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

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

Press review, if not selected: all SinOptic
  1-5.2.16, No. 608  
    Archiv / Archives
Table of contents

DPRK

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Germany tipped for a top spot in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (SCMP)
2016-02-01
Germany is likely to have one top position in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank while a Briton will be the vice-president in charge of communications, sources told the South China Morning Post. The fledging development bank opened for business last month and will have five vice-presidents working alongside its chief, China's Jin Liqun. The other vice-presidents will be from Germany, India, South Korea and Indonesia, according to a list of proposed nominees. Finance Minister Lou Jiwei was named chairman of the Board of Governors. The balance in favour of emerging Asian countries is in contrast to other similar international institutions such as the Western-dominated World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The vice-president from Germany will be the bank's chief operating officer, while the chief financial officer would be the vice-president from India, the bank's second-biggest shareholder, sources said. The position of chief administrative officer will be earmarked for Indonesia, which has the eighth-largest stake in the bank. The South Korean vice-president would be in charge of risk affairs while the British vice-president would also oversee meeting arrangements. Britain was the first Western power to sign up for the China-led organisation and is tenth in contributions. Jin, the bank's inaugural president, would formally put the list of nominees to the board, a move expected to be endorsed by most of the member states, another source said. At the bank's opening ceremony two weeks ago, Chinese leaders pledged their full support for the AIIB and called on other international development lenders to help improve the region's infrastructure and create jobs. The bank was first proposed by President Xi Jinping in October, 2013, when China was looking for new ways to spend the country's growing foreign exchange reserves. Of the 12 members of the board of directors, three will be from outside Asia, with Germany initially representing the euro zone and Britain the rest of Europe. Russia, the third-biggest stakeholder, and France, the ­seventh, are not expected to land top positions in the bank. The Financial Times reported last week that Beijing was unhappy with Britain's nomination of former Liberal Democrat minister Danny Alexander for vice-president, due to his lack of experience in the AIIB's focus areas. The AIIB website says candidates for the vice-presidential roles should have at least 20 years of experience in international financial institutions or multinational development banks. “Britain should have sent someone more powerful and more experienced to the AIIB. This would be in Britain's interests and help cement its status in the bank,” said Wang Wen, director of Renmin University's Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies. “The most important standard for China is that they have professional and financial expertise, because this will be critical to the AIIB's successful operation in the first five years.” ^ top ^

China urged to get tough with the United States over USS Curtis Wilbur's sail-by near Triton Island in disputed South China Sea (SCMP)
2016-01-31
The sailing of an American naval vessel within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the disputed South China Sea last week has triggered calls among China's military personnel for tougher action against the United States. Beijing has condemned the Saturday incident involving guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur, saying that it strongly opposed Washington's “provocative move”, but there are those in China who believe the rebuke is not enough to deter the US from further such action. Other observers say Beijing does not want a heightened confrontation with Washington, although the latest affront may prompt Beijing to speed up its test flights of military aircraft and construction of facilities over the disputed waters. The defence ministry said the People's Liberation Army garrison on Triton Island – which is part of the Paracel Islands – had taken action to warn off and repel the USS Curtis Wilbur, although no details were given. But retired colonel Yue Gang said simply warning the American warship was insufficient. “With radars and satellites, the Chinese military is capable of detecting the movement of US ships and aircraft, and is able to deter them much earlier,” Yue said. “US ships have entered into 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands, and now they have sailed into the Paracel Islands. The US is stepping up its provocation and challenging China's ability to defend its territory.” Yue said tough action by Beijing against Washington would not lead to war as both nations were aware that armed conflict was not in their interests. “There will probably be more provocation if Beijing does not step up. Public sentiment in China will rise and it will become difficult for the Chinese government to handle.” A passive response from Beijing would give the impression that the nation was weak in defending its territorial integrity, the former colonel added. Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said Saturday's move was aimed at challenging attempts to restrict freedom of navigation in the region and that none of the claimants of the area were informed beforehand. State-run Xinhua yesterday published commentaries, accusing the US of being “ironic”. “By repeatedly sending military ships on so-called “freedom of navigation” missions in the area, the US is actually abusing freedom of navigation and pursuing selfish gains at the cost of others,” read one commentary. Another commentary said the US was “accustomed to hegemony and power politics” and China was a “victim” in the dispute. “The US claims to be a bystander, but judging from its recent warship and aircraft activities, it is a bystander too eager to become involved,” it said. Xu Guangyu, a retired major general and senior researcher at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said Beijing had prepared different responses to Washington, with the possibility of speeding up construction in the South China Sea and conducting military test flights at the new airports there. Civil aircraft had already completed test flights on the Spratly Islands – suggesting that the facilities there were ready for military aircraft use as well, Xu said. But he said Beijing would be cautious to avoid being seen as provoking confrontation. “China still wants to be seen in the international community as being reasonable; it is not in its interests to have confrontations with the US,” Xu said. Zhang Baohui, a China security specialist at Hong Kong's Lingnan University, said Beijing might send more military vessels and aircraft to the disputed region to convey the message that its activities in the South China Sea would continue despite US pressure. But it would take steps to avoid being accused of “militarising” the islands, Zhang said. “The strategic cost for having a major confrontation with the US will be too heavy for Beijing.” ^ top ^

China urges U.S. not to undermine mutual trust (Xinhua)
2016-01-30
China on Saturday urged the United States to respect and abide by its laws, and not to undermine the mutual trust and regional peace and stability. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying made the remarks as reports said a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Zhongjian Dao, Xisha Islands. According to the China's law on the territorial sea and contiguous zone enacted in 1992, foreign warships entering China's territorial waters must be approved by the Chinese government. "The U.S. warship violated Chinese law and entered China's territorial sea without authorization. The Chinese side conducted surveillance and vocal warnings to the U.S. warship," Hua said. Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun also issued a statement, saying the U.S. act severely violated Chinese law, sabotaged the peace, security and good order of the waters, and undermined the region' s peace and stability. The Defense Ministry is firmly against this, he said. Yang said China's law on the territorial sea and contiguous zone accords with the international law and practice, and that many other countries have similar laws. The Chinese government also issued a statement on territorial sea baseline on May 15, 1996, which announced part of the baseline of the territorial sea adjacent to China's mainland and the baseline of the territorial sea adjacent to the Xisha Islands. "The U.S. side is fully aware of this, yet it still sent its warship into China' s territorial sea without authorization. It is a deliberate provocation," Yang said in the statement. According to Yang, Chinese troops on the islands and Navy vessels and warplanes took actions immediately. They identified and verified the U.S. warship, warned and expelled it swiftly. For many years, the U.S. side has proposed measures to ensure navigation safety of ships and aircraft of all parties, but it repeatedly sent vessels and planes into China' s territorial sea and air space regardless of China's opposition, leading to close encounters of navy and air force troops of the two countries, Yang said. He added that the move on the U.S. side is very unprofessional and irresponsible for the safety of the troops of both sides, and may cause extremely dangerous consequences. The Chinese armed forces will take whatever measures necessary to safeguard China's sovereignty and security, no matter what provocations the U.S. side may take, Yang said. ^ top ^

China strongly supports Palestinian people, peace process: Mideast envoy (Xinhua)
2016-01-31
China's Special Envoy on Middle East affairs Gong Xiaosheng said Sunday that Beijing firmly supports the Palestinian people and the Middle East peace process. The visiting envoy told media in the West Bank city of Ramallah that the Palestinian issue should not be marginalized, and China supports the establishment of a state of Palestine with full sovereignty on the basis of the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. According to Gong, Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent visit to the Middle East could signal the beginning of a new era in relations between China and Palestine as well as other countries in the region. It was the president's first overseas tour of 2016 and his first visit to the region since assuming office. When President Xi addressed the Arab League in Cairo, his message was clear: What China wants for a region dogged by decades of troubles is peace, development and stability. Xi said the Palestinian issue should not fall into oblivion as it is of fundamental importance to peace in the Middle East, adding that to bring an end to the conflict, the international community should not only promote the resumption of the talks and implementation of the agreements, but also uphold fairness and justice. To improve the well-being of the Palestinians, Beijing promises to provide 50 million yuan (7.53 million US dollars) of grant to the Palestinian side and support the solar power station project in its territories. Prior to Xi's visit, China released its first policy document specifically addressing relations with the Arab world, leaving no one in any doubt that cooperation and development come hand-in-hand with peace and stability. On regional affairs in the Middle East, Gong said China has called for an all-round solution to the region's hot issues, stressing that China supports the idea of holding an international peace conference in line with the principle of the two-state solution. While pushing for peace in the Middle East, the international community should also help its economic development and provide more humanitarian assistance, he said. The Belt and Road Initiative can play an important role in restoring the economies of the Middle East and promoting social stability, he said. The Belt and Road Initiative, or the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, an ambitious vision Xi put forward in 2013, aims to boost inter-connectivity and common development along the ancient land and maritime Silk Roads. Gong wrapped up his two-day visit to Palestine on Sunday. During his stay in Ramallah, he met with Saeb Erekat, Palestinian chief negotiator and secretary general of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki and Abbas Zaki, a member in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Fatah Party's Central Committee. Palestinian leaders expressed their thanks for China's support for the Palestinian cause in fields of politics, technical training as well as financial aid, and welcomed the convening of an international peace conference, with the participation of permanent members of the UN Security Council, including China. They said that the Palestinians believe that Chinese President Xi's visit to the Middle East has historic meanings. ^ top ^

D-Day for PLA: China launches new theatre commands in drive for modern military (SCMP)
2016-02-02
The PLA has officially abandoned its decades-old seven military regions, replacing them with five new theatre commands in its bid to establish a modern, integrated force. But ground force personnel still dominate the leadership of the People's Liberation Army's new zones, a move one analyst said would help ensure stability in the transition. With the announcement yesterday of the new commanders and political commissars, the heads of the east, south, west, north and central commands will be responsible for the territorial defence of those areas. They will no longer directly administer the troops in each region, but focus instead on joint command of the ground, naval, air and all other forces. As part of the changes, Lanzhou region chief General Liu Yuejun, 61, takes on the role of head of the eastern command. General Wang Jiaocheng, 64, moves from the Shenyang region to the southern command; Jinan region commander General Zhao Zongqi, 61, becomes head of the western command; and former Beijing region commander General Song Puxuan, 62, becomes head of the northern command. The appointments confirm a South China Morning Post report last month. At the inauguration ceremony in Beijing on Monday, President Xi Jinping presented flags to the commanders and political commissars of each of the five zones. Xi, also the chairman of the Central Military Commission, told the chiefs their goal was to be able to command joint operations in battle. “Each command must concentrate on studying modern warfare … and proactively seize the initiative in a future war,” Xi said”. “[You should] enhance joint command, joint action and joint logistics, and ensure troops are combat ready and complete military missions.” Retired colonel Yue Gang said the military was making a big change and had to be cautious. “The transformation from military regions to theatre commands is huge, so the step has to be taken carefully,” Yue said, commenting on the army's continued dominance of the top jobs. “These army commanders have the experience and prestige to lead this transition and are safe choices.” The political commissars of Nanjing, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Shenyang will stay on as the commissars of the new commands. The exception is the central command, where Lieutenant General Han Weiguo, 60, has been promoted to commander, and Yin Fanglong, 62, former deputy chief of the General Political Department is the new commissar. “Commanders with battle experience have been put in areas with a high risk of war but the selections for the central command reflect more concern about maintaining stability,” Yue said. ^ top ^

Who is challenging international order? (Global Times)
2016-02-01
The US intrusive move to send a navy vessel without China's authorization into waters adjacent to Chinese-owned islands show that Washington is threatening the sovereignty of other countries and challenging the international order. A US Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Curtis Wilbur, on Saturday sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Zhongjian Dao in the Xisha Islands, which, according to the US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's office, was "innocent passage" and "consistent with international law." However, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), innocent passage has its conditions -- it should not be "prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State." Besides, the UN law also stipulates that foreign ships exercising the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea shall comply with related laws and regulations the coastal State may adopt. According to China's law on the territorial sea and contiguous zone enacted in 1992, foreign warships entering China's territorial waters should obtain prior approval from the Chinese government. Obviously, the US warship's incursion into China's territorial sea without authorization violated both Chinese and international law. And this was not the first instance of the US infringement on international law. Just 95 days ago, the US Navy sailed the USS Lassen within 12 nautical miles of the Zhubi Reef, part of China's Nansha Islands in the South China Sea. The US repeated moves have not only threatened China's sovereignty and security interests, but also undermined regional peace and stability. Ironically, Washington unreasonably pointed its fingers at China, accusing Beijing of posing a threat to the "freedom of navigation" in the South China Sea and taking measures of "challenging the international order." Washington's unfounded accusation obviously goes against common sense as the international order should not be unilaterally defined by any single country. The current international order was jointly established by the international community with the United Nations at its core, on the basis of the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. The fundamental principle regarding the international order is based on mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, equal treatment and non-interference in each other's internal affairs. Just as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has said, China has long played an active role in and made remarkable contribution to promoting world peace and development and properly resolving international and regional issues. Under relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, China launched the task of carrying out anti-piracy escort missions in the Gulf of Aden off the waters of Somalia in late 2008. In addition, China has also completed the operations of escorting the shipping of chemical weapons out of Syria for destruction and helped many countries deal with natural disasters. The Chinese navy's pragmatic exchanges and cooperation with other countries have ensured the safety of some strategic maritime passages in the world. In fact, China, as a signatory to the UNCLOS, has been committed to preserving the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and to safeguarding peace and stability in the region. As most of the region's flow of commerce in foreign trade passes through the sea lanes in the South China Sea, it is in the fundamental interest of all coastal countries, including China, to preserve the freedom of navigation in the area. In order to make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation, China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have been endeavoring to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and striving for the signing of a full code of conduct in the waters as soon as possible. […] It is advisable for Washington to contribute more to regional peace and cooperation, rather than making waves in the South China Sea and then pointing a finger at others on trumped-up charges. ^ top ^

Maritime militia increases drills, expands in scope (China Daily)
2016-02-05
As the People's Liberation Army upgrades its navy, commissioning dozens of new ships under a watchful global eye, a less noticed force, China's maritime militia, is also improving its operational capability. Despite a history that can be traced back to as early as the 1970s, China's maritime militia remains weaker compared with the land militia due to a lack of government funding and volunteers. However, the situation has changed as a result of the country's efforts to strengthen its maritime capabilities and safeguard its interests at sea. According to the PLA Beihai City Military Command in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, the proportion of maritime militia in the city increased tenfold over the past two years, from less than 2 percent at the end of 2013 to more than 20 percent last year. That enabled the city's maritime militia to play a bigger role in drills organized by the PLA Navy - in 2013 it participated in only one such exercise, while it took part in four naval drills in 2014 and seven drills last year. Most of the maritime militia is made up of local fishermen. Senior Colonel Xu Qingduan, commander of the PLA Beihai City Military Command, said the city's maritime militia has been required to take part in more air and naval exercises since 2014 while the land militia's role has shrunk. This fact pushed the command to negotiate with city government departments on the expansion of maritime militia, he said, adding that the government and the military decided to give more favorable policies and financial support to the civilian sea force. A number of Navy veterans and experienced sailors have been recruited in Beihai's maritime militia and 10 specialized teams have been established for transport, reconnaissance, obstacle clearance, medical service and equipment repair. Maritime militia increases drills, expands in scope The maritime militia recently worked with Navy warships in a joint operation drill and successfully fulfilled their designated tasks, according to Xu's command. Beihai is not alone in improving its irregular maritime force. Hainan's Sansha, China's youngest city that administers vast island groups and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea, is enhancing its maritime militia's training and giving more duties to the force. Local fishermen have assisted more than 250 law enforcement operations at sea over the past three years. Jiangmen in Guangdong province is also organizing realistic sea operation exercises for local militiamen to strengthen their combat capability. Statistics released by China's fishery authorities showed the nation had nearly 21 million fishermen in 2013, the most in the world. According to the latest information published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2012, China had nearly 439,000 motorized fishing vessels that could operate at sea. ^ top ^

China's North Sea Fleet put under Central command to help safeguard the capital: sources (SCMP)
2016-02-03
The strategic eastern Shandong Peninsula, home to China's North Sea Fleet, will come under the PLA's newly established Central Theatre Command, after much deliberation over whether it should take on the task of protecting the capital, sources say. President Xi Jinping, who heads the Central Military Commission, appointed commanders of five new theatre commands on Monday, bringing to an official end the People's Liberation Army's decades-old organisational structure. But the government has yet to reveal the zoning of the new commands, comprising the Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western and Central commands. Mainland media have published differing reports of the rezoning. To equip the commands for integrated modern warfare, each command will have its own army, navy, air force as well as missile forces, according to Beijing-based military expert Li Jie. A source close to the former Jinan Military Command – which oversaw Shandong and Henan as a strategic back-up force for the former Beijing Military Command – said the Jinan command was to have been part of the Northern Theatre Command, but plans changed. Another source close to the navy, who had access to an internal document on the commands, told the South China Morning Post that the Jinan command was assigned to the Central Theatre Command because of geostrategic considerations. The Central command would comprise the former Jinan and Beijing commands, where the PLA's major ground forces were stationed, the source said. Taking over the North Sea Fleet, based in the Shandong city of Qingdao, would equip the Central Theatre Command with the all-round combat ability to defend the Bohai Sea, thus allowing it to better protect the national capital, Beijing, and the port of Tianjin. “Such an arrangement is strategically important, because in history, invaders' navies always saw the Bohai Sea as a springboard towards the heart of the Qing empire,” the source said. The Northern Theatre Command would be made up of the former Shenyang military region and forces from part of the Beijing command that oversaw Inner Mongolia. With naval forces to be stationed in the Liaodong peninsula, the command would be in charge of challenges from Russia, North Korea and part of Japan. “As the North Korean nuclear crisis escalates, the Northern command will have increasingly heavier tasks,” the source said. Home to the East Sea Fleet in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, the former Nanjing military region will become the Eastern Theatre Command. The army, navy and air force already operate jointly in the area, which faces Japan across the East China Sea and Taiwan across the strait. The Southern Theatre Command, made up of the former Guangzhou military region, will focus on the South China Sea, with the South Sea Fleet headquartered in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province. As it will deal with disputes with China's Southeast Asian neighbours, forces based in Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, under the former Chengdu military region, will also come under the Southern command. Yunnan and Guizhou are located near Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and other Southeast Asian nations. Military expert Li Jie said the Eastern and Southern commands would probably get top commanders for their navy and air force as the commands had the task of handling significant maritime issues. The Western Theatre Command, headquartered in Chengdu, Sichuan province, will cover about half of China's land territory. It will manage a third of the country's ground forces, according to the source close to the navy. The Western command will oversee Xinjiang and Tibet. It will also handle issues with China's South Asian neighbours such as India and Afghanistan. Without a coastline to guard, the command is the only one without naval forces. “With most commanders coming from the land forces and with war experience, the new system will guarantee that each command can go into battle at any time,” Li said. ^ top ^

Vietnam backs latest US challenge to Beijing's sovereignty in South China Sea, say analysts (SCMP)
2016-02-02
Washington may claim its latest operation in the South China Sea was aimed at challenging Vietnamese territorial claims in the region as much as China's, but analysts say Hanoi is likely to have viewed the development positively. The USS Curtis Wilbur sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracel archipelago on Saturday, attracting immediate protest from Beijing, which claims and controls the area. But Hanoi, another claimant of the island as well as others in the Paracels, issued a relatively mild response the next day, saying all countries should make a “positive and practical contribution to the peace and stability” of the sea. “As a state party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Vietnam respects the right of innocent passage through its territorial seas conducted in accordance with the relevant rules of the international community,” Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesperson Le Hai Binh said in a statement posted on the ministry's website. Like previous patrols under its “freedom of navigation” operations, the US navy said that by sending the destroyer it had sought to challenge attempts by the multiple claimants to restrict navigation rights in the area. Triton Island is claimed by mainland China, Taiwan and Vietnam. But analysts said the US operations mainly targeted China's ambitions and that Vietnam would see them as a positive move. “The fact is that the Paracels are now occupied by China,” said Le Hong Hiep, a visiting research fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “From the Vietnamese perspective it's good because it challenges the Chinese claim.” The US defence ministry said no claimant had been notified prior to the navy operation. But Hiep said Saturday's operation was likely to have involved a mutual understanding between Washington and Hanoi. Many analysts in China said the latest patrol was an escalation of the freedom of navigation operations, which began when the USS Lassen sailed near Subi Reef in the Spratly islands in October. Some called for a more robust response from Beijing. The Pentagon said no Chinese naval ships were in the area at the time of the operation. China and Vietnam have long been locked in a sovereignty dispute in the South China Sea. Beijing sent a large oil rig to Triton Island in 2014 and later to other areas, sparking the worst diplomatic crisis between the two countries in decades. ^ top ^

China to enhance all-weather partnership with Pakistan (Xinhua)
2016-02-02
China is willing to expand the all-weather partnership with Pakistan in 2016, State Councilor Yang Jiechi said on Tuesday. This year is the 65 anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and Pakistan. China stands ready to work with Pakistan to maintain close high-level contact, deepen pragmatic cooperation and strengthen coordination in global and regional affairs, Yang told Syed Tariq Fatemi, Pakistan's minister of state for foreign affairs. President Xi Jinping made a state visit to Pakistan last year, Yang noted, stressing China will work with Pakistan to implement the consensus reached by the leaders. The two countries lifted their relations to an all-weather strategic cooperative partnership during Xi's visit. The minister said Pakistan is willing to work with China on construction of China-Pakistan economic corridor and deepen cooperation in other areas. ^ top ^

Pope sends 'olive branch' to China amid hopes of reconciliation with Chinese authorities (SCMP)
2016-02-03
Pope Francis hailed China's “great history of wisdom” on Tuesday, holding out the prospect of reconciliation with Beijing sought by some Chinese Catholics, but feared by many others. He said in an interview to mark the upcoming Lunar New Year festival that China “has always been for me a reference point of greatness. A great country. But more than a country, a great culture, with an inexhaustible wisdom “I believe that the great richness of China today lies in looking to the future from a present that is sustained by the memory of its cultural past,” Pope Francis said in an interview with the Asia Times published by the Vatican press service. The pontiff did not directly address the status of the Church in China, a government-appointed Chinese Catholic association nominates its own bishops, but recalled early efforts of 16th century Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci to evangelise the Chinese while respecting their culture. Unconfirmed reports from the Vatican have suggested an accord was in reach between the Holy See and Beijing on the pontiff being able to nominate Catholic bishops in China. Both sides are in regular if discreet contact although some Chinese Catholics, who number an estimated 12 million, have accused the Vatican of being prepared to sacrifice their interests on the altar of reconciliation. Publication of the pope's interview came after a discreet visit by a Chinese delegation to the Vatican in January. According to informed sources, Francis could very soon designate several bishops in China with the agreement of Beijing. This would be the first such nominations since the breakdown in diplomatic relations between the Vatican and China in 1951. The two countries have not had diplomatic relations for more than six decades, with Beijing making a renewal dependent on the Vatican cutting ties with Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway Chinese province. Within the Vatican two camps have for years vied for dominance. One led by Secretary of State Pietro Parolin believes the Holy See should show flexibility towards China which might then grant more freedoms to Chinese Catholics. The other fiercely criticises this approach, claiming that the Chinese regime has not changed at all. “Ricci's experience teaches us that it is necessary to enter into dialogue with China because it is an accumulation of wisdom and history. It is a land blessed with many things,” said Francis. The Argentinian pope has made clear his fascination with Chinese culture. “[Do] I want to go to China? Of course. I'd go tomorrow,” he told reporters last year. ^ top ^

Beijing urges Vatican to be 'pragmatic' (Global Times)
2016-02-04
China on Wednesday urged the Vatican to adopt a flexible and pragmatic policy toward bilateral ties, after Pope Francis extended Chinese New Year wishes to President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people. "China is sincere about improving relations with the Vatican and has made consistent efforts … We also hope the Vatican takes a flexible and pragmatic attitude and create conditions to improve bilateral relations," Lu Kang, spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry, said at a Wednesday press briefing. In an interview with Hong Kong-based Asia Times on Tuesday, Pope Francis extended his wishes and greetings to the Chinese president and people, ahead of the Chinese New Year, which falls on February 8 this year. The interview was recorded in the Vatican last week when a Chinese delegation was reportedly on a visit to the Holy See, according to The Huffington Post. Citing a recent article in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, The Huffington Post said that China would accept the pontiff's choice of new bishops from a list approved by Chinese authorities, under a deal "reached between the two sides." Public speculation rose over a China-Vatican deal on bishop consecration when Coadjutor Bishop Zhang Yinlin was consecrated at a Catholic church in Anyang, Henan Province in August 2015. Zhang was believed to be the first bishop recognized by both Beijing and the Holy See since 2012 when consecration of some bishops without the Vatican's approval soured ties. "It could become a 'Chinese model' for both sides to explore ways to appoint bishops in China," Yan Kejia, director of the Institute of Religious Studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. The "Chinese model" may be different from the "Vietnamese model," under which bishops nominated by both the Vatican and Vietnam are selected and approved by the Holy See. China may want more say in bilateral cooperation with the Vatican in bishop ordination, according to Liu Guopeng, an associate research fellow at the Institute of World Religion Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "It is unlikely that the two countries would return to an indifferent attitude toward each other, as the Cold War mentality has been abandoned. China has realized the necessity to integrate and actively interact with the international community. The two significant powers both share the responsibility in promoting world peace and stability, which also provides a platform for dialogue and cooperation," Liu noted. The foreign ministry did not comment on the possibility of a long-anticipated visit to China by Pope Francis. However, Liu said leaders of the two countries, sharing similarly strong political charisma and promoting bold and resolute reforms, may lead to surprising and promising results. ^ top ^

Special troops to help keep China-Pakistan corridor safe (China Daily)
2016-02-04
Islamabad will set up a special force of approximately 10,000 troops to protect Chinese people and enterprises along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a visiting senior Pakistani diplomat said on Wednesday. Syed Tariq Fatemi, Pakistani special assistant to the prime minister for foreign affairs, revealed the establishment of the force in reply to Beijing's security concerns over the increasing number of Chinese involved in more than 200 projects in the country, including 14,000 engineers and technicians. "We have decided to create a special force of highly trained military people who will be specially equipped and will have special organizations in concerned ministries backing them, "Fatemi said. "Their task will be to provide the necessary safety and security of Chinese working in Pakistan and the Chinese companies and industries set up there." The special assistant added that the move demonstrates the Pakistani government's strong commitment and that further steps would be taken as needed. He added that there are regular consultations about the issue with China, and that any problems will be addressed. The CPEC is an ongoing, $46 billion project invested in by China that will expand Pakistan's infrastructure by linking its southwestern port city of Gwadar to China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region via a vast network of highways and railways. Concerning the potential for differing opinions among local leaders on the routing of the CPEC, Fatemi said Pakistan had reached a national consensus and "to say there is controversy is wrong". Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called a meeting in January to address concerns of different parties over CPEC routes, Fatemi said. Before the meeting, local media reported that political parties in Pakistan were divided over the different routes. The opposition voiced its concerns about the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, the ruling party, favoring the eastern route of the corridor running through the PML-N's stronghold, Punjab. Lawmakers in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region, which is on the western route, have urged the government to include other provinces in the megaproject. It was decided at the meeting that the western route of the corridor would be constructed on a priority basis. "Of course, all political parties want to push their agenda, all political leaders have their ideas, but everyone was fully supportive of this project at the end of the meeting and everyone was deeply appreciative of China's assistance in undertaking this massive transformation, which, according to the experts, is going to bring about a win-win situation for nearly 6 billion people in the region," he said. ^ top ^

New policies to aid Belt and Road business ventures (China Daily)
2016-02-04
Several policies will be adopted by the Foreign Ministry to help the flow of personnel between China and countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, a senior diplomat said on Wednesday. The smooth flow of personnel is the basis for pushing the initiative forward, said Guo Shaochun, director-general of the ministry's Department of Consular Affairs. “We'll focus on solving problems with issuing visas to outbound Chinese businesses travelers in 2016,” Guo said at an annual news conference on consular affairs. The Belt and Road Initiative is a vision put forward by President Xi Jinping in 2013 to boost interconnectivity and common development along the ancient land and maritime Silk Roads. Guo also said the ministry handled nearly 80,000 cases of consular assistance and protection last year, one-third more than in 2014. Some Chinese companies were awarded projects in the region but personnel had been prevented from traveling due to visa problems. Guo said these problems will be eased and the implementation of major projects will be guaranteed. The ministry will make “concerted efforts” to discuss two-way business visa exemptions with some countries, and provide more convenient visa arrangements for major cooperation projects with some other countries, he said. The ministry will also increase its ability to provide consular protection, Gao said. Cao Yongfei, a marketing manager at China Tianchen Engineering Corp's branch in Turkey, said, “As an overseas businessman, security risks are a primary concern when we enter a new country or region. “The main overseas business of Chinese enterprises is located in underdeveloped countries or regions, and the security risks in such countries are relatively high.” He said the ministry will help Chinese companies operating overseas to build up security and protection systems and encourage them to make full use of local security companies, international insurers and rescue organizations. “In 2015, the ministry handled nearly 80,000 consular protection and assistance cases, including about 100 major incidents,” Guo said. He said that as of Tuesday, Chinese citizens could enter 53 destinations on their passports and obtain visas on arrival. Kong Xuanyou, assistant minister of foreign affairs, said, “The 'value' of a Chinese passport has been steadily improved, and the holders' dreams of being able to travel freely abroad are gradually becoming true.” Hans Peter Fluckiger, first secretary at the Swiss embassy in Beijing, said China did “a great job” last year on consular work. Bilateral cooperation in this area had been improved largely by adopting mutual visa exemptions for holders of diplomatic passports in December. ^ top ^

China, Cambodia agree to support each other on "core interests"(Xinhua)
2016-02-05
China and Cambodia agreed on Thursday to support each other on their respective "core and major interests." The consensus was reached in Beijing during the third meeting of the China-Cambodia Inter-governmental Coordination Committee, co-chaired by Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong. The two countries will continue high-level contacts, strengthen their strategic communication and coordination on international and regional affairs, said an official press release. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told journalists after the meeting that both sides agreed to continue promotion of a proper settlement of the South China Sea issue. Liu reaffirmed that the issue should be addressed through a "dual-track" approach -- disputes should be resolved peacefully through negotiation between the parties directly concerned, and China and ASEAN countries should work together to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. China and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries should jointly safeguard the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, according to Liu. He said China stands ready to work with Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries to safeguard regional peace and stability. The two sides also agreed to cooperate in trade, investment, infrastructure, agriculture and other economic fields so as to achieve common development, according to the press release. They also reached consensus on enhancing people-to-people exchanges and security cooperation. China's top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng also met with Hor Namhong on Thursday. Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said China attaches great importance to the relations with Cambodia. He said the third meeting of the China-Cambodia Inter-governmental Coordination Committee has achieved positive results and will lift bilateral cooperation to a new high. Hor Namhong said the two sides have reached broad consensus during the meeting, which will effectively promote the development of bilateral strategic and cooperative partnership. The first meeting of the China-Cambodia Inter-governmental Coordination Committee was co-chaired by Yang and Hor Namhong, also Cambodia's foreign minister, in Beijing in January 2014. The second meeting was held in Phnom Penh in December 2014. ^ top ^

Beijing weighs TPP impact (Global Times)
2016-02-05
China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) on Thursday played down the impact of the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade pact that US President Barack Obama said was aimed at countering China's regional influence. "China has taken notice of the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. … China is studying and evaluating it," MOFCOM said on Thursday in a statement while stressing that China hopes "the various free trade arrangements in the Asia-Pacific region will complement each other and jointly contribute to this region's trade, investment and economic growth." China is not among the 12 members, including the US, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which signed the pact in Auckland, New Zealand on Thursday. US politicians have long been calling the pact a measure to counter China's rising influence in the Asia-Pacific region. Obama did not hide the country's ambitions after the signing. "TPP allows America - and not countries like China - to write the rules of the road in the 21st century," Obama said after the pact was signed. The Chinese government has not directly responded to such challenging rhetoric, but emphasized an open attitude toward the emergence of parallel trade blocs. "China will actively participate in and push for regional free trade arrangements that feature a high-degree of openness and inclusiveness," MOFCOM said Thursday. However, subtle changes have marked the Chinese government's remarks on the TPP. In June 2013, MOFCOM said China is studying the possibility of joining the TPP. But in recent statements, including Thursday's official response, there was no mention of joining the TPP. Instead, China has been highlighting progress in forming other regional free trade arrangements. At a press conference on Wednesday, MOFCOM spokesperson Shen Danyang said that China will actively participate in and push for regional free trade arrangements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a pact that may involve countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other regional economies, and the China-Japan-South Korea Free Trade Agreement. China has 14 free-trade agreements with 22 countries and regions, including South Korea, Chile, Switzerland, New Zealand and Australia. Pressure on China "Although the deal may create pressure on China's international trade, a comprehensive assessment is needed for China to evaluate possible options favorable to the country," Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Thursday. Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng also said in October 2015 that "all the regional free-trade arrangements would divert trade and investment away from non-member countries to a certain extent." It took more than five years of negotiations for the TPP, one of the biggest multinational trade deals in the world, to get signed, with its member nations representing 40 percent of the world economy. The TPP is a new trade club independent of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which will become a super multilateral free-trade organization after completion, according to He Jun, a senior research fellow at the Beijing-based private strategic think tank Anbound Consulting. "In terms of its effects, there is a synergy between the TPP and the US rebalancing strategy in the Asia-Pacific region, which focuses on military and geopolitical policies in the region," He told the Global Times on Thursday. "It is also worth noting that the US and the EU are now negotiating another free-trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). If both the TPP and TTIP are implemented, the US will play a dominant role in two multilateral free-trade organizations at the same time, exerting greater-than-ever influence on global trade," He noted. "Basically, the WTO mechanism will be replaced by the two organizations." Other analysts downplayed the TPP's impact on China. Viewing the TPP as merely an export bust for China is shortsighted, Park Seung-ho, Professor of Strategy at the China Europe International Business School, wrote in an e-mail sent to the Global Times on Thursday. While the TPP will have some negative impact on China's foreign trade as the TPP member nations can enjoy lower tariffs among themselves, it should not be considered a measure to block China's trade activities, because it is impossible to do so to a large global economic and trade power, He said. There is still a possibility for China to join the TPP in the future, but it all depends on Chinese desire, the costs China can withstand and the terms of existing member countries, He added. "China needs to maintain economic and trade stability; and second, the country can promote other trade platforms such as the ASEAN and sign more bilateral free-trade agreements to counter the TPP's impact," He suggested. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Leading China pastor Gu Yuese under investigation for embezzling funds: church authorities (SCMP)
2016-01-31
A leading Christian pastor who opposed a campaign to remove crosses from atop churches is being investigated on suspicion of embezzling funds, state-backed church authorities in China's eastern Zhejiang province said. “We feel deeply shocked and filled with regret,” the government-backed Hangzhou Christian Council said in a statement on its website regarding the investigation in Gu Yuese, adding that the investigation was due to his individual conduct. The council gave no further details of the charges or evidence against Gu in its post late on Friday night. It said it had been notified by a “relevant department”, but did not say who was conducting the investigation. Police in Hangzhou did not immediately respond to calls for comment. Gu could not be reached for comment. Zhejiang is known for its large Christian population. Previous campaigns by authorities there to dismantle crosses on top of churches have incensed the local religious population. Gu's Chongyi church, which has a congregation of 10,000 followers, is known internationally as the largest Protestant church in the Chinese-speaking world. Gu, who had frequently met visiting foreign guests and appeared at government-organised ceremonies, previously spoke out against the campaign to tear down crosses, according to some of his followers. Two Gu supporters in Zhejiang said they had not been able to get in touch with him, and he had recently sent a message to followers that was critical of the cross-removal campaign. It was unclear whether Gu's investigation was linked to the note. “Ironically, he was kind of elevated as almost a poster boy in the government established system for showcasing religious freedom in China,” said Bob Fu, director of the ChinaAid Association, a Texas-based Christian charity that advocates for freedom of religion in China. Authorities in the region have said crosses are removed because they violate regulations against illegal structures. Rights groups say demolishing crosses restricts Christianity and religious freedoms. The ruling Communist Party says it protects freedom of religion, but keeps a tight rein on religious activities and allows only officially recognised religious institutions to operate. Protests broke out in 2014 in Wenzhou over the cross-demolition campaign. ^ top ^

Leading woman's rights group to shut down as China tightens squeeze on civil society (SCMP)
2016-01-30
A leading women's rights advocacy group in Beijing has announced it will close amid an escalating government crackdown on independent NGOs and civil society. A message on the website of the Beijing Zhongze Women's Legal Counselling and Service Centre, run by lawyer Guo Jianmei, said it would cease operating on Monday. “We would like to thank everyone for their attention and support over the past 20 years,” it said. Guo could not be reached for comment but fellow NGO workers say it was highly likely the authorities ordered it to shut down. Calls to the Ministry of Civil Affairs' Social Organisation Administration went unanswered on Saturday. Fellow workers said the overseas funding that Beijing Zhongze had relied on and some of the high-profile cases it handled over the years were likely to have made it a target. “Their biggest problem is likely to be the overseas funding,” said a worker with a non-governmental organisation who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisals on his own group. He said the closing of Beijing Zhongze has made other foreign-funded groups, such as his, nervous about their future. “This is definitely making an example of them and showing everyone what can happen to them. It's aimed at creating fear,” he said. He said NGO workers were shocked that Guo's organisation was targeted as it has operated for two decades and had a good reputation at home and abroad. “Why them?” he asked. Beijing Zhongze, set up in 1995, handled tens of thousands of women's rights cases and provided legal assistance to help them protect their personal, family, property and labour rights, as well as fight against domestic violence. It also provided training on the law and women's rights, advocated policy changes and produced research reports on women's issues. The centre was previously known as the Women's Legal Research and Services Centre of Peking University, when it was attached to the prestigious institution. But the university severed its ties with the centre in March 2010, citing administrative reasons. But people within the field widely suspected the true reason was the attention the centre was receiving through its work. One of its highest profile clients was Li Yan, who was sentenced to death in August 2011 for murdering her husband. A court last year commuted the sentence after a huge outcry. It also helped Deng Yujiao, a hotel hostess who stabbed an official to death who was trying to rape her. Like many independent NGOs, Guo's group was unable to get government or domestic funding as its advocacy work did not conform to the government's agenda so it had to seek foreign funds. Authorities often accuse independent advocacy groups of receiving money from “hostile foreign forces” that have ulterior motives to “destabilise” the country. Some of the country's most progressive, independent NGOs have become targets in the government crackdown. Although the authorities have always kept a close eye on the sector, critics say in the past couple of years, the crackdown has been noticeably stepped up, with NGOs closed and their workers detained, arrested or jailed. Swedish NGO worker Peter Dahlin, who co-founded the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group was detained, paraded on state TV and deported, after being accused of carrying out activities that “endanger state security”. ^ top ^

Chinese rights lawyer Tang Jingling dealt maximum 5-year jail sentence for subversion (SCMP)
2016-01-30
A former human rights lawyer sentenced by a Guangzhou court to the maximum five years for subversion will not lodge an appeal with “an unjust court serving an autocracy”, his lawyers said on Friday. The verdict, handed down to Tang Jingling by the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court, came as two other activists, Yuan Chaoyang and Wang Qingying, were jailed for 3 ½ years and 2½ years respectively. Tang's lawyers said his sentence amounted to political persecution, adding that five years was the harshest sentence that could be imposed for “inciting subversion of state power”. “The sentence itself is unfair. But it is a glorious honour for Tang from such an institution,” Yan Xin, one of Tang's lawyers, said. Lawyer Ge Yongxi said Tang refused to appeal to what he deemed an illegitimate body. “He said he would continue to appeal for justice and freedom but only to the people and to God. He will move forward,” Ge said. Police took away at least three people outside the court, and various activists were banned from leaving their homes to voice support for Tang. Wang Yanfang, Tang's wife, said the verdict was based on Tang's pro-democracy work since 2005, including his representation of villagers in Taishi, Guangdong, in a stand-off over an illegal land grab, his advocacy of non-violent civil disobedience, as well as the legal advice he gave to family members of late activist Li Wangyang. “He was merely promoting a concept recognised internationally, but in China you go to jail for it,” Wang said. She said she had grave concerns about Tang's health. “We are very worried. He was beaten in the early days of his detention and forced to labour well into the night. He is also not getting food or letters from his family,” Wang said. “For one year and nine months, he has been deprived of exposure to sunlight as well as visits from his family.” Tang, Yuan and Wang were detained for more than a year ­before a trial took place last year. The charges against them were upgraded from “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” in mid-2014 to “inciting subversion of state power”. The trio are among the more than 300 signatories to Charter 08, a manifesto published on December 10, 2008. Others include Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang. The charter calls for changes such as the elimination of one-party rule, the creation of an independent legal system and freedom of expression. Tang, 45, who is originally from Hubei province, has been a prominent advocate of non-violent civil disobedience in the past two decades, pushing for democracy on the mainland. Human rights group Amnesty International described the jail terms as gross injustices. “Their peaceful and legitimate work never threatened state security. This is solely about the authorities arbitrarily silencing government critics,” Amnesty's Patrick Poon said. “The authorities appear to be stepping up the use of spurious 'national security' charges as they escalate their attack against human rights activists and peaceful critics of the government's abuse of power.” The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group says at least 317 lawyers, activists and their family members have been arrested, detained, put under ­residential surveillance or house arrest in a sweeping crackdown on rights advocates since July 9 last year. ^ top ^

'Strictest' asset reporting system still leaves out too much: experts (Global Times)
2016-01-31
The authorities recently announced that more than 3,900 officials were disqualified from promotion after misreporting their assets in 2015, which triggered discussions over the "strictest" asset declaration system China introduced last year. Officials at the deputy county level or above are required to report personal information annually to the Party, including personal and family assets and investments, any overseas travel, as well as the nationality and occupations of their relatives, according to the Organization Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the Xinhua News Agency reported. The system, firstly adopted at the end of the 1990s, had no verification or punishment mechanisms until changes made in 2015 detailed the items officials have to report and strengthened these elements. However, the "strictest" system still fails to include some important asset types including officials' private vehicles and collections. To curb corruption, officials should make all their assets public, experts said. Ye Qing, a deputy director of the statistics bureau of Central China's Hubei Province, told the Global Times that officials needed to be more precise when reporting their assets in 2015 than in previous years. "You couldn't just write down a rough estimate of the area of your house like you did in previous years. The figure had to be down to several digits after the decimal point," Ye said. When and where they bought the house and for how much should also have been included in their reports. According to China Central Television (CCTV), officials now have to explain themselves if the size of their property is over one square meter larger than the reported figure. Storage space, garages and factory buildings were newly included in the system in 2015. "In past years, people could still submit their reports after they missed the deadline. But now they are not allowed to submit them again and get punishment right away if they miss it," He Wenkai, a deputy procurator-general of the Fangchenggang People's Procuratorate, the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, told the Global Times. Verification of reports was also boosted in 2015, as the sample rate for random checks was doubled from one in 20 to one in 10. Meanwhile, officials had to promise that they voluntarily accepted verification, and "lacking communication with spouses" was no longer a valid excuse for inaccurate declarations, according to CCTV. Investments are a key part of asset declaration. The biggest change in reporting officials' investments is that they have to note the exact value of their stocks, futures and funds on the previous trading day, Ye said. The authorities also ruled that false declarations will be recorded for life, and will be considered during performance assessment and appointments. Some government organs also set reporting standards. A government in Sichuan Province officially defined "underreporting" as underreporting the size of a property by 50 square meters or less and underreporting the size of investments by 100,000 yuan or less, according to public WeChat account of the Beijing Youth Daily. Reporting that is less accurate than this is considered "concealing assets." Officials found to have concealed assets can be disqualified for promotions or even removed from their positions. Private vehicles are excluded in current asset declaration forms in Hubei, according to Ye, adding that officials are increasingly driving their own cars after 2104's government vehicles reform. "To prevent people bribing officials with vehicles, the system should include vehicles in the next phase," Ye said. Art collections should also be included in the system, Hu Xingdou, a political science professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, told the Global Times. Many corrupt officials were found to have collected artworks. Liu Zhijun, former railway minister who was given a suspended death penalty in 2013, received art worth 13 million yuan ($2 million), according to the Procuratorial Daily. To curb graft, officials should disclose their assets to the public as well as the Party, said Zhu Lijia, a public management professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance. ^ top ^

Xi extends greetings to non-CPC parties, invites valuable advice (Xinhua)
2016-01-30
General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged non-communist parties to make greater contribution in accomplishing ambitious development goals in the new year. Xi made the remarks at a gathering Friday in Beijing, extending Lunar New Year's greetings to all people from non-communist parties, the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, and those without party affiliations, an official statement said Saturday. Xi said under the leadership of the CPC, Chinese people have overcome major risks and challenges, and made great achievements in improving national strength in terms of economy, science and technology, defense, and international influence, over the past year. He said he appreciated the work and efforts of the non-communist parties and personages in providing valuable suggestions and ideas, and he expected even greater contributions from them in the new year. Xi called for more consultation between the CPC and non-CPC political parties as one of the key aspects of the consultative democracy with Chinese characteristics. Xi said the whole nation should be united as one in terms of development path, direction and goal, to better carry forward the implementation of the CPC Central Committee's decisions and arrangements. He also encouraged all members to serve the national goals set for the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) for social and economic development and carry out the idea embodying an innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development. Consultative democracy is defined as a democratic pattern led by the CPC that sees all sections of society consulted on major issues before and during policy-making processes. Xi said the non-communist parties and personages can serve as an abundant think tank, and he called for more valuable advice, especially on major and difficult issues concerning economic development and comprehensive deepening reform. He also invited democratic supervision from the non-CPC parties and individuals to ensure the sound performance of significant policies and reform measures. Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli attended the event to mark the Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 8 this year. ^ top ^

China invites journalists to cover big political meetings (Xinhua)
2016-02-01
Journalists from China and abroad are being invited to cover two major Chinese political meetings next month. The fourth annual session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, will open on March 5 in Beijing. The fourth session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the top political advisory body, will open on March 3. A media center for the two meetings will open from Feb. 27, the general offices of the NPC Standing Committee and the CPPCC National Committee said Monday. Chinese mainland and resident foreign journalists should submit applications for reporting passes to the media center, while foreign reporters temporarily in China for the "two sessions" should apply at Chinese embassies or visa organizations authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Reporters from Hong Kong and Macao should apply at the central government's liaison offices in the two special administrative regions. Reporters from Taiwan should apply to the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office. The deadline for journalistic applications is Feb. 25. ^ top ^

Economic data chief's wife assisting investigation: employer (Global Times)
2016-02-02
A senior executive of a securities brokerage and wife of the former statistics chief currently under investigation is assisting judicial authorities, her company said in a statement on Sunday. Huo Xiaoyu, 50, is the vice president of China Galaxy Securities and wife of Wang Bao'an, the former head of the National Bureau of Statistics. China Galaxy Securities said the company is running normally and more details will be revealed based on the situation. Wang was put under investigation for "severe disciplinary violations," according to the top anti-graft body of the Communist Party of China. The announcement of his investigation was made by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection on January 26, after Wang hosted a press conference on China's economy. He was removed from his post following the decision of the Party's Organization Department, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Friday. Wang, 52, was appointed statistics bureau chief in April 2015 after spending 17 years in the finance ministry. He was appointed vice minister of finance in 2012. ^ top ^

China to orderly urbanize migrant workers: Premier Li (China Daily)
2016-02-02
China will integrate migrant workers into cities in an orderly way over the next five years, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Monday. The government will improve the urban residence permit system to help the integration, ensure stable employment and safeguard the rights and interests of migrant workers, Li said in a letter to a ceremony held to honor migrant workers. Li said migrant workers are a major force for China's modernization and have made great contributions to economic and social development. Given decades of economic advance, China's urban areas have been expanding rapidly with an enormous population of migrant workers swarming into cities, most of whom, although working and living there, have no urban household registration which can grant them equal public services to other residents. By 2014, the number of migrant workers amounted to 273.95 million, accounting for 20 percent of the country's population. The difficulty for migrant workers to fit in cities has become a major barrier in China's human-centered urbanization and the government has prioritized the problem in its to-do list. A top-level urban work conference held in the end of 2015 agreed that China's urbanization drive will focus on the integration of rural residents into urban areas. The government also plans to grant 100 million rural migrants urban household registration by 2020. Local authorities were asked to help rural workers find jobs or set up businesses, provide necessary training, improve education and housing benefits to them and their children and include more of them in the social security system. ^ top ^

'Only truth can calm the public': What prompted the arrest of three investigative journalists in China? (SCMP)
2016-02-03
The arrest of three investigative journalists in Gansu (甘肅) province has escalated into a nationwide controversy, prompting an investigation by provincial prosecutors and calls from state-run media for transparency from the local police department. The case has gained attention as the trio, stationed in the city of Wuwei (武威), had all written about the city in unflattering terms, with some of their articles drawing nationwide attention. Such articles had damaged relations between the three journalists and the city's propaganda officials long before the arrests, a source told the South China Morning Post. Questions over the arrests first arose when it emerged that one of the trio, Zhang Yongsheng, had been detained on January 9 on suspicion of paying for prostitution, which is not a criminal act. The details of Zhang's detention were outlined in a letter sent by his employer the Lanzhou Morning Post to Wuwei authorities in an unsuccessful attempt to seek his release, the source said. The letter subsequently leaked onto the internet and went viral. Wuwei's police force then said that Zhang Yongsheng, Luo Huansu of the Lanzhou Evening News, and Zhang Zhenguo of the Western Business Daily, had been detained on another occasion – January 7 – for blackmail. All three were formally arrested last Monday, but Luo and Zhang Zhenguo were released on bail, according to the Liangzhou district government's website. It claimed the trio had often blackmailed people into giving them money by claiming to provide “media supervision”. However, even state-media appears to have doubts about the arrests, and has urged city authorities to be more transparent. “Only more truth and less imagination can calm the public,” CCTV said on Sunday. Those comments came a day after the province's top prosecutor said it had stepped in to investigate the cases. “There have long been tensions between the city's propaganda officials and the three journalists,” the source said, adding in 2014 a propaganda official had said openly that he wanted to “kick [the trio] out”. The source attributed the tensions to a series of investigative articles. An article by Zhang Yongsheng in 2014 revealed that around a dozen pupils and students in the city had been coerced by gangs into selling blood. The article had prompted follow up coverage by various news organisations, including CCTV. Another article by him in 2011 revealed a Wuwei police officer had helped a fugitive and suspected murderer change his legal name. Shortly before the arrests, Zhang Yongsheng told colleagues he had received threats from local police and been warned against publishing some stories, which he filed anyway, said the source. On January 7, a fire drill in Wuwei had spiralled out of control, according to local news outlets. Zhang Yongsheng had been told by a local propaganda official not to cover the fire, before he became unreachable, said the letter by the Lanzhou Morning Post. About a week into Zhang's detention, Wuwei police officers visited his paper's office, asking about his articles, including the blood selling and fugitive stories. All three newspapers have suspended operations in Wuwei, because the trio were their only reporters there, said the source. ^ top ^

China's state media try to make thoughts of President Xi cool with rap video about his political theory (SCMP)
2016-02-02
China's state-run media has released another cartoon rap video to try to get the Communist Party's political message across to the young. The Xinhua news agency has released a three-minute cartoon featuring a man and young girl dancing in front of colourful backdrops while explaining President Xi Jinping's political theory the “Four Comprehensives”. The video started to circulate on social media in China on Tuesday morning. Xinhua described it as a “quirky, catchy song”. An animated music video was released last October by the communist authorities about China's 13th Five-Year Plan. It featured four cartoon characters with American-accented English as they stood on top of a retro Volkswagen van. Two months later another cartoon rap about reform was released to mark the second anniversary of the “Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms”, a high-level committee founded and headed by President Xi. The latest rap's lyrics include: “Listen to me: four comprehensives, four comprehensives, building a moderately prosperous society is the goal; Repeat after me: four comprehensives, four comprehensives, reform is the impetus; Repeat after me: four comprehensives, four comprehensives, ruling by law is guarantee; Repeat after me: four comprehensives, four comprehensives, party-building is the key. Xi's theory has been heavily promoted by state media in China and follows a tradition of the country's communist leaders formulating their own political theory, along with a catchphrase. Former president Jiang Zemin had the “Three Represents”, while Hu Jintao's slogan was “Harmonious Society”. Xi has stepped up censorship and control of the media since he took office in 2012 while attaching greater importance to propaganda on the internet. He underlined the message at the first meeting of the Central Leading Group of Internet Security and Informatisation last year, calling for “innovative and improved propaganda online”. Some internet users have compared the latest propaganda music videos to the “model operas” produced during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping's visit to cradle of China's communist revolution ahead of Lunar New Year 'shows he has consolidated his power' (SCMP)
2016-02-02
President Xi Jinping (習近平) has paid his first visit as president to Jinggangshan, the cradle of the communist revolution in China, since rising to power three years ago. Xi arrived in the remote mountainous area of Jiangxi (江西) province on Tuesday ahead of the Lunar New Year, according to the Weibo account of youth.cn, a news website affiliated to the central committee of the Communist Young League. Photos posted by the Weibo account show a smiling Xi in black jacket, waving to and shaking hands with the villagers. Jinggangshan is where Mao Zedong (毛澤東) set up the Communist Party's first revolutionary base in 1927, after communist forces suffered crushing losses in urban areas and sought refuge in the area's dense forests. It is traditional for Chinese leaders to visit old revolutionary bases like Jinggangshan around this time of year to send New Year blessings to residents. Last February, accompanied by his wife Peng Liyuan and his daughter, Xi visited a remote village near Yanan, another symbolic base of the revolution. His predecessor Hu Jintao visited Yan'an and Jinggangshan ahead of the Lunar New Years in 2006 and 2009 respectively. Alfred Wu Muluan, a professor of Asian and Policy Studies at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, said Xi's visit to Jinggangshan could be read as a symbolic move that suggested he had consolidated his power. “Jinggangshan is where the [communist revolution] started. It is a very important place in communist history. His visit can be seen as a declaration of victory, announcing that he has already become the core of the fourth generation of leadership,” Wu said. The party chiefs of several provinces and cities have recently referred to Xi as the “core” of the party's leadership, a term that has only been widely used in the past to refer to former leaders Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin. Hong Kong-based political analyst Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Xi's visit showed his determination to carry on the teachings and spirit of the former leaders of the revolution. “Jinggangshan is a symbol of hard struggles amid difficult times. To some extent the visit shows Xi's judgement on the current situation, which is a difficult time that requires hard work and struggle,” Lau said. ^ top ^

Chinese legislature urged to uphold CPC's leadership (Xinhua)
2016-02-02
Top Chinese legislator Zhang Dejiang has urged lawmakers to adhere to the "centralized leadership" of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and fulfill duties according to the committee's decisions. Legislators must think and act in line with the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping as the General Secretary and operate according to the committee's deployment, ensuring the party's leadership over the country and society via state authorities, Zhang, chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, said Tuesday at a meeting. At the meeting, Zhang discussed with lawmakers the draft work report of the NPC Standing Committee, which is scheduled to be delivered at the annual session of the top legislature in March. Suggestions from the NPC deputies to the report and the top legislature's work included greater legislation efforts regarding civil laws, health and medical services and national security. Lawmakers suggested the top legislature improve its publicity work and strengthen its guidance over the work of lower-level legislatures. They also advised greater participation by the country's legislators in lawmaking and supervision procedures and better research to ensure efficient supervision and solutions. Zhang listened to their suggestions and exchanged opinions with them. He also called for supervision of the deputies' performance of their duties and called on the legislators to keep closer ties with the public to play their due role. The lawmakers should improve the legislation to serve reform and promote the implementation of new development concepts, said Zhang. The legislature should also do better in its supervision and resolve problems that commonly concern the people, he said. ^ top ^

Top political advisor [YU Zhengsheng] calls for private enterprises' contribution to reforms (Xinhua)
2016-02-02
Top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng called on China's private entrepreneurs to contribute to the country's economic development and reforms on Tuesday. During his meeting with private entrepreneurs, Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, listened to opinions and suggestions on the country's economic structural adjustment and extended festival greetings ahead of China's Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 8 this year. Entrepreneurs, including Lu Zhiqiang, founder of the property company China Oceanwide Group, Zong Qinghou, chairman of the beverage company Hangzhou Wahaha Group and Pony Ma, chief executive of the Internet giant Tencent Holdings, made speeches on topics concerning new development concepts, innovation as well as "Internet Plus" and "Made in China 2025" strategies. China will continue to unswervingly encourage, support and guide the healthy development of the private economy, as the non-public sector plays a key part in the nation's drive of building a moderately prosperous society as well as realizing the Chinese Dream, Yu said. Yu urged private entrepreneurs to fully understand and strengthen faith in the Chinese economy, which is entering a "new normal" stage featuring lower growth, and boost innovation-driven economy as well as supply-side structural reform. Enterprises must do business and be managed in accordance with the law, and embrace corporate social responsibilities, added Yu. Yu also stressed the importance of fostering enthusiasm and creativity in private entrepreneurs, calling on Party and government to create a better policy, market and social environment for the development of private economy. Sun Chunlan, head of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, also attended and addressed the meeting. ^ top ^

Judges, courts are held to account (China Daily)
2016-02-03
Prosecutors pay special attention to handling, allocation of funds and property confiscated from defendants Efforts to stem judicial corruption and prevent miscarriages of justice have been stepped up by the nation's prosecutors, the top prosecuting body said on Tuesday. According to Supreme People's Procuratorate statistics, national prosecuting departments protested 13,182 rulings in civil cases between 2013 and last year, issuing 17,843 suggestions for improvement. Over the same time period, 52,814 comments on the conduct of trial judges were also made by prosecutors. Such enhanced supervision shows that prosecutors have "performed their duty" to protest or issue suggestions about "mistaken verdicts and mediations", said Xiao Wei, spokeswoman for the SPP. "If judges are found to be breaking the law, we issue suggestions in order for them to correct their behavior and if signs of criminal intent are found, the relevant judge is placed under investigation," she said. Cases involving people's livelihoods, environmental protection, food and drug safety, traffic accidents and the loss of State-owned assets were all priorities for supervision, according to Lyu Hongtao, deputy director at the SPP's Civil and Administration Supervision Department. More focus was also being paid to civil cases involving false claims, lending disputes, real estate ownership and the management of confiscated assets, Lyu said. "We have attached special importance to supervising the courts' handling and allocation of funds and property confiscated from defendants," he said. Since 2013, 578 such cases have been investigated by prosecuting departments, Lyu said, with unnecessary delays identified in 23 provinces' courts and outright corruption or embezzlement uncovered in another 17 provinces and regions. A typical case involved a police officer surnamed Mao, who was found guilty of embezzling 1.85 million yuan ($281,170) of public funds and sentenced to five years imprisonment by a court in Yumen, Gansu province in July 2014. He had transferred the money to his personal bank account between October 2010 and May 2012 while supposedly investigating a series of outstanding loans, the court heard. The city's procuratorate issued a statement to the court, urging it to enhance education of police and judges and handle seized assets more carefully. Lyu said his department will further safeguard justice by encouraging whistleblowers and strengthening its supervision of the courts. ^ top ^

Li drops in for a chat at historic mosque (China Daily)
2016-02-03
A mosque in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region welcomed a special visitor on Tuesday when Premier Li Keqiang stepped into the main hall and chatted with a group of Muslims. The premier visited the Najiahu Mosque in Yongning county on the second day of his trip to Ningxia ahead of Spring Festival. Built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the mosque is one of the most historic in Ningxia. It embraces a history of 492 years and has been refurbished many times, the most recent being in 2014, when it was enlarged. It is maintained by 4,500 Muslims in Yongning county. Removing his shoes, Li stepped into the main hall and sat down with the Muslims to talk with them and learn about their lives and ideas. He said he was delighted to visit the mosque and see that it had been refurbished well. "There is a famous saying in Chinese that a harmonious family brings the prosperity of everything," the premier said as he began talking with the ethnic Hui people at the mosque. "I am very delighted to see that the lives of local people in Ningxia have improved a lot." Yang Faming, vice-president of the regional Islam Association, sat beside Li during the discussion. At age 50, Yang is the association's youngest vice-president and has been studying the Quran for 34 years. On hearing this, the premier encouraged him to combine his understanding of the Quran with the situation in Ningxia. The region is home to the largest ethnic Hui community in China, which comprises 35.5 percent of the population in Ningxia. The ethnic Hui group is also one of China's largest such groups that believes in Islam. Yang Zhibo, vice-president of the China Islamic Association, said he was pleased when he learned about Li's visit to the mosque and was excited about the government's encouragement for the care of ethnic groups in China. He said he hoped the government would strengthen its efforts to tackle poverty in the northwest of the country, which is home to a majority of China's ethnic groups that believe in Islam. ^ top ^

'Censors have gone too far': Influential voice of Deng Xiaoping era accuses China's propaganda chiefs of too much intervention (SCMP)
2016-02-04
An influential voice for reform on the mainland says propaganda chiefs are overreaching and their intervention runs counter to rule by law. The commentary by Zhou Ruijin in Ifeng.com, an online news arm of Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, came as authorities further tighten their grip over the media and intensify political ideology across the spectrum. The piece was taken from a collection of his commentaries published on the mainland last month. Zhou agreed with President Xi Jinping that propaganda work needed to be stepped up but said censorship chiefs had gone too far, saying it was now “a mismatch to the whole picture of reform”. The 76-year-old writer emerged as a leading progressive figure in the early 1990s writing under a shared pen name Huang Fuping, backing Deng Xiaoping's reform efforts in a deeply conservative political climate. He went on become deputy editor of People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, and stayed for five years into his late 50s. “To be frank, some leaders in the party's propaganda department were managing the press like how they would manage a train schedule, directly intervening in the approach and procedure of news reporting. Some propaganda chiefs... even give out orders just as if they were the chief editors of a newspapers,” Zhou said in the article published on Tuesday. The newspaperran a speech on Wednesday by the propaganda chief for northeastern Liaoning province ordering the media to toe the line of the central leadership. Fan Weiping said news outlets must downplay the region's economic woes and instead reflect confidence in development. Liaoning is part of China's rust belt, a region once dominated by heavy industry that has suffered as the country's economic growth has slowed. Its economy only achieved 2.6 per cent growth in the first half of last year, the lowest level among the nation's provinces, major cities and regions. “The external environment and internal conditions have become intertwined and our province is facing stronger economic downward pressure,” Fan was quoted as saying. “Pessimistic but inappropriate comments such as 'economic lost track', 'economic collapse' and 'economic fall' have appeared in the Liaoning media.” “The political discipline of the party has to be enforced as strict propaganda discipline and the spread of any wrong conceptions that violate the directives of the central government is banned. This is the bottom line that should not be crossed.” Beijing has stepped up control on the media and the internet while aggressively pushing for an ideological campaign. Chinese universities were ordered to ban textbooks that promoted Western values, and party members were punished for “inappropriate comments on the central leadership's policies”. A slew of people, including celebrities and human rights lawyers, have been paraded on state TV, to confess alleged offences before a proper judicial proceeding. Zhou opposed such an “oversimplified and even crude”administrative approach to deal with problems, such as “waves of campaigns, strict clampdowns and public shaming”. “Intervening with violent [state] apparatus at the slightest provocation, asking public media to act as the judicature, and taking down websites, deleting posts and blocking [accounts] heavy-handedly - these kind of overcorrection practises are obviously wrong and run counter to the current trend of governing by law,” he lamented. “In a phase of social transition, it is normal that there are different views and discussions in the field of ideology, that the public air their own opinions on deepening reforms. They can only be guided, but not repressed,” he wrote. “Citizens' freedom of speech, as guaranteed by the constitution, should be protected,” he said, adding the era of uniform public opinion in China was in the past. Two other influential reformists – Shi Zhihong and Ling He – also write under the Huang Fuping pen name. ^ top ^

Xi meets local senior officers, stresses CPC's leadership over army (Xinhua)
2016-02-03
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with senior officers at local military units in the eastern province of Jiangxi on Wednesday, urging the country's armed forces to follow the Communist Party of China (CPC). Xi, also chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), extended greetings to all military personnel in Jiangxi on behalf of the CPC Central Committee and the CMC. Stressing the commitment to build a strong army, Xi called on all military units to promote political faithfulness, reforms and rule of law among China's armed forces. Education and guidance should be enhanced to promote servicemen's awareness to listen to the Party and follow the commands of the CPC Central Committee and the CMC, Xi said, underlining the province's revolutionary tradition in forging the soldiers' spirit. Also, the CMC chairman told the military to better support poverty reduction in the province's less-developed areas and advance the civil-military integration. Xi paid a three-day visit to the province this week, days ahead of the traditional Spring Festival, or the Chinese Lunar New Year. The People's Liberation Army was regrouped into five theater commands on Monday. Xi presented military flags to top officers of the five theater commands at the inauguration ceremony on Monday morning, urging construction of a joint battle command system that is "absolutely loyal, resourceful in fighting, efficient in commanding and courageous and capable of winning wars." ^ top ^

People look for hidden bribery methods as CCDI tightens inspections over holidays (Global Times)
2016-02-03
"Even if we want to dine with government officials, they are hiding," an employee with one of China's telecommunications giant told the Global Times Tuesday, describing how cautious officials are around major festivals. The employee, surnamed Liu, finished an exhausting round of negotiations with an official from a government-affiliated industry association, who then refused his offer of dinner and instead bought a cheap KFC set meal. An official surnamed Xu at a commerce department in South China's Guangdong Province said "a photo taken by a passerby of you eating in a luxury restaurant could get you in trouble." Gifts and feasts are particularly sensitive matters during annual festivals, as discipline inspections are usually tightened during traditional gift-giving periods, a manager surnamed He with the State-owned China Merchants Group Ltd told the Global Times. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China launches special campaigns and tightens their inspections during the Chinese Lunar New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival and Lantern Festival periods. Gift-giving was curbed after the anti-graft campaign began in 2013, and few people will risk losing their job over a gift card or a dinner, private company employees in charge of government relations told the Global Times. As CCDI inspections tighten, people are constantly looking for new ways to gain influence through government officials for personal gain. A government official in Central China's Hunan Province told the Global Times that gift-giving still exists as interpersonal relations remain important to "get things done without unnecessary man-made obstacles." Several sellers on Taobao reached by the Global Times said they could issue invoices that describe gifts such as silver tableware and red wine as "office supplies." This allows companies to reimburse their employees for buying gifts without leaving an obvious paper trail, disguising their role in bribery. Electronic gift cards and money sent via the WeChat messaging app are also new bribery methods, a newspaper affiliated with the CCDI and the Ministry of Supervision reported in January. […] Having gifts delivered to officials via express delivery services is one popular bribery method, as it is harder to detect than if the giver hands over a gift in person, He said. Some stores now provide home delivery services for presents or gift cards so that the sender can keep a low profile, said CCTV. However, while these methods help camouflage bribery, they do not make it invisible. […] He added that many government procedures are now subjected to a greater level of oversight than in previous years, which limits the room for officials to use their power in a corrupt way. "Profit-seeking behaviors occur when government bodies control approval rights over many projects, but now such approval rights are delegated to different parties and the processes are required to be disclosed online for public supervision," said Xu. The CCDI launched an official account on WeChat on January 1, and members of the public can send tip-offs to the account about officials acting improperly to widen public involvement in the campaign against corruption. The watchdog also launched a section on its website for tip-offs in 2013 and a tip-off facility on its app in June 2015 to gather reports of low-level corruption and minor discipline violations, the Xinhua News Agency reported. ^ top ^

Forced state-sponsored doping revealed by athletes who now risk loss of world records, titles and medals (SCMP)
2016-02-05
A regime of state sponsored doping has been detailed in a letter from world record holding Chinese runner Wang Junxia and the squad of nine runners nicknamed Ma's Army to a journalist, state media reports. Wang revealed in 1995 that she and her teammates were forced to take “large doses of illegal drugs over the years”, according to a report that surfaced this week. After inquiries from the South China Morning Post, the International Association of Athletics Federations launched a probe into Wang's allegations. The probe aims to verify the letter and, if proven to be from the runners, has consequences for their titles, medals and reputation. The letter was penned two years after Wang set two world records in the 3,000 and 10,000 metre running races – marks that stand today. She wrote about how the women on the team tried to avoid the state-run doping regime by quietly throwing away pills forced on them. But she said the coach Ma Junren would personally inject the drugs into his athletes, who became known as Ma's army. The letter, signed by nine teammates and revealing their anguish, was sent to a journalist named Zhao Yu, but it remained unpublished for 19 years. “We are humans, not animals,” said the team members in one passage. “For many years, [he] forced us to take a large dose of illegal drugs. It was true,” they added in their letter to Zhao. The letter was published on Tencent Sports. “Our feelings are sorry and complex when exposing his (Ma's) deeds,” the letter continued. “We are also worried that we would harm our country's fame and reduce the worth of the gold medals we have worked very hard to get.” Wang was honoured with a place in the International Association of Athletics Federations' Hall of Fame for her “notable” achievements in 1993, when she set records in a bouquet of championships held in Tianjin, Stuttgart and Beijing. In Beijing, she took nearly 42 seconds off the 10,000 metre race record, achieving a time no runner has been able to beat in more than 20 years. The name of the “illegal drug” was not revealed, and Wang does not appear on the Monaco-based athletics federation's list of athletes currently banned for doping. She retired from athletics in 1997. A spokesman for the IAAF said the organisation would seek to authenticate the letter. “The IAAF's first action must be to verify that the letter is genuine,” said spokesman Chris Turner. “In this respect, the IAAF has asked the Chinese Athletics Association to assist it in that process.” According to IAAF competition rule 263.3, if an athlete makes an admission of guilt then the Association can “take action. After advice from the Medical and Anti-Doping Commission, an internal IAAF body, the athletes could be stripped of their titles. Further, according to World Anti-Doping Agency rules, Wang's admission could carry penalties such as disqualification of results, the imposition of a period of ineligibility, mandatory publication of the violation and financial sanctions. During the mid-90s and under Ma's coaching, Chinese track and field athletes set dozens of world records. Ma said his intense training regime in the Tibetan alps, a ban on long hair and dating, Chinese women's perceived capacity for 'eating bitterness' and his exotic elixers of turtle blood and powdered seahorses given to his runners were behind the track success, and has consistently denied the use of performance enhancing drugs. Wang also ruled out the use of drugs as in 2004. But others believed in the simple answer that performance enhancing drugs were at its heart. Two-time US Olympian PattiSue Plumer told the Chicago Tribune in 1995 that she thought drugs were involved. “They destroyed any chance of any female human breaking those records in the next 100 years,” Plumer said. The 1994 swimming world championships in Rome were besieged with rumours that Chinese athletes were doping as records fell, and after the national women's swimming team appeared with deep voices and built-up physiques. According to a team doctor, Xue Yinxian, experimenting with human growth hormones and steroids was “rampant in the 1980s”, she told Fairfax Media in Australia in 2012. It was not just rogue individuals but a team strategy, she said. ^ top ^

Loyalty drive by China's Communist Party tells 88 million members to pay fees in person (SCMP)
2016-02-05
The Communist Party is calling on cadres to pay membership dues “actively, on time and in person,” in its latest move to reinforce loyalty and adherence to party discipline. The mouthpiece newspaper of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party's corruption watchdog, said in an article on Wednesday that when it came to paying party fees, it was less about the money than the spirit. “Paying party membership fees in person is a process of alerting [oneself and reminding oneself of] the party spirit...No matter how good our life has become, we should never forget this root of being a communist, and especially should not regard it as a trouble or loss,” it reads. The commentary agreed with Yunnan (雲南) provincial party chief Li Jiheng's recent request for the province's officials to hand in membership dues in person. Li lamented that over the years, paying membership dues had become a passive, involuntary act. “Some people ask their secretaries to do it for them, some only pay every half a year, some ask accountants to subtract [from their salaries]...These are all wrong. Cadres should go to the party groups or branches where they belong to hand in the fees themselves,” Li told a group of officials on Sunday. Ding Xueliang, a Chinese politics professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said since the party took power in 1949, paying membership fees was no longer important in economic terms. Instead, “the significance now lies mainly in showing organisational loyalty and cadres' discipline,” he said. Steve Tsang, a senior fellow at the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, agreed. “Given that there is at the moment no clear distinction between the party and the state, the party does not need the fees to support its operations, though more resources are always helpful,” Tsang said. “This is really about party loyalty and discipline, not about the financial position of the party...What [President Xi Jinping (習近平)] is trying to do is to revive the party into an effective Leninist instrument, for which loyalty and discipline of party members are essential. “Members who do not pay their fees do not have a real commitment to the party and what it represents. Hence, it is important for the party to insist on its members paying the fees,” he said. Like income tax, party dues are calculated based on members' monthly salaries. Those who earn less than 3,000 yuan (HK$3,560) per month pay 0.5 per cent of their earnings, and those who earn more than 10,000 yuan pay 2 per cent. Students, unemployed workers and those who rely on government relief pay as little as 0.2 yuan per month. This means that the well-paid senior executives at state-owned enterprises, who are usually party members, pay a large portion of the membership fees per year. CCDI inspectors found last year that cadres at some state-owned enterprises were not paying their membership dues despite receiving large salaries. Last month, the watchdog published an article on its website to criticising such laxity, saying that failure to pay party membership dues was a “very serious problem”. According to the party's charter, a member who fails to pay membership dues for six successive months without good reason is regarded as having given up membership. As of the end of 2014, the party had 87.8 million members and the Central Organisation Department said its membership income, including deposit interest, was 296 million yuan. Of that, 274 million yuan came from membership dues collected by local party organs. According to party rules, 5 per cent of the membership dues collected at the local level are turned over to the central party committee. This suggests that a total of at least 5.5 billion yuan of membership fees were paid by cadres in 2014. ^ top ^

CCDI warns of corruption risks after inspections (Xinhua)
2016-02-05
China's top disciplinary body warned of corruption risks after finishing inspections at 31 state entities on Thursday, including around 20 centrally-governed financial institutions. The Communist Party of China (CPC)'s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) kicked off the third round of inspections in 2015 covering several central government organs, such as the Ministry of Education and National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), and major financial institutions including the central bank, securities regulators, state-owned banks and insurance companies last October. Major problems plaguing the entities uncovered through the inspections include corruption, weakening of the Party's leadership, and procedural violations in personnel selection and placement, according to the findings released by the CCDI on Thursday. CORRUPTION RISKS During the inspection at the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the team dispatched by the CCDI discovered loopholes in its mechanisms for preventing corruption risks and conflicts of interest, which are likely to breed corruption, said a CCDI statement. The inspection uncovered problems of interests tunneling and seeking personal gains through abuse of powers in China Construction Bank. "Corruption risks exist in centralized purchasing and financial management," the statement said. The inspection team dispatched to China Life, the country's largest insurer, found that "the company's local branches frequently violate laws and regulations," and "the discipline violations around the public, like fundraising fraud, had a bad impact." Some leading cadres in the NBS were found "seeking personal gains through abuse of powers including data fabrication," said the statement. Wang Baoan, head of the NBS, was put under investigation for "severe disciplinary violation," the CCDI announced last month. The inspection discovered corruption risks in the Executive Office of the Three Gorges Project Construction Committee of the State Council, due to poor supervision over the implementation of its follow-up projects. Also, tunneling of interests is also suspected to exist in excess project outsourcing. The findings showed that over half of the inspected entities, including the People's Bank of China, the central bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Ministry of Education as well as China Banking Regulatory Commission, have been involved in violating the CPC's frugality code. WEAKENING OF THE PARTY'S LEADERSHIP The inspections found that weakening of the party's leadership is a general problem. The statement said the Communist Youth League Central Committee "has not studied the spirit of the CPC's conference on improving mass organizations in-depth and translated it into daily work... has not resolutely carried out reforms and innovation through concrete measures..." Mass organizations represent people from different lines of work or age groups, such as trade unions, youth leagues and women's groups. The CPC committee of CITIC Group Corporation, a major financial conglomerate, was found "talking about business too much while seldom talking about the Party." The Party committee of China Investment Corp does not attach enough importance to Party building, and has not given its leading role full play, according to the statement. ^ top ^

China to crackdown against illegal fund-raising (Global Times)
2016-02-05
China will take strict precautions and hard actions against illegal fund-raising, the central government said, after an online peer-to-peer platform was found to swindle investors out of billions of dollars. It is an important guarantee for economic stability and social harmony to prevent the happening of such cases and properly deal with the aftermath, said the document released by the State Council, China's cabinet, on Thursday. Related agencies and local governments should pay high attention and strengthen their efforts to crack down on illegal fund-raising in a bid to protect people's interests and fend off systemic risks, according to the document. A long-term prevention mechanism should be established, the document said. The document was released to the public after police found online P2P broker Ezubao cheated about 900,000 investors out of more than 50 billion yuan (7.6 billion US dollars) by fake investment projects. An executive from the parent company has admitted it was nothing but a Ponzi scheme. Ezubao is not an isolated case in China. Given rising financing difficulties amid a slowing economy, P2P lending platforms mushroomed across the country and have attracted numerous individual investors with high returns. By the end of November, there were more than 2,600 such brokers nationwide which have raised a total of 400 billion yuan, around 30 percent of which were found with violations and problems in their operation, official data showed. Facing spreading risk, China set up a ministerial joint conference mechanism to gather strength and rein in the rampant sector. Yang Yuzhu, office head of the conference, said supervisors will make joint efforts to take strong measures against illegal fund-raising and make sure no supervision vacuum occurs. China will improve financial services, guide informal finance and eliminate the root of illegal fund-raising, the document said. ^ top ^

China bans over 200 illegal websites (Global Times)
2016-02-05
China's Internet watchdog said Thursday it banned hundreds of websites and thousands of accounts with illegal content including pornography, gambling and terrorism. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said it has closed down more than 200 illegal websites and some 6,000 accounts from various social media platforms. The banned websites included a platform for illegally trading firearms, some that fabricated rumors or distorted history, and those engaged in illegal recruitment of students with foreign education or fake degree certificates. The CAC also banned user accounts fabricating information about the stock and property markets and those containing pornographic content or promoting the Nazi ideology. The closed accounts came from Sina Weibo, Baidu Tieba community, Tencent QQ and WeChat platforms. The CAC asked the public to inform them about illegal content and promised to reward those who provided useful tip-offs. As Spring Festival approaches, rumors about food safety, public health and transportation are on the rise. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Women's legal aid center in Beijing closed (Global Times)
2016-02-02
A Beijing-based lawyer on Monday told the Global Times that her legal aid center specializing in women's rights was ordered closed by police, saying it could be due to suspected ties to overseas funds. Guo Jianmei, the founder and director of the Beijing Zhongze Women's Legal Counseling and Service Center, said the center was closed at the request of Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, adding that the request may have resulted from funds that come from overseas organizations. Founded in 1995 and formerly attached to the Peking University, the center had been receiving funding from the Ford Foundation since its establishment. It was receiving over 1 million yuan ($152,000) a year, the Guangzhou-based The Time Weekly reported in 2010. US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Sunday voiced her support for Guo on Twitter. Guo confirmed that the authorities demanded that the center be closed down before the Spring Festival, which falls on February 8 this year. Between 1995 and 2011, the center offered legal services to some 80,000 cases, including marriage counseling as labor rights, and represented poor Chinese women free of charge in over 3,000 lawsuits, according to the center's website. It received national media coverage when it assisted the case of Deng Yujiao, who stabbed an official to death and injured another in self defense, in an alleged sexual assault incident in 2009. Guo became the first Chinese winner of the 2011 International Women of Courage Award, and also received the Global Women's Leadership Award from Clinton in 2007. According to a report from Caixin Magazine, beginning January 1, 2015, NGOs in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province are required to report to the authorities 15 days before obtaining overseas funds. The new regulation also requires authorities to de-register branches of overseas NGOs or agencies under the control of overseas organizations. The regulation said that agencies whose main sources of funding come from overseas will be subjected to the rules above. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Shenzhen to spend 15 billion yuan on ensuring safety of construction waste after landslide that killed 70 (SCMP)
2016-02-01
Shenzhen plans to spend 15 billion yuan (HK$17.77 billion) this year ensuring the safety of building sites and dumping grounds, following the deaths last year of 70 people killed by the collapse of a mountain of construction waste. Various campaigns would be launched to identify and remove potential hazards at building sites, landfills, soil slopes and grounds holding construction waste and hazardous materials, the city's Mayor Xu Qin said at the legislature's annual meeting on Sunday. Xu stressed the importance of learning from the fatal landslide in late December, saying the government would ensure “the strictest standards”, “the most compact system” and hold officials accountable for public safety management. In addition to the deaths, the landslide in December destroyed 33 buildings in the Hengtaiyu industrial zone. Xiong Yang, from the NGO Green River, said many of Shenzhen's recent disasters were largely the result of overly aggressive urbanisation, in which development was driven by profit, but lacked adequate supervision and long-range planning. About 7.3 million of Shenzhen's 18 million residents live in illegal buildings, according to the Southern Metropolis Daily. High home prices have forced many young people to compromise their safety by moving into such buildings. Another concern for the city is the relative frequency of accidents involving collapsing structures at construction zones. Between 2007 and 2013, eight people have been killed in 37 cases of collapsing structures. More than half of these collapses took place near under-construction Metro stations, according to local media. Metro construction and ageing underground pipelines were the primary cause of cave-ins, news website sznews reported. Official statistics have not been updated since then, but local media reported several Metro-related collapses from 2014 to 2015. In February 2014, three collapses were reported on three consecutive days at one site in the city's downtown area. On June 25, one person died when part of a Metro construction site in Futian district caved in. Xiong said large-scale construction of Metro and real estate projects would continue to threaten public safety over the coming years as more waste was produced and more dump sites built. On December 28, the city officially began construction on six Metro projects, which will cost 61 billion yuan and add 66km to the Metro network when completed by 2020. “A lot of real estate buildings are under construction following the subway routes. A large number of landslides and flooding incidents were triggered by dump trucks illegally dumping waste near construction sites that had blocked drain pipes.” Xiong said. He said the ongoing construction on Metro sites would mean many roads needed to be dug up. This had the potential to damage drains and cause floods that could paralyse the city during the rainy season. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Two men get death for killing British Tibetan monk (Global Times)
2016-02-01
A court in Southwest China's Sichuan Province has sentenced two men to death and a third to three years in jail for their involvement in the murder of a British Tibetan Living Buddha. The Intermediate People's Court in Chengdu, Sichuan Province announced the verdict on Friday, the China News Service reported on Sunday. The two men sentenced to death have filed an appeal. The third said he needs time to decide whether to file an appeal to a higher court. Tarap Shetrup Akong, also known as Akong Rinpoche, was stabbed to death in a financial dispute at his home in Chengdu on October 8, 2013. According to Chengdu police, one of the suspects had gone to the UK to work as a painter and sculptor for Akong's monastery. After returning to China in 2011, the suspect claimed that Akong owed him 2.7 million yuan ($410,670) in wages and brought his two friends in his visit to Akong's home to demand payment. The three suspects, all ethnic Tibetans, attacked Akong after failing to collect the money. Two suspects stabbed Akong, Akong's nephew and a driver in the room to death. The third suspect helped hide the weapons after they fled Akong's residence. The Intermediate People's Court in Chengdu said the murder was brutal and had left serious consequences, and therefore the suspects in the case should be severely punished according to law. Akong is a renowned figure in the Tibetan Buddhist community, having co-founded the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery in Eskdalemuir Langholm in 1967 in the Scottish Borders. The monastery is the first Tibetan Buddhist center established in the West. He had frequently traveled between China and the UK and devoted a considerable amount of time to charity work. ^ top ^

Tibet gets tougher in environment protection (Xinhua)
2016-01-30
Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China has rolled out stricter environment protection plans for the next five years, an official said during the local legislative session. Tibetan officials will be audited in natural resources management and those whose decisions lead to environmental damages will be punished, said Norgyel, director of Tibetan Environment Protection Department. Currently, about 70 percent of the land in the region have been banned from any forms of exploitation or allowd for only development in a restricted way. For years, Tibet has been banning the entry of iron and steel, chemical and paper-making industries. Meanwhile, it is boosting the growth of ecological tourism and cultural development. "We are making action plans for clean air, water and soil. At the same time, we will ramp up inspection," Norgyel said. ^ top ^

Sichuan seizes Dalai Lama portraits in crackdown on illegal publications (Global Times)
2016-02-03
The local government of a Tibetan-populated prefecture in Sichuan Province confirmed with the Global Times on Tuesday that they had ordered shopkeepers to turn in photos of Dalai Lama as part of the government's regular work to manage the cultural market. "It is a regular campaign held before the Spring Festival to crack down on pornography and illegal publications, which include portraits of the Dalai Lama," Gou Yadong, director for external publicity at the publicity department, told the Global Times on Tuesday. The campaign was headed by a law enforcement squad comprised of officers from the bureau of culture, the industrial and commercial bureau and the local police, Gou said. The US-backed Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Monday that an order was issued by the Luhuo county government in Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on January 4 to urge shopkeepers to turn in all the inventory of the Dalai Lama's portraits by Tuesday. The order reportedly prohibited shops and stores from selling or displaying the photos. Denying the RFA's report that an estimated 40 percent of the county's stores might have sold or displayed the Dalai Lama's photos, Gou said that it was impossible for the stores to display the photos openly. An employee at the publicity department in Luhuo also confirmed with the Global Times on Tuesday the launch of the campaign. The person said an ongoing and "comprehensive" campaign was being carried out by the local government, but refused to reveal more details. Several local residents told the Global Times on Tuesday that the portraits of the Dalai Lama are often sold secretly in stores selling Buddhism-related products. As a political figure who orchestrated separatist activities, it is inappropriate to display the Dalai Lama's photos in public venues, Lian Xiangmin, an expert at the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing, told the Global Times. The hanging of his pictures to the Chinese people is same as hanging of Saddam Hussein's pictures to the Americans, Lian explained. People were more than welcome to hang pictures of the country's past and present leaders, Gou said. During the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region, pictures of five generations of China's central leaders were distributed to government departments, monasteries, officials and residents in Tibet as a gift from the central government, news site tibet.cn reported on September 7, 2015. ^ top ^

Chinese province orders crackdown on portraits of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama (SCMP)
2016-02-05
A Chinese province with a large Tibetan population has ordered shopkeepers to hand in portraits of the Dalai Lama, state-run media said, quoting Beijing experts likening the Nobel laureate to executed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Sichuan in the southwest, which includes several ethnically Tibetan areas, set up a “law enforcement squad” of cultural bureau personnel, police and other officials to enforce the drive, reported the Global Times, which is close to the ruling Communist party. The aim was to “crack down on pornography and illegal publications, which include portraits of the Dalai Lama” ahead of the Lunar New Year, it quoted Gou Yadong, director of the provincial publicity department, as saying. People were more than welcome to put on show pictures of the country's past and present leaders, he added, referring to former heads of the ruling party. The Global Times also cited Lian Xiangmin, of the China Tibetology Research Centre in Beijing, as saying that for Chinese people, hanging his picture was the same as displaying Saddam Hussein's image would be for Americans. The former Iraqi leader was executed in 2006 after he was convicted of crimes against humanity, while the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, was awarded the 1989 Nobel Peace prize. The move in Sichuan comes as Beijing steps up a campaign against the spiritual leader, who is still widely revered by Tibetans. Beijing brands him a dangerous separatist, despite his repeated statements condemning violence, and in Tibet it tightly controls images of him as part of what many Tibetans see as official repression of their religion and culture. China denies repression of minorities and says its massive investment in Tibet has brought development to a formerly poverty stricken region. Some Tibetan areas in Sichuan had seen laxer enforcement in recent years, with business owners displaying his portrait in shops. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang govt stresses border control, law on anti-terrorism (Global Times)
2016-02-03
The Party chief of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has stressed the importance of border control, ethnic unity and the implementation of the anti-terrorism law in the government's 2016 work. Zhang Chunxian, secretary of the Communist Party of China's Xinjiang committee, said in a meeting on Sunday that the government must attach great importance to the reduction of overcapacity, poverty alleviation, border control, ethnic unity, reform of Xinjiang Corps and the promotion and implementation of the anti-terrorism law. Zhang called on fellow officials in Xinjiang to profoundly understand the current situation and make great efforts in cracking down on terrorism, implementing ethnic and religious policies, promoting education and employment and reforming the Xinjiang Corps, the Xinjiang Daily reported on Tuesday. Zhang made aforementioned statement at a Sunday meeting attended by members of the standing committee of the Party's Xinjiang provincial committee, the top decision-makers in the Xinjiang government. At the meeting, Zhang conveyed the instructions from the Central Xinjiang Work Coordination Leading Group, whose members met and discussed Xinjiang work on January 28. Xinjiang has been troubled by terror attacks in the past few years. In September 2015, a terror attack in a coal mine in Baicheng, Aksu Prefecture killed 11 residents and five police officers. The government said in a later statement in November that the attack was planned and led by an extremist organization outside of China. ^ top ^

Xinjiang cut jail terms of ex-terrorists over behavior (Global Times)
2016-02-03
Authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have cut the jail term of 11 criminals who were found guilty of endangering national security, including some former terrorists. Seven people who were sentenced to life imprisonment have their punishment cut down to fixed jail terms, while another four were granted a reduction of six months. One person has been released following the abatement, local media ts.cn reported Tuesday. The decision was made based on a recommendation from Xinjiang Party chief Zhang Chunxian, who said in a statement Monday that the government has always paid attention to criminals and hoped they could reform and move to a new life as early as possible, said the report. Zhang said that those whose sentences were commuted were deluded by religious extremism, but they have since sincerely turned around and won approval for their good behavior. The Party and government believe that as long as they get rid of their extremist thoughts, the door to hope is always open to them, he added. The report said that among the 11 criminals, some were the prime culprits of separatist groups and some were former leaders of terror organizations. One of the criminals had previously received training at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan and allegedly had contact with Al Qaeda. ^ top ^

Xinjiang closes websites, vows tighter rules for the Internet (Global Times)
2016-02-03
Authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have shut down several websites for allegedly spreading illegal content that damages ethnic unity, as they vowed to enforce the law more strictly on the Internet in 2016. According to news website ts.cn, the Xinjiang Internet Information Office has shut down the website v.eleman.cn after a tip it received said the website was involved in spreading illegal content and damaging ethnic unity. Two other websites, 653130.com and muzikam.com, were also shut down for a similar reason, ts.cn reported last week. A representative of the Xinjiang Internet Information Office said the government plans to strengthen law enforcement in cyberspace this year. The representative also cited the Measures on the Administration of Internet Information Service, which prohibits producing, duplicating, publishing and spreading content that incites ethnic hatred and discrimination, or harms ethnic unity. Last month, a Wechat public account called "Xinjiang Information Net" was suspended after it was reported to have adopted exaggerated headlines. According to the news website, the account used "a series of bad news is on its way" and "something happened in Turpan" in the headline to describe a major snowstorm. Turpan is a city in eastern Xinjiang. The autonomous region has been troubled by terror attacks in the past few years. The Internet regulator in Xinjiang ruled that the account was a negative influence by using a malicious headline. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Hong Kong government skips Legco subcommittee in push to secure high-speed railway funding (SCMP)
2016-02-02
The government has taken the rare move of skipping a key step in the Legislative Council's vetting procedure and asked its Finance Committee to make scrutiny of a controversial funding proposal for the high-speed railway link its top priority on Friday. Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung dismissed critics who said it was disrespectful of him to bypass Legco's public works subcommittee, which failed to vote on a funding request for the committee to give it the green light on Tuesday. The government is seeking a further HK$19.6 billion on top of the HK$65 billion lawmakers approved several years ago. “We have not bypassed the subcommittee. In fact, up to this afternoon, we have spent... 13.5 hours” debating the proposal in the body, Cheung said. “In the 1990s, there were some public works that went directly to the Finance Committee.” Cheung said he had to take the “unusual step” because there would be “grave consequences” if the committee could not approve the request this month. “As the secretary, I have a duty to safeguard the interests of public money and the overall interest of the community,” he said. Cheung warned that failure to meet the deadline meant that the 26km line to the border could be halted at an estimated loss of HK$4.8 billion, while the cost of resuming the project later could run to HK$28.2 billion. About 7,000 workers and engineers could also lose their jobs if work was suspended, the minister said. The Finance Committee's vice-chairman, Chan Kam-lam, later told the Post that the government had written to committee chief Chan Kin-por that the rail request should top the Friday meeting's agenda. That meant requests such as funding for an elderly health care voucher scheme would have to make way, but Chan said: “We agreed that it was acceptable because the rail's funding has a deadline.” From December 23 to Tuesday, the subcommittee had held six meetings on the funding proposal for the much-delayed railway link. Pro-establishment lawmakers had hoped the railway funding proposal would be endorsed today, only to see the two-hour meeting ending in chaos. Pan-democrat lawmakers were mainly concerned about the co-location of mainland Chinese and Hong Kong immigration officials at a joint checkpoint at West Kowloon. After the mysterious disappearance of bookseller Lee Po in Hong Kong, fears have grown that co-location may set a precedent for mainland officers to exercise powers in the city. “Why wasn't there even a progress report on the authorities' negotiations on co-location?” the Democratic Party's Helena Wong Pik-wan asked. Cheung did not elaborate on the progress but said “both the central and local governments are determined to formulate a feasible co-location proposal that would not contravene the Basic Law or the 'one country, two systems' principle.” He promised: “That proposal will be fully discussed by the community.” Before the Executive Council's weekly meeting on Tuesday morning, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who is acting chief executive while Leung Chun-ying is visiting India, had dropped a strong hint that the government would go directly to the Finance Committee if the subcommittee failed to vote. “If lawmakers want to argue about the funding, they should do it in the Finance Committee and vote there,” Lam said. ^ top ^

Banned books on offer at Hong Kong's Lunar New Year fair as mystery over shop owner Lee Po continues (SCMP)
2016-02-02
More than a thousand copies of titles from Causeway Bay Books were being sold at the Lunar New Year fair in Victoria Park on Tuesday, despite the whereabouts of the store's co-owner, Lee Po, remaining shrouded in mystery. The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China stocked their stall at the annual fair with an array of books from the shop, which specialises in politically sensitive titles banned on the mainland. Alliance chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said: “These kinds of books have been sold in Hong Kong for decades... The free flow of information is a vital part of the city's way of life... We have to defend this freedom. “Localist sentiment has been gaining prominence in Hong Kong but it's still important to understand the mainland's political landscape,” he said. Ho said the alliance decided to offer the books because the store's warehouse was being forced to relocate and the books would have to be thrown away if they weren't sold. Lee was last seen in Hong Kong on December 30, and four of his business associates – Gui Minhai, Lui Por, Cheung Ji-ping and Lam Wing-kei – also went missing separately in Thailand and Shenzhen in October. A number of political parties have set up booths at the fair this year, as in previous years. The Civic Party was selling everyday items including computer cases printed with the word “Hongkonger” on them. “Our theme this year is localism because the core values of the city are being eroded,” said party chairwoman Audrey Eu Yuet-mee. On the other side of the political spectrum, Michael Tien Puk-sun, deputy chairman of the New People's Party, opened his party's stall by criticising ongoing filibustering in the Legislative Council by some lawmakers. “Hong Kong's economy was very lively but it is now being restricted by filibustering,” Tien said. He accused opposition legislators of doing a U-turn by opposing the controversial Copyright (Amendment) Bill, which has been the focus of much of the filibustering. “They changed their position completely under the pressure of internet users,” Tien said. ^ top ^

Checking them out: Banned books pique interest of visitors to Hong Kong Lunar New Year fair (SCMP)
2016-02-04
Politically sensitive books banned on in mainland China are piquing visitors' interest at the Lunar New Year fair in Victoria Park. Over a thousand copies of titles from Causeway Bay Books, which has been closed since its owner Lee Po disappeared, are being sold at the stall run by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. On the second day of the fair, the stall was drawing a constant stream of curious passers-by. Ms Fung, an alliance volunteer at the stall, said they had sold around 20 per cent of the stock so far. “It's usually older people who are interested in these books, but quite a lot of young people have come by to have a look,” she said. Mr Chow, who bought a title on the mainland's economic situation, said he had never read such books before. “I didn't care about them before the Lee Po incident. But I'm buying one now as a form of protest.” Lee, who is an owner of Causeway Bay Books, was last seen in Chai Wan on December 30. His wife later visited him on the mainland. Four of his associates – Gui Minhai, Lui Por, Cheung Ji-ping and Lam Wing-kei – went missing separately in October. They are all assumed to be under detention on the mainland. Another visitor, Ms Yeung, said she had heard on the radio that the books were being sold at the stall. “I wanted to see what books Lee Po was selling that made him disappear.” “I don't think they are actually that controversial. I think it's very normal to have books on a country's top leaders,” she said. Mrs Chan, who also came by the stall, said she was not interested in the books because the claims in them could not be verified. “But Hong Kong is a society with freedom of speech. What happened to Lee Po, just because he sells books, is absolutely wrong” she stressed. ^ top ^

Hong Kong ethnic minorities fall through the cracks (SCMP)
2016-02-03
Race has become a basis for poverty in Hong Kong, as a landmark report shows that some South Asians live in a parallel, poorer and more deprived version of the city. The first set of poverty statistics relating to the city's ethnic minorities has lifted the veil on their plight, revealing that South Asians' particular problems are linked to a lack of access to support and services. Experts blamed racial insensitivity – both in policy-making and public education – and criticised the government's non-committal attitude towards human rights and equality. They said ethnic minority groups had been pushed to the periphery of mainstream society as a result. With a per capita GDP of HK$310,113, Hong Kong is one of Asia's richest economies. However, it is also one of the most unequal places in the developed world. Hong Kong's Gini coefficient – a globally-recognised inequality scale in which 'zero' is complete equality and 'one' is complete inequality – is 0.537. In 2014, about 15 per cent of the city's population remained poor even after counting policy interventions such as welfare hand-outs. That meant one million people were living below the poverty line, which is set at half the median monthly household income. But in the ethnic minority-centred poverty report released on December 31 last year, 22 per cent of the city's 61,400 South Asians lived in poverty even after policy intervention. Things were worse for South Asian families with children – 73 per cent of Pakistani families lived in poverty, comprising the most hard-up group. The report highlighted that these impoverished families had problems accessing public services they needed due to language issues. More than 85 per cent had not used, or had experienced difficulties using, government services due to language barriers. A similar number also had never used support services specifically for ethnic minorities, with more than half indicating this was because they did not know such services existed. The statistics shed some light on how Hong Kong's South Asian population, some of whom were now third-generation residents of the city, were continuing to live in poverty. The problem persisted due to government attitude, according to Stephen Fisher, director of Unison, a non-governmental organisation advocating for ethnic minority interests. “To do the right thing, there needs to be a passion for civil and human rights,” said Fisher, who was formerly director of Social Welfare before retiring in 2009. “The government may be trying to do the proper thing, but lacks passion because of their lack of belief in human rights and equal opportunity.” The government also depicted poverty as a “work issue”, said Chinese University assistant professor Raees Baig, who warned that such an attitude would yield narrow policies. “The government shifted poverty from a social issue into a labour problem … which is narrow and will translate into policies not holistic enough to deal with the issue,” Baig said. Recent years had seen more vocal advocacy for ethnic minorities' education rights and access to information. In 2013, the government set up a “Chinese as a second language learning framework” to help local, non-Chinese-speaking students learn the language. But the programme drew criticism for failing to include teaching materials or support for schools. Chua Hoi-wai, chief executive of the Hong Kong Council of Social Services, said the framework would need time to mature, but after being operational for more than a year teachers stated that it needed more support. “We need to think about how to strengthen support in order to really see it benefit the non-Chinese speaking students,” he said. The government this year was to roll out Low Income Family Assistance, which would give families with one working person a monetary supplement, as well as an additional supplement for each child they had. The Low Income Family Assistance policy was regarded as beneficial for many ethnic minority families who fell into the category. But Fisher said more work needed to be done in education, especially in Chinese-language education in order to curb intergenerational poverty. Baig said better education and job opportunities for ethnic minorities were important, yet they did not address basic issues of discrimination and exclusion. […] South Asians in the city lived in developing world circumstances despite living in a developed society, he added. “For the ethnic minority community here, it's not a liability to have children but an asset,” he said. “If the ethnic minorities have equal opportunities, their birth rate will decline.” ^ top ^

Remaining three missing Hong Kong booksellers surface in mainland China, accused of 'illegal activities' (SCMP)
2016-02-05
Guangdong police confirmed on Thursday for the first time that three Hong Kong booksellers who had not been heard of since they went missing last October were being investigated in mainland China. They also told Hong Kong police that missing Causeway Bay Books owner Lee Po, who is also on the mainland, had rejected their request to meet him. After Gui Minhai, another bookseller missing since October, earlier said on state TV that he had turned himself in over a fatal accident he was involved in 12 years ago, the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department said on Thursday night that his three colleagues were suspected to be involved in Gui's case and were also “involved in illegal activities on the mainland”. This was the first time Guangdong police had confirmed that Lui Por, Cheung Chi-ping and Lam Wing-kee were in custody on the mainland. “Criminal compulsory measures were imposed on them and they were under investigation,” Guangdong police wrote in a letter to their Hong Kong counterparts. They enclosed a letter from Lee stating that relevant authorities had informed him of a request by Hong Kong police to meet with him on the mainland. He wrote that he “did not need to meet with them at the moment” and would contact them if he wished to do so. Lee's wife confirmed his handwriting when she was shown the letter. Hong Kong police last night said they had written again to the Guangdong side requesting help in following up the case of Lui, Cheung and Lam, and asking them to pass on a message to Lee that police still wanted to meet with him as soon as possible. The latest development is unlikely to curb speculation in Hong Kong that the booksellers were kidnapped and taken to the mainland by security agents from across the border acting beyond their jurisdiction. It is widely believed they got into trouble for selling books critical of the Chinese Communist Party. The piecemeal release of information and questionable explanations by mainland authorities have added to fears that Hong Kong's autonomy has been undermined. Of the five booksellers, Gui, a Swedish national, had been missing for the longest. He appeared on CCTV earlier, claiming he had been fleeing from a suspended two-year jail term since causing the death of a 23-year-old university student while drunk-driving in Ningbo, Zhejiang province in 2004. The CCTV report also stated Gui had been involved in other criminal activities, and the “related persons” were also being investigated. Gui reportedly disappeared while on holiday in Thailand in October. Lee, a major shareholder in Causeway Bay Books, went missing in Chai Wan on December 30. ^ top ^

 

Macau

H7 bird flu virus detected in Macao market (China Daily)
2016-02-05
An H7 avian flu virus was detected in samples of poultry sold in Macao's street market, officials from Macao's Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM) and the Health Bureau (SSM) said Wednesday. Authorities confirmed that the 15,000 live chickens were imported from Guangdong province and all the poultry in the wholesale market had been culled. The government decided to temporarily suspend live poultry sales for three days, an IACM official said. Local authorities also ordered all poultry stalls in Macao's market streets to clean and disinfect. Macao's IACM has asked relevant departments of the mainland to trace the source of the virus together. The health bureau said it was placing employees who were in contact with the poultry under medical observation.. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan elects first DPP parliamentary speaker (SCMP)
2016-012-01
Taiwan's parliament elected its first-ever speaker from the mainland-skeptic Democratic Progressive Party on Monday after the DPP triumphed in elections last month. Su Chia-chuan immediately relinquished his party titles after his election, as a first step towards parliamentary reform. “This was the first transition of power at parliament. People will have high expectations of the new parliament. If we let them down, we will betray their mandate,” Su said. The DPP won a crushing victory in parliamentary and presidential elections on January 16. Its chairwoman, Tsai Ing-wen, will on May 20 become the island's first woman president after voters turned their backs on closer mainland ties under the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party. The DPP also won 68 out of the 113 parliamentary seats while the KMT's total shrank from 64 to 35. Su takes over as speaker from Wang Jin-pyng of the KMT, who held the post for 17 years. One of the major tasks facing the new parliament is to pass a bill providing for oversight of agreements with the mainland. It has been on ice since the 2014 “Sunflower movement”, which saw the occupation of parliament for more than three weeks in protest at a planned cross-strait services trade pact. The services pact is also on hold pending the passage of the oversight bill – a key demand of protesters fearful of secret deals with Beijing. The thaw in ties with Beijing under KMT President Ma Ying-jeou saw a rise in trade and tourism, but concerns over growing mainland influence led to a public backlash. The mainland and Taiwan split in 1949 after a civil war but Beijing still considers the self-ruled island part of its territory awaiting reunification. The mainland has not ruled out using force should Taipei declare independence. ^ top ^

6.2-magnitude quake jolts waters near Taiwan: CENC (Xinhua)
2016-02-02
A 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit waters close to northeast coast of Taiwan at a depth of 200 kilometers at 10:19 p.m. Beijing Time on Tuesday, according to China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC). The epicenter was monitored at 25.41 degrees north latitude and 123.45 degrees east longitude. The island's weather and earthquake monitoring agency said the earthquake was monitored at 6.8 magnitude. The earthquake was centered about 185 km east of Keelung city in northeast Taiwan, the agency said. ^ top ^

Beijing to boost ties with Taiwan groups backing 'one China' (SCMP)
2016-02-03
Beijing's top Communist Party leader on Taiwan affairs said yesterday the mainland would increase exchanges with Taiwan parties and groups that upheld the one-China principle. Yu Zhengsheng, the Communist Party's No.4 and top political advisor, also said the mainland would stick to its current Taiwan policy – a stance that suggested, according to one analyst, that Beijing was still figuring out how to deal with the island's president-elect Tsai Ing-wen and her new administration. The comments, which come as the party convenes its annual cross-strait affairs conference, follow the victory of Taiwan's pro-independence party in the island's presidential and legislature elections last month. “We will unswervingly…adhere to the one-China principle, firmly oppose and contain 'Taiwan independence' separatist activities in any form, safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity and push forward the peaceful development of cross-strait relations,” Xinhua quoted Yu as saying. “The peaceful development of cross-strait ties is the correct path, and no one can resist the trend,” he added. A statement released after the meeting said efforts would be made to promote economic integration across the Taiwan Strait, including industrial and financial cooperation, to benefit as many small businesses, farmers and fishermen as possible. It said more measures would be adopted to facilitate exchanges in culture, education, tourism and religion. The mainland would increase exchanges with Taiwan parties and groups that upheld the one-China principle to safeguard the “common political foundation” shared by the two sides, Xinhua reported. “The common political foundation” refers to the “1992 Consensus” between the Communist Party and Taiwan's then ruling Kuomintang on the one-China principle. The principle mandates that the mainland and Taiwan are part of the same sovereign country, but leaves room for different interpretations as to which regime is its sole legitimate government. Chiu Chui-Cheng, a researcher at Taiwan's National Quemoy University, said Yu's remarks had not broken new ground. “It was a reprise of the previous narratives,” said Chiu. “Probably the mainland has yet to finalise its tactics towards the upcoming Tsai administration.” Before Tsai took office on May 20, the two sides would probably continue to try to find a common ground, he said. ^ top ^

Beijing may bypass Taipei in wooing Taiwanese after election victory of pro-independence party (SCMP)
2016-02-04
Beijing may bypass dealing with Taipei and concentrate instead on strengthening civil exchanges with the island if the incoming Democratic Progressive Party government refuses to recognise the “one-China” principle, analysts say. The landslide victory by Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence DPP in the January 16 election, that ended eight years of rule by the mainland-friendly Kuomintang, has left many observers wondering whether Beijing will change its approach to cross-strait affairs. On Tuesday, at an annual cross-strait affairs conference in Beijing, the Communist Party's top political adviser, Yu Zhengsheng, said the mainland would boost exchanges with Taiwanese parties and groups that upheld the one-China principle. The principle is part of an understanding between the Communist Party and the KMT that the mainland and Taiwan are part of the same sovereign nation, but it leaves open to interpretation which regime is the legitimate government. Yu added that Beijing would continue to “firmly oppose and contain Taiwan independence separatist activities in any form”, but would also adopt “more measures to facilitate exchanges” in economics, culture, education, tourism and religion. Yu's comments were the first by a top mainland official handling Taiwan affairs since the island's election. “By vowing to adopt more measures to facilitate exchanges in various areas, Yu appears to suggest that Beijing may skip dealing with the DPP government and unilaterally adopt measures that could help it woo Taiwanese people, if Tsai refuses to recognise the one-China principle,” said Justin Chen, deputy president of the Cross-Strait Policy Association in Taipei. Tsai has stressed that she wants to maintain the cross-strait status quo and peaceful development of relations, but has been ambiguous over whether she will accept the principle. Beijing has insisted acceptance of the principle is a condition of further talks and improving relations. Analysts said Beijing was unlikely to act tough against Taipei before Tsai was sworn in as the island's new president on May 20, but it was still waiting for a positive response from Tsai, who is likely to touch on cross-strait policy in her inaugural speech. ^ top ^

 

Economy

HK$59 billion online Ponzi scheme involving more than 900,000 mainland investors busted by Chinese authorities (SCMP)
2016-02-01
Chinese authorities have busted a Ponzi scheme involving over 50 billion yuan (HK$59 billion) and more than 900,000 investors across the country, state-run Xinhua reported late Sunday night. The case surrounding Ezubao, China's largest online peer-to-peer (P2P) lender, is set to become the country's biggest illegal fund-raising case in terms of money and the number of investors. At least 21 suspects, including the scheme's alleged high-flying mastermind, Ding Ning, were under arrest, Xinhua reported. The suspects are accused of luring in investors with false offers of double-digit annual returns. Ding, 34, financed his lavish lifestyle with money fleeced from investors, according to previous reports by Caixin. Ezubao was launched in July 2014 and embarked on a massive advertising campaign to raise funds. On the surface, it was a P2P website with various projects, offering investors annual returns ranging between 9 per cent and 14.6 per cent. In reality, the website's operators made up most of the projects listed on its website and used funds from new investors to pay old debts, Xinhua reported. “Ezubao is a complete Ponzi scheme,” Zhang Min, the former president of Ezubao's operating company and its public face, was quoted by Xinhua as saying from a police detention centre. Zhang reportedly said the company's executives knew it was all a fake. Xinhua also quoted Yong Lei, Ezubao's risk controller, as saying, “As far as I know, 95 per cent of the listed projects are fake.” The case came to light as President Xi Jinping listed financial risk management as one of the priorities for the country's for “economic work” this year. It also came as the country's political and legal affairs commission pledged to crack down on illegal financing deals and activities conducted via the internet. Xinhua reported that Ding used investors' money to fund extravagant personal outlays, including gifts for Zhang. Among those gifts were a villa in Singapore valued at 130 million yuan, a pink diamond ring worth 12 million yuan, and 550 million yuan in cash, according to the Xinhua report. He also used the raised funds to pay huge salaries to the company's employees. Ding Dian, Ding's younger brother, saw his pay rise to over 1 million yuan a month, Xinhua reported. Police started to investigate the case in December as it became clear that the Ezubao scheme was unsustainable. But the case has proved a challenge, with investigators confronting a network of at least 200 computer servers and a multitude of places and people linked to the scheme. To conceal evidence, Ezubao's executives put more than 1,200 account books into 80 plastic bags and buried them six metres below ground in an Anhui suburb. Police took over 20 hours with two excavators to dig them up, Xinhua reported. Police were still tracking the flow of money, and the Ministry of Public Security would soon have a website link for victims to register their details, Xinhua added. ^ top ^

China sets 2016 economic growth projection range at 6.5 to 7pc (SCMP)
2016-02-03
China has set its economic growth projection range at 6.5 to 7 per cent, an official from the country's top economic planner said at a briefing on Wednesday. Xu Shaoshi, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, said downward pressure on the world's second largest economy would remain in 2016. He added that China's investment was now focused on fixing weak points and structural adjustments, including infrastructure in the central and western regions, education and health care sectors. Xu also said that China's basic infrastructure investment growth increased 15 per cent last year. Xu was speaking to reporters at a briefing. His comments came after recent data showed China's economy was off to a weak start this year. The official Purchasing Managers' Index for manufacturing stood at 49.4 in January, the lowest reading since August 2012. ^ top ^

Media in 'rust belt' Chinese province told to downplay region's economic slump (SCMP)
2016-02-03
A government official in northern China has ordered the media in his province to downplay the region's economic woes. Fan Weiping, the Communist Party's propaganda chief in Liaoning province, was quoted by the People's Daily as telling a meeting that the media had to reflect confidence in the area's future development in their reports. Fan was quoted as saying the media should lead the public to "look at the trends and be firm in its confidence over development prospects”. “The external environment and internal conditions have become intertwined and our province is facing stronger economic downward pressure,” he wrote. “Pessimistic but inappropriate comments such as 'economic lost track', 'economic collapse' and 'economic fall' have appeared in the Liaoning media. "The political discipline of the party has to be enforced as strict propaganda discipline and the spread of any wrong conceptions that violate the directives of the central government is banned. This is the bottom line that should not be crossed.” Liaoning is in China's northeastern rust belt, a region once dominated by heavy industry that has suffered as the country's economy has slowed. The province recorded average annual economic growth of 12.8 percent a year between 2003 and 2012. But its economy only achieved 2.6 per cent growth in the first half of last year, the lowest level among the nation's 31 provinces, major cities and regions. Provincial government officials in the northeast of China have admitted seriously falsifying economic data for years, leading to distorted policy decisions and fomenting corruption in the region, according to report by the state-run news agency Xinhua in December. The officials admitted falsifying statistics after the Communist Party's graft watchdog examined inflated figures issued by cadres, the report said. The data had suggested that the economic scale of some areas in Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces was greater than that of Hong Kong, Xinhua cited Zhao Zhenqi, a law maker in Jilin, as saying. ^ top ^

New platforms to help the economy (China Daily)
2016-02-05
A low-cost, all-around and specialized service to promote entrepreneurship and innovation has been pledged by the government as a new driving force for the Chinese economy. The initiative was announced during a State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday. The government will encourage underused industrial space and warehouses to be transformed into bases for entrepreneurship and innovation. It will also grant subsidies for office space, water and electricity supply and other facilities. Efforts will be made to guide and encourage investment for small startups and entrepreneurs. Technical workers will be supported at these bases and in starting businesses. They will be given preferential policies for intellectual property applications, for achieving transformation and for promotional efforts. The concept of mass entrepreneurship and innovation was included in the Government Work Report in March last year. Premier Li Keqiang said at Wednesday's meeting, “We should allow the policy to lean toward this new momentum, new industry, a new business model and develop a 'new economy'.” The meeting heard that setting up platforms for innovation and startups could provide low-cost, comprehensive and specialized services to promote mass entrepreneurship and innovation. Xu Hongcai, director of the Economic Research Department at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said such measures show that the government has acted to create a policy and social environment favoring entrepreneurship and innovation. This will have a positive effect on solving employment problems and fostering new economic growth points, Xu said. The State Council also approved a draft regulation on the management of the national pension fund. The regulation states that the fund, composed from the central government budget, State-owned capital and investment returns, is designed to contribute to spending on social security and insurance payments and to address the problems of an aging population. It also clarifies the rules for the fund's investment operation, supervision and risk management. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

Chinese envoy in Pyongyang for talks: FM (Global Times)
2016-02-02
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed with the Global Times on Tuesday evening that Wu Dawei, China's special envoy for Korean Peninsula affairs, is now in Pyongyang to "exchange ideas over the current situation." The visit is widely seen as China's latest move to bring North Korea back to the Six-Party Talks after its fourth nuclear bomb test. But the foreign ministry declined to comment on the specific details of Wu's visit. The US and South Korea have been pushing for tougher sanctions on the North after it announced a successful test of a hydrogen bomb on January 6. The US also believes that North Korea is planning to test-fire a long-range rocket soon. ^ top ^

N.Korea to launch satellite while China sends envoy to Pyongyang (Global Times)
2016-02-03
North Korea issued a shipping warning of a satellite launch between February 8 and 25, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) said late Tuesday. "We have received information from DPRK regarding the launch of earth observation satellite 'Kwangmyongsong' between 8-25 February," a spokeswoman with the IMO told Reuters by e-mail. If the launch goes ahead, it would be in violation of United Nations sanctions. The US had already claimed that Pyongyang was preparing to launch a long-range missile, after seeing activity at a test site by satellite. North Korea last launched a satellite in 2012 and claims the right to develop space technology. Western and Asian experts, however, claim it is trying to disguise the development of a long-range ballistic missile system, Reuters reported. The news comes as Chinese special envoy to North Korea Wu Dawei flew to Pyongyang for the first time since the North said it had detonated a nuclear bomb on January 6. Analysts expressed caution over the outcome of Wu's visit, saying it could help ease growing tensions in the Korean Peninsula, but said that expectations were low for any significant progress in bringing North Korea back to denuclearization talks. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed with the Global Times on Tuesday that Wu, China's special envoy for Korean Peninsula affairs, is now in Pyongyang to "exchange ideas over the current situation." The visit is widely seen as China's latest move to bring North Korea back to the Six-Party Talks after its fourth nuclear bomb test. The foreign ministry declined to comment on the specific details of Wu's visit. The US and South Korea have been pushing for tougher sanctions on the North after it announced a successful test of a hydrogen bomb in January. North Korea announced nuclear tests respectively in 2006, 2009 and 2013. Lü Chao, a professor at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said Wu's visit is a key move at a crucial time during North Korea's nuclear proliferation. "Wu's main purpose is to explain China's position and principles concerning North Korea's nuclear issue and also to urge North Korea to give up its nuclear program," he said, adding that the visit is conducive to keeping tensions on the Korean Peninsula from further worsening, and should help in the resumption of the Six-Party Talks. China insists on a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons, but emphasizes solving the issue through peaceful negotiations. The Six-Party Talks initiated by China in 2003, which involved the US, Japan, South Korea, Russia and North Korea, were suspended in 2009 after the North withdrew. China has spoken with Japan and South Korea over the North Korean nuclear issue after the latest test. US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Beijing last week to press China for tougher sanctions on North Korea. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the media on January 27 that China agreed with the US that the UN could pass new resolutions in response to the latest nuclear test. But he emphasized that "Sanctions are not our goal, the key lies in restarting dialogue." After the recent North Korea nuclear test, China rejected accusations that it could have used its influence to do more to pressure the North into abandoning its nuclear ambitions. Jin Qiangyi, director of the Asia Studies Center at Yanbian University, remained cautious over the outcome of the Chinese envoy's trip. "Wu's visit can only have a limited effect in easing tensions on the Peninsula," Jin told the Global Times on Tuesday. "North Korea could agree to delay the launch of its rocket in order to ask China to resist the US push for tougher UN sanctions, but Wu's visit is unlikely to achieve fundamental results, such as persuade North Korea to give up nuclear weapon development," he said, adding that North Korea has stated several times that it would continue nuclear tests. Lü agreed that the major hurdle to the latest China-North Korea talks lies in the North's "stubborn" attitude in pursing nuclear capabilities, which will also impede the restart of the Six-Party Talks. "If it refuses to change its attitude, the Peninsula could spiral further out of control." Wu held talks with US special representative for North Korean policy Sung Kim in Beijing on January 29. The two sides exchanged views on the situation in the Korean Peninsula and the Six-Party Talks, according to the Chinese government. ^ top ^

Beijing won't allow war on Peninsula (Global Times)
206-02-04
China will "by no means allow war on the Korean Peninsula" a foreign ministry spokesperson said Wednesday, stressing Beijing was deeply concerned over Pyongyang's announced plan to launch a satellite later this month, only weeks after it tested a nuclear bomb in defiance of international sanctions. "We are seriously concerned … The DPRK has the right to make peaceful use of space, but this right is subject to restrictions of the Security Council resolutions," Lu Kang, a spokesperson for China's foreign ministry told a press briefing in Beijing on Wednesday, a day after reports revealed that North Korea is planning to launch what it called an "earth observation satellite" sometime between February 8 and 25. Lu advised North Korea to exercise restraint and refrain from any actions that might escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula. He also warned related countries against taking any action to deepen confrontations. "As a close neighbor of the Korean Peninsula, we will by no means allow war or instability on the Peninsula," Lu said. "We will by no means allow any country to pursue its selfish gains while the international community is working for the target of denuclearization." The announcement triggered a strong reaction in the international community. Chinese experts said the launch is an "obstinate move" that could incite "catastrophic" sanctions against the country, but is unlikely to lead to head-on confrontations with the US, South Korea, Japan and China. The announcement of the satellite launch plans, revealed by the International Maritime Organization on Tuesday, came the same day as Chinese special envoy for Korean Peninsula affairs, Wu Dawei, arrived in Pyongyang for the first time since the North said it had detonated a nuclear bomb on January 6. Wu remains in Pyongyang on a bilateral exchange, said Lu. He is "exchanging views with the DPRK on the current situation of the Korea Peninsula," Lu said, without elaborating. Regardless of better conditions for negotiations due to frequent exchanges between Chinese and North Korean officials after January 6, North Korea's latest move highlights its obstinate determination to become a nuclear-weapons state, said Lü Chao, a professor at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences. "The launch is part of North Korea's military plan as it has to enhance its ability to miniaturize nuclear weapons and advance missile carriers," Gao Fei, a professor of Russian studies at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times. The launch will also pave the way for the seventh Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea in May to demonstrate Kim Jong-un's sole and absolute leadership, as the sixth congress held over three decades ago confirmed late ruler Kim Jong-il's status, Lü said. The timing indicates that the launch is likely to coincide with Kim Jong-il's birthday, which falls on February 16, Gao noted. Foreign ministry spokesperson Lu responded strongly after a journalist asked for comment on US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel's remarks that Pyongyang's latest move is a slap in the face of those arguing against more sanctions. "As the chair of the Six-Party Talks, the Chinese side has made strenuous efforts to make genuine progress in denuclearization and encourage all parties concerned to reach aforementioned consensus," he said. "During the stalemate in the Six-Party Talks, in response to relevant countries' constant outcry for pressure and sanctions, the DPRK started nuclear testing and conducted them over and over again. In this sense, the DPRK did slap the relevant country across the face. As to whose face the DPRK slapped, the country itself knows well." The Six-Party Talks have been suspended since North Korea withdrew on April 14, 2009 in protest against the UN Security Council's condemnation of North Korea's launch of a satellite 10 days earlier. The White House said Tuesday that any satellite launch by North Korea would be viewed as "another destabilizing provocation." Russel, also the senior US diplomat for East Asia, said it "argues even more strongly" for tougher UN sanctions, Reuters reported. Japan placed its military on alert on Wednesday in case a North Korean rocket threatens Japan, while South Korea warned the North will pay a "severe price" if it proceeds with a satellite launch that Seoul considers a ballistic missile test. If North Korea does launch the satellite, Lü noted that sanctions will be catastrophic for the country, depressing the economy even further. […] ^ top ^

China "seriously concerned" about DPRK satellite launch plan (Xinhua)
2016-02-03
China is "seriously concerned" about a plan of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to launch a satellite later this month, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday. Spokesperson Lu Kang told a press briefing that Beijing hopes Pyongyang to exercise restraint on the issue and deal with it prudently so as to avoid possible escalating tensions. The DPRK is entitled to peaceful use of outer space, yet this right is restricted by resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, Lu said. China will continue to communicate with all parties concerned to safeguard peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, he said. It is a shared responsibility of all parties concerned to maintain peace on the peninsula, and regional stability is in the interests of all sides, the spokesperson said. A UN spokesperson said on Tuesday that three UN organizations have been informed that the DPRK plans to launch an earth-observation satellite between Feb. 8 and 25. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Obligations given to heads of Ministries and agencies (Montsame)
2016-01-29
Head of the Cabinet Secretariat for Government S.Bayartsogt Friday ran the “Implementation, monitoring and responsibility” meeting, and gave obligations to authorities of Ministries and agencies in connection with an approaching of reporting the 2012-2016 governmental action programme. Some ten laws out of 26, passed by the parliament's autumn session, came into force from January 1 of 2016, he noted. After him, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice J.Bayartsetseg gave a report on focusing on a realization of the general law on administration and the law on legal documents, whereas a deputy head of the Cabinet Secretariat G.Ganbold talked about reporting an implementation of the governmental resolutions and decisions and ways of realizing recommendations of the National Audit Office (NAO). “In their work, general managers of budget must economize the approved budgets from this year and enter into a saving regime, for money for the 2016 budget has been trimmed. The current expenses of all budgetary organizations, except the institutions of education, health, culture, sciences, emergency, police and court, have been cut by up to 10%, so the general managers should adhere to the economizing regulation,” said Bayartsogt. “A new version of the law on VAT came into force this January 1, so state organizations should upgrade the information on trade of products, works and services reflected in the general data of tax. The relevant Ministries and agencies have to pay attention to resolving a matter on providing cash machines with a new system of VAT for those entities that have not introduced the software and cash machines yet,” he said. Emphasizing a significance of receiving state services promptly and on the spot, of improving the quality of services and of increasing the adequacy, Bayartsogt said the city's unified center of state services has been established at the “Dunjingarav” commercial center. Despite the administrative locations, citizens can receive some 200 kinds of public services from 25 organizations on the spot, Bayartsogt went on, then ordered the authorities to get familiarized with the center's actions. ^ top ^

Ch.Saikhanbileg to remain as Prime Minister (Montsame)
2016-01-29
State Great Khural (parliament) of Mongolia discussed Thursday through early Friday the issue of dismissing Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg. The 13th PM of Mongolia won 57.5 percent votes of approval, gaining support of 42 MPs out of 73 participated. The issue was submitted this January 19 by G.Uyanga and 18 other MPs, on the allegation that the "signing of Oyu Tolgoi Underground Mine Development's financial plan, which took place in Dubai last May, had become an unbeneficial to Mongolia deal, bringing more state debt burden", and that "this was a violation of a parliamentary resolution". PM Ch.Saikhanbileg answered to questions of 40 MPs, on the yield of Oyu Tolgoi agreement and economic situations of the country. With such a win, the Premier is to lead the Government until a formation of a new cabinet, which will happen the next parliamentary election. ^ top ^

Parliament adopts Law on Land-farming (Montsame)
2016-01-29
Plenary meeting of Friday morning addressed multiple issues concerning public referendum on making changes to Constitution, tax exemption on imported electric power, which were transferred back to affiliated Standing committees for parliament readings preparation. After this, the MPs dismissed Z.Narantuya from a position of chairman of Financial Regulatory Commission upon her own request, and ran final readings of bill on land-farming and related to it legal documents. This bill was approved by a majority. According to the newly adopted Law on Land-farming, the transferring of land-farming permits between citizens and companies will be regulated by the Law on Land. It outlines that a citizen or a company should make sure that the soil quality had not degraded prior to the actual transferring, and manage the first migration of livestock herding families dwelling on the land, in case the families have built-up winter or spring places. ^ top ^

Mongolian Ambassador in Brussels about preparation for ASEM (Montsame)
2016-02-01
In connection with the 8th Asia-Europe Editors' Roundtable meeting, which will run in Ulaanbaatar this July 9-10, a training was organized by the Asia-Europe Foundation, Konrad Adenauer Foundation and Brussels Press Club this January 28-29 for young journalists in Europe, on connectivity of Asia and Europe. Journalists from over 20 countries shared opinions and experiences under topics such as a role of journalism in modern interconnected era, and ways to work in the digital environment. Mongolia's Ambassador Kh.Davaadorj visited the training to give information about the importance of 11th ASEM Summit, which will run this July in thre UB city, Mongolia's government's preparation for the Summit, a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Asia-Europe Meeting. Principal Advisor in the Asia and Pacific Department of the European External Action Service (EEAS) in Brussels Micheal Matthiessen and a Director of Public Affairs for the ASEF Raj Kumar gave presentations on ASEM and ASEF operations. Mongolia was represented by P.Bayarmagnai, head of Mongolian Press Club. ^ top ^

Russian President ratifies law to write off Mongolia's debt (Montsame)
2016-02-01
The Russian President Vladimir Putin has ratified a law on writing off Mongolia's USD 174-million debt to Russia according to a document published on the official Russian website for legal information on Sunday, says as quoted the "sputniknews.com" website. The bill was signed in Moscow in December 2010 and it took six years to go through all stages of pre-legislative scrutiny. "Mongolia's outstanding debt to Russia was a major hurdle for deeper investment cooperation between the two nations. "Russian companies seek to increase their presence in Mongolia's construction and mineral production markets. The July 2010 deal between Moscow and Ulaanbaatar cleared the way for Russian business and guaranteed $3.8 million as a one-off repayment from Mongolia," it says. ^ top ^

Standing committee backs ratification of agreement on dry ports (Montsame)
2016-02-02
Parliamentary Standing committee on security and foreign policy discussed a bill on ratifying the Intergovernmental Agreement on Dry Ports (IADP) and considered as necessity to ratify it. Such ports can be set up at the border checkpoints of Altanbulag, Sainshand, Ulaanbaatar, Zamyn-Uud and Choibalsan, they are connected to the Asian motorway network and Trans-Asian railway network, they said. "This can augment transit transportation and passing capability and also facilitate the transportation and trade". The bill on ratification of the IADP has been submitted to parliament because of several reasons of considering as important a support to initiatives on developing the transit transportation networks of highways and railways. "If Mongolia joins the IADP, it shall not bear any tough responsibilities, this agreement is focused on improving trade and services and on passing transit freight in a short time,” said J.Bat-Erdene, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Road and Transportation, at the Standing committee's meeting.  ^ top ^

Democratic party proposes other parties to merge (Montsame)
2016-02-02
At a meeting on Tuesday, executive council of Democratic Party (DP) resolved to send proposals to merge to Civil Will Green Party (CWGP) and Mongolian National Democratic Party (MNDP). In connection with this decision, Speaker of Parliament and the chairman of DP Z.Enkhbold met CWGP chairwoman S.Oyun and MNDP chairman N.Battsereg and handed the proposals. The acting secretary-general of DP L.Erkhembayar and his counterpart of CWGP exchanged views on this issue. The political parties pledged to make their decisions through executive council and meetings of upper and lower khurals.  ^ top ^

Cabinet meeting in brief (Montsame)
2016-02-02
The cabinet meeting on Monday decided to convey some proposals to the President of Mongolia, an initiator of bills on the national security, on the Armed Forces, on defense and Armed Forces, on military service, on legal status of servicemen, on state and official secrets, and on information security. - Some measures will be taken to in conjunction with the results of state examinations in archives of documents concerning environmental issues and in the related state bodies. - A composition of the council was approved as an appendix with responsibilities to provide the national programmes on promoting Mongolia abroad and on World Mongolians with general management and regulations. These programmes were adopted by governmental resolutions in 2016. - The cabinet discussed results of the official visit of the South Korean PM Hwang Kyo-ahn to Mongolia December 15-17 of 2015, and ordered the FM to submit the matter to the National Security Council (NSC). - A list of measures and actions was approved, including an organization of international military exercises and a participation of Mongolian peacekeepers in international operations in 2016. - The cabinet discussed bills on ratifying credit agreements to be established between the government of Mongolia and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on realizing projects on diversifying the economy through backing the credit guarantee system and creating job places, and on upgrading the methods of ensuring hygiene of plants and livestock as well as food safety. - The cabinet backed a bill on exempting from taxes new tractors, combine harvesters, machines, flour and fertilizer factory equipment, forestry facilities and pesticides. The bill will be submitted to parliament. . ^ top ^

Mongolia and Hong Kong sign agreement on criminals transfers (Montsame)
2016-02-03
Minister of Justice of Mongolia D.Dorligjav and the Secretary for Security of Hong Kong Lai Tung-kwok signed an Intergovernmental Agreement on Transfers of Sentenced Persons between the government of Mongolia and the government of Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, in Hong Kong this February 1. Accordingly, the sentenced Mongolian citizens, undergoing the punishments in Hong Kong, are now permitted to serve in jail in Mongolia. This also has opened a new page in bilateral relations of Mongolia and Hong Kong in justice and many other spheres, considered the two sides. ^ top ^

President Ts.Elbegdorj will talk about permanent neutrality status (Montsame)
2016-02-05
The President Ts.Elbegdorj has been invited to a new TV programme called “Highlight topic” of the Eagle TV channel as the very first guest. Mr Elbegdorj plans to talk about the permanent neutrality policy of Mongolia during the airing nationwide at 8.30 pm. This programme will be attended by MPs, Ministers, former FMs, staffers from Ministry, also by representatives of International Relations School at the State University, Ikh Zasag university, the University of Humanitarian Sciences, the National Academy of Intelligence, the Institute of Strategic Studies, the Institute of Geopolitics, the Institute of International Relations, the Scientific Institute of Defense, and of organizations of international relations. ^ top ^

Global economic volatility poses challenges for Mongolia (Montsame)
2016-02-05
Mongolia's economy faces growing headwinds from a continued slump in the minerals market and heightened global financial volatility, according to the World Bank's Mongolia Economic Brief for January. “Slower global demand and weaker prices of major commodities are dampening growth and exports of mineral-rich economies including Mongolia,” said World Bank Senior Economist Taehyun Lee. “A sharp rise in Mongolia's external borrowing costs in January reflects a tighter financing environment for emerging economies as well as elevated Mongolia-specific risks perceived by the international financial market.” The report noted that the second phase development of the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine would help support investment needed to reignite growth momentum against weakening external demand. “Restoring sound macroeconomic management and attracting foreign investment remain essential for strengthening the resiliency of the economy in the face of global financial volatility,” said James Anderson, the World Bank Country Manager for Mongolia. The report welcomed a proposal to transfer the Bank of Mongolia's subsidized mortgage program to the government. According to the World Bank, the subsidized mortgage program now needs to be implemented through the government budget without further central bank financing, so that it competes with other spending priorities. The report also called for attention to the sustainability of the program considering its fiscal costs. ^ top ^

 

Mrs. Justine Anken
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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