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
  28.3-1.4.16, No. 616  
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Switzerland

Swiss man wins Running Wireman challenge (China Daily)
2016-03-30
Swiss man Freddy Nock, 51, has won a competition of walking on steel wires above a giant sinkhole in Southwest China's Chongqing municipality on Wednesday. Alfred finished the 100 meter walk within 42.04 seconds on the 300-meter-high steel wire in the challenge "Running Wireman" above the world natural heritage site in Wulong county of Chongqing. The other two competitors were Shaffer Benjamin Deane from Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and Zavatta Mauritio from Italy. When the challenge was held in the morning, it started to drizzle, which made the steel wire slippery. ^ top ^

 

Foreign Policy

Foreign investors encouraged (China Daily)
2016-04-01
Li: China will strive to make fairer market environment, boost protection of IPR. Premier Li Keqiang said China will ramp up efforts to nurture a fairer environment for market competition and will bolster intellectual property rights protection to attract more foreign investment, including from the United States. Li made the remark during a meeting on Thursday with a US delegation organized by the Aspen Institute, a Washington-based US think tank, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The delegation was composed of 18 US senators and members of the House of Representatives. Li emphasized that China and the US-the world's largest developing country and the largest developed country-have far greater common interests than differences. The two need to handle differences of opinion well to maintain the steady and sound growth of Sino-US relations. He also said that China is willing to work hard with the US to advance negotiations on a China-US bilateral investment treaty, which is expected to better benefit economic and trade activities between them. Legislators from the US states of Illinois, Delaware, California and Nebraska shared their thoughts with Li on wide-ranging topics, such as Sino-US relations, and China's economic development and business environment. They agreed that China's development also presents opportunities for the US. The Aspen Institute, headquartered in Washington DC, is an organization that focuses on fostering leadership and open-minded dialogue. Xue Lan, dean of the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University who had received training at the Aspen Institute, said think tanks such as the Aspen have often visited China, yet were rarely received by Chinese leaders such as the premier. "It is important, especially for foreign legislators, to meet with Chinese leaders so all can get a clearer understanding of the other side," Xue said. Zhao Chen, an IPR expert at the State Intellectual Property Office of China, said protection of property rights in China requires more specific regulations in order to increase overseas investment. "Foreign investors currently face restrictions in some trading areas that force them to find Chinese partners," Zhao said. "The creation of more comprehensive policies is needed to dispel their concerns." ^ top ^

China, US issue joint statement on climate change (Global Times)
2016-04-01
1. Over the past three years, climate change has become a pillar of the China-U.S. bilateral relationship. Both countries have taken strong measures at home to build green, low-carbon and climate-resilient economies, helping galvanize global action to combat climate change and culminating in the Paris Agreement reached last December. With their joint announcement of ambitious climate actions in November 2014, President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama sought to lead by example, and by the time the Paris conference opened a year later, some 186 countries had put forward their own climate actions. In September 2015, the two leaders laid out a common vision for the Paris outcome during President Xi's State Visit to Washington and also announced major domestic policy measures and cooperative initiatives to combat climate change, as well as significant progress on climate finance. In Paris, China and the United States, working together and with others, played a critical role in crafting a historic, ambitious global climate change agreement. 2. Today, the two Presidents announce another significant step in their joint climate efforts. China and the United States will sign the Paris Agreement on April 22nd and take their respective domestic steps in order to join the Agreement as early as possible this year. They encourage other Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to do the same, with a view to bringing the Paris Agreement into force as early as possible. The Presidents further express their commitment to work together and with others to promote the full implementation of the Paris Agreement to win the fight against the climate threat. 3. The Presidents recognize that the Paris Agreement marks a global commitment to tackling climate change and a strong signal of the need for a swift transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient economies. In this regard, the Presidents are also committed to working bilaterally and with other countries to achieve successful outcomes this year in related multilateral fora, including on an HFC amendment under the Montreal Protocol pursuant to the Dubai Pathway and on a global market-based measure for addressing greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation at the International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly. To accelerate clean energy innovation and deployment, they will work together to implement the goals of the Mission Innovation initiative announced at the Paris conference and carry forward the work of the Clean Energy Ministerial. They support a successful G-20 Summit in Hangzhou this year, including strong climate and clean energy outcomes, and call on the G-20 countries to engage constructively in international cooperation on energy and climate change. And they will continue to deepen and broaden bilateral cooperation through the China-U.S. Climate Change Working Group, the China-U.S. Clean Energy Research Center, and other efforts. 4. Finally, the Presidents commit to taking concrete steps to implement the commitments they made in their September 2015 Joint Statement to use public resources to finance and encourage the transition toward low carbon technologies as a priority. Since the Joint Statement, the United States led an effort in the OECD to successfully adopt the first-ever set of multilateral standards for support of coal-fired power plants using export credit, and China has been strengthening its green and low-carbon policies and regulations with a view to strictly controlling public investment flowing into projects with high pollution and carbon emissions both domestically and internationally. 5. The joint efforts by China and the United States on climate change will serve as an enduring legacy of the partnership between our two countries. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping and Barack Obama agree to cooperate to confront North Korean nuclear threat (SCMP)
2016-04-01
US President Barack Obama and China's President Xi Jinping have pledged to cooperate to confront the North Korean nuclear threat, while working to narrow persistent differences over cybersecurity, human rights and maritime conflicts. Obama, opening a global nuclear security summit near the White House on Thursday, also joined leaders of Japan and South Korea in calling for further joint steps to deter North Korea. The display of diplomatic unity came as world leaders sought to ramp up pressure on the insular country's government following worrisome nuclear provocations. “President Xi and I are both committed to the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” Obama said as he and Xi sat down for a meeting on the sidelines of the summit. “We're going to discuss how we can discourage actions like nuclear missile tests that escalate tensions and violate international obligations.” The US has long urged China, the North's traditional ally, to take a more forceful role in pressing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme. The Obama administration was encouraged by China's role in passing new stringent UN sanctions punishing the North, and was urging Beijing to implement those sanctions dutifully. Xi told Obama that all parties should avoid any words or acts that may further escalate tension on the Korean peninsula and do nothing that could affect other nations' security interests, Xinhua reported. Xi, addressing reporters through a translator, said the two economic powers would keep deepening ties on trade, law enforcement and climate change. He said the US and China must work together promote peace in light of the rising global terror threat. “China and the US have a responsibility to work together,” Xi said. As for their “disputes and disagreements”, the Chinese leader said the two sides could “seek active solutions through dialogue and consultation”. Yet in a nod to deep tensions between the US and China, Obama said he planned to raise thornier issues during their meeting as well – including the disputed South China Sea, where China is asserting territorial claims despite competing claims by its neighbours. Using careful diplomatic language long-preferred by Beijing, Obama said the US welcomes China's peaceful rise to prosperity. “I very much appreciate President Xi's willingness to have conversations on these issues in a constructive way,” Obama said. In a briefing after the meeting, China's assistant foreign minister, Zheng Zeguang, said both sides had “constructive talks”. But Zheng made clear that China and the US remained at odds over the contested South China Sea and over US missile defence plans following North Korea's recent nuclear and rocket tests. Xi told Obama that he hoped Washington would “strictly” abide by its commitment not to take a position on sovereignty issues and instead play a constructive role to maintain peace and stability, Zheng said. “The hope is that all parties will correctly view and handle the South China Sea and adopt an objective and impartial attitude... particularly countries outside this region,” he said. Xinhua also quoted Xi as warning that China would not accept violations of its sovereignty in the name of freedom of navigation – a reference to air and naval patrols the US has conducted within what China considers its territorial waters. As their meeting concluded, the US and China released a joint statement vowing robust collaboration to improve nuclear security “for the common benefit and security of all”. ^ top ^

Vatican is taking 'new approach to China'(SCMP)
2016-03-31
The Vatican is reaching out to Beijing and attempting to prevent tensions between China and Western nations from escalating, an expert said yesterday. Francesco Sisci, an Italian columnist and senior researcher at Renmin University, told a seminar in Hong Kong the Vatican had adopted “a new approach to China”. In an interview with Sisci in Asia Times on February 2, Pope Francis urged the world not to fear China's rise. He also expressed admiration for Chinese history and culture, which Sisci believed showed the pope's open attitude towards the country. While the pope did not comment on relations between the Vatican and China, Sisci told the seminar “a new geopolitics of the Vatican” was emerging. “[The pope] was worried and concerned not only about the faith of the 1.4 billion Chinese, but also about the faith of the 5.5 billion non-Chinese worried about the rise of China,” Sisci said. “China is the biggest challenge [the West] has faced since the fall of Rome. It's something completely strange, completely new, which has been separated for over 2,000 years, and we are confronting it now less than 200 years since the Opium War. So this is a big problem. And when we have big problems, historically the easiest way out for either party is to escalate tension, and the pope tries to avoid it, convert it and prevent it.” China-Vatican relations have been strained by conflicts over the appointment of Catholic bishops and the Vatican's diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Signs of a thaw emerged in 2014 when Pope Francis sent a telegram to President Xi Jinping (習近平) while crossing into Chinese airspace. “China has been confused about the Catholic church. Chinese don't really understand why Western people make such a big fuss about the pope and why he is so important,” he said. Sisci added that China had not comprehended the extent of the pope's influence until Xi's visit to the United States last year was overshadowed by the pope's. ^ top ^

EU 'studying China's WTO commitments on anti-dumping' as it mulls changing nation's trading status (SCMP)
2016-03-31
The European Union is studying the anti-dumping provisions in China's WTO accession agreements as it contemplates whether to grant market economy status to the world's largest trader, the French ambassador to Beijing said on Wednesday. Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, said the EU needed to clarify the anti-dumping provisions in the agreement that allowed China to join the World Trade Organisation in 2001 before making a ruling. “The commission has started a study of the impact of the measures,” said the ambassador. The final decision on whether to grant the status to China would be taken by the European Commission as external trade is part of EU level competences, he said. The issue is controversial because granting China market economy status would make it more difficult for the EU to impose anti-dumping duties on cheap Chinese goods sold in Europe. China is the EU's the biggest trading partner, but about 80 per cent of its investigations into allegations of dumping and unfair government subsidies on goods focus on China. “We need also to have some instruments in case there are unbalances, dumping and unfair competition,” Gourdault-Montagne told reporters. China agreed to a number of obligations during a 15-year transition period after joining the WTO in 2001 as it moved towards becoming an officially-designated market economy. Beijing thinks it should now automatically be granted that status at the end of this period in December this year, but the EU has said China has only met one of its five criteria. Opinions are divided among the EU's 28 members on the issue. Britain, the Netherlands, and Nordic countries support China. Germany is in principle supportive, but wants to protect sensitive industries, while Italy is strongly opposed, according to earlier media reports. Gourdault-Montagne said it was too early to say what the commission's final decision would be as the process was still ongoing. The French envoy said France would take on its responsibilities in the debate, but did not say which side his country was on. “It is not a question of yes or no. It is a question of reciprocity and fair competition,” he said. He said China and the EU, as each other's top economic partners, should find ways to further develop trade and investment ties. Russia, Brazil, New Zealand, Switzerland and Australia have recognised China as a market economy. ^ top ^

Xi-Obama talks to focus on simmering China, US disputes on sidelines of nuclear security summit (SCMP)
2016-03-31
President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Barack Obama were to hold talks over a string of simmering and unresolved disputes between the two powers after Xi landed in Washington on Wednesday. The talks, to be held on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit, will be Obama's only ­bilateral meeting during the summit, signalling the importance ­attached by both sides to resolving their differences. Obama will also take part in trilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Over the past months, Sino-US ties have been strained by a ­series of issues including North Korea's nuclear and rocket tests, Beijing's military deployment in the South China Sea and the threat of US sanctions against Chinese telecoms equipment firm ZTE over dealings with Iran. Experts said the frictions would linger beyond the talks, but the dialogue showed they were working to avoid unintended ­security incidents. “They are unlikely to make any big breakthrough on major issues. But it is possible to... make some limited progress in some parts of the disputes,” said Shi Yinhong, director of American Studies at Renmin University in Beijing. The US and South Korea have been carrying out joint exercises in the Korean peninsula, following North Korea's firing of missiles in recent weeks. China has ­expressed stern opposition to US plans to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence missile system on the peninsula. On South China Sea issues, Washington has demanded a commitment from Beijing not to militarise the disputed region. Shi said Beijing was unlikely to bow to Washington's demands. “But the two presidents might talk about slowing down each other's actions to ease the tense atmosphere in the South China Sea,” the academic said. Beijing has reclaimed large amounts of land in the South China Sea and has reinforced its military facilities in the region, while Washington has repeatedly sent its warships on “freedom of navigation” operations near Chinese-controlled islands. Su Hao, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University, said both nations were seeking ways to manage frictions in the last months of Obama's presidency. “As responsible leaders they should take into consideration the long-term development of China-US ties and lay a solid foundation for a stable relationship through exchanges,” he said. “Each of the countries has its own strategic interests and security demands, but the bottom line in common is that the differences should never result in unintended security incidents.” He said they faced differences on security issues that might lead to unpredictable confrontations. “It is also necessary to communicate at the top level,” he added. ^ top ^

US offers to brief China on over deployment of THAAD missile system in South Korea (SCMP)
2016-03-30
A senior United States diplomat said on Tuesday he hopes China will accept an offer for a technical briefing on a new missile defence system the US wants to deploy in South Korea – a prospect Beijing sees as a threat to its national security. US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system was necessary for the US to protect itself and regional allies from North Korean missile attacks. “We realise China may not believe us and also proposed to go through the technology and specifications with them... and we are prepared to explain [about] what the technology does and what it doesn't do and hopefully they will take us up on that proposal,” Blinken told Washington's Brookings Institution. The Chinese foreign ministry did not say whether China would join the meeting, but said THAAD would affect stability in North and East Asia. “Installing the THAAD system has extended far beyond the defence need against North Korea, and will cause direct harm to China's strategic and security interests, as well as the regional balance,” Hong Lei, the ministry's spokesman said at a regular press conference yesterday. Hong said the situation in the Korean peninsula was complicated and sensitive, and China hoped all countries coulc “act with caution and be responsible”. The offer by Washington came ahead of a visit by President Xi Jinping to Washington on Thursday for a nuclear security summit that will have concerns about North Korea high on the agenda. The US and South Korea agreed to begin talks on possible THAAD deployment last month after North Korea tested its fourth nuclear bomb on January 6 and launched a long-range rocket on February 7. China backed tough new sanctions on North Korea following the tests, but has voiced opposition to THAAD as its radar has a range that would extend far beyond the Korean peninsula and into China. Blinken said THAAD deployment was a necessary step until Pyongyang's behaviour changed. “None of these steps are directed against China, but we have also been very clear that as long as this persists... we will have to take steps,” he said. Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said the offer by the US was a positive move to ease mistrust. “What China is worried about is the political intentions behind the US installing such a system,” said Jin. “This will deepen the mistrust between China and the US, as well as create cracks in relations between China and South Korea,” he added. “But the US and South Korea have yet to reach conclusion on details of the plan, such as how the two countries will divide the cost of installing such system,” Jin said, noting that the talk between China and the US would take place only after conclusions were reached between the US and South Korea. ^ top ^

Nations unite to fight border crime (China Daily)
2016-03-30
China will partner with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to set up a special law enforcement college in Southwest China's Yunnan province in a bid to tackle rampant cross-border crime, according to the Ministry of Public Security on Tuesday. The China-ASEAN law enforcement college, which will be housed within the Yunnan Police Officer Academy, will be funded by the Ministry of Public Security. Cross-border crime - terrorist activities, the manufacture and trafficking of drugs, human trafficking, firearms smuggling, illegal immigration, cybercrime and telecom fraud - have become more prevalent and complex in recent years and pose a serious threat to regional security and stability, said experts. "It's more than necessary to set up such a college to strengthen law enforcement cooperation between China and ASEAN countries to combat cross-border crimes. We need to maintain regional security and promote economic prosperity," said a senior official at the ministry's International Cooperation Bureau who declined to reveal his name. According to the ministry, in addition to setting up the college, China and ASEAN will enhance communications and hold regular visits as well as exchanges between teachers and students. They will also conduct joint research into relevant cases and share practical experiences. The ministry said China will train 2,000 police officers from ASEAN countries to help them improve their tactics and ability to combat border crime. The partners plan to set up a committee to share information. There will also be annual round-table conferences between the ministry and law enforcement authorities from ASEAN countries. Seng Phally, president of the Police Academy of Cambodia said: "We urgently need to seek help in fighting human trafficking and drugs manufacturing and smuggling." He said the educational facility will sharpen the focus of enforcement agencies. […] Also, a comprehensive law enforcement and security cooperation center near the Mekong River will be established in the second half of the year in Jinghong, Yunnan province. It will help in the sharing of intelligence, the investigation of cases and offer training programs. The center will support the efforts of China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. ^ top ^

China appoints first special envoy for Syrian crisis (SCMP)
2016-03-30
China on Tuesday appointed its first special envoy for the Syrian crisis, a career diplomat who has served as ambassador to Iran, as it seeks a more active role in the Middle East. While relying on the region for oil supplies, China tends to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely the United States, Britain, France and Russia. But China has been trying to get more involved, including recently hosting both Syria's foreign minister and opposition figures, though at different times. The new special envoy for Syria was Xie Xiaoyan, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. He was most recently China's ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union. “As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has always proactively dedicated itself to the appropriate resolution of the Syria issue,” Hong said, adding that a political solution was the only way out. Hong said China supported the mediation efforts of UN Syria special envoy Staffan de Mistura and had provided humanitarian assistance to the region. China's appointment of its own special envoy was to help push the peace process and “to better proactively put forward China's wisdom” and its proposals, he added. Xie, 62, was a deeply experienced diplomat very familiar with the Middle East, Hong said. “We believe he will certainly fulfil this mission well.” China has appointed special envoys for crisis zones before, to mixed results. Its African envoys have been deeply involved in South Sudan, but its previous special envoys to the Middle East have had little tangible effect. There is a truce in place in Syria, accepted by President Bashar al-Assad's government and most of his foes, the first of its kind since the war began five years ago. It has been accompanied by the first peace talks attended by the warring sides. It does not apply to areas held by Islamic State or the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. ^ top ^

Japan's security laws take effect, could deepen distrust (Global Times)
2016-03-30
Japan's controversial new security laws that allow its troops to fight overseas for the first time in seven decades took effect on Tuesday, which experts believe could deepen distrust between China and Japan and increase friction between the two countries in key regions. The laws allow Japanese troops, against its pacifist constitution, to go into battle to protect its allies - also known as "collective self-defense" - even if there is no direct threat to Japan or its people. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday the country's new security laws could strengthen the Japan-US alliance. "[Japan and the US] can now help each other in emergency situations. The bond of the alliance has been strengthened" by the laws, Abe was quoted by the Kyodo News Agency as saying on Tuesday. Kyodo News said that the security laws are aimed at dealing with the security environment Japan faces, including China's military actions and North Korea's nuclear missile threat. China's foreign ministry on Monday urged Japan to stick to the path of peaceful development, act with prudence on military and security policies, and take more actions that enhance mutual trust with its Asian neighbors and benefit regional peace and stability. Experts said that the implementation of the security laws would surely destabilize security and peace in the Asia-Pacific region, and increase friction between China and Japan in areas such as the South China Sea. "As for China, it will escalate distrust between China and Japan, and China will thus step up vigilance," Zhou Yongsheng, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times. The security laws will aggravate tensions in the already unstable South China Sea with US interference, Zhou said. Japan has already meddled in the South China Sea. Japan intends to give three aircraft to the Philippines to aid its air patrols in the sea, the Xinhua News Agency reported early March. However, experts believe Japan would take into account relations with neighboring countries and strong opposition from its own people, and will not act recklessly under the security laws. In the short and medium term, Japan will not directly get involved in incidents that might jeopardize its troops even for the sake of helping its allies, as it cannot bear the huge fiscal budget and the absolute deterioration of Sino-Japanese ties, Wu Huaizhong, a research fellow at the Institute of Japanese Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. ^ top ^

WHO calls for stronger regulation of private-sector vaccinations in China amid health scandal of improperly stored vaccines (SCMP)
2016-03-29
The WHO has called for stronger regulation of private-sector vaccinations on the mainland, amid a health scare involving improperly stored or expired vaccines worth 570 million yuan (HK$87.6 million) – but says parents need not go overseas to inoculate their children. The comment by the World Health Organisation came one day after mainland authorities launched a task force to investigate the illegal sale of the improperly stored or expired vaccines. The task force – which comprises various government departments including the ministries of health and public security – would be led by Bi Jingquan, head of the China Food and Drug Administration, state-run news agency Xinhua reported. The scandal, in which authorities have detained more than 130 people, has diminished public confidence in vaccines, and prompted many mainland parents to consider visiting Hong Kong to vaccinate their children. But Lance Rodewald, an immunisation expert at the World Health Organisation's China office, said: “We don't think that parents should go overseas to get vaccinated.” Going overseas for vaccines that were produced and widely available on the mainland showed a lack of confidence that needed to addressed, he said. Official figures showed that up to Tuesday last week, Hong Kong's public health care facilities had this year served 1,129 non-local children, up 27 per cent from 889 for the same period last year. About 800 million of the 1 billion vaccines administered in China each year are through the Expanded Programme on Immunisation [EPI] – vaccines purchased and distributed by the government and known as type 1 vaccines. The WHO said China' EPI system was among the best in the world and passed assessments by the organisation in 2010 and 2014, meeting all regulatory standards. Its controlled temperature chain distribution has been evaluated by WHO as of high quality. At the heart of the scandal are privately-purchased vaccines, or type 2 vaccines. Dr Bernhard Schwartländer, WHO Representative in China, said the scandal highlighted the need for much stricter enforcement of vaccine management regulations across the board. “The same high standards used to distribute EPI vaccines should be used in the distribution of privately-purchased vaccines. This would ensure that the activities which sparked the current investigation would never be able to happen again,” wrote Schwartländer. The WHO urged the mainland to include the pneumonia/meningitis, pneumococcal, and rotavirus vaccines – currently available only on the private market – in its national free immunisation programme. “The same regulations apply [to type 2 vaccines] but clearly there is a lack of monitoring oversight of the application of the regulation to the distribution of type 2,” said Angela Pratt, a senior adviser for the WHO. ^ top ^

'New phase' in Sino-Czech relationship as Prague agrees to be China's gateway to the European Union (SCMP)
2016-03-29
China and the Czech Republic vowed to upgrade bilateral relations as President Xi Jinping continued his tour of the country for a second day. Xi, afforded the rare greeting of 21 artillery salvos at Prague Castle, the seat of the presidency, and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman, yesterday signed a document in which the two nations pledged to form a strategic partnership. The move demonstrates the considerable political significance the two countries place on each other, and comes amid a strategy by Beijing to broaden its international influence. Zeman said after his talks with Xi that he expected Chinese investment in his country to reach 95 billion korunas (25 billion yuan) this year, and that Czech car manufacturer Skoda Auto would invest 60 billion korunas in China in the next five years, the Czech News Agency reported. Other deals on industrial zones, scientific and technological cooperation, health care and civil aviation were signed by representatives of the two nations. “Our relationship has entered a new phase with the fastest development and most achievements in history,” Xi said. Zeman said the two nations should improve business ties and that Prague would “become the entry gate” for China into the European Union. The visit was Xi's first to any of the 16 central and eastern European countries, and his only stop before heading to the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. The Czech Republic, with its location at the heart of Europe, is seen as key to China's “One Belt, One Road” development plan. Beijing hopes investment in the Czech Republic can set an example to the region about cooperation with China, as well as open a gateway to the European Union. Feng Zhongping, at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said upgrading ties with the Czech Republic could help boost relations with European Community countries and also the European Union, and connect China's development strategies with Europe's. Wang Yiwei, an European studies professor at Renmin University, said ties between China and some eastern European nations were not strong. “The Czech Republic is a key nation of central and eastern Europe, and boosting ties with it may push other nations in the region to improve ties with China,” he said. Beijing has recently boosted engagement with central and eastern European countries by joining the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It has also increased investment in the Czech Republic. Chinese group CEFC Energy recently spent 20 billion koruna in the country, buying stakes in a charter airline, a brewery, two media groups and a top football team. Zeman has adopted a China-friendly policy since he was elected in 2013, and was the only EU state leader to attend a military parade in Beijing last year. His approach to China contrasts to predecessors such as Vaclav Havel, who was a critic of China and had close ties with the Dalai Lama. But Zeman's approach has drawn protests from opposition parties and rights activists. Two protests took place yesterday outside Prague's Lichtenstein Palace. ^ top ^

Japanese radar station draws China response (Global Times)
2016-03-29
China said it hopes Japan will do much more for regional peace and stability after the country reportedly opened a radar station in the East China Sea on Monday. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei was responding to reports that Japan had activated a radar station on Yonaguni Island in Okinawa. The radar station in the East China Sea, as a permanent intelligence-gathering post close to Taiwan and a group of islands disputed by Japan and China, is bound to rile Beijing, Reuters reported. "It means we can keep watch on territory surrounding Japan and respond to all situations," Daigo Shiomitsu, a Ground Self-Defense Force lieutenant colonel who commands the new base, told Reuters. "China has a clear and consistent stance on the East China Sea and Diaoyu Islands issues," Hong said, expressing his hope that Japan can do more to benefit regional peace and stability. Asked to comment on Japan's controversial new security-related legislation, which takes effect Tuesday, Hong said history tells us military and security policy moves by Japan have been watched closely by its Asian neighbors and the international community. He added that "we hope the Japanese side learns from the hard lessons of history, sticks to the path of peaceful development, acts with discretion on military and security issues and does more to enhance mutual trust with neighbors and to benefit regional peace and stability," Hong said. ^ top ^

Authorities advise foreign companies to transfer website domain names (Global Times)
2016-03-30
Authorities advised that foreign companies would do well to transfer the domain names of their websites to Chinese registers to meet the terms of a newly released draft regulation on Internet domain names. The draft regulation released by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) on Friday raised concerns on social media over whether foreign websites with domain names that have not been registered in China will be accessible in the future. According to the regulation, Internet domain names with access to China should be provided by domestic Internet domain name registration services, which should in turn be managed by Chinese institutions. Service providers that are not under the management of Chinese institutions cannot offer domain names with access to China. The current document is not the final version and public opinions on it are being solicited, as many issues are still being studied, an official with the Internet division of the MIIT told the Global Times on Tuesday. The websites of foreign government institutions like the White House and international organizations such as the United Nations will be able to be accessed within China, the official said. According to Fang Binxing, an expert on network information security at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, the draft rule means that "what you use in China must be registered to Chinese institutions" whose authoritative domain name servers are kept in China. In this way, the regulation will enhance Internet management, as a website can be blocked "when one stops its name server from providing service for it," Fang said. When asked how a foreign company's website with a domain name registered outside China could be accessed within the country, Fang suggested that the company should register another domain name with a Chinese institution that could also redirect to a primary Web address. He also pointed out, however, that the regulation might only be applied to websites whose servers are kept in China. "If the server of a website is located in China, its domain name will not be allowed to be registered overseas." ^ top ^

Beijing, Hanoi agree to keep restrained, avoid to use of arms (Global Times)
2016-03-29
China and Vietnam have agreed to avoid the use of force and will address maritime disputes in the South China Sea through peaceful and friendly negotiations, media reported Monday. At a meeting between Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan and his Vietnamese counterpart Phung Quang Thanh on Sunday in Vietnam's capital city Hanoi, they agreed that their armed forces must act in a "composed and assertive" manner without using or threatening to use violence against each other, Vietnam's Tuoi Tre News reported. On maritime disputes in the South China Sea, they agreed to settle the disputes through peaceful and friendly negotiations, and that resolving disputes must be consistent with legal models and principles specified in international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), according to Tuoi Tre News. "Negotiations and high-level communication between the two nations is essential to avoid any tension or accidental violence in the South China Sea. A consensus from top military departments is the key to safeguarding peace in the region, as both nations are ruled by the Communist Party, which requires the absolute loyalty of their army," Gu Xiaosong, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday. In February, Vietnam protested against China for "seriously violating" its sovereignty for deploying an advanced missile system on a South China Sea island, Reuters reported. China insists the deployment is justified and lawful as China has indisputable sovereignty over the region, and that the facilities have existed for years. Defense or military cooperation shows a high degree of political trust between China and Vietnam, and is significant especially following the re-election of Vietnam Communist Party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong amid some disagreement, according to Gu. The Chinese defense minister also met with Trong on Sunday, and Trong gave a high appraisal of the cooperation and exchanges between the two armies. Chang is on a visit to Vietnam lasting from Sunday to Thursday. ^ top ^

Interview: Xi's Czech visit to open new chapter of China-EU ties -- Chinese ambassador (Xinhua)
2016-03-29
Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the Czech Republic will promote bilateral relations to a new high and open a new chapter of the ties between China and the European Union (EU), said Yang Yanyi, head of the Chinese mission to the 28-nation bloc. Xi's visit to the Czech Republic from Monday to Wednesday will be the first state visit by a Chinese president to the country in 67 years since the two countries established diplomatic ties, his first visit to Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) as head of state, and his first trip to Europe this year, Yang told Xinhua in a recent interview. China is committed to cementing traditional friendship with the Czech Republic and the bilateral ties have entered a new phase which has seen most rapid development and scored most fruitful results in history, she said. "China is willing to work with the Czech Republic to strengthen high-level exchanges and all-level dialogue, consolidate bilateral political mutual trust, and maximize synergy between their respective development plans," she said. Yang said the two countries can explore ways to enhance cooperation in manufacturing, nuclear power, finance, aviation, nano-technology, high-speed railway, and tourism. She spoke highly of the role of the Czech Republic in actively promoting cooperation between China and the CEE region. All the 16 CEE countries are located along the routes charted by the Belt and Road Initiative, which was proposed by Xi in 2013 with the aim of reviving ancient trade routes to link China with over 60 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. Last November, China and the Czech Republic signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative at the fourth leaders' meeting of China and the CEE countries in Suzhou, China. It was the first MoU sealed by China and a CEE country concerning the initiative. Yang said China is ready to take the opportunity of the MoU to promote cooperation with the CEE region and contribute to the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative. In addition, China values Europe's role and function, supports the European integration process, and is optimistic about the prospects for the development of Europe, the ambassador said. China is ready to work with all EU member states to reinforce mutual understanding and trust and forge a China-EU partnership featuring peace, growth, reform and civilization, she said. China and the EU can strengthen coordination and cooperation in fields such as international trade and investment, finance, environment, climate change, the Internet and the fight against terrorism, and try to hammer out fair, reasonable and effective rules in the areas mentioned above, Yang said. "In the spirit of mutual respect and equality, China is willing to strengthen exchanges and cooperation on anti-terrorism with the EU, so as to contribute to addressing both the symptoms and root causes of the issue," said Yang, warning against double standards in the fight against terrorism. ^ top ^

Spotlight: Belt & Road initiative promotes China-CEEC cooperation (Xinhua)
2016-03-29
China and the Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC) have witnessed fruitful and flourish cooperation on areas including interconnection, finance, agriculture and culture since the establishment of China-CEEC mechanism, also known as the 16+1 mechanism. China's “One Belt One Road (OBOR)” initiative was linked to European investment plan via CEEC, which also bond the exchanges and cooperation between Asia and Europe. On the other hand, the initiative also helps promote the two regions' cooperation.
China-romania: energy cooperation flourish: China and Romania have witnessed solid development of their economic cooperation since the“16 plus 1 cooperation” mechanism was established. Meanwhile, the initiative helps inject vigor into their coordination particularly in energy section. The two sides have struck an agreement to jointly construct the units 3 and 4 of the Cernavoda nuclear power plant last year. Once the units are built, the plant will manage to cover nearly 40 percent of Romania's national electric generating capacity. The agreement, worth up to seven billion euros, stands not only as the most significant project between China and Romania but also the landmark program between China and CEEC. The construction and operation of the two new units will greatly improve Romanian energy supply situation, help the country to become an important energy producer in the region and making contribution to the energy independence of Romania or even the European Union, according to Romanian energy ministry. At the same time, the project will provide huge orders for the country's industry and boost its economic growth, the ministry said. China and Romania are speeding up their cooperation, conducting negotiations on projects including nuclear, heat-engine, hydroelectricity, highways, which worth to several billion euros, according to the Romanian side. Romania will work to implement series of cooperation projects with China on energy, infrastructure and digital technology, said Costin Borc, Romanian vice prime minister and minister of economy, commerce and relations with the business environment.
China-poland: historic and current cooperation boosted: Poland is a vital stop on the roadmap of the OBOR initiative as the country sits at the crossroad of Europe and enjoyed the sound advantage in geography. China and Poland, together in 1951, invested the Chinese-Polish Joint Stock Shipping Company, the first sino-foreign joint venture since the year of 1949 when China was established. The company has gained rapid development and made record profits over the past 15 years. Currently, its operating area covers east and south Asia, Mideast, which are within the targeted areas of the OBOR initiative. Governments and enterprises from both sides have exchanged frequently since the implementation of the initiative, which is reportedly viewed by Poland as a chance to develop the country into a transfer center for the logistic and goods in the region. New opportunities for the land trade ties between China and Poland were brought by China-Europe trains including the Chengdu-Europe Express Railway and "Sumanou”, two non-stop trains which run from China to Poland help inject momentum into China-Poland economic ties. Poland, particularly its central city Lodz, will benefit from the OBOR initiative, Polish experts said. Lodz, which sits in the heart of Europe and owns completed transportation, will stand as a promising logistic hub for Poland or even for the Central and Eastern Europe, they argued. Lodz attaches great importance to the cooperation with Chinese local governments and companies, said Deputy Mayor of Lodz Marek Cieślak. He expressed the hope that Poland and China will jointly build the Chengdu-Europe Express Railway, of which the destination is Lodz, into a crucial stop on Chinese Silk Road Economic Belt.
Serbia: china is a vital partner: The cooperation between China and CEEC is on the basis of OBOR and Serbia is an important partner for China to make the initiative into practice, said the Serbian side. There are lots of landmark projects between two countries including the construction of the "Mihailo Pupin" bridge across the Danube in Belgrade; repair and construction of new block and the expansion of (coal) mines of the thermal power plant "Kostolac"; the construction of highway sections of the Corridor 11.” “Serbia has in recent years become a kind of Chinese infrastructural polygon in Europe,” said Branko Zujovic, a senior Serbian journalist and writer. China arrived to the Central and Eastern Europe at a time when the mentioned regions felt significant consequences of the great crisis that began in 2008. It brought to the region its capital, opportunity for development and commitment to invest in mutually beneficial projects. This is a great impulse for the economies of these countries, but also for the stability of Europe, he said. The fundament of the OBOR is not just the exchange of goods, economy, money, but the exchange of cultures, languages, values that motivate mutual understanding. The initiative is extremely important and its scale is yet to be seen in next several decades, said Zarko Obradovic, first Serbian coordinator of the summit of China and 16 countries in the region.
Ceec pin hope on “16 + 1 cooperation”: The “16+1 Cooperation”mechanism has generated fruitful outcome since its establishment and continues to be appealing to CEEC. The Association for the Promotion of Agricultural Cooperation between China and the CEE Countries (APACCCEEC), established in last June in Bulgaria, operated a website and so far has registered 70 more companies from China and CEEC which seek business opportunities. "In the past two years we see that there isn't a single country among them that does not wish to be a part of the project, and doesn't wish for something from the project to be realized," said Obradovic. ^ top ^

Chinese President Xi Jinping calls for greater ties with Europe as he heads to Czech Republic (SCMP)
2016-03-28
Ahead of his first state visit to the Czech Republic, President Xi Jinping called for the strengthening of relations between China and the European Union. In a signed article published in the Czech paper Pravo on Saturday, Xi said China and the Czech Republic should “enhance mutual political trust”, and “firmly support” each other on issues concerning core interests. “We should step up regional cooperation by bringing into play the role of multilateral platforms,” he wrote. China and the EU should “follow the trend of peace, development and win-win cooperation”, he added. Xi is staying in the Czech Republic from today until Wednesday, and will visit Prague Castle and Chateau Lany – the official presidential residences in the capital and the countryside. The visit is his first trip to a Central and Eastern European country since he assumed the presidency. Observers said the agenda for Xi and his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman would include the issue of Chinese investment in the Danube-Oder-Elbe Canal. Investment in the first phase of the canal is expected to total 1 billion euros (HK$8.66 billion). On Saturday, ahead of Xi's visit, dozens of Chinese flags that had been hung up in the streets of Prague in recent days were ­defaced. Demonstrators who oppose Beijing's policies in Tibet are expected to stage several protests during Xi's trip. In his article, Xi said the two nations should “upgrade” their bilateral ties, and “set the right direction” for their relations. Bilateral trade between the two nations reached US$11 billion last year. This year they have signed deals on cooperation in nuclear power, finance, aviation and agriculture. Following the visit, Xi will head to Washington for a nuclear security summit. ^ top ^

Interview: China plays vital role in int'l nuclear security cooperation (Xinhua)
2016-03-28
China has played an important role in international nuclear security cooperation, a U.S. nuclear expert told Xinhua in a recent interview. "China has made significant progress on its nuclear security system and significant contributions to global nuclear security," said Hui Zhang, senior research associate with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. Zhang made the remarks shortly before the fourth Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), which is scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C., from March 31 to April 1. Zhang noted that as active participants of the NSS, Chinese leaders have showed strong awareness of the significance of the nuclear security cooperation between countries. "At the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit, President Xi Jinping stressed that increased cooperation regarding the nuclear security of one country is beneficial to all nations," Zhang said. He said that, as Xi pointed out, "The amount of water a bucket can hold is determined by its shortest plank. The loss of nuclear material in one country can be a threat to the whole world." The NSS, initiated by U.S. President Barack Obama, first took place in Washington in 2010 with an aim to prevent nuclear terrorism around the globe. It was followed by additional summits in Seoul of South Korea in 2012, and The Hague of the Netherlands in 2014. Xi pledged at The Hague Summit that China will unswervingly enhance its nuclear security capabilities, contribute to the establishment of an international nuclear security system, support international cooperation and safeguard regional and world peace and stability. Zhang pointed out that the great achievements China has made in nuclear security during the past few years were in accordance with the Chinese president's words. China has established "a security approach based on a design basis threat (DBT)" and "an application of modern concepts of physical protection, based on systems-engineering approaches to analyzing vulnerabilities and designing defenses to address them," said Zhang, who is currently working with Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard. The country has also established the use of modern physical protection, material control and material accounting technologies as well as requirements for in-depth vulnerability assessments of security systems, according to the expert. Earlier this year, China released its first white paper on Nuclear Emergency Preparedness, detailing policies and measures relating to nuclear emergency preparedness and highlighting a "rational, coordinated and balanced" nuclear security approach. The white paper reviewed China's safety record since nuclear activities began in the mid-1950s, saying that nuclear facilities and activities had always been "in a safe and stable state" and safety at nuclear power stations was in a state of constant improvement. Meanwhile, the nuclear security cooperation between China and major countries has also been greatly strengthened over the past decade, Zhang said. He emphasized China-U.S. cooperation in particular, saying it comprises "in-depth training and discussion workshops on everything from approaches to the design of physical protection systems, to steps to strengthen security culture, and cooperation to build a Center of Excellence (CoE) on Nuclear Security." The CoE, whose construction started in 2013, will be the biggest nuclear security international exchange, training and demonstration center in the Asia-Pacific Region once completed this year, according to official documents. Looking into the future, Zhang said such bilateral cooperation "should continue and grow stronger" against the background of a world that remains haunted by the specter of nuclear proliferation and even nuclear terrorism. Figures from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the world's nuclear watchdog, showed that more than 100 cases of loss or theft of radioactive substances are reported every year. Zhang believed China could take greater responsibilities in global nuclear security with growing capacities. "It is imperative (for China) to maintain and further strengthen the global nuclear security cooperation. For example, China and the United States can launch in-depth discussion and best practice exchanges on how to increase international assurance about nuclear security conditions," Zhang said. "They can also conduct joint exercises to strengthen coordinated response in the event of a nuclear terrorism or nuclear smuggling event," the expert added. ^ top ^

China, Russia should work to settle hotspot issues: President Xi (Global Times)
2016-03-26
China and Russia should strengthen communication and coordination in international and regional affairs to promote the political settlement of major hotspot issues, President Xi Jinping said on Friday. "China-Russia strategic cooperation plays a key role in safeguarding peace and stability in the region and the world at large," Xi said when meeting with Russian Presidential Administration chief Sergei Ivanov. China and Russia are each other's most important partners and developing a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership is the mutual choice of both countries, Xi said. He called on both countries to take the 15th anniversary of the China-Russia Treaty of Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation as an opportunity to carry forward friendly bilateral cooperation. In July 2001, China and Russia signed the Treaty of Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation, laying a strong legal foundation for the two countries to develop a strategic partnership. Xi said both sides should maintain close high-level exchanges and deepen practical cooperation in major areas by synergizing each other's development strategies. Xi stressed he and Russian President Vladimir Putin support the General Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the Russian Presidential Administration in holding exchanges, cooperation and learning from each other. "This is an important display of our high-level mutual trust," Xi said. Ivanov said close high-level exchanges guide the development of bilateral relations, and the two countries have maintained rapid development in cooperation in various fields and close communication and coordination in international affairs. Ivanov said the Russian Presidential Administration is willing to work with the General Office of the CPC Central Committee to implement the consensus reached between the two heads of state and contribute to the bilateral relationship. Wang Qishan, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, also met with Ivanov on Friday. China's anti-corruption drive and the strict discipline of the CPC will continue, said Wang, secretary of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. "Comprehensive reform and institution building will be carried out to eliminate the soil that breeds corruption." Ivanov said Russia attaches great importance to anti-corruption exchanges and cooperation with China. Li Zhanshu, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee, held talks with Ivanov on Thursday. ^ top ^

BRICS bank readies debut bond issue for clean energy projects (SCMP)
2016-03-25
The BRICS-backed New Development Bank will soon issue between 3 billion yuan (HK$3.5 billion) and 4 billion yuan in bonds in China, according to the lender's vice-president and chief financial officer Leslie Maasdorp. The first tranche from the Shanghai-headquartered bank, a tie-up between Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa, will be unveiled next month and mostly be related to “green energy and clean energy”, Maasdorp said on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia. The issue comes as the five emerging economies behind the bank are diverging. Growth in China is slowing sharply, Russia and Brazil are in recession, South Africa's tiny economy has barely expanded, and only India is showing signs of robust development. Marcos Troyjo, director of Columbia University's BRICLab, said in Beijing last week that “Chindia” may be outperforming “Brussia” now, but “things can shift in a very short period of time”. Evidence of that was in India's rise from “the sick man” to “the bright spot” in the group, Troyjo said. Maasdorp agreed, saying the short-term macroeconomic and fiscal conditions in the five countries were “relevant but not material” to the bank's future. The long-term political and fundamental factors for the lender were still there, he said, and demand for infrastructure financing would offer huge potential for the bank. The vice-president said the bank had a “20-year horizon” and there was no pressure from shareholders to see immediate dividends. As a new institution, the New Development Bank, renamed from the BRICS Development Bank to help expand membership, would adopt a lean structure and a relatively flat organisation to ensure “speed of execution”, he said. While the lending process for a project could be as long as 24 months at “other development institutions”, the NDB aimed to cut that to six months, Maasdorp said. In the interest of equality, the five countries each hold 20 per cent of the voting rights, but the bank's structure is the result of diplomatic compromise – the first president is Indian with four vice presidents each of the other members, the first chairman of the Board of Governors is a Russian, and the first chairman of the Board of Directors is a Brazilian. China hosts the head office and South Africa gets the “first regional office”. These features set it apart from the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a multilateral lender with China as the single biggest shareholder. Maasdorp said the NDB would not compete against the AIIB because they had a different geographic focus, but the BRICS bank would work closely with the AIIB as well as the China Development Bank and the Silk Road Fund. Stanford University historian Ian Morris said institutions such as the NDB could help new economic powers such as China and India rise. “The best chance for continuing peaceful growth of the world economy … is for the rising economies to explore new institutional arrangements that might open new opportunities while also continuing to work within the established international order,” Morris said. Even the idea of BRICS might no longer seem very useful by the end of the decade, with China and India continuing to rise amid a “broader shift in economic power away from the West”, he said. In the meantime, there are more urgent operational issues to address. Maasdorp said the bank was in talks with two international rating agencies and undergoing “rigorous” due diligence to secure an international rating, after winning triple-A from China's domestic agencies. As the bank had no track record, it had to “tell the story and persuade stakeholders that you got sufficient political support from the five countries”, he said. It will be a hard story to tell – Brazil and Russia's ratings are junk level and South Africa faces a downgrade. Moody's also adjusted China's credit rating outlook to negative in early March. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

New charity law provides no certainty for foreign NGOs (Global Times)
2016-03-31
The overall charity environment may become more transparent in China after the country approved its first specific law on charity. But foreign organizations are no closer to having a clear position in society as it is unclear how the law will affect their work, experts said. Donations from overseas accounted for around 10 percent of the 84.5 billion yuan ($13 billion) that China-based charities received in 2011, according to a report from the China Charity Information Center (CCIC) under the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Though they are a small part of China's philanthropy sector, many foreign charities have introduced advanced management ideas and experience to China. Passed on March 16, the country's Charity Law was praised for providing a legal foundation that could boost the development of philanthropy in China. However, the law does not provide regulation for foreign individuals', organizations', companies' and government bodies' charity activities. Foreign individuals or organizations will benefit from the more transparent and ordered environment that the law may create, which may encourage more people to donate money as they will know for sure that their donations will be spent on a good cause, Liu Youping, deputy head of the China Charity and Donation Information Center, told the Global Times on Wednesday. In 2014, China received foreign and domestic donations worth 104 billion yuan, and donations from overseas individuals and NGOs (not including donations from companies and governments, which make up the majority of such donations) were 2 billion yuan, with 90 percent coming from Hong Kong and the US. A 2004 regulation on foreign charity says they are banned from directly collecting and receiving donations in China. They can cooperate with domestic foundations or directly transfer money and goods to "project implementers," said a report by Junhe Law Firm in January. Domestic charity organizations must register with their local civil affairs bureau, and all their work will be closely supervised by that bureau. "I do believe that the law will provide a better overall environment that is positive for everyone working in the charitable sector in China, including foreign foundations," Elizabeth Knup, representative of Ford Foundation in China told the Global Times. The Ford Foundation invests in the work of domestic charitable organizations. "The law doesn't have much impact on us as it mainly oversees the activity of domestic bodies," Elizabeth said. However, foreign organizations are still in a "grey area" if they act independently without cooperating with any domestic parties, because the law does not mention the legal standing of foreign NGOs, He Lijun, a New York-based professor on public administration at Pace University, told the Global Times. She added that the Charity Law benefits organizations that share the same philosophy as the Chinese government, while foreign organizations, which often focus on social issues or human rights, might be frustrated in this regard. She noted that foreign NGOs may also be concerned about the management of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) over the NGO sector, which will likely be expanded by the new law. Some have pointed out that the government is eager to resolve some national security concerns linked to foreign NGOs' poverty elimination efforts. "Charitable programs are indispensable for the fight against poverty. Formulating a charity law... helps nongovernmental sources work together in taking targeted measures to alleviate and eliminate poverty…" Li Jianguo, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress said in early March. However, many poverty-stricken areas in China are inhabited by religious and ethnic minority groups, said Liu. He noted that foreign organizations that have been trying to disturb social order in those regions using poverty elimination as an excuse will find their work more difficult under the MPS' supervision. Organizations that conduct or finance activities that jeopardize national security will be dealt in accordance with law and may face criminal charges, according to Article 109 of the Charity Law. In the future, specific regulations on the activities of foreign charities will be stipulated in China's first law on management of foreign NGOs, Liu noted. Foreign NGOs and their representatives in China may be banned from raising money unless they are given permission by the State Council, and violators may be fined up to 200,000 yuan, according to the draft version of foreign NGO law. The law is going through the public opinion solicitation process until June 4. ^ top ^

China sets priorities for economic reform (Xinhua)
2016-03-31
The State Council, China's Cabinet, on Thursday unveiled this year's top economic reform priorities. The reforms for 2016 touched upon 10 fields, ranging from state-owned enterprise (SOE), to the opening-up policy, the State Council said in a statement. The central government said it will encourage private enterprises to take part in the SOE reform and private capital will be allowed to invest in key sectors including power, oil, natural gas, railway, aviation and telecoms. To boost sustainable growth, the government will unveil more measures to help researchers commercialize their findings and facilitate innovation and entrepreneurship. In the statement, the government vowed to further cut red tape, loosen controls on market access and investment, and push forward supply-side structural reforms, to reduce overcapacity, destock, deleverage, reduce costs and shore up weak growth areas. In terms of taxation, the VAT program will expand to all industries this year, while taxes on imported consumer goods are expected to be slashed, easing the tax burdens of both enterprises and ordinary consumers. In the financial sector, China vowed to promote RMB convertibility on the capital accounts "steadily and cautiously" and launch a stock connect program between the Shenzhen and Hong Kong bourses in 2016. To push urbanization, plans will be formulated to help 100 million rural residents relocate to cities. The government will further open its manufacturing and service sectors to foreign investors and simplify the procedures to start a foreign-funded company. In addition, China will make more efforts to protect the environment through emission cuts and returning more marginal farmland to forest or grassland, the statement said. The National Development and Reform Commission, the economic planner, will be responsible for supervision and evaluation of the reforms' implementation, it said. ^ top ^

Toe the Communist Party's red line on Cultural Revolution, state paper warns (SCMP)
2016-03-31
Reflections on the Cultural Revolution must not go beyond the Communist Party's official verdict, a state media editorial cautioned on Wednesday ahead of the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the political movement. “Reflections are normal... but they should not add or change [the official] political verdict,” a Global Times editorial said. The newspaper is affiliated with the party's top mouthpiece People's Daily. Yesterday's editorial was the official tabloid's second commentary on the sensitive issue this year and came just weeks after a former culture minister called for further soul-searching by intellectuals on the country's 10 years of chaos. May 16 will mark the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution, a decade-long political campaign dominated by the personality cult of the people's republic's founding leader Mao Zedong and destructive anarchic political movements. In an article earlier this month, former culture minister Wang Meng, 81, argued that the party and Chinese intellectuals had a responsibility to “further explain” the campaign. But the editorial yesterday insisted that “the profoundness of the official verdict on the history could not be paralleled by sporadic ideas by individuals.” “If China brings up a wave of reflections and discussions [on the Cultural Revolution] as wished by some, the established political consensus will be jeopardised and turbulence in ideas may occur. “[These advocates] like to overuse the label of the Cultural Revolution, linking it to all problems today, and to make their case that the Cultural Revolution will return.” The editorial was similar to one the Global Times ran in January. But yesterday's piece also dismissed calls from ultra-leftists for a vindication of the Cultural Revolution, saying that such voices had only limited influence. In an official admission in 1981, the party said the Cultural Revolution was a period of internal turbulence “wrongfully started by the leadership and used by counter-revolutionary clans”. It inflicted a “serious catastrophe” on the country and the people and “is not and could not possibly be a revolution or social progress in any sense”, the party said. According to official statistics, the campaign caused more than a million unnatural deaths and resulted in the jailing of more than four million people. But critics said the statement did not go far enough in holding Mao responsible. Many sinful acts were done by the Gang of Four and his handpicked successor Lin Biao “behind his [Mao's] back”, it said. All the five subordinates of Mao were labelled counter-revolutionaries after Mao's death in 1976, the year the Cultural Revolution ended. Song Yongyi, a US-based historian and expert on the Cultural Revolution, said the 1981 statement was compromised by political considerations. “The political situation was not stable then and the party wanted to focus on building the economy first,” Song said. “Now China is the world's second-largest economy and it's much readier for further discussions.” ^ top ^

Govts move to cut burden of social security payments (China Daily)
2016-03-31
State Council approves regulation allowing national fund to manage local surpluses In response to the central government's call to reduce the burden on businesses, 12 provinces and municipalities have cut social security payment requirements for employers and employees. But analysts said the pension fund, the largest of all government programs, is unlikely to see cuts in payouts. China Daily's compilation of information shows that the reductions mostly concentrate on smaller programs dealing with such things as workplace injuries, unemployment and childbirth insurance. For example, in Tianjin, employers had to disburse 2 percent of an employee's monthly payroll to the unemployment insurance fund and 0.8 percent to the childbirth insurance fund. Now the ratios have been cut to 1 percent and 0.5 percent. In a related move, the State Council, China's Cabinet, approved a regulation on Monday that applies to the National Social Security Fund. It allows the fund to take over management of local governments' social security surpluses. Established in 2000, the NSSF supplements the numerous social security funds run by local governments. Unlike those funds, which mostly rely on payments from employees and employers, the 1.51-trillion-yuan ($233 billion) NSSF is mostly funded by fiscal revenues. Run by a professional council of investment experts, it earned 15.14 percent in returns in 2015. Currently, only Guangdong and Shandong have entrusted their surpluses to the NSSF. Under the new regulation, more are expected to follow suit. The cuts in social security contribution requirements by the 12 provinces and municipalities - while welcomed by companies and individuals - represent only a small fraction of the total pie. Employers' combined payments for unemployment, work injuries and childbirth insurance accounted for just 3.3 percent of payroll, while 20 percent of payroll goes to the pension fund and 8 percent for medical insurance. Without a drop in those two categories, the payment burden is only slightly reduced. Of the places adopting the cuts, only Shanghai reduced its pension fund requirement (from 21 to 20 percent), which basically returned the city to the national norm. Xiamen, Fujian province, cut its medical insurance ratio to 7 percent. Nationwide, employers and employees still pay about 39 percent of payroll to the five social insurance programs - among the highest in the world, despite a decrease from 39.6 percent. Deeper cuts to the pension fund and medical insurance ratio are needed, experts say, but simply cutting the nominal ratio might miss the bigger picture. Dong Keyong, a social security expert at Renmin University of China, said in most Chinese companies, particularly in the private sector, actual payments are lower than the 39.6 percent ratio often reported because the definition of "payroll" is not the same everywhere. […] The right approach, Dong said, is to overhaul the pension system so employees not only rely on the basic pension fund scheme mandated by the State but on commercial pillars. […] ^ top ^

China targets poverty relief fund misuse as corruption on rise (Xinhua)
2016-03-29
China has announced a five-year campaign to crack down on corruption by officials engaged in poverty relief work, which kicked off at the beginning of 2016. Duty crimes are the most recent area to be scrutinized by anti-graft authorities as inconsistences have been flagged in poverty relief budgets. In the past three years, prosecutors have investigated 2,295 officials who manage poverty alleviation -- 579 in 2013, 783 in 2014, and 933 in 2015, according to the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) on Tuesday. The number of officials implicated in abuse of finances for poverty relief in the past three years accounted for 1.4 percent of the total duty crimes during the same period, the SPP added. The sharp rise of corruption in poverty alleviation is due to a high number of poverty relief projects and funds involved, as well as lax supervision, according to an unidentified official with the anti-corruption bureau under the SPP. Investigations by the SPP show that officials at county, township and village level are most likely to be involved in duty crimes, spanning bribery, embezzlement, speculation, abuse of power and dereliction of duty. Prosecutors will improve the investigation of misuse of funds for relocation, ecological protection, education and medical insurance, and rural living allowances. Officials who are in charge of traffic management, hydropower and electric power infrastructure and renovation in rural areas will also be targeted in the anti-graft campaign. Moreover, an information sharing system will be set up to ensure all poverty alleviation funds are used effectively and transparently, the SPP said, adding that officials will receive training to increase their legal awareness. The prevention of duty crimes in poverty relief is a vital measure to poverty alleviation efforts as well as a major responsibility of prosecutors, said the SPP. China aims to lift everyone in rural areas out of poverty and build "a moderately prosperous society" by 2020. ^ top ^

Counting crowds (Global Times)
2016-03-29
Baidu's Big Data Lab (BDL) recently revealed that it is developing a system that will give advance warning of large crowds developing in public spaces through aggregating people's queries to its widely-used map app. Experts say such utilization of big data - which is being advocated by the central government - will improve public safety, but others are worrying about information security. In a report published on March 22, the BDL said it analyzed the 2014 Shanghai stampede, in which 36 people were killed and 49 injured during New Year's Eve celebrations in the city's riverside Bund area. According to the report, the appearance of dangerous crowds is hard to predict as the movement of individuals is "random and complex." However, the BDL approach may be able to warn of the appearance of a crowd up to three hours in advance. The report says that Baidu map users often use the app for directions, which means that if query data is gathered and analyzed in real time, it is possible to tell which areas large numbers of people are heading toward. The early-warning system constructed by BDL will work on analyzing this data and measuring potential crowd risks. "Having more than 70 percent of the market share overall in China, Baidu maps has an innate advantage in tackling this problem," the reports reads. According to Baidu, crowd-analysis technology is still being studied, but in future the approach may be shared with local governments and stadium operators, China National Radio reported Saturday. "If we can protect the privacy of users, big data is definitely helpful for public safety and anti-terrorism work," Fang Xingdong, founder of blogchina.com and cyber-security expert, told the Global Times Monday. According to Fang, governments can deal with terrorists by monitoring certain key words using big data. "The traditional methods of protecting public safety, which relied on manpower, were not comprehensive, and were unpredictable," Qin An, a cyber-security expert at the Chinese Institute for Innovation and Development, told the Global Times. […] ^ top ^

China rules out industrial-scale GM grain farms (Global Times)
2016-03-29
China has reassured the public that it will not establish industrial-scale genetically modified (GM) grain farms in the short term, amid citizens' dissenting opinions on GM food. "At present, GM rice is developing rapidly, and its technology is advanced. However, the agriculture ministry won't plant it on an industrial scale in the short term," Zhang Xianfa, deputy director in charge of GM organisms at China's Ministry of Agriculture, told China National Radio (CNR). GM food remains a controversial issue in China, as public opinion remains divided as to whether the modified genes will affect human beings. Concerns were raised in January after China vowed to carefully promote technology related to GM organisms with tighter supervision in this year's No.1 Central Document, an annual agriculture policy paper, while previous documents refrained from discussing the development of GM products. During the annual sessions of the nation's legislative and advisory bodies earlier this month, Lu Hao, governor of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province - China's largest grain producer - told the Global Times that the province will not grow GM food. "The safety committee judges severely, including in assessments of food safety and environmental safety. We have zero tolerance on food safety issues. If either assessment fails, the food will not pass the safety evaluation," Zhang noted, reiterating that GM food approved to be sold on the market is safe, CNR reported. Not all food containing GM ingredients can be called GM food, Zhang added. Zhang also pointed out that more efforts are needed to popularize GM food science, as GM crops and foods still face a lot of resistance from the Chinese public. Currently, only papayas and cotton have received clearance for commercial GM production in China. "The safety evaluation for GM food is stricter than traditional food's evaluation and can help improve food quality. In the past 20 years, there has been no GM food problem reported in China," Luo Yunbo, a GM food expert with China Agricultural University told the Global Times. ^ top ^

Chinese premier vows further efforts for clean governance (Xinhua)
2016-03-28
The Chinese government will further transform its functions, improve accountability mechanisms and strengthen supervision over key sectors plagued by corruption, Premier Li Keqiang said Monday. Li made the remarks during the fourth meeting on clean governance, putting forward requirements for anti-corruption work in 2016. The premier said significant results were achieved in anti-graft work last year, with continued efforts made by governments at all levels on rectifying workstyles, devolving powers, managing public assets and limiting misuse of power. However, corruption still exists in key sectors as anti-graft mechanisms remain weak in some government agencies, state-owned enterprises, public institutions and financial institutions, Li said. Li called for further crackdown on corruption in key sectors to ensure economic growth and social stability amid a more challenging situation of development in China this year. Chinese government will slash more administrative items this year and increase openness, the premier said. Li said the State Council, China's cabinet, will continue inspections of various departments and local governments this year and hold officials accountable if they are reluctant to rectify problems. The premier also proposed an electronic system to make public resource trading more transparent. Financial supervision and regulation should be improved to prevent violations and corruption in the sector, Li said. The meeting was attended by vice premiers Zhang Gaoli, Wang Yang and Ma Kai. Wang Qishan, secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China, attended the meeting on invitation. ^ top ^

Ethnic minority officials begin central unit program (Xinhua)
2016-03-28
An annual program to give officials from ethnic minorities and underdeveloped western regions experience of working at central departments began on Monday. A total of 234 officials will attend a three-day training course on ethnic work and national security; the country's development plan for the 2016-2020 period; innovation in science and technology; and anti-corruption work, among other subjects. Following the course, they will be despatched across 87 central Communist Party of China (CPC) and government departments, and major state-owned enterprises for a year. The course was run by the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee, the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee and the State Ethnic Affairs Commission. Since it began in 1990, the program has seen more than 8,500 ethnic minority and western region officials experience the workings of central departments. ^ top ^

New regulation to enhance social security fund management (Xinhua)
2016-03-28
The State Council on Monday published a document on the regulation of social security fund. The majority of social security fund comes from central government budget, state-owned capital and the fund's investment return, according to the regulation. The fund, which is managed by the National Council for Social Security Fund, will supplement and regulate social security expenditure including pensions, the document said. The regulation also stipulates multiple risk prevention and control measures for the fund's operation and management, and provides the range of the fund's investments, internal control systems and management of fund managers. The central government's finance and insurance authorities will supervise the fund's operation. The fund will also be subject to audits by the National Audit Office. The results of which, as well as the fund's operation conditions, will be made public annually. Unlike social insurance funds, which require current payments to cover citizens' pension, medicare, unemployment and maternity benefits, the social security fund, established in August 2000, is a "ballast" reserve for future expenditures among an aging population. As no immediate solvency is needed, the social security fund is more suitable for medium and long-term investments. As of the end of 2015, the national social security fund totaled 1.5 trillion yuan (231.5 billion U.S. dollars). ^ top ^

Vaccine scandal highlights public's lack of trust in the Chinese government (SCMP)
2016-03-27
It started as a piece of good news on February 23 when Xinhua reported that police in Shandong had arrested a mother and daughter on suspicion of having illegally sold improperly stored or expired vaccines worth more than 570 million yuan (HK$679 million) across 24 provinces since 2011. But the news failed to capture the public's attention until a news website controlled by the Shanghai municipal government published a follow-up report on March 18 with a catchier headline that noted the vaccines could cause death. It was immediately picked up by the social media accounts of mainstream media such as the People's Daily and China Central Television. It has since fermented rapidly into the biggest health care scandal of recent years. Premier Li Keqiang ordered a thorough investigation and even the World Health Organisation issued a statement. Local media suggested some mainland mothers planned to bring their children to Hong Kong for vaccinations, raising concerns over whether local facilities could cope with the influx. As mind-boggling as it is, how the good news could degenerate into a crisis for the government is another sad reminder of its deep-rooted propensity to withhold information vital to the public interest and its lack of credibility in the eyes of ordinary citizens. Subsequent reports have suggested massive corruption and lack of effective supervision by the government authorities in production, transport, storage, and sale of vaccines. […] The Xinhua report said the arrests were made in April 2015 and the case was then transferred to the supervision of the Ministry of Public Security and the China Food and Drug Administration in Beijing. This suggested the central government regulators had known about the seriousness of the case for nearly one year. But even with the latest reports focusing public attention and anger on the snowballing scandal, regulators have been slow to react. Even the WHO acted faster. On Tuesday, it acknowledged the reports and said the improperly or expired vaccines seldom caused any toxic reactions and thus posed minimal health risks. It was only after Wednesday when state media reported that Li had ordered a thorough probe and a timely response to the public concerns that the regulators shifted into high gear, holding their first press conference on Thursday, nearly a week after the reports began to cause panic among the public. At the press conference, the officials admitted most of the problematic vaccines had been used and flaws in the supervision of vaccine distribution were to blame. They tried to reassure the public by echoing the WHO's statement that the health risk was minimal. But it was too little, too late given the public's anger and distrust. They have had too many experiences of officials attempting cover-ups or downplaying scandals that are a matter of life and death – such as the melamine-spiked milk powder scandal and the Sars epidemic. Many have questioned how a mother and a daughter could so easily set up a distribution network that remained undetected and unsupervised for so long, especially as it involved dozens of pharmaceutical firms and hundreds of salesmen and an unknown number of clinics. Moreover, this came to light after Caixin, a leading investigative publication, published a detailed report in 2013 chronicling the malpractices in production and sales of the vaccines which resulted in the deaths of children. There is no doubt that, as this case has received attention from the highest level of government, the culprits and those officials found in dereliction of duty will be duly punished. But will the regulators learn a lesson? After all, the first chief of the food and drug administration was executed on corruption charges in 2007. These included charges of approving unsafe drugs that had caused dozens of fatalities. Even more importantly, officials' bad handling of this scandal has put another serious dent in the credibility of the government. ^ top ^

China's plan to catch up with its left-behind children (SCMP)
2016-03-27
Mainland authorities are for the first time counting the number of rural children left behind by parents who moved to work in cities. A phenomenon that has persisted for more than a decade, “left-behind” children, often lacking parental love and education, are estimated by researchers to number more than 60 million. Several ministries will launch a joint survey this year to find out the exact figure so that each of them can receive assistance, the China Youth Daily cited an official from the Ministry of Civil Affairs as saying. Migrant juveniles, whose parents moved from the countryside to the cities but took their children with them, will also be included in the survey. They are estimated to number about 36 million. Ni Chunxia, deputy head of the ministry's social affairs ­department, said there was no ­authoritative data on the issue, despite it having long been recognised as a serious social problem. Left-behind children, who are often taken care of by their grandparents, or in some cases simply abandoned, have roused growing public attention as they are ­frequently involved in suicides, accidents and incidents of juvenile delinquency. Last year, a boy and three girls aged between five and 13, who lived in poverty near Bijie (畢節) in Guizhou, killed themselves by drinking pesticide. Their father was working away from home at the time. And in 2012, five left-behind boys living on the streets in Bijie were found dead in a large ­rubbish bin, having breathed in carbon monoxide while burning coal to keep warm. Ni said 27 ministries would soon begin participating in a joint conference on how best to care for left-behind children. She said that the ministry had established a separate section to protect the rights of such minors. A directive by the State Council last month ordered local governments to build a database of these children. The authorities are required to have one file for each child and each file should be updated on a regular basis. In a State Council meeting ­before the directive, Premier Li Keqiang admitted that left-behind children had become a complicated problem that could not be solved in the short term. Lawyer Li Ying, the director of the Beijing Yuanzhong Gender Development Centre and an ­activist in helping left-behind children, said building the ­database was essential to providing better care and support. Li Ying said that while support and services from the government and non-governmental ­organisations were important, even more crucial was encouraging the children's parents to return home and ensuring that they had a viable source of income in their home towns. “After many years of services, I really think that we can't replace parents after all,” she said. “We saw many tragedies and learned that the absence of parents not only means a lack of caring for their daily life, but also a lack of fundamental education, about telling them what's right and what's wrong. “The authorities should focus more on luring their parents back home, such as creating jobs and improving their social insurances,” she said. “That way, their children can enjoy normal family love.” ^ top ^

Father of China's Great Firewall to lead new cybersecurity association (SCMP)
2016-03-26
A national industry association for protecting cybersecurity, chaired by a leading figure in China's internet censorship effort, was set up on in Beijing on Friday, Xinhua reported. The newly founded Cyber Security Association of China – the first of its kind in the country – consists of companies in related industries, such as internet giants Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and telecom firms China Mobile and China Unicom. It also includes top universities and research institutes in the field, including the National University of Defence Technology, Peking University and some institutes under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Fang Binxing, known as the father of the Great Firewall for helping to develop the internet blocking apparatus, was elected the head of the association at yesterday's inaugural meeting by 257 founding members. The aim of the non-profit association was to “serve as a bridge” between the government and the public to “organise and mobilise forces in all aspects of society to participate in building China's cybersecurity,” Xinhua said. The association will play a guiding role in cybersecurity governance, help promote self-discipline in the industry and push for the establishment of industry standards, according to a statement on the internet regulator's website. The association, which falls under the oversight of the country's top internet regulator the Cyberspace Administration, is the country's latest move to beef up cybersecurity. Last July, China's top legislature published a draft cybersecurity law to cement government control over the internet and data, which analysts said could further squeeze free speech online and affect multinational companies doing business in China. Joshua Rosenzweig, an independent researcher on human rights, said by vowing to actively facilitate the government's cybersecurity measures, these companies were giving away their responsibility to respect privacy and freedom of expression to business interests. “I'm not surprised at all that companies are lining up to be part of this effort, but I'm disappointed,” he said. “From a business perspective, I guess that's probably understandable, because they're trying to avoid political risks. But when it comes to the responsibility to respect human rights, they failed. “All these companies have over these years become accustomed to not only following the orders the government give them, but also to showing that they are taking active steps,” he said. ^ top ^

Vice Premier urges efforts to upgrade rural power grids (Xinhua)
2016-03-25
Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli on Friday urged implementation of a new round of rural electric power grid upgrades in a bid to improve rural residents' livelihoods and bolster China's economy. Zhang stressed the pressing need to upgrade the rural power grid in a State Council teleconference, as the changes are in line with the country's supply-side structural reform and will help promote steady economic growth. The government will promote full power supply coverage for motor-pumped well facilities in villages on flat land by the end of 2017, he said. Priority should be given to Tibet and Xinjiang autonomous regions as well as Tibetan areas in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces, he added. Zhang called on local authorities to prioritize the grid upgrades and help companies carry out the project. China will invest more than 700 billion yuan (107 billion U.S. dollars) in rural power grid upgrades, according to a government statement released last month. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Shanghai, Shenzhen raise purchase thresholds to cool home prices (Xinhua)
2016-03-27
Two major Chinese cities of Shanghai and Shenzhen on Friday issued a slew of policies to tame their property markets, including raising down payment requirements for second home buyers. Under the new rules in Shanghai, which came into effect on Friday, those who already own a house must make at least a 50-percent down payment, instead of the previously required 40 percent, when applying for home loans. The minimum down payment rises to 70 percent if the home's size and price surpass the criteria for an ordinary house. Non-local buyers must also prove they have paid income tax and social security premiums in the city for five consecutive years, up from two years under the previous requirement. The city will ban developers and housing agencies from offering certain loan services to buyers. It also vowed a tougher clamp-down on house speculation and price-gouging. The regulations are meant to curb surging prices in the city's property market resulting from "irrational emotions," speculation and illegal practices by some companies and agencies, said Gu Jinshan, a director with the city's housing and urban-rural development commission. In Shenzhen, the municipal government issued similar policies late Friday night. […] In February, new home prices in Shanghai jumped about 20 percent year-on-year, while in Shenzhen, prices soared 72 percent, showing signs of overheating in the top-tier cities. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

China eyes end to Dalai clique on Tibet Serf Emancipation Day (Global Times)
2016-03-29
China's Tibet Autonomous Region on Monday celebrated Serf Emancipation Day, as the chairman of the Tibet government vowed to fight separatism and said that the Dalai Lama clique is "doomed to fail." Experts are also saying that as the Dalai clique's international influence is on the wane, the group has been desperate to fabricate stories or stage protests in order to draw attention, but this will in return hurt their own image. "The clique of the 14th Dalai Lama has never ceased its attempts to split China. Such activities run counter to the Constitution, State system and the interests of all people in Tibet, and are doomed to fail," said Losang Jamcan, chairman of the Tibet government, in a televised speech on Monday. The clique cannot deny the great achievements Tibet has made under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Losang Jamcan said, adding that Tibet can only continue to advance and prosper by following the CPC's leadership and the path of socialism. China launched Serf Emancipation Day in 2009 to mark the democratic reform that freed 1 million people, or 90 percent of Tibet's population at the time, from the feudal serf system on March 28, 1959, shortly after the Dalai Lama fled to India. Before the reform, serfs were regarded as salable private property subject to cruel punishment such as mutilation or amputation, according to news portal Tibet.cn. "Abolishing serfdom was one of the most profound social changes in Tibet's history. On the other hand, the day serves to remind people that the Dalai Lama was the representative of a system that deprived over 90 percent of the Tibetan people of their basic rights before 1959," Guo Kefan, deputy director of the Contemporary Tibetan Research Institute at the Tibet Autonomous Region Academy of Social Sciences told the Global Times on Monday. […] Zhu also pointed out that given the Dalai Lama's age - he is 80 - political succession and religious reincarnation after the spiritual leader's death has become increasingly urgent for his followers which very much aggravates the infighting within the "exile government." "There are indications that the Dalai Lama group's failure is irreversible," Zhu said. "However, under certain circumstances, it is still capable of provoking trouble." Zhu's opinion was echoed by Guo, who said two scenarios may happen after the Dalai Lama's death. One scenario indicates that the group will further split with some resolve to extreme means to seek "Tibet independence," and the other is that a substantial portion of exiled Tibetans would return to Tibet and the group would gradually dissolve. On Monday morning, some 3,000 people gathered at the Potala Palace Square in Lhasa to watch the flag-raising ceremony. China Central Television also aired a documentary over the weekend that showed the conditions of Tibetan serfs before 1959 and how the abolition of the system came about. Tibet's GDP surpassed 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) in 2015 after 23 years of double-digit growth. Per capita disposable income for its rural residents increased to 8,244 yuan last year, double that of 2010. The region has also led the country in offering 15-year free education and free health check-ups for rural and urban residents. ^ top ^

Former top official in Tibet denies taking bribes to create 'living Buddhas' (SCMP)
2016-03-29
Zhu Weiqun, a senior official known for his harsh criticisms of the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, has denied accusations that he received huge bribes to grant approvals for people to become living Buddhas, dismissing the claims as a “vulgar smear”. The overseas Chinese website BowenPress said over the weekend that Zhu was under investigation by China's graft busters for allegedly granting the status of “living Buddha” in exchange for cash. Zhu was China's chief official on Tibetan issues between 1998 and 2013 as vice minister at the Communist Party's United Front Work Department. He has since been named chairman of the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the government's top political advisory body. Zhu told the state-run Global Times newspaper he had no idea who was behind the smears, but he believed the accusations were targeted at his “long-term battle with the splittist Dalai clique”, which only made him “proud” of his work. Zhu said the government has a set of rules to authorise living Buddhas based on historical and religious practices and he has strictly followed the policies and regulations. Zhu has on many occasions asserted that the Chinese government has the sole authority to decide on the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan spiritual leaders has said he thinks the title could end when he dies, but Zhu said the current Dalai Lama had no right to abandon reincarnation. China's communist government announced in January it has compiled a database of 870 “verified” living Buddhas, which left the Dalai Lama off the list. Zhu told state media that fake living Buddhas have posed a threat to national security as they use money they collect to sponsor illegal and separatist activities in Tibet. China's government says the Dalai Lama is a separatist intent on splitting the nation. He says he merely wants greater autonomy for Tibet and respect for its religion and culture. ^ top ^

Tibet renews anti-separatism pledge on Serfs' Emancipation Day (Xinhua)
2016-03-27
Southwest China's Tibetan Autonomous Region on Monday marked Serfs' Emancipation Day with flag-raising ceremonies and official vows to fight separatism. Losang Jamcan, chair of Tibet regional government, said in a speech that secessionist activities were doomed to fail. "The clique of the 14th Dalai Lama has never ceased its attempts to split China. Such activities run counter to the constitution, state system and the interests of all people in Tibet, and are doomed to fail,"he said. The clique can not deny the great achievements Tibet has made under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Losang Jamcan said, or dampen the resolution of all Chinese, including Tibetans, to safeguard national unity. Tibet can only continue to advance and prosper by following the CPC leadership and the path of socialism, he said. In 2009, March 28 was designated as the day to mark the freeing of 1 million people, or 90 percent of the region's population at that time, from the feudal serf system in 1959. Tibet's GDP surpassed 100 billion yuan (15 billion U.S. dollars) in 2015 after 23 years of double-digit growth. Per capita disposable income for its rural residents increased to 8,244 yuan last year, double that of 2010. The region has also led the country in offering 15-year free education and free health check-ups for rural and urban residents. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

China launches campaign to promote ethnic unity in violence-torn Xinjiang region (SCMP)
2016-03-31
China's violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang has begun a campaign to promote ethnic unity with a call for respect of the cultures of the minorities who call the region home, while vowing another crackdown on terrorism and separatism. Hundreds of people have been killed in unrest in Xinjiang in the past few years. The government blames the violence on Islamist militants who want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan for minority Uygurs, a mostly Muslim people who speak a Turkic language and hail from Xinjiang. Rights groups and exiles say one of the major problems in Xinjiang is government controls on Uygur culture and Islam and point out that few Han Chinese who live and work in Xinjiang make any effort to learn Uygur or make Uygur friends. Zhang Chunxian, Xinjiang's Communist Party boss, launched “the year of ethnic unity progress” at a meeting in the region's capital, Urumqi. “We must respect differences, and take a respectful attitude towards dealing with problems of [different] customs, to create an atmosphere in society of respect for the culture and customs of different peoples,” Zhang said, in comments carried in Thursday's official Xinjiang Daily. This can start from the smallest things in daily life and people should be “guided” to live, work and study together so they can learn respect and tolerance, added Zhang, who is a member of the Han majority. While saying there was progress in combating extremism and getting the various ethnic groups to get along with each other, he admitted that there had been a rise in ethnic disputes and terrorism remained a problem in some parts of Xinjiang. Companies that operate in Xinjiang need to be pushed into employing more minorities and their culture and languages need encouragement and protection, Zhang said. Bilingual education also needs improving, he added, referring to a policy that has long proved controversial in Xinjiang as many Uygurs fear their mother tongue is being pushed aside in favour of Mandarin. Han Chinese are generally not taught Uygur or about Islam at school in Xinjiang. Zhang, who has repeatedly called for the different peoples in Xinjiang to get along better with each other, vowed a “resolute crackdown” on terrorism and separatism, although he said people involved in this were a small minority. Uygurs have traditionally followed a moderate form of Islam, but many have begun adopting practices more common in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, such as full-face veils for women, as China has stepped up a security crackdown in recent years. ^ top ^

Xinjiang to launch energy-saving reconstruction project (Xinhua)
2016-03-28
An energy-saving reconstruction project targeting 160 buildings in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, will be carried out this June, local authorities said Monday. The project, covering an area of more than one million square meters, will retrofit the structures, heating systems, ventilation systems and electrical systems of public buildings such as schools and hospitals. The 696-million-yuan project (about 107 million U.S. dollars) was approved last week by the National Development and Reform Commission. About 40 percent of funding will come from the European Investment Bank. The bank sees the project as a way to promote development in the underdeveloped region, according to Feng Mei from the local development and reform commission. "Less developed regions like Xinjiang will benefit from the loans because the loan repayment period is 20 years, with an annual interest rate of 1 percent," Feng told Xinhua. The rest of the funds will be provided by the government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The project is expected to be completed in 2019. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

HK begins limiting vaccinations for mainland children (Global Times)
2016-04-01
Hong Kong will begin reducing the number of non-resident children getting vaccinations at government clinics on Friday, after a vaccine scandal in the Chinese mainland encouraged some families to come to the city for inoculations, Hong Kong health authorities said on Wednesday. From April 1, Hong Kong's Maternal and Child Health Centres will set a quota for non-resident children at 120 new cases per month. Those found ineligible will only be allowed to book an appointment when there is a vacancy and will have to pay a higher fee, read a statement on the official website of the regional government. "The government's policy is to give priority to local children," Teresa Li, Hong Kong's assistant director of Health for Family and Elderly Health Services, said in the statement. "We will closely monitor the utilization of services by (non-resident children) and may adjust the quota or withhold new bookings," Li said. Linda Woo, the assistant director of Health (for drugs), said in the statement that "at present, there is no vaccine shortage in the public sector." The scandal, where a mother and daughter in Shandong Province were caught selling 25 kinds of vaccines in bulk - including inoculations for polio, mumps, rabies, hepatitis B, encephalitis and meningococcal diseases - to 24 provinces and regions, has prompted a furious backlash from Chinese parents. More Chinese parents, disappointed by the latest scandal where tens of millions worth of improperly stored vaccines were sold to two-thirds of China, are eyeing imported vaccines for inoculation, or simply turning to Hong Kong clinics. Though many of the vaccines were purchased from licensed manufacturers, they were not refrigerated during redistribution as required. ^ top ^

Equal opportunities chief vows to pursue equality for all Hongkongers (SCMP)
2016-04-01
The incoming chief of Hong Kong's discrimination watchdog has rejected concerns about his suitability for the job and commitment to advancing the rights of sexual minorities, promising that he will push all equal rights to the forefront of government policy making. In an exclusive interview with the Post, newly appointed Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) chairman Alfred Chan Cheung-ming said the overall government attitude towards discrimination had been about box-ticking on a list of must-dos to appease critics. Policies such as integrated education for children of different ethnicities, currently being handled poorly, lacked genuine consideration of the issues, he said. The gerontology professor said he also wanted to battle age discrimination by maximising work opportunities for senior citizens. “No discrimination against anyone for any reason is acceptable – so discrimination against sexual minorities isn't acceptable either,” Chan said. But 11 days before he begins his new job, his moderate views and style have already out him in the spotlight over some politically-charged issues. His critics are concerned he will not fight for the rights of sexual minorities with as much enthusiasm as his outgoing predecessor, Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, who was visible in gay pride parades. He has also been criticised for backing controversial calls by hardliners for a detention camp to house asylum seekers. Chan backtracked on the camp issue but stuck to his guns that attention should be equally given to other minority groups: “What I am saying is that [the EOC] cannot just focus on one issue... we must also advance equality for other marginalised groups like ethnic minorities and disabled people.” Ethnic minorities in the city face discrimination in both education and employment – testimony to bad policymaking, he said. To tackle the problem of ethnic minority children being thrown into schools without enough support, Chan said, it would require real integration, include hiring teachers from minority backgrounds, and incorporating a multiculturalism programme. He described the EOC's long-awaited review of the city's anti-racism law, which it wants extended to cover all government functions, as a “necessary step” in order for Hong Kong to catch up with the developed world. Chan promised to follow up on the review's 72 recommendations. Chan said he also wanted to use his expertise to tackle age discrimination issues, such as the middle-aged struggling to find jobs after being sacked, and the prevalent view that elderly people were “a burden” on society. In defence of his moderate style, he said: “We all have different ways of dealing with the government. For me, it's to negotiate first. If that doesn't work, I don't shirk from exerting pressure either.” Chan conceded that he would have to further familiarise himself with anti-discrimination legislation and other rights issues, but expressed surprise at recent criticism against him. “I knew this position is not easy, but I didn't expect some of the issues to be so politicised,” he said. “I find that as an academic, I give comments and opinions on an academic high ground, which is very different from being the head of a statutory body... it is something I have to get used to.” ^ top ^

Beijing slams creation of Hong Kong independence party, saying it endangers national security (SCMP)
2016-03-30
Beijing's office in charge of Hong Kong affairs has slammed the establishment of a new political party advocating independence for the city as a serious violation of the country's constitution, the Basic Law and a threat to national security. The State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office issued a strongly worded statement through the official Xinhua news agency on Wednesday, after the Hong Kong National Party ­announced its formation on Monday. It has yet to be ­registered. The party, led by former Occupy activist Chan Ho-tin, has pledged to push for independence by, for example, fielding candidates in the Legislative Council elections in September. “The establishment of a pro-independence party by an extremely small group of people in Hong Kong has harmed the country's sovereignty and security, as well as endangered the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong,” a spokesman for the office was quoted as saying. “It has also harmed the interests of Hong Kong. “It is firmly opposed by all Chinese nationals, including some seven million Hong Kong people. It is also a serious violation of the country's constitution, Hong Kong's Basic Law and the relevant existing laws.” The office said the Hong Kong government would handle the matter according to the law. “We are aware that the Hong Kong SAR government has ­already rejected the party's registration. It was a suitable action,” the office was quoted as saying. But the party was undeterred. It issued a statement on Wednesday saying a constitution is supposed to serve as a proclamation on how citizens are to be protected. “It is ridiculous that the citizens are accused of violating the constitution,” the party said. It also dismissed as “ridiculous” a warning on Tuesday by the Department of Justice that it might take legal action against the party. “We will not be afraid of such draconian laws. Bring it on. We will push ahead with Hong Kong independence with Hong Kong people,” the party said. A government spokesman ­replied: “Any suggestion that Hong Kong should be independent or any movement to advocate such 'independence' is against the Basic Law, and will undermine the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong and impair the interests of the general public. “The SAR government will take action according to the law.” Political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Beijing's condemnation was “unnecessary” because pro-independence ­ideology had not gained support in the city. “The statement would in fact drive more Hong Kong people to care about the issue of independence. They may not support it but they will think about it,” Lau said. ^ top ^

Hong Kong may join China-led AIIB development bank by year's end, says lender's president (SCMP)
2016-03-25
Hong Kong may join the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a sub-sovereign member by the end of the year, the bank's president Jin Liqun said at the Boao Forum for Asia on Friday. Jin said he also hoped to tap Hong Kong's financial market to raise funds for the new 57-member multinational bank. “We are working on accepting new members. I think the new-member problem will be solved before the end of this year,” Jin said in China's Hainan province. “As an international financial centre, we believe Hong Kong has a role to play to facilitate financing the AIIB”, such as in bond issues and the arrangement of currency swaps in the city, he said. “We are very happy to be able to work with Hong Kong,” Jin said. Hong Kong and Taiwan had applied to join the lender but their status in the organisation remained unclear when the bank debuted last year. “I don't think it would be a problem for Hong Kong as a sub-sovereign member,” Jin said. The AIIB president added that Hong Kong representatives had already been involved in the negotiation of a charter to settle the bank's institutional issues. Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, a lawmaker for the city's financial services sector, said it would greatly benefit Hong Kong if the city joined the lender. “It would upgrade the status of Hong Kong's financial sector in the international world if the city could become a member of the AIIB,” Cheung said. “The AIIB would play an important role in the international financial community. If AIIB chooses to use the Hong Kong platform to issue bonds or other products to raise funds, it would attract more international firms to set up shop here while the city's investment banks would also expand their businesses here. “It would provide more job opportunities and benefit the Hong Kong bond market development. This shows [Beijing] is supportive of Hong Kong's financial sector.” As he did during his other public appearances, Jin dispelled rumours that the setting up of the AIIB reflected Beijing's ambitions to challenge the present global financial governance regime. It was “very absurd” to say that the new lender was designed to bring an end to the existing system, he said, comparing establishing the AIIB to opening a new Chinese restaurant with the aim of offering good catering services. On whether the United States would change its mind to join the bank, Jin said:“We are very ­patient. We will give [the US] time to think... Even if it doesn't join, we have a lot of expertise who have US passports.” To further downplay speculation that Beijing might favour Chinese firms in projects funded by the new bank, Jin said the AIIB would stick to best international practices and would not impose preferential treatment towards Chinese companies. “But I have to warn you that Chinese companies are very, very, very competitive,” he added. The bank is expected to kick off its first batch of projects by June. Observers said Jin was very concerned about the lender's rating, which would determine its funding costs in the global market. Alex Wong, Ample Finance Group director, said Hong Kong as a potential AIIB member was unlikely to affect the stock market in the short term. “The AIIB is part of China's 'One Belt, One Road' initiative. The market has grown tired of the issue as no specific policies have yet been released to stimulate any sector in the stock market,'' he said. The AIIB has become one of China's biggest foreign policy successes. Almost all major US allies – including Australia, Britain, Germany, Italy, the Philippines and South Korea – have joined despite opposition from Washington. ^ top ^

 

Macau

Macao to turn into green city: Chui Sai On (Xinhua)
2016-03-31
The government of the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) said Thursday it is striving for a balance between environmental conservation and economic development in the process of building Macao into a green, low-carbon city. Chui Sai On, chief executive of Macao SAR made the remarks at the opening of the 2016 Macao International Environmental Co-operation Forum and Exhibition ( 2016 MIECF), themed "Green Economy -- Opportunities for Waste Management", which will last for 3 days. Environmental protection is one major policy which written in the administrative report of Macao. In order to enhance waste management, the SAR government has been taking types of measures, including implementing the "Macao Solid Waste Resource Management Plan" and promoting "reduce waste at source, separation for recycling" policy, said Chui. Such measures are in line with the goal of transforming Macao into a city with more favorable conditions for living, tourism, business, travel and recreation, said Chui, adding that the SAR government will step up efforts to support growth of local green industries. The administration is making great efforts to promote industrial integration, economic development and closer regional cooperation amid the ongoing adjustment period of Macao's gaming industry, Chui said, noting that one of the goals for Macao's sustainable development is to achieve significant performance in environmental protection. The MIECF, organized by the Macao SAR government, is an annual event held here since 2008. In this year's green forum, speakers put the spotlight on the policy and technical solutions needed for waste management, and the economic benefits of adopting these measures. More than 400 exhibitors from 19 countries display their latest environmental products and services at show and exhibition segment of the 2016MIECF. A series of exhibitions, conference sessions, business matching opportunities will be held during the event focusing on promoting green industry and protecting environment. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

8th Taiwan region allows registration of gay couples on road to marriage legalization (Global Times)
2016-04-01
Taiwan's Changhua county on Friday will begin accepting registrations of same-sex couples in the latest effort on the island to promote the legalization of same-sex marriage, which analysts believe will help further the cause of LGBT rights on the Chinese mainland. Same-sex couples over the age of 20 will be able to list each other as family members from Friday on if either person lives in Changhua county. According to county authorities, the notation will not be recorded on ID cards and does not have legal validity, but it can empower the couples to sign consent forms in case of emergency. It can also be used as a qualification to apply for allowances from police or public welfare institutions, Taiwan-based news website ETtoday reported. Changhua county is the eighth region in Taiwan to make registration service available to same-sex couples. The cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung began to offer such services on January 1, followed by other cities including Taoyuan and Taichung. Taiwan has been on the forefront of LGBT rights and is likely to become the first Asian region to legalize same-sex marriage, which may be possible during the upcoming administration of the island's first female leader, Tsai Ing-wen, who has actively responded to LGBT rights, according to Geng Le, CEO of Chinese gay dating app Blued. "The mainland is also witnessing rapid progress in LGBT rights," Geng told the Global Times on Thursday, adding that the mainland can learn from Taiwan's example and accept registration of couples before gradually legalizing same-sex marriage. In January, the Chinese mainland's first lawsuit on same-sex marriage rights was accepted by a local court in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province. The case received wide attention and was hailed by many LGBT activists when the plaintiff - a gay man - sued a civil affairs bureau in Changsha in December for turning down his same-sex marriage registration by claiming that only "one man and one woman" can be registered. "LGBT rights are neither an ideological nor a political issue in China. Misunderstanding of and discrimination against homosexuality is not caused by policies or laws, but by traditional mindsets and inadequate sex education," Geng said. Following the US, judicial authorities in Taiwan decided in September 2015 to draft a same-sex partnership law consistent with the global trend and changing public opinion. ^ top ^

Beheading of girl, 4, on Taiwan subway, prompts calls for greater use of death penalty (SCMP)
2016-03-30
The beheading of a four-year-old girl in Taiwan has sparked calls to make greater use of the island's death penalty. It comes amid two other seemingly random attacks. The murder of the girl on Monday and yesterday's violent but non-lethal attacks have also prompted concerns over the effectiveness of Taiwan's mental health support services. A knife-wielding man attacked a policeman at a subway station in Taipei at around noon yesterday. The Central News Agency said the suspect, an unemployed 28-year-old surnamed Chan who did not have a criminal record, said only that he “hated cops” when interrogated after being subdued. The officer was wounded in his head and back but his injuries were not life threatening. An hour later, in New Taipei City, a street cleaner, 48, was attacked by a stranger with a saw. CNA said police detained a 23-year old who said he was trying to “protect cockroaches”. The cleaner sustained injuries to his wrist that required hospital treatment. Yesterday's attacks came as investigators said the man suspected of beheading the girl on Monday was mentally ill. Wang Ching-yu, 33, is accused of attacking the girl as she and her mother went to a subway station in Neihu, eastern Taipei. He is said to have picked the girl at random, grabbed her from behind and decapitated her with a kitchen knife, despite the mother's attempts to stop him. Supporters of capital punishment have seized on the attack on the girl, dubbed “Little Light Bulb”, to argue life sentences are not sufficient to prevent such acts. “Who is to return the right and justice to Little Light Bulb after she died in such a horrible way,” asked Wang Yu-min, a Kuomintang legislator. “We call on all of you to support my proposal that those who murder children under the age of 12 be automatically sentenced to death, or under specific circumstances, jailed for life.” Taiwan retains the death penalty, but executions have become rare in the face of calls to abolish it in line with international practice. The outgoing government of President Ma Ying-jeou has signed an international judicial human rights agreement stating his government will observe international practice, prompting judges to opt more often for handing down life sentences over the death penalty. Freddy Lin, a legislator of the New Power Party who is also head of Amnesty International's Taiwan branch, said rather than discussing the death penalty, authorities should do more to prevent such tragedies. The girl's death was the third seemingly random murder of a child in Taiwan in five years, according to CNA. Defendants in the other two cases were sentenced to life in prison, despite public calls for the death penalty. KMT lawmakers said they would stage a referendum on ­retaining the death penalty to discourage such attacks. The girl's mother urged people to pay attention to their children and loved ones, and hug them more often. ^ top ^

Taiwan expresses concern to Indonesia over chase involving fishing boat and military vessel (SCMP)
2016-03-28
Taiwan's government has expressed concern to Indonesia after one of its fishing boats was chased and boarded by an Indonesian military vessel, the island's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. The Donggang-registered Ting Sheng was stopped and checked by an Indonesian military vessel on Saturday evening in the Strait of Malacca, the Central News Agency reported, citing the ministry. The fishing ship was released and continued on its way to the Indian Ocean, but the government will lodge a protest if it is determined that the Indonesian military had no right to conduct the check or failed to follow protocols, the ministry said. Ismail Mae, director of the Press Information Division at the Taipei Economic and Trade Office in Indonesia, said in Jakarta that the Ting Sheng was released after the check and that no crew members were injured. Lin Han-chou, an executive with the Tung Kang Fishermen's Association in Donggang Township in Pingtung County, where the fishing ship is registered, said the Ting Sheng's skipper was asked to pay a bribe of US$300 before his ship was released. “It was almost like a robbery,” Lin told the Central News Agency. The incident took place just north of Sumatra as the boat was heading to the Maldives after offloading its catch in Singapore on March 22, Lin said. Yunus Ismail, deputy head of the press office at the Indonesian Navy Headquarters in Jakarta, said he had not received any information related to the charges. The incident's location was not far from where two Taiwanese fishing ships registered in Pingtung's Liouciou Township were fired upon by Indonesian patrol vessels in waters north of Sumatra on March 21. The Indonesian government accused the two Taiwanese ships involved in the March 21 shooting of poaching, but both skippers have denied the accusation, claiming that they were only passing through the Strait of Malacca on their way to Singapore. ^ top ^

Xi congratulates Hung's election as KMT leader (Xinhua)
2016-03-27
Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, on Saturday congratulated Hung Hsiu-chu for being elected the chairperson of Kuomintang (KMT). Xi said in his message to Hung that he hoped the two parties shall keep the overall national interest and the well-being of the compatriots in mind, and continue to adhere to the 1992 Consensus and oppose "Taiwan independence." The CPC and KMT should consolidate the foundation of mutual trust, strengthen communication and interaction, jointly safeguard the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and, with one heart, strive to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, Xi said. In her reply to Xi's message, Hung expressed gratitude for Xi's congratulation. The compatriots on both sides of the Strait are all parts of the Chinese nation, Hung said. She hoped the two parties could further strengthen mutual trust and deepen cooperation on the basis of the 1992 Consensus to create more benefits for compatriots on both sides of the Strait. ^ top ^

Taiwan's ousted presidential nominee Hung Hsiu-chu elected as Kuomintang's first woman leader (SCMP)
2016-03-27
Members of Taiwan's beleaguered Kuomintang have redeemed former deputy legislature speaker Hung Hsiu-chu by electing her the first female leader of the century-old party during a by-election on Sunday. Analysts, however, said it remained to be seen whether Hung could emulate the success of Tsai Ing-wen, who led the once collapsing pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party back to power following the jailing of former DPP chairman and president Chen Shui-bian for corruption. President Xi Jinping congratulated from Beijing, hoping the KMT will continue to cooperate with the Communist Party in upholding the 1992 consensus and oppose Taiwan Independence. But awaiting Hung is a series of tough challenges, not the least how to put the embattled party – which suffered its worst ever electoral defeat in January – back on its feet. The mainland-friendly Hung, 67, captured 78,829 votes, or more than 56 per cent of votes cast, beating acting chairwoman Huang Min-hui by 23 percentage points and two other competitors to win the top post in the fiercely fought four-way election. In October, in the middle of running for president, she was abruptly stripped of her nomination by the KMT so that former chairman Eric Chu could run for president in January. But the late showing Chu failed to stop his opponent Tsai Ing-wen and her DPP colleagues winning crushing victories in in presidential and parliament polls. Chu later resigned as chairman to take responsibility for the electoral rout, which for the first time saw the KMT lose its parliamentary majority. […] “Her most important task is to introduce reforms to rejuvenate the staggering party, which is obviously out of touch with what young people are thinking and doing today,” said Wang Kung-yi, a professor at Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies in Taipei. Given that Hung is a staunch supporter of the 1992 consensus, Wang said Beijing was certain to maintain a firm relationship with the KMT despite its serious setbacks. “Though Beijing is likely to spend more time dealing with the incoming DPP government in the future, it is expected to retain the KMT-CCP forum as a channel of communication and cooperation between the two parties,” Wang said. The consensus refers to a tacit understanding reached by the KMT and Beijing in 1992, calling for the two sides to shelve political differences in order to carry on to talks as long as they support the one-China principle, though each side can have its own interpretation of what that China stands for. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Standard & Poor's cuts China, Hong Kong sovereign credit outlook to negative from stable (SCMP)
2016-03-31
Standard & Poor's on Thursday became the second international rating agency to revise China's credit rating outlook to “negative”, warning it might downgrade the country's overall rating “this year or next”. Beijing responded angrily to a similar move by Moody's last month by saying it did not “care” about the assessments of rating agencies. Standard & Poor's said in a statement that it revised the credit outlook because “China's economic rebalancing is likely to proceed more slowly than we had expected”. That rebalancing added economic and financial risks to Beijing's creditworthiness, the statement said. The agency also adjusted Hong Kong's credit outlook to “negative” from “stable”, just as Moody's did in mid-March. Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah blasted Moody's at the time, saying it was mistaken in interpreting “close links with China” as a risk. The Standard & Poor's revision comes as the central government is trying desperately to bolster confidence in the country's economic and financial prospects amid excess industrial capacity and rising corporate borrowings. When Moody's changed China's credit outlook in early March, days before the annual session of the National People's Congress, it sparked angry remarks from mainland cadres and official media outlets. At the annual China Development Forum, Finance Minister Lou Jiwei (樓繼偉) said China “didn't care about” such ratings because the Moody's revision did not affect the market, including the offshore yuan exchange rate. Lou also sought to discredit ratings by international agencies in general. “When Greece was in huge trouble, its rating then was still higher than China's,” Lou said. A downgrade, or a warning of a downgrade, could make it much more expensive for the central government, or a China-backed entity, to borrow money from international creditors. According to Standard & Poor's, if China continues to expand credit at a faster rate than nominal economic growth and to drive up the share of investment in overall GDP, it “may weaken the Chinese economy's resilience to shocks, limit the government's policy options, and increase the likelihood of a sharper decline in the trend growth rate”. ^ top ^

Terror funding and money laundering targeted as China takes tough approach to internet finance (SCMP)
2016-03-26
Chinese authorities plan to set up a technical support system to tackle money laundering and financing for terrorism amid the rise of internet finance, a top central bank official said yesterday, emphasising that both conventional and online financial activities should be subjected to the same regulatory standard. China's internet finance companies often lacked awareness in risk control, compliance and consumer rights protection, Pan Gongsheng, vice-governor of the People's Bank of China, said at the official launch of the National Internet Finance Association of China. The Shanghai-based industry group would join Chinese regulators in monitoring suspicious trade activity and identifying their clients, Pan said. The establishment of the association, which was instructed by the central bank and other financial regulators, follows China's clampdown on Ezubao, a peer-to-peer lending company which had duped about 900,000 investors out of 50 billion yuan. Pan said regulations on internet financing would be issued soon covering such areas as online lending and equity crowdfunding. He said regulatory standards would apply equally to traditional and online financial businesses. “As long as it is doing the same financial business, [we would] apply the same policies, regulations and standards,” Pan said. “We will determine the actual nature of individual internet financing products by examining their source of funds, intermediaries, and ultimate use of funds.” The newly established industry group would seek to self-regulate the industry, Pan said. Li Yaodong, research head at 01caijing, a website covering internet finance, said tracking transactions through internet finance companies posed rising challenges to regulators. There are strict rules governing money laundering and terror financing in the traditional banking system, but no clear rules are set under the internet finance sector. It is a loophole in the internet finance regulatory system,” he said. “Transparency of information is another problem as it's hard to track the source of funds.” The rapid development of internet finance and technologies also resulted in more diversified lending and money transfer channels that added to the challenge facing regulators, Li said. For instance, virtual currencies like Bitcoin enabled internet users to transfer money in a cheap and convenient way but such activities were hard to monitor, Li said. China's banking regulator last December announced draft rules for P2P lenders, taking the first concrete step in reining in booming online lending businesses, after a guideline governing the development of internet finance was announced in July. However, the Ezubao scam has prompted calls for a tightening of the regulatory framework. The industry group has more than 400 members including major banks and financial firms, as well as P2P lenders, online payment service providers. Lufax, the mainland's leading P2P lender under Ping An Insurance, and Bank of China are among the members. Pan said self-regulation would provide more flexibility in the industry development, however, regulators would need to tighten supervision if it did not work effectively. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

China's role 'vital' to contain North Korea's nuclear ambitions, say experts ahead of security summit (SCMP)
2016-03-30
China will face global pressure to contain North Korea's nuclear ambitions, analysts say as world leaders gather in the United States for a nuclear security summit that starts on Thursday. President Xi Jinping is due to arrive in Washington after his state visit to the Czech Republic. US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the summit, but Russia will not be sending a representative. The summit will have concerns about North Korea high on its agenda. Officials say preventing nuclear terrorism will be a major topic, but plans to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation will also be discussed. Ramesh Thakur, director of the Australian National University's Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, said China had a responsibility to exert its leverage over North Korea. “Unlike Iran, where the US took the lead and China was part of it, here China has to accept the burden of leadership,” Thakur said. “North Korea is already so isolated. How many more sanctions can you put on it?” The summit takes place weeks after North Korea claimed it had tested a hydrogen bomb in an underground explosion that observers have measured at a magnitude of 5.1. “China will take this opportunity to reiterate its position that it cannot solve North Korea's nuclear problem because the two countries are not allies,” said international relations professor Wang Yiwei, of Renmin University in Beijing. “But China will stress the importance of resuming the six-party talks.” On Monday, Thomas Countryman, US Assistant Secretary for International Security and Non-proliferation, said China had a vital role to play in the talks. “We've worked together on writing a Security Council resolution to respond to North Korea's violations and provocations,” Countryman said. “And we've worked together also because we recognise that when Iran or North Korea wants to go shopping for nuclear or ballistic materials, they frequently seek that equipment and technology in the Chinese economy.” Thakur said China also needed to be more transparent about its own nuclear reserves. “Asia is the only continent where nuclear weapon numbers are actually increasing – and unfortunately in Asia, they're increasing in all countries – Pakistan, China and North Korea included,” he said. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Report submitted on human rights and freedom situation in Mongolia (Montsame)
2016-03-30
Head of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) J.Byambadorj Wednesday submitted to the Speaker Z.Enkhbold the 15th report on human rights and freedom situation in Mongolia. This report is a document focused on attracting attention of the legislative body, the government, their organizations and the public to urgent problems of human rights, on stopping violations of human rights, and making reforms at a policy level for improving realization of human rights. This year's report contains issues about an implementation of the rights on being separated from tortures and on receiving legal assistance for suspects, defendants and accused people, on rights for elders and staffers of the body on implementing court decisions. Proposals from the NHRC are reflected in the report as well. Involving all information about human rights matters and situation in Mongolia, the report has been worked out on a basis of results of surveys, examinations and monitoring, made by state bodies, NGOs and the NCHR, of petitions and complaints to the NCHR. It is submitted to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, National committee of national organizations for human rights, and the national organizations of human rights in Asia-Pacific region. The presentation of the report was witnessed by N.Ganbayar and P.Oyunchimeg, members of the NCHR; and other officials.  ^ top ^

Economic forum of Mongolia begins (Montsame)
2016-03-30
The Economic Forum of Mongolia-2016 Wednesday started at the State House under a motto “Lessons, challenge and solutions”. The Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg made the opening remarks to talk about some ways of resolving the current difficulties in the Mongolian economy and achievements in the great construction, especially in roads' sector. Mongolia will expand its mortgage loans and will start business mortgage programme, "We will continue the biggest projects after overcoming the difficulties and obstacles. Works will be continued to attract foreign investments and to diversify the national economy. The largest construction works will continue as well. Mongolia will transmit into a new structure of Temasek model based on the Erdenes Mongol,” the Premier said. Mongolia will create its fund of wealth for all Mongolians, he added. At the opening, speeches were delivered by N.Zoljargal, the president of the Bank of Mongolia (BoM); B.Bolor, the Minister of Finance; R.Jigjid, the Minister of Mining; P.Tsagaan, a head of the Presidential Office; B.Batbayar, a chief advisor to the Premier; Ayumi Konishi, a director of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for East Asian Affairs; Vivek Pathak, International Finance Corporation's (IFC) Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific; Neil Saker, the Resident Representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to Mongolia; Robert Schoellhammer, the ADB Country Director for Mongolia; and James Anderson, Country Representative of the World Bank for Mongolia. The two-day forum will also be addressed by the President Ts.Elbegdorj and the Speaker of parliament Z.Enkhbold. ^ top ^

Border access of nuclear waste might be prohibited (Montsame)
2016-03-30
At the regular meeting of the Cabinet on March 29, a bill on prohibiting border access for used nuclear fuel and radioactive waste was approved. In accordance with the Law on Parliamentary Procedure, the Minister of Mining R.Jigjid submitted the bill to the Speaker Z.Enkhbold for an immediate discussion. The draft law provides that the import and transit transport for storage, temporary warehousing and burying of used nuclear fuel and radioactive waste, and other related activities will be banned.  ^ top ^

Nearly 30 thousand hectare land will be distributed to citizens (Montsame)
2016-03-29
At the regular meeting on Monday, the cabinet assigned the Minister of Construction and Urban Development Z.Bayanselenge to adopt the annexes that designate the total size, locations and appropriation of lands that are to be owned by citizens in 2016, in accordance with the proposals by the Citizens' Khurals of aimags and the capital city. Accordingly, 29,820.97 ha land will be possessed by the people for family use and 39.26 ha--for business. Since May 1 of 2003, the date of effectiveness of the Law on Land Ownership by Citizens, as of the end of 2015, a total of 446,004 citizens have possessed 47,840.58 hectares.  ^ top ^

Cabinet meeting in brief (Montsame)
2016-03-29
At its regular meeting on Monday, the cabinet obliged the Finance Minister B.Bolor to approve a rule on receiving, managing, registering and reporting foreign assistance, and authorized him to approve formats of contracts and documents to be used in organs and units of project implementation. - The cabinet discussed a concept of a draft law on protecting domestic industry from possible losses in external trade, and ordered the Minister of Industry D.Erdenebat to work out a relevant bill, reflecting in it proposals from Ministers, and to convey this to the cabinet meeting. - The cabinet discussed an implementation of the 2012-2016 action programme of the government, and decided to submit it to parliament. By the year of 2015, some 80% of this plan was realized. - The cabinet discussed an implementation of goals and measures that have be-n reflected in the Mongolian Millennium Development Goals-based (MMDGs) complex policy on national development in 2015. After the Ministers' proposals have been reflected, the realization matter will be submitted to parliament. - The cabinet approved as an appendix the sizes of customs tax on some products, in accordance with the law on government and a parliamentary resolution on customs tax on imported products. - Head of the Cabinet Secretariat for Government S.Bayartsogt presented ways of tackling complaints and requests sent by people to state administrative bodies, local administrative organs and officials. In 2015, 515 thousand 740 people delivered proposals, requests and complaints to the state administrative bodies. Petitions of 503 thousand 14 people were resolved within the lawful terms, he said. ^ top ^

Mongolia-Russia military exercises approaching (Montsame)
2016-03-28
Representatives of Russia's Eastern Military District (EMD) are due to discuss the upcoming Selenga-2016 joint Russian-Mongolian military exercises with Mongolian military officials in April, the head the EMD's press service said Monday. "The second round of consultations on planning the joint Russian-Mongolian Selenga-2016 exercises will be held in April in Ulaanbaatar. EMD and Mongolian Armed Forces representatives will discuss scenarios for the upcoming drills and the composition of military groups taking part," Alexander Gordeev told reporters. The first round of consultation was held in early February. The sides had previously agreed to hold the drills between August 29 and September 7 at the Burduny training range in Buryatia, with some 2,000 service personnel taking part in total, he added. The Selega-2016 will be the ninth joint exercise between Mongolia and Russia since 2008. The two countries' troops will engage in a simulated counter-terrorist operation and practice detecting, blocking and eliminating simulated illegal armed groups, according the Russia's defense ministry, reports sputniknews.com. ^ top ^

Mongolia and S.Korea agree to boost economic and development ties (Montsame)
2016-03-25
South Korea and Mongolia agreed Thursday to strengthen cooperation in implementing various economic and development projects between the sides, Seoul's Foreign Ministry said. During bilateral talks, Second Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul and Mongolian Minister of Road and Transportation M.Zorigt exchanged views on the two countries' economic cooperation across the energy, transportation and natural resources sectors, the ministry said in a press release. The second meeting of the South Korea-Mongolia joint committee brought together officials from relevant government departments, including the two countries' foreign, transportation and finance ministries. The committee was launched in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in March 2015 on the 25th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations. According to the ministry, Cho asked for Mongolia's assistance in resolving various issues faced by South Korean firms involved in the construction of a thermal power plant and other projects in the country. Zorigt said he would work for a solution. The Mongolian minister, meanwhile, requested South Korea's participation in development projects to replace buses and improve heating systems in his country. Cho proposed the two countries sign an agreement to promote development cooperation under South Korea's official development assistance program. The South Korean minister also asked for Mongolia's active participation in implementing recently adopted U.N. sanctions against North Korea. Zorigt expressed deep concern over the North's nuclear and long-range rocket tests earlier this year and pledged the Mongolian government's commitment to the U.N. sanctions, reported YONHAP on March 24.  ^ top ^

 

Mrs. Laura Scaperrotta
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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