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
  25-31.10.14, No. 547  
    Archiv / Archives
Table of contents

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Foreign Policy

China, 20 other nations sign MOU for new Asian multilateral bank (Global Times)
2014-10-25
China and other 20 countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) Friday on establishing a new multilateral bank for infrastructure projects in Asia, a move analysts said will improve economic cooperation in this region and strengthen developing countries' say in international financial institutions. The memorandum specifies that the authorized capital of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will be $100 billion, with the initial capital being expected to be around $50 billion. The paid-in capital ratio will be 20 percent. As agreed, Beijing will be the host city for the AIIB's headquarters, the Xinhua News Agency reported. It is expected that the prospective founding members will complete the signing and ratification of the articles of agreement in 2015 and the AIIB will be formally established by the end of 2015. "[The establishment of the AIIB] will help to improve global financial governance, which is very meaningful," said Chinese President Xi Jinping, adding that he hopes all sides concerned will make concerted efforts to make the AIIB a financing platform for infrastructure construction and multilateral development bank that meets the demand of all countries in the region. Foreign media like AFP commented that the launch of AIIB is a "counterweight" to Western-backed international development banks such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB). AIIB is an open institution, which will not take the place of any current multilateral banks, but act as a supplement, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press conference Friday. AIIB will be "complementary" to other global development banks, and will play an important role in infrastructure development and cooperation in this region, analysts said. "AIIB will push other global financial institutions to improve their function and efficiency," Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce, told the Global Times. Bai noted that other international development banks like ADB, which is dominated by developed countries such as the US and Japan, play an important role in economic development in Asia, but developing countries have a weak say in decision making. Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said on Friday that AIIB plans to offer loans to developing nations, and China is scheduled to hold a stake of up to 50 percent in the bank in accordance with the country's previous statement. But the percentage of the stake held by China will decline further with the growth of membership countries, Lou noted. Australia, Indonesia and South Korea skipped the launch of the AIIB as the US said it had concerns about the new rival to Western-dominated multilateral lenders, Reuters reported Friday. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Friday that "Australia has been under pressure from the US for some time to not become a founding member of the bank," the Australian Financial Review reported. Xu Hongcai, director of the Department of Information under the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said that the three countries "were in a deep dilemma" due to the pressure from the US, which aimed to impose its own will on cooperation among other countries and regions. Joining in the AIIB "will be helpful for economic development for those Asian countries, [who still have not signed the MOU]," Xu told the Global Times. ^ top ^

Top Chinese envoy heading back to Vietnam ahead of South China Sea talks (SCMP)
2014-10-25
China's top diplomat will visit Vietnam next week as part of efforts to ease tension over maritime disputes in the South China Sea ahead of talks on a code of conduct for the waters. State Councillor Yang Jiechi is due to arrive in Vietnam on Monday for talks with Hanoi's top envoy, Pham Binh Minh. The two would discuss "Sino-Vietnam bilateral cooperation", foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press conference in Beijing. Ties had hit "temporary difficulties" because of maritime disputes this year, Hua said. "But China is willing to work together with the Vietnamese side … to push forward … [a] strategic partnership of cooperation." Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin is scheduled to attend two days of talks in Bangkok, where he will discuss a code of conduct for the South China Sea with his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Zhang Jie, an Asian studies specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Yang and Pham would also discuss trade and financial cooperation. "It would be positive for China in the [Bangkok] talks … if the meeting between Yang and Pham can yield some results," she said. Yang's visit could pave the way for a possible meeting between the leaders of China and Vietnam on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting next month in Beijing, said Zhang Mingliang, a Southeast Asian affairs specialist at Guangzhou-based Jinan University. It will be Yang's second visit to Vietnam since June, when he accused Vietnam of "hyping up" the disagreement over China's deployment the previous month of an oil rig in parts of the South China Sea claimed by both countries. Chinese-owned businesses were targeted in ensuing riots in Vietnam and at least four Chinese were killed in the violence. Tensions began to ease when the oil rig was removed one month ahead of schedule in July, followed by several exchanges between senior officials. Premier Li Keqiang and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung agreed to control maritime disputes on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit in Italy last week. But observers said ties remained tricky. On Thursday, Vietnamese foreign ministry deputy spokeswoman Pham Thu Hang said China's move to build a military airstrip in the Spratly Islands was "illegal and void without Vietnam's permission". Zhang Jie said the unrest and territorial disputes made building trust difficult. "The two countries are likely to continue to confront each other over their territorial dispute while at the same time continuing diplomatic negotiations," Zhang said. ^ top ^

China pledges an extra HK$630 million to Africa in battle against Ebola (SCMP)
2014-10-25
China has pledged 500 million yuan (HK$630 million) to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to battle the Ebola epidemic - its largest round of aid yet to help contain the spread of the deadly virus. This is the fourth round of Chinese aid in the fight against Ebola, which has killed more than 4,800 people since its worst epidemic on record began earlier this year. The nation has sent hundreds of aid workers to Africa and previously contributed about US$40 million to fight the disease, including US$6 million that went to the World Food Programme. The donation came as a New York doctor was diagnosed with the disease after returning from treating patients in West Africa, becoming the first case in the city and the fourth in the United States. Meanwhile, Mali announced its first case of the disease - a two-year-old girl who had recently been to Guinea. […] Some experts have said it is "only a matter of time" before Ebola enters Asia - and China. In Guangzhou, the Eighth People's Hospital in Baiyun district ran a full drill on Thursday to prepare for any cases. Twenty-seven hospitals in Guangdong are designated as treatment centres and three institutions are responsible for testing samples. More than 5,400 visitors arriving in the provincial capital from Ebola-hit zones have been cleared by authorities. ^ top ^

China launches direct currency trading with Singapore (Xinhua)
2014-10-27
China officially announced direct currency trading with Singapore in China Foreign Exchange Trade System on Monday, marking another important push forward for China and Singapore's economic ties. The announcement was made by Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli during a series of meetings between senior officials from both countries, co-chaired by Zhang and Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in Suzhou city, Jiangsu Province in eastern China. The meetings include the 11th meeting of China-Singapore Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, the 16th China-Singapore Joint Steering Council Meeting for the Suzhou Industrial Park, and the seventh China-Singapore Joint Steering Council Meeting for the Tianjin Eco-city. The move is crucial for the formation of a direct exchange rate between the RMB and Singapore dollar. It will help reduce exchange costs for economic players and promote the use of each other' s currency in bilateral trade and investment, the People' s Bank of China said on its website Monday afternoon. The direct trading program is not only expected to strengthen the financial cooperation between China and Singapore, but also to help the internationalization of RMB in southeast Asia and the world. As the second largest economy, China has seen the RMB, or yuan, take on a bigger role in the international market. In late September, China allowed direct trading of the yuan against the Euro. Similar trading arrangements have also been made with the U.S. dollar, the Japanese yen, the Australian dollar, the British pound and New Zealand dollar. Apart from financial cooperation, China and Singapore also agreed to strengthen partnership in sustainable development, culture and economic transformation. Both sides signed cooperation documents ranging from intellectual property rights and exchange programs between middle-to-senior officials in education and environmental protection. Acknowledging the outstanding achievements of bilateral flagship cooperation projects, namely the Suzhou Industrial Park and the Tianjin Eco-City, Chinese and Singaporean officials discussed future development of the industrial park and agreed to make the eco-city project a pilot program for China' s green development. The Suzhou Industrial Park and the Tianjin Eco-City are exemplary models in cooperation between China and Singapore. Singapore is willing to work with China to advance the two projects, Teo said. As China and Singapore will celebrate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties in 2015, China is willing to enhance strategic trust and cooperation with Singapore to give bilateral ties a bigger boost, Zhang said. ^ top ^

China, Czech ink cooperation deals as president visits (Xinhua)
2014-10-27
China and the Czech Republic on Monday inked several deals on civil nuclear energy, finance, and medical treatment and public health, during Czech President Milos Zeman's China visit. Bilateral cooperation is facing broad prospect. The two countries should cherish the current situation and ensure a continuous sound and stable development of ties, said Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xi, in his talks with Zeman at the Great Hall of the People, hailed the development of bilateral ties since their establishment 65 years ago. He said the two countries should understand and respect each other's core interests and major concerns, strengthen high-level engagement and exchange of all levels, and enhance mutual trust. The Czech Republic boasts unique strengths in aircraft manufacturing, green energy and environmental protection, while China has advantages in nuclear power, industrial parks and trade parks. The two countries should increase two-way trade and investment and expand reciprocal cooperation, Xi said. He called on the two sides to strengthen cultural and personnel exchanges to deepen understanding and friendship. He also hoped the Czech Republic would play a bigger role in the development of China-Europe relations and cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries. Zeman said his country will maintain and push forward its relations with China on the basis of mutual respect and non-interference. The Czech Republic firmly supports China's stance on Taiwan, Tibet and other issues, he said. Zeman invited Xi to visit the Czech Republic as soon as possible. He pledged to give strong support to entrepreneurial cooperation, and called for more exchanges between young people and students. He said the Czech Republic will actively promote the Europe-China cooperation. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also met with Zeman on Monday afternoon. Zeman is paying a state visit to China from Oct. 24 to 27, the first by Czech head of state for nearly a decade. ^ top ^

China pledges assistance to Afghanistan (Xinhua)
2014-10-28
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday held talks with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, reaffirming China's support for peaceful reconstruction in the country and pledging further assistance. "China will enhance its support for Afghanistan's peaceful reconstruction, help Afghanistan frame a plan on national economic and social development, train professionals and develop agriculture,hydroelectricity and infrastructure construction," Xi told Ghani. China would like to bolster tangible progress on major projects like the Aynak copper mine and the Amu Darya basin oil project to help Afghanistan develop its economy and improve the lives of the Afghan people, he said. The Aynak copper mine, 35 km south of Kabul, is one of the largest copper deposits in the world with estimated 11 million tonnes of the metal. The Amu Darya basin oil project in northern Afghanistan, may contain more than 80 million barrels of crude oil. According to the joint statement on strategic and cooperative partnership issued after the talks, China will provide 500 million yuan (81.8 million U.S. dollars) in grant assistance to the Afghan government for 2014 and a further 1.5 billion yuan in the next three years (2015-2017). China will train 3,000 Afghan professionals in various fields over the next five years, the statement said. Ghani, who is paying his first foreign visit after taking office last month, said Afghanistan views China as a reliable strategic partner and admires China's stability and development. Afghanistan believes that China can help it speed up its development and is ready for a long-term strategic cooperative partnership with China on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, Ghani said. Ghani was sworn in as the new president of Afghanistan on Sept. 29, replacing Hamid Karzai in the first-ever peaceful transition of power in the history of the country. He is paying the state visit from Tuesday to Friday at the invitation of Xi. During his stay in Beijing, Ghani will attend the fourth ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia/Istanbul Process, on Friday. The Heart of Asia Process, launched in November 2011, aims to raise regional cooperation for security and development in Afghanistan and its near and extended neighbors. Ghani and Premier Li Keqiang are expected to address Friday's meeting. China backs Afghanistan's push for national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as the "Afghan led, Afghan owned" peace and reconciliation process, said the Chinese president. Xi said that peace and stability in Afghanistan are in the fundamental interests of the Afghan people, and represent the shared aspirations of the international community. Xi proposed the two sides promote exchanges and cooperation between the governments, legislative bodies and political parties and step up communication on important issues. Ghani expressed Afghanistan's willingness to cooperate with China in areas like oil, mining and infrastructure, adding that Afghanistan welcomes Chinese investment and will try to ensure the safety of Chinese institutions and personnel. […] As next year marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Afghanistan, the two sides agreed to hold a series of commemorative activities, enhancing understanding and friendship between the two peoples. ^ top ^

VP: Tokyo should offer sincerity, action (China Daily)
2014-10-29
Vice-President Li Yuanchao called for Tokyo to offer "sincerity and action" to improve relations with Beijing, while emphasizing China's commitment to improving Sino-Japanese relations. Li made the remarks in Beijing on Tuesday during a meeting with a delegation of visiting Japanese governors. Prominent figures from Japan have visited China recently in a bid to thaw the chill in relations, as the two neighbors have seen their ties sink to a new low in the past two years over territorial and historical issues. Tokyo has appealed for a meeting of top leaders during the upcoming APEC meeting in Beijing in November. But inflammatory remarks by senior Japanese Cabinet officials continue to cloud the cooperative and friendly agenda. Their comments have been widely interpreted as an attempt to whitewash Japan's wartime atrocities and diminish the country's previous official expressions of remorse. Leading the visiting delegation was Keiji Yamada, governor of Japan's Kyoto prefecture and president of Japan's National Governors Association. The group attended the second Sino-Japan Governor Forum, which was held in Beijing on Tuesday. The first forum was in Japan two and a half years ago. During Tuesday's meeting with the Japanese governors, Li said the development of a long-term and stable Sino-Japanese relationship "serves the fundamental interests of the people of the two countries". China is willing to push ties forward on the basis of the four key bilateral political documents and in the spirit of drawing lessons from history and facing up to the future, Li said. Yamada agreed that bilateral relations are important, and that local Japanese governments are willing to enhance friendly exchanges with China to increase mutual understanding and trust between the two peoples. Local Japanese authorities are ready to "deepen mutually beneficial cooperation to push for improvements in bilateral ties", Yamada said. Feng Wei, a professor of Japan studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said that a major turnaround and improvement of the Sino-Japanese relationship depends mostly on "mutual trust between the two peoples". ^ top ^

South China Sea calmer than it appears (Global Times)
2014-10-29
The eighth Senior Officials' Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea was held in Bangkok from Sunday to Monday, and was attended by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and senior officials from foreign ministries of ASEAN countries. It followed the 12th Joint Working Group Meeting on the DOC. Over the past year, some overseas media have hyped tensions in the South China Sea, making it seem as if the situation there is on the verge of breaking out into conflict. The truth is that China, ASEAN and other relevant parties have never stopped their talks and consultations about the South China Sea and have already seen positive results. In this process China has adopted a more flexible attitude toward finding solutions. China has put forward a "dual-track" approach to resolving the issue. The countries directly concerned will seek a solution by consultations and negotiation. Meanwhile, China and ASEAN countries need to work together to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea. The overall situation in the South China Sea is not as serious as it looks. There are indeed some frictions between China and Vietnam as well as the Philippines, but the means at their disposal for handling these tensions suggest that no one intends to engage in a military battle. More importantly, the situation in the South China Sea is stable and peaceful. Statistics from the US Council on Foreign Relations show that cargo worth as much as $5.3 trillion is shipped across the world via the South China Sea each year. Some use this data to underline the harm conflicts could do in the region. In fact, this huge transport volume indicates that the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has suffered no harm whatsoever. […] Viewed in its proper context, resolving the South China Sea issue can be achieved through negotiations by countries involved and should be included in the regional framework of mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation. China's advocacy of a "dual-track" approach considers advancing both. Properly resolving the South China Sea issue is necessary for further development of regional cooperation and also an important step in reshaping Asia's security order. Such a step will lay a sound foundation for Asia's future development. The maritime transport in the South China Sea involves US interests, but Washington can only provide suggestions instead of making rules. It's up to the concerted efforts of countries in the region to establish rules. As per the US "pivot to Asia" strategy, US troops deployed in the region will make up at least half of its total overseas deployment in the future. This may help protect the interests of the US and its allies, but it delivers a negative message to China because the US order that seeks balance through military alliance and targets at equable power can't adapt to Asia's development. On the contrary it may cause splits and confrontation in Asia. Building a new security order in Asia doesn't mean that the US will be excluded from the region or that China will work out a new order to confront a US one. It takes long-term efforts to build a new order. The ongoing efforts of China and ASEAN countries show that this order is certainly not a balancing system led by a hegemon. It's foreseeable that the two orders will fiercely contest in Asia's future development. ^ top ^

Hagel: China, US should get relationship right (China Daily)
2014-10-30
Just 10 days before US President Barack Obama arrives in China for the APEC summit and a visit, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel emphasized that the US-China relationship is something that needs to be made right. In a conversation at the Washington Ideas Forum 2014 on Wednesday, Hagel said the two countries don't agree on everything. "But we should be focused, they should be focused, there are in many ways where we can cooperate," he said. "They are a great power. They will continue to be a great power. We are a great power," he said. The defense chief reiterated that the US rebalance strategy to the Asia-Pacific region is not about trying to contain China or to cut China short. "We don't want that to happen," he said. Hagel, who visited China in April, noted that the US has strong obligations and treaty obligations in the region as well as economic interests there. "We can cooperate. We want to make sure that air and maritime channels are free and open. That's clearly in our interest, and in the interest of the world, not just economic interest of the world," he said. "Yes. We are going to have differences. We do have differences. But we have far more areas where we can agree. That's where we should be focused." Hagel met with visiting Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi in Washington on Oct 20 to discuss a wide range of issues in preparation for Obama's trip to China from Nov 10-12. Yang and Hagel discussed the importance of maintaining the positive momentum that has developed in the bilateral military-to-military relationship. They also reaffirmed their shared interest in strengthening cooperation on regional and global challenges and noted the potential for greater cooperation in several areas. […] When the US reinforces its commitment to its treaty allies in the Asia-Pacific region, in particular Japan and the Philippines, which have maritime territorial disputes with China, China sees it as a sign of emboldening these countries to take a more confrontational attitude in the disputes. Even in the Middle East, where China's economic interest has grown enormously during the past decade, the two countries see their shared interests but have different approaches to peace and stability in the region. […] Tang warned China to resist the temptation of filling the power vacuum left in the Middle East after the Obama administration decided to contract its Middle East strategy. China has not been in favor of the US regime change strategy in the Middle East in Libya three years ago and now its attempt in Syria. China maintains good relations with Iran, the US archrival. While the US maybe more popular than in China in some regions in the world, a Pew Center survey released in July revealed that China beats the US in popularity in the Middle East by 49 percent to 30 percent. ^ top ^

Yasuo Fukuda, ex-Japanese prime minister, meets Xi Jinping as Apec summit nears (SCMP)
2014-10-30
Former Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda met President Xi Jinping yesterday ahead of a high-level regional summit in Beijing where the top leaders of the two nations may hold talks. Fukuda, in the capital as chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia, shook hands with Xi at the outset of their meeting at the Great Hall of the People. Other forum members also took part in the discussions, Kyodo reported. Fukuda, who has now met the president twice in three months, told Xi that China played a "big role" in the international community through its expanding economy, according to a person at the talks. Xi told the delegation the nation's development was closely related to that of Asia as a whole, and China would continue its opening-up policy and strengthen rule by law. It would continue peaceful development and remain friendly with its neighbours, CCTV quoted him as saying. In July Fukuda conveyed a message to the president that Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should meet on the sidelines of the Apec summit next month in Beijing. Ties have been strained since Tokyo announced in 2012 it was nationalising the disputed Diaoyu, or Senkaku, islands in the East China Sea. In November last year, Beijing said it was establishing an air defence identification zone in the area, and demanded any aircraft give prior notice before entering. In December, Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine, which honours Japan's war dead, including war criminals, prompting Beijing to declare he was not welcome in China. Abe has since pushed for dialogue, but it is not yet certain he and Xi will meet. Foreign Minister Wang Yi, when asked about the possibility by reporters, said only that China would be "hospitable to all guests". But ties faced obstacles, he said. "I hope Japanese leaders and Japan will face these problems, and express sincerity in resolving them." ^ top ^

United States offers rare praise to China over growing role in Afghanistan (SCMP)
2014-10-30
Washington on Thursday welcomed China's growing role in trying to ensure Afghanistan's future stability, saying a Beijing conference of foreign ministers on Afghan reconstruction this week shows its commitment to the region as Western troops pull out. The comments, made by a senior State Department official, are rare US praise for Beijing, which this week hosts Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on his first visit abroad since assuming office in September. Washington and Beijing, which have typically contentious relations on geopolitical issues from Iran to the South China Sea, have both said they see Afghanistan as a point where their security interests converge. On Tuesday, China pledged to give Afghanistan US$327 million in aid through 2017, more than the US$250 million contribution it has so far offered since the fall of the hardline Islamist Taliban regime in 2001. “China's view of engaging in Afghanistan over the course of these past few years has really changed significantly, and in our view, in a very positive direction,” the official told reporters during a telephone briefing. On Friday, foreign ministers from Asian and Central Asian countries will gather in Beijing for a fourth round “Istanbul Process” conference on Afghanistan, which China hopes will help boost development and security there. White House counsellor John Podesta will attend the meeting. “It's a real demonstration of China's commitment to Afghanistan, to its role in the region and one that we greatly welcome,” the official said. Additional support on counterterrorism “would be very valuable”, the official said, noting that improving coordination on “terror-finance” issues at the United Nations would be an area of US-China discussion in the future. China, connected to Afghanistan by a narrow, almost impassable mountain corridor, has been preparing for more responsibility in Afghanistan after the bulk of US-led troops pull out this year. It says it does not seek to fill a void left by the US withdrawal but has promised to play a big commercial role in reconstruction. Chinese officials are concerned that instability in Afghanistan could lead to more unrest in China's western Xinjiang region, where the government says militant separatists influenced by extremists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border have carried out violent attacks. Experts, however, dispute the influence of foreign militant groups in China, and argue that economic marginalisation of Muslim Uygurs, who call Xinjiang home, is one of the main causes of violence there. ^ top ^

China urges India not complicate situation on border (Xinhua)
2014-10-30
China Thursday urged India not to take actions that will complicate the situation on the border, where the two countries have territorial disputes. Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun made the comment at a monthly briefing in response to a question on India's plan to build 54 border posts near the southern Tibet area. "We have taken notice of the reports. China and India have disputes over the eastern part of their border. We hope India will try to help maintain stability and peace in the border areas, instead of taking moves that may further complicate the situation," the spokesman said. According to a press release from Chinese Foreign Ministry on September 30, China and India have completed the withdrawal of troops from a standoff at the border. The two sides will continue to communicate on issues relating to peace in border areas through the China-India border consultation and coordination mechanism, the press release said. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China mulls scrapping death penalty for 9 crimes (Xinhua)
2014-10-27
Chinese lawmakers are considering removing the death penalty for nine crimes including smuggling weapons and nuclear materials. The draft amendment to the Criminal Law was submitted on Monday to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) for the first reading during the legislature's bi-monthly session which runs from Monday to Saturday. The nine crimes include smuggling weapons, ammunition, nuclear materials or counterfeit currencies; counterfeiting currencies; raising funds by means of fraud; arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution; obstructing a commander or a person on duty from performing his duties; fabricating rumors to mislead others during wartime, according to the draft amendment. ^ top ^

Law review accords with society's view on death penalty (Global Times)
2014-10-27
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress is reviewing a draft amendment to China's Criminal Law, one highlight of which is to scrap the death penalty for nine crimes, including raising funds by means of fraud and smuggling weapons and nuclear materials. The trend of reducing the use of the death penalty in China is clear. In the wake of the last amendment to the Criminal Law in 2011, 13 nonviolent economic crimes were trimmed from the list of offenses eligible for the death penalty. If the new amendment is passed and nine more crimes are exempt from capital punishment, the number of offenses punishable by death will be lowered to 46. China's executions of criminals have long been cited by overseas rights groups to denounce the country's human rights situation. The Chinese authorities' stance is firm - abolishing the death penalty is impractical given current social conditions, but the eligible crimes should be gradually cut to limit the usage of capital punishment. In recent years there has been great controversy over the death sentence in certain criminal cases in China. But the discussions among both academia and the public have become increasingly rational. At the moment, there is basic social consensus that China should not immediately abolish the death penalty, but should push toward this direction in a gradual way. Some scholars have proposed concrete steps that can contribute to this progress, including further boosting transparency of executions, setting a timeline for removing capital punishment and fostering a social culture that adapts to a criminal justice system without the death penalty. Among the public, an agreement has also taken shape that flexible opinions and consequent irrational appeals should not be considered as one of the parameters that decide the pace of China's death penalty reform. Clear and concrete procedural reforms have been carried out. Since the reforms introduced in 2007, notable protections have been introduced in death penalty cases, including mandatory appellate hearings, longer trials, and stricter review of death sentences. According to media reports, in June 2014, China's Supreme People's Court overturned a death sentence against Li Yan from Sichuan Province, who killed and dismembered her husband in 2010, after reviewing evidence of domestic violence. This was seen as a landmark decision among China watchers abroad, and the UN immediately expressed its welcome of such developments in China. Abolishing the death penalty is a long historical process, which has seen twists and turns across the world in the past two centuries. Today it has become an eye-catching issue in international politics. There are many challenges ahead before phasing out the death penalty. But it is vital that great progress is being made in both procedural design and judicial practice concerning capital punishment. ^ top ^

Xi calls for rule of law, deepening reforms (Xinhua)
2014-10-27
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday called for promotion of rule of law and comprehensively deepening reform. Xi made the remarks at the sixth meeting of the Leading Group for Overall Reform. He said reform needs rule of law as its guarantee, while rule of law needs reform. The fourth plenary session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), held in Beijing last week, adopted decisions on "major issues concerning comprehensively advancing rule of law." In November last year, the CPC Central Committee passed a decision on comprehensively deepened reform. Xi called the two companion pieces. At the meeting on Monday, the leading group discussed socialist consultative democracy, the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and a new type of think tank. The meeting also adopted a plan to open scientific infrastructure and large equipment to the public. Xi called consultative democracy a great creation of the CPC and Chinese people and an unique form of democracy. He urged consensus building through broad consultation. A well functioning system of consultative democracy under CPC leadership will ensure the people remain master of the nation and live in line with the law, he said. On the Shanghai FTZ, Xi said the lessons learned should be replicated "as soon as possible" and compared the zone to seeds cultivated from an experimental plot. "We should plant these seeds in more land so that flowers will blossom and fruits be harvested as quickly as possible," he said. […] Several FTZs are planned in suitable places other than Shanghai. […] Intellectual resources are a nation's most important and crucial resources. The more arduous the reform, the more intellectual support is needed, he said. Although think tanks in China have made important contributions to reform and modernization, they have not kept pace with the development of the society. China lacks think tanks with international influence and reputation, Xi said. […] The think tanks should be led by the CPC and demonstrate Chinese characteristics and style. Think tanks should abide by the scientific spirit while encouraging researchers to make bold explorations. […] The meeting was also attended by Li Keqiang and Liu Yunshan, members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, and deputy heads of the group. Xi said rational and logical legislation was important in the interplay between reform and rule of law. Major reforms requires a legal basis and legislation which actively adapts to the needs of reform and development. Reforms which proves effective should be written into legislation, while reform that needs to be piloted should be authorized through legal process. Xi also called for amendment or abolition of laws and regulations that could not adapt reform, and clear interpretation of law. Over 180 items of reform for rule of law put forward in the fourth plenary session should be put into the overall reform plan of the country, he said.. ^ top ^

China considers harsher law to crack down on terrorism (Xinhua)
2014-10-27
Chinese lawmakers are mulling revising the Criminal Law to crack down more heavily on terrorism. Several items are expected to be added to current terror-related stipulations. The draft amendment to the Criminal Law was submitted on Monday to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) for a first reading during the legislature's bi-monthly session, which runs from Monday to Saturday. Those promoting terrorism and extremism by producing and distributing related materials, releasing information, instructing in person or through audio, video or information networks will face more than five years in prison in serious cases. Those who instigate violent terror activities will also face the same punishment, according to the draft amendment. Those who instigate or force people to damage legal systems of marriage, justice, education and social management will be sentenced to more than seven years in prison in extremely serious cases, according to the draft. The new items also include holding goods, books as well as audio and video materials that promote terrorism and extremism, and refusing to provide evidence about terrorism and extremism. Those convicted of such crimes will face less than three years in jail. The draft amendment also increased stipulations on monetary punishment for those organizing, leading and participating in terrorist groups. ^ top ^

Ties between Party, rule of law the core issue: Xi (Xinhua)
2014-10-28
Chinese President Xi Jinping said the relations between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the rule of law is "the core issue for the building of a country with the rule of law." The fourth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee was held last week and adopted a decision to comprehensively promote the rule of law in China. Xi, also General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, made an interpretation of the decision published on Tuesday, saying that adhering to Party's leadership, socialism with Chinese characteristics and implementing theory of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics are the "keys to do well in comprehensively promoting rule of law." "Party's leadership is the most essential feature of the socialism with Chinese characteristics, and the most fundamental guarantee of socialist rule of law," Xi said, according to his interpretation. Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the fundamental foundation for the system of socialist rule of law, and the most systemic guarantee for comprehensively promoting the rule of law, Xi added. The decision notes that sticking to the Party's leadership is the fundamental requirement for socialist rule of law, and also essential to the Party and the state. It also relates to the interests and well-being of the whole people. The Party's leadership and the rule of law is consistent with each other, as socialist rule of law must adhere to the Party's leadership, while the Party's leadership must rely on socialist rule of law, the decision said. Combining the Party's leadership, people becoming master of the country and rule of law is a basic experience of China's socialist rule of law. The Constitution as the fundamental law of the state establishes the Party's leadership. "We need to speak out (of it) with self-confidence in a big way. (We need) to explain the essential features of our socialist rule of law so that to reform from the bottom and ensure a correct understanding of the facts," Xi said. ^ top ^

Overhaul of anti-graft legislation on the way (China Daily)
2014-10-29
China will upgrade anti-corruption legislation as it continues a campaign to build a clean government and practice austerity. Anti-graft laws will be introduced into national legislation to construct a better prevention and punishment system, said a key policy document from the Communist Party of China published on Tuesday. The legal definition of "bribes" will not be limited to the current "money and goods". Instead, all "property interests" will be regarded as bribes in graft cases. The decision on major issues concerning comprehensively advancing the rule of law was approved by the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee last week. Officials taking non-monetary presents are not subject to criminal charges under the current criminal law, while many graft officials defend themselves by claiming that the bribes they are accused of taking were gifts given by friends. The legislation is likely to deem that accepting non-monetary gifts of a considerable amount would be punishable for all government officials. Traditionally, people in China give friends gifts or red envelopes filled with cash on special occasions, such as weddings, holidays and birthdays. The amount of cash varies from a few hundred to thousands of yuan. However, the gifts and red envelopes, which bear good wishes and provide financial assistance, have been used as a means of bribery. Luxury items, including Birkin handbags, Vacheron watches and Hermes belts, have become popular gifts for officials. Current laws do not stipulate taking gifts and red envelopes by an official as a crime unless the behavior is proved to be related to the abuse of power. However, officials exploit this loophole by taking bribes under the guise of receiving "gifts" from friends. Criminal laws now applied to corruption cases were drawn up years ago and have not kept pace with the changing realities in officialdom and lack the necessary precision, experts said. Ma Junjun, a law professor at Guangdong Provincial Party School, said there is an urgent need to make progress in anti-graft legislation with a scientific approach to work out more effective laws that increase precision and practicality. Legal expert Jiang Ping said legislative efforts on administrative procedures are also a key area to be improved. "Government jobs must be clearly defined by laws to ensure efficiency and honesty in public service. Laws to supervise government roles also have room for improvement," he said. ^ top ^

Xu confesses to taking bribes (Global Times)
2014-10-29
Xu Caihou, former vice-chairman of China's Central Military Commission (CMC), has confessed to taking bribes, military prosecutors said on Tuesday. The investigation into Xu's case has concluded and the filing of the case has begun, said a statement from the military procuratorate. The ex-general was found to have taken advantage of his position to help others get promotions, accepted huge bribes personally and through his family, and to have sought profits for others in exchange for bribes. The amount of the bribes was "extremely large," the statement said. The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee expelled Xu from the Party and handed his case to prosecutors in June. Xu has been under investigation since March. Xu, 71, was CMC vice chairman from 2004-12 and was made a general in 1999. Xu was discharged from military service with his rank of general revoked. He is the highest-ranking military officer to be placed under investigation for corruption since the founding of the country in 1949. The CPC Central Committee statement in June described his case as being "serious and having a vile impact." In a Q&A posted on the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) portal on Tuesday, an unidentified officer with the military procuratorate said Xu has been placed under surveillance at his residence and had been informed of his litigation rights and obligations. The officer also said Xu was diagnosed and started treatment for bladder cancer in February 2013. In June, the military procuratorate helped facilitate medical treatment and care for him out of humanitarian concerns. "Based on the factual evidence, Xu Caihou's family members, who are suspected of taking bribes, will be dealt with in accordance with the law. We will resolutely investigate other people involved in the case and there will be zero tolerance," said the officer. According to traceable media reports, Xu made his last public appearance on January 20, when he attended a performance held by the CMC for retired senior military officers. A source within the military, who asked to remain anonymous, in late June told the Global Times that Xu's case may be related to the probe into Gu Junshan, former deputy head of the General Logistics Department of the PLA, who was charged with embezzlement, bribery, misuse of State funds and abuse of power in late March. It only took two years for Gu to be promoted to the rank of major general from a divisional-level officer. ^ top ^

Plenum didn't decide on Zhou graft case 'as he is no longer state leader' (SCMP)
2014-10-30
The Communist Party broke its silence yesterday on the case of former security tsar Zhou Yongkang, saying there was no decision on his fate at its annual elite gathering because he was no longer a state leader. But details of the investigation would be released, an official said. The party's anti-graft watchdog announced three months ago that it was investigating Zhou - making him the first serving or former member of the elite Politburo Standing Committee to be probed - but there has been no word since on progress in the case. State media, including the People's Daily news portal, had speculated the party would expel Zhou at its plenum last week. Jiang Wei, head of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Judicial Reform, the body overseeing wide-ranging changes to the legal system, said: "Zhou... no longer serves as a central leadership official. Therefore, there is no decision related to his case at the fourth plenum." Separately, Guo Yezhou, vice-minister of the party's international department, said details of the case would be released "in due course". Both Jiang and Guo said the investigation and handling of Zhou's case showed the party's determination to fight corruption. Jiang would not say why military prosecutors gave an update on the bribery case against Xu Caihou, a former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission. Military prosecutors announced on Tuesday they would try Xu on bribery charges after a seven-month investigation. A Xinhua report said Xu had been stripped of all military titles, and had confessed to taking "extremely large" amounts of bribes through family members to help others gain promotion. Commentators said the silence on Zhou suggested the party's top ranks had yet to reach a consensus on the issue. Plenums have been used in the past to announce how cases involving high-ranking cadres would be handled. Former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai was expelled from the party at the 2012 plenum. Zhou, reportedly a Bo ally, had a power base that extended from the petroleum industry to Sichuan officialdom, police and the legal affairs establishment. At least 37 companies, some as far afield as North America, are either owned by Zhou's family or have links to it, according to corporate documents seen by the South China Morning Post. The businesses are involved in oil production, property development, hydropower and tourism. Analysts said Zhou was not directly involved in business deals but his son Zhou Bin, 42, held the reins. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Drones and inspection teams used to monitor pollution ahead of Apec summit in Beijing (SCMP)
2014-10-29
The Ministry of Environmental Protection has sent out 11 drones to monitor air pollution in north China ahead of the Apec summit next month in Beijing, the China Youth Daily reported. The drones found 60 pollution sources in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area. Steel and coking factories in Tangshan, Handan and western Qinhuangdao in Hebei province were the worst pollution sources, the report said. The ministry said it had also sent 15 inspection teams to Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and Shandong to examine how well the anti-pollution measures such as improving waste treatment and suspending and cutting output at factories to ensure air quality during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum from November 7-12, with preliminary meetings beginning on November 5, were working. Inspectors found that the anti-pollution measures were made relatively late in Qinhuangdao and Xinzhou and Lüliang in Shanxi province; Shijiazhuang and Zhangjiakou in Hebei and Jinan in Shandong did not put forward explicit standards and requirements for factories to suspend or cut output during the meeting. The environmental protection ministry will continue with its large-scale inspections, the report said, with an emphasis on polluting factories, crop burning and dusty construction sites. Having been hit by choking pollution three times this month, the capital will be blanketed in smog again until Saturday, forecasters have warned. The National Meteorological Centre has predicted smog from yesterday to Friday in north China and the Huang River–Huai River area. The pollution is expected to be the worst tomorrow and on Friday for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. For the summit, Beijing will revive anti-pollution measures used for the 2008 Olympics, ordering a 40 per cent cut in the output of contaminants. Five surrounding provinces and municipalities were also told to reduce their emissions by 30 per cent from November 3 to 12 as part of Beijing's effort to ensure clear skies for the international gathering, state media reported last week. A total of 69 big polluters in the capital will have to shut down completely for the period of the summit while 72 others will have to cut output. Coal-burning boilers will also be turned off, the Beijing Times reported. Hebei province will idle 805 polluting factories and cut emissions at another 223 for 12 days starting from November 1. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Kashgar's principals vow to keep religious influence out of schools (Global Times)
2014-10-29
Thousands of school principals in Kashgar, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region vowed Monday to keep their schools free of religious influence as authorities face the growing challenge of combating terrorism. The principals of over 2,000 schools in Kashgar, including kindergartens, primary schools and high schools, signed a banner that read "defend schools against the infiltration of religion" on Monday, the Xinjiang Daily reported. An official from Kashgar's education bureau told the Global Times on the condition of anonymity that they have been explaining the State's policy to students. Party members, teachers or underage students should not practice a religion, no matter whether they are at school or at home. The official said they discovered that some students who wore no religious garb at school would practice religion at home, following their parents' guidance. The official went on to say that combating extremism is an important task for the local authorities this year and that his bureau has tried to tackle the issue by regulating the outfits of students and teachers, improving campus culture and teaching students about the country's religious policy. According to China's laws on education, educational and religious activities must be separated. A document issued by the Secretariat of the Central Committee of Communist Party of China stipulated that no one should be forced into practicing a religion, especially those under 18 years old. "As the head of an educational institution, a principal is responsible for protecting their students from religious infiltration, and especially from extremist thoughts. Signing their names on a banner and making such vows in front of the national flag are both ways for them to remember their duty," said Lu Huadong, an official working in Kashgar's education department. A court in Kashgar sentenced 12 people to death this month for organizing terror attacks. The terrorists attacked a police station and a government building in Elixku township on July 28. Some then moved on to the nearby Huangdi township, attacking civilians. A total of 37 civilians were killed. ^ top ^

Xinjiang publishes anti-terror brochures (Xinhua)
2014-10-29
China's far western Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, plagued by increasingly frequent terrorist attacks, has published a brochure advising the public on dealing with terrorism, local authorities announced Wednesday. The brochure was compiled by the regional public security department and published by the Xinjiang People's Publishing House. The brochure tells the public how to react to explosions and arson, as well as gun, ax and vehicle attacks using text and illustrations. "Those who have safety awareness and knowledge and know how to fight terrorists in the right way can not only save their lives but also lower the losses caused by terrorist activities," said Zhang Yubo, one of the brochure's authors. According to regional authorities, the number of terror-related gangs busted in Xinjiang increased from about 140 in 2010 to more than 200 last year. In the latest terrorist attack, 40 rioters, six civilians, two police officers and two auxiliary policemen were killed on Sept. 26 after a series of explosions hit a shop, an open fair and two police stations in Luntai County in northwest Xinjiang. ^ top ^

Uygur mayor of restive Xinjiang city probed in anti-corruption drive (SCMP)
2014-10-30
The ethnic Uygur mayor of a major city in China's unruly far-western region of Xinjiang is being investigated for corruption, state media said on Thursday, one of the few minority officials to be caught up in the government's war on graft. Adil Nurmemet, mayor of Hotan in the heavily Uygur southern part of Xinjiang, is being investigated for “suspected serious discipline violations”, the official Xinhua news agency said, using the usual euphemism for graft. The 46-year-old official took up his current position in early 2009, the brief report said, without providing further details. Hundreds of people have been killed in the region in the past two years, most in violence between the Muslim Uygur people who call Xinjiang home and ethnic majority Han Chinese. The government has also blamed attacks in other parts of China, including Beijing, on Islamist militants from Xinjiang. Security forces shot dead nine militants in a rural area close to Hotan in August, and the region has seen numerous other bouts of violence. President Xi Jinping has vowed to combat deep-seated corruption since assuming office two years ago, though parts of the country with large minority populations like Xinjiang and Tibet have largely escaped the campaign so far. The ruling and officially-atheist Communist Party has striven to appoint and promote more minority officials, but in Xinjiang especially, the Han Chinese-dominated party faces deep suspicion. Some recent attacks have targeted Uygurs aligned with the government, including the killing of a state-backed Uygur imam in July. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Occupy Central far from being "impromptu demonstrations," plots hatched 2 years ago: BBC (Xinhua)
2014-10-26
Far from being "impromptu demonstrations," the ongoing Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong was plotted nearly two years ago with the involvement of overseas forces, the BBC has reported in an article published on its website. It is an "open secret" at the Oslo Freedom Forum, which is referred to as "one of the biggest meetings of human rights activists in the world," that plans were hatched for the demonstrations nearly two years ago, wrote Laura Kuenssberg, chief correspondent of BBC Newsnight, in the article. "Democracy activists" from around the world have helped "organize their struggle, gather together," said the article. As early as in January 2013, "organizers" prepared a plan to persuade 10,000 people to occupy roads in central Hong Kong, it said. "Their strategies were not just to plan the timing and nature of the demonstrations, but also how they would be run," said the report. Many of those involved in the demonstrations, perhaps more than 1,000 of them, have been given specific training to help make the campaign as effective as possible. "Protesters were taught how to behave during a protest," Jamila Raqib, the executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution based near Boston, was quoted by the article as saying. "How to keep ranks, how to speak to police, how to manage their own movement, how to use marshals in their movement, people who are specially trained," Raqib said. Whether in Georgia, Ukraine, Egypt or Hong Kong "you can look at these movements - and see the set of rules," Serdja Popovic was quoted as saying. Popovic was one of the student leaders involved in overthrowing Slobodan Milosevic. ^ top ^

Occupy Central U-turn as leaders pull plug on poll at 11th hour (SCMP)
2014-10-27
Occupy Central protesters and observers yesterday backed an 11th-hour decision to scrap a poll on the way forward for the month-old sit-in, saying the move made it easier to enter into more talks with the government. Protest leaders announced the U-turn hours before the electronic ballot was to start at 7pm and apologised for not having sufficiently discussed with demonstrators the poll's methodology and objectives. But shelving it did not mean they had shifted their stance or intended to end the occupation, Federation of Students secretary general Alex Chow Yong-kang said. Some protesters had said the poll was redundant. A huge banner that called for delaying the poll was hung from an Admiralty footbridge yesterday morning. Occupy co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting said: "The public may feel there are problems with the movement's organisation and leadership, and we admit that … I promise that in the future, we will give sufficient notice to and discuss with protesters before making a major formal decision." Protester Shirley Cheung, 40, agreed it was right to delay the poll. "The government has met [Occupy] organisers," she said in Admiralty. "We need to wait for the government's reply. The organisers should spend more time talking to the protesters on what the next step should be." Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who led a government team to talk to federation leaders last Tuesday, would only reiterate the government's sincerity in holding further talks. "I don't know what this action implies," Lam said. "I can only say the government started the dialogue with the federation with the greatest sincerity … and made a very proactive response." At the meeting, Lam had offered to consider submitting a public-opinion report on Beijing's political reform framework to the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. She had also suggested creating a discussion platform for post-2017 political development. The federation said the offers lacked substance. Two motions were to be put to the vote, which was to be held over two nights. The first called on Beijing to withdraw its August ruling. The second called for the scrapping of functional constituency seats in the 2016 legislative poll and for public nomination in the 2017 chief executive election. City University political scientist Dr James Sung Lap-kung believed the poll U-turn could ease tensions. But it "gives people the impression that the Occupy protests lack leadership and organisation and that the leaders have no idea how the movement should proceed", he said. Meanwhile, anti-Occupy group, the Alliance for Peace and Democracy, urged civil servants to take part in its petition, launched on Saturday, that is against the occupation protests and backs the police. About 650,000 had signed by last night. A government spokesman said all political appointees, except Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, would sign the petition online to show support. Yuen would not take part, so as to stay neutral. ^ top ^

Police ready to arrest Occupy protesters defying High Court orders: government (SCMP)
2014-10-27
Police are ready to help bailiffs by arresting protesters who flout injunctions ordering them to clear the streets, the High Court heard yesterday. The comments came from a barrister for the government as the court considered whether to keep in force interim orders against protesters blocking streets in Mong Kok and Admiralty, granted on October 20 to groups representing taxi drivers, minibus owners and the owner of a skyscraper. While "it is not the intention of the secretary for justice to enter into the arena", police would help uphold the injunctions as directed by the court, said barrister Jin Pao, for the government. Pao said the protests involved crimes including unlawful assembly, and many participants knew they had caused serious traffic congestion. Lawyers for Chiu Luen Public Light Bus Company, the Taxi Association and Taxi Drivers and Operators Association, and Goldon Investment, the owner of Citic Tower in Admiralty, had argued on Friday that the injunctions should be upheld. Counsel for the taxi drivers said the drivers had suffered financially because of the blockade on Nathan Road. Lawyers for the tower owners claimed the Admiralty blockade had affected the building's emergency exits, endangering tenants. A number of protesters yesterday argued that the orders should be revoked. Philip Dykes SC, for Mong Kok protester Ng Ting-pong, said the plaintiffs needed to establish that they had suffered "special" or "exceptional damage", over and above that suffered by the public at large. Charles Manzoni SC, for student Wong Yuen-ching in the Citic Tower case, said the scope of the order was too wide because it included people who might be engaged in lawful activities - including simply having a chat.Mr Justice Au Hing-cheung reserved his judgment, but ordered that the injunction remain in place in the interim. He said agents who cleared the barricades would need written authorisation from the plaintiffs, carrying their chops. Speaking outside court, Ng said that should bailiffs clear any barrier in Mong Kok, protesters would build another one. "We citizens will fully support the Federation of Students," he said. The Law Society said in a statement that it was disturbed by the open defiance of court orders by some parts of the community. Failure to comply with such orders seriously threatened the judicial system and the city's core values, it added. Protest co-organiser the Federation of Students has said it respected the court's decision but would not ask protesters to leave. Notices of the orders have been posted at the protest sites. ^ top ^

Resolute Occupy protesters raise umbrellas to commemorate firing of tear gas (SCMP)
2014-10-28
A sea of umbrellas covered all three Occupy Central protest sites yesterday as thousands observed an 87-second silence to mark one month since police fired 87 rounds of tear gas to disperse crowds at the start of the pro-democracy rallies. Protest leaders hope the ceremonies will inject fresh momentum into their civil disobedience campaign and reverse its loss of direction and leadership. Protesters on the ground are also contemplating what to do, with most determined to stay put. Yesterday, silence descended on the sites in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok at 5.57pm - the time when riot police fired the first canisters of tear gas in Admiralty on September 28 after extensive use of pepper spray failed to bring protesters under control.At the time, protesters used umbrellas to shield themselves, turning the humble item into the symbol of Occupy Central and prompting overseas media to dub it the "umbrella movement". At the spot near government headquarters where the first canisters were fired, thousands of protesters and their supporters held up umbrellas for 87 seconds. Then they broke their silence by chanting: "Democracy fears no tear gas. Hong Kong will not be the same again." The atmosphere was more festive at the other two sites. About 80 protesters sang and danced around the occupied section of Yee Wo Street, Causeway Bay, while onlookers in Nathan Road, Mong Kok, were treated to an umbrella dance choreographed by Mui Cheuk-yin. But differences in opinion continued to divide protest leaders and demonstrators. On Sunday, an electronic ballot on the way forward was abruptly cancelled after the protest leaders could not agree on the issues to be voted on.Some protesters hinted at a shifting of goals. In Admiralty, Open University lecturer Dan Yip said more protesters were now asking to scrap the Legislative Council's functional constituency seats first, before moving on to the longer-term goal of seeking public nomination of chief executive candidates - one of Occupy's original demands. Half of the legislature's 70 seats are returned by functional constituencies, mostly based on trades and professional sectors.To pass, any motion initiated by lawmakers must receive majority support from both geographical constituency and functional constituency legislators. Speaking last night in Admiralty, Occupy co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting urged supporters to think how to bring the movement forward. "First, we have to think how to gain support from people outside the protest sites. Second, we have to think how to consolidate what we have already achieved and push forward Hong Kong's democratic movement." Also yesterday, a 50-year-old man turned himself in to police and was arrested over an assault in Tsim Sha Tsui on Saturday. Four journalists were attacked while covering an anti-Occupy rally. The man, suspected to have pulled the tie of a TVB reporter, was in custody last night. Two other men arrested in connection with the case have been released on police bail. ^ top ^

World Bank says Occupy protests fail to impact Hong Kong's business climate (SCMP)
2014-10-29
The Occupy protests have not affected Hong Kong's business climate, says the World Bank Group, which in its annual report released yesterday rates the city as the third easiest place in the world to do business. "Right now, the pro-democracy campaign does not appear to have an impact on the overall business confidence," said Wendy Werner, manager for trade and competitiveness at the World Bank Group, which publishes the annual Doing Business report measuring the regulatory environment for small and medium-sized enterprises. "We have to distinguish … between the financial and economic impact of the demonstrations [and] the overall business climate," she said. "For the pro-democracy campaign to have any impact on Doing Business indicators it really [would] have to change something about the rules and regulations and their enforcement when it comes to trading, starting a business, registering property." The report - which looks at 10 indicators such as the speed and cost of obtaining credit, construction permits and paying taxes in 189 economies in the year ending in June - does not measure market stability or investor confidence. "From what we can see here, as long as transparency is strong, there's good corporate governance rules, and we have business-friendly rules and regulations, the investment climate really should stay intact, and that seems to be the case right now [in Hong Kong]," Werner said. Hong Kong ran second to Singapore in the previous four years as the easiest place to do business. It fell to third this year, behind New Zealand. […] Hong Kong's scores varied significantly across the 10 indicators, said Valentina Saltane, a co-author of the report. It has improved on its protection for minority shareholders to become the world's second best because of higher disclosure standards introduced in the revised Companies Ordinance that came into effect in March. While it is again the world's easiest place for obtaining construction permits, it ranked 96th when it came to registering property, with as many as five procedures involved. […] Mainland China has moved up three places in the rankings - to 90th - as it made it easier to start a business by eliminating minimum capital requirements. Paying taxes has also become easier because of an improved electronic system, and companies in Shanghai pay less tax because of a reduction in social security contributions. ^ top ^

James Tien's dismissal a sign Beijing doesn't want anyone rocking the boat (SCMP)
2014-10-30
The message behind Beijing's sacking of James Tien Pei-chun as a member of the nation's top political advisory body is loud and clear for pro-establishment figures - toe the line and rally behind Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying or, at the very least, don't rock the boat. Two political commentators said the unprecedented decision by the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Standing Committee to remove Tien should be understood in the wider context of Beijing's dissatisfaction with the ambiguous position of the city's business heavyweights on the Occupy Central protests. Tien has a track record of deviating from the stance of the Hong Kong and central governments. His resignation from the Executive Council, days after the huge July 1 protest march in 2003, forced then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa to withdraw controversial national security legislation. A day after this year's July 1 march, Tien suggested Leung should consider resigning since the number of people who took to the streets was inexplicable given the economy's current strength and the high degree of social stability in Hong Kong. […] On Friday, the tycoon-politician urged Leung to consider resigning since he could hardly govern effectively. Tien, who backed former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen in the 2012 chief executive election, is a longtime critic of Leung. Political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Beijing had been unhappy with Tien's divergent views and flip-flops in the past decade. "Beijing's patience with Tien was exhausted, as his call for Leung to consider resigning came at the height of Occupy Central. It's completely intolerable, as Beijing is supporting Leung during the crisis at all costs," Lau said. The role of the CPPCC - which is made up of delegates from various political parties and organisations as well as experts from different sectors - is similar to that of an upper legislative chamber which does not enjoy real power. Of the 2,237 CPPCC members, 200-plus represent Hong Kong. "Beijing wants to tell other figures from the pro-establishment camp not to follow in Tien's footsteps by punishing him," Lau said. "Don't rock the boat in the time of crisis is Beijing's message for the pro-establishment figures." Beijing has rejected the possibility of Leung resigning, a core demand of protest leaders. […] ^ top ^

Student leaders may try to crash Apec summit in Beijing to seek talks (SCMP)
2014-10-31
Student leaders are considering whether to send representatives to Beijing during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next month to convey their demand for genuine universal suffrage directly to top officials. Alex Chow Yong-kang, secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said the idea had been suggested by some Occupy protesters. But he was not sure whether such representatives would make it to Beijing, as pan-democrats had in the past been turned back at the airport. Details of the plan, who should go and how many, and whether there would be a back-up plan if they were refused entry to Beijing were still open to discussion, Chow said. "If the representation can enter Beijing successfully, of course we would want to have a dialogue with officials on universal suffrage," he said. "If Beijing officials value the opinion of Hong Kong people, I believe they will talk to students." Meanwhile, in Legco yesterday, pro-establishment lawmakers called for an investigation of the organisation and funding sources of the Occupy Central movement. Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, of the Business and Professionals Alliance, moved a motion to invoke Legco's special powers to set up a select committee to explore the "large-scale unlawful occupation of roads in a number of districts since 28 September". "There have been plenty of supplies to protesters," Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, of the New People Party, said in support of the motion. "The water may be bought by themselves, but how about the barricades made of bamboo sticks and the cement? Who brought them in and made it?" The financial strength of the Occupiers was "beyond imagination", said Ip Kwok-him, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and the Progress of Hong Kong. "It seems the Occupy founders and students are only puppets manipulated by others." Ip said he heard many local churches with American ties had provided shelter and food to the protesters. Dennis Kwok, of the Civic Party, said he was shocked at the suggestion of an inquiry into churches. "Since when should we investigate the people, churches and civil groups? This will be an abuse of power." Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Labour Party, criticised lawmakers' remarks that external forces were manipulating the movement. "It is usual for local trade unions to have contact with labour rights groups overseas. Are you saying that only capitalists and investors can have links with overseas and civil society cannot?" he said. Debate on Leung's motion was adjourned until today, when lawmakers will also vote on a motion moved by Wong Yuk-man seeking an inquiry into police handling of October 3 attacks on protesters in Mong Kok. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Big spies on campus (Global Times)
2014-10-28
As more students from the Chinese mainland pursue college educations in Taiwan thanks to warmer cross-Straits relations, they are increasingly being targeted by Taiwan intelligence agencies to work as spies, the Global Times learned recently. National authorities claim that mainland students at more than 20 Taiwan universities were enlisted by local spies between 2009 and 2013 through various means, such as providing work opportunities, in return for information on mainland political, economic and military policies. While the two sides have both benefited from strengthened ties, Taiwan-led espionage is working against this progress. The Global Times learned that nearly 40 such cases involving mainland students in 15 provincial regions have been uncovered in recent years. Modus operandi Lin Chao-wei, 31, served as a Taiwanese spy while posing as a graduate student at National Kaohsiung Normal University, according to relevant authorities. By participating in on-campus activities at various schools such as I-Shou University and YunTech, Lin befriended local students who would, at his request, introduce him to classmates from the mainland. More often, he would make contact by distributing questionnaires targeting new arrivals at public places such as train stations. Lin first would spend time and money on nurturing "friendships" with the mainland students. When he felt he had earned their trust, Lin would advance the relationship by pretending to work as a researcher or manager for companies seeking data to explore the mainland market. Lin would also hire mainland students through online recruiting websites, encouraging them to take the civil servant exam after they return home with offers of "exam preparation funds." Using his most common cover, Lin would ask students to collect "insider" policy information and internal government documents to help with his business. Many students may find it hard to refuse a friend, even though they often don't live up to the spy's expectations. "Forming an emotional bond is a key tactic for Taiwanese spies when connecting with mainland students," an anonymous mainland security official told the Global Times. "It establishes a stable foundation for their cooperation." [...] Mainland students are subject to a series of policies that prohibits them from working off-campus, applying for scholarships, registering for the Taiwan government employee exam and finding employment in Taiwan after graduation. These policies were exploited by Taiwan spies, who recruited students struggling to pay their average 40,000 to 50,000 yuan ($6,540 to $8,177) in annual expenses with part-time job opportunities offering "easy money." [...] Hsu Chi-chun, 29, another Taiwan spy, enticed students with up to 5,000 yuan a month for any internal government documents and magazines to be used by his "family-run company" seeking to invest in the mainland. He also encouraged students to "observe" mainland military airports, ports and military bases and report to him after returning home. While most students could not provide such information, some ended up delivering. In a recent case, a female student enlisted by a Taiwan spy managed to send off pictures of classified documents she obtained after returning home. [...] Previously, Taiwanese intelligence agencies had six major intelligence-gathering and espionage taskforces. The intelligence work has developed as cross-Straits communications strengthened over the past decade, according to media reports. [...] ^ top ^

Taiwan denies state media report on campus spies (SCMP)
2014-10-28
Beijing yesterday expressed concern after state media reported Taiwan was setting up a network of mainland students to gather intelligence for the island and said it should stop immediately. But the island's National Security Bureau dismissed the accusation as groundless, saying it had not hired any students to spy. The Global Times, which is affiliated with the official People's Daily, quoted a mainland official as saying Taiwan had recruited mainland students to gather details about the military and other sensitive areas. A spokeswoman for the Taiwan Affairs Office, Fan Liqing, said yesterday Beijing was concerned about the report and urged Taipei to halt such activities. "The instigation by Taiwanese intelligence organisations will jeopardise the safety … of mainland students and seriously disturb cross-strait education exchanges. Taiwan authorities should stop these activities immediately," Fan said. The paper, quoting an unnamed official source, said three Taiwanese - Lin Chao-wei, Hsu Chi-chun, and Tai Wei-kuang - had tried to recruit mainland students at some 20 universities. The report gave their ID numbers and said they had paid recruits between NT$10,000 (HK$2,550) and NT$50,000 in cash. Lin posed as a student at National Kaohsiung Normal University and would look for potential targets at the high-speed rail station, it said. After he established ties with students, he would then ask them to help him gather intelligence. The Times report said Hsu and Tai pretended to be businessmen and had asked students to get information from parents or relatives who were working in sensitive sectors. Mainland authorities had uncovered 40 such cases, it added. Taiwan's National Security Bureau rejected the allegations, saying it had never tried to recruit spies through universities or other educational institutions. "Nor have we had anything to do with collecting information through so-called questionnaires," the bureau said in a statement. The Ministry of Education said it was unaware of any such activities at campuses in Taiwan. ^ top ^

Taiwan intelligence urged not to recruit mainland students (Xinhua)
2014-10-29
A Chinese mainland spokesperson Wednesday asked Taiwan's intelligence agencies to stop trying to recruit exchange students from the mainland. The State Council Taiwan Affairs Office has noticed reports about the issue and is "highly concerned," said Fan Liqing, the office spokesperson, at a press conference. Beijing-based Global Times reported on Monday that Taiwan's intelligence agencies have sent agents to contact mainland students studying on the island in an attempt to gain information from them and train them to spy on the mainland. Cross-Strait relations have seen turbulence in past years, but people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have always wanted peace and development, Fan said. "We are willing to make more efforts and work harder to promote cross-Strait relations," she said. In a short statement on Monday, Fan said enabling mainland students to study in Taiwan is an important achievement in cross-Strait relations. Taiwan intelligence agencies' attempts have compromised the safety of these young people and undermined education exchanges across the Strait, she said. When asked if Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, will meet Vincent Siew, senior Taiwan politician, during the upcoming APEC meeting, Fan said the two sides are still talking about the arrangement. ^ top ^

Taiwan to ban senior officials from taking advanced academic courses on the mainland (SCMP)
2014-10-29
Taiwan will bar senior officials from pursuing advanced studies on the mainland effective today. Local media and pundits say the move is the island's attempt to water down its warming cross-strait relations ahead of the crucial local government elections next month. The National Immigration Agency and the Interior Ministry recently revised the regulations governing mainland visits by senior Taiwanese civil servants and some elected officials. “In view of national security, relevant authorities have discussed the issue for some time and come up with the decision to restrict personnel involved from studying on the mainland,” said Minister of the Interior Chen Wei-zen. Ministry officials said because the previous regulations did not specify that senior civil servants were not allowed to study on the mainland, some of them have pursued advanced studies at universities there in the pretense of going on sightseeing trips. Under Taiwanese law, senior officials at the higher grades are allowed to visit the mainland for sightseeing, meeting relatives and attending academic exchange activities – but all must have approval from the heads of their relevant departments. Some mainland universities offer preferential treatment to senior Taiwanese officials such as allowing them to attend classes during weekends or holidays and write their term papers or dissertations from Taiwan. According to the National Security Bureau, at least 97 civil servants went to the mainland to pursue doctorates in the past 10 years, with some writing dissertations related to Taiwan's political and government systems, which the bureau said could hurt the island's security. Taiwan and the mainland had been bitter rivals since the end of a civil war in 1949, but relations have improved sharply since Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang was elected president in 2008 and adopted a policy of engaging Beijing. The new restriction is seen as reflecting the growing cacophony in cross-strait relations as it comes after Ma offered support for the fight for universal suffrage in Hong Kong and called for the mainland to accept democracy earlier this month. Taiwanese media and pundits said Ma's move, which came ahead of the November 29 local elections, obviously offended the mainland, which had lashed out at him for trying to meddle in its internal affairs. Yesterday, Fan Liqing, a spokeswoman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing, admitted there were naturally ups and downs in cross-strait relations, which would be impossible to be smooth all the time. “But we believe there is no change in the mainstream opinion about peaceful development of cross-strait relations,” she said. “We hope our relations can continue to be deepened and consolidated in order to facilitate peaceful development of cross-strait relations." ^ top ^

 

Economy

No date set for 'through train' after start date missed (SCMP)
2014-10-27
Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing chief Charles Li Xiaojia has no idea when the scheme to directly link the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock markets will eventually begin operations, after the so-called "through train" missed its anticipated arrival date today. Li told the South China Morning Post that all the technical and regulatory work on the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect scheme was complete and declined to speculate on the reason for the delay. "Some smart people up there have to make the decision," Li said, referring to officials in Beijing, when asked who had the final say on when the 550 billion yuan scheme (HK$694 billion) would eventually get going. Li refused to be drawn on whether the pro-democracy Occupy Central protests had played a part in the delay. "I do not know," he said when asked, adding quickly that the scheme's complexity and recent volatility in global markets could also explain the delay. Some brokers believe the delay is Beijing's punishment for the month-long Occupy protests. Others dismiss the theory, arguing that the mainland needs to attract huge sums of foreign capital to domestic financial markets as it pushes ahead with a structural economic reform programme. The uncertainty has left institutional investors increasingly frustrated at the opaque decision-making process. "We would like to see Beijing announce all rules and regulations in detail at least several weeks before the scheme is kicked off," said Bruno Lee Kam-wing, chairman of the Hong Kong Investment Funds Association. Changes to fund management mandates, legal disclosures and client consent would be impossible to secure before full details of the scheme's trading rules - including those for settlement where a risk of insider trading could exist - were made public. None are expected before a start date is confirmed. Premier Li Keqiang caught regulators and markets by surprise in April when he said at a business forum in Hainan that the "through train" - mooted since 2007 - would be ready to go in six months. Officials have been silent on a start date since, though Hong Kong government sources had previously told the Post that the city's top financial officials had been told to keep October 27 clear for a possible trip to Shanghai, which had fuelled expectations of a launch by today.^ top ^

Chinese economy to decline: experts (China Daily)
2014-10-28
Harvard economists Lawrence Summers and Lant Pritchett said in a new research paper that China's economic growth is likely to decline even more "than general experience would suggest", despite being the only country in history to have such sustained economic development in the last three decades. Summers and Pritchett write that nothing in their analysis suggests that "a sharp slowdown is inevitable" in China, but that forecasters should widen the range of expected outcomes in regards to the second-largest economic power in the world. "Consensus forecasts for the global economy over the medium and long term predict the world's economic gravity will substantially shift towards Asia and especially towards the Asian giants, China and India," they said. "While such forecasts may pan out, there are substantial reasons that China and India may grow much less rapidly than is currently anticipated. Most importantly, history teaches that abnormally rapid growth is rarely persistent, even though economic forecasts invariably extrapolate recent growth." The two economists said in their paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research that China's growth has been incomparable with that of other countries, but it will still "slow substantially", they said. China's super-rapid growth has persisted for nine years, which is one year longer than its possible minimum, the economists said in their paper released on Oct 14. China's experience in the years between 1977 and 2010 "already holds the distinction of being the only instance, quite possibly in the history of mankind, but certainly in the data" with a sustained period of super-rapid growth for more than 32 years. But following the super-rapid growth "is nearly always a growth deceleration", and the bullish views of growth from China watchers have already softened considerably, Summers and Pritchett said. The two authors said that China's growth dynamics are not driven by the middle-income "trap"- in which a country reaching a certain income level gets stuck at that level with no further growth - but rather that rapid growth is coupled with rapid deceleration. "China's super-rapid growth has already lasted three times longer than a typical episode and is the longest ever recorded. The ends of episodes tend to see full regression to the mean, abruptly," they said. Patrick Chovanec, former business professor at Tsinghua University, said that he agrees with the authors in saying that China watchers should be looking at broader ranges of outcomes for China, but that "there are a lot more specific and compelling reasons to expect China's economy to continue slowing in the near future than 'regression to the mean'". The authors saying that history will show that China will slow is a "little too agnostic", he added. [...] Ann Lee, professor of economics at New York University, said that China's discretion with businesses can either have a "positive or negative effect depending on which policies they choose to implement. Democracies such as the US also exercise discretion with businesses by giving some businesses loopholes or creating laws to help or hurt certain players".^ top ^

World Bank urges Beijing to phase out hard economic targets (SCMP)
2014-10-29
Beijing should phase out hard economic targets to focus more on tackling its key structural reform challenges over the next few years, the World Bank said yesterday as it released its China economic update. However, the World Bank also said economic growth of about 7 per cent might be needed next year to ensure job stability, compared with the 7.5 per cent official target for this year. The comments highlight the lack of manoeuvring room Beijing has as it aims to curb pollution and excessive capacity and correct imbalances in resource allocation without bringing down the growth rate too drastically or disrupting the labour market. The authorities "do have some policy space and policy buffers to meet an ambitious target for the next year", said Karlis Smits, a senior economist at the World Bank and the report's main author. Total public debt was moderate, at 55.5 per cent of gross domestic product, while the mainland also had sizeable reserve buffers, the World Bank said. But such policy buffers should be reserved for the future and only used in the event of unexpected domestic or external economic shocks, it added. "Conducting economic policy by setting a growth target per se would kind of undermine the transition to the new growth model", Smits said, as that would require more expansionary policies. "If there has to be a target, that is treated as an indicative target, not a hard target." The World Bank recently cut the mainland's GDP growth forecast for this year to 7.4 per cent, while predicting average growth of just above 7 per cent next year and in 2016. Third-quarter GDP growth fell to 7.3 per cent, a five-year low. To stem a sharp downturn, Beijing has adopted targeted stimulus to boost growth this year. But some analysts say structural reforms, such as interest rate liberalisation, have been delayed. "The key short-term policy challenge is to strengthen market discipline in the financial sector," said Chorching Goh, lead economist for China at the World Bank. Beijing should put particular focus on land, capital and labour reforms, she said. "Land reforms are likely to have the largest growth impact, but they are also the most complex," the World Bank said. It said implementing reforms could "accelerate China's economic growth potential", while a lack of policy action could make a medium-term downturn "more severe". "In a no-reform scenario, economic activity could start to stagnate as resource misallocation, particularly in the financial sector, would continue to undermine productivity of firms, strength of financial institutions and confidence of reforms," Smits said. Data showed efforts to shift the economy's growth engine from investment and exports to domestic consumption had been far from successful. The Westpac MNI China consumer sentiment index declined to a three-year low this month and has fallen 8.9 per cent since the start of the year, as consumers became more pessimistic about employment, the housing market and the state of their personal finances. At a State Council meeting yesterday, Premier Li Keqiang rolled out new measures to bolster consumption in areas such as housing, online shopping, education and energy-saving products. The government also decided to open the banking card settlement market to both domestic and international players. The growing pessimism on the outlook for jobs contradicts official data showing more than 10 million new jobs had been created by the end of last month. According to World Bank calculations, exports contributed 2.3 percentage points to third-quarter GDP growth as investment cooled while consumption remained weak.^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

Japan sends mission to North Korea over abduction probe (SCMP)
2014-10-27
A Japanese government delegation is set to make a four-day visit to North Korea from today to assess Pyongyang's investigation into the fates of Japanese nationals it abducted decades ago. In talks with North Korea's special investigation committee on Tuesday and Wednesday in Pyongyang, the delegation will try to obtain information on 12 unaccounted Japanese abductees recognised by Tokyo, saying the abduction issue is “the highest priority” for the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. But it is not known whether North Korea will provide information on the abductees. Pyongyang has maintained eight have died and four others never entered the country. Instead, North Korea may present information on other missing Japanese and demand something in return for “progress in investigation into all Japanese residing in the country” that it launched in July in exchange for the lifting of some of Tokyo's unilateral sanctions. The mission consists of about 10 officials from the Foreign Ministry, the National Police Agency, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and the Headquarters for the Abduction Issue of the Cabinet Secretariat. It will be the first dispatch of a Japanese government mission to North Korea on the abduction issue since November 2004. The trip comes after Song Il Ho, North Korea's ambassador for negotiations to normalize relations with Japan, suggested in late September that Japanese officials visit Pyongyang, meet members of the investigation committee and ask them questions directly so Tokyo can better understand the current state of the investigation. North Korea was due to release its first report on the probe sometime from late summer to early fall. But it said last month the investigation is still at an early stage and it is therefore only able to provide initial findings, falling short of the Japanese government's expectations. Abductees' relatives have expressed scepticism about the dispatch of a government mission to North Korea, saying such a visit is only worthwhile if concrete information can be obtained. In an attempt to advance the investigation into the abductees, Japan is requesting talks between the delegation, led by Junichi Ihara, director general of the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and So Tae Ha, chairman of the special investigation committee. So is vice minister of state security. Since the launch of the committee in July, North Korea has been conducting a new probe into abduction victims, missing Japanese, remains of Japanese, as well as Japanese nationals who stayed on after the end of World War II and the Japanese wives of pro-Pyongyang Korean residents of Japan who moved to the North under a 1959-1984 repatriation project. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945. North Korea has conducted investigations into abduction cases of Japanese nationals in the past, but Japan did not accept the results, saying they were unconvincing. Abe has urged North Korea to conduct an “honest and sincere” investigation into abductees this time. North Korea says the committee, staffed by about 30 officials, has been given a special mandate from the National Defense Commission, the top state organ under leader Kim Jong Un, to investigate all institutions and mobilize relevant institutions and people concerned for the investigation when necessary. Japan officially lists 17 nationals as abducted in the 1970s and 1980s, but suspects North Korea's involvement in hundreds of other disappearances. Five of the 17 returned to Japan in 2002 after a historic visit to Pyongyang by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The abduction issue has prevented the two countries from normalizing diplomatic relations.. ^ top ^

Pyongyang's response to Ebola: every foreigner in quarantine for 3 weeks (SCMP)
2014-10-31
North Korean officials plan to quarantine every single foreigner for 21 days over fears of Ebola - even though not a single case of the disease has been reported in the country. The drastic announcement distributed to foreign diplomatic missions in Pyongyang said that, regardless of country or region of origin, all foreigners would be quarantined under medical observation for three weeks. It said foreigners from affected areas would be quarantined at one set of locations, while those from unaffected areas would be sent to other locations, including hotels. It said the staff of diplomatic missions and international organisations in North Korea would be allowed to stay in their residences. A copy of the document was obtained by The Associated Press yesterday. More than 13,700 people have become ill in the Ebola outbreak, and nearly 5,000 of them have died. Nearly all the cases have occurred in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, though there were 20 in Nigeria, four in the US and one each in Mali, Senegal and Spain. None have been reported in Asia. North Korea's frantic response to Ebola, including a broad but so far poorly defined ban on foreign tourism, is also surprising because the notoriously reclusive country admits so few foreigners. Other than diplomatic and government missions, it has virtually no contact with any of the countries that have been most affected in West Africa, though it has tried to cultivate good relations with some African nations. Kim Yong-nam, the head of North Korea's parliament, is now touring other parts of Africa. Last week, North Korea's state media announced that travellers and cargo would be subject to stricter monitoring at airports, seaports and railway border crossings. Warnings are also being aired on television to increase public awareness of the disease and its symptoms. North Korea's reaction isn't unprecedented. It closed its borders for several months in 2003 during the scare over Sars, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. But that was a much more obvious threat. Sars affected China, and Beijing is where most flights into Pyongyang originate. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Chinese president vows to strengthen ties with Mongolia (Xinhua)
2014-10-27
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Chairman Zandaakhuu Enkhbold of the State Great Hural of Mongolia, the country's top legislative body, vowing stronger ties with Mongolia. Xi recalled his state visit to Mongolia in August this year, during which both countries upgraded their relations to an all-round strategic partnership reaching consensus on a range of issues. Calling both countries good neighbors and partners, Xi said China always considers the development of China-Mongolia ties as an important direction for its diplomacy towards neighboring countries. China respects Mongolia's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and respects the developmental road that the Mongolian people choose for their country, Xi said. "We are willing to work closely with Mongolia to further enhance political trust, substantial cooperation and cultural exchanges, and inject new vitality and contents to our ties," said the Chinese president. Hailing the cooperation between the two countries' parliaments, Xi hoped them to take the advantage of their regular exchange mechanism to share experience and offer helpful references for each other. Applauding Xi's fruitful visit to Mongolia, Enkhbold said his country is in close coordination with China to implement the important consensus reached between their state leaders. The State Great Hural as well as other departments of Mongolia hope to join hands with China to cement cooperation and push forward bilateral ties up to a new stage, he said. China's diplomacy towards its neighboring countries, which features common development, has offered important opportunities for bilateral cooperation, he said. Mongolia will firmly support China on issues regarding the country's core interests including Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang, he said. Enkhbold is visiting China from Oct. 27-28 at the invitation of Zhang Dejiang, chairman of China's National People's Congress Standing Committee, China's top legislature. ^ top ^

Mongolia signs the MoU on establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (infomongolia)
2014-10-28
On October 24, 2014, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the People's Republic of China Mr. Tsedenjav SUKHBAATAR has signed the Memorandum of Understanding on establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) representing the Government of Mongolia. The Signing Ceremony took place in Beijing, China, where formally recognized the establishment of the Bank, 22 countries' representatives have signed the document including Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, China, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Viet Nam. Following the ceremony, President of the PR of China, Xi Jinping received delegates from 22 participating countries. The purpose of the multilateral development bank is to provide finance to infrastructure projects in the Asia Pacific region and the AIIB is expected to begin its operations in 2015 with its headquarters in Beijing. ^ top ^

 

Mrs. Petra Salome Merki
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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