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
  19-23.9.16, No. 640  
    Archiv / Archives
Table of contents

DPRK

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Foreign Policy

China to keep playing due role for peace, stability in Middle East: FM (Xinhua)
2016-09-23
China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, will continue to fulfill its duties and play its due role for peace and stability in the Middle East, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday. Wang made the remarks at a high-level UN Security Council meeting on Syria. The Chinese minister said the turbulence in West Asia and North Africa has been lingering on for five years. That has made regional countries and people suffer, and caused grave spillover impacts to international peace and security. He said relevant parties should stick to a political solution and must pursue talks to narrow differences, accommodate interests of various parties and seek lasting and sustainable solutions. "We must address both symptoms and root causes, improve people's livelihood, foster a culture of tolerance, and build harmony," he said. Stressing that the international community should uphold multilateralism when addressing the Syrian and other related issues, Wang said the UN and the Security Council must play their parts as the main channels, while others should act in a just and fair fashion. To resolve the Syrian issue, Wang said the Security Council resolutions must be fully implemented, especially resolution 2254. "We believe that we need to progress in parallel in terms of cease-fire, political negotiations, humanitarian assistance and joint efforts against terrorism," said Wang. "We hope that this year could become a turnaround for the situation in Syria." "China is a sincere friend for all parties in the Middle East," he noted. "We have no self-interest in the Middle East; the interests of people in the Middle East are our interests." ^ top ^

China stresses importance of effective implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (Xinhua)
2016-09-23
A senior Chinese diplomat on Thursday underlined the importance of effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and efforts should be made to raise the voice of developing countries in the field of global governance. Li Baodong, China's vice foreign minister, made the statement as he was taking the floor at a high-level event of the UN General Assembly to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development. The event took place on the sidelines of the high-level debate of the 71st session of the 193-member General Assembly. Li said that in order to promote better development across the world, efforts should be made to ensure development in peace and stability and to respect all countries' choice of development path. It is very important to promote innovative and inclusive development, he said, adding that efforts should be also made to raise the voice of developing countries in the global governance. Thanks to painstaking efforts, China succeeded in feeding its 1.3 billion people, providing job opportunities to 770 million people, he said, adding that nobody was left behind in the nation's nine-year program of compulsory education. China is very active in helping other countries in their development efforts while working very hard to promote its own advancement, he said. The United Nations established the right to development as an inalienable human right in 1986. The declaration seeks to ensure people's right to personal and financial improvement and progress. The Right to Development is based on human dignity and implies the right to self-determination and full sovereignty over wealth and natural resources. ^ top ^

China, Canada agree to strengthen economic, trade ties (Xinhua)
2016-09-23
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said here Thursday that China and Canada have agreed to strengthen their ties in economic, trade and other fields, and to begin exploratory talks for a potential free trade agreement. Li, who is on an official visit to the North American nation, made the remarks when meeting journalists together with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau. "We have reached many new consensuses in economic and trade area," said Li, adding that China is willing to import frozen beef from Canada and the two sides have reached an agreement on Canada's canola exports to China. Li also said that the two sides discussed cooperation in finance, tourism, law enforcement, as well as between their local governments. "The exchange of visits within one month showed that China-Canada relations are entering a new stage," said Li who referred to Trudeau's recent official visit to China, adding that "it's rare in the bilateral ties, and conforms to the interests of both countries as well as the expectations of the international community." Li arrived in Ottawa on Wednesday. His visit to Canada is the first by a Chinese premier in 13 years. The Chinese leader said the two sides agreed that they have broad common interests and sound cooperation. The development of the bilateral ties is in the interests of both Chinese and Canadian peoples as well as the world' s peace and stability. "We have decided to strengthen exchanges in all levels and in multiple mechanisms. We have agreed to establish high-level financial dialogue mechanism," Li said. The Chinese leader also noted that they have discussed their differences, saying that it is normal for China and Canada, two countries with different national conditions and in different development stages, to differ. He added that what's more important is to manage their differences, knowing that their common interests far outweigh differences, Li said. "We are very pleased about the nature and the stability we have been able to bring to the Canada-China relationship," said Trudeau at the joint press conference. Trudeau said the two sides agreed to double the bilateral trade volume by 2025, and the economic relations between the two countries have huge potential that can create decent salaries and jobs. Trudeau added that maintaining stable relations with China is in the interests of both countries. He is looking forward to bringing more opportunities for Canadians through relations with China. Before the joint press conference, the two leaders also attended a signing ceremony for 14 bilateral cooperation documents. The two countries signed an agreement on the sharing and return of forfeited assets, a joint statement on the cooperation in third-party market, a protocol for frozen beef to be exported from Canada to China, an arrangement in cooperation in combating crimes, an arrangement for enhanced cooperation in tourism, and others. Earlier, Trudeau held a welcome ceremony for the Chinese premier, and held talks with Li, which represents the formal launch of an annual dialogue mechanism between the two heads of government established during Trudeau' s China trip. Li on Thursday also met with Canada's Senate Speaker George Furey, Speaker of the House of Commons Geoff Regan and the General Governor David Johnston. ^ top ^

Li: Beijing will open door wider (Xinhua)
2016-09-22
Premier Li Keqiang said China will only open wider to the world, and US businesses will find a larger market share in the world's second-largest economy. Speaking with academics and business leaders on Tuesday at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, Li said China would continue to push for reforms such as streamlining administration, delegating more power and strengthening protection of intellectual property rights to create a better environment for foreign investors. "China's door, once open, is unlikely to be closed," he said in a roundtable discussion moderated by Michael Bloomberg, the three-term former mayor of New York City and founder of financial news service Bloomberg LP. China and the United States not only have stable political ties, but also enjoy close business cooperation, Li said. "There exist tremendous investment opportunities between China and the US," Li said. "I believe American businesses will find a larger and larger market in China." The premier said he hopes the US will ease its controls on the export of high technology products, and that the two countries will reach a high-level, win-win bilateral trade agreement soon. He said China is a firm defender of free trade and is committed to supporting efforts to advance trade liberalization within the framework of the World Trade Organization. The premier said it is only natural that there have been some differences between the world's largest and second-largest economies, given their different cultural and national conditions. "In spite of rain and wind, there is always a clear sky after the rain," Li said. Other participants in the discussion included former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, former US Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger and TV journalist Charlie Rose. Bloomberg, who is also chairman of the Working Group on US RMB Trading and Clearing, kicked off the discussion by saying that China and the US benefit from each other's successes. "When we work together, extraordinary things really are possible, and the global climate agreement reached in December in Paris is a very good example of the cooperation between both countries. It would not have been successful without the leadership by both China and the US and without the leadership by cities and businesses in both countries," he said. Bloomberg also praised Li for helping to guide China through "one of the most dynamic moments in its history, one that has really been extraordinary to watch". "China's economic growth has improved millions of lives, and I want to congratulate Premier Li and his team here for all they've done to make that possible." ^ top ^

Chinese, Mongolian FMs seek to expand cooperation (Xinhua)
2016-09-22
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his Mongolian counterpart Tsend Munkh-Orgil here Wednesday, saying the two countries should further expand bilateral cooperation. China appreciates that Mongolia puts developing ties with China top on its foreign policy agenda, Wang said during their meeting on the sidelines of a series of UN conferences. The two countries should implement the consensus reached by their leaders and bring China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative together with Mongolia's Prairie Road program so as to further tap potentials for cooperation, Wang said. Besides maintaining cooperation in traditional areas such as energy and minerals, Wang said, China and Mongolia should expand their cooperation into other areas, such as housing construction, agriculture and animal husbandry. Meanwhile, the two should expand party-to-party communication and strengthen exchange on governance as well as maintain coordination in international affairs, Wang said. For his part, Munkh-Orgil said Mongolia has always given priority to developing the relationship with China and will continue to maintain that policy. Meanwhile, Mongolia will incorporate China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative into its own national development and enhance practical cooperation with China in infrastructure and other areas, he added. ^ top ^

Chinese vice premier hopes Japanese business circle to help improving ties (Xinhua)
2016-09-21
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli on Wednesday called for more contributions from Japan's business community in deepening economic ties and improving relations. "Japan's business community has always advocated and promoted friendly cooperation between the two countries," Zhang said while meeting a large business delegation from Japan in Beijing. The delegation was headed by Chair of the Japan Business Federation Sadayuki Sakakibara, President of the Japan-China Association on Economy and Trade Shoji Muneoka, and Chair of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Akio Mimura. Zhang welcomed the visit of Japan's three major economic organizations and spoke highly of the role of Japanese business community in promoting exchanges and cooperation. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reached an important consensus on improving and developing China-Japan relations during the 11th G20 summit early this month, said Zhang. He urged the two sides to abide by the principles defined in the four political documents and the four-point principled agreement reached between the two countries. The two sides should develop their relations in the spirit of taking history as a mirror and looking forward to the future, stick to the main direction of peace, friendship and cooperation, and properly deal with sensitive issues in bilateral ties, he said. Japanese business leaders hoped that the two nations could maintain a sound and stable relationship. They expressed interests in strengthening cooperation with Chinese businesses on technology, intelligent manufacturing, medical care, energy conservation and environmental protection. They also voiced the willingness of making contribution to economic and trade cooperation as well as the improvement of relations. The Japanese delegation was invited by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade. ^ top ^

Commentary: Japan should join "trend of times" over South China Sea issue (Xinhua)
2016-09-21
While a "dual-track" approach, peaceful negotiation and joint efforts to secure stability have become the norm in the South China Sea issue, some still don't like the situation. Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said Thursday in Washington that she strongly supports U.S. "freedom of navigation" operations in the South China Sea and threatened to increase engagement in the waters. The new defense minister also said that Japan would conduct "joint training cruises" with the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea. Japan's attempt to intervene in the South China Sea issue becomes increasingly bare and bold. Always pointing the finger at China, Japan also supports the farcical arbitration started by the former Philippine government. Japan has shown an ardent interest in the issue at the G7 summit and other international platforms, claiming concerns about "freedom of navigation," "status quo" and "prevailing norms." Does anyone actually believe this talk, considering the rise of right-wing forces in Japan? One possibility is that Japan intends to use the South China Sea issue, which involves multiple parties, to muscle in on regional security affairs. The United States' "Asia-Pacific Rebalance" strategy gives Japan the chance to use the South China Sea issue to snuggle up even closer to the United States, especially now that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has questioned how the U.S. military are behaving in his backyard. Through "China threat" rhetoric, Japan may find a way to whitewash its underhand expansion of its Self-Defense Forces' activities both at home and overseas, and its posturing over the East China Sea. The only problem with Japan's little scheme seems to be that those directly concerned in the issue are not remotely interested in its predictable drama. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson on Monday noted that China and ASEAN had reached agreement on how to handle the issue at their leaders' meeting earlier this month following similar agreement at the foreign minsters' meeting in July. Everyone expects the new Japanese defense minister to do something useful for the Asia-Pacific region. It would be wise for Inada, and for her country, to stop trying to ignore the "trend of times" and begin to follow it. ^ top ^

Chinese, African officials, experts meet on poverty reduction, development (Xinhua)
2016-09-20
Government officials and experts from China and African countries discussed poverty reduction and production capacity cooperation at a conference that opened here on Tuesday. On the first day of the Africa-China Poverty Reduction and Development Conference, more than 150 participants including representatives from nongovernmental organizations and enterprises from China and 14 African countries like Mauritius, South Africa, Nigeria, Mozambique and Togo, also shared experience in industrial development while talking about ways to deepen China-Africa exchange and cooperation in anti-poverty efforts. The conference is an important sub-forum under the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. Attending the conference were also representatives from international institutions such as the United Nations Development Program, the African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States. In his opening remarks made at the conference, senior Chinese official Hong Tianyun highlighted measures China will adopt to lift all those Chinese still living below China's current poverty line out of poverty by 2020. He also expressed China's willingness to help other developing countries, in particular African countries, in reducing poverty. "We will work closely with the 1.1 billion African people" for joint development to promote the economic integration and sustainable development of Africa and build an Africa-China community with a common future free of poverty, said Hong, deputy director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development of China, which co-sponsored the conference. In his speech, Pradeep Roopun, Minister of Social Integration and Economic Empowerment of Mauritius, voiced his confidence in China's capability to help in Africa's socioeconomic transformation, citing its practical approach, flexible policy, advanced technology and investment. During the conference's next two days to come, African participants are scheduled to have dialogues with Chinese businesses on production capacity cooperation and visit local enterprises. ^ top ^

Li vows $100m for refugees (Global Times)
2016-09-20
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang promised on Monday to give $100 million in additional humanitarian assistance for refugees as he attended a high-level summit in New York on Monday. Li told the historic UN summit addressing large movements of refugees and migrants that the refugees crisis poses a political, social and security threat that created opportunities for terrorists to exploit. Li said China would also "seriously consider" setting aside the China-UN Peace and Development Fund to support developing countries in their effort to deal with the problem. During the annual gathering of world leaders at the UN in September last year, China said it would establish a 10-year, $1 billion fund to support the UN's work. It also took a first step in fulfilling this pledge when it signed an agreement with the UN in May to pay $20 million annually for a decade to help fund peace, security and development. At the sidelines of the summit, Li is expected to meet US President Barack Obama to address economic issues, even as thorny issues such as North Korea's nuclear agenda might be raised, analysts said. "Li can't give Obama any promise on North Korea's nuclear issue; the US should be realistic when they talk to Premier Li," Ni Feng, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday. The US blamed China for not imposing serious sanctions on North Korea, but China said the US should start negotiations rather than launch military drills and deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to provoke North Korea, said Jin Canrong, associate dean at the School of International Studies of Renmin University. North Korea conducted its fifth nuke test and received criticism from both China and the US on September 9, a few days after the G20 Summit in Hangzhou. Once again, the North Korean nuclear issue has become the focus for both China and the US. Jin said "China and the US strategically have common ground, which is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but tactically both sides remain far apart." The meeting between Li and Obama is the second meeting in September between the leaders of China and the US. Two weeks ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Obama met at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, and agreed on 35 areas, including the economy, climate change and counter-terrorism. The frequent meetings between both countries' leaders show that China-US ties are complex and face many challenges, but they also prove that both sides are willing to frequently communicate to discuss the issues, which is positive for both sides in general, Jin said. Stalled investment treaty The strategic issue is just a part of bilateral ties, and the economic issue is also important since the global economy remains stagnant, Ni said. "As the world's two largest economies, they should treat the economic issue more seriously." Long Yongtu, China's former chief negotiator for the World Trade Organization membership, said China and the US believe they can conclude negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty (BIT), and a new round of talks will be held in Washington DC in the coming week. He said "that means the Obama government still wants to get it done before he leaves office." A high-quality US-China BIT would give American companies better access to China's market, and the same rights as Chinese firms. These guarantees would provide American companies with a better opportunity to expand in China - the world's second-largest economy - with a middle class that will soon be larger than the US population, according to the US-China Business Council. ^ top ^

China slams meeting between EU lawmakers, Dalai (Global Times)
2016-09-20
China strongly objects to the recent meeting between European Parliament leaders and the Dalai Lama, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Monday. According to the European Parliament's official website, the Dalai Lama visited the parliament on Thursday, met President Martin Schulz and held talks with members of the foreign affairs committee. "They have broken the promises the EU made to China on Tibet," spokesperson Lu Kang told a press conference. Tibet issues are core interests of China, Lu said, stressing that the Chinese government is firmly against separatism. China opposes the Dalai Lama's visits in any name or capacity to any country or organization for separatist activities, Lu said. China is also opposed to any contact between the Dalai Lama and officials from any country or organization. A delegation from the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee plans to visit the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Ministry of Finance next week, Politico reported. China-EU ties are at a new stage, and relations between the two parliaments are sound, but the meeting between the European Parliament's leaders and the Dalai Lama harms China's core interests and the political foundation of inter-parliamentary communication, Lu said. China demands that the EU takes measures to nullify the negative effects of the meeting, the spokesperson said. ^ top ^

'Extreme' groups orchestrating opposition to Chinese hydropower projects in Myanmar, says Chinese newspaper (SCMP)
2016-09-19
Opposition to Chinese-invested hydropower schemes in Myanmar is being orchestrated by “extreme” groups in the country and has been extremely damaging to joint investment projects, an influential Chinese newspaper wrote on Monday. The suspension in 2011 of the US$3.6-billion Myitsone dam project by former president Thein Sein remains a sore point between the two countries. Myanmar suspended the project citing environmental worries, but the decision was also seen as an attempt to distance itself from Beijing. Uncertainties arising from that controversy have held back other Chinese investment plans. Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party swept to power Myanmar's first free national vote in 25 years last November, said on a visit to China last month that her new government was willing to look for a resolution that suits both countries. A Myanmar commission is reviewing the project and other proposed hydro-power dams. But Suu Kyi is under pressure at home from civil society groups not to simply give in to Beijing. The Study Times, published twice a week by the Central Party School, which trains rising Chinese officials, said in a commentary that the dam projects were being unreasonably attacked. “Before and after Suu Kyi's China trip, some extreme Myanmar media, non-government organisations and people heatedly opposed the Myitsone Dam and other large-scale projects on the Salween River” and demanded the projects be stopped, the newspaper said. “Certain Myanmar media even said that stopping these dams was an important step to show that Myanmar is throwing off its over-reliance economically on China,” the paper said. While it is hard to know how representative these voice are, their “extreme comments” have dominated privately-run media in Myanmar, the paper added. “This has had a hugely negative affect on public opinion and has been hugely damaging for joint cooperation projects,” it said. Finding a solution to the Myitsone project is important for Suu Kyi who needs China's cooperation in talks with Myanmar ethnic minority armed groups operating along the border with China. The Study Times praised Suu Kyi for making China her first port of call apart from countries in the Association of Southeast Asia Nations since her government took power, saying it was a recognition of how important ties are. China is no fairweather friend, it added. “China is willing to invest basic infrastructure projects in Myanmar that the West is not willing to invest in,” the paper said. ^ top ^

China, Russia stage joint island-seizing drills (Global Times)
2016-09-19
The navies of China and Russia on Sunday held coordinated three-dimensional island-seizing drills for the first time as part of the 2016 Sino-Russian joint military exercises. The Joint Sea 2016 drills, which began on September 12 in Zhanjiang, South China's Guangdong Province, involved a series of joint operations, including air defense maneuvers, anti-submarine operations, coordinated three-dimensional island seizing, and search and rescue, the Xinhua News Agency reported. The Chinese ships Kunlunshan and Yunwushan as well as Russian assault landing ship Peresvet participated in the coordinated three-dimensional island seizing exercises. "Kunlunshan, the latest comprehensive China-made landing craft, can transport forces and amphibious equipment very quickly," Captain Huang Yongzhi told the Global Times on Sunday, adding that it can also carry helicopters and armored amphibious vehicles. "The two military's troops were mixed in order to improve understanding and coordination between the two forces," Hu Lin, chief of staff of the South China Sea Fleet of the People's Liberation Army Navy, told the Global Times. He said that postures and whistles were used during the exercises to overcome the language barrier. The 2016 drills were more practical and cooperative than last year's, said Hu. The use of live ammunition, which relies on deepened military exchanges between the two countries, also demonstrated the high-level simulation of actual combat and cooperation, Xiao Shuangsheng, who participated in the island seizing exercises, told the Global Times. A total of 13 surface ships, two submarines, 11 fixed-wing aircraft, 10 ship-borne helicopters and amphibious armored equipment as well as 256 marines took part in the drill, according to Xinhua. Both navies held joint beach landing drills in Russia in August 2015. ^ top ^

Hinkley Point approval may raise hurdles for Chinese nuclear investors in Britain (SCMP)
2016-09-17
Although the British government has approved the Hinkley nuclear power plant, future Chinese investment in the country's critical infrastructure is expected to face greater scrutiny, observers say. London announced the go-ahead for the Chinese-backed plant on Thursday but said a new legal framework would be imposed on investment in such key projects moving forward. The step mainly targeted China and came after its investments abroad had stoked security concerns, the observers said. The Hinkley Point C project will see two reactors built near two existing facilities in Somerset at a cost of £18 billion (HK$187.7 billion) with a target date of 2025. French energy giant EDF is handling construction, while China General Nuclear Corporation is putting up a third of the financing. British Prime Minister Theresa May announced a review of the project when she came into office in July. On Thursday London said it would proceed although it had the option to prevent EDF from selling its 66.5 per cent stake during the construction phase. After Hinkley, the government will take a special share in all future nuclear plant projects, ensuring it can block changes in ownership that could affect national security. “Britain obviously wanted to cut future large Chinese investments, and with the new legal framework, the British government has a greater advantage when negotiating, ” said Cui Hongjian, a European affairs analyst at the China Institute of International Studies. China is involved in two other planned nuclear power plants in Britain, one in Sizewell and the other in Bradwell. China has a 20 per cent funding stake in Sizewell, while Bradwell may use a Chinese-designed power station. But the new rules could pose challenges for those projects. “The chance the Chinese are prevented from going ahead with Bradwell must be higher today than it was yesterday,” said Stephen Hunt, British utilities analyst at Barclays Capital Services. Oh Ei-sun, a senior fellow with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said the British government was focusing on control of the nuclear power business. “The new legal framework is obviously not targeting the French, but rather the Chinese, because the Chinese will take part in another reactor and may even build a whole reactor in the future. So this is about the Chinese controlling nuclear power generation in Britain,” Oh said. Richard Javad Heydarian, a political science professor at De La Salle University in Manila, said Britain's approval showed how far the country had gone to woo Chinese investment, but concerns over security could remain. “The Brexit and its economic tremors may have also played a role in encouraging relatively liberal restrictions on Chinese investments in the country,” he said. “But the picture is more muddy in other Western countries, with no less than Australia most recently stepping up protectionist measures against Chinese investments.” Added Oh: “To the Chinese, if its intention is purely business, the go-ahead of Hinkley is good news, for China finally gets into a new nuclear venture.” ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Prominent Chinese rights lawyer Xia Lin, who defended artist Ai Weiwei, sentenced to 12 years' jail for fraud (SCMP)
2016-09-23
A prominent mainland rights lawyer who took on high-profile politically sensitive cases has been jailed for 12 years for fraud in one of the harshest sentences to be imposed on rights advocates in recent years. After being detained for two years, Xia Lin, 46, was found guilty in the Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court on Thursday of fraud involving 4.8 million yuan (HK$5.6 million). Xia, whose former clients included outspoken artist Ai Weiwei, insisted he was innocent and vowed to appeal. As court officers dragged him out of the courtroom, Xia called the sentence “an act of retaliation” by the authorities for his ­involvement in sensitive cases, according to his defence lawyer and his wife, who were present at the sentencing. Xia is the latest lawyer to be thrown behind bars in the mainland's stepped-up crackdown on activists and rights lawyers since President Xi Jinping rose to power over three years ago. He was taken away by police in November 2014 after agreeing to defend rights activist Guo Yushan, who helped blind activist Chen Guangcheng escape house arrest in 2012. Xia also defended Sichuan earthquake rights activist Tan Zuoren, rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, and Deng Yujiao, a Hubei waitress who killed a government official in self-defence during a sexual assault in a case that made national headlines. Xia's defence lawyer Ding ­Xikui said the sentence was “neither fair nor reasonable”. “There is a lack of sufficient evidence [for his conviction] and problems abound in the legal procedures of his case,” Ding said. Xia's wife, Lin Ru, said the verdict was “totally unacceptable” but she had been mentally prepared for the worst. “My head went blank the moment I heard the verdict. I sat there for a long time and couldn't stand up, feeling very, very sad,” she said. “I firmly believe he's ­innocent.” Lin said the judge did not allow Xia to say anything other than he had heard the verdict clearly after announcing his imprisonment. Xia was immediately dragged out of the room after he asked the judge to give him a chance to speak, she said. “I heard him shouting in the corridor: 'You are merely retaliating for all the sensitive cases I've presented!'” she said. Leading legal academics on the mainland published a joint letter after the sentencing, questioning the fairness of the verdict. The group said their detailed review of the procedures in the case from the investigation to the court hearing gave them “solid reasons to think that Xia Lin was not treated fairly and it is very likely that the court has given an unfair verdict”. “We believe lawyer Xia Lin is completely innocent,” the joint letter said. It is not uncommon for authorities to use non-political charges against activists. Ai was detained for more than two months in 2010 for suspected tax evasion. Liu Hui, the brother-in-law of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, was sentenced to 11½ in jail for fraud in 2013. Liu Hui's case was dropped by prosecutors who cited insufficient evidence in 2012, but was revived months after Liu Xia, Liu Xiaobo's wife, gave interviews to overseas media. ^ top ^

Once a one-child-policy wonder, which Chinese city is now urging party members to have second baby? (SCMP)
2016-09-22
A Chinese city once lauded for being its success in implementing China's controversial one-child policy, is now urging its communist party members to have a second baby, after the rule was scrapped at the start of the year. “Young comrades should start from themselves, while elderly comrades should educate and supervise their own children,” the health and family planning commission of Yichang in central Hubei province, said in a public letter on its website. The letter was addressed to all Communist Party and Communist Youth League members in the city who work for the government or public institutions such as schools and hospitals. The city has a population of some 4 million residents. Fertile young couples were encouraged to “work on themselves” to have a second baby, and those already too old for another child should “teach and urge” their children to have two offspring, according to the letter. It also encouraged them to promote the “benefits of having two children” and to “remind people of the risks of having only one child”. The Yichang government's move comes almost four decades after late leader Deng Xiaoping first called on China's party member couples to have only one child. The one-child policy was implemented across the nation around the late 1970s, and in 2010, Yichang was lauded as a national example for its strict measures in keeping new births in check. The city's fertility rate over the past decade was less than one birth per woman – close to that of Hong Kong, which has the world's lowest fertility rate. “If such phenomenon continues, this would bring extremely high risk and harm to the economic and social development as well as happiness of the families in the city,” the letter stated. “A direct consequence is a risky one-child family, ageing society, labour shortage and lagging urbanisation.” China's one-child rule was lifted altogether at the start of this year to allow all couples to have two children, after an easing of the policy in late 2013 achieved only limited results. The 2013 relaxation of the rule permitted more families to have two children when the parents met certain conditions, but young Chinese couples still preferred having just one child. New births in 2015 actually fell by 320,000 from 2014, according to official statistics. The fundamental shift in the family planning policy – which has been called the most extreme demographic experiment in human history – comes as China seeks to cope with its shrinking labour supply and rapidly greying population. The problem is especially bad in the country's rust-belt zones and inland rural areas such as Yichang, which have suffered an exodus of migrants to richer coastal areas. With the lifting of the one-child rule this year, many local authorities who had previously been unfriendly to new births – forcing abortions or imposing hefty fines for unplanned pregnancies and births – are now encouraging couples to have a second baby. The Yichang government's public letter to party member couples to meet the new birth quota of two is a small step in that direction. Other policies to encourage more babies include free medical services for mothers, longer maternity leave and more public resources dedicated to building child-care centres and schools. ^ top ^

Nearly 200 killed in chemical accidents in China in first eight months of year, says Greenpeace (SCMP)
2016-09-21
China had 232 chemical-related accidents from January to August this year, causing 199 deaths and 400 injuries, according to research from the environmental group Greenpeace published on Wednesday. Greenpeace said China needs to radically overhaul the way it manages its chemical industry, which is now “appallingly under-regulated”. “The government must take urgent action to manage chemicals in a sound manner, provide a safety net for workers and citizens and protect ecologically important areas across the country,” said Cheng Qian, a campaigner with the group. The majority of China's 33,625 chemical facilities are located in densely populated eastern coastal regions, Greenpeace said, citing publicly available data compiled from 2010 to 2011 It added that greater transparency was needed to provide a more accurate picture of the industry. China has struggled to enforce its rules on acquiring, producing, storing and disposing of dangerous chemicals and experts have complained that rules published at the end of 2011 were inadequate and need to be tightened significantly. A series of explosions at a chemicals warehouse in Tianjin killed 165 people last year. The government said hazardous materials were stored illegally at the site. China detained 49 people in connection with the blasts, including port and work safety officials, saying that laws and regulations had been flouted. The firm involved, Tianjin Ruihai International Logistics, was also accused of handling dangerous chemicals without a licence. Four workers were also killed in an explosion at a facility run by the Wanhua Chemical Group on Wednesday. ^ top ^

China sets up awards in honor of poverty alleviation efforts (Xinhua)
2016-09-21
China will officially recognize those who excel in poverty alleviation work, an official from the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development announced Wednesday. "The poverty alleviation prizes are comprised of awards for endeavor, contribution, dedication and innovation. Each award will be held by no more than 10 people at any time," said Zheng Wenkai, deputy head of the office at a press conference. The prizes will be issued once a year until 2020. There were still around 70 million Chinese last year living below the poverty line, many in harsh conditions without roads, water or power. Lifting them out of poverty by 2020 will be "the most arduous task" on China's path toward a moderately prosperous society in all respects, according to a key poverty alleviation instruction released by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council last December. ^ top ^

Under draft rules, nuclear power projects in China will need local support (SCMP)
2016-09-21
Nuclear developers on mainland China must seek the consent of local stakeholders before going ahead with new projects, according to draft rules published by the country's cabinet on Monday. Developers will need to assess the impact a nuclear project will have on social stability and solicit public opinion through hearings or announcements, the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council said. The mainland is in the middle of a rapid nuclear reactor building programme and aims to have 58 gigawatts (GW) of capacity in full commercial operation by the end of 2020, up from 30.7 GW at the end of July. But despite a strong safety record at existing plants, the government has struggled to convince the public about the safety of nuclear power. Protests in the eastern coastal city of Lianyungang last month led to the cancellation of a proposed US$15 billion nuclear waste processing plant. “Japan's Fukushima accident once again created doubt about the safety of nuclear power among the public, and also caused feelings of fear and opposition to occur from time to time,” the Legislative Affairs Office said in a statement. It said the new draft rules would improve information disclosure and allow the public to participate more actively in the construction and supervision of nuclear projects. The Legislative Affairs Office has made the draft guidelines available to the public and will accept suggestions until October 19, it said in a notice posted on its website. ^ top ^

France repatriates first Chinese fugitive since extradition treaty with Beijing: Xinhua (SCMP)
2016-09-20
France has repatriated a Chinese fugitive for the first time since the two countries signed an extradition treaty that came into effect last year. The suspect surnamed Chen, who was detained by French police in October, is accused of taking public funds of more than 20 million yuan (HK$23 million) without authorisation, the Xinhua news agency said, citing police from the city of Ruian in Zhejiang province. China has been trying to get increased international cooperation to hunt down suspected corrupt officials who have fled overseas since President Xi Jinping began a war against deeply-rooted graft more than three years ago. However, Western countries have been reluctant to help, or sign extradition treaties, not wanting to send people back to a country where rights groups say mistreatment of criminal suspects remains a problem, and also complaining that China is unwilling to provide proof of their crimes. Beijing has vowed to pursue an overseas search dubbed Operation “Fox Hunt” for corrupt officials and business executives, and their assets. ^ top ^

China launches cyber security talent training nationwide (Global Times)
2016-09-20
Authorities from Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province on Monday pledged to increase the number of scholarships to attract students pursuing cyber security, and run special recruitment for "maverick geniuses," which constitutes a part of nationwide efforts to train cyber security talent. Li Shuyong, Wuhan government publicity department head, told the Cybersecurity Technology Summit during China Cybersecurity Week that the city government will cooperate with companies to cultivate the world's top cyber security talent. Li said the local government will double the number of scholarships for cyber security majors and recruit top cyber security graduates in Chinese and overseas schools as well as from competitors at cyber security contests. She added it will also open a class for minors and run special recruitment for "maverick geniuses." She also said the city government will establish an innovative evaluation system. Instead of taking exams, cyber security majors will be evaluated based on their performance and given priority to practical and entrepreneurship training. The Wuhan government will also offer twice the salary and research funds to the best cyber security experts than those from other fields. They will also receive 2 million yuan ($299,823) in subsidies and a high of 100 million yuan in funding if they have typical technologies and can create a significant impact on the economy. China needs at least 500,000 cyber security talents, but only about 8,000 such majors graduate each year, said an education official at the 4th China Internet Security Conference in August. In January, a training center for cyber security and communication talent was established in Sichuan Province, aiming to provide training for students and faculty in Sichuan and Hong Kong. In February, China launched its first special fund for cyber security with an initial capital of 300 million yuan. The fund will be used to provide financial assistance to experts and teachers who specialize in cyber security. ^ top ^

Liaoning matriarch sets up family Party branch, part of national trend (Global Times)
2016-09-20
A family in Panjin, Northeast China's Liaoning Province, has established a family Party branch and holds weekly meetings to learn Party regulations, reflecting Party building's gradual infiltration into family life, observers said. Bu Fengbin, an 82-year-old retired kindergarten teacher, gathered all 18 of her family members on Thursday - Mid-Autumn Festival - to study a set of Party rules on clean governance that took effect on January 1, China Central Television (CCTV) reported Saturday. According to CCTV, local Party authorities approved Bu's establishment of a family Party branch three years ago when there were six Party members in her family. Now there are ten members. Bu hosts family Party meetings every weekend to establish principles for the family's Party members, several of whom have worked in State-owned enterprises, including banks and oil fields. "Family branches can play a role in aiding Party building when many traditional grass-roots branches no longer organize regular meetings and activities for Party members," Zhang Xi'en, a professor of political science at Shandong University, told the Global Times. The trend is a way to promote Party building - especially anti-corruption work - at the family level, Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Research Center for Government Integrity Building at Peking University, told the Global Times. The Communist Party of China committee in Hefei, East China's Anhui Province, recently issued a notice on setting up family rules and conducting "familial education" for Party leaders, the Anhui Business Daily reported Monday. The notice encourages officials to write to their families via instant messaging service QQ Messenger and social networking app WeChat as a way to care for their relatives. According to the notice, the performance of Party leaders' families will be assessed in anti-corruption work evaluations and those for officials' promotion. "Family-based anti-corruption campaigning helps eliminate corruption at the root, since many corrupt officials confessed to giving and receiving bribes out of family interests," Zhuang noted. He pointed out, however, that Party building within the family is likely to be influenced by familial disputes. "It is more reasonable to establish village- or community-level branches," he said. Both Zhuang and Zhang agreed that family Party branches can only be established on a voluntary basis. ^ top ^

China issues guideline to improve gov't information sharing (Xinhua)
2016-09-19
The State Council, China's Cabinet, has issued a guideline on government information sharing. The guideline, approved by Premier Li Keqiang, aims to increase government credibility, while improving administrative efficiency and government services. The guideline divides government information into three categories: unconditionally shared, conditionally shared and unshared. Sharing should be the principle while unsharing should be the exception, said the guideline. Information could be categorized as "unshared" only when backed by laws, regulations or national policies, according to the guideline. All government information systems should be linked to a national data-base, so the public will have no need to submit the same information twice, it said. ^ top ^

Wukan protests: police deny violence against Hong Kong journalists in Chinese village crackdown (SCMP)
2016-09-18
Police authorities in Guangdong have denied officers were violent towards five Hong Kong journalists detained in Wukan last week, claiming they carried out law ­enforcement duties in a “civilised” manner. Addressing the incident for the first time, the public security ­bureau of Lufeng, which administers the coastal village, said media reports that police had “slapped, punched and pushed journalists to the ground” were “inconsistent with the facts”, the China News Service reported on Saturday. The police had “adhered to rational, calm, civilised and standard law enforcement practices when handling the case,” the authorities said. Three Hong Kong journalists, including a South China Morning Post reporter, were assaulted by two dozen unidentified men who broke into a house where they were interviewing a villager in Wukan on Wednesday night. The journalists were there to report on violent clashes between villagers and riot police on Tuesday, in which tear gas and rubber bullets were fired at residents. According to police, members of the “village security team” raided the home after receiving reports from two villagers who saw three unidentified men – the Hong Kong journalists – entering the house. Upon their arrival, the village security team started “pushing and shoving” the journalists before taking them to the Lufeng public security bureau, police said. Local officials accused five Hong Kong journalists in total of “illegal” reporting. Police said four of the five journalists did not have press badges issued by the All-China Journalists Association. The SCMP reporter had a badge, but had not “gone through relevant procedures according to the rules”, the police said, without specifying what procedures or rules. The information office of the Lufeng municipal government said all five Hong Kong journalists “violated relevant regulations on reporting in the mainland,” the CNS reported. “For Hong Kong and Macau journalists to report in the mainland, they need to obtain press badges issued by the All-China Journalists Association from the liaison offices in Hong Kong or Macau, and obey the country's laws, regulations and rules to do objective and fair reporting,” the information office said. Hong Kong Journalists Association chairwoman Sham Yee-lan rejected the official response. “I think the police are liars. I am so disappointed in their reaction.I believe our journalists,” Sham said. The SAR government has expressed concern about the case. A government spokesman called for Hong Kong journalists reporting on the mainland to be respected. The coastal village has been the epicentre of villager-police clashes since Tuesday after uproar over the imprisonment of the democratically elected village chief Lin Zuluan for 37 months on corruption charges earlier this month. Wukan came to prominence five years ago after villagers protested a land-grab by officials and developers. The initial unrest ended after officials stepped down and villagers elected Lin as their new leader. Around 100 people, including members of pan-democratic parties, held a candlelight vigil outside the Liaison Office on Saturday night in support of the residents of Wukan and to protest the attacks on Hong Kong reporters. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Beijing moves to close the urban-rural gap (Xinhua)
2016-09-21
Beijing has announced more changes to its local "hukou" (permanent residence permit) system: the rural Beijing hukou will cease to exist, ending the divide between rural and urban residents. The term "city" in China is usually applied to an urban center with a, sometimes vast, rural hinterland, often including farmland, mountains and forests. Even metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai have residents who are considered "rural." According to the guideline released on Monday, Beijing municipal government will no longer distinguish between urban and rural residents, but establish a unified permit system. Education, health, employment, social welfare, and housing will be equal for all Beijing residents. Among the 31 provincial regions of Chinese mainland, Beijing is the 30th to announce a plan to terminate its hukou divide. Only Tibet Autonomous Region maintains the distinction. The reform is set to affect hundreds of millions of Chinese people. By 2015, the mainland urban population -- with or without residence permits -- was 767.5 million, or 55.9 percent of the total, while the population categorized as rural was 606 million, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. BORN DIFFERENT Hukou has a significant bearing on the lives of Chinese citizens. For decades the dualistic structure has meant better services for urban people, while preventing rural people from upping sticks and moving freely into cities to enjoy the good life. Since the 1950s, where food and other material supplies were limited, China has divided people into urban or rural and used the hukou system to control the population flow and to plan supplies. As a traditionally agrarian society, at that time most people lived in the countryside and were not allowed to move to cities. They had to support themselves -- and the urban population -- with the yields of their farming. In comparison, those holding urban hukou, mainly people with jobs, were allocated coupons during the planned economy period and were supposed to buy their supplies with a combination of wages and coupons. Rural people rarely got the chance to move to cities, except by going to university, joining the army, or by finding jobs in state-owned industries. Zhang Ping, 59, still remembers the admiration of his fellow villagers when he became a railway worker and converted his rural hukou into an urban one in 1976. His family still hold rural hukou in No. 8 Village, Xihongmen Township in Beijing's Daxing District, where the capital city's second international airport will be built. "Urban hukou meant never needing to toil in the fields again," said Zhang. For the past half century or so, great disparities have existed and expanded between urban and rural populations in terms of welfare and rights. Urban workers have their medical expenses reimbursed and are granted pensions, but farmers are entitled to no such "luxuries." Decades later, when simply feeding the country's 1.3 billion people with very limited land resources became a central political issue, farmers with land have felt more privileged and often have little interest in becoming urbanites. Farming has subsidies, and leasing the farmland also makes money. Zhang's son, Zhang Hongliang, 34, feels lucky to hold a rural hukou. According to a 30-year agreement between his family and the village, they are granted 25,000 yuan (3,700 US dollars) per person per year for leasing their farmland for commercial exploitation. His father, with his urban hukou, receives nothing. "The land use agreement still has 18 years to run. I don't know if I will still get the money when my rural hukou is revoked," Zhang Junior said. LIVING EQUALLY Zhang Yinghong of Beijing's rural economy research center described how limited supply at the time led to the creation urban-rural division. "The dual hukou system was important in controlling the size of cities during the planned economy period, but as the market economy developed, the system hampered population flow and brought disparities," he said. Year after year, millions of former farm workers migrate to the cities, but cannot really settle there as their rights to medical, educational and other welfare services apply to their place of origin, often thousands of kilometers away. Hukou reform will bring social equality and justice by breaking the barriers that defined the divide, said Zhu Lijia of the Chinese Academy of Governance. By establishing a unified hukou system, public services will be equal for all, urban and rural residents alike, greatly assisting the free flow of labor and urbanization, Zhu said. As for farmers concerned that they may lose their land rights, Zhu said hukou reform does not mean depriving farmers of their assets. "What they are granted will be equal rights. Their wealth will not be affected," he said. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

In Tibet, religious freedom comes with Chinese characteristics (SCMP)
2016-09-22
The sun has yet to rise over Lhasa, but dozens of colourfully dressed pilgrims are already gathered and reciting prayers at the entrance to Jokhang, the most sacred temple in Tibetan Buddhism. Many of those gathered – Tibetans and Han Chinese visitors – say religion is flourishing under Beijing's rule, with adherents enjoying the freedoms they need to follow their faith. But this sense of freedom does not extend to the men who live inside the monasteries, analysts and monks say. Their lives and their movements are heavily regulated by a government eager to avoid any hint of disobedience in the restive region which, although technically autonomous, is tightly controlled by Beijing. “We are not free,” said a 33-year-old monk from the neighbouring province of Sichuan, who is not being named. “To get into Tibet from another province, you need a certificate with your name, address and identity card number. “Everything has to be stamped by the monastery, the Bureau of Religious Affairs and the police,” he said outside the Jokhang monastery. Nearby, groups of policemen – some from Tibet itself – are discreetly patrolling, some holding walkie-talkies and others guns. This area of the capital is calm for now, but authorities are not taking any chances. In 2008 it was the site of deadly riots which erupted following protests by monks against Beijing's rule in the region. The government clamped down after a period of violence against non-Tibetans, in particular the Han Chinese – who remain a minority in Tibet. Faith is an integral element of Tibetan identity and nationalism and is therefore perceived as a potential threat to the authority of the Chinese state, explained Kate Saunders of the US-based NGO International Campaign for Tibet. Some ordinary Tibetans dismiss the idea that their religious freedom is being curtailed. “I come here morning and night,” said Zangmai, a 31-year-old Tibetan taxi driver. “I have never had any problem. “I've been praying here since I was about five or six, and one day I'll bring my son here too,” he said as he threw dried grass into a large incense burner, which belched out grey smoke. For Zhaxi Nima, a 37-year-old Tibetan pilgrim whose left leg is amputated below the knee, faith remains an integral part of his routine. “Why do I come to pray, despite my handicap? Tibetans are just like that, it's our way of life,” he said. It is not so simple for religious figures and institutions, experts say. “Temples, monasteries... Of course, they are controlled,” said Jens-Uwe Hartmann, a specialist in Buddhism at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and an expert on Tibet. “What they are doing is very closely observed.” If religious leaders emerge who are not approved by the Chinese Communist Party, they simply disappear, Hartmann said, adding: “So you'd better keep your mouth shut.” Beijing says it “peacefully liberated” Tibet in 1951 and insists it has brought development to a previously backward region. But many Tibetans accuse the Chinese government of exploiting natural resources, as well as promoting Han activities and business at the expense of locals and the environment. They also accuse authorities of diluting their culture and faith as a way of exerting further influence. China recently unveiled an initiative to get tens of millions more tourists to visit the region, and many of them wander through Jokhang along with the faithful. Barkhor, the road around the temple that pilgrims walk in a clockwise direction as a sign of respect, displays little Chinese flags on the first floor of buildings. The street is dotted with shops and restaurants to cater to visitors from other regions. “People's faith here is very impressive. It's not something you see anywhere else in China,” said 22-year-old Peng Meng. “In the rest of China, because of the Party, countless temples were destroyed,” said a young Han Chinese visitor, miming a fist coming down on a building. “In Tibet, Buddhism is preserved,” he said, although many religious structures were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Wang Xiaobin of the China Tibetology Research Centre, an official body based in Beijing, said monks were required to use travel certificates after a wave of self-immolations which began in 2009. A total of 145 Tibetans, the majority of them monks, set fire to themselves in the past seven years in protest against Beijing's rule and 117 of them died, according to International Campaign for Tibet. “Most of them came from Tibet's neighbouring provinces. And the regional government is worried that some of them are coming to self-immolate in Lhasa,” Wang said. “China recognises 'freedom of religious belief', not 'religious freedom'. Those are different things,” he added. ^ top ^

China's Tibetan cultural delegation boosts exchanges with Czech Republic (Xinhua)
2016-09-17
A cultural exchange delegation from China's Tibet Autonomous Region attended a seminar in Prague on Friday to deepen exchanges with Czechs. Jinmeiwangcuo, head of the delegation and the director of news office of the Tibet Autonomous Region government, said that representatives from Czech Senate and Parliament exchanged point of views with the delegation. The Czech representatives showed their interests in Tibet and Tibet's development, raised many suggestions on the exchange of Tibetan culture. They have reached a preliminary intention on inviting Czech experts to visit Tibet and promoting the exchange and cooperation of Tibetan culture. The delegation was also warmly welcomed by local Chinese. The delegation arrived in the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Leaving the Czech Republic on Saturday, they will head for Estonia and Latvia. ^ top ^

Panchen Lama carries out religious activities in Tibet (Xinhua)
2016-09-16
The 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu has performed a series of religious and social activities in Tibet Autonomous Region during the past two months. The Panchen Lama went to Ngor Monastery in Xigaze on Thursday, paying respects to Buddha and giving head-touch blessings to believers. From July 21 to 24, a four-day Kalachakra (wheel of time) ritual was held in the New Palace of the Panchen Lama at the request of monks from the Zhaxi Lhunbo Lamasery, the home temple of Panchen Lamas, in Xigaze. It was the first large-scale kalachakra ritual held in Tibet for 60 years. On July 29, the Panchen Lama travelled to his hometown Nagchu Prefecture by train and was warmly received by a cavalry troop and more than 2,500 local residents. He visited students in a special education school and some poor families in Nagchu, and carried out religious rites in two local monasteries. Over 70,000 residents joined the religious activities. On August 15, the Panchen Lama visited the regional Tibetan medicine hospital in Lhasa. He stressed the importance of developing Tibetan medicine, a precious legacy of Tibetan culture. He went to Nyingchi City on August 18 and performed religious rites in several local monasteries. At a meeting with Buddhist scholars from the Tibetan branch of the Buddhist Association of China, he said the living conditions of monks and nuns had improved and people's religious freedom had been fully protected in Tibet. He urged Tibetan Buddhists to pass down good religious traditions and contribute to social harmony and stability. The Panchen Lama will continue religious and social activities in Xigaze. Enthroned 21 years ago, the Panchen Lama serves as vice president of the Buddhist Association of China and a member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top political advisory body. ^ top ^

Room with a view: Plush hotel part of bid to increase tourist numbers in Tibet (SCMP)
2016-09-18
China has unveiled a sparkling new hotel as part of its drive to get tens of millions more tourists to visit Tibet, even as critics say the push is slowly eroding the local culture. With a presidential suite that costs US$1,000 a night and views over the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas, the luxury Artel is a potent symbol of Chinese plans for the autonomous territory. Tourism officials were hoping to see visitor numbers increase by nearly half in the next four years, said Wang Songping, deputy director of the Tibet Tourism Development Commission. “Tibet attracted four million Chinese tourists in 2005. We hope we'll get 24 million this year and 35 million by 2020,” he said. Critics said the influx would lead to more of China's dominant Han ethnic group settling in Tibet and eroding native Tibetan ways of life, and argued that the majority of economic benefits of mass tourism would not go to locals. Official figures say that Tibetans currently make up 90 per cent of the local population, but groups opposed to Chinese rule say the real figure is significantly lower. Beijing says it “peacefully liberated” Tibet in 1951 and insists it has brought development to a previously backward region where serfs were exploited. But many Tibetans accuse Beijing of repressing their religion, diluting their culture and exploiting natural resources to benefit the Han at the expense of locals and the environment. The 103-room Artel opened in mid-August in Lulang, a picturesque village situated at 3,700 metres in a forested area. It is part of a tourist complex built in an old part of town previously occupied mostly by government buildings and restaurants, that now boasts its own shopping street, a lake and an arts centre. Nicknamed the “Switzerland of the East”, the village is seen by authorities as a flagship project for its ambitious plans for Tibet's tourism sector. Transport links are being developed to cater for the influx, including a motorway opening next year, and a high-speed rail line from the capital Lhasa, expected to open in 2021. Another high-speed rail line to Chengdu, capital of neighbouring Sichuan province, home to more than 80 million people, should be completed in 2022. Wang said the number of Chinese tourists, who currently make up 95 per cent of visitors to Tibet, had increased by an average of 20 per cent each year since the 2006 opening of the first railway linking Tibet to the rest of China. But while outside visitors could boost the local economy, mass tourism had down sides, said Tibet observer Francoise Robin. “Cultural performances shown to visitors are either favourable reinterpretations of Chinese history or Chinese versions of songs or dances,” she said. “Tibetans themselves end up picking up these distorted versions.” And while some Tibetans were developing responsible tourism initiatives and eco-tourism, such businesses could often not be developed on a large scale, she said. The influx of tourists is expected to bring in billions of dollars but many are concerned that not everyone will benefit from the windfall. “Travel agents and other people who work in the tourism industry are mostly Han Chinese”, Robin said. “The Tibetans... are among the last in line to benefit.” At the Artel hotel, Baima Cicuo, a 17-year-old local trainee who works as a housekeeper, said she was happy at her job – at least in front of her boss. “Before, I depended on my farmer parents. But now I earn 1,000 yuan (HK$1,160) a month and I learn a lot of things,” she said in fluent Putonghua. The hotel, owned by Poly, a Chinese state-owned group, had invested 280 million yuan in the project, said commercial director Ray Peng. It has 40 employees, 15 of whom are Tibetan. Its guests are likely to be overwhelmingly Chinese. Less than five per cent of visitors to Tibet are foreign tourists, who need to obtain an “entry letter” as well as a Chinese visa when travelling to the region, where they must join an authorised tour group. Despite the widespread perception that the restrictions are meant to stop the outside world from learning too much about the tensions between ethnic Tibetans and Han, officials insist that is not the case. “These restrictions are in place because we can't yet provide world-class services for tourists”, said Bianba Zhaxi, deputy governor of Tibet. “We will be open to tourists from across the world in a few years,” he added. But Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok, deputy speaker of Tibet's parliament in exile, said the restrictions served to hide the truth about Tibet from the outside world. “If foreign tourists and media are able to travel freely in Tibet, without organised tours, and can collect the views of people, then I think tourism can have a good impact. “Otherwise, nobody will speak and share the problems of the Tibetan people.” ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Chinese vice premier stresses poverty alleviation in Xinjiang (Xinhua)
2016-09-22
Vice Premier Wang Yang has called for targeted and efficient measures to eradicate poverty in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, noting that it is vital to ensure the regional stability. Poverty alleviation is of great significance to long-term stability in Xinjiang, Wang said during his four-day tour that ended on Wednesday. He urged comprehensive efforts to address the symptoms and root causes of poverty in the region, and focus on major poverty-stricken areas to fulfill the mission. Agricultural water conservation facilities should be enhanced and water-efficient agriculture should be promoted. Local authorities should strengthen education of local language and Mandarin, as well as vocational training, to enable local residents to find jobs. Official data showed around 1.74 million people in Xinjiang have risen above the poverty line in the past five years. The per capita annual income of farmers in counties classified as the most impoverished increased to 6,690 yuan (around 1,029 U.S. dollars) last year from 3,543 yuan in 2011, the local government said. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

'No independence in 1,000 years for Hong Kong', Beijing legal expert declares (SCMP)
2016-09-23
Hong Kong is ill and needs medication, the legal head of Beijing's liaison office in the city said yesterday, as he spoke of “heartbreak” caused by growing talk of independence, which he ruled out for “1,000 years and forever”. Wang Zhenmin said those advocating Hong Kong's separation from China were acting out of fear that the mainland's success was eclipsing the city's. Asked whether his office had interfered in Hong Kong's recent legislative elections, he said it was concerned with the polls but had never acted outside the law. At a luncheon hosted by the Asia-Pacific Law Association on Thursday, the Basic Law expert did not mince words. “Hong Kong's prosperity and stability is largely because of the motherland,” he said. “Some people then think that now the motherland is developing well, Hong Kong will go downhill. “It is heartbreaking to see some people going for extreme means to destroy Hong Kong.” He went on to declare that Hong Kong would remain a part of China “for 1,000 years and forever” and that no one could break them apart. Describing the city and the motherland as a unified body, he said Hong Kong had “caught a cold and got sick” and that both sides required medication. The city should continue to serve as a role model for the country's economic and democratic development along with the rule of law, he said. “If the 7.3 million people in Hong Kong mess up democracy and only bring extremism, violence and separatism, how can the 1.4 billion people on the mainland pursue democracy without fear?” In April, Wang raised eyebrows by warning that those who discussed independence for Hong Kong in a “large-scale” setting were not only violating the Basic Law, but could also be committing “treason” and “sedition” under existing criminal laws. Wang on Thursday also said he was open to discussing whether the “one country, two systems” principle should continue beyond its expiry date in 2047, but he would personally prefer maintaining the status quo. But he said “no way” to calls for the right to self-determination, noting there was nothing in local legislation to justify holding a referendum to determine the city's political future, as some new local lawmakers have suggested. Localist lawmaker-elect Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang, who advocates self-determination, dismissed Wang's take on the rise of separatism as “laughable”. “When we discuss the question of independence, we are driven by the invisible hand from the Communist Party that is meddling with our rights and freedoms,” Leung said. “It has nothing to do with China's economic strength.” Wang also responded to allegations that his office had interfered in the city's elections by controlling the voter-mobilising strategies of the pro-government camp and by dissuading some candidates from running. “Many countries are highly concerned about Hong Kong elections, and some countries, including their agencies here, even interfered in them deeply,” he said. “Shouldn't our central government get concerned [given the situation]?... If [it] doesn't care, I won't feel it's right.” But the liaison office would only act within the law, he added. ^ top ^

New US envoy in Hong Kong seeks one-on-one meetings with all 70 lawmakers as he praises city's 'specialness' (SCMP)
2016-09-22
Washington's new man in Hong Kong has set up one-on-one meetings with all 70 members of the city's newly elected legislature as a priority and employed the language of diplomacy to answer questions about its nascent independence movement. At his first major public appearance since becoming United States consul general for Hong Kong and Macau a month ago, Kurt Tong said on Thursday he wanted the meetings “as soon as possible” after the lawmakers were sworn in next month, adding that his invitation was open to anyone “regardless of their political views”. Addressing an American Chamber of Commerce lunch, Tong also praised the record number of voters who turned out at the Legislative Council elections on September 4, which he said “showed how much people here are committed to the idea of democratic participation in politics”. Tong repeatedly stressed what he described as Hong Kong's “specialness”, its long-standing relationship with the US, and the need to “cherish, protect and maintain” the “one country, two systems” principle under which the city operates. “I think there is a lot at stake here. Hong Kong is definitely part of China. But Hong Kong also exists as one of the world's leading cities, and many people outside China also have a stake in its success. “It would be a great loss to the global commons – economically as well as culturally – if Hong Kong were to somehow lose its 'specialness',” Tong said. Asked to give a view on the small but growing body of public opinion advocating varying degrees of autonomy for the city, from the status quo to full independence, Tong said: “The US view is crystal clear. Hong Kong is definitely a part of China, but we also value the high degree of autonomy it has under 'one country, two systems'. “A couple of weeks ago we saw Hongkongers turn out in record numbers to exercise their freedom to participate in choosing the city's legislature. I think that turnout, with voters lining up late into election night, showed how much people here are committed to the idea of democratic participation in politics.” On his hoped for meetings with lawmakers the US' new top diplomat – who is fluent in Putonghua and Japanese but only a Cantonese rookie compared with his predecessor, Clifford Hart, who endeared himself to Hongkongers by mastering the local tongue – said: “Seventy is a lot, so it may take a while.” The Ohio-born diplomat – who declared himself a keen fan of the Boston Red Sox baseball team – said he had not yet met Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying but was looking forward to doing so. Tong also kept lunchgoers and media guessing when he declined to explain why, given his surname, he did not resemble a person of Chinese ethnicity by saying that all would be revealed on his Facebook page next month. Previously Tong was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the Department of State, and before that he served as the Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d'Affaires at the US Embassy in Tokyo. ^ top ^

Hong Kong pan-democrats hopeful of getting four more votes in bid to launch Wang Chau probe (SCMP)
2016-09-22
The pan-democratic camp and its allies have a chance of getting four more votes from pro-establishment lawmakers to invoke the Legislative Council's special powers and investigate the government's controversial handling of the Wang Chau public housing development plan. That would leave them just three votes short in launching the probe, but the chances of securing them from strong allies of the government ­remain remote. Outgoing lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun told the Post yesterday that four of his recently elected Liberal Party colleagues in the newly elected legislature should support a formal probe. He was speaking a day after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying took ultimate responsibility for the partial suspension of the Wang Chau project in Yuen Long. On Wednesday, Leung denied bowing to pressure from rural strongmen with vested land interests in deciding to phase the building of 17,000 public housing flats, and to defer the bulk of it, shifting the development from a brownfield site to a nearby area that will have to be vacated by residents from three villages. Some 30 pan-democrat and localist lawmakers remained ­unsatisfied by Leung's explanation, and vowed to push for a ­Legco investigation after they are sworn into office on October 12. Under the split-voting system in Legco, members can only initiate a formal probe with majority support among 35 ­geographical constituency lawmakers, as well as their 35 counterparts in the trade-based functional constituencies. The pan-democrats and localists dominate the former group with 19 seats, but have only 11 in the second – seven short of a majority. “Hongkongers still have doubts and worries... such as why Tsang distanced himself from the decision in the first place,” said Tien, who has become an open critic of the chief executive despite his party's traditional support for the establishment. “If officials fail to alleviate these doubts by mid-October, a probe will be needed.” Chances of his four party ­colleagues heeding the call, though, seem uncertain. New People's Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee told the Post by email that officials should first answer key questions at Legco's development panel, before a formal probe is considered. “[Tsang's earlier] statement explicitly said he did not authorise the phased development,” she said. “Were the chief secretary and [Tsang] simply asked to rubber-stamp a fait accompli?” But the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Business and Professionals Alliance, which ­together hold 11 seats in the functional constituencies, are almost certain to oppose the probe. DAB vice-chairman Gary Chan Hak-kan said a probe was unnecessary as “officials explained the matter quite clearly on Wednesday”. ^ top ^

Hong Kong chief executive's 'tears' only distracted attention from urgently needed land reform, Eddie Chu claims (SCMP)
2016-09-22
Lawmaker-elect Eddie Chu Hoi-dick has accused Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying of attempting to divert attention from much-needed land development reforms during yesterday's press conference on a scandal-ridden Wang Chau housing project. Chu, who helped expose the Wang Chau controversy, said the top official's “tears” and theatrics were only tactics aimed at distracting public attention from the real issues at stake. “Don't allow these press conference tears, which weren't actually shed, and these attacks by government officials on one another, to divert everybody's attention from the key issues,” he said. Speaking on a radio programme on Thursday, Chu said the government should seize the opportunity to reform town planning and consultation processes. “Town planning should be democratic, open and free from [influence]… But the key problem is the government doesn't want to change their method of 'soft lobbying' those with power – this type of internal planning.” During Wednesday's awkward hour-long press conference, Leung and his top officials explained their roles when deciding to build 17,000 public housing flats in phases, deferring the bulk of the flats in Yuen Long's Wang Chau until later. The city's top officials denied bowing to pressure from rural leaders with vested interests in the project. Leung's government has been accused of colluding with, or folding to pressure from village strongmen when deciding to push ahead with the first phase – building an initial 4,000 flats at a nearby green-belt site, which would result in the displacement of three non-indigenous villages. Recent media reports forced Leung to confirm that he had chaired a task force on Wang Chau in 2013, a month before officials started “soft lobbying” rural leaders for support. Chu said rural and district representatives, and the government, had exploited villagers from the three communities. “The weak don't have the power to say anything,” he said. “I think it should be the other way round. You should start with lobbying the powerless, not with the powerful.” Many villagers, Chu said, were not aware of Town Planning Board notices and would not know what to make of planning documents. “Many only find out their land is to be resumed when Lands Department officials storm into their village to register their details,” he said. Chu vowed to continue fighting for villagers' justice in the legislature and would even reach out to pro-establishment parties, such as the Liberal Party and New People's Party, to seek common ground. He issued a reminder to housing secretary Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung to provide him with a copy of the feasibility report for Wang Chau, as agreed. “This is very important for the public's right to know,” he said Meanwhile, Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, defended the government's “soft lobbying” tactics, believing it was necessary for the government to gauge the views of stakeholders early. She dismissed calls from Chu to apologise on behalf of her fellow party member, Leung Che-cheung, who was a Yuen Long District Councillor at the time the decisions on Wang Chau were made. Chu said he, along with rural strongman Tsang Shu-wo, “betrayed villagers” by suggesting the government scale down the public housing project. Lee said this was unfair to Leung Che-cheung as he was only representing the concerns of residents in the district. ^ top ^

The pitfalls of 'regularising' illegal occupation of government land (SCMP)
2016-09-19
Director of Lands Bernadette Linn Hon-ho was engaged in a bit of damage control at the weekend but ended up digging a bigger hole for herself. She defended her department after the Ombudsman's scathing criticism about exploited loopholes and lax enforcement over illegally occupied government land, especially in the New Territories. Getting on her high horse, Linn said she felt hurt by the misunderstanding and that society needed a public discussion on whether to continue the practice, called “regularisation”, of granting leases – and charging rents – to those who have been found to have illegally occupied government land. “Should we go along the route of rejecting all [lease] applications as a matter of course? And only fence up whatever area has been unlawfully occupied, and just leaving it there idle?” she asked. “I think this is a matter of choice for the public to debate on, and for the public to indicate their preference.” Her department approves “regularisation” in 40 per cent of such cases. No one would seriously fault regularisation if it had been properly administrated, and the Ombudsman would not have issued its scathing report. Then again, if the department is so keen on generating rent revenue, why doesn't it actively lease out idle public land instead of waiting for illegal occupants to take them up first? And how about a heavy fine on top of the “regularised” rent? The real problem is, pardon the pun, the irregularities in the administration of regularisation. The department often tolerates, ignores or just doesn't know – through inadequate inspection – many instances of illegal occupation that could go on for years. The Ombudsman cited one case where a cafe operated illegally in the public area of a village for almost two decades despite repeated complaints from some villagers. Its main criticism targets the department's “failure to detect longstanding breaches, and for its recurring delays in taking enforcement actions”. Regularisation is supposed to take no more than 24 weeks. But the usual time turns out to be between 13 and 19 months, with one case lasting almost four years. During the wait, the Ombudsman said no rent was paid. Linn said the department had clawed back past rental payments – by backdating to the period of the illegal occupation. I would love to see how many times that actually happened. ^ top ^

Still not adding up: two more Hong Kong polling stations had more votes counted than ballots, report claims (SCMP)
2016-09-19
Fresh reports of voting irregularities in the Legislative Council elections earlier this month have emerged, with the votes counted in two more stations outnumbering the number of distributed ballots. A local news agency has reported it found to date irregularities in at least five polling stations in the city, this after earlier reports of suspected vote-stuffing at three polling stations in Tai Po, Tseung Kwan O, and Tsuen Wan. The Factwire report said there were about 200 extra votes combined at Ma Wan and another Tai Po station, pushing the total number of extra votes in the five polling stations to 831. Three of the five were in New Territories East constituency, and two were in New Territories West constituency. The news agency studied the voting data at 96 of the city's 571 polling stations, which it obtained from political parties and candidates' representatives. The day following the September 4 elections, a representative of New Territories East candidate Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang of Youngspiration reported an irregularity at Sheung Tak Community Hall counting station in Tseung Kwan O. Leung claimed the number of counted votes was about 300 more than the 6,001 ballot papers that had been handed out. He won a seat in the race. A spokesman for the Registration and Electoral Office was unavailable to give an immediate response to Leung's claim. But earlier, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said the Electoral Affairs Commission would give a detailed account of what had happened when it submitted its report on voting procedures. He added the government would look for ways to improve the procedures. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan opposition's bank account frozen in assets probe (SCMP)
2016-09-22
Taiwan's government has ordered a freeze on the opposition Kuomintang's bank account, officials said on Thursday, as part of an investigation into its allegedly ill-gotten political assets. The order comes as political tensions remain high on the deeply divided island after the Beijing-friendly KMT were ousted by a landslide in January elections. The new Beijing-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party government announced an investigation into the assets of all parties in late July, but it is only the KMT that has faced questions. The KMT is thought to be one of the richest political parties in the world and registered total assets of NT$18.96 billion (HK$4.68 billion) by the end of last year, compared with NT$$478.72 million by the DPP. The party traces its wealth to its origins in pre-communist China – KMT forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to the Chinese communists on the mainland. It also inherited assets nationalised by the Japanese, who ruled Taiwan as a colony from 1895 to 1945. However, critics have long accused the party of stealing from the people of Taiwan and illegally amassing fortunes through cosy business links during its half-century grip on power. Government investigators say the KMT withdrew NT$520 million from Taiwan's Bank SinoPac soon after the asset inquiry was launched and exchanged it for 10 cashier's cheques from the state-run Bank of Taiwan. One of those cheques has already been cashed. KMT officials say it was used to pay salaries and pensions. But investigators say the money should not have been moved since the investigation had already started. The party has slammed the investigation as a witch-hunt. “The KMT violated the law which prohibits it from moving its assets,” the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee said in a statement. “Bank SinoPac has been notified to halt withdrawing or transferring money from that account.” The freeze was the asset committee's first major action against the KMT. KMT chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu called it a “vendetta” and said the party should rally outside the home of the island's president, Tsai Ing-wen. “The action we took is just and for the purpose of fulfilling our legal duties,” KMT spokesman Chou Chih-wei said. Tsai and the DPP took power on the back of increased public concern over warming ties with the mainland, following an unprecedented eight-year rapprochement under the previous KMT government. Taiwan is self-ruling, but Beijing still sees it as part of China. Voters feared the island's sovereignty was under threat as the KMT forged closer relations with Beijing. Since Tsai took power, relations have rapidly deteriorated and Beijing has cut off all official communications with Taiwan. ^ top ^

Taiwan's new facilities on Taiping Island may have military use (SCMP)
2016-09-21
Taiwan is building four concrete structures on the disputed ­Taiping Island in the South China Sea, in what might be a facility to increase its military alertness. The structures, about three to four storeys high, were found to have been built on the coastline of the west side of Taiping surrounding a circular structure still under construction on the shore, ­according to a recent Google Earth map. Taiping is part of the Spratly Islands and is also claimed by mainland China, the Philippines and Vietnam. The discover of the facilities comes at a sensitive time when both Taiwan and the mainland are protesting against a ruling by an international tribunal over the status of the South China Sea ­archipelagoes. They were not there on the previous map taken by satellite in January last year. Taiwanese Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan on Tuesday ­declined to reveal what exactly the structures were for. “It is inconvenient for us to ­reveal any military facilities we are installing on Taiping Island and what their purposes are as they are all considered secrets,” Feng told reporters after a legislative session in Taipei. But he assured the public that “Taiping Island has strong defensive capability.” According to Kuomintang legislator Johnny Chiang Chi-chen, the structures were there in July when he led a group of lawmakers on a trip to Taiping to assert ­Taiwan's ownership claim and protest over the ruling. The tribunal ruled Taiping was a rock and therefore could not be used to justify claims in the surrounding waters under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Taiwanese media have speculated the structures could house anti-aircraft weapons. Military experts said they could be used to launch mobile surface-to-air missiles but they were more likely devoted to detection and surveillance. “It is unlikely a cannon base, given that the salty waters and ­vapours would rust the cannons,” military expert Chen Kuo-ming said. “Very possibly they are for a certain kind of military alert ­system or facility that can be mounted on them,” Chen said. Arthur Ding, an associate ­research fellow at Stockholm-based Institute for Security and Development Policy, said the construction would have been approved by former president Ma Ying-jeou to increase Taiping's defences amid the dispute over the South China Sea. “Sensitive as they may be, I don't think it would greatly escalate the tension in the region, given that Taiping is controlled by Taiwan, which is considered relatively moderate over the South China Sea dispute,” he said. Meanwhile, legislators have demanded that the defence ministry and Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration contact Google and ensure the company ­obscures details of the structures in their photos to protect Taiwanese military secrets. Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Dong said the four structures appeared to be large coastal forts to prevent any landing assaults. “The surrounding area... is the most suitable landing beach on Taiping. Such kinds of construction were only found in Germany during the second world war and Taiwan,” Wong said. “The coastal forts can effectively stop vessels from Vietnam or even deter mainland warships from landing on Taiping.” Wong said the structures might be equipped with heavy machine guns, howitzers or even anti-tank weapons. ^ top ^

Mainland's new measures, remarks toward Taiwan show responsibility: experts (Xinhua)
2016-09-19
The Chinese mainland's new measures to increase exchanges with counties in Taiwan and remarks made by top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng showed a strong sense of responsibility, said experts from both the mainland and Taiwan. "The refusal by Taiwan's current Democratic Progressive Party administration to recognize the 1992 Consensus has led to an impasse and even regression of relations across the Taiwan Strait, impairing the interests of compatriots from both sides," said Liu Guoshen, director of the Taiwan research institute at Xiamen University. The delegation of county and city officials from Taiwan, who came to Beijing for a mainland visit, expressed their hope to continue the peaceful cross-Strait development and win-win cooperation of the past eight years based on the 1992 Consensus, which affirms that both sides of the Strait belong to one China. The delegation includes officials from New Taipei City and the counties of Hsinchu, Hualien, Taitung, Kinmen, Lienchiang, Miaoli and Nantou. "In light of the present halting of cross-Strait institutional communication, the visit shows the will of the people," Liu said. When meeting with the delegation on Sunday, Yu Zhengsheng stressed that facing the new situation, the mainland will not change its policy toward Taiwan, including adherence to the 1992 Consensus, opposition to "Taiwan independence," and promotion of cross-Strait exchanges and cooperation. Zhang Guanhua, deputy director of the Beijing-based Institute of Taiwan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Yu's remarks demonstrate the mainland's unswerving stance on matters of principle and its resolution and sincerity in boosting the welfare of people from both sides. "The policies expounded by Yu will guide people across the Strait to remove disturbances and deepen exchanges among the people, political parties as well as counties and cities across the Strait on the basis of the 1992 Consensus," Zhang said. Also on Sunday, the mainland announced eight measures to promote exchanges with the counties represented in the Taiwan delegation, such as support in holding farm produce fairs on the mainland, promoting tours to mainland people and cooperation in high-tech sectors and other fields. Yang Kai-Huang, a cross-Strait relations expert at Taiwan-based Ming Chuan University, regarded the measures as "tangible and pragmatic." "The newly unveiled measures show the mainland's concern and goodwill toward the people in Taiwan in the hopes of remedying the regression of cross-Strait relations as soon as possible," Yang said. Both Yu's remarks and the new measures once again demonstrated that the 1992 Consensus is the anchor of cross-Strait ties, he said. "It is impossible for cross-Strait relations and Taiwan to develop without the consensus," he said. ^ top ^

Taiwan's push for UN membership given fresh impetus by former defence minister (SCMP)
2016-09-19
Taiwan's push to join the United Nations was on the back-burner for the eight years of the Ma Ying-jeou administration but has come back to life this year in a campaign spearheaded by a former defence minister. Observers said Beijing would be dismayed by Taiwan's move, but the renewed push would not significantly worsen already strained cross-strait ties. Ahead of a series of high-level meetings to be held in New York later this week, Michael Tsai Ming-hsien, a former minister in the Chen Shui-bian government, has been trying to drum up support for Taiwan's bid to join the international body. Tsai leads the Taiwan United Nations Alliance and has sought to promote the cause by holding talks with US senators and former government officials. Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also asked Taipei's diplomatic allies to send a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, asking him to consider accepting Taiwan as a new UN member. Such requests were stopped during the Ma's term at the top. The moves signal Taiwan's more active pursuit of international participation under its new president, Tsai Ing-wen. Michael Tsai stressed that his lobbying efforts were under the banner of a non-governmental organisation, but the campaign did have the support of the new administration. “This is the 13th time I have gone with our group to the United States. But this year is significant because Taiwan has a new government … and the Democratic Progressive Party holds a majority in the parliament,” he said. His efforts also appear to have broader public support. He cited a Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation poll in which 84.8 per cent of the Taiwanese surveyed said they backed a UN bid. It has been 45 years since Taipei lost its seat in the UN to Beijing with the passage of UN General Assembly's resolution 2758, which recognised the communist-led People's Republic of China as the only legitimate representative of China in the international body. The Kuomintang government in Taiwan at the time, led by Chiang Kai-shek, had long insisted it was the sole legitimate government of China, despite losing a civil war on the mainland in 1949, and was unwilling to tolerate a “two state” solution. Michael Tsai said public desire was growing on the island for more international recognition and representation as more of its younger generation saw the island as a sovereign state. “The people of Taiwan did not have a choice [about separate UN membership] at the time because Taiwan was under the dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek,” he said. The push for that recognition has met strong opposition from Beijing, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province, and has become concerned with the bid's implications for Taiwan's international stature. A spokesman for the mainland State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, Ma Xiaoguang, underscored Beijing's “one China” stance last week, saying Taiwan's UN bid challenged that position and would not succeed. The comments reflect rising tensions between Taipei and Beijing since Tsai Ing-wen, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, won January's presidential election in Taiwan. Li Jiaquan, a former Taiwan affairs researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing would not “overreact” as Taiwan's attempt to join the UN had little chance of success. “China is a key member of the Security Council and has big influence in the UN. To Beijing, the attempt to join the UN is nothing but a farce,” Li said. “I think Beijing will stand aside and just watch, because everyone knows that any harm to cross-strait relations by the Tsai administration and Democratic Progressive Party will do no good to Taiwan.” Alexander Huang, chairman of the Council on Strategic and Wargaming Studies in Taipei, also said that it was unlikely that Beijing would react strongly to the bid. “The attempt to return to the UN could be seen as another excuse or reason for Beijing to accuse Taiwan of harming cross-strait relations, but if Beijing overreacts, it means that Beijing does not fully understand the situation in Taiwan,” Huang said. “I think researchers and government officials involved in Taiwan affairs are aware of the true situation in Taiwan so I don't think Beijing will make a big move except to make a statement against it.” Taiwan has 22 diplomatic allies, mostly small countries that look to it for development aid. Beijing, with rising economic and diplomatic power, has ties with more than 170 nations. But in March, soon after Tsai Ing-wen was elected, Beijing resumed diplomatic relations with Gambia, the first time in eight years that it had recognised one of Taiwan's former diplomatic allies. Beijing's move at the time was widely seen a break from the cross-strait “diplomatic truce” that began during Ma's administration. “During Chen Shui-bian's term from 2000 to 2008, Taiwan was very active in international organisations,” Michael Tsai said. “Our allies would speak for Taiwan every year during the UN General Assembly.” He said that while the new DPP government had avoided aggressive moves that would upset Beijing, there was more support in the administration for a renewed UN push. “The Tsai Ing-wen government has been very low-key for now. We hope that she will be more courageous in going out there to strengthen Taiwan's international participation,” he said. Taiwanese Foreign Minister David Lee Ta-wei had also given the lobbying effort his blessing, Michael Tsai said. “David Lee has encouraged us to go out there and promised that the government would give us the support we need – arranging our schedule, meeting US senators, inviting us to diplomatic events,” he said. He said he also had the backing of some US officials, who could not declare it publicly due to “the reality of international politics”. Michael Tsai said Taiwan might have a long way to go realise its goal but it would continue to push for participation in the UN and its related agencies. ^ top ^

Top political advisor stresses county-level exchanges across Taiwan Strait (Xinhua)
2016-09-18
Top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng on Sunday met in Beijing with a delegation of county and city officials from Taiwan. The delegation includes officials for New Taipei City and the counties of Hsinchu, Hualien, Kinmen, Lienchiang, Miaoli and Nantou. Yu praised the delegation's efforts to adhere to the political foundation of the 1992 Consensus, promote cross-Strait exchanges at county and city level, and maintain the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, "even against the backdrop of big changes in the situation." Taiwan's current Democratic Progressive Party administration refuses to recognize the 1992 Consensus, which affirms that both sides of the Strait belong to one China. According to Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, this undermines the political foundation of cross-Strait relations, leading to a loss of trust and damaging the amicable cross-Strait ties. The halting of institutional communication has had a severe impact on relations that had proceeded well for the past eight years, and harmed the immediate interests of compatriots on both sides, especially those from Taiwan, said Yu, who is also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. It is a situation that people on both sides would prefer never to have seen, he added. Yu stressed that in facing the new situation, the mainland will not change its policy toward Taiwan, including the adherence to the 1992 Consensus. Any elaboration of the 1992 Consensus must not deny the historical facts nor change its core meaning, he said. "Our standards and attitudes are consistent," Yu said, adding that cross-Strait institutional exchanges could resume as soon as Taiwan acknowledges the Consensus. The mainland firmly opposes any form of Taiwan independence and will remain consistent with regard to national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Yu said. "We will never tolerate secessionist activities in any form, neither radical Taiwan independence nor independence in a gradual or soft way," he said. He also stressed the mainland's resolution and sincerity to pursue cooperation in various fields for benefit of all, mainlanders and islanders alike. The more complex relations become, the more must be done in terms of exchanges, said Yu. Whichever county or city in Taiwan recognizes the true nature of cross-Strait relations and county-level exchanges, and is willing to contribute to mutually beneficial ties, will be warmly received, he said. County-level exchanges should serve the big picture of cross-Strait relations, increasing benefits and strengthening the affection between the two sides, Yu said, County-level communication should support people-to-people exchanges, he said, adding that counties in Taiwan could strengthen cooperation with the mainland based on their own conditions and needs by making use of the mainland's resources and market. The political advisor said he hoped for enhanced confidence, less interference and careful preservation of the positive results of cross-Strait relations in pursuit of the realization of a community of common destiny across the Strait. ^ top ^

Taiwan's Kuomintang in crisis as 'ill-gotten gains' law threatens to reverse party's fortune (SCMP)
2016-09-18
It was once known as one of the world's richest political parties but now the Kuomintang is facing a financial challenge that has left it unable to pay staff. As the KMT fled to Taiwan after losing the civil war to the communists in 1949, it reportedly took millions in gold, bonds and antiques that became part of the foundations of the party's fortunes. Once it arrived, it also ­absorbed assets nationalised by the Japanese during the 50 years of colonial rule of the island. It used those foundations to establish a party that held an ­unbroken grip on power until 2000. Those fortunes have waned over the decades but they could be wiped out completely with the passage of a law on “ill-gotten political party assets” in July. The KMT insists the legislation is a “political witch-hunt” by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party designed to strip the KMT of its ­assets. The DPP, however, maintains the law is necessary to level the electoral playing field for political ­parties. Meanwhile, analysts say the KMT faces an even greater ­existential threat than a lack of money – a failure to cultivate its next generation of politicians. When the KMT fled to Taiwan, it did not go empty-handed. Among the haul was an estimated 138 tonnes of gold, some of the greatest treasures of Beijing's Forbidden City, and US$24 million in bonds. It also inherited assets nationalised by the Japanese. The effect was to blur the financial lines between the party and the government. Some of these assets were ­redistributed to the public and used for the running of the island but, according to some local ­media reports, some were transferred by the KMT government to the KMT party, which used the funds to buy land and invest. Under the new “ill-gotten ­assets” law passed by the DPP-dominated legislature, these ­assets would have to be handed back over to the state. The law requires political parties formed before July 15, 1987 – when the island lifted martial law – to return all property obtained after 1945 to the government. The only exceptions to the legislation are party membership fees, political donations, government subsidies and interest derived from such funds. Parties must freeze all such assets and submit documentary proof of provenance to a Cabinet committee, which would determine if the property should be surrendered. For the KMT, this has meant freezing its roughly NT$16 billion (HK$4 billion) in assets, leaving it without adequate funds to pay the salaries of its 800 staff. “It's simply a political witch-hunt. The law was instituted to destroy the KMT so that the DPP would remain the uncontested party in Taiwan,” KMT chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu said. Analysts said the law clearly targeted the KMT because all other political parties were officially illegal under martial law and only allowed to register after January 1989. The KMT is planning to apply for a judicial review to determine if the law violates the island's constitution but a decision could be years away. Wu Yen-te, associate professor of law at Chinese Culture University in Taipei, said there was a question mark over whether the Cabinet committee could use the law to seize such assets. “The term 'ill-gotten' does not necessarily mean illegal,” Wu said. “[The law] will lead to constitutional ­disputes and lawsuits over ­whether transactions legally established in the past are overridden by the special bill.” KMT spokesman Chou Chih-wei said the issue was tied to the island's post-war development and the DPP should not target the KMT without considering its role during that time. “The bill presupposes that the KMT obtained all its assets illegally during the said period, which reverses the legal concept of presumed innocence until proven guilty,” Chou said. But Wellington Koo, a former DPP legislator and head of the Cabinet committee assessing the assets, said the KMT was ­unrepentant and still hoped to use its “ill-gotten assets” for future political campaigns. Koo said he would dedicate the next few years to identifying and recovering the property. New Party chairman Yok Mu-ming took aim at the DPP for wanting to claim property for the island that belonged to the mainland. But he also urged the KMT to divest itself of the property. “Don't be afraid of having no money. We have been a poor party for 23 years and have still survived,” Yok said. KMT vice-chairman Steve Chan said losing the assets could allow the party to restructure. “As long as the party keeps the assets, no one will donate funds to the KMT,”Chan said. However, the KMT faces an even bigger problem, according to political commentator Lee Yen-chiu. “The KMT traditionally relies on a saviour to save the party, but... it has no more rising stars,” Lee said. “Its inability to train a young generation as future successors has resulted in a serious succession problem within the KMT.” ^ top ^

 

Economy

Bank of China's New York branch picked as yuan clearing bank in the US (SCMP)
2016-09-21
Bank of China Ltd's New York branch has been designed as the first clearing bank in the US for handling renminbi transactions, part of the Chinese government's move to expand the worldwide infrastructure for making the yuan a global currency. The bank, China's largest overseas lender, is the biggest beneficiary of the yuan's aspiration as global currency, receiving 11 yuan-clearing mandates outside the mainland. US banks are also welcomed to apply to be clearing banks for transactions in renminbi, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said during a dinner hosted by the Economic Club of New York held in the city. “We also welcome banks in New York that meet the requirements to become a clearing bank for renminbi,” Li said. “I'm sure that will further boost our cooperation.” The yuan is scheduled to become the fifth currency to be included in the International Monetary Fund's basket of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) on October 1. China's government considers the SDR inclusion as a major vindication of its economic policies and a milestone in the internationalisation of the yuan. To ensure a smooth inclusion in the SDR, the People's Bank of China has raised the borrowing cost in Hong Kong -- the word's leading offshore market for trading the yuan -- to an eight-month high this week, making it more costly for traders to bet against the Chinese currency. The move underscores the Chinese central bank's resolve to hold the yuan steady against major currencies during Li's New York visit, and ahead of its SDR inclusion. Li addressed US concerns about China manipulating its currency, saying there was no basis for continued yuan depreciation and that China would not use devaluation of its currency to boost exports. The Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. is the yuan clearing bank in Doha, Luxembourg, Singapore and Toronto. China Construction Bank serves as the yuan clearance lender in London and Zurich while the Bank of Communications serves Seoul. He also touched on the progress on the US-China bilateral investment treaty (BIT) as he said China had put in strong effort by putting forward revised offers three times over the last two years. “We are now waiting for a response from the US,” Li said, as the two countries are now engaged in the 29th round of BIT negotiations. “As long as both sides hold a pragmatic and flexible attitude, I'm sure we will be able to reach a high standard and mutually beneficial BIT.” ^ top ^

China says criticism of its foreign investment environment is biased (SCMP)
2016-09-20
Criticism of Beijing's foreign investment environment is biased, China's Commerce Ministry said on Tuesday. Some companies abroad have claimed that it is now more difficult for overseas firms to invest in China than it is for Chinese firms to invest overseas. “Why are there complaints? Because foreign companies in China that rely on low costs and preferential treatment are now struggling,” Shen Danyang, a ministry spokesman, told reporters. “Companies that rely on preferential policies to make easy money feel the environment has worsened. But for companies with real foresight, real competitiveness, they will feel that the investment environment has improved.” China's foreign investment environment was not deteriorating, Shen said. The outlook for trade in China remained tough and the government was not “blindly optimistic”, he added. Beijing, while asking in public for more openness and steps to counter protectionism, is still giving Western investors only very limited access to the Chinese market, a European official said after China hosted the G20 leaders' summit in Hangzhou earlier in September. A big concern for foreign investors in China is what they see as the increasing difficulty of doing business on the mainland, driven by concerns that new laws and policies are seeking to effectively shut out foreigners or make life very hard for them. ^ top ^

ICBC signs MOUs to strengthen cooperation related to "Belt and Road" initiative (Xinhua)
2016-09-19
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited (ICBC) on Monday signed MOUs with organizations across Singapore and China, strengthening its commitment to infrastructure partnership and financing efforts related to the "Belt and Road" initiative. The signing of agreements was witnessed by Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang, Chinese Ambassador to Singapore Chen Xiaodong as well as about 200 representatives from Chinese and Singapore companies. "There are many opportunities available in the Belt and Road region, especially in terms of connectivity and infrastructure," said Yi Huiman, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Executive Director of ICBC. Media group Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) joined hands with ICBC to develop South-east Asia's first bilingual B2B e-commerce platform to enhance cross-border trade between China and Southeast Asia. According to the agreement, Singapore branch of ICBC will extend up 50 billion yuan (7.5 billion U.S. dollars) to member companies of Singapore Business Federation in project financing and other professional services for Infrastructure investments related to the "Belt and Road" initiative. Under the MOU, Singapore Exchange (SGX) and ICBC will work together to promote Singapore's capital markets and support Chinese companies looking to list equities or bonds on SGX, with a focus on real estate investment trusts (REITs) and offshore RMB bonds. ICBC also signed a MOU with Surbana Jurong, to strengthen collaboration with a full suite of comprehensive financial and engineering expertise for major urban and infrastructure projects related to the Belt and Road initiative. Chairman of Surbana Jurong Liew Mun Leong said that the group is optimistic about the vast infrastructure opportunities in Asia brought up by the "Belt and Road" initiative. "Sound financial and technical expertise are two key components for successful implementation of infrastructure projects. Our expertise in urban planning, engineering, project management and facilities management services can complement ICBC's financial related services," added Liew. Up to now, ICBC has established 123 branches serving 18 countries and regions related to the "Belt and Road" initiative. It's estimated that ICBC has supported 95 "Belt and Road" projects with total financing up to 22 billion U.S. dollars as of June 2016. Meanwhile, there are 211 prospective projects in the pipeline with a total investment of 213.2 billion U.S. dollars. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

China faces NK dilemma (Global Times)
2016-09-23
China's lukewarm response to the South Korean envoy's call for a land transport ban to North Korea shows the country's geopolitical dilemma, as it supports the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula but fears North Korea's downfall might bring a humanitarian crisis at its doorstep, analysts said. Wu Dawei, China's special representative on Korean Peninsula affairs and Head of Delegation to the Six-Party Talks, met his South Korean counterpart Kim Hong-kyun in Beijing on Thursday to discuss North Korea's recent nuclear tests. Yonhap News Agency quoted sources as saying "Kim urged China to take a tougher stance on North Korea, including a land transport ban to the reclusive state." Wu reportedly said China will not accept Pyongyang's development of nuclear weapons in discussions on new sanctions. Although China agreed to urge North Korea to change its attitude through new sanctions from the UN Security Council, it doesn't want sanctions to cause the North Korean government's downfall, said Yonhap. "China is in a dilemma. On one hand, North Korea keeps challenging the international community with nuclear tests, which China has to respond to. On the other hand, when the US and South Korea call for tougher sanctions, China is concerned with North Korean instability or humanitarian issues," Jin Qiangyi, director of the Asia Studies Center at Yanbian University, told the Global Times on Thursday. Jin said that deteriorating Sino-North Korean relations could close the door for dialogue between the two countries. "We cannot have a nuclear-powered North Korea as our enemy," Jin noted. Business suffers The Global Times reporter found Thursday that trade on the Sino-North Korean Friendship Bridge was brisk, with trucks from both sides passing the bridge all day. "There is no notable change in the number of tourists visiting North Korea through our firm given the [current] situation," a tour guide, who declined to be identified, told the Global Times at the Dandong Railway Station on Wednesday. A taxi driver, whose uncle owns two heavy-haul trucks that shuttle between the two countries, told the Global Times that business is "not as good as before, partly due to the sanctions and the souring ties between the two nations." Trade between China and North Korea remains generally stable, compared with the same period last year. Trade volume for April, May, June and July reached 2.84 billion yuan ($430 million), 2.72 billion yuan, 3.28 billion yuan and 2.8 billion yuan, respectively, customs data showed, compared to 2.95 billion yuan, 2.81 billion yuan, 2.81 billion yuan, and 3.09 billion yuan, respectively, for the same period in 2015. However, military items or items for both civilian and military use were not included in the customs data, so the data hardly changed even as the Chinese customs office in Dandong strictly implemented UN Resolution 2270, which bans the arms trade, and equipment and technology involving nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, as well as aviation and rocket fuel. Dandong customs authorities have busted several cases during the past six months, including sulfur trioxide hidden inside fertilizer bags or alloy hidden in steel plates. Financial sanctions also effectively reduced trading of commodities, and a ban on imports of North Korean coal, iron ore, and rare metals also greatly reduced North Korean foreign exchange revenue, Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. These could potentially reduce North Korean foreign exchange revenue by half, he noted. "However, some materials still enter North Korea from China, which means there might be some loopholes that need to be closed, Jin said. Crossing the red line Two US supersonic bombers flew over South Korea on Wednesday, with one of them landing at an air base 40 kilometers south of the capital, the second such flight since North Korea's September 9 nuclear test, Reuters reported Wednesday. Yonhap said it "made the closest-ever flight to North Korea as a warning against further provocations." "North Korea is probably getting close to crossing the red line for the US to adopt military measures," Jin noted. "The US is the key variable in a potential military conflict, as a military option is 'unacceptable' to South Korea and China." South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Thursday expressed concerns over possible provocations from North Korea, amid signs that Pyongyang may have completed preparations for another nuclear test and a ballistic missile launch, the Xinhua News Agency reported. ^ top ^

China, US to step up cooperation to halt North Korea's nuclear weapons programme (SCMP)
2016-09-21
Premier Li Keqiang has told US President ­Barack Obama that Beijing supports closer cooperation in the UN Security Council and in enforcement efforts to halt North Korea's nuclear programme. This could be a signal Beijing will support tougher sanctions on North Korea after its fifth nuclear test, with China increasingly irked by Pyongyang's behaviour and its consequences – a decision by Seoul to deploy a US anti-missile system. North Korea announced its biggest nuclear test earlier this month, and claimed that it had mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile. On Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un supervised a ground test of a new rocket engine for launching satellites, the North's official KCNA news agency reported. During the meeting between Li and Obama on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly session in New York on Tuesday, “both leaders condemned North Korea's September 9 nuclear test and resolved to strengthen coordination in achieving the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”, a White House statement said. Li also reiterated during his talk with Obama his government's opposition to the deployment of a US-developed missile shield in South Korea, and called on all parties to refrain from any activities that might escalate tensions in the region. “China is committed to the denuclearisation of the peninsula, to maintaining peace and stability there and to settling the issue through dialogue,” Xinhua quoted Li as telling Obama. Sun Xingjie, a Korean affairs analyst from Jilin University, said that Beijing was hoping to restore international collaboration among the different parties, especially with Washington and Seoul after the Park Geun-hye administration agreed to deploy the US Terminal High-Altitude Area ­Defence (THAAD) system to counter the North's missile threat. “The reality is that North Korea is gaining deterrence force against China and the US, and this could be the major reason for the US and China to seek closer cooperation,” Sun said. To reach an agreement, Sun said Beijing and Washington could each take a step back, especially over the deployment of THAAD, which Beijing fears could expose its military operations via its radar system. However, China-based military observer Zhou Chenming said concessions on THAAD were unlikely. “The US will not give any concession in terms of the THAAD ­deployment, because it is one of the most important parts for Washington in strengthening its air defences in the western Pacific region,” he said. The meeting between Obama and Li came after talks between top diplomats from the US, Japan and South Korea in New York. Li is expected to give a speech in the US today to present China's stance on global governance and peace and development, before leaving for Canada and Cuba as part of a three-nation trip. Meanwhile, the Liaoning public security bureau announced last week that it had placed Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Company, on the border with North Korea, under investigation for “serious economic crimes in trade activities”. The company's boss, Ma Xiaohong, was one of the Liaoning lawmakers who were dismissed over vote-buying fraud at the provincial legislature. The statement did not give details of the suspected illegal activities. But a report jointly released by think tanks in South Korea and the US on Tuesday said the company conducted US$530 million in two-way trade with North Korea between January 2011 and September 2015. Dandong Hongxiang entered into a joint venture in 2009 with the Korea National Insurance Corporation. It was a government entity named by the European Commission as generating foreign-exchange revenue that could contribute to Pyongyang's nuclear or missile programmes, the report by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul and C4ADS in Washington said. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Mongolia confirms ratification of Paris Agreement (Montsame)
2016-09-22
In frames of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj took part on September 21 in the event under auspices of the UN Secretary General for the first anniversary of the adoption of Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and presented certificates and credentials. During the side events of the UNGA, 31 countries including Mongolia made confirmation on their ratification of the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Total of 60 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement, and by the end of this year, all countries will join the Agreement, enabling it to take effect, said Mr Ban Ki-moon. The largest emitters of greenhouse gas – Brazil, Mexico and Argentina have also ratified the agreement. By ratification, the countries have agreed to the goal of limiting the global warming within less than 2 degrees per year. ^ top ^

Cabinet meeting in brief (Montsame)
2016-09-22
On September 21, the Cabinet considered the draft of Program on Overcoming Economic Difficulties and Stabilization, and recommended some changes. Ministers were assigned to prepare the draft for presentations to the National Security Council and to the next cabinet meeting. The ministers also discussed the draft of Government Budget for 2017, and decided to present the revised version on the next meeting. The cabinet approved the Program on the Structural Change at the Ministries of Finance, Justice and Domestic Affairs and of Education, Culture, Sciences and Sports. “Spirt Bal Buram” LLC's special permit for production of alcoholic beverages in Ulaanbaatar has been cancelled. The cabinet issued a permit for the company to run their production in Mandal soum of Selenge province. Moreover, the cabinet approved the concept of the bill on Civil Aviation, and assigned Ministers D.Ganbat and S.Byambatsogt to prepare the draft law for submission to the next meeting. ^ top ^

Mongolian President cites 'essential' nature of sustainable development, UN goal to 'leave no one behind' (Montsame)
2016-09-21
Achieving sustainable development is essential “because no one in the world should be left behind and deprived of the right to development,” the President of Mongolia told the United Nations General Assembly today, urging the international community to work together towards a world where everyone could have a dignified life, free from poverty, violence and depression. “I firmly believe that justice, stability and security cannot be guaranteed without the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms for all. These basic principles must be respected and protected in every country by all governments,” Tsakhia Elbegdorj told delegations attending the Assembly's annual general debate. With the new UN 2030 Agenda, Mongolia would work to ensure that no one is left behind “by reaching out to the most vulnerable first,” he continued, noting that the Agenda's policies have been translated into the national strategy as the 'Sustainable Development Vision of Mongolia 2030,' which is already being implemented. “Our agenda calls for the establishment of a diverse and inclusive economic structure. That is for increasing decent jobs and providing opportunities and income generation. Our goal is for improving quality of life and ensuring environmental sustainability,” said the President, adding that it is equally essential to ensure cooperation between and among governments, international development communities, the private sector, and civil society institutions. Addressing a wide range of issues, he noted, among others, that “development and accountability is all about democracy,” which should never be taken for granted. “It must be nurtured and strengthened on a daily basis […] a democratic society is sustainable because it aims at the highest development of every one of its members,” Mr. Elbegdorj said, emphasizing leaders should provide for an environment where democratic institutions can thrive, provide for rule of law, human rights, democratic governance, and free and fair elections. On climate change, he called the Paris Agreement “our common success […] the result of hard work. And we must deliver on this promise.” Mongolia is one of smallest carbon emitters in the world but suffers disproportionally from the phenomenon “Desertification, deforestation, and the loss of biodiversity have been severe blows to the livelihoods of our traditional nomadic culture, and they spur further environmental degradation,” he explained. Stressing that Mongolia is holding its end of the bargain, he said the promised international cooperation and support are still lacking. The benefits of the green funds and carbon credits are “sorely missed” in Mongolia and many other developing countries. As such, he urged the multilateral institutions to take the lead in such important efforts. “We have one home, one world for all of us, and we have one universal goal to save it. And, today is our time to act. We must not miss it as we cannot miss our future,” he stated, reported UN News Centre on Tuesday. ^ top ^

French senate members welcomed at Government Palace (Montsame)
2016-09-20
Head of the Mongolia-France Friendship group in the parliament L.Bold MP and group member Ts.Davaasuren MP received September 19 members of French Senate François Pillet, head of France-Mongolia friendship group, and Philippe Mouiller. L.Bold MP highlighted that the French delegation is becoming the first guests for the new incumbent parliament, formed as a result of the 2016 elections, and this visit is of a great significance in friendly relations and multilateral cooperation, as well as in upgrading the bilateral ties between Mongolia and France. Mongolia-France friendship group in the State Great Khural has 21 members, said the MP and added “We will put efforts for stepping into a new era of Mongolia-France relations by promoting economic cooperation”. Mr Pillet noted “France-Mongolia friendship group takes up an important position in the Senate”. Mentioning that he and the accompanying delegation have attended the opening ceremony for the French School of Ulaanbaatar, he underlined that the delegation finds this as an indication of enduring friendship between Mongolia and France being passed down to the future generations. Mr Pillet invited the head of Mongolia-France group L.Bold MP to pay a visit to the House of Senate in the near future, along with the other members of the group. The dignitaries also touched upon matters regarding bilateral cooperation in the fields of mining, education, culture and information technology, as well as the major joint projects. Present at the meeting were, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of France to Mongolia, Ms Elizabeth Barsak. ^ top ^

Second Nat'l Action Plan for Open Governance Partnership presented (Montsame)
2016-09-19
The National Action Plan for Open Government Partnership Mongolia for 2016-2018 was presented to the public on September 19. Mongolia strives for becoming one of the leading middle-income countries, which has sustainable economic growth, dominating upper middle class, sustained ecological balance and strong democracy by 2030, highlighted representatives of the organizations backing the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Initiative. At the presentation event, Chief of the Cabinet Secretariat J.Monkhbat noted Mongolia's accomplishment in fulfilling its commitmentstaken under the first action plan duties through implementation of Glass Account Law (economic transparency law) and transparent reporting of information on actions harmful to the environment and human health, has been aknlowdged with the “star” award. The Action Plan II identifies its main goal as mending the country's economy in a short period of time, promoting social sectors through attaining growth, and improving the citizens' livelihoods, as well as the enhancement of public services, its promptness, trustworthiness and transparency, he underlined. At the 2011 session of the UN General Assembly, the OGP was established and joined by 70 countries, thousands of civil societies and supporting international organizations, on voluntary grounds. The affilliating governments and organizations have been undertaking more than 3,000 obligations to reach open, inclusive and responsible governance through their national plans of actions. Mongolia joined the OGP in 2013. ^ top ^

Presidents of Mongolia and Cuba hold official talks (Montsame)
2016-09-16
President Ts.Elbegdorj, being on an official visit to the Republic of Cuba, and President of the Council of State and the Council of Minister of Cuba Raul Castro had official talks on September 15. At the beginning of the talks, Mr Castro expressed gratitude to the Mongolian leader for the arrival and reminisced his visit of 1970 to Mongolia, saying it is a precious memory to recall. He shared his satisfaction with the supportive and friendly relations between our two countries, regardless of being on different sides of the globe, and highlighted it is important to maintain such friendship. President Ts.Elbegdorj extended gratitude to Mr Raul Castro and the hospitable people of Cuba for the warm welcome and noted Cuba is the very first Latin American country to establish diplomatic ties with Mongolia, and the friendship of the nations have been growing ever since. He also underlined the role and importance of the academic exchange in the bilateral relations, and the both sides agreed to increase size of the scholarship for Mongolian students from the Government of Cuba. Since 1994, 2-3 Mongolian students have received each year Cuban government scholarships to study in Cuba, majoring in dentistry and medical sciences. More than 140 Mongolians have benefitted from the scholarships as of 2016. The sides discussed about boosting cooperation in agriculture, biological and organic products, pharmaceutical and medical industries, and agreed to export to Mongolia the vaccinations of Hepatitis B and C and chronic foot infection caused by diabetes. The dignitaries touched upon a wide range of issues during the talks, which lasted for five hours. ^ top ^

Council meets on commencing earthquake prevention actions (Montsame)
2016-09-16
Third meeting of the Permanent Council for Prevention of Earthquake Disaster, headed by the Deputy Prime Minister, was held September 16 at the State House. In conjunction with forming the new cabinet, the composition of this council has been renewed as well. Some 80% of the territory of Mongolia's sedentary centers are located in seismically active zones, where 80% of the total population live. In the first eight months of August, 29 thousand quakes have been recorded in overall, of which over 1,000 occurred around Ulaanbaatar. The number of earthquakes increased by 30% against last year, said Deputy PM U.Khurelsukh and added that certain measures should be taken to heighten the emergency readiness. The council decided to forward purchasing of necessary technology, equipment and instruments, proposing the parliament to exempt these goods from duty and value added tax, and resolved to conduct triple check on old buildings and hospitals. ^ top ^

 

Ms. Annina Burri
Embassy of Switzerland
 

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
 
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