in the form of loans. The ban was aimed at “regulating mortgage businesses, warding off credit risks and maintaining healthy, stable development of the local property market”, the statement said. It comes a month after the municipality rolled out a fresh round of measures to rein in home prices, which have risen by at least half in the past 10 months. In that round, Shanghai increased down payments, raised the threshold for home purchases by non-residents and tightened oversight on financing through the shadow banking system. The brokers committed wrongdoings before the new policies were announced in late March, the statement said. Shanghai resident Feng Tao said the ban could affect his plans to buy a new flat. “It's a clear message from the city government that homebuyers should at least temporarily hold off on home purchases,” Feng said. “The administrative measures could help drag down prices in the coming few months.” In Shanghai, homebuyers usually enlist brokers to help apply for mortgages and the six punished brokers account for the bulk of these transactions. The city government requires homebuyers and sellers to go through brokers to ensure the transactions are legal. Without proper paperwork from the ­brokers, changes in ownership cannot be registered with the municipal authorities. The one-month ban will force buyers and sellers to sign new agreements with other brokers to complete sales in the period. The measures are designed to curb demand from buyers but ­industry insiders said housing supply needed to be expanded. “It's advisable to increase land supply for construction of residential property to solve the ­problem,” said Ouyang Jie, a vice-president at property developer ­Future Holdings. “Otherwise, Shanghai's property prices will regain upward ­momentum in the second half of this year.” ^ top ^



China Living Buddha database nearly complete (Global Times)
China is nearing the completion of the construction of a Living Buddha database with biographies of over 1,300 Living Buddhas residing in the country, which analysts said could strike a blow to the Dalai Lama. The online registration system contains the profiles of 1,311 individuals recognized as reincarnated Buddhas to help the public differentiate between real religious figures and fraudulent ones, the Buddhist Association of China (BAC) said Thursday. The BAC first published details on 870 Living Buddhas in January. The organization said that there will not be major changes to the database's inquiry system in the near future, noting that their only responsibility is to update information on the reincarnation and Parinirvana of the Living Buddhas. The online system gives detailed information on Living Buddhas, including their photos, legal names and the number of Living Buddha certificates they have received. Daily views of the system since its launch in January have reached a peak of 98,000, according to the BAC. "The system will strike a heavy blow to the Dalai Lama, as he has been utilizing his religious status to ratify Living Buddhas at will - which is against religious tradition - in an attempt to control Tibetan monasteries and divide the country," Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference's Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee, previously told the Global Times. Reincarnation of Living Buddhas is a unique inheritance system in Tibetan Buddhism that originated in the 13th century. The BAC began issuing certificates to Living Buddhas in 2010. Some people have been found to be using the guise of Living Buddhas to swindle followers out of money. The Living Buddhas included in the database are scattered throughout provinces and autonomous regions in China's north, northwest and southwest, with many concentrated in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, the BAC said. ^ top ^

Tibet's economy now among the fastest growing in China: legislator (Global Times)
Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region has maintained double-digit economic growth annually for the past 23 years, becoming one of the country's fastest growing areas, said Tibetan legislator Qizhala on Monday. "Tibet's gross domestic product has grown from 130 million yuan ($19.98 million) in 1951 to 102 billion yuan in 2015," said Qizhala, deputy to the National People's Congress and secretary of the Communist Party of China Lhasa Municipal Committee. He made the remarks during Mexico City conference "Tibet Today" organized by the Department of Economics of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The conference is part of a series of activities for the visiting delegation of China's Tibetan legislators, headed by Qizhala, held to enhance mutual understanding between China and Mexico. Qizhala added that "after many years of efforts, Tibet is currently seeing unprecedented development." Stressing that Tibet has always been part of China, and that the autonomous region is currently a picture of economic growth, harmony and happiness, Qizhala said Tibetans are working alongside the rest of the Chinese people to guarantee that the country will meet the objective of becoming a moderately prosperous society by 2020, as part of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2015-20). Also, Tibet's rich biodiversity in its 47 natural reserves has helped boost its tourism sector, with more multinational hotel chains moving in. Qizhala also said numbers of Tibetan antelopes are up from 70,000 in 1995 to over 200,000 today, and the number of black-necked cranes went from 3,000 to 7,000 in the same period. ^ top ^



Stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, Beijing warns European Union (SCMP)
Beijing “strongly opposes” the European Union making irresponsible accusations about Hong Kong affairs and warned foreign governments not to interfere in the city's affairs. Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, made the remarks at a press conference on Tuesday, a day after the European Union released a highly critical annual report on Hong Kong. “We call on the European Union to stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs,” she said. A spokesman for the commissioner's office of the Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong emphasised that the “one country, two systems” formula had been effectively implemented and Hong Kong residents' rights and freedom fully protected since the handover. The Hong Kong government also warned foreign governments not to interfere in the city's affairs, saying “one country, two systems” had worked smoothly since 1997. The EU report described the case of the five booksellers who went missing late last year and later surfaced on the mainland as “the most serious challenge” to the governing principle since the city's return to Chinese sovereignty and warned it could undermine Hong Kong's standing as an international business centre. The EU urged Beijing to restore the trust placed by the city's residents and the international community in the “one country, two systems” policy following the case of the missing booksellers. The report also called on Beijing and the Hong Kong government to resume the political reform process, which was shelved last year after the government failed to secure enough support in the Legislative Council. Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said it was natural for the EU to make stern remarks on the booksellers as two of them held EU citizenship. Wong Kwok-kin, a lawmaker from the Beijing-friendly Federation of Trade Unions, said he believed that the EU's stance was related to US President Barack Obama's recent tour of Europe. “The United States wants to pull the EU together to find fault with China,” he said. Political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said the incident would not have a significant impact on the relationship between the EU and China. The five associates of Causeway Bay Books, which sold publications critical of the Chinese Communist Party, disappeared one after another starting in October last year. The EU report said that one of the two holding EU citizenship – Lee Po, who vanished after he was seen at a warehouse in Chai Wan on December 30 – seemed to “have been abducted”. After he surfaced later on the mainland, Lee was handed to Hong Kong authorities at the Lok Ma Chau border crossing last month. But Lee, a British citizen, stuck to his story that he had voluntarily gone to the mainland to assist in an investigation involving a colleague, Gui Minhai, who also disappeared and later reappeared on the mainland. ^ top ^

EU issues scathing annual report attacking Beijing on Hong Kong missing booksellers case and stalling of electoral reform (SCMP)
In a highly critical annual report on Hong Kong released on Monday, the European Union urged Beijing to restore the trust placed by the city's residents and the international community in the “one country, two systems” policy following the case of the missing booksellers. The EU called on Beijing and the Hong Kong government to resume the political reform process that was shelved after the government could not secure enough support for it in the Legislative Council. The report also highlighted Hong Kong's difficulties in recruiting judges and the low fees paid to lawyers in legal aid cases, saying they should be addressed to ensure that the judiciary continued to function effectively. The EU described the case of the five booksellers who went missing late last year and later surfaced on the mainland as “the most serious challenge” to one country, two systems since the city's handover to China, and warned it could undermine Hong Kong's standing as an international business centre. The disappearance of the booksellers, two of whom hold EU citizenship, had called into question the functioning of the formula under which Beijing pledged a high degree of autonomy for the former British colony, the report read. “The case involves a serious violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms and raises grave concerns about the rule of law under the 'one country, two systems' principle and the mainland authorities' application of PRC laws to acts carried out by Hong Kong residents on Hong Kong soil.” The five associates of Causeway Bay Books, which sold publications critical of the Chinese Communist Party, went missing one after another starting in October last year. The EU report said one of them, Lee Po, who was last seen at a warehouse in Chai Wan on December 30, seemed to “have been abducted”. “The case has potentially lasting implications for Hong Kong's rule of law,” the report said. After he surfaced later on the mainland, Lee was handed over to Hong Kong authorities at the Lok Ma Chau border crossing last month. But Lee, a British citizen, stuck to his story that he had voluntarily gone to the mainland to assist in an investigation involving his colleague, Gui Minhai, who also disappeared and later appeared on the mainland. Lee and two of the other booksellers, Cheung Chi-ping and Lui Por, who also returned to Hong Kong, asked the local authorities to cancel their missing-person cases and refused any further assistance. Yesterday was the second time the EU has expressed concern about the bookseller controversy. In a statement issued on January 7, the EU urged mainland, Hong Kong and Thailand authorities to investigate and clarify the disappearance of the booksellers. On the city's electoral reform, the EU encouraged the Hong Kong and central governments to resume the process and reach an agreement on an election system that is democratic, fair, open and transparent. “Universal suffrage would give the government greater public support and legitimacy for reaching Hong Kong's economic objectives and tackling social challenges, such as the socio-economic and generational divides in Hong Kong society,” the report said. ^ top ^



'It's like a slap in the face': Taiwan's outgoing leader Ma Ying-jeou snubbed over Japan's seizure of fishing boat and crew (SCMP)
Taiwan's outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou has been snubbed over Japan's detention of a Taiwanese fishing boat and its captain. The incident comes just three weeks before Ma is slated to hand over the reins of power to the leader of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, Tsai Ing-wen, on May 20. Analysts say the incident has deeply embarrassed Ma, who has been trumpeting the success of his East China Sea Peace Initiative, which he had proposed in 2012. Taiwan signed a fishery cooperation pact with Japan the following year. They said Ma also hoped to use the move as a resolution to ease growing tensions in the South China Sea, where a group of islets and atolls, are claimed in part or wholly by Taiwan, mainland China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. “The incident is like a slap on his face, dashing his hope of leaving behind a legacy of promoting peace and reconciliation in the waters surrounding Taiwan,” said Wang Kung-yi, a professor of international relations and strategic studies at Tamkang University in Taipei. The boat, Tung Sheng Chi No. 16, was operating 160 nautical miles in the disputed waters near the Okinotori atoll in the Pacific Ocean when it was seized by Japanese coastguards on Monday. Ten crew members, including the skipper, were detained. Later, Japan demanded that the skipper pay NT$1.7 million (HK$408,000) as a “security deposit” for the release of the boat and its crew. The family of the skipper agreed on Tuesday to pay what the Kuomintang described as a “ransom” and wired the money to Tokyo. The payment led to the release of the boat and its crew members. The incident sparked an angry response from Taiwan, whose foreign ministry on Wednesday called the action “highly unacceptable” and said the Taiwanese government would do its best to protect its fishermen. Calling the seizure a “pirate-like” action and the claim of NT$1.7 million for the release of the boat and its crew members a “ransom,” the KMT urged both the ruling and the opposition parties as well as president-elect Tsai Ing-wen to denounce Japan's action. On Wednesday, Ma held a security meeting to discuss about its impact and how to tackle the incident. Earlier, he held a meeting on Monday when the seizure came to light. At stake is the unilateral declaration of the 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone by Japan. “The size of the two reefs of the so-called Okinotori atoll is about the size of two table tennis tables. They cannot be considered an island and should never provide the basis for Japan to declare such a zone,” KMT said. In Beijing, An Fengshan, a spokesman of the Chinese State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Wednesday that the mainland authorities were deeply concerned about the case, as “it is the duty of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to protect the legal rights and benefits of fishermen from the two sides operating in [international] waters”. ^ top ^

Taiwan's President-elect Tsai Ing-wen says democracy will be at the heart of future strait ties (SCMP)
Taiwan's President-elect Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday that democracy would be at the heart of future relations with Beijing after they hit recent bumps over sensitive issues such as the forced deportation of Taiwanese suspects from Kenya to the mainland. Tsai, who will take office on May 20 as the island's first female president, repeated her vow to maintain the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait that separates the island from the mainland. “I have said several times in the past that the new government will do whatever we can to sustain the peace and stability of cross-strait ties and make them consistent and predictable,” Tsai said. “I'll abide by my promise,” she said while visiting the Mainland Affairs Council, where she served as minister for four years until 2004. However, Tsai also highlighted that there would be a policy change when her mainland-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) takes over as the government from the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT). “What will be different from the past eight years is that the promotion of cross-strait ties will have to be based on the principle of democracy and people's desires [irregardless of the position of any individual political party],” she said. “Only through this, can cross-strait ties be managed over a long period and the maintenance of the status quo be meaningful.” Before January's presidential vote, Tsai had accused the KMT government of handling relations with mainland China through an opaque process, not properly overseen by parliament. Taipei earlier this month criticised Beijing for being “rude and violent” over the deportation of 45 Taiwanese from Kenya to mainland China, where they face investigation for fraud. There was another bout of diplomatic sparring when Malaysia deported 20 Taiwanese fraud suspects to Taiwan, even though Beijing said their offences were committed on the mainland. Observers say Beijing is stepping up pressure on Tsai because it does not trust her party, which has historically been pro-independence. Taiwan and mainland China split in 1949 after a civil war. But Beijing still considers the island part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. Ties improved markedly after the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou came to power as president in 2008, pledging to strengthen trade and tourism links. He was re-elected in 2012. However, public sentiment in Taiwan has largely turned against the Beijing-friendly approach, with voters saying trade deals have been agreed in secret and not benefited ordinary citizens. ^ top ^

Beijing seen as ramping up pressure on Taiwan ahead of new leadership change (SCMP)
Beijing is stepping up pressure on Taiwan ahead of next month's presidential inauguration of Tsai Ing-wen in an attempt to force her to accept the “one-China” principle, analysts say. Several challenges to Taiwan's standing on the global stage have emerged in recent weeks. In March, the island saw former ally Gambia resume official ties with Beijing, and the name of its soccer team changed from “Chinese Taipei” to “China, Taipei” during the Asian qualifier for the 2018 World Cup. Earlier this month cross-strait ties were roiled when 45 Taiwanese were sent from Kenya to Beijing after being accused of participating in a phone fraud ring that reportedly targeted victims in mainland China. The move was met with protests by the island's government and residents, who felt Taiwan's dignity and sovereignty has been harmed. A similar case has arisen involving Malaysia, although the accused were sent to Taiwan, which is investigating the claims. Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said on April 10 that applications by mainland tourists for travel to the island had fallen by about 30 per cent year on year from April 1-7. Frustrated local travel agencies believe the sharp drop is a sign that mainland China is stopping its residents from visiting the island. On Tuesday, the island's foreign ministry lodged a protest with Beijing, the Belgian government and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a day after a Taiwanese delegation was asked to leave a conference in Belgium in a move attributed to mainland pressure. An embarrassed incoming health minister, Lin Tzou-yien, was supposed to attend this year's session of the World Health Assembly – the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation – due to be held in Geneva from May 23-28. His name was sent to the WHO Secretariat, following confirmation of his appointment as the health minister on April 7, and no invitation has been received, the ministry's international organisation department said. Tsai, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, takes office on May 20, becoming the island's first woman leader. Outgoing Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou of the mainland-friendly Kuomintang said the recent “snubs” were a source of concern for some. “Some people do have such an impression that the series of snubs were a form of pressure from China,” he said in a recent interview with Singapore's The Straits Time s. “Gambia and mainland China established ties in March this year. However, it was two years ago that Gambia broke off formal diplomatic ties with the Republic of China [Taiwan], so why now? Of course, that is why we are all concerned about this matter,” he said. With regard to the fewer tourists, Ma said that since he had been in office, the number of inbound visitors to Kaohsiung had increased by up to five times, so an overall drop-off would prompt concern among travel operators. Ma also said that, in connection with Taiwan's participation at the WHA, he understood that some other nations or groups had already received invitations to observe the event. […] Analysts said pressure from Beijing was tied to Tsai's reluctance to accept the [1992] consensus, although she had pledged to maintain the cross-strait status quo and pursue peaceful development of ties. “Obviously, the series of snubs is meant to put pressure on Tsai so that she will accept Beijing's 'one-China' core value and will not stray from this concept when delivering her inaugural speech,” said Wang Kung-yi, a professor at Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies in Taipei. Tsai, who defeated the KMT in January's poll to become the island's first woman president, will assume office on May 20. The consensus was reached in 1992 as a way for the two sides to temporarily shelve thorny political issues and accept a tacit understanding that there is only “one China” and each side can have its own interpretation of what that meant. Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said the mainland was unlikely to stop putting pressure on Tsai, saying the International Civil Aviation Organisation might follow the WHA's lead for the upcoming convention. The organisation is an agency of the United Nations, which sets out and plans the principles of international air navigation, including border-crossing procedures. Jin added that after May 20, Beijing could try to woo some of Taiwan's other official allies to gradually remove the island's international profile if Tsai continued to refuse to accept the “one-China” principle.  ^ top ^



Central bank expects to maintain a 'prudent' monetary policy (China Daily)
As Zhou Xiaochuan, People's Bank of China governor, spoke at the G20 gathering in Washington, he seemed more relieved than 50 days ago, when the last such gathering was held in Shanghai. Cascading fears about a hard economic landing for China had receded, replaced with improved growth momentum. Pressure on deflation and capital outflow had eased; commodity prices, which had plunged in the previous six months, staged a rebound. Zhou flagged these achievements at the meeting, especially the strong bounce in March. As a Xinhua report put it: "Positive signs are converging, boosting sentiment that the slowdown in the Chinese economy may be bottoming out." The governor reiterated that the central bank will maintain a "prudent" monetary policy, but be "flexible" and "appropriate" in its implementation. This is a nuanced shift from 50 days ago, when he pledged a "prudent" monetary policy with "a bias toward easing". That statement was widely reported and interpreted as the central bank's readiness to scale up liquidity injection if required. Actual credit growth in the first quarter dovetailed with what Zhou had implied. Quarterly new aggregate financing reached a new historical high of 6.59 trillion yuan ($1.01 trillion), 1.93 trillion yuan more than the same period last year. New loans extended by banks jumped to 4.61 trillion yuan, nearly 1 trillion yuan more than the same period last year. Bloomberg Intelligence Economics' China Monetary Conditions Index rose in March, hitting its highest level since September 2011, thanks to PBOC's strong pro-growth real interest rate stance, outstanding loans and real effective exchange rate. The upward track has lessened the need for further monetary easing, which is why Zhou didn't mention the "bias toward easing" this time, analysts said. In fact, the International Monetary Fund and several global banks have raised their outlook for China's GDP growth rate this year, after the first quarter. UBS and J.P. Morgan said they see no hope that the benchmark interest rate will be cut this year. While optimistic about China's short-term growth outlook, global banks see medium to long-term risk rising, as the first-quarter's rebound remained credit-fuelled. Nomura noticed that the incremental credit-output ratio -or how much new credit is needed to generate one unit of real GDP growth - jumped to a record-high of five in the first quarter because of the diminishing effect of credit. "The adoption of countercyclical macro policy is helpful to stabilize growth, but it comes at the cost of other policy objectives. In particular, the acceleration in credit growth in recent quarters suggested that the debt in the economy, especially corporate debt, will continue to move up," said Zhu Haibin, J.P. Morgan China chief economist. "This could lead to further deterioration of financial risks, especially without a credible resolution scheme, for example a bankruptcy scheme, to address the corporate debt problem." Even Zhou acknowledged there is a serious problem with China's debt, and has raised the issue several times in recent months. He warned corporate lending as a ratio to GDP had become too high and the country must develop more robust capital markets to mitigate that risk. China's corporate debt is the highest among major economies, amounting to 166.3 percent of GDP by the end of the third quarter, according to the Bank for International Settlement. However, Zhou noted that compared with countries without high saving rates, the ratio is not that high. China boasts the highest saving ratio at nearly 50 percent. ^ top ^

Rural wages to exceed 5,000 yuan this year (Global Times)
This year's annual average salary of rural residents in China is expected to exceed 5,000 yuan ($770), an increase of 10 percent compared with last year, according to the latest report. Released by the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Social Sciences Academic Press on Wednesday, the report said the income of rural residents has been increasing in recent years and the annual average net earnings in 2015 - which includes their salary and other sources of income - exceeded 10,000 yuan for the first time. It said this was due to the increase of wages and family business earnings. "Chinese rural residents have begun to rely more on their wages," said the report, adding that it is expected that their average salary will exceed 5,000 yuan in 2016. The report pointed out that the country's economic transition and the accompanying policy adjustments greatly influenced their income. The country still maintains a medium-to-high economic growth rate, which will have an impact on their wages, the report said, adding that some rural residents have given up their small-scale agriculture businesses due to the price fluctuations of some agricultural products and sought jobs in other industries, which have led to an increase in migrant workers. About 168 million rural folk were working outside their hometowns in 2015. ^ top ^

China grain surplus reaches record peak but official warns surpluses cannot be guaranteed (SCMP)
China's grain stocks are at an historic high, but one sixth of the overall total is stored in vulnerable makeshift warehouses – posing a major challenge for food safety, a government official says. Ren Zhengxiao, director of the State Administration of Grain, warned: “The safety risks for grain storage run high, and we will build new warehouses and renovate old ones to prevent the risks.” Ren also pledged to improve storage conditions at the warehouses. So far there had not been any large-scale cases of stored grain turning bad, but the administration would prevent any contaminated crops – those polluted with heavy metals or mouldy grains containing toxins – being stored or sold on the market to safeguard food safety, Ren said. He also noted that stale crops were not poisonous. China is attempting to reduce its reliance on grain imports while increasing domestic grain security under its new five-year plan. China is now the world's largest importer of soybeans with total imports hitting a record 84.5 million tonnes in 2015/16, an annual report by the US agricultural attache in Beijing said. Those imports are seen increasing to 89.2 million tonnes for 2016/17. Along with rapeseed oil and other edible oils, Chinese consumption is being “driven by increasing domestic demand for meats” among others as “advancements in concentrated livestock and aquatic farming are spurring demand and the need for imports,” the attache report explained. Ren said China faced a fine balance between grain supply and demand in the long term, due to rising consumption, a shrinking farm labour force and constraints placed on farmland and fresh water resources. Crops grown on a year-to-year basis are vulnerable to extremes in weather conditions. A few years ago, a poor wheat crop forced China to import about 8 million tonnes of wheat, as the country nearly matched top global importer Egypt, which usually imports about 10 million tonnes of wheat annually. China's wheat imports in 2016/17 are seen hitting 3.2 million tonnes, with production estimated at 130.5 million tonnes and consumption at 110.5 million tonnes, the grain annual report by the same attache in Beijing said. The government will have to contend with “mounting surpluses, pressure from cheaper imports and concerns about lagging productivity and environmental deterioration” in the country's farm sector, the attache report said. “The high grain stock is not stable or sustainable,” Ren said. “Once grain production falls and the economy picks up speed … stocks could fall sharply.” The large grain surplus was partly the result of falling domestic demand for food processing and also cheap imported grain entering the market. Chinese companies have also been aggressively seeking out deals to expand their agricultural technology expertise. State-owned ChemChina submitted a US$43.8 billion bid to take over Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta, the country's largest overseas acquisition, to secure in part cutting edge technology in genetically modified crops vital to boost productivity in Chinese farms. Ren said it was “unrealistic” to rely on imports to meet China's grain demand, as the mainland consumed about 450 million tonnes of rice, wheat and corn per year, while only about 300 million tonnes was available on the international market. Meanwhile, the grain administration was scrambling to reduce stockpiles to prepare for the coming purchase of summer grain that is expected to take place in less than a month, Ren said. The past year saw the 12th consecutive annual increase in grain output. However, senior officials have said the mainland still faced a “rigid and incremental demand” for grain in the mid- to long-term before the population reached its peak. The remarkable increase in demand for grain has came about because there are more mouths to feed and because of the nation's drive towards urbanisation. ^ top ^



China won't allow chaos or war on the Korean peninsula: Xi Jinping (SCMP)
China will not allow chaos and war to break out on the Korean peninsula, President Xi Jinping told a group of foreign ministers from Asia and the Middle East at a regional security summit in Beijing on Thursday. China would continue to pursue its programme to denuclearise North Korea through dialogue and consultation, and would not allow the Korean peninsula to fall into war or chaos, Xi said. “Once such a situation happens, it would not do anyone any good,” he warned in a speech at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA). North Korea's bid to develop a nuclear weapons capability – in defiance of United Nations' resolutions – has angered China amid growing tensions in the region. Xi said China has also “fully and completely” implemented UN sanctions against North Korea, which were imposed last month. He urged all sides to exercise restraint and return to the negotiating table. Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and followed that with tests of various missiles that could deliver such a potent weapon. The isolated state is expected to conduct another nuclear test before a rare congress of its ruling party, beginning on May 6, where young leader Kim Jong-un is likely to make a play for cementing his leadership. China is North Korea's sole major ally but strongly disapproves of its nuclear ambitions. Senior Chinese diplomats have repeatedly warned Pyongyang against its nuclear sabre-rattling. Nearly 30,000 US troops are based in South Korea, and the two Koreas are still technically at war after the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a treaty. An online commentary published in social media by People's Daily's overseas edition earlier this month criticised North Korea for failing to trust China and Russia to ensure its security and instead placing its faith in nuclear weapons. China and North Korea signed their Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance 55 years ago, under which Beijing pledged to assist Pyongyang in the event of an attack. Observers said the strained ties between the nations over North Korea's nuclear ambitions cast uncertainty over the treaty's future. CICA involves 26 members, including Russia and many countries from Central Asia and the Middle East. The United States and Japan are among the 12 observers. ^ top ^

First NK party congress in 36 years shows Kim has consolidated power (Global Times)
North Korea's ruling Workers' Party is set to hold a congress for the first time in 36 years, a sign that the young leader Kim Jong-un's grip on power has consolidated, analysts said. On Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying declined to directly answer questions on whether the Communist Party of China (CPC) was invited and whether Chinese leaders would attend it. "That is a major event in the political life of the Party and people of the North Korea," Hua said. "Compared with his father Kim Jong-il, who did not convene a congress of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) during his 17-year rule, Kim Jong-un is eager to establish the leadership system centered on himself," Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday. The WPK decided Tuesday to convene its seventh congress in Pyongyang on May 6, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Wednesday. It did not specify how long the congress would last. The report said delegates and observers to the upcoming congress were elected and nominated in previous WPK provincial conferences. Nearly 3,000 people are expected to attend the congress, the Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday. "Unlike his father Kim Jong-il who put the military first, Kim Jong-un intends to maintain social stability by promoting the building of the WPK," Cui Zhiying, director of the Korean Peninsula Research Center at Tongji University, told the Global Times. Kim Jong-un proposed the policy of simultaneously pursuing economic development and nuclear weapons in 2014, attaching more importance to economic progress. Kim probably would try to make some adjustments to its economic structure such as expanding economic development zones and establishing a taxation system, Lü said, noting that "the country's openness would be more or less increased." The congress' timing might be "a passive choice" of Pyongyang, Da Zhigang, director of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday. "Kim Jong-un needs to take the chance to enhance social unity and mobilize the people to get psychologically prepared for possible economic plight," Da said. In February, Pyongyang launched the "70-day Battle" campaign that ends on May 2, to encourage party members and laborers to work harder and show loyalty to the WPK and the country, Xinhua reported. Da warned that North Korea might have formulated a plan for a mid- to long-term fight against UN sanctions. The country's current external economic environment would also force Kim to deepen economic reforms, especially in fields vital to the country's economy and its people's livelihood, including the agriculture, power and steel industries, Da noted. Analysts said the North Korean foreign minister's previous proposal to halt nuclear tests if the US and South Korea stop their military exercises was only meant to win international sympathy ahead of its seventh congress. Rodong Sinmun, a newspaper affiliated with the WPK, said Wednesday in a commentary that if the US continues its "hostile policy" toward North Korea, the latter would be compelled to take the countermeasures for self-defense, KCNA reported. The words at least implied that under certain conditions, North Korea is open to abandoning its nuclear pursuits, Lü said, adding that "Pyongyang might tone down its stance on nuclear weapons in the upcoming congress." Pyongyang test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine off its east coast on Saturday, two days after Chinese and US diplomats reiterated their firm opposition to North Korea's "irresponsible and provocative" moves. Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests have in the past few years chilled relations between China and North Korea. All the analysts the Global Times had contacted declined to comment on China's attendance at the congress. In 1980, China sent a high-profile delegation led by Li Xiannian, then vice chairman of the CPC Central Committee, to the WPK's sixth congress, which included 177 delegates from 118 countries. During the meeting, Li extended brotherly congratulations for the congress' success and the 35th anniversary of the party on behalf of the CPC during an assembly to welcome the visiting Chinese delegate in Hamhung, Xinhua reported. Hamhung is among the eastern cities in North Korea used for missile tests since the UN adopted tougher sanctions in March. ^ top ^



Workshop begins on ensuring realization of Vienna Program of Action (SCMP)
This workshop on mainstreaming the 2014-2024 Vienna Program of Action commenced Wednesday at our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This action has been co-run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Think-Tank for Landlocked Developing Countries, and UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing Countries. It has brought together representative and officials from several Ministries, General Authority of Customs, Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Institute of National Development, Mongolian National University, and other institutions. Main objectives of the national workshop are to intensify a development of the Vienna Program of Action adopted in 2014 and to discuss issues of governmental works on realizing this program and of ensuring roles of state organs, NGOs, the private sector, scientific institutions and scholars in the program's implementation. To continue until April 28, the event will also run a number of sessions, panel sessions, with presentations by a number of speakers from our government and from selected UN and other international organizations. Interactive discussion and views exchange are also expected. ^ top ^

Nat'l ASEM Summit Council discusses results of ASEP9 (Montsame)
The 24th meeting of the National Council in charge of organization and management of the 11th ASEM Summit ran April 26, at which D.Gankhuyag, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, presented the gathered with the results of the Ninth Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting (ASEP9), ended on April 23. The meeting was partaken by more than 160 delegates from 32 parliaments of Asia and Europe, he noted. The Mongolian President, Speaker, Prime Minister and MPs held 41 bilateral meetings with the guests and touched upon over 300 issues of cooperation and ties, he said. After this and other related information, the National Council discussed what might be needed in organizing the Summit-related meetings in future, especially matters on protocol and security. The Council resolved to solemnly celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and approved a design of the logo, which will be carried by the flag cars. ^ top ^

Tourism industry in March (Montsame)
In the first quarter of this year, 1,033.4 thousand passengers (duplicated counting) entered borders of Mongolia, indicating an increase of 82.0 thousand or 8.6% against the previous year. 33.2% of the people entered into state borders passed through the Zamyn-Uud border checkpoint, 20.7%--through Altanbulag, 14.7%--through the “Buyant-Ukhaa” international airport, 6.8%--through Gashuunsukhait, 5.6%--through Shiveekhuren, and 19.0--through other border checkpoints. In the period, 63.6 thousand foreigners entered into Mongolian borders, declining by 7.4 thousand or 10.4% against the same period of previous year. 74.1% of them traveled here for up to 30 days, 2.7%--up to 90 days, 23.2%--for 90 days or more. Majority of foreign passengers (77.9%) went to Mongolia for tourism, which shows a decline of 7.9% against the previous year. 14.0 thousand or 22.1% of the foreigners were in Mongolia for employment, studying and permanent residence. In first three months of 2016, the number of tourists from North Korea increased by 64.4%, Vietnam--by 24.4%, New Zealand--by 23.3%, Canada--by 15.2%, India--by 11.3%, Japan--by 5.0%, USA--by 3.3%, the Philippines--by 3.1%, and Russia--by 2.4%, whereas the number of tourists from Italy declined by 26.1%, Hong Kong--by 26.0%, China--by 18.6% and Ukraine--by 15.1%, against the same period of the previous year. As dividing into continents, 67.2% of the foreigners passed the state borders were from East Asia and Pacific regions, 27.4%--from Europe, 4.0%--from America, and 1.4%--from Middle-East, South Asia and Africa. 47.0% of the foreigners passed the state borders in the quarter were people from China, 21.3%--from Russia, 9.2%--from South Korea, 3.8%--from Japan, 3.3%--from Kazakhstan, 3.0%--from USA, and 12.4%--from other countries. In the period, 454.4 thousand Mongolians (duplicated counting) visited abroad. 391.6 thousand or 86.2% of them travelled foreign countries for personal works. In addition, 387.4 thousand vehicles (duplicated counting) passed through state borders, increasing by 17.8 thousand or 4.8% against the previous year. 34.0% of them were trucks, 22.9%--freight trains, 40.9%--cars, and 2.2%--other transportation vehicles. 85.5% of the total vehicles passed through the Zamyn-Uud, Gashuunsukhait, Sukhbaatar, Altanbulag and Shiveekhuren border checkpoints. ^ top ^

Standing committee backs credit agreement with India (Montsame)
The parliamentary Standing committee on budget discussed Tuesday a matter on consulting a credit agreement to be established between the governments of Mongolia and India. A majority backed this credit agreement. As known, during his state visit to Mongolia May 16-17 of 2015, the Prime Minister of the Republic of India Narendra Modi expressed a readiness to grant Mongolia a loan of one billion US dollars, with aims to help promote our social-economic development and tackle challenges. Later, a working group was set up to offer India projects and programs that can receive money from this loan. In March of this year, our government discussed with India the credit terms and its procedure. By the agreement's general terms, the 20-year soft loan has an interest of 1.75% per year, the first five years the Mongolian side will not pay the loan's basic payment. The same day, the Standing committee carried out first discussions of draft amendments to the laws on VAT, on budget, customs tariff and tax. ^ top ^

Mongolian-Indian joint military exercises kick off (Montsame)
The eleventh Mongolia-India joint training exercises--the "Nomadic Elephant-2016" promoting military ties between the two countries--kicked off on Monday in Mongolia. The exercises, which will culminate on this May 8, aim to develop synergy and inter-operatability between the armies to battle in counter insurgency and counter terrorism environment under the UN mandate. A platoon of the Indian Army's Kumaon Regiment along with a team of two observers will be taking part in the event. The Mongolian Armed Forces will be represented by 60 personnel. The Indian contingent will share their practical experiences in counter insurgency and counter terrorism operations through a series of classroom lectures and outdoor demonstrations, including house clearing and room intervention techniques in hostage situation, also road opening, establishing mobile check posts, intelligence gathering, drills for countering Improvised Explosive Devices. The sides will share their techniques of unarmed combat, specialised rappelling and will participate in various sports events during the two weeks' exchange, reports ^ top ^

Cabinet meeting in brief (Montsame)
The cabinet meeting on April 25 backed the 2017 budget framework of the master budget of Mongolia and a bill on 2018-2019 budget, and then decided to submit them to parliament. - Obligations were given to M.Zorigt, the Minister of Road and Transportation; D.Zorigt, the Minister of Energy; Z.Bayanselenge, the Minister of Construction and Urban Development; and to E.Bat-Uul, the Mayor of Ulaanbaatar city, to implement a construction of the “Mongolian Naadam” national complex, in several phases and in accordance with a general plan. - The Minister of Finance B.Bolor was authorized to issue 50 thousand US dollars to donate them to Japan as a humanitarian aid. As known, Japan's Kumamoto and Oita Prefectures suffered huge damage of properties and a loss of people's lives due to devastating earthquakes. - The cabinet backed a concept of the law on import/export labor force and professionals. The Minister of Labor G.Bayarsaikhan and the Minster of Justice D.Dorligjav were told to approve the concept and to work out a draft law. ^ top ^

Bill to be submitted on exemption from customs tax and VAT (Montsame)
The cabinet meeting on April 25 backed in principle a draft law on exemption from customs tax and VAT. It will be submitted to parliament, reflecting proposals of Ministers. Mongolia imports some 2,000 units of public transportation vehicles a year. As estimated, 100-150 vehicles could be assembled in Mongolia, so the draft says about freeing the domestic companies, engaged in vehicles matters, from the above taxes. This would reduce money spent for productions by 15%, contributing thus to boosting of a competitiveness in the national market. As of today, this or that entity, which deals with a yearly production of 20 buses, pays 834 million Togrog for the customs tax and VAT. If the law comes into force, Mongolia will raise VAT of over 6 billion Togrog, improve related staffers, create some 220 jobs, introduce progressive techniques and technologies. ^ top ^

ADB border crossing loan to help boost PRC, Russian Federation Trade news from country offices (SCMP)
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) Monday reported that it has approved a $27 million loan to support more efficient and less costly trade flows across three major border crossing points in Mongolia, paving the way for increased trade with neighboring People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation. “International trade is essential for Mongolia's economy and much progress has been achieved to conclude free trade agreements with trading partners. However, market access alone is not a sufficient condition for harnessing trade for development,” said Cristina Lozano, an ADB Regional Cooperation Specialist. “This assistance will enable shorter processing time at border crossings points and will enhance efficiency and transparency of trade processes and procedures to facilitate cross-border trade.” The project will finance infrastructure and equipment at the border points of Altanbulag, Bichigt, and Zamiin-Uud, expanding handling capacity and allowing customs officials to work more efficiently. Assistance will also be given to upgrade the existing Customs Automated Information System, put in place with ADB assistance in 2010, and conduct preparatory work for the establishment of a single-window system for trade-related regulatory requirements. The project will also help reduce the cost and time of compliance with trade procedures, resulting in faster and greater trade volumes and increased competitiveness for Mongolian exports. The selected border crossings are situated along economic corridor routes being developed by country members of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program, including Mongolia. ADB supports CAREC's development of the corridors through a range of activities such as infrastructure investments and trade facilitation initiatives. The Altanbulag border crossing provides the key link for trade from Mongolia to the Russian Federation, while the road/rail corridor from Ulaanbaatar to Zamiin-Uud carries most of the goods traded with the PRC. Bichigt links Mongolia to the northeast of the PRC, and once planned road upgrades are completed, is expected to see a substantial rise in trade volume. The project will allow Mongolia to strengthen and modernize customs administration. ADB has been supporting regional customs reforms efforts through separate regional technical assistance projects by simultaneously promoting coordinated and compatible measures to reduce trade impediments. ^ top ^

Mongolia signs Paris Agreement (Montsame)
Mongolia has joined the Paris Agreement on climate change as signatory. Representing Mongolia, the Minister of Environment, Green Development and Tourism Mr N.Battsereg inked the document on this April 22 at the UN Headquarters, New York of USA. The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. An agreement on the language of the treaty was negotiated by representatives of 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on December 12 of 2015. It was signed this April 22 (Earth Day) by 175 UNFCCC members, 15 of which immediately ratified it. The 174 countries and the European Union that signed up to the Paris Climate Change Agreement in New York on April 22 have committed themselves to the decision that a range of actions must be undertaken to keep the rise in global average temperature well below 2° Celsius over pre-industrial levels. The debate on climate change shifted after the climate summit in Paris in December from whether scientific evidence is strong enough to warrant making aggressive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, to how this should be achieved without hurting economic growth in developing countries such as India. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change accepts differentiated responsibility for developing nations, not responsible for the accumulated stock of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as opposed to rich countries that historically had the benefit of the unfettered use of fossil fuels. What makes carbon emissions particularly problematic, however, is that polluting local flows have a global effect over relatively short periods, and far-flung countries, such as small island nations, suffer the impact. India's estimate of its share of global greenhouse gas emissions submitted to the UN for the Paris treaty is 4.10 per cent, but it faces a double jeopardy: of having to emit large volumes of carbon dioxide to achieve growth, while preparing to adapt to the destructive effects of intense weather events, such as droughts and floods, linked to climate change. ^ top ^

“Istanbul is ready to share its experiences with Ulaanbaatar” (Montsame)
Istanbul, having tackled all problems of pollution, smoke and sewage, "is ready to share its experiences and knowedge with the capital city of Mongolia," said the Mayor of Istanbul city of Turkey Mr Kadir Topbas to the Premer Ch.Saikhanbileg on April 25. Their meeting ran at the State House in the UB city. The guest also said Istanbul can co-implement new projects with Ulaanbaatar and make necessary investments. In response, Mr Saikhanbileg wished him a nice stay in Ulaanbaatar and expressed a hope that this visit "will open a new chapter in the ties between Ulaanbaatar and Istanbul". The Premier also wished a success in the cooperation between the two cities, promising his support. After this, the sides discussed a matter on augmenting flights between the two cities to five a week. Mr Topbas wished Mongolia big successes in hosting the 11th ASEM Summit. ^ top ^

Ninth Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting finishes (Montsame)
The 9th Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting themed “Role of Asia-Europe parliamentary partnership in ASEM” successfully ran April 21-22 in Ulaanbaatar. It brought together 170 delegates from 32 countries and the European Parliament (EP). Two sub-meetings also ran with titles “Effective multilateral relations and cooperation” and “Partnership for future”. Participants of the ASEP9 reaffirmed their willingness to keep their endeavor forward the ASEM for bilateral partnerships based on common principles on equality, on respecting each other, backing and protecting human rights and freedom. They pledged to strengthen parliamentary directions to ASEM actions, to fortify the ties between the ASEM and ASEP and to take proper measures for promoting parliaments' roles in realizing common purposes and interests of Asian and European nations. The participants also expressed a confidence that the 20th anniversaries of the ASEM and of ASEP will significantly contribute to the development of the comprehensive partnership and multilateral cooperation of Asia-Europe people, business, parliaments and governments. The ASEP9 attendees strongly condemned all kinds of terrorism as severe threats to the global peace and stability, expressing their concern about increasing number of terrorist acts around the world. They underlined that parliaments have been contributing to anti-terrorist combat in ways of approving relevant laws, supervising their realization and allotting necessary financing. Noting that the UN bears a supreme role in protecting the international peace and security, the ASEP9 participants emphasized main roles of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological Weapons in proliferating weapons of mass destruction, forwarding actions of disarmament and fully prohibiting tests of nuclear weapons. They reaffirmed that it is necessary to strengthen the multilateral and international cooperation in resolving present and new born challenges to the world through principles and norms of international law. Refugees and flow of migrants have peaked the largest number ever, the participants stressed, and concerned about a humanitarian crisis near borders of European countries and transit nations. They said it is urgent to tackle the ongoing problems on migration and refugees through complex measures covering all politics, security socio-economic factors, on protecting the refugees and migrants, rendering to them humanitarian aid and finding out sustainable and long-term solutions. Asian and European countries noted that a respect of human rights and freedom is one of the factors for strengthening the just, equal, democratic and open society, and emphasized a necessity to run talks and cooperation in forming unified understanding, to adhere to laws and to anti-corruption combat. At the end of the meeting, the ASEP participants adopted a Declaration with 44 clauses, which reflect issues of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, international and regional cooperation on energy security, the ASEM members' cooperation in reducing risks of natural disasters and management in natural disasters, commercial and investment ties between Asian and European countries, strengthening the inter-citizen ties and on copyrights. The Chairman of the State Great Khural (parliament) of Mongolia Mr Z.Enkhbold made the closing remarks, noting about a successful conclusion of the ASEP9, and expressed a gratitude to all the participants for attending the event. ^ top ^



Mrs. Mirjam Eggli
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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