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

Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
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  20-23.2.18, No. 709  
    Archiv / Archives
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Table of contents

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Merkel's alarmist talk harks back to days of the Cold War: China Daily editorial (China Daily)
2018-02-22
Since China launched its Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, some politicians in the West have taken a skeptical attitude toward it, and even drummed up suspicions with their outdated "China threat" rhetoric. In the latest, and unexpected example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that China must not link its investments in the western Balkans to political demands at a joint news conference with Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in Berlin on Wednesday. Alarmist talk of such kind shows despite the close economic cooperation and frequent people-to-people exchanges between China and the outside world, prejudice against China, which stems from the stubborn persistence of the Cold War mentality, still runs high in the West. China has long made it clear that the initiative for greater connectivity it has proposed is for the good of all. Since 2013, more than 100 countries and international organizations have responded favorably to the initiative, and Chinese companies have invested more than $50 billion in 20 countries involved in the initiative, creating 180,000 local jobs and contributing to the economic development of these countries. Yet, political bias and prejudice against China have prevented some in the West from adopting a fair and objective attitude toward the initiative. Instead, they question China's strategic motivation, arguing the initiative is a geopolitical tool to assert regional leadership and establish a new sphere of influence. Others resist the initiative fearing that it means the West will be the loser in the global competition. The view expressed by Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, belongs to this category. At this year's conference earlier this month, he said that a divided Europe will lose out in the face of a rising China. Both Merkel and Ischinger should be told the practice in international relations which views relations among nations as a zero-sum game is outdated and should long ago have been abandoned. China is dedicated to promoting lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity and building a community with a shared future for humankind. It is high time those clinging on to the cozy familiarity of their Cold War mentality embraced the spirit of the times instead, joining hands with China in the spirit of cooperation, partnership and sharing. ^ top ^

China can offer lessons to US in protecting human rights (Global Times)
2018-02-23
Thousands of protesters, led by survivors of last week's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, congregated at the Florida State Capitol building Wednesday. Their message: Never again. Never again will a murderer purchase a gun easily. Never again will a school be riddled by a mass shooting. The movement, identified on social media through the hashtag #neveragain, has also galvanized students around the US. The shooting rampage on February 14, in which a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 students and educators with an AR-15 rifle, has revived the urgency of a perennial question: Why can't the country establish sensible gun control? If we look back in history, the US was founded on the use of firearms. The right to gun ownership is regulated by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Opponents of gun control argue that the Constitution guarantees them the absolute right to own guns. However, the situation of the US now is different from that of more than 200 years ago when protection of gun ownership was written into the law. There is an urgent need for the US to impose harsh restrictions on gun purchases nowadays. The US has witnessed mad proliferation of guns and rampant gun violence. It's estimated that civilians in the US own about 300 million guns, enough for every adult in the US. There are more mass shootings in the US than in any other country in the world. According to CNN, a 2016 study looked at 292 incidents in which four or more people were killed, finding 90 of them occurred in the US. The US has no other choice but to adopt gun control. The right of life is the most fundamental human rights. The right to bear arms cannot overpower the individual's right to live. Washington has been pointing an accusing finger at other countries over human rights issue. However, more Americans have been killed by gunfire in the country than American soldiers being killed in all US wars. It's inhumane for the US, which boasts about its human rights record, to turn a blind eye to gun violence, snub increasing calls for gun control and risk more innocent lives. The US will have to adopt gun control in the future. It's better to decide sooner rather than later. Gun ownership in China is strictly regulated, which helps reduce gun-related crimes and deaths. The US should learn from China and genuinely protect human rights. If the US does not control its guns, problems caused by firearms in the foreseeable future will continue plaguing US society. ^ top ^

China boosts air defences in western region as Indian border row simmers (SCMP)
2018-02-22
China's air force is trying to boost its capability at high altitudes over its far western airbases amid simmering tensions with India, sending more advanced fighter jets to the area. Months after a protracted stand-off on the Doklam plateau ended, both nations are still building up their militaries along the border – which observers say is preparation for further confrontation.On Tuesday last week, J-10 and J-11 fighter jets joined a combat training exercise in western China, according to an article and photos on the People's Liberation Army website.The drill was held a month after satellite images showed a Chinese build-up in air power at two bases near the border – including fighter aircraft and helicopters – while the Indian air force had also deployed more Su-30 MKI warplanes to two airbases near Doklam since the middle of last year. China and India were embroiled in a 72-day military face-off in the disputed Himalayan border area last summer, eventually agreeing to an "expeditious disengagement" of troops in late August. But reports since then have suggested that China has continued building roads at the border – shared with India and Bhutan – and military personnel from both sides are still stationed there.Song Zhongping, a former instructor with the PLA's Second Artillery Corps, said China's deployment of J-10s and J-11s was a sign it is trying to boost its defences in the area to counter any threat from India.J-11s have a range of 1,500km, which can be extended with additional fuel tanks, while J-10 jet fighters have a range of 1,850km."The upgrade in the Western Theatre Command is urgent because in China's western region, relations with India have been strained due to the border tensions, with no resolution in sight," Song said."India is gearing up already, so it's necessary for China to prepare for a possible military confrontation," he said. "And in these mountainous areas, superiority in the air is of utmost importance."The PLA's western zone covers Tibet, Sichuan, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Xinjiang and Chongqing. Adam Ni, a military researcher from the Australian National University, said China's western airbases were located in high altitudes with low air density, making it a difficult environment for the air force to operate in."The new deployment of the jets is part of a concerted effort to improve Chinese air power, which is at initial disadvantage against India due to the natural landscape," he said. "However, this disadvantage is more than offset by the quantitative and qualitative advantages that China's air force can call upon in a prolonged conflict."Ni added that China was trying to build on these advantages by developing and deploying advanced jets and improving its logistics, airbases and technology.Extreme weather poses the greatest challenge at high altitudes, according to Song, because fuel efficiency is lower and the aircraft must be able to withstand tougher conditions.He said using more advanced aircraft was only one aspect of the air force's approach to overcoming altitude problems."China also needs to constantly train pilots and prepare them for high altitudes, and improve cooperation between the support team on the ground and pilots to make sure performance isn't affected [in the difficult conditions]," he said. But Shanghai-based military expert Ni Lexiong said the J-10 and J-11 fighter jets were less advanced than its J-20 stealth fighters and the Su-35s that were recently sent on combat patrol over the South China Sea – suggesting Beijing's priority was still its rivalry with Washington."Sending these jets to different theatre commands shows that the major focus of China's military is still the east, with the United States being the main rival. The threat from India comes second in China's military priority," he said. "But of course China made sure the new jets it deployed were better than India's." ^ top ^

India likely to trigger another showdown with China as officials continue to provoke: observers (Global Times)
2018-02-22
Indian officials' recent provocative remarks, as well as a surreptitious visit to controversial border regions, are likely to plunge their country into another showdown with China like last year's Doklam standoff, Chinese observers warned on Thursday. India's former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon on Wednesday accused China of wanting to "split" India and Bhutan over the Doklam standoff for political gains, while asserting the need for an integrated approach in managing the country's borders, said Indian News Agency Press Trust of India. India has been sending provocative signals to China since the Doklam standoff of summer 2017, which makes the already soured Sino-Indian relationship more fragile, Zhao Gancheng, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times on Thursday. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang on February 15 expressed firm opposition to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit that day to the disputed South Tibet area, urging the Indian side not to take actions that could complicate the boundary issue. There is a strong possibility of conflict between China and India breaking out again this year, as India persists in pushing the bilateral relationship in a negative direction, and both sides are enhancing their preparations for a possible ramped up confrontation in the border region. This includes building roads and reinforcing troop numbers, Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday. The Indian government is planning to raise 15 new battalions in the country's border force, a move to fortify defenses along the strategic frontiers with Pakistan, Bangladesh and China, the Times of India reported in January. In order to patrol the border and improve the local conditions for border garrisons and local residents, China has constructed infrastructure like roads in the Donglang (Doklam) area, and it is China's right to exercise its sovereignty in its own territory, said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang, when asked to explain US-released satellite images which show a huge build-up by both China and India in the border region. A Chinese naval contingent has been deployed in the Indian Ocean recently, and now China has three naval fleets and 10 warships in the Indian Ocean, China Central Television reported Wednesday. India's deliberate provocation is because it now feels Beijing's growing influence in neighboring South Asian countries as projects under the China-initiated Belt and Road initiative are ongoing in countries such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Hu noted. He said that India made a mistake when it rejected the plan and now, in order to counter China's influence in the region, India is likely to confront China more often under the instigation of the US, Japan and other countries. India, along with Australia, the US, and Japan, is talking about establishing a joint regional infrastructure scheme as an alternative to China's Belt and Road initiative in an attempt to counter Beijing's spreading influence, the Australian Financial Review reported Monday, citing a senior US official. However, India still has influence over South Asia, and China should be careful to not let the deteriorating Sino-Indian relationship sabotage Beijing's construction projects and other forms of cooperation with South Asian countries, Zhao said. He added that there will always be competition between the two as they are both vying for prominence on the global stage. "However, India always prioritizes the strategy of challenging China and containing China in Asia."  ^ top ^

200 China-aided vehicles handed over to Fiji (Xinhua)
2018-02-22
A total of 200 China-aided vehicles were handed over to the Fijian government here on Thursday. Both sides believe that the much-needed vehicles for the South Pacific island state will contribute to a better service in education, healthcare and other sectors in both urban and rural areas. Speaking at the handover ceremony of the vehicles, Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama thanked China for the vehicles which include 50 school buses, 30 ambulances, 50 police cars, 50 minibuses and 20 panel vans. "I'd like to begin by thanking the government of China for making (such) a donation that will contribute to assisting my government to achieve this objective. China has been a steadfast friend, and we are deeply appreciative of this assistance," he said. The prime minister also hoped that he will work with the Chinese side to make the strong partnership between China and Fiji even stronger. For his part, Chinese Ambassador to Fiji Qian Bo said that the vehicle project is made possible under the direct attention from both Chinese and Fijian leaders who witnessed the signing of the vehicle project agreement. This project demonstrates the strategic partnership between China and Fiji based on mutual respect and common development. ^ top ^

MoU signed to promote China-Ethiopia genomics, biotechnology cooperation (Xinhua)
2018-02-22
Two institutes from Ethiopia and China on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on scientific and technological cooperation in genomics and biotechnology. The MoU inked by the Ethiopian Biotechnology Institute (EBTi) and Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa mainly aims at developing critical genomics infrastructure and building human capacity in the area. The MoU seeks to promote information and knowledge sharing on joint research and development, while promoting establishment of research facilities and laboratory infrastructure. Stating that Ethiopia has immense ecological and biological diversity, Kassahun Tesfaye, EBTi Director General, said the MoU formalizes partnership with BGI on critical genomics research in Ethiopia and unlock the country's potential. He noted that the partnership would also benefit other national stakeholders, including graduate students and researchers. Lack of equipped facilities and local expertise, and poor accessibility to research infrastructures are among challenges affecting genomics research in Ethiopia, and Africa in general, said Matt Poulter, BGI's Business Development Director for Africa. The partnership between EBTi and BGI is about local capacity building and empowering local researchers to address some of the challenges, noted Poulter. BGI Chairman Wang Jian said on the occasion that the partnership between EBTi and BGI creates a platform for cooperation on genomics and biotechnology for agriculture and medical areas, among others. Witnessing the signing of the MoU, Ethiopian State Minister of Science and Technology, Shumete Gizaw, reiterated that the partnership between the two sides would help addressing some of the challenges Ethiopia is facing in genomics and biotechnology. Stating that the China-Ethiopia relations has been an excellent model for south-south cooperation, the minister said the partnership would also help his country develop infrastructure and human resource capacity in the area. "Today's event is also injecting strong momentum into the continued development of our bilateral relations including science, technology, and innovation," said Gizaw. ^ top ^

India media uses fake news to drive a wedge between China and Pakistan: expert (Global Times)
2018-02-21
Pakistan's senate on Tuesday denied that the country will include Mandarin as an official language, saying the country is merely encouraging the learning of the language to further its cooperation with China. The Senate of Pakistan on Tuesday tweeted that "in light of the growing affiliation, collaboration between Pakistan and China under the CPEC, courses of the official Chinese language, also known as the 'Standard Chinese,' may be made accessible so as to overcome any costly communication barrier." On Monday, a television channel in Pakistan reported that the country's senate had approved a motion to declare Mandarin an official language. The news report was then cited by multiple Indian media outlets including India Today, Asian News International and Daily News and Analysis on Monday. India Today reported that the move comes at a time when Beijing and Islamabad see strong ties to India's detriment. "Some Indian media picked up the false news in order to drive a wedge between China and Pakistan," Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday. Before Pakistan's senate debunked the news report, some social media pundits suggested that China is "taking over" Pakistan and criticized Pakistan for ignoring its native languages. "Chairman Senate while presiding the sitting of the House on Tuesday February 20, 2018 has clarified the impression with regard to passing of resolution by the Upper House on Chinese language on Monday February 19, 2018," read a separate tweet from Senate of Pakistan on Tuesday. ^ top ^

New Zealand investigates claims of Chinese link to break-ins at academic's office and home (SCMP)
2018-02-20
New Zealand's prime minister has ordered the country's security agencies to investigate a university professor's claims that burglaries at her home and office were linked to her academic research on Chinese government influence in New Zealand politics. Anne-Marie Brady, a specialist in Chinese and polar politics at New Zealand's University of Canterbury, made the claims while addressing an Australian parliamentary committee last week. According to The New Zealand Herald, Brady said her office on campus was broken into in December, and her home burgled last week, with computers, phones and USB storage devices stolen while other obvious valuables were overlooked. Brady said the latest burglary was preceded by an anonymous letter threatening "pushback" against opponents of Beijing's interests, with the warning: "You are next." She also claimed that her sources in China had been interrogated by state security officials. On Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed alarm and promised to look into the claims. "I think anyone would be concerned [about] any criminal act if it were in response to the work she's doing," the report quoted Ardern as saying. "If there's evidence of that, we should be taking stock and taking action. "I will certainly ask some questions." There have been a series of reports and claims about China stepping up efforts to influence the political systems of other countries including Australia and New Zealand, two members of the US-led "five eyes" intelligence alliance. Brady's work gained national attention last year when she published a report called "Magic Weapons" on China's efforts to infiltrate New Zealand party politics, media and education, and to sway public opinion and political elites around the world to support its assertive foreign policy. "Australia and New Zealand appear to have been a test zone for 'united front' activities in recent years. And it's now reached a critical level," Brady told the Australian parliamentary hearing. In September, Yang Jian, a New Zealand member of parliament born in China, was accused of having links to Chinese intelligence and not revealing the decade or so he spent training and teaching at elite facilities, including China's top linguistics academy for military intelligence officers. ^ top ^

China and Vatican close to a deal on appointment of Catholic bishops, report says (SCMP)
2018-02-19
Beijing and the Vatican are close to reaching an agreement on the appointment of bishops in mainland China, a move that could end decades of hostilities between pro-government and underground Catholic groups. According to a report by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Sunday, from late March onwards "every day is a good day [for the Vatican] to sign the agreement with the Chinese authorities". The move comes after the Vatican last month asked two underground bishops working in China to make way for replacements approved by Beijing. A Chinese delegation led by a deputy foreign minister would visit Rome to finalise the agreement after the end of China's legislative sessions, which get under way on March 5, the report quoted unnamed sources as saying. The Vatican, which is keen to end the conflict between pro-government Catholics and members of the underground community who only obey Rome, has also notified the United States and Taiwan about its plans, with those two sides expressing concerns about the growing closeness between the Vatican and Beijing, the report said. Taiwan's foreign ministry said it was closely monitoring the development of ties between Beijing and the Holy See, and that the ongoing dialogue between the two sides did not have a political aspect. "The Vatican is an important ally of Taiwan in Europe," it said in a statement. "The frequent exchanges and cooperation between Taiwan and the Vatican are ongoing … Taiwan will deepen its relationship with the Vatican, and serve as an indispensable cooperative partner for the Vatican's humanitarian mission." As a possible prelude to diplomatic relations between Taiwan's only ally in Europe and Beijing, a deal on the appointment of bishops might herald another wave of diplomatic rows between the self-ruled island and the Chinese mainland, analysts said. Cui Hongjian, head of European studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said a diplomatic deal was highly likely. "The biggest obstacle to formally establishing diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican would be cleared once the agreement [on bishops] was reached," he said. Tang Shao-cheng, from National Chengchi University in Taipei, said he would not be surprised to see an agreement between Beijing and the Vatican signed in late March. Such a deal would be a setback for the pro-independence Tsai Ing-wen government in Taiwan, he said. In June last year, Panama switched its formal diplomatic ties to Beijing and broke with Taipei, dealing a major setback to the self-ruled island. Beijing broke ties with the Vatican in 1951. Since then, the Communist Party has closed churches and imprisoned priests. Catholics can legally practise their religion only in state-sanctioned churches, which are not overseen by the Vatican, and have bishops that are appointed by Beijing rather than the Pope. But ties between the Vatican and Beijing have warmed under Pope Francis, who has adopted a friendlier attitude towards Beijing's communist government. However, retired Hong Kong cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun said the Holy See was "selling out" mainland Chinese Catholics to normalise ties with Beijing. ^ top ^

Nepal leader vows to revive Chinese dam project, open to review pact over Nepalese soldiers in India (SCMP)
2018-02-19
Nepal's new communist prime minister will restart a Chinese-led US$2.5 billion hydropower project that was pulled by the previous government considered friendly towards India, and wants to increase infrastructure connectivity with Beijing to ease the country's reliance on New Delhi. He also wants to "update" relations with India "in keeping with the times" and favours a review of all special provisions of Indo-Nepal relations, including the long-established practice of Nepalese soldiers serving India's armed forces. "Political prejudice or pressure from rival companies may have been instrumental in scrapping of the project. But for us, hydropower is a main focus and come what may, we will revive the Budhi Gandaki project," Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) leader Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli told the This Week in Asia in an exclusive interview, his first since taking office on Thursday. The contract to build a dam on the Budhi Gandaki river in central-western Nepal turned into a political hot potato after it was awarded last June to China's Gezhouba Group by a government headed by Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, as part of China's "Belt and Road Initiative" that Nepal joined the previous month. The next prime minister, from the Nepali Congress, scrapped the project, in a move seen as a concession to pressure from India, which has been wary of a growing Chinese footprint in what it sees as its sphere of influence. Oli's UML and the Maoist Centre formed the Left alliance that swept to power in this landmark election, Nepal's first after the promulgation of its new constitution restructuring the Himalayan country as a federal republic. The two communist parties are also inching towards a merger, which China has always advocated. "Our petroleum usage has been increasing but we import all of it. We urgently need to develop hydropower to reduce our dependence on petroleum," Oli said. Almost all of Nepal's petroleum is imported from India. Its fuel import bill has tripled in the past five years, adding to the ballooning trade deficit with India, which stood at around US$6 billion in the last financial year (July 15, 2016 to July 15, 2017). The trade deficit with India constitutes about 80 per cent of Nepal's overall deficit. Nepal's emphasis on hydropower has made it an arena of shadow boxing between the two regional giants. India's GMR and SJVN have been given the contracts for two other dam projects while China's Three Gorges Corporation is to develop another. Oli's rift with New Delhi, which it had blamed for engineering his government's fall in August 2016, has been growing in recent years. As prime minister between 2015 and 2016, he locked horns with India over Nepal's new constitution, which New Delhi resisted on the ground that it discriminated against people of the southern plains of Nepal adjoining India who are of Indian ancestry. Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Nepal's deputy prime minister, meets with Premier Li Keqiang in September. When India retaliated with a crippling blockade of the landlocked country, he reached out to China to overcome the crisis and inked several vital agreements. He later cancelled a visit by Nepal's president to India and recalled the Nepalese ambassador to the country, in rare acts of defiance by a Nepalese leader against the dominant southern neighbour. In this election, Oli successfully tapped the groundswell of anti-India sentiment in Nepal as a result of the blockade, lacing his stump speeches with rhetoric against India that fetched his party 121 seats in the 275-member Parliament. But back in power, he is weighing his words more carefully. "We've always had excellent relations with India. There were some elements in the Indian establishment that caused some misunderstanding, but Indian leaders have assured us that there will be no interference in the future and we will respect each other's sovereign rights," he said. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, has been trying to mend fences. He has called Oli three times since he won, and sent External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj this month to reinforce the message of cooperation. Delhi is particularly concerned about growing Chinese interests in Nepal, the latest South Asian country that appears to be drifting away from India's control. Maldives is now run by a man who makes no bones about courting China and playing it off against India, while massive Chinese investments have deeply entrenched Chinese interests in Sri Lanka. Indian External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj was dispatched to Kathmandu to try to mend fences this month. But despite the careful diplomatese of peace and goodwill with India, Oli is keen to broaden his options by deepening ties with China to get more leverage in his dealings with Delhi. "We have great connectivity with India and an open border. All that's fine and we'll increase connectivity even further, but we can't forget that we have two neighbours," Oli said. "We don't want to depend on one country or have one option." He sees infrastructure development as an important means to narrow the distance with China, whose physical remoteness compared with next-door India is a hindrance to deeper Sino-Nepal relations. "Technology allows us to reimagine distance. Can you believe that in 1970, it used to take me two days to reach Kathmandu from my home in eastern Nepal? "Once China brings its rail network up to Shigatse and then Kyirong in Tibet, it should be easy to extend it to Nepal. It's lower altitude than Tibet, and the terrain is actually sloping all the way down from Kyirong. Apart from that, three roads are under construction connecting China and Nepal, which should be ready in a couple of years. If we can connect this railway network to our east-west rail project, it can revolutionise China-India trade, with Nepal in the middle" he said. Nepal's government hopes the dam, seen here in an illustration, will help lower fuel costs. China aims to extend the Qinghai-Tibet railway to the Nepal border by 2020 and has expressed interest in extending it to Kathmandu. Kyirong in Tibet is about 25km from Nepal's Rasuwagadhi border transit point, which is 50km from Kathmandu. The Nepalese government is understood to be working on a plan to build a road tunnel between Rasuwagadhi and Kathmandu that will radically shorten the travel time. Apart from infrastructure and power, cyber connectivity is also among Oli's thrust areas. Nepal last month ended India's monopoly in the field by joining forces with China to offer internet services to its people after laying optical fibre cables between Kyirong and Rasuwagadhi. The loss of a captive internet market is a sign of the increasing competition India is facing in the country it once dominated as China makes deep inroads. The Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950, which Nepalese nationalists believe compromises Nepal's ability to pursue an independent defence and foreign policy, is also being revised. But despite their recent differences, India and Nepal share deep historical and cultural bonds, apart from an open border that allows millions to freely work and travel in each other's territory. More than 25,000 Nepalese serve in the Indian Army and another 20,000 Nepalese are in Indian paramilitary and police forces, an arrangement that offends some in Nepal. "This should be internally and mutually discussed and corrected, if necessary. We live in a new world, and Nepal is starting a new journey, we have to update whatever is considered outdated and bring it in line with the modern era," Oli said. ^ top ^

Xi's special envoy to attend closing ceremony of PyeongChang Winter Olympics (Xinhua)
2018-02-19
Chinese President Xi Jinping's special envoy Liu Yandong will attend the closing ceremony of the 23rd Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, the Republic of Korea (ROK) on Feb. 25. Liu, Chinese Vice Premier, was invited by ROK President Moon Jae-in and President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang made the announcement Monday. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Attack on China's judicial system driven by bigotry (Global Times)
2018-02-22
The Guardian and Financial Times recently attacked China's judicial system, fabricating stories about Hong Kong-based Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai's detention and Peter Humphrey's maltreatment in a Shanghai prison. Gui's detention has been intensively hyped by the West recently. Humphrey, meanwhile, was a former British journalist and corporate investigator. He was sent to prison for illegally acquiring personal information, but was deported to Britain in 2015 due to his health condition. While The Guardian depicts Gui's arrest as a "very scary movie," Humphrey hyped the deterioration of human rights conditions in Chinese prison. Western media outlets are keen on discrediting China's judicial system, indiscriminately labeling detentions of people with Western citizenship who committed crimes in China or West-supported Chinese dissidents as "political suppression" and "violation of human rights." Their system of discourse is full of clichés. China arrested Gui under its own legal and judicial sovereignty, but the Swedish foreign ministry and Western media made value judgments. What Humphrey described about China's prison labor has not been verified. But China's prison production follows the law and is under strict management. The system is believed to be good for educating prisoners. There are also similar prison labor programs in other countries and regions. Western criticism of China's judicial system originates from political prejudice and arrogance. Confounded by China's rise, some Western elites are obstinate in their stereotypes against the country. Their accusations that China tramples on the law are contrary to the real experience of Chinese and most Westerners living in the country. Is China a lawless country where expats often face the risk of illegal detention? Lured by booming development and orderly governance in China, there are more expats living in cities from Beijing to Yiwu. Some Western media portray China as losing order. These people are rumormongering. Western assaults on China's rule of law and human rights condition were much more fierce at the end of the 1980s and climaxed around the Beijing Olympic Games. While Chinese society has seen comprehensive development in recent years, the West has been perplexed by more problems with internal governance than before. Western public opinion, on the whole, is less keen on finding fault with China and there are not many cases deserving sensationalization in today's China. Therefore the Western media will exert all its strength in hyping any issue that may taint China's image if they can find one. Western prejudices against China cannot be solved at present. What's important is that Western anti-Beijing remarks can hardly have any impact on China and exert less influence on other developing countries. China's image in the Third World is undeniably improving. Rule of law has been regarded by Westerners as their advantage. China, defying Western accusations, develops well and is more confident in its national path. Conservative Western elites are upset by this fact. Views differ as to which political and judicial system is better. It will be judged by the results of social development and governance eventually. China is confident in this regard. ^ top ^

China 'opposes' racism but dismisses criticism of CCTV blackface skit (SCMP)
2018-02-22
Beijing on Thursday said it was against any form of racism but dismissed widespread criticism of state broadcaster CCTV's annual holiday variety show as an attempt to drive a wedge between China and African nations. A comedy sketch on the country's biggest and most popular Lunar New Year television show caused uproar for using a Chinese actress in blackface and giant fake buttocks to depict an African character, and a black performer playing a monkey. The skit was featured last week during the CCTV New Year's Gala – also known as the Spring Festival Gala – that is broadcast annually for the Lunar New Year and gets as many as 800 million viewers. It was meant to highlight China's ties with the African countries, but many found the portrayal offensive and racist. Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Thursday denied the show was racist and said China "has always opposed any form of racial discrimination". "But any efforts to use this as a pretext for making a fuss and driving a wedge between China and African countries are futile," Geng said during a regular press conference. He went on to say that China's relationships with African nations were ironclad and had brought benefits to both sides. "African countries and their people know in their hearts the state of our relationship and whether we have good cooperation or not," he said. During the skit, a young black woman tried to convince her mother to let her move to China by getting a Chinese friend to pretend to be her fiancé. The mother, played by Chinese actress Lou Naiming wearing blackface and a fake posterior – and accompanied by a monkey, apparently played by a black performer – was thrilled to hear that her daughter planned to marry a Chinese man and grateful for China's contribution to African countries. The comedy sketch ended with the mother discovering her daughter's lie, but she said she couldn't be angry because China had done so much for Africa, shouting in Mandarin: "I love Chinese people! I love China!" It drew anger and criticism online, with some saying the state broadcaster should take care not to cause offence when planning the show, and many others condemning the sketch as completely racist. China has for many years invested heavily in Africa, especially infrastructure, and will host a China-Africa summit later this year at which Beijing is expected to announce further investment and aid to the continent. But accusations of racism continue to surface in China. In 2016, a laundry detergent company apologised for a television commercial showing a young Chinese woman stuffing a black man into a washing machine before he reappears as a pale-skinned Chinese man. And more recently, in October, a museum in Wuhan, Hubei was forced to shut down an exhibition that juxtaposed images of animals with close-up photos of black Africans after it received numerous complaints. ^ top ^

CPC leaders stress high-quality construction of Xiongan New Area (Xinhua)
2018-02-22
Senior leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Thursday stressed efforts to build Xiongan New Area into a "high-quality modern socialist city." Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, presided over the meeting attended by members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. The area, established in April 2017, is a new economic zone about 100 kilometers southwest of Beijing in Hebei Province. It is the third new area of national significance after the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the Shanghai Pudong New Area. CPC leaders agreed that building the new area is a "historic project" after hearing a report about the progress on a development plan for Xiongan. The new area is significant for helping phase out some non-capital functions from Beijing, exploring a new model of development in densely populated areas, restructuring the layout of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, promoting high-quality development, and creating a new engine for the modernized economy, according to a statement released after the meeting. Designing of the new area plan has made important progress on the basis of thorough investigation, feedback from different parties, and revisions and improvements, said the statement. The planning and building of Xiongan New Area should feature a global perspective and an international standard with Chinese characteristics, making it a national model in promoting high-quality development, it said. The meeting also stressed a reasonable layout for the city, with innovation in accordance with the regional culture and landscape. Efforts should be made to build a digital and intelligent city, with an emphasis on green development, according to the statement. A string of national innovative platforms and efficient transportation networks should be created in the area, it said. Measures should be taken to support Xiongan in accelerating reform and opening up, while a number of major projects should be launched at an appropriate time, it said. ^ top ^

China to clear outdated regulations on military-civilian integration (Xinhua)
2018-02-22
Chinese central authorities have launched a campaign to clear up outdated regulations to safeguard the integration of military and civilian development, according to a circular provided to Xinhua Thursday. The campaign will examine the regulations in this field adopted in the last 40 years, said the circular jointly issued by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, the State Council and the Central Military Commission. It aims to identify the documents that create barriers to the two-way flow of technology, human resources, capital and information between the military and civilian sectors, as well as those that fail to give private enterprises equal treatment in market access and intellectual property protection, said the circular. The outdated regulations and requirements will be revoked or modified. Authorities in charge of the review were asked to fully consult other agencies, companies, industry associations and experts in the process. It also called for a long-term mechanism and routine inspections to keep the remaining regulations up to date. ^ top ^

Filial piety fund emerges to help make virtue thrive (China Daily)
2018-02-22
On a bulletin board in Licun village, Henan province, hangs a list of all residents aged 70 or above, followed by the names of their children and the contributions each child has made to a special fund. For centuries, Chinese people have highly valued the way they treat their parents, called filial piety. Nowadays, authorities in rural areas have even turned to a filial piety fund. Villager Li Zhengcai, 70, received 550 yuan ($87) of funds in January. "Five hundred yuan came from my five children, and another 50 was from subsidies from the local government and private donations," Li said. Licun is one of 388 villages in Luoning, an impoverished county that piloted the voluntary fund in 2017 to encourage children to support their aging parents. Luoning is home to more than 16,000 residents aged 70 or above. As of mid-January, its filial piety funds had received 3.87 million yuan, mostly from the 40,000-plus children of the county's elderly. According to Li Chunguang, head of Luoning's publicity department, those whose parents are 70 or above are expected to contribute 100 yuan to the fund each month. The county government and private donors add a subsidy of up to 50 yuan for each senior. There were about 230 million people aged 60 or over in China at the end of 2016, close to 17 percent of the population. More than half of them were "empty-nesters", who live apart from their children. For thousands of years, the Chinese have relied on their children to take care of them in their old age. The Chinese saying, "Of all virtues, filial piety is the first" demonstrates the primacy of respecting one's elders in the culture. As times change in China, along with the rest of the world, traditional virtues are affected. Yi Jianbo, director with Luoning's poverty relief office, said one of the reasons for establishing the funds is to eliminate poverty caused by unfilial behavior. Some elderly people live in poverty because their children are either unwilling or unable to contribute to their wellbeing. "The country's poverty relief efforts should not pay the bills for adults who are able but unwilling to support their aged parents," Yi said. Many places in China have started pioneering ways to put an end to unfilial practices. The Wan'an county people's court in Jiangxi province lists unfilial children on a blacklist and makes their names public to shame them into compliance. This year, China is setting specific tasks for the country's rural vitalization, emphasizing civic-mindedness in rural areas, including filial piety among farmers. Dai Songchan, 80, does not have to worry about money anymore. Her children are regular contributors to the piety fund in Gaowan village, through which she receives 550 yuan each month. "Being poor should not become our excuse for failure to fulfill filial duties. We should set a good example for our children and let the traditional virtues pass down to the next generation," said Yang Fengping, Dai's daughter-in-law. ^ top ^

Xi picks most qualified team of problem solvers to head China's economic portfolios (SCMP)
2018-02-21
For the thousands of China watchers, economists, executives and diplomats gathered at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss hamlet of Davos last month, Liu He was probably a star attraction. Liu, chief economic adviser to the Chinese government and one of the 25 most powerful people in the ruling party's Politburo, was there to deliver a speech on the way forward for China's economic programme over the next five years. He did not disappoint. To a roomful of attendees, Liu promised in Chinese that some reforms "will exceed the expectations of the international community". Next month, Liu, a 66-year-old Beijing native, is likely to be promoted to become one of four vice premiers working nominally under Premier Li Keqiang, during the meeting of the country's parliament and political advisory body. Liu, who attended Harvard's Kennedy School and Seton Hall University in New Jersey, will be one of the country's most powerful occupants of the deputy prime minister's office in two decades, according to analysts, scholars and economists who know him. The Chinese president may delegate much of China's economic management to Liu's team, "largely bypassing the premier", said Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London and author of China in the Xi Jinping Era. "Liu is unlikely to put forth any plan which he thinks President Xi Jinping will not approve, or like." Liu will continue to direct the Office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs – its address is a Beijing postbox – which functions like the US government's National Economic Council. He will also chair the Financial Stability and Development Commission, a new agency that supersedes all financial regulators, responsible for overseeing regulation and reducing "rhino risks", as highly leveraged corporate borrowers are called, according to a source familiar with government operations. His team will comprise economic technocrats drawn from China's banking and financial system, appointed to various senior positions to oversee the country's central bank, lenders, as well as the stockbroking and insurance industries. While the final appointments will not be known until parliament meets from March 3 until March 15, several names have already been touted in Beijing's policymaking circles as likely candidates. Among them are the current bank regulator Guo Shuqing, securities regulator Liu Shiyu, deputy central bank governor Yi Gang, state planning director He Lifeng, state assets custodian Xiao Yaqing and Ding Xuedong, deputy secretary general of the State Council, as the cabinet is called. With five doctorates between the six, every member of this elite team of econocrats has spent the most part of their careers managing either a state entity, a bank or a financial services company. At least three among them speak English fluently. "The team being put together looks like a strong one," Tsang said. "They should be in a position to put in place a reform programme that seeks to rebalance the economy and reduce risk at the same time." Liu spent four years at two American universities, an experience that puts him in a unique position to deal with a US government that has turned increasingly more hostile towards Beijing, with Donald Trump's administration labelling China a "strategic competitor". Trump has also been vacillating between his apparent fondness for Xi – he called the Chinese president a "very special man" after being flattered and wooed during his November 2017 visit to China – and his pre-election promise to slap tariffs on Chinese exports. The biggest economic challenges confronting Liu's team will be domestic. China's breakneck growth – at an average clip of 9.8 per cent every quarter since March 1992, when data became available – has turned its economy into the world's second-largest. But the quarterly growth pace has slowed to an average of 7.2 per cent in the past five years under the watch of Xi and Li, a situation the government called the "new normal". Adding to the litany of economic challenges is a rapidly ageing population and a birth rate that is too low to replenish the country's workforce, a widening wealth gap especially between the five biggest cities and the remainder of the country, mounting debt among local provincial governments, runaway home prices and rampant financial irregularities – none of which can be resolved in the short term. "No one should think this is an easy job, but it has been made harder by China's unwillingness to tackle some of these issues years ago," said Newedge Financial director Fraser Howie, who added that the first test would be how China reins in debt. The team faces a "far more complex" financial system than it ever was and "the days of easy growth are over", he said. One in four Chinese people will be 60 years or older by 2030, from the current 16.7 per cent of the population, according to census data. That will exert pressures on the pension system, and cause wages to soar because the workforce cannot be replenished quickly enough to meet demand. Debt ballooned over a decade to 163.4 per cent of economic output at the end of 2017. That compares with 73.3 per cent in the US and 53.8 per cent in Germany, according to the Bank of International Settlements, enough of a major concern for Moody's and S&P to downgrade China's sovereign credit rating for the first time in two decades. "Indebted, old countries do not grow," said Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and chief economist at China Beige Book, a New York-based research group. "The next five years will probably be OK, but the economy is headed in the wrong direction." Also significant is next month's retirement of Zhou Xiaochuan, the septuagenarian former chemical engineer and China's central bank governor for 15 years through the first term of Xi's presidency. China's central bank works as the government's policy organ, without a charter of independence, so the governor is not so much a formulator of monetary policy as its implementer. Zhou, with a penchant for delivering hour-long, off-the-cuff lectures on macroeconomics – in either Mandarin or English – is China's longest serving central banker, and the most authoritative and articulate explainer of the country's monetary policy. At least three of the six potential members of Liu's elite team worked under Zhou – Guo Shuqing as the central bank's foreign exchange administrator, Yi Gang after he joined the People's Bank of China in 2004 as assistant governor, while Liu Shiyu was Zhou's chief of staff in 2002, and later assistant governor. Guo, 62, is said to be the front runner as the incoming governor of the People's Bank of China. His resume includes provincial governments in Guizhou and Shandong, heading the regulatory bodies for stocks and banks, and four years as enforcer of China's foreign exchange controls. Guo likes to get things done quickly without much consideration for interest groups, according to China Banking Regulatory Commission officials, who declined to give their names. That style may resonate with Liu. When Communist Party elders cited the 2008 global financial crisis as proof that China's economic reforms since 1978 had gone awry, Liu dismissed people with those views as "a small minority", according to a cable by former US ambassador to China, Clark "Sandy" Randt, disclosed by WikiLeaks. This working style may also hew close to President Xi's priorities, which are to ensure political stability whilst untangling the complex web of woes entrapping China's economy, said American Enterprise Institute's Scissors. "Xi could initiate bold changes, but he has made his preference clear – state control is more valuable than productivity," Scissors said. "His government does not appear to have an economic agenda other than deal with risks created by" his predecessor, he said. The Chinese leadership outlined three key tasks over the next three years during its annual Central Economic Work Conference in December: risk prevention, poverty reduction and pollution control. The results of pollution control are already apparent. Boilers and heating systems in Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, were forced to switch to natural gas from coal to reduce the smog that cloaks the Chinese capital every winter, even as millions of rural residents were caught unprepared for the conversion. The result was to transform Beijing from one of China's most polluted cities to one with the best air quality. Similarly, in banking and finance, regulators worked in concert to reduce risk on the financial system. Guo as bank regulator uncovered 59,700 cases of irregularities among Chinese lenders involving 17.7 trillion yuan (US$2.7 trillion), and slapped 1,877 banks with 2.9 billion yuan in fines. Liu Shiyu as securities regulator gave a series of well-publicised tongue lashings to listed companies engaged in leveraged buyouts, while the insurance regulator was fired for allowing insurance policies to be used as war chests to finance takeovers. In Liu He, China has an experienced hand at dealing with the risks accumulated over a decade of financial innovation and post-crisis economic stimulus. In a 2012 research titled Comparative Study on the Two Global Crisis, he laid out the steps for dealing with risks: set a bottom line; prepare for the worst possible scenario; and maximise national interest by grasping strategic opportunities. After 2015, he called for creating a regulatory regime with teeth, which paved the way for regulatory crackdowns on debt, including placing private conglomerates like Anbang Group, Fosun Group, HNA Group and Wanda Group under scrutiny. "Reform mindset and approaches are necessary to solve long-term structural problems while surgeries are needed to tackle short-term risk," Liu wrote in the Chinese preface of Financial Supervision in the 21st Century, a book compiled by the Dutch central bank to reflect on the 2008 global financial crisis. Strategies such as the Belt and Road Initiative, supply-side reforms, the shift to consumption-driven growth and China's rush to defend globalisation can trace their roots to the 2012 Dutch research project led by Liu. "The world has entered a long process of inadequate demand and deleveraging after the [2008] crisis. Our strategic opportunities are mainly the huge lift of domestic market to drive a global economic recovery, acquisition of technologies of developed countries and infrastructure investment," according to Comparative Study on the Two Global Crisis. "He will have to steer a course between keeping the party in the driving seat and making the private sector vibrant," Tsang said. "Only time will tell if he can square this circle and for how long. ^ top ^

Xinjiang 'separatists' and Tibet's 'Dalai cliques' – targets in China's latest organised crime crackdown (SCMP)
2018-02-20
"Dalai surrogates" in Tibet and Xinjiang "separatists" are among the groups of people targeted by regional governments in China's latest national crackdown on "organised crime". The authorities in the autonomous regions issued notices identifying the targets after a closed-door meeting of the Communist Party's anti-graft watchdog in Beijing last month. The meeting marked the start of the national campaign and featured a warning from President Xi Jinping about collusion between triads and officials, especially the protectors of "mafia-style organisations", which he said had threatened the party's rule. Provincial and regional governments followed up the meeting with sessions of their own to determine how they would carry out the campaign. In a televised meeting on January 29, Xinjiang authorities said "separatist" forces would be one of the main targets in its "zero-tolerance" crackdown on organised crime. "The sharpest blade should target the triad forces the public hates most, especially the crimes of the three forces," state-run Xinjiang Daily citied officials at the meeting as saying. The "three forces" refer to separatism, terrorism and extremism, which Beijing blames for driving a series of violent attacks in the region. Overseas rights groups say Beijing's ethnic and religious policies are the cause of greater violence in the region. More than a week later, authorities in Tibet announced their own targets, saying they would pursue "triads" who promoted "the middle way", a reference to the Dalai Lama's call for greater autonomy without independence for the region. It also vowed to go after "Dalai surrogates" who operated under the banner of culture and environmental protection, and others who called for the "protection of the mother tongue", an apparent reference to rights groups concerned about the loss of the Tibetan language and culture under Beijing's rule. In other parts of the country petitioners were singled out for attention. The provinces of Henan and Shandong and the Hebei city of Tangshan said "inciting petitions" would be considered an act of organised crime. Shandong also set a quota for prosecutors at the county and district level, ordering them to mount at least one prosecution against an organised crime group or a syndicate, or fail their annual reviews. China is no stranger to nationwide drives against organised crime – similar campaigns were staged across the country in 1983, 1996, 2001 and 2010. In Chongqing in 2009, now-disgraced party boss Bo Xilai detained nearly 5,000 people and seized more than 3 billion yuan (US$473 million) in assets in his 10-month attempt to crush local gangs. The crackdown was later severely criticised, with cases of forced confessions and evidence that Bo was using the campaign to target political rivals. This time, less than a month into the campaign, the arrests have started to stack up. In all, at least six provinces have reported more than 1,000 arrests under the campaign, according to People's Daily. And more than 9,000 suspects have been rounded up around the country. Yang Xuelin, a seasoned criminal lawyer who defended people caught up in the Chongqing campaign, said the campaign was worrying because the number of arrests was high and information about them low. "I don't know what exactly those people are accused of, but my experience tells me that in such campaigns the authorities tend to throw minor offences or non-triad crimes into the category of 'organised crime'," Yang said. "We've learned enough mistakes from such crackdowns on organised crime. I hope law enforcement will follow the law this time. Tong Zhiwei, a professor at East China University of Political Science and Law, said it was a worrying trend that some local authorities, like Shandong, had set quotas. "It's a disturbing sign that these local law enforcement authorities are setting targets, and even seem to be competing over their totals. These are very unusual signs," Tong said. ^ top ^

Ex-lawyer detained slammed for criticising 'father of China's nuclear submarines' Huang Xuhua (SCMP)
2018-02-18
A former lawyer who made disparaging remarks about a celebrated Chinese nuclear submarine engineer has been detained by local authorities. Zhuo Baowei was detained for 10 days and fined 500 yuan (US$79) on Sunday for his criticism of 93-year-old Huang Xuhua, who helped to develop China's first nuclear submarine in the 1970s, according to a statement by the Linshu county government in eastern China's Shandong province. Zhuo's comments came after Huang appeared as guest of honour on state broadcaster CCTV's Lunar New Year gala show on Thursday night, People's Daily said on its official WeChat account on Sunday. Huang was thrust into the spotlight in November when Chinese President Xi Jinping invited him to sit beside him for a group photograph of more than 600 Chinese citizens being honoured at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing as "ethical workers". Media reports then told the story of how Huang had dedicated his life to his secret work and the huge sacrifices he had made for the Communist Party and the country. For 30 years, he made no contact with his family for fear of giving away his knowledge, and only told his father what he did for a living when the older man was on his deathbed. But the engineer's story did not impress everyone, and after his appearance in front of a television audience of about 700 million people last week, Zhuo took to Weibo, China's Twitter-like service, to have his say. "This shameless Huang Xuhua – who has not contacted his parents for 30 years – appears again!" he wrote on his account, which still lists him as a registered lawyer. His comment was reposted by People's Daily and immediately drew scorn, with many people accusing him of being disrespectful to the elderly engineer. Zhuo, who had been registered as a lawyer in eastern China's Shandong province, was also criticised by the professional community. "[We have] asked Zhuo to delete his Weibo tweet, cancel his verified lawyer account on Weibo, and informed [his] current employer of the situation," a lawyers association based in Rizhao, a city in Shandong, said on its website. Zhuo's former employer, Shandong Deyufa Law Firm, was equally scathing. "[Zhuo]'s speech targeting Mr Huang Xuhua created a bad impact," the company said on Weibo on Sunday. Both the association and the law firm said Zhuo had lost his lawyer's licence in August, though neither specified a reason. Zhuo's Weibo account could not found on Sunday and the South China Morning Post's calls to him went unanswered. A comment on Weibo by a member of the public saying "we should punish this man who is so disrespectful. Mr Huang should be honoured" was liked more than 4,000 times. But not everyone was critical. Another social media user wrote: "There is also a kind of person in China who sacrifices their freedom of speech for more than 30 years. Good luck, lawyer." ^ top ^

Liu Xiaobo's widow briefly emerges from house arrest during national holiday (SCMP)
2018-02-17
Liu Xia, the widow of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, spent Lunar New Year's eve with her brother, but was not allowed out to meet friends and is still under house arrest, according to a Hong Kong-based human rights organisation. The Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in a statement that it had contacted Liu by phone on Friday, the first day of the Lunar New Year. Liu has been under house arrest since 2010, but has never been charged with any offence by the Chinese authorities. Her husband, a prominent civil rights activist, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in his absence in 2010 while serving a prison sentence for subversion. He died last year from cancer in hospital while still in custody. Rights groups and several foreign government said Liu should be allowed to leave the country after her husband's death, but the information centre said it was still not known if she will be allowed to go. The centre said Liu went to her brother Liu Hui's home on Thursday to eat the traditional Lunar New Year eve meal of boiled dumplings. The centre's founder Frank Lu Siqing spoke to Liu for about 20 minutes. "I taught her how to say Gong Xi Fa Cai in Cantonese and encouraged her to keep a dog at home," Lu was quoted as saying, referring to the traditional Lunar New Year greeting in Mandarin. Liu had no internet access at home, her home was guarded and she was not later allowed out to meet friends, Lu said. There has also been no movement on whether the mainland authorities will allow Liu to travel abroad. "Liu Xia said there was no progress about that and she had no idea when she may be allowed by the authorities to go abroad," the centre's statement said. "Liu Xia also said there was no major problem with her body check, but she was still taking antidepressant drugs." Chinese officials claim Liu is free to move around, but her friends say she is cut off from the outside world and barred from making free decisions about who she can contact and where she can go. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Blaze at Jokhang Temple not caused by arson, Tibet police say; no relics damaged (SCMP)
2018-02-23
A preliminary investigation into the cause of last weekend's fire at Jokhang Temple in Tibet has ruled out arson, according to a state media report citing local authorities, which also confirmed that all of the monastery's prized relics had escaped unscathed. Li Bin, deputy director of police in the region's capital Lhasa, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that the blaze at the monastery on Saturday night had not damaged any of the cultural treasures housed there, including the Jowo Sakyamuni, a life-size statue of the 12-year-old Buddha. Although no one was hurt in the fire, photographs and videos of the Unesco Heritage Site that many regard as the heart of Tibetan Buddhism engulfed in flames triggered an outpouring of concern among Chinese internet users. Despite the apparent ferocity of the blaze, the main building of the temple was not damaged, and all 6,510 of its registered relics were safe, the report said. The fire broke out in a ventilation chamber on the second floor of the rear section of the temple about 6:40pm on Saturday, police said. An area of about 50 square metres was damaged, but the chamber did not contain any artefacts. The report did not give any explanation for why the fire started. While they were tackling the blaze, firefighters removed the gilded roof of the main building and "took measures" to protect items contained therein as a precaution against the fire spreading, the report said. Despite the claim that none of the temple's artefacts had been damaged, some foreign experts and Tibetans living abroad questioned why photographs and posts relating to the fire were so swiftly censored on Chinese social media. Robert Barnett, a London-based Tibetologist said on Twitter, which is blocked in mainland China, that a witness told his source that although the Jowo Sakyamuni survived the flames, "its crown melted, its robes were destroyed, and surrounding images and objects were badly damaged". Barnett pointed out that in photographs taken the day after the fire and released by state media, as well as in others shared online, a yellow veil could be seen obscuring the figures to the sides of the statue and the carvings behind it. Similarly, there appeared to be a discrepancy with the Jowo's attire, Barnett said. Several weeks before the blaze, the statue was given a new blue-trimmed crown and a new breastplate. In the latest, post-blaze, images, however, although the new breastplate could be seen, the statue was wearing its old crown, he said. Built in the seventh century, Jokhang Temple is one of the most sacred and important sites in Tibet. Every day, Buddhist pilgrims visit to prostrate themselves there. In the wake of the fire, which happened on the third day of the Lunar New Year holiday in the politically sensitive region, Tibet's regional government activated an emergency response mechanism. That led to safety inspections being carried out at all temples and other important cultural sites around the city. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Right to peaceful assembly and expression in Hong Kong in decline, damning Amnesty International report finds (SCMP)
2018-02-22
Hong Kong's human rights situation is getting worse, non-profit group Amnesty International said on Thursday, claiming the city's rights to peaceful assembly and expression have come under threat. In an annual report reviewing the human rights situation in the city last year, the organisation said authorities had taken a hard line against protesters and activists. "In the past year, the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression have both been dealt blows in Hong Kong," the report said. Last August, three student leaders of the Occupy movement, Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Alex Chow Yong-kang and Nathan Law Kwun-chung, were jailed for storming the government headquarters – an act that triggered the 79-day sit-ins of 2014. Prosecutors sought harsher penalties against them although they were originally given community service orders or suspended jail terms. Wong and the other two successfully appealed against their jail terms this month. In another case, prosecutors sought harsher punishments against 13 activists who were found guilty of illegal assembly. They too were jailed last August, and appeals are still pending. Mabel Au Mei-po, Amnesty International Hong Kong director, said the government's actions differed from before. "The human rights situation in Hong Kong is deteriorating and getting less and less ideal … In previous years, protesters were not usually prosecuted, or even if they were convicted, they would have been given community service – not to the point where they would be jailed," she said. "The government is sending a clear message to the public that if they go out onto the streets, their behaviour could land them in jail. This might make them become afraid to come out to express their ideas and opinions." Au also questioned the appropriateness of using various public nuisance charges held against another nine people, including Occupy founders Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Dr Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, who were involved in what were "largely peaceful" protests in 2014. Au said the charges were "vague" and lacked clarity. The report also pointed out that such implementation of the city's Public Order Ordinance had led to criticism by the UN Human Rights Committee for failing to meet international human rights laws. In another report that covered the human rights landscape among 159 countries worldwide, Amnesty said that last year world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, had abandoned human rights. "The feeble response to crimes against humanity and war crimes from Myanmar to Syria underscored the lack of leadership on human rights. Crimes against humanity and war crimes have gone unaddressed, sending a dangerous signal to abusers that anything goes," said Roseann Rife, East Asia research director at Amnesty. Rife said China saw the current vacuum of global leadership on human rights as an opportunity to show their strength and take charge. "The concern we have about China stepping in is the model that they're talking about focuses on economics and development and completely leaves human rights out of the equation," Rife said. "China's authoritarian model includes silencing human rights defenders, who remained under attack in China in 2017." Nobel Peace Prize laureate and prominent civil rights activist Liu Xiaobo died in custody last July after authorities refused his request to seek medical treatment abroad. He was sentenced in 2009 for inciting subversion. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

China's reunification dream will remain out of reach as long as Taiwanese feel they don't belong (SCMP)
2018-02-22
In early January, the US House of Representatives passed the Taiwan Travel Act "to encourage visits between the United States and Taiwan at all levels". Though the bill has yet to be signed into law, the Chinese spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lu Kang, was quick to criticise it. Lu claims the bill, which is more symbolic than substantive, would violate the "one-China" policy and encourage Taiwan independence. With tense cross-strait relations and provocative moves like this from the US, Chinese President Xi Jinping is faced with a dilemma: Taiwan does not wish to be part of China, and China's dreams of reuniting with Taiwan may already be out of reach. As a Chinese American, I have a long association with people in Taiwan. I have built a connection to Taiwan through family friends, relationships with government officials and even students. Whether Beijing thinks Taiwan is still part of the same country, Taiwan does not consider itself part of mainland China. The time for easy reunification has long since passed. If the people of Taiwan do not consider themselves part of a unified country, they will never be unified. Beijing and Taipei must take time to understand each other before any true unification is possible. Hopefully my own experiences, at the very least, can provide some understanding among them. In April 1949, I was preparing to study in America. I had travelled through the countryside from Beijing to China's eastern coastal Shandong province. There was no public transport then; the roads had been destroyed by the civil war between Mao Zedong's communists and the Kuomintang government of Chiang Kai-shek. I travelled with seven or eight classmates through the most destitute areas of China, catching rides on the backs of trucks and bicycles and sleeping on the floor. These areas, "liberated" by the victorious communists, could not have been poorer. From Qingdao in Shandong province, I flew to Taipei, where I stayed in my father's house for about two weeks. Taiwan was in chaos, awaiting Mao and unsure of the future. Chiang had not yet moved the KMT government to Taiwan, and people were unsure whether to stay in their homes or leave. I predicted that Mao would come, and told my friends they had a choice: live under the communists or leave. In the end, I was wrong: Mao did not "liberate" Taiwan. Looking back, this was a mistake for Mao and a very good thing for the Taiwanese people. Left alone by the communists, Taiwan prospered under Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo. The island transformed from a hopeless colony into an Asian economic miracle. Its people have been able to live free and democratic lives. Given the choice between Taiwan and mainland China, I would certainly have preferred to live in Taiwan. China's Communist Party has not understood how to address the Taiwanese people. Xi has been doing great things for the future of the mainland, but when it comes to Taiwan, he too has struggled. In his speech at the 19th National Party Congress in October, Xi reaffirmed his intention to "defeat any form of a Taiwan independence secession plot". He spoke of Taiwan in broad terms but left little doubt Beijing has no plans to abandon its claim to Taipei. Indeed, Xi included Taiwan in his picture of the "beautiful future of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation". However, Taiwanese people live free and happy lives in a multi-party democratic system, a rapidly modernising state with a developing economy. Heavy-handed policy and control from the mainland, such as crackdowns and suppression of independence, would only make the Taiwanese more resentful of mainland China. Xi needs to open his eyes. Xi did state that Beijing would "respect the current social system in Taiwan and the lifestyles of the Taiwan compatriots", but he cannot respect the people themselves if they do not wish to be part of China's future. Of course Taiwanese people wish to live freely. Now generations removed from the KMT's initial migration to the island, many identify more strongly as Taiwanese than Chinese. Mao did not help them. None of Mao's successors have helped them. What desire would any of them have to give up their way of life for China's? Xi must at least acknowledge the people's wishes to live independently, with all the benefits of a democratic government and without threats. The way to unify socially as well as legally should not involve provocative policies such as opening disputed air routes in the Taiwan Strait without consulting Taipei, like Beijing did with the M503 air corridor. That will not make people feel more kindly towards the mainland. I want to see China and Taiwan coexist peacefully, but what that will look like remains to be seen. Unfortunately, reunification may not be possible in Xi's lifetime without the use of force as a last resort – and it should only be a last resort. The Cultural Revolution killed many Chinese decades ago. China cannot find unity through a repeat of such violence. In the case of a declaration of independence from Taiwan, neither Beijing nor Taipei would benefit. Taiwan cannot stand up to an attack from the mainland. Neither China nor the US wish to risk a war with the other, either. Such a conflict would be devastating both in terms of trade and lives, and would affect the whole Asia-Pacific region as much as it would the two main antagonists. It is not revolutionary to say the Taiwan issue is a difficult balancing act, or that a solution will not be easy to find. Whether Taiwan is truly part of China, the Taiwanese people do not feel they are. Reunification is unlikely unless Xi takes steps now to change that. Patience, understanding and friendship must be the priority to unify people's spirits first. ^ top ^

Organisers play down significance of US-Taiwan arms sale forum (SCMP)
2018-02-22
The organisers of an event to be held in Taipei for Taiwan and the United States to discuss arms sales say they have not committed to hold the meeting on an annual basis – a move seen by analysts as an attempt to play down the significance of the forum due to concerns over a possible backlash from Beijing. A US-Taiwan defence industry conference has been held in the United States annually over the past 16 years, but both sides agreed that from 2018 they would take turns to host the event and the conference would now take place twice a year, a Taiwanese military source has previously told the South China Morning Post. The US-Taiwan Business Council has now confirmed to the Post that it was working with the Taiwan Defence Industry Development Association for "a day seminar/forum and lunch keynote" possibly in early May to discuss defence industry cooperation between the United States and Taiwan. But the meeting was not equivalent to the annual conference held in the US, said Lotta Danielsson, vice-president of the council in an email. "The annual US-Taiwan Defence Industry Conference will be held in the US – as it has been for the last 16 years – probably in late October," she said. Danielsson said the council has not committed to making the Taiwan seminar an annual event, but "we look forward to finding ways to cooperate with [the Taiwan defence association] on the spring event, and potentially on other events and activities in the future". Taiwanese analysts said regardless of whether the Taiwan seminar was equivalent to the US conference or not, the event was highly significant in that it would help promote Taiwan's defence industry to the US. Wang Kung-yi, a political science professor at the Chinese Culture University in Taipei, said the US-Taiwan Business Council appeared to want to play down the significance of the planned event in Taiwan, probably due to concerns about antagonising China's government. Beijing, which considers Taiwan a breakaway Chinese province, has repeatedly warned the US and other countries against helping the island to arm itself. "The Taiwan seminar is significant in the sense that it will not only facilitate exchanges between prominent US arms suppliers and local manufacturers, but will also serve as another important channel for officials from the two sides to discuss the kinds of weapons Taiwan should buy or build to try to counter the military balance now heavily tilting towards China," he said. It is not known whether the US will send senior defence or State Department officials to attend the Taiwan event, as it has done at previous meetings in the US, but prominent US arms suppliers, including Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, are expected to send representatives to Taiwan, according to Wang. Representatives of Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and 10 other US arms suppliers joined a delegation organised by the US-Taiwan Business Council to visit Taiwan last month and met with President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party. Senior military officials and experts, including those from Taiwan's Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, are also expected to attend the planned seminar, as they have at previous conferences held in the US. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

Twisted sister: Pence slams Kim Yo-jong, sibling of Kim Jong-un, as part of 'evil, murderous, tyrannical' family (SCMP)
2018-02-23
US Vice-President Mike Pence on Thursday assailed the North Korean leader's sister who sat near him at the Olympics as part of an "evil family clique" that oppresses millions. Pence and Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, sat in the same box during the February 9 opening ceremony of the Winter Games in Seoul, but the pair did not interact. That scene, broadcast worldwide, was closely watched for its diplomatic signals. US officials said later that Pence and North Korean officials had planned to meet secretly during the Games, but that Pyongyang scrapped the talks at the last minute after he criticised the "murderous regime." Pence on Thursday had choice words for the North Korean leader's sister, who was given wide press coverage during her appearance at the games. "The sister of Kim Jong-un is a central pillar of the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet, an evil family clique that brutalises, subjugates, starves and imprisons its 25 million people," he told thousands attending the Conservative Political Action Conference. "For all those in the media who think I should have stood and cheered with the North Koreans, I say: the United States of America doesn't stand with murderous dictatorships, we stand up to murderous dictatorships," Pence said, to loud cheers. "And we will keep standing strong until North Korea stops threatening our country, our allies, or until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missiles once and for all." During his Asian tour, Pence denounced the North's nuclear drive and sought to shore up ties with regional allies – and long-time North Korean foes – Japan and South Korea. ^ top ^

China 'highly concerned' over possible breach of UN sanctions on North Korea (SCMP)
2018-02-22
China is "highly concerned" about a reported ship-to-ship transfer on the high seas that could violate UN sanctions on North Korea and has launched an investigation, the foreign ministry said on Thursday. Spokesman Geng Shuang said China would "seriously deal" with any Chinese individuals or enterprises found to be involved in the incident reported earlier this week by Japan. "China is highly concerned about the situation and we are in the middle of an investigation," Geng said at a regularly scheduled news conference. Punishment of any Chinese entities found to have been involved would be carried out "based on solid evidence and in accordance with Chinese laws and regulations", he said. The unusually strong comments underscore Beijing's extreme concern over being seen as not carrying out its responsibilities in enforcing UN sanctions, as pressure on China, North Korea's main ally, has grown and become a point of tension with the US. Though China is North Korea's biggest trading partner and a traditional friend, ties between them have soured over the North's nuclear and missile tests and its refusal to return to Chinese-hosted denuclearisation talks. A Japanese maritime Self-Defence Force PC-3 surveillance plane and an escort ship saw a North Korean-flagged tanker alongside a smaller ship on February 16, about 250 kilometres (150 miles) off Shanghai in the East China Sea, Japan's foreign ministry said late on Tuesday. Photos posted on the ministry's website show the two ships with what appear to be hoses running between them. The ministry identified the North Korean tanker as the Yu Jong 2. It said the other vessel is of unknown nationality, but had "Min Ning De You 078" written in Chinese on its bow, which is shorthand for an oil ship from Ningde city in China's coastal Fujian province. It was the third such incident reported by Japan in the past month. China has signed on to increasingly tough United Nations sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme, and Geng said Beijing recently issued a statement explicitly banning ship-to-ship transfers in accordance with UN resolutions. Zhu Feng, dean of the Institute of International Studies at China's Nanjing University, said Geng's comments were a show of resolve on the part of Beijing to unwind North Korea's complex web of illicit trade. "China's sanctions on North Korea are harsh and they are complete," Zhu said. "Enforcement of complete and forceful sanctions is not only a political statement, but also a practical move to prevent the underground trade that provides the North with those banned goods." ^ top ^

China hails momentum on peninsula (Global Times)
2018-02-22
China welcomes the momentum on the Korean Peninsula and hopes relevant parties not to provoke each other, the foreign ministry said Thursday. "South Korea and North Korea have made a series of interactions and friendly cooperation centered on the Winter Olympics, which as a close neighbor, China welcomes and supports," ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily briefing on Thursday. "We have stressed that dialogue is the only way to resolve the deadlock on the Korean Peninsula and break the vicious circle. The two Koreas have taken the precious first step and we hope all relevant parties could work together to keep the momentum and promote the interactions, especially possible dialogue between North Korea and the US, in an effort to open dialogue channels for resolving the Korean Peninsula issue," Geng said. Geng said that China hoped all parties would not make moves that provoke each other or intensify conflict. They should work together to maintain the stability of the Korean Peninsula and create a good atmosphere for possible dialogue. "We hope the US and North Korea can seize the opportunity to show their sincerity and work together. The international community should also promote and cheer them for doing so," Geng said. Geng's remarks came after news on North Korea's plan to send a high-ranking delegation to the closing ceremony of Winter Olympic Games. The high-ranking North Korean delegation, led by Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, will make a three-day visit to South Korea beginning Sunday when the closing ceremony is scheduled to be held in South Korea's eastern county of Pyeongchang, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, will accompany Kim as a delegate together with six support staff, according to the notification delivered by North Korea earlier in the day. Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said that it is too early to predict such a possible contact, "but the government will make efforts to lead the US and North Korea to open dialogue," Cho said, Yonhap News Agency reported. An official at South Korea's presidential office said earlier in the day that there is a low chance of direct contact between the North Koreans and the US delegation, Yonhap reported. The minister also said that the government needs to take into account many factors, including the impact on inter-Korean ties and possible talks between the US and the North. Ivanka Trump, the first daughter and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, will lead the US delegation to the closing ceremonies on Sunday, ABC News reported on Thursday. The White House did not say if Ivanka Trump planned to meet with the North's delegation as a part of her visit. ^ top ^

North Korea strengthening its cyberweapons for large-scale attacks, new report warns (SCMP)
2018-02-20
North Korea is quietly expanding both the scope and sophistication of its cyberweaponry, laying the groundwork for more devastating attacks, according to a new report published on Tuesday. Kim Jong-un's cyberwarriors have been accused of causing huge disruption in recent years, including being blamed for the massive hack on Sony Pictures in 2014 and last year's WannaCry ransomware worm, as well as umpteen attacks on South Korean servers. Now it appears that North Korea has also been using previously-unknown holes in the internet to carry out cyberespionage – the kinds of activities that could easily metamorphose into full-scale attacks, according to a report from FireEye, the California-based cybersecurity company. Although the North Korean regime bans the internet for ordinary citizens and is decidedly behind the times with most technology, it has funnelled a huge amount of time and money into building a cyberarmy capable of outsmarting more technologically advanced countries like South Korea. "Our concern is that this could be used for a disruptive attack rather than a classic espionage mission, which we already know that the North Koreans are regularly carrying out," said John Hultquist, director of intelligence analysis for FireEye. FireEye said that it has "high confidence" that a cyberespionage group it has identified as APT37 is responsible for a number of "zero-day vulnerability" attacks not just in South Korea but also in Japan, Vietnam and in the Middle East. Zero-day attacks are when hackers find and exploit flaws in software before the developers have had an opportunity to create a patch to fix it. "It's like your security system is a big wall but someone knows that there's a hole somewhere in that wall and can crawl through it," Hultquist said. "It's fairly rare." It's also a sign of sophistication as hackers are able to obtain access and defeat mature security programs, he said. Experts say all the evidence suggests that Lazarus, the cyber-collective that launched the embarrassing attack on Sony and was behind the US$81 million cyberheist of a Bangladeshi bank in 2016, has links to the North Korean regime. It is also accused of masterminding last year's WannaCry attack, which crippled companies, banks and hospitals around the world last year. North Korea is also accused of numerous attacks in South Korea. The most recent involved the hacking of South Korean cryptocurrency exchange. The bitcoin exchange Youbit lost 17 per cent of its total assets in the December attack, and said it would close down as a result. But this APT37 appears to have been operating under the radar, exploiting holes in South Korean cybersecurity since 2012 to covertly gather intelligence on issues of concern for the North Korean regime: the government, military, media and human rights groups among them. These targets, together with the times of day that attacks happen, strongly point to North Korea, FireEye said. Last year, however, APT37 appears to have targeted a Japanese entity involved in imposing sanctions on North Korea, a Vietnamese company and one in the Middle East. FireEye did not name any of the targets for legal reasons, but its description of the attack on the company in the Middle East perfectly describes Orascom, the Egyptian telecommunications company that had started a mobile phone company in North Korea, only to have almost all its profits retained by the regime. As well as expanding its geographical reach, APT37 also appears to be targeting a wider range of industries, including chemicals, electronics, manufacturing, aerospace, automotive and health care entities, the report said. While the damage is currently much lower than that caused by the huge cyberattacks blamed on North Korea, it suggests the regime is looking for new ways to launched stealthy attacks when it wants to. The Worldwide Threat Assessment published by the US intelligence community last week forecast the potential for surprise attacks in the cyber realm would increase over the next year. Intelligence agencies expect North Korea to use cyber operations to gather intelligence or launch attacks on South Korea and the United States. "Pyongyang probably has a number of techniques and tools it can use to achieve a range of offensive effects with little or no warning, including distributed denial of service attacks, data deletion, and deployment of ransomware," the assessment said. Hultquist said that APT37 was just the kind of tool North Korea could use for a surprise attack, partly because it has been operating at a relatively low level. "Lazarus and the other actors that are well known all started as espionage. That's the classic story again and again," he said, adding that the Kim regime didn't seem to care about consequences. "North Korea has flaunted global norms and taboos. They are not necessarily concerned about retribution. They have adopted this criminal M.O. which flies in the face of just about any kind of international norm." ^ top ^

DPRK official: Possible to co-host Asian Games with ROK (Global Times)
2018-02-20
The DPRK is "possible" to jointly hold the 2021 Asian Winter Games with the Republic of Korea (ROK), a DPRK official said on Tuesday, according to ROK's Yonhap news agency. Chang Ung, DPRK's International Olympic Committee (IOC) representative made the remarks after ROK's Gangwon-do Provincial Governor Choi Moon-soon said Saturday that he is considering to co-host the Asian Games with the DPRK. Gangwon-do Province is now hosting the February 9 to 25 PyeongChang Olympics. If that happens, Chang said DPRK's side may use Masikryong Ski Resort on the outskirts of its eastern city of Wonsan as one of the venues. ^ top ^

US-South Korea military drills to go on despite Pyongyang's charm offensive: former CIA officer (SCMP)
2018-02-17
South Korean government officials have offered assurances that their joint military exercises with the US, which were pre-empted by the Winter Olympic Games, will proceed despite North Korea's recent efforts to rebuild ties with Seoul by inviting President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang. "In the near term, the US will be wary about how far President Moon will go, but when I was in Seoul recently all of the officials assured us that the military exercises would go on as they need to," said Bruce Klingner, the Washington-based Heritage Foundation's Senior Fellow for Northeast Asia, who is also a former CIA officer. "Then it's the North's decision as to whether they want to continue to play the charm offensive and try to wean away the South from the US, or do they take umbrage and use the military exercises as justification for what they're going to do anyway, which is additional missile and nuclear tests?" Klingner said in a panel discussion at the New York-based Korea Society. US President Donald Trump and Moon "agreed to de-conflict the Olympics and our military exercises so that United States and Republic of Korea forces can focus on ensuring the security of the Games", the White House announced about a month before the international competition in Pyeongchang, South Korea, started. Analysts have called North Korea's unprecedented diplomatic outreach to its estranged neighbour a transparent attempt to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul, worrying some policymakers who see the US-South Korea alliance as an important foreign policy default. North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, this week offered praise for South Korea, which he said gave special priority to the North's athletes at the Winter Olympics, according to a state media report. Kim called the South's treatment of the North Korean visitors "very impressive", the report said. Those comments came after his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, and other top regime officials returned from their trip to the Games. The younger Kim's visit to South Korea was the first for a member of the North's ruling dynasty. The decision pushed back the annual military exercises known as Foal Eagle, which are normally held between February and April to test the readiness of the two countries' militaries. The move contrasted with the hard-line rhetoric Trump had used against North Korea amid a series of intercontinental missile tests and nuclear detonations by Pyongyang in 2017. North Korea routinely objects to the military exercises, calling them a rehearsal for an invasion by the US. From 1996 to 2001, Klingner was the CIA's deputy division chief for Korean affairs, responsible for the analysis of political, military, economic and leadership issues for the US president and other senior policymakers, according to the Heritage Foundation, a think tank that advocates strong military engagement in regions where the US faces geopolitical adversaries. Domestic politics, including protests by South Koreans against efforts to unite the North and South Korean Olympic teams, also point to the limitations of North Korea's wedge strategy, some of the panellists said. While spectators cheered the inter-Korean women's Olympic hockey team at game time, some South Koreans demonstrated against the removal of six South Korean players to make room for members from the North. "A few hundred" demonstrators also chanted outside Seoul's central railway station last month to protest the inclusion of North Korean athletes, the Los Angeles Times reported. In another incident, dozens of riot police with shields had to keep order as throngs of angry protesters greeted a ferry bringing a 140-member North Korean orchestra into South Korea's Mukho Port last week, Reuters reported. The demonstrators waved South Korean and US flags while singing the South Korean national anthem, the report said, noting that no unified Korea flags were spotted in the crowd. Moon has become more centrist and pragmatic on North Korea than he was before his election last year, said Su Mi Terry, who served as a senior North Korea analyst in the CIA under former President George W. Bush. Moon's change of strategy stands out in contrast to the style of his impeached predecessor, Park Geun-hye, who pursued a hard-line stance against Pyongyang. That transition signals that the Seoul-Washington alliance is likely to withstand what some have called Pyongyang's "charm offensive", said Terry, who is Korea Chair and a senior fellow at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic & International Studies. "Even if [Moon] has a summit with Kim Jong-un, I think it's going to be hard to repeat the kind of dynamics of 2000 under former President Kim Dae-jung," she said. "The Moon administration keeps saying that it learned from the Kim Dae-jung years." In 1998, then-South Korean President Kim announced the start of his "sunshine policy", which signalled a more accommodating tone on North Korea as a way to reduce friction and antagonism between Pyongyang, Seoul and the US. That policy has been seen as a failure, particularly as North Korea pursued its nuclear weapons programme in subsequent years. "There's a domestic constraint too," Terry said. "It's evident from the backlash over the Olympics, over walking under the united Korea flag and the unified female hockey team." The criticism of these gestures "didn't only come from conservatives but also from many in the younger generation," she said. "There's only so much [Moon] can give in terms of unilateral concessions to North Korea." South Korea's resolve has become crucial in the effort to restrain Pyongyang amid inconsistent messages out of Washington, Terry and Klingner said. Terry cited US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's comment in December that the US was ready to talk with North Korea without preconditions, a statement that White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders immediately contravened. "There's extra confusion coming out of this administration because coordination is not what it used to be or what it should be," Terry said. Klingner agreed. "Those of us in Washington who follow this are confused at times by what the US administration's policy is on North Korea," he said. "There's a lot of contradictory statements and we debate amongst ourselves as to whether it's part of a comprehensive good-cop-bad-cop strategy. "If those of us who follow it full time are confused," he said, "we can only imagine how our allies and opponents are viewing it." ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Annual report released on state of human rights in Mongolia (Montsame)
2018-02-22
Amnesty International launched the annual report titled 'The State of the World's Human Rights' on February 22, which covers 159 countries and delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights in the world today. Upon the launch of the report, Amnesty International Mongolia organized a meeting at the National University of Mongolia among human rights experts. R.Ochirbal, Leader of the Lawyer's group of Amnesty International Mongolia delivered a presentation titled 'State of Human Rights in Mongolia', in which he illustrated the main human rights concerns in Mongolia Amnesty International highlights. "The death penalty was abolished as the new Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure came into force. Impunity for torture and other ill-treatment of detainees and attacks against human rights defenders continued. The economic, social and cultural rights of people living in rural areas affected by mining activities, and in ger areas − areas without adequate access to essential services − were at risk of being violated," Amnesty International assessed the state of human rights in Mongolia. Death penalty. The death penalty was abolished for all crimes when the new Criminal Code came into force on 1 July, after its adoption in December 2015. However, in November, the newly elected President proposed reinstatement to the Ministry of Justice in response to two violent rape and murder cases. Human rights defenders. Human rights defenders continued to report physical attacks and harassment by law enforcement authorities and private corporations. These human rights defenders included students with disabilities acting as whistleblowers exposing discrimination and sexual abuse in a school, and journalists trying to report human rights issues such as gender-based violence. Existing laws failed to protect them from harassment and unjustified interference with their privacy. Torture and other ill-treatment. Impunity and under-reporting of torture and other ill-treatment of individuals in detention, including people with disabilities and foreign nationals, continued in the absence of an independent, dedicated investigation mechanism. The new Criminal Procedure Code becoming effective in July did not reestablish the previously disbanded independent investigation unit, despite advocacy efforts by civil society. Freedom of expression. On 1 July, a new Administrative Offence Act came into effect, allowing for increased administrative fines including when false information was published that could damage the reputation of individuals or business entities. A media professionals' organization criticized the law for being vague and overly broad, and feared it could be excessively used to suppress freedom of expression. Media companies staged a media blackout on 26 April to protest against the law, which was subsequently passed with reduced fines. Economic, social and cultural rights. Authorities failed to protect traditional herders from the operations of mining companies that negatively affected their livelihoods, traditional culture, and access to land and clean water. The influx of mining companies and transporting trucks in the Dalanjargalan soum of Dornogobi province caused heavy dust which severely degraded pastures and threatened the health and safety of livestock and people. Media workers filmed mining company representatives intimidating journalists and herders. Following his visit to Mongolia in September, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment called for consultation with local communities before mining permits were issued, and for improved standards to ensure safe operation. Right to housing and forced evictions. Residents in the ger areas of the capital, Ulaanbaatar, continued to live with the possibility of forced eviction due to urban redevelopment, without updated information on redevelopment plans, genuine consultation or adequate compensation. Residents complained that the new local government elected in June 2016 had failed to implement redevelopment plans agreed with the previous government; the new government claimed it lacked funds. These plans included the provision of essential components of adequate housing such as safe drinking water, sanitation and energy. ^ top ^

UNICEF: Air pollution threatens Mongolia's human capital (Montsame)
2018-02-22
Inaction towards air pollution in Ulaanbaatar would lead to an increase in the costs of treating air pollution-induced diseases in children of 33 percent between 2017 and 2025, costing health providers at least MNT 4.8 billion extra per annum by 2025, says a joint report commissioned by the National Center for Public Health and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). With the report titled 'Mongolia's air pollution crisis: A call to action to protect children's health', released on February 22, UNICEF calls for potential actions to prevent and treat the health impacts of air pollution, alongside a broader effort towards reducing the levels of air pollution. "Air pollution has become a child health crisis in Ulaanbaatar, putting every child and pregnancy at risk. The risks include stillbirth, preterm birth, lower birth weight, pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma and death. It is a real threat to Mongolia's human capital," said UNICEF Mongolia Representative Alex Heikens. "Reducing air pollution levels is the only long term sustainable solution to protect children's health," noted the Representative, calling for action to not only invest in cleaner and more efficient energy, but also in reducing children's exposure, to provide better treatment to children with air pollution related diseases, and strengthen children's overall health to reduce their vulnerability to air pollution. In the last 10 years, incidences of respiratory diseases in Ulaanbaatar alarmingly increased including a 2.7-fold increase in respiratory infections per 10,000 population. Pneumonia is now the second leading cause for under-five child mortality in the country. Children living in a highly polluted district of central Ulaanbaatar were found to have 40 percent lower lung function than children living in a rural area. "The Government acknowledges its leading role in the reduction of air pollution, and it is clear we can overcome air pollution with systematic actions taken over the course of several years," remarked Minister of Health D.Sarangerel in her opening speech. "There has not been a single day without discussion of air pollution in the Cabinet in the last three months since it was formed." The Minister also emphasized the utmost importance the Government attaches to public health, especially child health. Minister D.Sarangerel appreciated the timeliness of the study saying, "Air pollution becomes a major political and social issue in winters and is basically forgotten in the other seasons. But I am glad such an important study report has been presented to us before the end of smog season," adding that it will serve as important guidelines for identification of priorities, utilization of finance and cooperation with international organizations and partners. The report recommends the following to reduce the impact of air pollution on children's health: Strengthen public education campaigns to raise awareness and improve understanding of the public on health consequences of air pollution, protection measures, use of clean technology and fuels, early recognition of respiratory diseases among children and so on Rollout of the Pneumococcal Vaccine that will have an immediate effect on the health of children exposed to air pollution as it protects against invasive pneumococcal disease and pneumonia Improve indoor air quality in public kindergartens, schools and hospitals where children spend considerable amount of time Provide guidance to the public on the use and access to good quality of face masks.
Furthermore, the report provides some medium and long-term recommendations to strengthen the health system as a whole, and recommendations for further research to better understand the health impacts of air pollution. ^ top ^

Foreign Minister to pay an official visit to Japan (GoGo Mongolia)
2018-02-20
Minister of Foreign Affairs D. Tsogtbaatar will pay an official visit to Japan from February 21 through 25. The official visit is taking place to strengthen Mongolia's strategic partnership with Japan, a third neighbor nation, as well as enhancing political relations and expanding cooperation, particularly at the economic level. The foreign minister is expected to hold official negotiations with his counterpart, Taro Kono, and the ministers will exchange views on regional and global issues. Minister D. Tsogtbaatar is also scheduled to meet with officials from the Mongolia-Japan Friendship Group in Japanese Parliament; Japan's ministers of energy, commerce and industry, health, and labor and welfare; Japan International Cooperation Agency (JAICA); Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC); the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). During his visit, he will give a speech at a Mongolia-Japan business forum. ^ top ^

 

Aurèle Aquillon
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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