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
  21-23.12.15, No. 602  
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Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

China, US target 5 most-wanted fugitives (China Daily)
2015-12-23
Chinese law enforcement authorities are working with the United States on the cases of the five most-wanted corrupt Chinese officials living in the US, a senior anti-corruption official said. China is seeking US judicial assistance in repatriating the five - four of whom are still at large - to China to face trial, said the senior official with the International Cooperation Bureau of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. "We are negotiating with our US counterparts on the five major corrupt fugitives, including Yang Xiuzhu, who is suspected of illegal immigration and is in custody awaiting deportation proceedings," said the official, who requested anonymity. "And we have decided to conduct joint investigations of the major cases." Yang was a former deputy mayor of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province. He said that during the China-US Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation meeting held in December last year in Beijing, the two countries discussed concerns about transnational crimes and agreed to work together in resolving the five cases. […] "We are in advanced negotiations with US judicial authorities on the five major cases, including Yang's, and will exchange information in a timely manner and offer necessary evidence to the US judicial authorities for further investigation," he said. […] In April, Chinese judicial authorities launched an eight-month-long operation code-named "Sky Net" to hunt down 100 major corrupt officials at large abroad and confiscate their ill-gotten assets. […] ^ top ^

China, South Korea reopen maritime demarcation talks after 7 years (Global Times)
2015-12-23
China and South Korea on Tuesday reopened talks on maritime demarcation after seven years, which analysts believe can serve as an example for other Asian countries in resolving maritime disputes. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and his South Korean counterpart Cho Tae-yul attended the meeting, which began "in an amicable mood" as both sides cited good relations between China and South Korea, Yonhap News Agency reported. The two sides said they will hold consultations on overlapping exclusive economic zone (EEZs) and continental shelf claims in accordance with international law and also based on the spirit of win-win, sincerity and mutual trust, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday that the talks will benefit both countries whose cooperation and exchange are at an historical best. The two sides have organized 14 rounds of director general-level talks between 1996 and 2008 but have failed to reach an agreement. Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Park Geun-hye agreed to launch the negotiations in July 2014, Yonhap reported. South Korea wants the maritime border to be drawn halfway between the two nations. But China says it should be at a distance proportionate to the length of their respective coastlines, according to Yonhap. "China and South Korea has agreed that there is no territorial dispute between the two countries and the negotiations are aimed at solving the overlapping maritime rights. A friendly political atmosphere, a strong political will and a full understanding will help push the talks forward," Huang Wei, an associate professor at China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies of Wuhan University, wrote on the People's Daily website on Friday.A final solution usually takes years and the reopened talks can set up a good model for other Asian countries in solving maritime disputes, especially when some have attempted to hype the issue at multilateral forums and complicate the situation by inviting forces outside the region, Cao Qun, an expert at the China Institute of International Studies, wrote in an essay published in the Guangming Daily on Tuesday. ^ top ^

China backs political solution to Ukraine crisis: FM (Xinhua)
2015-12-23
China opposes sanctions in handling international relations and backs political dialogue in the Ukraine crisis, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Tuesday. The European Union (EU) on Monday said it had prolonged economic sanctions against Russia until July 31, 2016. "China opposes, as always, the willful use or threat of use of sanctions in handling international relations, and believes political dialogue is the only solution to the Ukraine crisis," Hong said at a press briefing. China expects full implementation of the Minsk agreement and a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis, he said. The sanctions were initially introduced for one year on July 31, 2014, in response to Russia's actions in the east of Ukraine. On June 22, 2015, the Council of the European Union extended the measures until Jan. 31, 2016. EU leaders then decided to link the sanctions to implementation of the Minsk agreement between leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France. "Since the Minsk agreement will not be fully implemented by 31 December 2015, the duration of the sanctions has been prolonged whilst the Council continues its assessment of progress," the EU statement said. ^ top ^

China, Iraq establish strategic partnership (Xinhua)
2015-12-22
China and Iraq agreed Tuesday to establish a strategic partnership during the on-going visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to China.The two countries issued a joint statement to the effect in Beijing, saying that the strategic partnership will help deepen bilateral cooperation in various field and promote development and prosperity in both countries. According to the joint statement, the two sides agreed to strengthen high-level engagement, enhance strategic communication on the bilateral ties and international and regional issues of common concern to increase consensus and consolidate strategic mutual trust. […] The two countries vowed to take into consideration of each other's core interest and major concerns, and not to interfere in each other's domestic affairs, it said. Iraq will abide by the one-China policy and support China's stance on issues related to Xinjiang. China will support Iraq's unity, territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, said the joint statement. The two sides condemned terrorism of all forms and pledged to support each other's efforts to maintain national security, stability and to fight against terrorism, it said. The two sides expressed opposition to applying double standards on fighting against terrorism, and to linking terrorism with certain country, ethnic group or religion. They also agreed to strengthen coordination and cooperation on international and regional affairs, and voiced support for countries in West Asia and North Africa to explore a development path in accordance with their national situation and to solve regional hot issues through dialogue and negotiation to realize regional stability and development. […] Abadi's official visit to China from Tuesday to Wednesday is his first since taking office in September 2014. […] Abadi was invited by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who held talks with Abadi on Tuesday. ^ top ^

China closely watching efforts to solve Cyprus problem: foreign minister (Xinhua)
2015-12-22
The People's Republic of China is keeping a close watch on negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem, visiting Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi said on Monday. Wang Yi told a joint press conference with Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides that China is pleased with the progress at the ongoing negotiations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities and is looking forward to a mutually acceptable solution on the basis of United Nations resolutions. Cyprus has been divided into Turkish-Cypriots occupied north and Greek-Cypriots occupied south in 1974. Wang Yi and Ioannis Kasoulides led delegations at negotiations which covered a wide spectrum of issues. Kasoulides thanked China for its principled stance on the Cyprus problem and its support towards Cyprus's sovereignty and territorial integrity. He also said that Cyprus reiterated its "one China" policy which it has been following and declaring at every opportunity in international fora. Kasoulides added that during the talks the delegations gave emphasis on the practical cooperation and the strengthening of the friendship of the peoples of the two countries. "The 'Belt and Road initiative' by the president of the People's Republic of China will play a central role to this end. Cyprus supports this initiative and will promote the connection of the Mediterranean with the Silk Route," said Kasoulides. On his part, Wang Yi mentioned the prospects of cooperation between China and Cyprus in the sectors of shipping, port construction and the creation of industrial zones around ports. Wang Yi had earlier an hour-long meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades, who later said in his Twitter account that they had a good discussion about the Cyprus problem, bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries. The Chinese Foreign Minister met also with Yiannakis Omirou, the President of the House of Representatives. ^ top ^

Chinese envoy calls for firm support to reconciliation process in Afghanistan (Xinhua)
2015-12-22
A Chinese envoy to the United Nations on Monday called on the international community to firmly support the reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Wang Min, China's deputy representative to the UN, told a Security Council meeting that Afghanistan still faces severe challenges in national reconstruction and socio-economic development and requires relentless efforts from Afghan parties and firm support from the international community. The council adopted a resolution on the Afghanistan situation, reiterating sanction measures against Taliban and expressed concerns about the increasing presence and potential growth of the extremist group Islamic State affiliates in Afghanistan. "It is necessary to continue assisting the Afghan government to strengthen national governance," Wang said, adding that the international community should also firmly support the national reconciliation process in the country. "China calls on the different sections in Afghanistan to put the interests of the country and people first, restart negotiation as soon as possible," he said, adding that China hopes relevant countries will continue to provide conditions for the resumption of talks between the Afghan government and Taliban. "China is ready to join relevant countries in playing a constructive role in Afghanistan's peace process and providing platform for the resumption of talks," he said. The envoy noted that the security situation in Afghanistan remains fragile with frequent armed conflicts and terrorist activities. "The international community should support the capacity-building of Afghan government and assist its security and police forces in effective response to various security threats and challenges," he said. ^ top ^

China urges Philippines to abandon illusions on S China Sea case (Xinhua)
2015-12-21
China reiterated that it does not accept nor will it participate in the Philippines's South China Sea arbitration, urging the country to give up illusions and return to negotiations. "China's territorial sovereignty should be decided by all the Chinese people, and no other people or organization has the right to handle it," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei at a routine press briefing. His comments came in response to a question regarding the recent release of a court hearing record by an international tribunal in the Hague lodged by the Philippines. Hong said China's position on the South China Sea case stands on a solid international legal base and will remain unchanged. At the hearing, the Philippines ignored facts, international law and justice, and attempted to deny China's sovereignty over the South China Sea islands as well as the legal force of the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation, said the spokesperson. "This shows the essence of China-Philippines disputes over the South China Sea are territorial disputes," he said. The Arbitral Tribunal established at the request of the Philippines has no jurisdiction over the case, Hong said. The arbitration aims to deny China's South China Sea sovereignty and its maritime interests instead of solving disputes. China will not accept the results of third-party settlements of territorial disputes, he said urging the Philippines to change the course and return to the track of negotiations. The Philippines filed an arbitration case at an international tribunal in The Hague in early 2013. China has refused to be involved in the proceedings, maintaining that the rows should be settled by the countries directly involved through consultation and negotiation. ^ top ^

China, Pakistan sign financing agreement on coal power project (Xinhua)
2015-12-21
China and Pakistan on Monday signed a financing agreement on a coal power project located in the Thar Coalfield in Pakistan's Sindh province. The project will cost in excess of 2 billion U.S. dollars, including the exploitation of a 3.8-million-tonne coal mine and the construction of a 660,000-kilowatt power station near the mine. China will contribute 800 million U.S. dollars to the financing, while the Pakistani partners will provide 500 million U.S. dollars, mainly through China Development Bank and Habib Bank. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2017, and it will be the first such project in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The corridor will be a 3,000-km network of roads, railways and energy infrastructure, between the ports of Gwadar in Pakistan and Kashgar in Xinjiang. It was established to help lift Pakistan out of its economic slumber and boost growth for the Chinese border economy. ^ top ^

Spotlight: China's efforts to enhance interconnectivity inject new dynamism to Asia-Pacific integration (Xinhua)
2015-12-21
With the launch of China-Thailand, China-Laos railway projects in December, the agreement to upgrade Free Trade Area (FTA) between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in November, China's efforts to enhance interconnectivity in Asia-Pacific have yielded fruitful outcomes in 2015, injecting new dynamism to the integration of the region. Since China's "One Belt and One Road" Initiative in 2013, tangible benefits have come out thanks to the joint efforts of China and related countries. The initiative, also known as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, aims at promoting trade, investment, services, infrastructure construction as well as people-to-people exchange. The goal of enhancing interconnectivity not only dovetails with the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, but also the APEC Connectivity Blueprint. On trade and investment, China and ASEAN sealed an agreement to upgrade FTA during the ASEAN Summit in November. The upgrade helps to realize the target of scaling up two-way trade to 1 trillion U.S. dollars by 2020 and promotes the negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Asia-Pacific Free trade zone. […] On infrastructure construction, the launch of China-Thailand, China-Laos railway projects marks the milestone in stepping up interconnectivity in the Asia-Pacific region. The China-Laos railway is the first overseas route that would connect Laos with the vast railway system in China, using Chinese technology, equipment and investment. While the 845-km railway in Thailand which applies Chinese technology and will be connected to the China-Laos railway. The two railway projects will help to promote exchanges and cooperation among the ASEAN members in trade, investment, logistics, tourism, science and technology, and culture. […] It is known that the devil of economic integration is in the implementation of the myriad of policies at regional and domestic levels. On this point, China has demonstrated its responsibility as the second largest economy in the world. […] "Although China's economic growth has slowed down, China is still a major force of global economic growth. Adopting more open economic initiatives, such as reducing the thresholds for foreign investment, will propel economic development of the Asia-Pacific and the integration of the region." said Gu. ^ top ^

US should respect China's interests, says foreign minister, in latest salvo after spats over South China Sea and Taiwan arms sales (SCMP)
2015-12-21
The United States needs to respect China's core interests, including stopping selling weapons to Taiwan and ending military patrols close to islets controlled by Beijing in the South China Sea, the country's foreign minister told his US counterpart. Foreign Minister Wang Yi told US Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone call that the world was becoming a more challenging place, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement released on Monday. “As the US seeks cooperation with China, it ought to respect China's core interests and important matters of concern,” the statement paraphrased Wang as saying. Wang explained to Kerry China's position on Taiwan and the South China Sea, asking the United States to end arms sales to the self-ruled island and stop “shows of force” with ship and aircraft patrols close to Chinese-controlled islands in the disputed South China Sea, the statement added. The US angered China last week by approving a new round of weapons sales to Taiwan. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war with the Communists in 1949 and Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control. China has also been upset with what it sees as provocative US actions in the South China Sea, including the patrols. The Pentagon said on Friday it was looking at Chinese complaints that a B-52 bomber recently flew near a Chinese artificial island in the South China Sea, a sensitive issue because the two powers disagree over Beijing's territorial claims in the region. China claims almost all of the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, through which more than US$5 trillion of maritime trade passes each year. The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims. Wang and Kerry also discussed the crisis in Syria and the Iran nuclear deal, China's Foreign Ministry added. ^ top ^

China set to invite Syrian sides for talks to resolve Middle Eastern crisis (SCMP)
2015-12-20
China will invite representatives of both the Syrian government and opposition for talks, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on the weekend amid rising calls for Beijing to do more to help resolve the Middle Eastern crisis. In remarks on Saturday that came after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution endorsing a road map for a political transition to end Syria's conflicts, Wang urged the United States, Russia and Saudi Arabia to step up communication in military action. “All warring parties must stop fighting immediately. Those organisations and individuals that reject a ceasefire will find themselves on the opposite side of the Syrian people,” Wang said. “We will invite representatives from the Syrian government and the opposition to visit China, continuing our effort to play a constructive role in facilitating talks.” Calls have been increasing for China to put more effort into helping to resolve the problems. Germany's ambassador Michael Clauss said earlier that China could play a bigger role in the matter. Stability in the Middle East was in China's interests, he said. China has previously received the Syrian government and opposition for talks, but observers say China is unlikely to do more beyond arranging talks and giving humanitarian aid. In his remarks, Wang also said the coalitions led by the US, Russian and Saudi Arabia should improve their communication and coordination, adding that China would improve intelligence exchanges and efforts to stop the financing of terror groups. Wang Jian, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that compared with the US and Russia, China was not as decisive a power in the Syrian conflict. “China does not have as strong an influence in the Middle East as the other UN Security Council permanent members,” the researcher said. “But this also means China has no clear inclination towards either the rebels or the Bashar al-Assad regime... Mediation might therefore be more easily accepted.” Liu Zhongmin, a Middle East affairs expert from Shanghai International Studies University, said military intervention was impractical given China's lack of military presence in the region. “China would like to play a constructive role, but this must be in accordance with its capacity.” ^ top ^

Sri Lanka hopes to have strong defence ties with China, India: PM (Xinhua)
2015-12-20
The Sri Lankan government said on Sunday that it needs to have strong defence ties with countries like China and India. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, speaking at an event to mark the recruitment of a new batch of soldiers to the military, said that the Sri Lankan army needs to modernize to be on par with the developing world. He said that in order to improve the standards of the army, Sri Lanka needs to maintain good ties with China, India and Pakistan as well as the United States and Britain. "It is because of the relationship that we have with these countries that the army was able to develop." The prime minister said that Sri Lanka hopes to launch a program through the Ministry of Defence on future warfare to ensure the army is geared to face any situation in future. The Sri Lanka army defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009 after 30 years of war which saw thousands killed on both sides. Wickremesinghe, however, said that situations have now changed around the world and the Sri Lankan military must adapt to face those changes. He added that with the end of the war, the wounds from the conflict must heal and efforts must be taken in that regard. "When you have a wound it is not easy to heal,"he said. The prime minister said that Sri Lanka will ensure the name of the military is protected as the country moves forward to heal the wounds of the past. The army has been accused of being involved in human rights abuses during the final stages of the war, an allegation the former government denied. ^ top ^

China, Germany hold strategic dialogue on diplomatic, security affairs (Xinhua)
2015-12-19
The first session of the Chinese-German strategic dialogue on diplomatic and security affairs was held here on Saturday. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier held in-depth talks on Saturday over a series of bilateral and international issues of common concerns. Addressing a following joint press conference, Wang, who flew to Berlin together with his German counterpart after busy talks on Syria peace process in New York, said the China-Germany relations have gone beyond the bilateral scope regarding their impacts. Holding the first session of Chinese-German strategic dialogue on diplomatic and security affairs, he noted, is a reflection of the all-round and high-level bilateral ties. The minister said China is willing to enhance strategic mutual trust and conduct strategic cooperation with Germany, a European power and a country with significant international influence, in order to further promote the all-dimensional strategic partnership between the two countries. The two sides, Wang added, should continue to maintain high-level exchanges, enrich the strategic connotation of bilateral cooperation, and promote cooperation within the framework of China's "Belt and Road" initiative as well as exchanges in areas such as industrial innovation. Steinmeier said the two sides agreed to further strengthen bilateral cooperation in various fields, to promote exchanges and cooperation on regional issues by holding regular dialogues, and to collaborate more closely with each other in tackling current crises. He hailed the cooperation between Germany and China in multilateral frameworks, saying it not only has positive impacts on bilateral ties, but also has made significant contribution to solving regional hotspot issues. Germany, added Steinmeier, is willing to strengthen its cooperation with China and ready to continue to play an active role in promoting the development of Europe-China relations. The annual strategic dialogue was launched during an official visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Germany last year as part of an action plan with concrete efforts to forge a closer partnership between the two countries, aiming to enhance their bilateral coordination on foreign policy and security. ^ top ^

Storm in the South China Sea: Beijing declares US bombers' island flyover a 'serious military provocation'(SCMP)
2015-12-19
The Defence Ministry yesterday condemned the United States for committing a “serious military provocation” by flying strategic bombers over a Chinese artificial island in the South China Sea. Foreign Minister spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) urged the US to stop provocative actions following the flight of two B-52 bombers over the area near China-controlled islands in the disputed waters, saying: “China takes the incident seriously, and has lodged solemn representation with the United States.” In a statement, the ministry confirmed the strategic bombers had entered the airspace near a man-made island on December 10, accusing the US of deliberately raising tensions in the disputed region. Military personnel on the island went on high alert and warned the aircraft to leave, the ministry said. The ministry said US has continuously sent military ships and planes to “make a show of force” and create tensions, which severely threatening the stability of the South China Sea. It demanded Washington immediately take measures to prevent such incidents and damage to relations. The ministry also repeated previous assertions that it would take whatever necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and security. The Wall Street Journal on Friday, citing senior US defence officials, said the flight had “unintentionally” flown over the man-made island. Xu Guangyu (徐光裕), a retired major general and now a senior army arms control adviser, said while the US had frequently used such “tricks” and repeatedly made similar “mistakes”, claiming the flight was “unintentional” also showed the Americans did not want to escalate tensions in the region. “The Pentagon officials obviously want to make it clear that the US side is not willing to provoke … but such practices are setting a really bad example and could potentially lead to dangerous confrontation,” Xu said. “The US needs to prove the flight is really unintentional and apologise.” Reuters reported on Tuesday that the US navy appeared to have scrapped a plan to carry out another patrol within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-built islands this year, as American officials had initially suggested. The report cited an official saying the next US navy sail-by was likely taking place in January. It was not clear if the decision was made after the B-52 bombers flew into China's airspace. China's latest protest also comes amid a simmering dispute over Washington's approval of the first arms package offered to Taiwan in four years. Beijing demanded the deal be scrapped to avoid harming relations across the Taiwan Strait and between China and the US. On Wednesday, Beijing filed a formal diplomatic complaint and the Foreign Ministry said it would take “necessary measures, including the imposition of sanctions against companies participating in the arms sale to Taiwan”. In late October, a US navy destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of another Chinese-built island in the Spratlys. Two American B-52s also flew close to the islands last month. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Authority: Prepare for spring floods (China Daily)
2015-12-23
South China could experience large-scale spring flooding next year as a result of a strong El Nino, according to the country's flood-control authority. The State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said in a statement on Tuesday that parts of China south of the Yangtze River could receive more precipitation than normal next spring, resulting in floods. "A preliminary analysis shows that the flood and drought situation will be more severe than this year.... There could be significant flooding in some rivers and severe floods in some regions," the authority said. El Nino, a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific basin, has already reached the scale of a strong El Nino, the authority said. The phenomenon will also disrupt typhoon patterns, it said. Typhoons that hit land will be stronger and affect areas farther inland areas. The situation this year has been similar to 1997, a year in which conditions aligned to cause flooding in the following year, the authority said. El Nino was blamed in 1998 for massive flooding along the Yangtze, Songhua and Nenjiang rivers, events that claimed thousands of lives. In the Yangtze River Basin areas, flooding continued for months. The area experienced more than 70 days of torrential rainfall. Chen Lei, deputy commander-in-chief of the authority and minister of water resources, said El Nino conditions are still developing, and he urged water authorities nationwide to estimate its potential impact on individual areas. He also warned of the risks of floods caused by melting ice in North and Northeast China, especially in the Yellow, Songhua and Nenjiang rivers. The prevention of floods from streams and medium-sized rivers, as well as the potential effects on urban areas, should be prioritized to prevent casualties, he said. Floods nationwide are responsible for the deaths of 315 people and the disappearance of another 76 this year, with a total of 74.6 million people affected by floods, according to the headquarters. Of the 391 dead or missing due to flooding, 85 were buried by landslides and 144 were killed in floods of small and medium-sized rivers, it said. ^ top ^

Tianjin, 4 Hebei cities follow Beijing red alert (China Daily)
2015-12-22
Tianjin issued its first red alert for smog on Tuesday, following Beijing and some cities in Hebei province that had already raised the highest-level warning. It is the first time that jurisdictions in the three areas have taken this step. Under the red alert, Tianjin has introduced emergency measures that include restricting traffic and suspending industrial production to curb air pollution. The measures will be in effect from Wednesday until 6 am on Thursday. The move was taken after four cities in Hebei-Baoding, Handan, Langfang and Xingtai-had already been placed under a red alert, which lasts until Friday. Beijing's second red alert, issued on Friday, was due to end at midnight on Tuesday. Cities in the region have different standards for issuing air pollution alerts, according to Sun Ren, chief engineer at the Tianjin Environmental Protection Bureau. Sun said Tianjin issues a red alert for smog only when the Air Quality Index reading stays above 500 for at least a day, which indicates extremely bad air quality. Hebei can issue a red alert when the index reaches 500 for a day in a certain number of its cities, under its Provincial Severe Air Pollution Emergency Plan. But a provincial-level red alert was not issued. Beijing can issue a red alert when air pollution levels equivalent to an AQI reading of 200 and above are forecast to last for at least three days. […] ^ top ^

Deputy procurator of SW China city under probe (Xinhua)
2015-12-22
A deputy procurator in Chengdu, Southwest China, was put under investigation for "serious violations of discipline," according to the local discipline watchdog on Tuesday. The deputy in question is Yang Jian of the Chengdu Municipal People's Procuratorate, said the Communist Party of China's (CPC) Sichuan Discipline Inspection Commission. Also on Tuesday, two former senior officials in Liaoning Province -- former mayor of Fushun city Luan Qingwei and former deputy chief of the provincial federation of trade unions Li Jingtao -- were expelled from the CPC after graft investigations by the provincial discipline inspection authority. ^ top ^

5,600 punished for fiscal violations in China: top auditor (Xinhua)
2015-12-22
Chinese authorities have punished some 5,600 government officials for involvement in fiscal violations, the country's top auditor said Tuesday. Liu Jiayi, head of the National Audit Office (NAO), made the announcement while briefing lawmakers on a work report about correcting problems found in an audit of the central government's 2014 budget and fiscal revenues and expenditures. Liu said the amount of money brought in during the correction had reached up to 580 billion yuan (90 billion U.S. dollars) by the end of October. Close to 6,000 items in the government rules and regulations were formulated and revised in the process, the top auditor said. It is the first time Chinese legislators have heard this type of report at the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee's bimonthly session. […] NAO said in a June report that the majority of fiscal violations took place in sectors that involve public funds, state assets and state-owned resources, such as land and mining. In particular, auditors found that over 780 billion yuan originally earmarked for land transfers was misappropriated by crooked officials to fill administrative expense gaps, lent to others or used to construct new office buildings and venues. […] Liu said Tuesday that some 568 billion yuan had been saved as auditors sought to rectify malpractices in land management from January to October, in addition to some 79 billion in the lottery sector. […] "Overall, relevant government departments, institutions and local governments have rectified problems found in the audit earnestly and in a timely manner and are working to improve relevant regulations," Liu said. ^ top ^

Former senior political advisor prosecuted for bribery, abuse of power (Xinhua)
2015-12-22
Han Xiancong, former vice chairman of the Political Consultative Conference of east China's Anhui Province, was prosecuted for bribery and abuse of power, according to an announcement from the Supreme People's Procuratorate on Tuesday. The decision was made by the municipal People's Procuratorate of Nanping in south China's Fujian Province, the SPP said in the announcement. According to the procuratorate's indictment, Han took advantage of his positions to seek profits for others and illegally received large sums of property, resulting in heavy losses of state property, which constitutes a crime. Han will be given criminal sanctions by the Intermediate People's Court of Nanping, the indictment said. The Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection put Han under investigation for suspected discipline and law violations in December, 2014, five months after he was removed from his post. ^ top ^

Pilot nuclear power project gains steam (Xinhua)
2015-12-22
Construction on the second unit of a pilot nuclear power project, which uses a Chinese-designed reactor, began in southeast China on Tuesday. Workers on Tuesday morning broke ground on the unit that will use Hualong One technology, a domestically-developed third generation reactor, in Fuqing, Fujian Province. Hualong One was jointly designed by China's nuclear power giants, China General Nuclear Power Group and China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC). It passed inspection by a national panel in August 2014. The government has approved the CNNC Fuqing branch to build six nuclear power units. The No. 5 and 6 units will be a pilot project featuring Hualong One. Construction on the No. 5 unit began in May. The latest unit will take about 62 months to build, according to the CNNC Fuqing branch. "The Hualong One technology will eventually become a powerful source of energy that will support economic growth along the southeastern coast," said Xu Ligen, deputy general manager of the CNNC Fuqing branch. Another pilot project using Hualong One will begin later this month in Fangchenggang City in southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Xing Ji, chief designer of Hualong One, said China owns the complete intellectual property rights of Hualong One and the pilot project will help pave the way for China's nuclear power equipment to go global. China plans to reach 58 million kilowatts of installed nuclear capacity by 2020. The country has actively promoted Hualong One at home and abroad, with an agreement with Argentina in November guaranteeing the use of it in the fifth nuclear plant in Argentina, a key emerging market for Chinese companies. ^ top ^

Number of missing people drops to 76 in Shenzhen landslide (Xinhua)
2015-12-22
The number of missing people in a massive landslide in south China's Shenzhen City has dropped to 76, as some who were previously reported missing have been contacted, said authorities on Tuesday afternoon. Previously, the number of missing was reported to be 91, but 15 have been contacted, according to Vice Mayor Liu Qingsheng. Those who remain missing include 51 males and 25 females, said Liu at a press conference. More than 4,000 rescuers had joined the rescue efforts as of Tuesday morning, he added. Sixteen locations where buildings were buried have been listed as key excavation areas, according to Liu. The name list of the missing was made public on Tuesday. The majority come from Guangdong and central China's Henan and Hunan provinces. The body of a male victim was retrieved from the debris early Tuesday. "We detected vital signs several times, but our utmost efforts were in vain," said Yao Yingzheng, a firefighter who participated in pulling out the first victim. "We felt disheartened when doctors claimed him dead," he said. "But as long as there are vital signs, we will try our best." The landslide hit an industrial park at around 11:40 a.m. Sunday after the collapse of a huge pile of construction waste from a hill in Shenzhen, burying or damaging 33 buildings. Some 900 people were evacuated. Sixteen people were hospitalized, all with minor injuries, said the Guangdong provincial health authorities. ^ top ^

China vows better IPR protection (Xinhua)
2015-12-22
China will improve the protection and management of intellectual property rights (IPR) to facilitate its national strategy of innovation-driven development, a new official document said. A guideline released Tuesday by the State Council orders stricter IPR protection to create a sound environment for innovators. Punishments on IPR infringement will be increased, the guideline said, adding that protection in emerging sectors will be prioritized. The government will build a more effective IPR management system and developing world-class patent review agencies. Improved IPR protection and management will give a push to new technology and emerging industries, and help promote mass entrepreneurship and innovation, the guideline said. A latest report from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) showed China has become a main driver of global patent growth. The WIPO patent offices received 928,177 filings from China in 2014, outstripping the combined total in its next-closest followers, the United States and Japan. ^ top ^

Firm that won bid for Shenzhen dump transferred contract, Chinese media says (SCMP)
2015-12-21
The company that won the bid to build and operate a construction waste dump that triggered the massive landslide at a Shenzhen industrial park appeared to be unqualified for the job, mainland media reported yesterday. Luwei Property Management Company contracted the project out to another firm, which paid 750,000 yuan (US$115,670 or HK$896,750) in 2013 – a year before the winner of the bid was decided, according to the reports. […] It won the right in February last year to run the Hongao Residue Mud and Earth Temporary Dump in Guangming New District. Such dumps are used to store construction waste like unneeded earth and other materials that are by-products of building, renovating or dismantling roads, as well as other large projects. The company, founded in August 2001, was mostly owned by an individual named Zhang Juru, who held 92 per cent of the shares while a second person, Zhang Jinhua, held the rest. Public records show the company has won numerous government contracts over the years, including management of property and security at several primary schools in the Baoan district. Before the bidding for the dump began, Luwei agreed to transfer the operation rights to Shenzhen Yixianglong Investment Development Company. The agreement stipulated that Yixianglong would be responsible for the project's financial gains or losses and any major work safety accidents. “Yixianglong even made the bidding document themselves [for the dump project],” an unidentified source from Luwei told the National Business Daily. […] ^ top ^

China's first same-sex marriage rights case filed in Changsha court (Global Times)
2015-12-22
A gay man has filed a lawsuit against a civil affairs bureau in Changsha, the capital of Central China's Hunan Province, for not accepting his marriage registration application, marking the nation's first case defending the marriage rights of same-sex couples. Sun Wenlin (pseudonym) first applied for a marriage certificate for himself and his boyfriend on June 23 at the civil affairs bureau in the Furong district of Changsha after the couple had been dating for one year. But his application was turned down by a bureau official, who said that only "one man and one woman" can be registered as married, according to Sun. "The original text of the marriage law does not say one man and one woman, but a husband and a wife. I personally believe that this term refers not only to heterosexual couples but also to same-sex couples, to gay men and lesbians. The law is not discriminatory," Sun told the Global Times.Sun filed the case in a local Furong district court on Wednesday, and the court should decide whether or not to accept the case within seven days. Sun said that a court official also initially refused to accept his case documents, again saying that only a man and a woman can be married based on the marriage law. The official only "reluctantly" accepted the case after Sun threatened to file a complaint, and the official did not give Sun a written confirmation to prove that the case had been filed. According to Shi Fulong, Sun's lawyer, that official's actions go against the new system of regulations to ease filing procedure launched by the Supreme People's Court on May 1, requiring courts to accept cases immediately as long as they meet certain basic requirements. ^ top ^

Hunan regulates behavior of journalists (Global Times)
2015-12-22
Hunan Province's media watchdog and journalists' association have jointly released 10 rules regulating media workers' behavior in an effort to preserve the reputation of the press and to tackle the proliferation of false information and paid news coverage, media reported Monday. The regulations on media workers' political stance, professional behavior and economic interest was jointly released by the Journalists Association of Hunan Province and the province's Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. According to the regulations, media workers should not publish information or rumors from the Internet before verifying them, nor should they publish news stories declaring any parties guilty before the courts pass judgment. Analysts say these stipulations could help crack down on rampant Internet rumors. […] Media workers should not reveal or seek profit from information they obtain by taking advantage of their duties, including national or trade secrets, or information violating an individual's privacy, the regulations read. The regulations also ban media workers from making personal profit through blackmail, using news coverage as a means of reprisal, writing news stories for payment from non-media parties, receiving compensation from companies for participating in news conferences or interviews and arranging interviews without possessing a journalist certificate. The regulations also ask that media workers not report on news that jeopardizes national security, affects social stability, goes against common moral standards, goes against the public interest or promotes egoism, the worship of money and hedonism. He Hui added that media workers should increase their professional sensitivity to protecting national security, while officials from institutions dealing with secrets also have an obligation to notify members of the media of such constraints before accepting interviews. However, analysts said that the regulations may have a limited effect since there are no national journalism laws in place to inform media workers of their rights and obligations. "The regulations, although well-intentioned, may have limited effects. Instead of making a law on journalism, which should stipulate both press workers' rights and obligations, the regulations lay one-sided emphasis on press workers' obligations," said Liu Hailong, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China. The difficulty of implementing the regulations is that they do not give details about the consequences violators will face, nor do they designate specific organizations to enforce them, added Liu. ^ top ^

College denies ousting Christian students (Global Times)
2015-12-22
An official with a university in East China's Shandong Province on Monday dismissed media reports claiming that six Christian students could have been expelled for praying together on campus. "The university decided not to punish any of them after they promised not to do it again," Song Bolong, director of the publicity department of Shandong Yingcai University in the provincial capital Jinan, told the Global Times on Monday. US-based Christian human rights group China Aid reported Thursday on its website that five of the six Christian students faced expulsion from the university after they were spotted praying together on campus. The six students were photographed by another student while they were holding their routine prayer session on December 15, and the photographer called local public security, said Song. "We respect the students' legitimate right to religious beliefs, but the university has banned group religious activity by students according to the Ministry of Education (MOE) regulations," Song added. Any individual or organization is banned from holding religious activities on university campuses, according to an MOE regulation on the management of college students enacted September 1, 2005. Religious activities and publicity are also banned in primary schools and secondary schools, according to the MOE. The regulation was made to safeguard the normal order of education in colleges and to guarantee students' physical and mental health, the ministry said. An online search on baidu.com showed that such regulations have been adopted into the regulations of many universities, such as the Communication University of China in Beijing.According to the education law of China enacted in September 1995, no individual or organization can use religion to interfere in education. China practices a policy of the separation of education and religion, and educational activities must be conducted in accordance with national and social interests, the law added. As for the need for religious practice, Song suggests that the six students can pray outside the campus and at religious sites such as churches in downtown Jinan. ^ top ^

China's new draft law redefines term "terrorism", regulates media coverage (Xinhua)
2015-12-21
Chinese lawmakers on Monday began reviewing draft legislation on the nation's first counter-terrorism law. The draft, tabled for a third reading at the ongoing bimonthly session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, is China's latest attempt to address terrorism at home and help maintain world security. One notable change in Monday's text is an updated definition of the term "terrorism." According to the new draft, terrorism is defined as any proposition or activity -- that, by means of violence, sabotage or threat, generates social panic, undermines public security, infringes personal and property rights, and menaces government organs and international organizations -- with the aim to realize certain political and ideological purpose. A statement from NPC Standing Committee said the new definition had been informed by a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) counterterrorism convention, and the UN's Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism. […] In a separate clause, it said no institutions or individuals shall fabricate and disseminate information on forged terrorist incidents, report on or disseminate details of terrorist activities that might lead to imitation, nor publish scenes of cruelty and inhumanity in terrorist activities. None, except news media with approval from counterterrorism authorities in charge of information distribution, shall report on or disseminate the personal details of on-scene workers, hostages or authorities' response activities. The clause was specifically revised to restrict the distribution of terrorism-related information by individual users on social media, according to a statement from the NPC Standing Committee. […] China does not currently have anti-terrorism legislation, though related provisions feature in various NPC Standing Committee decisions, as well as the Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure Law and Emergency Response Law. […] It is rare in China for a law or an amendment to go through three readings and not be passed. One exception was the property law, which was passed in March 2007 after eight readings.[…] ^ top ^

"Clean governance" is China's character of the year (Xinhua)
2015-12-21
The Chinese character "Lian", or "clean governance," has been chosen by Chinese netizens as the character of the year 2015, and "Internet Plus" as the word/phrase of the year.The winners were chosen after an online poll from more than 11,000 candidate characters and words recommended by Internet users, the selection's co-organizers -- the Chinese National Language Monitoring and Research Center and the Commercial Press announced on Monday. Also, the character "Kong," (terror) and the word "counterterrorism" were chosen as representative of international affairs. Runners-up included "slump," "second child," "chaotic" and "Islamic State" ISIL or Daesh, with "smog", "Belt and Road" and "refugee" also popular candidates. Cultural experts believe that the Chinese character and word/phrase of the year indicates individual sentiment and the social values of Chinese people. Last year's character and word/phrase were "law" and "anticorruption." ^ top ^

Xinhua Insight: China mulls law amendment to allow "one couple, two children" (Xinhua)
2015-12-21
Chinese lawmakers are considering amending the family planning law to allow couples to have two children amid efforts to counter a shrinking force and an aging population. "The state advocates that one couple shall be allowed to have two children," according to a draft amendment submitted for review at the bi-monthly session of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, which opened on Monday. The draft came after the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee decided in October on the universal two-child proposal, which will replace the decades-long "one couple, one child" policy. Li Bin, head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), said the CPC's decision was made to adapt to China's changing population. The top legislature must amend the family planning law in order to implement the October decision. The current law took effect in 2002 and contributed to stabilizing a low birth rate and guaranteed the healthy and steady development of family planning, Li said. Under the current law, citizens who marry late and delay having children may be entitled to longer marriage and maternity leaves, and couples who volunteer to have only one child are rewarded. These articles were deleted in the draft, which stipulates the new law would take effect on Jan. 1, 2016. The amendment will not affect the benefits received by the older generation who abided by the current family planning law, parents with only one child and parents whose only child is disabled or deceased. While clarifying the draft, Li told lawmakers at Monday's session that people receiving rewards and assistance before the amendment will continue to receive them afterwards. The draft also allows couples of reproductive age to make their own choices on contraceptive methods. The draft no longer stipulates that couples shall accept technical services and guidance on family planning. Medical institutes will be able to employ assisted reproductive technology after authorization based on their personnel, facilities and ethics, according to the draft. Trade of sperm, eggs, fertilized eggs and embryos is forbidden. Surrogate pregnancy in any form is also not allowed. Those involved in such actions will receive punishments ranging from warnings and fines to criminal penalties, according to the draft. […] ^ top ^

China Focus: Draft law against domestic violence to include psychological harm, cover cohabitation (Xinhua)
2015-12-21
China's first domestic violence law may include emotional or psychological abuse and cover cohabitation in order to protect traditionally silent abuse victims, a new draft reads. According to the draft, up for a second reading at the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee's bimonthly session, "the country prohibits any form of domestic violence." Domestic violence is defined as physical or psychological harm inflicted by family members, including beatings, injuries, restraint or forcible limits on physical liberty as well as recurring verbal threats and abuse. An earlier draft, submitted in August this year, included only physical abuse, but many lawmakers have since argued that the definition was too narrow, said Su Zelin, deputy director with the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee. They also argued that the law should cover cohabitation, Su said, hence the second draft of the law stipulated in a supplementary article that those who are not related but live together are also subject to the new law. China does not have a specialized law on family abuse, and the issue has remained in the shadows for a long time in a country where family conflicts are considered embarrassing private matters. As a result, victims are often afraid to speak out and, in many cases, are turned away by police. Attitudes to domestic violence changed in 2011, when Kim Lee, wife of celebrity entrepreneur Li Yang, posted pictures of her bruised face on Sina Weibo and accused Li of beating her up. In 2013, Kim was granted a divorce, alimony and compensation on the grounds of domestic violence. According to the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), nearly 25 percent of Chinese women have suffered violence in their marriage, but the federation receives only 40,000 to 50,000 complaints each year. Victims who approach the ACWF for help are mainly women, children and the elderly, and 88.3 percent of cases in 2014 involved abuse by husbands of their wives, 7.5 percent by parents or a parent of their children, and 1.3 percent by children to their parents. […] ^ top ^

China doctors conduct 'animal-human' cornea transplant (Xinhua)
2015-12-21
Shandong Eye Institute, East China, announced Monday the successful transplant of a bio-engineered pig cornea into a human eye in late September. "The patient's vision has gradually improved after a three month recovery period, which means the transplant was a success," said Zhai Hualei, director of the institute's cornea division. Wang Xinyi, 60, had a serious corneal ulcer. He could only see moving objects within 10 centimeters. "The doctors originally told me that my father might lose sight in one eye because there are not enough cornea donations," Wang's son said. The transplant used a bio-engineered cornea named Acornea, the first such product to be accredited by the China Food and Drug Administration in late April. "With the pig cornea as the main material, the product is devoid of cells, hybrid proteins, and other antigens. It retains a natural collagen structure with remarkable bio-compatibility and biological safety," said Zhai. Cornea diseases are one of the biggest causes of blindness in China, blinding around 4 million people. New cases are increasing by 100,000 each year, however, only about 5,000 people receive a cornea transplant annually. Beijing Tongren Hospital and Wuhan Xiehe Hospital, among others, have been conducting clinical trials of Acornea since 2010, recording a success rate of 94.44 percent, similar to the results seen with donated human corneas. "This bio-engineered cornea may help millions of people to see again," Zhai said. ^ top ^

PLA to announce overhaul: five 'strategic zones' will replace regional commands, most army HQ to be scrapped (SCMP)
2015-12-20
The People's Liberation Army is close to announcing how it will be organised into five new “strategic zones” and the army's four headquarters regrouped, according to sources, as part of a huge overhaul to modernise and improve the efficiency and combat readiness of the military. General Liu Yuan, political commissar of the PLA's General Logistics Department, one of the army's four headquarters, wrote a farewell letter to staff on Wednesday saying he would be “the last political commissar of Logistics” and that he would “absolutely obey the reforms”, introduced by President Xi Jinping. Liu's farewell was circulated among Beijing military officials and was posted by Luo Yuan, a retired PLA major general, on his social media account. The letter indicated that the army's powerful Central Military Commission, chaired by Xi, would scrap three of the four army headquarters: the General Political department, General Logistics and General Armaments. Only the General Staff department stays. The South China Morning Post reported in September that the PLA military overhaul included plans to consolidate the seven regional commands into five units and to reorganise the four army headquarters. One of the sources said that Liu was likely to be the secretary of the new military discipline inspection commission. The most striking features of the proposals for the five new military zones are a vast new West zone that makes up more than half the country and a larger North zone that will concentrate on Mongolia, the Russian Far East and the Korean peninsula. The Post reported on Tuesday that the changes to the old military command system were expected to be completed by the end of the month and that the new five strategic areas, also referred to as combat zones, could be up and running as early as January 1. Sources said plans were nearing completion for the new West zone – by far the largest of the five – to include more than a third of the nation's land-based military. The area is home to only 22 per cent of the country's population, many from the ethnic minorities groups and non-Han Chinese. “The West combat zone will concentrate on threats in Xinjiang (新疆) and Tibet and other minority areas, close to Afghanistan and other states that are home to training bases for separatists, terrorists and extremists,” one of the sources said. […] ^ top ^

Suicide 'epidemic' haunts corruption crackdown as deaths of billionaire Xu Ming and scores of others reminiscent of darker times (SCMP)
2015-12-20
The sudden, mysterious death of Xu Ming had all the hallmarks of the Cultural Revolution. Earlier this month, the jailed tycoon, one of the mainland's youngest billionaires, reportedly died of a heart attack in a Hubei (湖北) prison. He was 44, nine months away from release and had told friends he was in excellent physical and mental health. Xu was the founder of conglomerate Dalian Shide but he was also an associate of princeling Bo Xilai (薄熙來), who was jailed for life two years ago for corruption. Xu's trial was closed to the public but he testified against Bo, the former boss of Chongqing (重慶). Within days of his death, Xu's body was cremated and his ashes handed to his shocked family. But the swiftness and the unexpected nature of his exit left a strong whiff of suspicion and recalled the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Decades ago, countless people accused of being counter-revolutionaries died in the tumult of mob justice. Today, a rash of holders of high office and influence – from securities officials to military top brass – have died as President Xi Jinping's (習近平) wide-ranging corruption crackdown spearheaded by the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection rolls on into its fourth year. Among the 54 cadres who died of unnatural causes between January 2013 and April 2014, 23 committed suicide. Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Clean Government Centre at Peking University, said there had always been cases of cadres who committed suicide for fear of punishment, but the pressure had increased since the 18th Communist Party Congress three years ago when Xi took over as party general secretary. When Chen Hongqiao, 49, hanged himself at his Shenzhen home on October 22, he left a one-line note. The president of state-owned Guosen Securities made just one final plea: “Please leave my wife and kids alone.” He died after Beijing launched a massive campaign to hunt down those it deemed responsible for the summer stock market rout that wiped away trillions of yuan in value off stocks. Chen was not strictly a cadre, but his leadership role in the state-owned sector made him equally vulnerable to the shadowy party discipline inspection body. Chen was a former senior stock market regulator and was a deputy of Zhang Yujun, former assistant chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission. Zhang, 53, has been under investigation for “severe violation of discipline” since September 16 and is the first senior official from the regulator to be entangled in the campaign. The anti-corruption campaign has also been aimed at the People's Liberation Army, bringing down former military chiefs Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou. Guo allegedly headed up what has been called the “Northwest faction”, a grouping that reportedly included Lieutenant General Ma Faxiang. Just over a year ago, Ma, a former deputy commissar of the navy, was reported to have committed suicide. “Except for their mental pressure, it's also related to the way power is used in the party and the government,” Zhuang said. “If there is more supervision of their power, they might not think that power is everything, and feel so frustrated when they are stripped of it,”. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Pu Zhiqiang reunites with family, won't appeal (Global Times)
2015-12-23
A Chinese civil rights lawyer given a suspended three-year prison term on Tuesday for inciting ethnic hatred and provoking trouble will not appeal, one of his attorneys said. Pu Zhiqiang was sentenced by the Beijing No.2 Intermediate People's Court a week after he was tried. He has been released from detention as of Tuesday night. Mo Shaoping, one of Pu's attorneys, confirmed with the Global Times on Tuesday that Pu will not appeal the verdict. Pu believes that under current circumstances, chances for a higher court to reverse the verdict are very slim, Mo said. "Pu acknowledged that he wrote those posts. He also admitted that some of the posts were rude and wrong, but he does not think doing so constitutes a crime," Mo said, referring to seven of Pu's Weibo posts cited as evidence. According to the Xinhua News Agency, which cited the court, Pu, 50, had admitted to the charges and showed regret. The court had, therefore, decided on a lenient sentence. One of Pu's lawyers, Shang Baojun, previously confirmed with the Global Times that the prosecutors cited seven of Pu's Weibo posts as evidence. Among them, four were used as evidence to prove he was inciting ethnic hatred and three for provoking trouble. According to a China Central Television (CCTV) news report, one of Pu's Weibo posts after the deadly terror attack at the Kunming Railway Station in March 2014 included criticism of government policies in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. "If the people are not afraid of death, it's useless to threaten them with death. The attackers are eager to become martyrs of Allah, … the Xinjiang policies need to be adjusted," the Weibo post reads. Eight people believed to be religious extremists from Xinjiang staged a knife attack at the railway station in Kunming, Southwest China's Yunnan Province in 2014, killing more than 30 people. The court said Tuesday that Pu continued to post inflammatory content despite warnings from website administrators, and that his behavior proves he intended to fan ethnic hatred, according to Xinhua. The court also said Pu's insulting posts, which had been reposted some 900 times and received over 500 comments, caused disorder in cyberspace and negative social impact, leading the court to believe his behavior had constituted the crime of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble." As of Tuesday afternoon Pu had reunited with his wife in an undisclosed location away from his home, according to Shang. Shang declined a request from the Global Times to interview Pu, citing his probation. ^ top ^

Chinese rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang convicted, but to be released soon after receiving three-year suspended jail sentence (SCMP)
2015-12-22
A Beijing court on Tuesday handed down a three-year suspended jail sentence to Pu Zhiqiang, one of China's most outspoken human rights lawyers, for posting online comments critical of the Communist Party. Pu would be released in days but would no longer able to practise law, his lawyer Shang Baojun said. The Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court found Pu, 50, guilty of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” but gave him a three-year reprieve, Shang said. Pu's lawyer's licence would be permanently revoked as convicted lawyers were barred from practising, he said. “To be incriminated over one's speech in seven microblog messages –this is a very heavy price indeed,” Shang said. The suspended sentence means Pu will be on probation for three years, legal experts say. If he violates the terms of the sentence or commits offences within those three years, he will have to serve his original sentence, they said. Pu would be put under “residential surveillance” detention during the official period of appeal over the next 10 days, but would be released after that, Shang said. He said Pu would not appeal: “He believes history will make a judgment.” The ordeal of Pu, famed for defending dissidents and rights activists, is widely seen as a political case to silence him and to warn other rights advocates against speaking up. Amnesty International said the suspended prison sentence was “a deliberate attempt by the Chinese authorities to shackle a champion of freedom of expression”. Xinhua reported that the court handed down a “light” sentence after Pu “proactively confessed to his crimes and showed remorse”, and claimed that Pu told the court “he has experienced the progress of rule of law, the improvement of the law and progress of society”, but Shang said Pu had never pleaded guilty. “Throughout all the legal proceedings, I have never heard him admitting to being guilty,” he said. At his trial last Monday, Pu admitted that his online comments were “sharp, caustic and sometimes vulgar” and offered to apologise to those who were offended, but insisted his actions had not warranted the charges. Pu's conviction was based on the content of seven microblog messages that were critical of the government's handling of an ethnic conflict in Kunming, Yunnan province, last year and sarcastic comments about two officials. […] ^ top ^

Beijing's building-collapse case: 15 sent to prison (China Daily)
2015-12-21
Fifteen were given prison terms ranging from three to six years for causing a building to collapse that left 10 dead and four injured by a Beijing court on Monday. The upper tier of a building under construction in a high school attached to Tsinghua University collapsed on Dec 28, 2014, because of an imbalance in the reinforcing bars. The case was heard at Beijing Haidian District People's Court in late November. During the trial, 14 defendants pleaded guilty and admitted that the accident happened due to their mistake in the construction. Jing Xin, the man who drafted the construction plan, was found not guilty at the time. According to the rules, all the details about the reinforcing bars and structure should be written down. But Jing did not note them down. Jing was sentenced to three years and six months in jail on Monday. Yang Zezhong, who took charge of the construction, was given the heaviest penalty, six years in prison. The 15 have not said whether they will appeal the decision in the higher court. ^ top ^

Heavy smog shrouds over 30 N China cities (Xinhua)
2015-12-21
China's environmental authority revealed on Sunday that Beijing and over 30 cities in the north of the country are currently shrouded in heavy smog. The smog area around Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and neighboring regions, which stretched across 560,000 square km on Saturday, has expanded to cover 660,000 square km on Sunday, said the Ministry of Environmental Protection, citing satellite remote sensing readings. Over half of the 70 cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region are affected by heavy or serious pollution, it said. The ministry said the smog is likely to linger till Tuesday and is expected to ease from Wednesday. Beijing has issued a red alert, the most serious level in the four-tier color-coded pollution warning system, for the smog, limiting vehicles on roads and banning fireworks and outdoor barbecue. Tianjin and some other cities issued orange alert. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Shanghai deputy mayor, 6 others warned (China Daily)
2015-12-22
A Shanghai deputy mayor was given a "serious warning" for attending a banquet that had been paid for with public funds, China's top corruption watchdog said on Monday. As the announcement was made that Zhou Bo had attended the banquet, six other officials who violated discipline were also named in a brief statement issued by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. Inspection departments at each level were asked to pay strict attention to disciplinary violations during holidays and required to strictly punish those who ignore discipline, the statement said, adding that serious violators will be named publicly. In addition to Zhou, Li Jian, deputy director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, and Lin Chunsong, executive deputy mayor of Wuyishan, Fujian province, were given a serious warning for expensive rounds on golf courses. Zhang Jianfei, vice-governor of Hunan province, and Zhou Jing, head of the publicity organ in Binzhou, Shandong province, were also named in the statement after they used public funds for travel. Also warned were Deng Guoqiang, former deputy director of the Hubei Local Taxation Bureau, for accepting entertainment, and Li Baode, deputy director of the Forestry Authority of Liaoning province, for holding an extravagant wedding or funeral. "The Party organization at each level must improve its daily inspection and give such a warning when someone makes even small mistakes," the top disciplinary authority said. Last year, among the 85 million Party members, 71,000 officials were subject to disciplinary penalties for breaking rules. Gao Bo, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the move to improve officials' work style should be constantly pushed. "It's necessary to keep working on the inspection of the work style of officials through tougher implementation of the eight rules" on official behavior, said Gao, adding that the crackdown needs the help of the public and all CPC members. ^ top ^

Shanghai successful in new foreign visa policy (China Daily)
2015-12-21
In July, the Shanghai municipal government loosened visa policies to attract foreign talents. In the past five months, it's received positive results with many more expats obtaining permanent residences. According to the press conference held by the municipal government, since July 1, Exit-Entry Administration Bureau of Shanghai Public Security Bureau has issued 1,708 entry visas and residence permits for qualified expats to work and live in Shanghai, 715 of them received long-term residence permits, 12 times higher than the same period in the previous year. In addition, to create a more convenient living environment for overseas talents in the city, the city government established a policy to issue residence permits for foreign housekeeping workers hired by high-level expats working and living in Shanghai. A 144-hour visa-free entry policy will also allow foreign tourists and businessmen who arrive in Shanghai (airports, ports, and stations), Jiangsu province (Nanjing Lukou airport) and Zhejiang province (Hangzhou Xiaoshan airport) to have a more convenient and flexible trip. Those foreign tourists passing through Shanghai via cruise will be benefiting from the 15-day visa-free entry policy as they will have a chance to walk around the city. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

State media accuses detained labour activists of litany of offences (SCMP)
2015-12-23
Seven leading Guangdong labour rights activists detained by provincial police earlier this month have been accused by state media of operating illegal organisations with overseas donations, improperly handling worker disputes and severely disturbing social order. The claims were made in an article nearly 6,000 words long and published by Xinhua on Tuesday night. It alleged professional and personal flaws in the activists, citing an investigation by the police. Critics described the article as a “smear campaign” aimed at justifying mainland authorities' crackdown against labour rights defenders. The bulk of the accusations targeted Zeng Feiyang, the director of the Guangdong Panyu Migrant Worker Centre. Zeng is known as most influential workers' rights activist on the mainland and was placed under criminal detention for “gathering a crowd and disturbing public order” early this month. Around the same time, the authorities detained Zhu Xiaomei, He Xiaobo, Meng Han, Peng Jiayong, Deng Xiaoming and Tang Huanxing. The round-up constituted the largest crackdown on labour activists in years and came in the wake of a nationwide campaign targeting rights lawyers, launched in July, which saw at least 248 people taken away, detained or arrested. As China's economic growth slows, tens of thousands of migrant workers in Guangdong province alone have staged protests in recent months demanding employers settle outstanding social insurance payments before they close down or relocate away from the Pearl River Delta. Non-government organisations provide services aimed at upholding workers' rights that the government-affiliated All-China Federation of Trade Unions fails to provide. But the NGOs remain in a legal grey area because they are denied official registration. Labour rights activists including Zeng have been subjected to repeated physical assaults and harassment. […] ^ top ^

Guangdong police smash triad gang (China Daily)
2015-12-21
Police in the capital of Guangdong province detained 80 suspected members of a triad-related gang led by a local village head surnamed Jiang in two special operations this year. According to a recent statement released by the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau, police seized a total of eight guns, dozens of bullets and many offensive weapons. Meanwhile police have also seized more than 1,000 grams of different kinds of drugs, investigated a total of 26 houses owned by the gang and frozen assets valued at more than 40 million yuan ($6.15 million). The secret society gang was suspected to have been connected with 69 criminal cases, and of committing 18 crimes, including organizing and attending secret societies, intentional injury, inciting a crowd to brawls and running casinos, the statement said. Police detained 13 suspected gang members, including the suspected gang head Jiang, in the operation that was launched in Nancun township in Guangzhou's Panyu district in November. More than 100 police officers participated in the operation. Jiang used to be a village head in Nancun township. Police had detained 67 suspected members of the gang in another bust launched on June 24. During the June operation, with more than 800 officers, police detained 128 drug addicts and seized more than 300 grams of drugs with the help of a drone. Photos taken by the drone provided the accurate position of two secret drug dens hidden in forestry areas. It was the first time a drone was used to help fight drugs and related crimes in the southern metropolis. The crackdown on Jiang's gang has dealt a heavy blow to local secret societies and related crimes, the statement said. Jiang, 46, a native of Nancun township, was investigated after he was elected as village head through vote-buying in 2011 and allegedly organized his gang to earn big profits from prostitution, gambling and drugs. Jiang and his gang were also investigated with regard to gaining wealth through illegal resale and requisitioning of land. Earlier this year, Zheng Dong, deputy director general of the Guangdong provincial Department of Public Security, pledged to fight violent gangs at the grassroots level across the entire province, which borders Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions. Zheng said more effective and concrete measures will be introduced to help crack down on local township and village gangs in the months ahead. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Panchen Lama defends patriotic remarks supporting national stability, development (SCMP)
2015-12-23
A key religious leader of Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region has defended his pledge to become a Living Buddha "protecting the country and benefiting the people," a remark analysts say would promote ethnic harmony. "Certain people in foreign countries have denounced my talk of a stable society and steady development, but will the local governments in those countries allow them to stay there for long if they keep making disturbances?" the 11th Panchen Lama was quoted as saying in a book written by senior journalist Zhang Biao, the region's official website tibet.cn reported Monday. The remarks came after the Panchen Lama expressed his patriotism on several different occasions, including in comments such as "Buddhism has no boundary, but the Living Buddha has his motherland" and "religious groups cannot survive, let alone develop, if they don't abide by the country's law," the website noted. According to tibet.cn, the Panchen Lama explained that "protecting the country and benefitting the people" in his understanding means that safeguarding society's stability and development is a priority in protecting any country, while people should be offered both material and spiritual benefits by stability and development. The term "protect the country and benefit the people" was first written on a banner sent to the Panchen Lama by former president Jiang Zemin in 1996, according to Lian Xiangmin, an expert with the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing. […] Whereas the Dalai Lama used religion to separate the country and has divided Tibetan people's affections, the Panchen Lama will play a more important role in future efforts to deal with religious and ethnic problems in Tibet, Penpa told the Global Times. […] Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu, born on February 13, 1990 in northern Tibet Autonomous Region, was enthroned as the 11th Panchen Lama on December 8, 1995 after a traditional lot-drawing ceremony at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. The Panchen Lama is the highest-ranking lama after the Dalai Lama in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, the most influential of the four schools. He currently serves as vice-president of the Buddhist Association of China and as a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Anti-mainland sentiment sees dip in tourist figures (SCMP)
2015-12-22
Anti-mainland sentiment and the death of a Chinese tourist in October have caused of drop of 20 per cent in the number of mainland tourist groups to Hong Kong so far this year, according to Jason Wong Chun Tat, the new chairman of the Travel Industry Council, which represents roughly 8 per cent of total mainland visitors. Overall visitor arrivals from China, which include both individual tourists and tour groups, fell only 0.2 percent in the first 10 months this year, a much smaller decline than the 20 per cent dip in groups for the same period. Wong blamed the sharper decrease largely on the anti-parallel trading protests earlier this year and the death of a mainland tourist, which he said triggered stricter regulations on “no charge tours” by mainland authorities. In October, a Chinese tourist died after he was allegedly beaten unconscious by four men while trying to mediate a dispute between a fellow visitor and the tour group leader. Compared to individual tourists, tourist groups focus more on shopping, as they have certain schedules for visiting retail stores, such as jewellery, drug and electronics stores. “It's normal that the number of groups declined more than individual visitors” said Cinda International associate director Hayman Chiu, adding the individuals are not subject to the recent crackdown by mainland authorities. Wong also warned that the opening of two casino complexes with several hotels in Macau could see mainland tourists splitting their spending between the two cities, due to cheaper hotel charges prompted by the larger supply. “We may see more casual travellers to Hong Kong who may be diverted to Macau,” said Charlie Chen, Head of Asian Consumer Research at French bank and financial services company BNP Paribas. However, he added, “it will take a long while for Macau to replace Hong Kong as a shopping destination”. With tourist arrivals to Hong Kong declining for six consecutive months, the new chairman called for the diversification of Hong Kong's tourism development. Wong said the travel industry council was trying its best to echo the calls from the city's tourism board to attract more oversea tourists by regulating market operations and training guides who speak foreign languages. However, Wong admitted that the increase brought by overseas tourists would not be enough to offset the decline in mainland tourists, given the large absolute number of the latter. “The 'new normal' for Hong Kong tourism is that more places join the competition,” said Wong, referring to how the ease of visa applications to countries such as Japan and Korea would divert more mainland tourists to other travel destinations. ^ top ^

Alibaba dismisses claims over press freedom arising from SCMP purchase as Hong Kong lawmaker pickets Post office (SCMP)
2015-12-20
The South China Morning Post and its incoming new owner, Alibaba Group, dismissed concerns about the newspaper's editorial independence, as a small group of demonstrators protested at the impending takeover yesterday. About 10 protesters, from the League of Social Democrats and concern group Socialist Action, held up banners and shouted slogans outside the Post's Causeway Bay office, claiming press freedom in Hong Kong was under threat with China's e-commerce giant buying into the local media. An Alibaba spokesman responded: “We will let our readers decide.” He referred to a letter written by Alibaba executive vice-chairman Joseph Tsai to Post readers earlier. “In reporting the news, the SCMP will be objective, accurate and fair,” Tsai promised in the letter, adding that “day-to-day editorial decisions will be driven by editors in the newsroom, not in the corporate boardroom”. The Post also issued a statement yesterday citing Alibaba's aim to marry its digital expertise with the paper'srich editorial heritage to continue delivering quality news that readers could trust. “With this commitment to uphold editorial independence, and the injection of technology and resources, the South China Morning Post will continue our unwavering mission to uphold our 112-year tradition of editorial excellence,” it said. But Socialist Action chairwoman Sally Tang Mei-ching said Alibaba would “inevitably force the SCMP to engage in self-censorship in order to stay online” on the mainland. She was joined by League of Social Democrats lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung. Alibaba has agreed to pay HK$2.06 billion for the Post and all other media assets owned by the SCMP Group. ^ top ^

 

Macau

Stable development of Macao benefited from support of central gov't: chief executive (Xinhua)
2015-12-20
Stable development of Macao has been benefited from for the policy support from central government, Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) Chief Executive Chui Sai On said here on Sunday. Chui made the remarks at a cocktail reception celebrating the 16th anniversary of the establishment of Macao SAR and its return to the motherland. Based on the principle of "one country, two systems," the bulwark of the Basic Law, Macao has enjoyed continuous economic and social progress over the past 16 years with the full support of the central government, and the efforts of the whole community, said Chui. Chui took central government's new action which adjusts Macao's land demarcation and clarifies maritime zones as a major support for the SAR government to break through its bottleneck. The change will help Macao diversify local economy, strengthen regional cooperation, improve people's livelihood and well-being. Macao SAR government is conducting relevant deployment with scientific investigations and planing to efficiently administer the maritime zone by law and ensure enduring prosperity of the region, he said. The proposal of 13th five-year plan stating to lift Macao's role in the country's development and opening up gave a direction of guidelines for Macao, Chui noted, adding that Macao is working out its plan to speed up the establishment of the world's tourism and leisure center to integrate into the overall program of the nation. Chui stressed that upholding the ideal of working and sharing together, the government will endeavor to help nurture the emerging industry, help the youth and reinforce the welfare project. A flag-raising ceremony was held at the landmark Lotus Square on Sunday morning with attendance of hundreds of people. Macao Post is offering a commemorative postmarking service for the public to celebrate the 16th anniversary of Macao's return to motherland. A series of activities including a concert and fireworks display will be staged later in the day. ^ top ^

China releases new map of Macao SAR (Xinhua)
2015-12-20
China released a map on Sunday of administrative divisions demarcating the maritime and land zones of the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR). On Sunday, Premier Li Keqiang signed a decree to release the map, whose draft was endorsed by an executive meeting of the State Council, China's cabinet, on Dec. 16. The new map will go into effect on Dec. 20, while the old one, which was issued in 1999, will be abolished. The new map adjusts Macao's land demarcation and clarifies maritime zones. According to the new map, an 85-square-kilometer sea area to the east and south of Macao shall be administered by Macao SAR. A stretch of land for a border inspection building between Macao SAR and Zhuhai City in Guangdong Province has also been demarcated under the administration of Macao SAR. Previously, there was no clear demarcation of sea zones between Macao SAR and Guangdong province. Sometimes overlapping jurisdiction causes problems in fighting crime at sea and navigation safety. The adjustments in maritime and land resources by the central government have demonstrated the unique superiority of the principles of "one country, two systems" as well as the country's support for Macao, observers said. President Xi Jinping attended celebrations marking the 15th anniversary of Macao's return to the motherland on Dec. 19, 2014. During the visit, he promised to clarify the water areas governed by Macao while meeting with Chui Sai On, chief executive of the SAR. Soon afterwards the central government, along with Guangdong provincial government, the government of Zhuhai City and the Macao SAR government, worked out a specific plan after collecting opinions and making field studies. The demarcation will strengthen the SAR government's efficient governance by law. On Dec. 16, Chief Executive Chui Sai On thanked the central government and neighboring Guangdong Province for the coordination work they had done, noting that the demarcation is of great significance for Macao to diversify local economy. Geographic space is vital for Macao in its process of transforming into a world tourism and leisure center, and a service platform between the Chinese mainland and Portuguese-speaking countries, Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Macao SAR said in a statement a few days ago. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Chinese hackers increase attacks on Taiwan opposition before January's presidential election: US security firm (SCMP)
2015-12-21
Chinese hackers have attacked Taiwanese targets including local news organisations and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party in a bid to get information about policies and speeches ahead of presidential and legislative elections next month. An attack on the unnamed media outlets came in the form of phishing e-mails with the subject line “DPP's Contact Information Update”, according to research by American security company FireEye, which identified a Chinese state-backed group called APT16 as carrying out attacks. Hackers also infiltrated e-mails of party staff, changing security protocols and writing messages spoofing the account holders in what may have been an attempt to deliver malicious code, according to one of the victims. Taiwan goes to the polls January 16 and opinion surveys show the DPP is likely to win a legislative majority, with its leader Tsai Ing-wen securing the presidency after eight years of nationalist Kuomintang rule. China, which considers Taiwan to be one of its provinces, is wary of the DPP's views on Taiwan independence and advocacy of more caution in its relationship with the mainland. As well as not wanting the DPP in power, China might want to understand the party better so as to undermine them with access to non-public information, Jordan Berry, FireEye's principal threat intelligence analyst said. “There's a lot of people in China who want and need information for their own intelligence purposes.“ China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not reply to a faxed request for comment. FireEye provides malware- and network-threat protection systems. After its Mandiant division alleged in February 2013 that China's military might be behind a group that hacked at least 141 companies worldwide since 2006, the US issued indictments against five military officials who were purported to be members of that group. […] The allegations come weeks after China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported that an investigation into an alleged theft of data from the US Office of Personnel Management had shown the attack was carried out by criminals, rather than being state-sponsored as previously suspected by the US government. Cyberspace must not become a “battlefield” between states, President Xi Jinping said at the World Internet Conference conference last Wednesday in Wuzhen, and he called for greater cooperation on punishing cyberattacks and fighting terrorism. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China unveils economic blueprint for 2016 (China Daily)
2015-12-22
China's top leadership, which is preparing to launch the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), on Monday announced an overarching strategy to lead the economy's ongoing transition. President Xi Jinping said the country's emphasis next year will be on supply-side reform, or a package of supply-side policies to release new demand and boost new productivity. He was speaking at the conclusion of the Central Economic Work Conference, which was held along with the Central Urban Work Conference. Economists said this means that China will no longer seek to fuel economic growth solely by using fiscal and monetary measures to boost capital investment, consumption and exports. Instead, the government will be more focused on devising policies which, from the supply side, are aimed at helping the industries it wants to support. Outdated businesses will also be phased out. The Central Economic Work Conference has pledged to launch a series of policies next year that have been discussed for a long time, including more tax cuts, incentives for specific industries, regulatory reforms and more aid to lift people out of poverty. Supply-side reform covers two areas, according to the political magazine Outlook. One of these is to readjust the economic structure-crucially by shedding excessive industrial capacity. The other is to use institutional reforms and innovation-not merely financial stimulus measures-to boost growth, such as subsidized sales of empty housing to migrant workers from rural areas. The magazine said the more important supply-side reform is to continue to streamline the government's administrative power over business and to provide policy-level convenience for private entrepreneurs. […] Industries that cannot satisfy market demand will be upgraded. Those related to consumption, logistics, medical and healthcare will probably see stronger growth, Guan added. […] China used to rely on three major forces to drive economic growth-investment, exports and consumption, which are classified as the demand side. As the effectiveness of boosting growth in the demand side wanes, the government has started to reform the supply side, or the supply and effective use of production factors, including funds, resources, skilled workers, equipment and technologies. The reform aims to accelerate economic growth by freeing up productivity and raising supply-side competitiveness. Measures will include cutting excess industrial capacity, reducing housing inventories and cutting production costs with police support. ^ top ^

China Voice: New FTAs show China's will to open up (Xinhua)
2015-12-20
Two free trade agreements (FTAs) that came into force Sunday illustrate China's commitment to opening up, which is good news for the global economy. Both FTAs, one between China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the other between China and Australia, set examples for cooperation between major economies during a time of downturn, which usually gives rise to protectionism. Under the deals, China will gradually abolish tariffs on 91 percent of ROK goods and 97 percent of Australian products. After a grace period, the ROK will eliminate tariffs on 92 percent of Chinese products, while Australia will eventually impose zero tariffs on all Chinese goods. Among all the FTAs China has signed with other nations, the deal with the ROK involves the biggest trade volume, and the one with Australia brings trade and investment thresholds the lowest. […] In the longer term, it said, China aims to expand the free trade network to cover all neighboring countries and regions, countries within the Belt and Road network, most emerging economies, big developing countries, major regional economic groups, and parts of the developed world. With the ROK and Australia being two economic heavyweights in the Asia-Pacific region, the new FTAs are big strides forward. It's worth noting that bilateral FTAs do not necessarily run contrary to multilateral trade deals. Instead, the fruits they bear will provide grounds for accelerating talks on a region-wide free trade pact. China has long supported establishing a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) and amalgamating various regional trade arrangements to avoid fragmentation. China has a lot to gain by opening up more to the outside world. The introduction of foreign products and services will stimulate domestic innovation and upgrading, while an expanded overseas market can offer more opportunities to competitive firms from China. Cooperation can only help, not hinder, our efforts to ride out hard times. With all the benefits to China and the rest of the world, the newly implemented FTAs and the message they send deserve applause. ^ top ^

Chinese animal welfare groups call for end to imports of seal products (SCMP)
2015-12-19
Chinese consumers' obsession with health products – in particular seal oil and seal penises that many believe improve vitality and men's performance in bed – could intensify the controversial practice of seal hunting in Canada, animal rights activists say. Local animal welfare groups have joined international campaigners to urge the government to ban the import of commercial seal products so as to end the “cruel slaughter” of the animals. “China should not become a dumping ground for products of cruelty that the rest of the world is rejecting,” Zhang Dan, founder of the Chinese Journalist Animal Protection Salon, said yesterday. Zhang described Canada's attempt to sell commercial seal products as “a disgrace to China”, adding that the imports would only stimulate demand for such products on the mainland. Canada allows the harvesting of seals, except for seal pups. But 95 per cent of those killed in commercial seal hunting are just three weeks to three months old. The official Fisheries and Oceans Canada does not punish those who hunt seal pups, according to Harpseals.org, a California-based animal protection group. Ottawa signed a trade agreement with Beijing in 2011 to sell seal meat to China. But the deal was called off after the mainland government called for a review of the case, citing safety concerns. Canadian officials blame the animal rights movement for pressuring the Chinese government against the deal. In a further push to enter the Chinese market, Canadian industries have been promoting the sale of seal fur, penises and oils. In June, the Fur Institute of Canada called for the revival of the seal penis trade particularly to Asian buyers, Canadian media reported. “There's no direct evidence to show these seal products improve health or enhance performance,” said Peter Li, China specialist with Humane Society International. Data for the revenue of the seal-product export in Canada was not made public, but Li said it would not be more than US$1 million, so doing away with it would “hardly hamper trade ties between China and Canada”. “Commercial seal slaughter is inherently inhumane and the best way to stop it is to remove the financial incentive to kill seals,” said Gabriel Wildgen, campaign manager for Humane Society International/Canada. “By banning trade in products of commercial seal slaughters, China can establish itself as a world leader in animal protection and help bring a... cruel practice to an end.” ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Azerbaijan and Mongolia discuss prospects of cooperation in civil aviation (Montsame)
2015-12-22
An Azerbaijani website azal.az reported Monday that the president of CJSC "Azerbaijan Airlines" (AZAL) Jahangir Asgarov met with a delegation headed by Mr Tamir Tumurbaatar, the president and CEO of the Mongolian Airlines (MIAT) in Baku. The sides discussed issues of bilateral cooperation between Azerbaijan and Mongolia in the field of civil aviation, as well as long-term plans in increasing passenger and freight traffic. It was noted that the infrastructure created in the field of civil aviation, as well as advantageous geographical location of Azerbaijan, where "Great Silk Road" passes, will create good opportunities to supply goods through our territory to European and the Pacific Rim countries. After the meeting, the parties decided to establish a joint working group of representatives of AZAL and MIAT. Its first meeting is scheduled for next year in Ulaanbaatar, where detailed proposals on the prospects of cooperation will be discussed. ^ top ^

Economic transparency law helps minimize shadow economy (Montsame)
2015-12-21
Prime Minister of Mongolia Ch.Saikhanbileg presented information to the State Great Khural (parliament) on the implementation of the Law on Promoting Economic Transparency, last Friday. The law was adopted in August 7 of 2015. As a result of its implementation, income of 6.1 trillion MNT has been uncovered and registered, some 4,200 entities and 1,200 citizens have submitted their financial reports to related authorities, he said. The Premier proposed extending the duration of the law's effect in order to uncover more hidden incomes and properties, to establish more favorable legal environment for people to disclose their incomes, and to codify the results of the law implementation in a study. ^ top ^

 

Mrs. Tamara Ta
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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