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
  20-26.9.14, No. 543  
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Foreign Policy

China, India to forge closer development partnership (Xinhua)
2014-09-19
China and India vowed to forge a closer development partnership on Friday with practical cooperation plans in such areas as investment, counterterrorism, military and cultural exchanges. The two countries set out detailed targets in a joint statement issued here on the final day of Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to the southern neighbor. China will establish two industrial parks in western India and try to increase its investment in Indian industrial and infrastructure projects to 20 billion U.S. dollars in the next five years, read the document. India, for its part, said it welcomes Chinese investment in its manufacturing and infrastructure projects. They both pledged to facilitate the investment and operations of companies from the other side in their markets, and to work together to forge production and supply chain linkages and thus help develop a more broad-based and sustainable economic partnership. The two neighbors also reiterated their "zero tolerance" of terrorism in all its forms and their commitment to counterterrorism cooperation. Noting that improved bilateral military ties are conducive to building mutual trust and confidence, both sides agreed to a regular exchange of visits between their defense ministries and military leaders. They also agreed to hold the fourth joint army training at a convenient time, hold navy/airforce joint exercise at a proper time and strengthen cooperation in such areas as peace-keeping, naval escort, maritime security and think tank communication. Pending a final resolution of their boundary issue, the two sides will together maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas, and commit to seeking a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution, said the document. For further promoting the two countries' religious exchanges, the Chinese side announced the opening of a new route for Indian pilgrims to China's Tibet Autonomous Region, for which the Indian side expressed its welcome and appreciation. Recognizing the deep civilizational linkages between China and India, the two sides decided to launch the China-India Cultural Exchange Initiative with multiple events and activities to further enhance the bonds between the two peoples. India is the last stop of Xi's four-nation tour in Central and South Asia, which has already taken him to Tajikistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka. In Tajikistan, he also attended a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping tells PLA chiefs to develop 'new types' of command (SCMP)
2014-09-23
President Xi Jinping told the military's top brass yesterday that the People's Liberation Army had to develop "new types" of military commands. Xi, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, met the PLA chiefs of staff yesterday following their conference on Sunday in Beijing to discuss how to improve the army's command systems. "In the face of a new national security situation and new requirements for defence preparation … [the military] must strive to build new types of command that follow party instructions and are skilled in planning combat strategies," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying. The report did not elaborate further on the "new types" of command. Early this year, the defence ministry had said it was exploring setting up a joint command mechanisms for the PLA. Xi also urged headquarters units of all PLA forces to improve their combat readiness and sharpen their ability to win a regional war in the age of information technology. The PLA Daily yesterday reported the chiefs of staff conference focused on streamlining the operational headquarters of all PLA forces with information technology, and revised several important protocols. The chiefs of staff also discussed how to improve the efficiency of military command, the newspaper said. PLA Chief of General Staff General Fang Fenghui attended Sunday's conference, the paper reported. Ni Lexiong, director of a defence policy research centre at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said the new type of command system should have the ability to relay orders to PLA units much more quickly and smoothly. "A relatively lean, flat organisation could be the reason to form new commands," Ni said. "Some of the commands of the traditional arms could be merged and some of the new arms, such as information units, could have new headquarters." Antony Wong Dong, chairman of the Macau Military Institute, said the remarks showed that Xi is trying to step up reforms at the senior level of the PLA. The Post reported on Monday that Xi is poised to streamline and consolidate the Central Military Commission, including a substantial reshuffle of the military's top brass. ^ top ^

China, Iran to stage joint navy drills in Persian Gulf (Global Times)
2014-09-23
China and Iran are scheduled to stage unprecedented joint naval drills in the strategic Persian Gulf, underlining the close ties between the two countries and China's expanding role in the security of the Gulf region. Two Chinese warships, guided-missile destroyer Changchun and frigate Changzhou, are to train with their Iranian counterparts during their five-day port call to Iran's southern port city of Bandar Abbas in Hormuzgan Province. The two vessels, which just completed an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters, docked in Bandar Abbas on Saturday, the first port call by Chinese naval vessels to Iran. China's Ministry of National Defense (MOD) Monday confirmed to the Global Times the drills would be going ahead, after Iranian media first broke the news Sunday. According to the MOD, the vessels will practice exchanging information and operational capabilities with Iranian warships. According to Iran's Fars News Agency (FNA), Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari Monday said the drills will take place on Wednesday. The presence of a Chinese navy flotilla in Bandar Abbas is indicative of solidarity between the two nations and militaries, Hormuzgan Governor General Jassem Jadari Sunday said in a meeting with the commanders and crew members of the Chinese flotilla, reported FNA. "Hormuzgan Province is of particular importance due to its strategic status and its location near the Strait of Hormuz and also the presence of flotillas of different countries in there," the governor was quoted as saying. Bandar Abbas occupies a strategic position near the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world's oil is shipped. Tehran has frequently threatened to close off the strait due to tensions with the West over its nuclear program. The US Fifth Fleet is headquartered in nearby Bahrain. However, the MOD has played down the significance of the drills, noting it has been routine in recent years for Chinese warships to make "friendly visits" to countries and hold joint exercises with their navies after the conclusion of anti-piracy missions. Tang Zhichao, a research fellow with the Institute of West Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times the joint drills are a result of China's expanding role in Middle East security. Over the past few years, the Chinese navy has been moving out into blue waters by participating in the anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden. "As China's economy grows, its security interests in the Middle East and strategic maritime passages such as the Persian Gulf are of growing importance to China. Therefore, military cooperation with Gulf states, including Iran, is increasingly critical," said Tang. Security in the Gulf region has been dominated by the US. However, in Tang's view, as the West's capability and will to maintain regional security weakens, Gulf regions are looking to other world powers such as China to step in. The joint exercises also demonstrate the close ties between China and Iran. China is Iran's largest trade partner, of which Iran's crude oil exports occupy a significant share. […] ^ top ^

Ukrainian, Chinese investors launch joint agriculture project (Xinhua)
2014-09-23
Ukraine's DARA Group has signed an agreement with a Chinese corporation to jointly invest in the Ukrainian agricultural sector, local media reported Tuesday. The memorandum of understanding was inked on Monday between the Ukrainian multi-sectorial group and China's Huangfan District Agricultural Corporation based in the country's central Henan Province. Sergey Yevtushenko, head of Ukrainian State Agency for Investment and National Projects, attended the ceremony. Under the agreement, the two companies will jointly invest 58 million U.S. dollars through the next five years in the development of two agriculture enterprises in Ukraine's northern Chernigov region. They plan to invest 25 million U.S. dollars in the development of cattle breeding and 17.5 million in plant growing. The remaining funds will be earmarked to establish a pig-breeding complex. The investment is expected to boost the region's employment, creating 480 permanent and around 1,000 seasonal jobs. ^ top ^

China to step up counterterror measures amid fears over returning IS fighters (SCMP)
2014-09-24
Beijing is expected to step up counterterrorism measures, analysts say, amid fears that militants will return from Syria and Iraq to launch attacks in China. Like many of the countries that have seen their nationals fighting for Islamic State, China is wary of the threat posed by militants who have fled to the Middle East to join the brutal jihadist group. However, experts said it was unlikely China would join the United States-led military campaign against Islamic State. The US and Arab allies bombed Syria for the first time yesterday. Gauging the number of Chinese militants who have taken part in IS activities was difficult, as most of them had left the country by crossing the country's vast western border illegally and some might have joined while they were already abroad, said Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. China's former special envoy to the Middle East, Wu Sike, said in July that around 100 Chinese were fighting for IS, citing media estimates. Last week, four Chinese Uygurs were arrested in Indonesia and were suspected of trying to meet the country's most wanted extremist, who has been linked with IS. Chinese militants, mostly Uygurs from Xinjiang, had long been participating in overseas jihadist movements, said Pan Zhiping, a professor with Xinjiang University's Central Asia Research Centre. Citing police sources, Pan said about 10,000 Chinese nationals had illegally crossed the border to take part in jihadist activities over the past two to three years. "They used to cross the Xinjiang border, but now that control has been tightened, they are increasingly crossing the border from Yunnan, Guangdong and Guangxi," Pan said. Many of them had then travelled to the Middle East via Southeast Asia, Pan added. State-run tabloid Global Times reported this week, citing official sources, that there were strong signs Chinese IS fighters were planning to carry out attacks in China. Beijing has already launched a crackdown against terrorism, focusing primarily on the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) targeting Xinjiang. But Western analysts say the discontent among many Uygurs there - fuelled by Beijing's tough policies towards the ethnic group - outweighs the risks posed by foreign extremist groups such as TIP or IS. Most of the recent attacks in China had been spontaneous and fewer than 20 per cent were directed by the TIP, said Rohan Gunaratna, a professor of security studies at Nanyang Technology University in Singapore. "That's why China [spends] only 10 per cent [of its current budget] on counterterrorism, but 90 per cent on community enrichment and empowerment," he said. Still, Beijing is likely to ramp up its counterterrorism measures to address the IS threat, Chinese scholars say. That would include cooperation with the international community, but only through supporting UN Security Council initiatives. China still lacked the military capability to send troops abroad and would not want to interfere with another country's sovereignty by launching air strikes, Li said. ^ top ^

Chinese and Indian troops dug in amid stand-off high in Himalayas (SCMP)
2014-09-24
Hundreds of Indian and Chinese troops have dug into positions on a high Himalayan plateau, leading India's army chief to cancel an overseas trip to monitor the stand-off. The events underscore deep differences between the Asian giants as they seek closer ties. Military officials in New Delhi and Kashmir said yesterday that Chinese troops set up a camp about 3km into territory claimed by India in the Chumar region of the Ladakh plateau more than a week ago. Indian soldiers set up their own base nearby and had been told not to back down, the officials said. Asked about the stand-off, the Ministry of Defence in Beijing said the two sides' understanding of the line of the border was not the same. "The two countries' border, to this day, has not been designated," the ministry said in a statement. It said the Chinese military respected pacts signed by both countries. "Both sides, if problems occur in the border area, can reach an appropriate resolution through dialogue and consultation." India had deployed about 1,500 troops in the Chumar area and there were about 800 Chinese soldiers, an Indian government official said. The two sides were not in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation and were well separated from each other. The alleged incursion by Chinese troops into territory claimed by India dominated a visit by President Xi Jinping last week, overshadowing his pledges to invest US$20 billion over five years and a bid to warm personal ties with new Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After a summit between Modi and Xi on Friday, the soldiers pulled back from a face-to-face confrontation to take up more distant positions. India's army chief, General Dalbir Singh, cancelled a three-day visit to neighbouring Bhutan on Monday to monitor the border situation, an official in New Delhi said. Military commanders from both sides were due to hold a meeting in the border area yesterday. ^ top ^

Chinese FM calls for "new thinking and new steps" in response to terrorism (Xinhua)
2014-09-25
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday called on the international community to come up with "new thinking and new steps" in its response to terrorism. Wang made the remarks when speaking at a UN Security Council summit on terrorism, during which the 15-nation body adopted a resolution requiring member states to cooperate in efforts to address the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters. "Faced with the new trends and new developments of terrorism, we must come up with new thinking and new steps in response," Wang told the Security Council. "First, we should step up information gathering and sharing," he said. "Full scope should be given to the advantages of the United Nations and relevant international institutions on such matters as establishing a counter-terrorism database and information exchange platform, so as to step up sharing of information resources and intelligence analysis." Wang noted that counter-terrorism on the Internet should also be strengthened, calling for resolute measures to stop the use of social media to spread extremist ideas, especially the releasing of audio and video materials of violence and terror. "Internet companies and operators should exercise self- discipline," he said. The foreign minister also said that countries must block the channels of terrorist movement and financing of terrorism. "All countries, particularly those adjacent to ongoing conflicts, ought to fulfill international obligations for effective border control," he said. "We must enhance cooperation in financial regulation, crack down on illegal underground banking activities, and block terrorist financing." In addition, Wang called on the international community to promote de-radicalization. "While taking actions in accordance with law to crack down on and outlaw venues and personnel that are engaged in advocating and spreading extremism, we should protect normal religious activities, promote public awareness, and give greater play to the role of local communities, thus injecting more positive energy in society, " he said. ^ top ^

High-level Sino-Japanese maritime talks a sign of improving ties (SCMP)
2014-09-25
China and Japan have resumed high-level talks on maritime issues, a sign that they want to improve relations strained in recent years by territorial disputes and wartime historical issues. Yi Xianliang, deputy director general of the foreign ministry's Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs, met his Japanese counterpart, Makita Shimokawa, in the eastern port city of Qingdao on Tuesday and yesterday, Xinhua reported. Both sides "agreed, on principle, to resume maritime liaisons between the defence agencies of the two countries", it quoted a foreign ministry statement as saying. Japan's foreign ministry said the two sides had agreed to hold talks on setting up a maritime hotline between their defence ministries. The news came as Vice-Premier Wang Yang unexpectedly told a visiting Japanese business mission in Beijing yesterday that he wanted to seek an early resumption of a high-level economic dialogue with Japan, involving numerous ministers of the two countries. Economic dialogue has been suspended since August 2010. The dialogue, co-hosted by a Chinese vice-premier and Japanese foreign minister, had started in 2007. Fujio Cho, honorary chairman of Toyota and head of the business mission, said after the meeting that he believed the icy situation had "started thawing". Relations have plummeted to their lowest point in years, amid a series of rows over historical and territorial issues. Some observers warn that the Asian giants might come to blows over East China Sea islands - called the Senkakus by Japan and the Diaoyus by China - where ships from both sides have been sent to press claims to their ownership. Beijing has laid the blame for the tensions on Japan, which in September 2012 nationalised the islands. Japan contends that China's claim has no historical basis and that it is trying to challenge Tokyo's rule through military intimidation. The first maritime affairs talks were held in China in May 2012. Jia Qingguo, a professor of international relations at Peking University, said: "The resumption of Sino-Japanese talks on oceanic affairs was just a matter of time. There have been many disputes over maritime rights between the two countries, but neither of the two wants to let such disputes lead to military confrontation or regression of their relationship. So the talks are necessary." Da Zhigang, an expert in Japanese affairs at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said: "I would see the resumption as a signal of good intentions by the two countries. "Though there are some issues of principle between the two nations, neither of them would like to let political tension spread to economic areas, especially in the context of a fragile recovery of the global economy and slower growth in China." Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly said he wants to hold a first official meeting with President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a regional summit in Beijing in November. During the meeting with Wang, which lasted about 90 minutes, the Japanese group also told him there should be formal talks between Abe and Xi, according to the members. In this regard, Wang did not make any specific comment, but he did not blame the political situation on Japan this time, unlike when the previous mission of the association met him last November, the members said. "Whether Xi Jinping will meet Abe depends on whether the two countries can make some progress in pursuing consensus on issues like maritime disputes and history," Jia said. ^ top ^

China rebuffs EU on condemning life sentence (China Daily)
2014-09-25
China has expressed its "strong dissatisfaction" on Wednesday after the EU condemned the life sentence for separatism handed down to Ilham Tohti - a "respected academic" - and called for his immediate and unconditional release. Jiang Xiaoyan, spokesperson of the Chinese Mission to the EU,said China is strongly dissatisfied with the statement and resolutely opposed to any interference in China's judicial sovereignty and independence. She said China's resolve and efforts to govern the country under the rule of law will never bend to those irresponsible remarks. The EU bloc's foreign policy arm, European External Action Services, said on Tuesday that Ilham Tohti was a "respected academic" and called for his immediate and unconditional release. Jiang said the so-called "respected academic was a convicted criminal who has openly championed violence, instigated ethnic hatred and stirred up ethnic confrontations in China. "Such actions are considered violations of similar laws in Europe. The case has been tried fairly and publicly," she said. "The lawful rights and interests of the defendant have been duly protected." ^ top ^

China, Spain to ink 4-bln-USD deals (Xinhua)
2014-09-25
China and Spain will sign cooperation deals and business contracts worth more than 4 billion U.S. dollars during Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's visit to China, according to source with the Chinese Foreign Ministry. After talks between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Rajoy at the Great Hall of the People on Thursday afternoon, the two sides signed 14 documents covering cooperation in areas including alfalfa export, film, nuclear power, telecommunication, finance, wind electricity, sea water desalination and tourism. The Chinese government attaches great importance to relations with Spain, and is ready to maintain high-level engagement, continue to understand and support each other's core interests and major concerns, expand substantial cooperation, and maintain close communication and coordination on international and regional affairs, Li said in the talks. He urged the two sides to continue to expand bilateral trade and promote a balanced and sustained trade growth, strengthen cooperation in such areas as energy, finance, biological medicine and aerospace, strengthen cultural exchanges and two-way language teaching, and send more students to study in each other. The Chinese government will encourage companies to invest in Spain and hopes Spain could provide more legal and policy guarantees as well as visa facilitation, the premier noted. Rajoy said Spain is willing to further reciprocal cooperation with China, which is in favor of its own economic growth. Spain welcomes more Chinese tourists and will provide visa procedures within 48 hours, he added. Li also spoke positively of the role played by Spain in promoting the development of China-EU relations. He said China will work with Spain to implement the China-EU 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation, push forward the China-EU investment agreement negotiation and feasibility research on China-EU free trade area, jointly promote the liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment, and oppose protectionism. Rajoy echoed Li saying Spain will continue to play a positive role for the development of EU-China relations. Rajoy will conclude his four-day official visit on Saturday. ^ top ^

China, India have smooth communication on boundary issue (Xinhua)
2014-09-25
China and India have established effective communication channels to properly handle the situation in border areas, a Defense Ministry spokesman said on Thursday. Geng Yansheng made the remarks at a monthly press briefing when asked to comment on the boundary issue between China and India, noting that both sides should join hands to promote regional peace, stability and development. Geng said Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent state visit to India was very successful, with leaders from both sides reaching a high level of consensus on the significance of developing China-India relations. During the visit, a joint statement was released on building a closer partnership for development which incorporates details about enhancing communication and cooperation in several fields, Geng said. As for the boundary issue, the two sides agreed to jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border area before relevant issue is settled, Geng said. Geng said individual cases would not affect the overall cooperation between the two countries as the two sides have established smooth communication channels and handle relevant issues through dialogues and consultations. As for the recent situation in the border area, Geng said, both sides have conducted effective communication and the situation is under control. "The border area is peaceful." ^ top ^

Maritime talks won't thaw Sino-Japan ties: analysts (Global Times)
2014-09-26
China on Thursday demanded sincerity and concrete actions from Japan to improve relations between the two countries following recent high-level Sino-Japan talks on maritime affairs, the first such talks in more than two years since the souring of bilateral ties over islet disputes. The two-day talks concluded in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province on Wednesday. Officials from the two countries' foreign ministries, defense ministries and maritime affairs departments were in attendance. According to China's foreign ministry, China and Japan exchanged their views on issues related to the East China Sea, where a group of islets are at the center of the two countries' territorial disputes, as well as maritime cooperation. They agreed in principle to revive a bilateral maritime security liaison mechanism, and also agreed to have one more round of talks no later than the beginning of next year. While Japanese media voiced their expectations that the talks could improve bilateral ties and pave the way for a summit meeting, Chinese experts denied the possibility of the talks serving as an icebreaker, saying the road to détente would be long and arduous. The key for a détente between the two countries lies in whether Japan can make a sincere effort to break the deadlock, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's foreign ministry, told a regular press conference Thursday. According to Chinese experts, the talks were limited to maritime affairs, which will do little to ease tensions between the two countries. "Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine, and his government still denies Japan's invasion of China during World War II. How can tensions ease under these conditions?" Zhou Yongsheng, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University told the Global Times, adding that Tokyo only intended to use the maritime affairs talks to boost its image around the world. Zhou urged Japan to face up to history and reality to remove the barriers affecting Sino-Japan relations. […] Experts also pointed out that the failure of a group of visiting Japanese businesses to meet with top Chinese leaders also bode poorly for Sino-Japan relations. A 200-strong visiting Japanese business group that included some of Japan's top business leaders failed to secure a meeting with China's president and premier as expected this week, according to the Chinese version of Nikkei Asian Review, a Japan-based news publication. […] "China can never separate politics from economics when it comes to Sino-Japan relations. Japan has to correct its attitude toward history and territorial disputes with China if it wishes to deepen economic cooperation," said Liang Fang, a professor at the PLA National Defense University. She also predicted that Japan's economy will suffer if it insists on being stubborn. […] ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Role of constitution in spotlight again as party's fourth plenum nears (SCMP)
2014-09-21
The political elite have struggled for more than two decades to find an answer. Liberals argue that a powerful charter limiting the actions of the government would bolster the party's credibility. Conservatives dismiss the idea as a Western import unsuitable for a socialist nation. The question will be asked again next month when the party's Central Committee meets for its fourth plenum. Rule of law is expected to dominate the discussions, along with economic development. Hopes that China would move towards constitutionalism have been stoked by President Xi Jinping. In a speech in December 2012, not long after he became head of the party, Xi repeated Article 5 of the charter, saying: "No organisation or individual has the privilege to overstep the constitution and law." Xi echoed the idea in an address this month. Similar pledges have been made in the past by top leaders. When Hu Jintao took over in 2002, he declared that "no organisation or individual can be permitted the special privilege of going outside the constitution and law". But for every indication that the leadership is behind the push, state media and party magazines have run articles and commentaries attacking the idea. At its heart, constitutionalism is about the source of the government's authority. According to the first three articles of China's charter, the nation belongs to the people, who exercise their power through the national and local congresses. Their members are appointed through democratic elections, and are "responsible to the people and subject to their supervision". Citizens also have the right to vote and run for election (Article 34), while Article 35 enshrines freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association and demonstration. But the constitution does not limit the powers of the party; aside from the preamble and amendments, the party is not mentioned at all. The present constitution was enacted in 1982 and has undergone four amendments to reflect the party's views on major economic and social progress. […] Edward Friedman, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, said the party threw out the constitution when it no longer served the interests of authoritarian ruling groups. Leaders have repeated the process time and again. "In so doing, the People's Republic remains a single-party dictatorship in which the party commands a monopoly of arbitrary power, placing the party above and unconstrained by the constitution of the moment, a formula [that] forevermore abuses the rights and dignities of the Chinese people," Friedman said. In 2008, a group of intellectuals and activists, headed by Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize two years later, presented "Charter 08". Included among its nearly 20 key demands was a call for a new constitution. "We should recast our present constitution, rescinding its provisions that contradict the principle that sovereignty resides with the people," it said. "The constitution must be the highest law in the land, beyond violation by any individual, group, or political party." The leadership responded by jailing some of the signatories, including Liu. […] An internal document issued by the party's Publicity Department last summer, referred to as Document No9, called for the eradication from Chinese society of "seven subversive currents", including "Western constitutionalism". By this summer, at least 200 state-controlled publications had run articles criticising the call for a genuine constitutional system, according to the University of Hong Kong's China Media Project. Many party and state-run media denounced the constitutionalism argument as a Western plot to overthrow communist rule in the country. Zhang said that in his speeches, Xi was merely paying lip service to the liberal wing within the establishment and the upcoming party gathering was unlikely to yield any substantial push towards constitutionalism. ^ top ^

PLA reshuffle strengthens Xi Jinping's hand in corruption fight (SCMP)
2014-09-22
President Xi Jinping will promote two People's Liberation Army generals closely associated with him in a move to deepen the anti-corruption drive and speed up reform in the world's largest fighting force. The generals have yet to be named, but sources said Liu Yuan, the political commissar of the PLA general logistics department, and Zhang Youxia, head of the general armaments department, both stood a good chance. At least one of them will be named vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, which exercises command and control of the PLA, at a key Communist Party meeting next month, various sources said. Three sources said that Liu may be tasked with heading the military's discipline commission. Eventually both may join Xi, who is also the chairman of the CMC, to form a core leadership of the highest military command. The CMC at present is led by Xi and two vice-chairmen - General Fan Changlong and General Xu Qiliang. Both were appointed in 2012. During the era of Jiang Zemin, the CMC had two to four career servicemen as vice-chairmen. Both Liu and Zhang are so-called princelings - descendants of veteran Communist Party leaders and close associates of Xi. The proposal to promote them had been discussed several times at the PLA-run Jingxi Hotel in Beijing, the sources said. "Liu is a top candidate because he is at the heart of the anti-corruption drive in the military. Zhang is also in the running because of his combat experience," one retired military official said. Liu is the son of Liu Shaoqi, the former president who was later purged by Mao Zedong. He is said to be the man behind the downfall of Gu Junshan, the corrupt former lieutenant general and deputy logistics chief. Zhang is the son of General Zhang Zongxun, a senior Red Army commander who fought in the civil war and Sino-Japanese war. Zhang is among a handful of serving generals with war experience, having served with distinction in the Sino-Vietnamese border wars in the 1970s and '80s. "This is the time when Xi needs his own people in the military," another source said. Xi's tenacious anti-graft campaign has spread to the PLA, whose credibility and fighting capacity have been greatly eroded by rampant corruption. Beginning with the dismissal and eventual court-martial of Gu, the campaign has claimed the scalp of Xu Caihou - the retired vice-chairman of the CMC, the highest-ranking military official probed for corruption since the Deng Xiaoping era. Part of the reshuffle is also to rejuvenate and reform the world's largest military. Despite double-digit budget growth, the discipline and fighting capabilities of the PLA have been questioned by overseas observers. The PLA has not fought a war since the conflict with Vietnam in the 1980s and its reputation has been tainted by corruption and a lack of vigorous training. Since Xi took power in 2012, he has stressed the importance of maintaining a combat-ready army. […] ^ top ^

Democracy is not a decoration, Xi Jinping says in speech to CPPCC (SCMP)
2014-09-22
President Xi Jinping said "democracy is not a decoration" yesterday as he delivered a speech to the government's political advisers on his approach to developing China's consultative political institution. Speaking at the 65th anniversary of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Xi called for building a practical political system to embody "consultative democracy", one that included all levels of society. "Democracy is defined not only by people's right to vote in an election but also the right to participate in political affairs on a daily basis," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying. "Democracy is not a decoration … it's for solving peoples' problems." Xi added that citizens should be consulted before the authorities made key decisions. He said local party agencies, governments and judicial departments should improve the transparency of their work so that common people would be well informed. Early this month at the national legislature's 60th anniversary, Xi discussed development of a "socialist democracy" and cautioned against a situation where "people seem to have power but are actually powerless". The two speeches came ahead of next month's fourth party plenum, which is expected to focus on rule of law, along with economic development. Analysts said Xi's recent comments could reflect his call to modernise the country's system of governance as laid out at last year's plenum. "The ongoing anti-corruption campaign, the reform of social services and the expected reform in the judicial system are all part of this governance modernisation. The political consultation is another aspect," said Zhu Lijia, a professor of public policy at the Chinese Academy of Governance. Zhang Ming, a political science professor at Beijing-based Renmin University, said the speeches were a sign Xi wanted to develop "socialist democracy" through revitalising both the National People's Congress (NPC) and the political advisory body functions, without the need to implement real political reforms. "The NPC and CPPCC systems are both known as having little real political influence now. Xi obviously wants to make them operational and unleash their power," Zhang said. "But the question is - can he really achieve that without introducing democratic election?" he said. ^ top ^

A billion private eyes (Global Times)
2014-09-22
The "human flesh search engine" is an Internet phenomenon in China. Armed with mobile phones and computers, Net users from across the country can track down the personal information of any person, out of pure curiosity or in the name of justice. […] "Flesh searches" have also become a form of cyber-bullying, as hundreds of thousands of anonymous Internet users flock to uncover the identity and even personal details of a person suspected of a hit-and-run or animal abuse. A recent trial dubbed the "first flesh search case in Guangdong" by media involved a young girl surnamed Xu who was driven to suicide after she was publicly shamed in a human flesh search. A shop owner named Cai Xiaoqing uploaded Xu's picture on Sina Weibo and accused her of shoplifting an article of clothing. Within a half hour of the post, Xu's name, school and home address appeared online. Xu was overwhelmed by the criticisms and insults from both anonymous netizens and her schoolmates. She later jumped into a river, committing suicide. On September 5, Cai was sentenced to one year in prison for libel and defamation of character. 'Ambassadors of justice' Recently, a local police bureau began using flesh searches as an investigation tool. The Sanmenxia public security bureau in Henan Province opened a public account on WeChat, a popular online social platform in China, which encourages the public to aid police in their investigations with independent flesh searches, reported The Paper. The officers provided screenshots and photos of 41 suspects wanted since January, 21 of which were apprehended with the help of civilian flesh searches as of September 15. "No matter where you are or what your occupation is, you can catch a thief online with the images we provide," reads the WeChat account. "If you recognize these suspects or think they resemble someone you know, contact us by phone or on WeChat and become an 'ambassador of justice'," it says, followed by a hotline number. A 500 yuan ($81) reward is available to any person providing information that leads to an arrest, says the account. "The impact is clear. We have arrested 21 suspects with the information provided by residents and Net users. Not only does this platform help save on manpower, it also increases our effectiveness during investigations," boasted Zhao Pengzheng, head of the Sanmenxia public security bureau monitoring center. […] Police in the city of Nanjing and Fengxian county of Jiangsu Province have also launched similar platforms to help gather tips about criminals on the lam, resulting in the identification of two suspects in Nanjing within two weeks. Split opinions While some applaud the new service, others argue it is an invasion of personal privacy. "Is this just another form of flesh searching?" many netizens asked. "Doesn't this violate individual image rights?" "Every picture we release has been background checked. Some people in the pictures have been identified by victims, while others are screengrabs from surveillance video as the crime is being committed," Zhao explained. Zhao said the bureau has set up stringent rules to ensure the accuracy of the information. All tipsters must provide their real names. Anyone who provides false information will be punished according to China's Criminal Law. […] ^ top ^

New Shanxi party boss outlines vision to turn around graft-ravaged province (SCMP)
2014-09-23
Newly appointed Shanxi party chief Wang Rulin went on his first inspection trip to the coal-rich province, pledging to deepen the anti-graft fight and to promote cadres who are “respected for their integrity”. Wang, who fills a much-needed leadership vacuum after scores of Shanxi officials were taken away for graft, spent four days in Luliang, a city embroiled in months of corruption scandals, the People's Daily website reported on Monday. Several coal tycoons and provincial officials with close links to the city were facing graft investigations, including former vice-governor Du Shanxue, an ex-party boss of Luliang. ”Honestly, some colleagues suggested that I should not visit Luliang for my first inspection tour after taking office in Shanxi, saying that the situation in the city remains very complex,” the website quoted Wang as saying. ”But we should not evade conflicts,” he said. As one of the epicentres of the graft crackdown in Shanxi, Luliang's cadres must show their loyalty to President Xi Jinping both ideologically and politically, Wang said. Wang told officials in Luliang that his “significant task” during the inspection tour – typically a way for a leader to check how people down the chain of command are performing – was to implement Xi's directive to use history and traditional culture in the campaign against corruption. To this end, Wang said one of his top strategies was to renovate the tomb of Yu Chenglong, an upstanding, model Shanxi official during the Qing dynasty – as a constant reminder for officials to remain beyond reproach. ”If Luliang a couple of years ago could have paid attention to the renovation [of the tomb], there would not be so many officials put behind bars for corruption,” Wang said. Luliang mayor Ding Xuefeng and a local coal tycoon, Xing Libin, who owned the Liansheng Group, were also facing a graft probe. He called on local officials to cooperate with the party's top anti-graft organ, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, to actively aid and widen the scope of the investigation into higher-ranking officials who have something to hide. Wang also pledged to promote lower-ranking officials who have integrity, calling them the “hope of Luliang”. […] ^ top ^

Chinese state media commentary over Great Leap Forward death toll draws fierce online debate (SCMP)
2014-09-23
A commentary on the Great Leap Forward published in official media has come under fire online after it said studies which concluded tens of millions of Chinese starved to death were “schemes of Western hostile forces”. The article touched on Mao Zedong's massive-scale economic drive of 1958 to 1961 that attempted to rapidly transform China from an agrarian society to a Communist nation through industrialisation and collectivisation. Several studies released in recent years – none recognised by the Chinese government – have estimated that as many as 42 million people starved to death during the famine caused by the campaign. “Some Western hostile forces repeatedly hype and exaggerate that China starved to death tens of millions of people … [They] were attempting to undermine and disprove the Chinese Communist Party's validation to rule,” wrote Bei Yuan in an article published in Social Sciences Weekly, a publication of China's top official think tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Bei, a retired teacher at the Anhui Administration Institute, acknowledged there was “great loss” during the period but called it “an exploratory miscarriage” as the Communist Party sought a path to socialism. “Since it was an exploration, it could have been a success, but it could also fail,” he wrote. On social networking site Weibo, which has become a vigorous space for public discussion, the article was overwhelmingly greeted by outrage. Comments flooded in, criticising the article as a poor attempt to justify Chairman Mao's campaign. “How arrogant! In their eyes the entire population is only lab rats for a political experiment,” Ma Qianli, a Shenzhen-based consultant, wrote. A blogger with the alias Chengdu Xiao Xuehui added: “No one, or any organisation, has the right to treat a nation as an experiment, nor does it have the right to treat anyone like a lab rat.” The article was flagged high on Xinhua's news portal on Monday, a rare high-profile touch on a usually sensitive subject. Official narratives have long described the Great Leap Forward as “three years of natural disasters” or “three years of difficult times” and avoided mentioning the number of deaths during the period. The subject is rarely publicised by official media. Article author Bei also questioned the number of deaths attributed to the campaign by independent studies, saying that unnatural death did not necessarily mean death by starvation. He added that a rapid drop the population of some Chinese provinces during the period may have been due to a large population outflow to other regions. Yang Jisheng, author of Tombstone: The Untold Story of Mao's Great Famine, an influential book published outside of mainland China in 2008, has argued that unnatural deaths caused by other factors during the famine were only a fraction of those caused by starvation. He estimated that 36 million people died from starvation, basing his conclusion on interviews and piles of local government demographic records and journals. Frank Dikotter, a Dutch historian who wrote Mao's Great Famine, a major overseas study published in 2010, estimated there were at least 45 million premature deaths in China during the period. He said that widespread violence also contributed significantly to the staggering number of unnatural deaths and that starvation was often used as a punishment by party cadres. ^ top ^

Bribery trial of former China planning official ends (Xinhua)
2014-09-24
The trial of Liu Tienan, a former senior economic planning official charged with bribery, concluded on Wednesday, with the verdict to be announced later. Liu, formerly deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission and head of the National Energy Administration, was accused of taking advantage of his posts between 2002 and 2012, during trial at the Langfang Intermediate People's Court in north China's Hebei Province. "Alone or together with his son Liu Decheng, Liu Tienan illegally received money and properties worth more than 35.6 million yuan (5.8 million U.S. dollars) from five people... and should be criminally charged for bribery," said his indictment. Liu Decheng has been dealt with in a separate trial. Liu the senior pleaded guilty to taking bribes at the conclusion of the trial, saying he would accept any punishment. "Faced with the facts, I have been asking myself every time I read the indictment, is this me? How did I end up like this?" said tearful Liu, according to court scripts post on its official microblog. "Each morning as I wake up, I wonder where I am and how I have fallen into this state of depravation," said Liu, adding it is he also led his son down the wrong road. The five people mentioned in the indictment include Song Zuowen, board chairman of Nanshan Group based in east China's Shandong Province, and Qiu Jianlin, board chairman of Zhejiang Hengyi Group Co., Ltd. According to the indictment, Liu had taken bribes worth 16.49 million yuan from Qiu to help with examination and approval of projects during the period from 2006 to 2011. More than 70 reporters, lawmakers and people from various walks of life attended the trial. ^ top ^

Scotland not Taiwan precedent: expert (Global Times)
2014-09-25
The Chinese mainland's Taiwan affairs office Wednesday rejected comparisons between the Taiwan question and Scotland's independence referendum, amid a surge of pro-self-determination sentiment globally. With Taiwan still not reunited with the mainland, movements aiming to split Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Tibet Autonomous Region from the country and recent social turmoil in Hong Kong, experts are urging the Chinese central government to remain on guard against the potential aftershocks of the Scottish referendum, despite the pro-unity vote's triumph there. On Wednesday, when asked to comment on whether Taiwan could have an "independence" referendum like Scotland's, Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, told a press conference that the questions of Taiwan and Scotland are "completely different." "We uphold the one-China policy and have consistently stood against 'Taiwan Independence,'" he said. Since the run-up to the September 18 vote in Scotland, some political groups in Taiwan have been trying to cite the referendum as a precedent for Taiwan seeking "independence." Annette Lü, a member of Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party who served as a deputy to then-Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian from 2001-08, advocates a "peaceful neutralism" referendum. She said Monday that the proposal, deemed by many as a covert independence referendum, had been endorsed by Chen. Several more radical "independence" groups have gone even further, seeking an "independence referendum" in 2016 and another vote for a "new constitution" by 2020. They also aim to seek UN membership. Yang Lixian, a deputy secretary-general of the Beijing-based National Society of Taiwan Studies, told the Global Times that the Scottish vote cannot serve as a precedent for the Taiwan question, as people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits have been members of the same nationality since ancient times. In comparison, Scotland was an independent nation before forming a union with England in the early 18th century. "Only a limited number of people in Taiwan support 'independence,' as the majority understand the benefits of cooperation with the mainland, especially the level of economic support from across the Straits," said Yang. During Chen and Lü's time in the office, the island held a "referendum" that was ruled invalid due to insufficient turnout. […] The Tibetan Political Review, an online journal established by activists in the US and Dharamsala, India, said in an editorial Saturday that the Scottish referendum "was great for Tibet," and that "one day surely the Tibetan people will do the same." Similarly, Rebiya Kadeer, leader of the World Uyghur Congress, told Radio Free Asia that the UK's allowing for the vote is "a moral boost for our own efforts." She said "the Uyghurs wish to use the same democratic process" in Xinjiang. Xinjiang has witnessed a spate of terrorist attacks in recent years by groups seeking to separate the region from China. Xu Jianying, a research fellow with the Research Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Scottish referendum has strengthened separatists' illusions. "The authorities must be vigilant toward this trend, or else once they instigate such calls for referendums, we will find ourselves in a passive position," Xu told the Global Times, adding it is critical to boost cohesion through ideological education, economic development, and recognizing and respecting each ethnic group's cultural identity. Song Xiaozhuang, a commentator, said in an opinion piece on the website of Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao that compared with the UK, China faces more complicated issues in Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. "The UK's problems with Scotland are mainly about the distribution of resources and the interests of economic development. There is no foreign intervention … and no conflicting ideologies. However, China has to cope with all these problems," Song said. ^ top ^

100,000 officials were paid though they did no work (China Daily)
2014-09-26
More than 100,000 "phantom employees" of provincial governments have been cleaned out of civil servant teams in Hebei, Sichuan, Henan and Jilin provinces since a national campaign was launched last year, requiring stricter measures to keep government teams clean and efficient, experts said. In Hebei province, more than 55,000 officials in government units and staff members of public institutes were found to be getting paid, even though they no longer worked there, as part of the national Mass Line Campaign that has targeted corruption and bureaucracy, Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday. "We have taken a series of measures to expose such officials as a major way to make relations between the CPC members and the public closer," Zhao Wenhai, deputy head of the province's Finance Bureau, told Xinhua. Sichuan province has removed 28,000 officials who were being paid although they did not work, and 15,000 phantom officials were exposed in Henan province. Jilin province uncovered 8,600 such officials. The total in the four provinces was seen as an alarming number, as demonstrated by online comments on Thursday. Yang Weidong, a law professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said, "One of the major reasons for the large numbers of the ghost officials is the easy pay," adding that after they occupied posts in government or public institutes, such officials received regular pay. These redundant officials have taken a huge chunk out of allocations. Hebei recovered 120 million yuan ($19.5 million) by the end of July, accounting for 55 percent of the wasted allocation on these officials, said an announcement in August from the provincial government. For Henan province, the ghost officials exposed last year had been paid around 118 million yuan, the provincial government said in January. The lack of effective supervision from higher authorities and light punishments after exposure are also important factors that encouraged senior officials to make arrangements in government that benefited their families, said Xin Ming, a professor of the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Yang, the law professor, said that's also the reason that the phantom officials cannot be cleared out completely. "The root solution to keep the teams in governments and public institutes clean and efficient is to strengthen supervision, including scrutiny by the departments in charge of personnel arrangement and the financing bureaus," Yang said. Senior officials' power should also be controlled, he added. ^ top ^

 

 

Shanghai

Premier urges more Shanghai FTZ innovation (Xinhua)
2014-09-19
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has called for more reforms and innovations in the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ) to "breed new advantages for the Chinese economy." "Companies should not be allowed to lose at the starting line due to excessive government regulations and approval procedures," said Li during a two-day inspection tour of the FTZ to mark the one-year anniversary of its establishment. The number of companies in the FTZ has grown from 8,000 a year ago to more than 20,000. For foreign investment, the number of procedures that need approval has dropped from the original 1,000 to the current 139, according to the FTZ. More streamlined government is meant to make room for the market, promoting market vitality and inspiring more people to start companies, Li said. China should do more to put its regulations in line with international standards and treat Chinese and foreign companies equally, he added. At the FTZ branch of the Bank of China, home to experimentation with mechanisms of "free trade accounts" and RMB cross-border use, Li called for more innovation in the financial sector and expanding opening-up to in turn drive broader reform and boost the real economy. Speaking about risk control in the financial sector, the premier said that, only when proper regulations are in place can the authorities have more courage to further open up. ^ top ^

Li seeks to smooth application process to obtain green cards (China Daily)
2014-09-20
A plan to make it easier for foreigners to obtain a Chinese green card is to be considered by the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone as part of trailblazing reform efforts to further open up and attract global talent. Premier Li Keqiang has asked the zone to come up with a plan to simplify procedures for applications and the issuance of Chinese permanent residency permits for foreigners in the zone. The zone covers about 28 sq km in suburban Shanghai and acts as a test site for what are considered China's boldest reform measures in decades. "Complicated procedures for green card applications have impeded the FTZ in attracting global talent. The zone can submit a reform plan to the central government with improvement suggestions for the convenient entry and stay of foreign talent, especially those with outstanding competitiveness," Li said on Thursday. He was speaking at a meeting with corporate leaders in the zone, half of whom are foreigners. China began issuing green cards, or permanent residency permits, to foreigners in 2003. Despite its efforts to lower the threshold for applications and to introduce new visa categories for foreign talent, a Chinese green card is still considered one of the most difficult to get globally. To date, the country has granted about 5,000 of the permits to foreign applicants, or less than 500 annually, while the United States issues about 1 million green cards a year, according to Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization, a think tank in Beijing. More than 1,700 green card holders are overseas professionals working in China, and the remaining permit holders are family members who have come to be reunited with them. Talent from home and abroad with expertise in finance, management and information technology will be badly needed in the Shanghai free trade zone, according to a report released by the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee in May. Robert Parkinson, chief executive officer and founder of RMG Selection, an executive search consultancy in China, said,"I think it's fairly difficult for many expatriates who work and live in China now to attain the green card. "There are many documents that need preparing and a lot of complicated procedures to go through. Also, by the time an expat gets everything ready to apply for a Chinese green card, he or she might still be delayed by the endless qualification verification process." Parkinson called for the green card application procedures to be simplified and for the government to consider easing visa restrictions for foreigners working in China. Wang, from the Beijing think tank, said it is a "marvelous" idea to start green card reform in the Shanghai free trade zone and to gain experience that can be adopted nationwide. "We have seen big companies such as Amazon opening an e-commerce platform in the Shanghai zone, and urgently need to reduce unreasonable barriers to attract more global talent there," he said. However, he stressed that it will not be easy to reform the green card system because of conflicts of interest among administrative departments. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Top executives of influential Chinese financial paper detained in escalating 'extortion' probe (SCMP)
2014-09-25
Two top executives of the embattled Guangzhou-based 21st Century Media were taken away by police yesterday, amid an ongoing government crackdown on extortion by news outlets and a push to tighten regulation of the industry. Xinhua reported that Shen Hao, the group's CEO and editor-in-chief of its major publications, including the 21st Century Business Herald, and his deputy and general manager Chen Dongyang, were taken away in the afternoon. The one-sentence report did not say why the authorities had detained the executives. Nanfang Media Group, which owns 21st Century Media, also announced that Shen and Chen had been sacked, according to an internal group statement issued yesterday afternoon. The internal statement said Wang Yijun, deputy editor-in-chief of the parent group, would become 21st Century's party secretary, and Guo Yile, the chief business editor of Nanfang Daily, the group's flagship newspaper, would be Wang's deputy. An editorial board would be established with Guo as chief editor, while Li Rong, another 21st Century Media deputy chief, would take over Chen's former job as head of business operations. "Keep calm and show restraint. Refrain from discussion so that the party committee can work better," the statement told staff. The detentions follow those of several senior executives of the news group's online outlet 21cbh.com two weeks ago for extorting money from more than 100 companies in return for positive coverage. Eight suspects linked to the alleged extortion, including Liu Dong, president of 21cbh.com were detained last month, along with executives from two public relations firms. A preliminary investigation found that since 2010, the portal had signed several hundred million yuan worth of advertising deals with firms, most of which were listing or preparing to list. A Guangzhou media source said yesterday's detentions were related to the previous scandal. "But the move is also part of the general crackdown and tightening of freedom of speech. It's just that they are picking on the obvious wrongdoers first," the source said. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Tibetan student burns to death in first self-immolation since April (SCMP)
2014-09-22
A 22-year-old Tibetan man has burned to death in China's Gansu province in what appears to be the first self-immolation in more than five months. According to Radio Free Asia and pro-Tibetan organisations, student Lhamo Tashi set himself on fire on September 17 outside a police station in Hezuo county in Gansu's Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. He died on the spot, sources said. There have been around 130 self-immolations in protest against Chinese rule over Tibet since 2009. More than 80 Tibetans self-immolated in 2012 during the height of the protests, while numbers declined last year and this year. On April 15, a 32-year-old man burned himself to death in Daofu county, Sichuan province. Around a year earlier, the area had been the site of a shooting by Chinese security forces when they opened fire on a crowd of worshippers who were marking the 78th birthday of the Dalai Lama, injuring at least seven people. The Dalai Lama, in June last year, warned that self-immolations were having little effect on China's policies in Tibet while he urged Beijing to look harder at the causes of the protests. “It's a sad thing that happens. Of course it's very, very sad,” the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader told reporters during a visit to Australia. “In the meantime, I doubt how much effect [there is] from such drastic actions." China has repeatedly denounced the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile for encouraging self-immolations. Authorities in Tibet, where foreign journalists are largely prevented from visiting, have tightened controls in a bid to stop the protests, arresting family members and friends of self-immolators. In November, seven people, including three monks, were arrested in Qinghai province after a 20-year-old monk burned to death. This came months after around 70 people were detained in the province in the largest crackdown yet. “Police will exert more efforts to thoroughly investigate the cases and seriously punish those who incite innocent people to commit self-immolation,” provincial police chief Lu Binghai was quoted as saying in state media. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang punishes officials after terror attack, murder (Xinhua)
2014-09-22
Seventeen officials and police officers have received penalties for being accountable for a deadly terror attack and the murder of a renowned imam in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The Xinjiang Regional Committee of the Communist Party of China on Sunday gave a list of penalized officials, including county and town officials, a vice secretary-general of Kashgar's Islamic association and several police officers. He Limin, Party chief of Shache County, was demoted and stripped of his Party position. Some others were sacked, demoted or given inner-Party warnings. A terror attack on July 28 in Shache County of Kashgar Prefecture left 37 civilians dead and 94 injured. Police shot dead 59 terrorists and arrested 215 others. The incident was followed by the murder of 74-year-old religious leader Jume Tahir in China's largest mosque, the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, on July 30 by extremists. The Party committee of Xinjiang also said a former town-level legislator was promoted for his timely reports and good performance during the Shache attack. ^ top ^

Ilham Tohti to appeal separatism conviction and jailing for life, lawyers say (SCMP)
2014-09-24
Moderate Uygur scholar Ilham Tohti plans to appeal against his conviction for separatism and sentence of life imprisonment, his lawyers say. The Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi, which gave its verdict yesterday, also deprived Tohti of his political rights for life and ordered his personal property confiscated. Legal experts and lawyers questioned why the case was heard in Xinjiang and not Beijing, where he lived and worked as an economist, and why Tohti was not convicted of the lesser crime of inciting separatism, given that the prosecution cited articles and speeches rather than any actions. Tohti, 44, was accused of promoting independence for Xinjiang on a Uygur- and Chinese-language website he managed. He was accused of attacking, through the website - called Uighur Online - the central government's policies in the region. According to Xinhua, the court said: "The articles [on the website] attacked China's ethnic, religious, economic and family planning policies, and incited ethnic hatred by distorting the causes of … riots and disputes … in Xinjiang and Beijing." Li Fangping, who represented Tohti at last week's trial, told the South China Morning Post his client had decided to appeal. "The verdict condemned him for what he said … There was nothing related to actual behaviour," Li said. "The trial was manipulated by politics and counter to Chinese law." He said the court claimed Tohti was the leader of an inter-ethnic bloodbath five years ago and Uighur Online had played a role in causing the bloody clashes between Han and Uygurs. "But during the two-day trial, the authorities failed to point out which of Tohti's speeches was linked to the July 5 [2009] clash … I have never seen such a poorly prepared trial," Li said. On July 5, 2009, violence erupted between Han and Uygurs in Urumqi, leaving nearly 200 people dead, mostly Han. Liu Xiaoyuan, who also represented Tohti, said his client had repeatedly stated he never had any desire to divide China, and called only for the government to rule Xinjiang by law, respect the local people and let Uygurs have an equal share of the region's economic fruit. Dilxadi Rexiti, a spokesman for the Germany-based World Uygur Congress, said Tohti's tragedy would force Uygurs to abandon peaceful and constructive means and "use contrary measures" to secure their dignity. Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said Tohti advocated peaceful means to solve Xinjiang's problem, and accusing him of separatism would not help lower tensions in the far-western region. The European Union said the verdict was "completely unjustified" and called for his "immediate and unconditional release". ^ top ^

China to further stem Xinjiang-related illegal publications (Xinhua)
2014-09-25
China's publication monitors will further crack down on illegal religious books and CDs related to the terrorist-hit Xinjiang following a number of busts. The move is part of a campaign to safeguard social stability and long-term peace in the region. The campaign was started less than a month after 39 people were killed in a bomb explosion at a market in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. "Anti-illegal publications departments across the country will make more efforts to cooperate with police, press and publication authorities in uncovering problems in the market and investigating clues offered by the public," said a statement released from the National Anti-Pornography and Anti-Illegal Publications Office on Thursday. The statement included examples of 11 busts that occurred in 2013 and 2014 in Xinjiang and its neighboring Gansu Province. The most high-profile case saw Xinjiang police confiscate more than 47,000 illegal books when raiding a storage room in the city of Hotan this March. Further investigations revealed that these publications were printed in south China's Guangdong Province with e-versions of foreign religious books downloaded from the Internet to use as blueprints. They were then transferred to Xinjiang for sale. In the latest development, two people have been indicted for roles in these acts, which involved over 60,000 illegal books transferred from the southern cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen to various places in Xinjiang since December 2013, the statement said. They were valued at 1.2 million yuan (195,000 U.S. dollars). The office vowed to focus on destroying the sources for illegal publication and hand down severe punishment to individuals and groups involved. ^ top ^

Ilham Tohti's 'separatist' videos released by Chinese state media after controversial conviction (SCMP)
2014-09-25
Details of Ilham Tohti's alleged separatist speeches to his students were released by mainland media on Wednesday in an attempt to justify his harsh trial sentencing, which triggered an outcry from international communities and rights groups. The official Xinhua News Agency published court records of the two-day trial at the Xinjiang court, including excerpts of economics professor Tohti's lectures in which he allegedly goaded students into “fighting the government”. ”Don't [view] violent resistance as terrorist activities," Xinhua quoted Tohti as saying in one classroom lecture. "The government is like guizi [Japanese soldiers during the Sino-Japan war]. You can fight against it by any means." Although state media provided accompanying voice-overs, Tohti's voice cannot be heard on any of the videos. [...] Xinhua also said Tohti published a fabricated survey on Uygur-Han relations supposedly showing that 12.3 per cent of Uygur respondents favoured Xinjiang independence as “the only way out”. Tohti defended himself in court, saying he was not the author of the survey report. One of Tohti's lawyers, Liu Xiaoyuan, questioned if the Xinhua report – released before the verdict would take effect – would prejudice the court, especially considering that Tohti planned to appeal his conviction. Verdicts in criminal cases take effect 10 days after conviction, if there is no appeal. Liu said on Twitter that he had filed complaints to the Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi, and a staff member promised to pass the complaint to court officials. Liu, in a message on his Weibo account, also called on the court to release all footage of the trial for transparency, saying the court did not follow procedures and did not ask witnesses to attend the trial. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said at a daily press briefing on Wednesday that China is opposed to other countries interfering with the country's judiciary independence and domestic affairs, in response to the international criticism over Tohti' life sentence. ^ top ^

Coronation from West won't exonerate Tohti (Global Times)
2014-09-26
Ilham Tohti, a former Uyghur lecturer at Minzu University of China, was given a life sentence by the Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi on Tuesday. It raised intense reactions from the West, especially from the US, whose Secretary of State John Kerry said he is "deeply disturbed" by the conviction. Some Western media even deliberately described Tohti as China's Nelson Mandela. Tohti's trial and conviction have given them plenty of material to challenge China in the public discourse. However, no matter how hard they try to push these convicted dissidents onto the moral high ground, Chinese society has got used to and no longer feels so sensitive to these tricks played by the West. China knows that they always use so-called morality and justice as a shield to cover their real intentions. This shield harbors the people who attempt to go against the Chinese rule of law, among whom there are ethnic separatists and social saboteurs. If these people are given full freedom to undertake illegal activities as the West demands, one could not imagine how much damage they would cause to Chinese social order. China does not pursue the same political system as the West, and history has proven that China made the right choice over its political path, compared with many other developing countries which have transplanted the Western system. Different political systems breed different laws, and as a Chinese citizen, Tohti has to observe Chinese law, by which his illegal acts shall be punished. It is none of the West's business to making carping comments. The facts have demonstrated that Chinese rule of law is so powerful that jeering and displeasure from the West have met counteractive impacts. The West has witnessed China's growing assertiveness and strength and knows that "human rights" is no longer their trump card. They will become less determined to challenge China on this matter. Scotland has just wrapped up a referendum over independence, and soon after, some voices at home and abroad started to call for the legitimization of separatism in China. These irresponsible remarks concealed their ulterior motives and muddled the essential differences between Scottish independence and the Xinjiang issue. Even by instinct, we can imagine what a disaster it would be for China if it did the same as Scotland. Chinese separatists must be fully aware of the red line drawn by the Chinese Constitution and criminal law. Tohti could serve as a lesson for them to realize what price they have to pay if they continue their dangerous pace. These so-called dissidents had better clear their minds and see the growing difficulties if they still want to depend on the West to carry forward their advocacy. They should look at the big picture of China's rise and the improvement in China's rule of law, or a doomed failure is what awaits them. ^ top ^

China says 50 dead, 54 injured in Sunday terror attacks in restive Xinjiang (SCMP)
2014-09-26
Xinjiang official media said that 50 people, including 40 suspected assailants, were killed in what the authorities called a terror attack over the weekend in the restive region. Regional authorities had said earlier that multiple explosions on Sunday in Luntai county killed at least two people and injured many others. Government-run news site Tianshan Net said on Thursday night the explosions killed two police officers, two police assistants and six bystanders. Fifty-four people were also injured in the attack, according to the site. It said police took swift action and 40 attackers were either shot dead or took their own lives by setting off explosives. Another two suspects were captured. The blasts hit a shop, an open-air market and two police stations around 5pm Sunday, it added. Police said it was an "organised and serious terrorist attack". The report said the suspected leader of the assailants, identified as Mehmet Tursun, was shot dead. An initial investigation suggested the suspect, whose parents are civil servants, started developing "extreme religious" thoughts and begin recruiting members for his violent gang from his co-workers. Earlier yesterday, Radio Free Asia, citing an anonymous local official and a hospital nurse, reported that 12 were killed and about 100 injured in the attacks. An employee at the Red Cross Jimin Hospital in Luntai told the South China Morning Post yesterday that he helped pick up two injured people from the blast scene and sent them to hospital. He refused to disclose more. Violent conflicts in Xinjiang, home of the Muslim Uygur minority group, have killed more than 300 people in the past year and a half. Photos circulating online showed burning cars and police cordoning off a market. The updated report on Thursday night said some of the explosions occurred at a farmers' market, a retail store and two police stations. In the past week, Chinese authorities sent mixed signals of both intolerance and restraint in their approach to the increasing tensions over Xinjiang. China's highest court, its top prosecution office and the Ministry of Public Security released joint instructions on Sunday to their subordinate organs throughout the country on how to deal with cases of terrorism and religious extremism, describing such cases as a “grave threat” to national security and social stability. The instructions, published on their websites, called on court officials, prosecutors and police to distinguish between the illegal acts of religious extremists and ordinary religious activities. Officials should avoid discriminating against religions or ethnic minorities, interfering with citizens' freedom to practice their religion and should respect the personal dignity of criminal suspects and defendants, according to the instructions. However, a court in Urumqi, the region's capital, on Tuesday sentenced the outspoken Uygur economics professor Ilham Tohti to life imprisonment on charges of advocating separatism for the region, sparking an international outcry over the harshest sentence the country has handed out handed out to a political dissident in a decade. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

President meets 70 SAR business leaders in Beijing (Global Times)
2014-09-23
Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated the need to uphold "One Country, Two Systems" while meeting with a 70-strong Hong Kong delegation of top business leaders led by the city's former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa on Monday afternoon. He stressed that "One Country, Two Systems" is basic State policy, and that continuing to put the policy into practice is the common wish of all Chinese people, including those in Hong Kong. "The central government's basic principle and policy toward Hong Kong have not changed and will not change," the Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi as saying at the meeting. "The key is to fully and accurately understand and implement the 'One Country, Two Systems' principle, and to uphold the authoritative status of the Basic Law," Xi stressed. The delegation, made up of tycoons with businesses spanning real estate, banking and manufacturing, was led by former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, who is now a vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Xi expressed his approval for the contributions the business sector has made to the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong society, and urged the territory to unite for the common goal of creating a better future for Hong Kong and the nation. [...] One of the tycoons, Henderson Land Development chairman Lee Shau-kee, urged Hong Kong to make gradual, orderly progress by moving forward with the NPC's reform plan. He warned that Occupy Central will cause Hong Kong to lose its edge as a competitive business hub, according to Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK. "Xi's meeting with the Hong Kong business leaders' delegation has proven that the central government's policy toward Hong Kong has remained unchanged, and shown China's dedication to Hong Kong's long-term stability and prosperity," Qiang Shigong, a Peking University professor and expert in Hong Kong issues, told the Global Times. "There has been misconception that China's Hong Kong policy has changed after the release of the white paper," said Qiang, who believed the meeting will help correct this misunderstanding. Another Hong Kong business mogul, Lui Che-woo, chairman of the K Wah Group and founder of the Galaxy Entertainment Group, called on democracy activists to be "constructive." "I have been striving [for Hong Kong's development] for more than 70 years. Hong Kong has earned a global reputation as a model city … [The activists] should work for Hong Kong's economic development … If people are unhappy, just speak out. Don't ruin Hong Kong," Lui was quoted as saying by RTHK. The delegation includes some of the city's wealthiest business leaders, including Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa chairman Li Ka-shing; New World Development chairman Henry Cheng Kar-shun; Wharf Holdings chairman Peter Woo Kwong-ching and CLP Holdings chairman Michael Kadoorie. Their companies alone boast combined net assets of HK$1.75 trillion ($226 billion), reported the South China Morning Post. On September 16, Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, met with a visiting delegation of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions headed by its president Lam Shuk-yee. Zhang said he hoped the federation would hold on to its principles of patriotism and loving Hong Kong. The central government supports the lawful and steady development of democracy in Hong Kong, Zhang said. ^ top ^

Thousands join Hong Kong students' democracy protest as classroom boycott begins (SCMP)
2014-09-23
Students will take their fight for democracy to government headquarters today, after thousands formed a sea of white across the Chinese University campus to launch a week-long class boycott yesterday. Organiser the Federation of Students estimated that 13,000 people turned up at the Sha Tin campus - including teachers, secondary school pupils and members of the public, as well as local and mainland students. "The turnout is encouraging," secretary general Alex Chow Yong-kang said. "This is not just a matter for the students, but for Hongkongers as a whole." Chow called on the public to join the fight today as the venue switches to Tamar Park, outside government headquarters in Admiralty. Protesters are expected to approach the office of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, where the Executive Council meets this morning, to demand Leung address the students. Chow reiterated the students' demands: allow the public to nominate candidates for chief executive in 2017; abolish functional constituencies in the Legislative Council; and apologise for and retract Beijing's ruling limiting political reform. If the government refused, he said Leung, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and key ministers should quit. Last month, Beijing ruled that while Hong Kong could pick its leader by "one person, one vote" in 2017, only two or three candidates could run. They must win majority support from a 1,200-strong nominating committee likely to be dominated by Beijing loyalists, meaning Beijing's critics could be "screened out". Among those at yesterday's rally was Tammy Yiu, a first-year student studying social work at the private Shue Yan University in North Point who skipped two lectures to attend. "I don't want to remain silent," she said. "When society is being divided, I do not want to stand on the wrong side. The strike is seen as a precursor to Occupy Central, the civil disobedience exercise in which thousands are expected to blockade roads to demand democracy. Occupy co-organiser Dr Chan Kin-man, a Chinese University sociologist, did not urge his students to strike, but was pleased that almost two-thirds of sociology students showed up. The government said in a statement that it respected students' pursuit of democracy, but believed it was better for political development to take a step forwards rather than standing still. ^ top ^

Occupy Central leader drops 'grand banquet' hint that protest will start October 1 (SCMP)
2014-09-24
The likelihood that Occupy Central will be launched on National Day, October 1, grew firmer yesterday when a co-founder of the movement spoke of "a grand banquet" in Central while others were marking "the big day". Another Occupy Central founder has applied to police for a public meeting at Chater Road pedestrian precinct on the public holidays of October 1 and 2. "While others are celebrating the big day of the country, we will set up a grand banquet in Central to fight for Hong Kong's democracy," Benny Tai Yiu-ting wrote in Apple Daily yesterday. "Banquet" is the code name for the mass sit-in with which the movement hopes to press Beijing to offer full democracy to Hong Kong, amid dismay over a restrictive framework for the city's first "universal suffrage" election for chief executive in 2017. Occupy later posted a checklist on its Facebook page urging supporters to bring protective gear such as goggles, as well as provisions for two or three days. "We welcome all pro-democracy supporters who are willing to devote themselves to this cause to join," Tai wrote, adding that people who wanted only to observe were also welcome. Co-founder Reverend Chu Yiu-ming's application to police supported rumours the sit-in would take place in a section of Chater Road closed to traffic on Sundays and public holidays. Chu filed the application in the name of his Hong Kong Democratic Development Network. It seeks to hold a rally on Chater Road between 3pm and midnight on October 1 and 7am and midnight on October 2. It also asks to use Chater Garden from 3pm on October 1 to midnight on October 3. A source close to Occupy said organisers would withdraw the October 2 application if the National Day one succeeded. Separately, the Civil Human Rights Front scrapped a march from Victoria Park to Chater Road on October 1 after it was denied permission to use the park. Meanwhile three more protesters were yesterday charged over an unruly protest outside the Legislative Council building on June 13. They will appear at Eastern Court tomorrow. At least 20 people have been charged since Saturday over the rally and one a week earlier, against two new towns in the New Territories. ^ top ^

Government House sit-in ends without arrests as students prepare for fifth day of rallies (SCMP)
2014-09-26
Students camping outside the Chief Executive's residence said their sit-in had not been in vain even though Leung Chung-ying ignored their request to meet. Some 4,000 people marched from Tamar Park to the rear gate of Government House on Thursday night, requesting to meet the chief executive. About 800 of them set up camp outside Government House around 12.40am on Friday. Leung had not granted their request as of Friday morning, but Federation of Students leader Alex Chow Yong-kang said that didn't make the protest a failure. "We don't believe we have failed because the aim of our boycott is [for] awakening more people, and during our boycott, we have shown that the government... is so ugly," Chow said. "[Leung's response also] reflected that he is reluctant to be responsible for the policies he made," said Chow. "He has, again, disappointed all students and citizens. It would only trigger more anger towards the government," he added. [...] ^ top ^

US-China confrontation disastrous for HK (Global Times)
2014-09-26
US consulate personnel in Hong Kong were revealed to have held meetings with student representatives who led the class boycott campaign. This news stirred up Hong Kong society, sparking heated discussion. Some students kicked off a week-long boycott of classes from September 22. The Hong Kong opposition camp now is busy with preparations to launch the "Occupy Central" protest during the National Day holidays. Behind the scenes is external support from the US and the West, as has been proven by the latest media exposures. Western support serves as an anchor to the pan-democracy camp. They are emboldened by Western champion, misperceiving what they are doing as a moral cause and misjudging the risks that "Occupy Central" could bring. Sino-US relations are complicated. Competition is a normal state of the bilateral relationship. The more divergences Hong Kong has, the greater the possibility that it will draw attention from the US and be used as a card to trouble China. The US has plenty of approaches to interfere in Hong Kong affairs, either through covert meddling, or blunt intervention. If China disregards the temporary turbulence in Hong Kong, the influence of US tactics will abate. From an overall perspective, China's strategic initiative in the China-US relationship has been on the rise. The US influence on Hong Kong is not significant enough to be a trump card in competition with China. But the problem is that some radical forces in Hong Kong are catering to the US, which may increase US leverage. Hong Kong society should have a grand vision and be clearly aware of its position in the strategic rivalry between China and the US. Hongkongers should firmly object to radical forces, who are attempting to kidnap the destiny of the whole region for their own political ends. The US will inevitably stretch its hands into Hong Kong. If Hong Kong turns into a wrestling field of the US to hedge China's rise, that will be a disaster for all of Hong Kong. Washington hasn't started openly intervening in Hong Kong. The pan-democracy camp had better not count on that. Hong Kong's development cannot afford any direct collision and confrontation between China and the US in the region. China hopes for a prosperous Hong Kong with great sincerity and motivation. There is a misperception that the Chinese mainland wants to jeopardize the democracy of Hong Kong. The mainland has made strides in the rule of law. Hongkongers should get rid of their illusions. ^ top ^

 

Macau

Beijing installs Chui as Macao chief executive (China Daily)
2014-09-23
Premier Li Keqiang vowed greater support for the Macao Special Administrative Region as he installed incumbent Chui Sai-on as Macao chief executive on Monday in Beijing. Chui, 57, was re-elected for a second term on Aug 31. He was the sole candidate in the election. Congratulating Chui on his appointment and praising his work during his last term, Li praised the SAR government and the Macao people for their tremendous achievements in carrying out the "one country, two systems" principle over the last 15 years. Li said the central government will continue to "thoroughly and accurately" implement the principles of "one country, two systems" and the "Macao people administering Macao" while allowing the region a high degree of autonomy according to the Macao Basic Law. "(The central government) will fully support the chief executive and the SAR government in the rule of law, actively push forward the exchange and cooperation between Macao and the mainland, and ensure Macao's unique role in the country's overall development," Li said. Chui expressed gratitude for the central government's support and vowed to fulfill his duties as chief executive and boost the region's long-term prosperity, stability and development. Chui's new five-year term will start on Dec 20, the 15th anniversary of Macao's return to Chinese sovereignty. President Xi Jinping also met with Chui on Monday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Xi congratulated Chui and said the central government appreciates the work of Chui and his administration in Macao in coping with various challenges, developing the economy, improving people's livelihoods and enhancing communication with the mainland over the last five years. "The internal and external environment of Macao has witnessed great changes, and that will require better work from the new administration," Xi said. At a meeting last week, Li said the August election was in line with the Basic Law of the Macao SAR and all other pertinent laws, and reflected "an open and just principle". He said Chui, with the support of the central government, has maintained high economic growth and low unemployment rates over the past five years, and his re-election will bring long-term stability to Macao. The world's biggest gambling center, Macao saw its gambling revenue fall by 6.1 percent in August from the previous year, the third straight monthly decline this year amid the country's anti-corruption campaign and falling house prices on the mainland. But experts said Macao will see continued growth, although at a slower pace, because of an increasing number of visitors from the mainland. Li said Macao's future development depends on regional cooperation, especially in its ties with Beijing, and support from neighboring regions such as Guangdong province and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

North Korea tests Beijing with hijack of another Chinese fishing boat (SCMP)
2014-09-24
North Korea detained a Chinese fishing boat and demanded a fine for its release, it was reported yesterday, apparently the first such move in more than a year, risking further strains on ties between Pyongyang and its only major ally. A boat from Dalian, with six crew on board, was seized by North Koreans on September 12 while fishing in the Yellow Sea between China and the Korean peninsula, the government-run Beijing News reported. The owner of the boat told the newspaper that he received a phone call, apparently from the North Korean coastguard, two days later and was told that his boat and crew had been detained for fishing in North Korean waters. The North Koreans demanded a fine of 250,000 yuan (HK$315,000) for releasing the boat and its crew, but on September 17 the six crew returned to their fishing village with wounds on their bodies from being beaten, the newspaper said. It was reported that their wallets and belts had been stolen. "The crew insist that their boat did not enter North Korean waters, not to mention crossing the line for fishing," Zhang Xikai, the fishing boat owner, was quoted as saying. "They were conducting normal operations within Chinese waters when they were hijacked by North Korean personnel with guns and dragged into North Korean waters by force." In Beijing, the foreign ministry confirmed it was aware of the boat's seizure and the Chinese embassy in Pyongyang made representations to the North Korean government, the newspaper said. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday she had not yet seen the report and would make checks. North Korea in May detained a Chinese vessel with 16 crew demanding 600,000 yuan, but eventually released them without payment after Beijing intervened. In 2012, three Chinese fishing boats were seized by North Koreans who asked for 1.2 million yuan. They were freed later but it was unclear whether any payment had been made. Beijing is a major supplier of food aid and oil to Pyongyang. However, tension has mounted between the two countries, with North Korea increasingly isolated by UN sanctions over its nuclear ambitions and rocket launches. ^ top ^

'I dig fields for 8 hours a day': US man jailed in North Korea describes hard labour (SCMP)
2014-09-25
An American man recently sentenced by North Korea to six years of hard labour says he is digging in fields eight hours a day and being kept in isolation, but that so far his health hasn't deteriorated. Under close guard and with only enough time to respond to one question, 24-year-old Matthew Miller spoke briefly to a journalist at a Pyongyang hotel, where he had been brought to make a phone call to his family. It was his first appearance since he was convicted on September 14 of entering the country illegally to commit espionage. "Prison life is eight hours of work per day. Mostly it's been agriculture, like in the dirt, digging around," Miller said when asked what conditions were like in prison. "Other than that, it's isolation, no contact with anyone. But I have been in good health, and no sickness or no hurts," he said, showing little emotion. Wearing a prison-style grey uniform and cap, Miller was filmed sitting down at a phone booth at the hotel and pressing the buttons on a phone while a North Korean guard stood behind him. Officials said Miller spoke to his father, but the journalist was not allowed to hear the conversation. Miller does not have routine access to phone calls home. The Bakersfield, California, native showed several letters he had written seeking help from influential Americans, including first lady Michelle Obama, US Secretary of State John Kerry and former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Miller then enclosed them in a letter he sent to his family from the hotel. At Miller's 90-minute trial, North Korea's Supreme Court said he tore up his tourist visa at Pyongyang's airport upon arrival on April 10 and admitted having the "wild ambition" of experiencing prison life so that he could secretly investigate North Korea's human rights situation. Miller is one of three Americans detained in North Korea. Jeffrey Fowle, who was arrested in May for leaving a Bible at a sailor's club, is expected to be tried in court soon. Kenneth Bae was sentenced in 2013 to 15 years of hard labour. Last week, Robert King, the US special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, said Pyongyang had not accepted American offers to send a high-level envoy to seek release of the three men. King said that freeing the detainees could provide a diplomatic opening in ties between the two countries, but that Washington would not give into attempts to "extort" political gain from the detentions. King would not specify whom the Obama administration was willing to send. But Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank, said he was told by the administration that it had offered in recent weeks to send Glyn Davies, who leads US diplomacy on North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, and that Pyongyang had not responded favourably. In 2009, North Korea detained two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who were freed after former US president Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang. In 2011, former president Jimmy Carter visited North Korea to win the release of imprisoned American Aijalon Gomes, who had been sentenced to eight years of hard labour for crossing illegally into the North from China. ^ top ^

Kim Jong-un no-show at North Korean parliament prompts health speculation (SCMP)
2014-09-26
Speculation intensified yesterday that North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-un may be ill after he failed to take his customary seat as the country convened its rubber-stamp parliament. Only part of this year's second meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly was shown on North Korean state television, but Kim was not present. If he had missed the meeting, it would be for the first time since he took power after the death of his father Kim Jong-il in December 2011, according to an official for South Korea's Unification Ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules. The usually ubiquitous Kim, the third member of his family to rule the country, has not been seen in state media since attending a concert in Pyongyang on September 3. He was shown limping on television in July and again earlier this month. South Korean media outlets have speculated that Kim has been ill, although there has been no discussion of his health in the authoritarian North's state-run media. The assembly normally meets once a year in April to rubber-stamp budgetary and personnel matters decided by the ruling party. When the official Korea Central News Agency announced the date for this year's second session, it did not say what would be discussed by the nearly 700 people attending or how long the session would last. North Korean media said yesterday that the assembly had approved the promotion of an official seen as a rising confidant of Kim's, Hwang Pyong-so, as the vice-chairman of the country's powerful National Defence Commission. At the April session, Kim was re-elected as the commission's head. The last time the assembly met twice in one year was in 2012. In practice it has little power. North Korea opened polling stations in March for voters to approve a new roster of deputies for the assembly, and Kim was elected unanimously with a 100 per cent turnout in his district. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

President of Mongolia delivered a speech at the UN Climate Change Summit 2014 (infomongolia)
2014-09-24
The 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is ongoing in New York and as part of session program, the UN Climate Summit 2014 commenced on September 23rd, which brought together more than 120 heads of state and government including President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj and Foreign Minister L.Bold. Next year marks the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the United Nations and this was the specificity of this year's session. In his speech at the UN Climate Change Summit, President Ts.Elbegdorj emphasized, “No one country is immune to climate change. Even my country - Mongolia, which has an extraordinarily friendly livelihood and tradition to live in harmony with nature - is suffering a lot because of climate change. The climate change issue is no longer a science fiction. It is no longer a science debate. The climate change has become a real life issue. If you still have doubts whether climate change is happening or not - come to Mongolia. Ask herdsmen "is climate change happening?" Our herdsmen will give you a true answer. They already told me "It is happening, and happening for real". One expert on climate change said that if global warming exceeds 2 degrees Celsius, the disaster that may have happened once in a million year might happen every year. The climate change is created by us, by me, by you. Are we going to leave our children, grandchildren to the hands of this monster? No. Let us act together". Moreover, along with the heads of state and government from over 120 countries, the environmental activists, Hollywood stars and the UN messengers delivered their speech at Climate Change Summit. For instance, the former Vice President of the United States, Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Gore noted in his speech: “Political leadership is the best way to fight against climate change” and the UN Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio said: “It is time for us to act”. Also, President Ts.Elbegdorj attended the Clinton Global Initiative forum and the round-table on climate change at the Columbia University. ^ top ^

Mongolia pledges to provide a venue for bilateral talks between Japan and North Korea (infomongolia)
2014-09-25
According to The Japan Times (TJT), the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe and the President of Mongolia Tsakhia ELBEGDORJ, who both attending in the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, have agreed on Tuesday, September 23, to continue working together in the hopes of resolving the abductees issue with North Korea. In a meeting at the U.N. headquarters in New York, President Ts.Elbegdorj expressed his country's intention to continue cooperation by providing a venue for bilateral talks between Japan and North Korea, where Mongolia has fairly good relations with Pyongyang, adds the TJT. Premier Sh.Abe replied that he appreciates Mongolia's understanding and cooperation. Furthermore, the two leaders agreed to ensure that Japan and Mongolia bring a bilateral economic partnership into effect. The basic agreement was reached in July. Moreover, Mongolia's President Ts.Elbegdorj also briefed Sh.Abe on the results of a recent three-way summit in Tajikistan with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. ^ 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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