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
  18-22.4.16, No. 619  
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Foreign Policy

As Panama Papers scandal deepens, China targets offshore accounts in renewed Skynet crackdown on fugitive corrupt officials (SCMP)
2016-04-22
China has launched the second round of its international manhunt Operation Skynet, with the multiagency effort continuing to target offshore companies, underground banks and fugitive corrupt officials. “Skynet 2016” is an extension of the Skynet operation launched in March last year, and which brought together various government departments in an international quest to recover fleeing fugitives and their assets. According to a statement by the Communist Party's top anti-graft agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Skynet umbrella covers a joint crackdown led by the People's Bank of China and the Ministry of Public Security on transfers of illicit financial assets abroad through offshore companies and underground banks. It also covers a campaign headed by the Supreme People's Procuratorate to hunt for fugitives who committed work-related crimes, as well as Operation Foxhunt headed by the Ministry of Public Security. As part of Skynet, 26 of the country's 100 most-wanted fugitives listed with Interpol have been brought back to China. Beijing was expected to issue a new list of wanted fugitives, Cai Wei, deputy director of the CCDI's International Cooperation ­Bureau, said last month. The announcement of Skynet 2016 comes amid revelations from the leaked Panama Papers that nearly a third of the business of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the scandal, came from its offices in Hong Kong and the mainland, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Zhuang Deshui, an anti-graft expert at Peking University, said the crackdown on illegal money transfers via offshore companies and underground banks was crucial to stopping fugitives. “When the corrupt officials fled abroad, they did not take their cash with them. They had already transferred their money overseas through offshore companies and underground banks,” Zhuang said. “Clamping down on these channels for money laundering cuts their capital chain, their source of income, their lifeblood.” He said Hong Kong was a hotbed for corrupt mainland officials to launder money through shell companies. CCDI chief Wang Qishan said in January that last year's Operation Skynet recovered 1,023 fugitives and 3 billion yuan (HK$3.6 billion). It was the first time the number of repatriated fugitives had exceeded the number of those who had newly fled. Zhuang said Skynet made significant achievements last year, recovering an unprecedented number of fugitives and money. But he stressed it was still the tip of the iceberg, given the vast number of officials who had fled abroad over the decades. The CCDI requested in late 2014 that all provincial and ­municipal governments and semi-official agencies report all cases of fugitives in the past two decades in detail, but the total figure was never made public. “It is maybe because the ­numbers were too shocking. It is enough that the central [leadership] knows it in its heart,” ­Zhuang said. Ren Jianming, a professor of clean governance at Beihang University, said bilateral extradition was still a weakness in China's international anti-corruption ­cooperation efforts. ^ top ^

China edging closer to first maritime nuclear station (Global Times)
2016-04-22
China is edging closer to building its first maritime nuclear power platform, which could sail to remote waters and provide stable power to offshore projects. Analysts believe that the platform, once accomplished, could significantly boost the efficiency of the country's construction work on islands in the South China Sea. In a phone interview with the Global Times on Thursday, Liu Zhengguo, director of the general office of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), China's leading shipbuilding group in charge of designing and assembling the platforms, said the company is "pushing forward the work." "The development of nuclear power platforms is a burgeoning trend," Liu said, when asked to comment on a previous media report that China plans to build 20 maritime nuclear power platforms. […] He emphasized that the plants are mainly for civilian use, such as providing electricity for oil drilling platforms. According to a Wednesday report published by eworldship.com, a Shanghai-based shipbuilding industry website, Bohai Shipbuilding Heavy Industry Company (BSHIC), a ship assembly enterprise under the CSIC, will be responsible for building China's first maritime nuclear power platform, and the CSIC will build about 20 such platforms "in the future." The report said the National Development and Reform Commission has approved this, and the Bohai company convened on Tuesday with Liaoning Provincial Economy and Informatization Commission, Huludao Municipal Economy and Informatization Commission, the safety inspection team of CSIC's nuclear safety department and Wuhan Second Institute of Ship Design, also known by its code name Institute 719, to discuss the location and relevant viability issues of the construction. According to the website, a group of experts has reviewed and discussed the technical plan on the construction of the platform proposed by Institute 719, which is also under the CSIC, and reached a unanimous conclusion. Liu did not confirm or deny the existence of such a meeting. The construction of the first maritime nuclear power platform, which serves as a demonstration project, is expected to be completed by 2018 and be put into use by 2019, China Securities Journal reported in January. Analysts said the maritime nuclear power platforms will play an important role in China's long-term South China Sea strategy. Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Thursday that the platforms could provide reliable power for lighthouses, seawater desalination, rescue and relief equipment, defensive weapons and airports and harbors on islands in the South China Sea. […] According to previous media reports, Institute 719 has proposed two designs for the maritime nuclear power platform. The first is a floating nuclear power plant and the second a submersible nuclear power plant that could work under water. The CSIC has also been working with China General Nuclear Power Corp, a leading atomic power company in China. The latter is working on a small marine nuclear propulsion reactor, called ACPR50S. The 200-megawatt reactor can be installed inside a ship and is expected to be commissioned by 2020. Wu Zhong, general manager of an asset management company under the CSIC, previously told the media that the market share for the maritime nuclear power platform is estimated at over 100 billion yuan ($15.45 billion) just for offshore oil exploration. He said that the Bohai Bay alone will require 50 billion yuan worth of nuclear platforms per year and the demand for the South China Sea can only be greater. Zhu Hanchao, deputy chief engineer at Institute 719, told the China Securities Journal that one platform will cost about 3 billion yuan to build and will be able to collect a total of 22.6 billion yuan by selling electricity in the 40-year life span. Zhu declined to be interviewed by the Global Times on Thursday. Tang Bo, an official at the National Nuclear Safety Administration, told the Global Times on Thursday that the administration is working on formulating relevant nuclear security regulations regarding the platforms, although some preliminary conclusions have been drawn and are awaiting verification. In particular, the parameters to assess the impact exerted by natural disasters and accidents in the sea on the plants has yet to be decided, Tang said, citing the height of waves as an example. ^ top ^

Chinese premier underlines peaceful settlement of boundary issues with India (China Daily)
2016-04-22
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday called on China and India to continue negotiations to seek a peaceful settlement of boundary issues. Li made the remarks while meeting with India's National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in Beijing, who attended the 19th round of talks between Chinese and Indian special representatives on boundary issues on Wednesday. According to a press release from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, both sides agreed to adhere to negotiations to settle the boundary question. They will make efforts to reach a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution. China and India have been seeking a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution on the border issue through a special representative mechanism established in 2003. Li said the mechanism has played a constructive role in deepening mutual trust and expanding common ground. Before a solution is found, Li said China and India should properly manage their differences and work together to safeguard peace and tranquility in the border area, which will stabilize the expectation for bilateral economic and trade cooperation. China and India, as the two largest emerging economies in the world, should value and maintain the sound momentum of the development in bilateral relations, he said. He called on the two sides to strengthen pragmatic cooperation as well as coordination in international and regional affairs, and send a positive signal to the world that China and India will work hand in hand to safeguard peace and stability and promote common development. Doval, for his part, said India-China relations have scored positive progress. The two countries face tough challenges in developing economies and share huge opportunities for cooperation, he said. ^ top ^

China dissatisfied with British comment on South China Sea (Xinhua)
2016-04-21
China is strongly dissatisfied with senior British official Hugo Swire's comment on the South China Sea, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Wednesday. Hugo Swire, British minister of state for the foreign office, said on Monday that growing tensions in the South China Sea are driven by China's assertive actions. He said Britain will stand alongside the U.S. in supporting an upcoming ruling by an international tribunal on a complaint lodged by the Philippines and that any ruling "should be binding on both parties." "Mr. Swire's comment neglects facts and is full of bias. It breaks Britain's commitment that it does not take sides on issues involving territorial disputes. China is strongly dissatisfied with this," Hua said at a regular news briefing. Hua said the United States and the Philippines colluded to create an illusion of tension on the sea, while what people see is "more than 100,000 vessels passing safely through the region every year as usual." The only difference is the more frequent and high-profile appearance of U.S. military ships and planes in the region. The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines said recently the U.S. will give Manila an observation blimp and military equipment worth 42 million U.S. dollars, Hua said. "Facts show that the U.S. is the biggest driver behind tension on the South China Sea. The U.S. is calling white black by blaming China," Hua said. Manila unilaterally initiated an arbitration case against China over the maritime disputes at an international tribunal in The Hague in early 2013 under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). "The Philippines' attempt to deny China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands is obviously a result of instigation behind the scene and political manipulation," Hua said, calling the Philippine move "an abuse of international law". China has repeatedly said it will not accept nor participate in the process. The South China Sea disputes between China and the Philippines lies in territorial and maritime demarcation. China declared in 2006 that arbitration and other compulsory dispute settlement procedures do not apply to issues like maritime delimitation, which was outlined in Article 298 of the UNCLOS. ^ top ^

China's President Xi steps out with a new military title – and the uniform to match (SCMP)
2016-04-21
President Xi Jinping revealed his new military title as commander-in-chief of the PLA's Joint Battle Command yesterday, as he inspected the command centre wearing a new camouflage uniform. Analysts said the move showed Xi had built up a level of personal authority over troops on par with late leaders such as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Xi said the new command should be “absolutely loyal, resourceful in fighting, efficient in commanding, and courageous and capable of winning wars”, China Central Television reported. It was the first time state media disclosed his new title, which he adds to his other three key ones – general secretary of the Communist Party of China, president, and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC). Observers said the post and uniform were aimed at sending a message to the world that he was not only the top administrative leader of the world's biggest army, but also the chief commander of the fighting force. “Xi's camouflage military suit showed that he is top commander of the PLA's supreme joint battle command body, which was set up to meet today's modern warfare demands, and is capable of commanding land, navy and air forces, as well as other special troops like the Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force,” Xu Guangyu, a retired PLA major general said. “It [was a meeting for battle commanders] as other CMC members and senior officials participating were all wearing the camouflage uniform.” CCTV said commanders from the newly established north, south, east, west and central theatre commands also gave reports about their combat forces to Xi via video links. Xu said the title of commander-in-chief had a different function from his post as CMC chairman. “The CMC is responsible for the PLA's management and defence building, while the joint battle command centre focuses on combat and relevant strategies,” he said. Hong Kong-based military expert Liang Guoliang said Xi's new title was similar to the US president's position as the commander-in-chief of the country's armed forces. “The CMC is a leading organisation, but not a command body in wartime,” Liang said. Mao and Deng had enough personal authority they could order other regional military commanders to follow their orders, he said. However, Xi's two predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao ran into problems when dealing with military heavyweights, with Hu being isolated by his two deputies Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou. Guo is facing trial on corruption charges, while Xu died last year. ^ top ^

China test-fires missile that can reach all of US, American media reports (SCMP)
2016-04-20
China test-fired one of its newest intercontinental ballistic missiles last week amid rising tensions ­between Beijing and Washington over the South China Sea, US ­media reported on Wednesday. News website Washington Free Beacon, quoting unnamed Pentagon officials, reported that a DF-41 – which has a range of at least 12,000km – was launched on April 12. The website has a proven track record in breaking news about operations of the People's Liberation Army. News of the launch comes amid a visit to disputed islands in the South China Sea by General Fan Changlong, who is the vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission. The visit was announced by the defence ministry on Friday. No exact date for the inspection was given but the news came as US Defence Secretary Ash ­Carter visited the USS Stennis, which was deployed in the South China Sea. According to the Beacon's report, the missile had two mul­tiple independently targetable ­re-entry vehicles, each of which is capable of carrying several warheads. Its range allows the PLA to strike anywhere inside the United States. The missile was monitored in flight by US military satellites and other regional sensors, a Pentagon official was quoted as saying. China's defence ministry has not responded to a request for confirmation of the launch. The report did not say where the launch took place. Last December China confirmed that it had tested a rail-based DF-41 launcher. Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military analyst, said observers would “naturally” link the test to the situation in the South China Sea. “Whether this was intended to work with China's diplomatic efforts is open to interpretation,” Ni said. The Beacon said last month China was close to deploying the DF-41. Additional details were ­reported this month by the respected monthly magazine Kanwa Asian Defence, which said the missile was in the final testing phase, and was expected to be deployed near Xinyang in Henan province. The missile can be moved by road, and its sea-based version, the JL-2, can be fired from the PLA Navy's newest Type 094 nuclear submarines. It would be capable of striking the US in about 30 minutes – either through a polar trajectory or over the Pacific. The US is also beefing up its missile capabilities in the region, with plans to deploy an advanced Terminal High Altitude Area ­Defence (THAAD) system in South Korea to ward off an attack from the North. The radar of the anti-ballistic missile interceptor would allow close monitoring of any launch in east or central China. Beijing has protested against the planned deployment, which the Pentagon says is defensive in nature and not aimed at China The US last month offered to brief Chinese officials on how the system operates, and said it was not capable of the reach the Chinese seemed to fear. ^ top ^

Chinese, French shipping groups sign milestone MOU to form new alliance (Xinhua)
2016-04-20
Four global leading shipping groups, including Chinese and French giants, have signed a milestone Memorandum of Understanding to form a new alliance, the French shipping giant CMA CGM announced Wednesday. The new alliance will enable each of the groups to offer competitive products and comprehensive service networks covering Asia, Europe, Middle-East and the United States, CMA CGM said in a statement. Subject to regulatory approvals of competent authorities, the new alliance plans to begin operations in April 2017, and the initial period of the alliance shall be five years, CMA CGM said. It added that other three members of the tie-up named "OCEAN Alliance" consist of Chinese mainland's COSCO Container Lines, Hong Kong's Overseas Container Line and Taiwan's Evergreen Line. The four members said in a statement that "this new partnership will allow each of its members to bring significantly improved services to its respective customers. Shippers will have an attractive selection of frequent departures and direct calls to meet their supply chain needs, including access to a vast network with the largest number of sailings and port rotations connecting markets in Asia, Europe and the United States." "The Alliance will also bring service reliability and the most efficient integration of the latest vessels in a fleet of over 350 containerships," they said, adding that initially the deployment will cover more than 40 services globally, mostly connected with Asia, including about 20 services each in the U.S. and Europe related trades. CMA CGM said further details about the new alliance and the transition plans from the four member lines in their current alliances will be communicated to stakeholders and the market in due course. According to statistics of Alphaliner, the worldwide reference in liner shipping, the new alliance partners have a market share of about 26 percent in the Asia to Europe ocean trade route compared with 34 percent of the existing dominant Alliance 2M between Denmark's Maersk Line and Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Co. ^ top ^

Beijing seeks Moscow's support over South China Sea court battle with Philippines (SCMP)
2016-04-20
China is lobbying Russia for support in opposing international court proceedings launched by the Philippines over the disputed South China Sea. Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov during talks in Moscow the two nations should join hands to oppose “internationalising” the disputes. “Both China and Russia should stay on guard against abuses of mandatory arbitration,” Wang said yesterday. A communique after a meeting between Wang, Lavrov, and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said all related disputes in the South China Sea should be addressed through negotiations and agreements ­between the parties concerned. Neither Russia nor India are claimants in the sea. Analysts said Wang's remarks were China's way of ratcheting up preparations for the court ruling, which is expected in May or June. Hugo Swire, British minister of state responsible for East Asia, said the ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague must be binding. This month, the European Union urged China to respect the ruling of the international tribunal, and the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialised nations ­expressed concerns over the South China Sea tensions. Lavrov said last week it was necessary to stop any attempts to internationalise the disputes. Observers said Wang's remarks showed China was facing huge diplomatic pressure, with more nations appearing to back the Philippines, and it was hoping to drum up support. “China is almost isolated in the saga,” Li Xing, a professor of international relations at Beijing Normal University, said. “As strategic partners, China and Russia are taking care of each other's core interests and ­coordinating.” Russia is also facing a lawsuit at the Permanent Court of Arbitration launched by a Ukrainian businessman over his right to operate a passenger airport in ­Crimea after Russia annexed the peninsula. Moscow has said the court has no jurisdiction over the matter. The meeting between Wang and Lavrov was held ahead of an expected visit to China by Russian President Vladimir Putin this year. Apart from political cooperation, Chinese investment is vital for the troubled Russian economy, under pressure from Western sanctions and expensive military activities in Syria. Meanwhile, Russia's arms sales boosted China's defence capabilities, Li Lifan, a Russian affairs expert at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said. “It is like a mutually beneficial deal,” he said. ^ top ^

To Beijing with love: Chinese security poster warns of 'dangerous' handsome foreign spies who steal hearts – and secrets (SCMP)
2016-04-19
China marked National Security Education Day with a comic-book poster warning young female government workers about dating handsome foreigners, who could turn out to have secret agendas. Titled Dangerous Love, the 16-panel poster tells the story of an attractive young Chinese civil servant nicknamed Xiao Li, or “Little Li”, who meets a red-headed foreign man at a dinner party and starts a relationship. The man, David, claims to be a visiting scholar, but actually he is a foreign spy who butters up Xiao Li with compliments about her beauty, bouquets of roses, fancy dinners and romantic walks in the park. After Xiao Li provides David with secret internal documents from her job at a government propaganda office, the two are arrested. In one of the poster's final panels, Xiao Li is shown sitting handcuffed before two policemen, who tell her that she has a “shallow understanding of secrecy for a state employee. You are suspected of violating our nation's law.” The poster has appeared on local governments' public bulletin boards, targeting mainly rank-and-file state employees. A Beijing district government said in a statement that it would display the poster to educate its employees about keeping classified information confidential and reporting to state security agencies if they spotted any spying activity. It said it would ensure employees were familiar with ways to counter espionage. The central government's inaugural National Security Education Day, held last Friday, was meant to make people aware about security problems in China, and was marked by speeches and the distribution of materials. ^ top ^

China sentences scientific researcher to death for selling codes, secret documents (SCMP)
2016-04-19
China has sentenced to death an employee at a scientific research institution for espionage, state television reported. Huang Yu, 41, was convicted of selling over 150,000 classified documents to foreign intelligence agencies, CCTV said. These included 90 “top confidential”, 292 “confidential” and 1,674 “secret” files which leaked cipher codes for Communist Party, government, military and financial communications. “This case would have led to bloodshed and cost lives if it happened in wartime,” the television report quoted a National Security Agency official as saying. The report did not say who Huang was spying for. Huang, a computer specialist, joined a research institute in Chengdu in Sichuan province in 1997 that develops China's cryptographic communication codes and he kept copies of the state secrets he handled. He offered online to sell military communication codes in 2002 and was contacted by foreign intelligence agencies, the report said. After he was laid off in 2004 he continued to gather confidential information through his wife, relatives and former colleagues, according to state television. He invited his family and co-workers to travel to Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Macau with the money provided by foreign agencies and during the trips he handed over information saved on laptops and data storage devices. He earned US$700,000 in 21 deals over 10 years, the report said. “I bought many insurance policies for myself. In the event that I was unable to return from meetings with foreign agents, my family would have a fortune,” Huang was quoted as saying in the report. He was caught by the authorities in 2011. As well as imposing the death sentence, the authorities have also seized the money he was given. The report did not say whether he had already been executed. His wife was jailed for five years and his brother-in-law for three for negligently leaking state secrets. Twenty nine of Huang's co-workers were also punished, the report said. ^ top ^

China hits back at US over military plane landing on South China Sea reef (Global Times)
2016-04-19
China hit back at US criticism over a Chinese military aircraft that landed on a reef in the South China Sea, saying dispatching military aircraft for humanitarian purposes is an international norm. A Chinese navy patrol plane picked up three seriously sick workers on Yongshu Jiao and transported them to Sanya of Hainan Province in south China, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. Hua was speaking to reporters when asked to comment on remarks of US Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis that "it is unclear why the Chinese used a military aircraft, as opposed to a civilian one" to evacuate the workers. "As we all know, the participation of military planes in disaster relief, humanitarian assistance and evacuating civilians is a common practice around the world," Hua said. Chinese military aircraft have been frequently seen during earthquake and other disaster relief. On Chinese soil, Chinese military planes and personnel will show up whenever they are needed, Hua said. "It is the military's responsibility and people's expectation," she said. The spokesperson questioned why the United States sends military ships and planes, instead of civilian ones, to what they described as efforts to maintain freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Hua urged the United States to take real actions to safeguard peace and stability on the sea. "Serving the people whole-heartedly is the mission of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Rescuing the people in danger is a fine tradition of the PLA," China's Defense Ministry said in a statement on its website. "When people's lives are at risk, the US is still obsessed with questioning whether a military or civilian plane should be the choice," the defense ministry said, expressing doubt whether the U.S. military would stand aloof if US citizens fell suddenly ill on US soil. China holds indisputable sovereignty to the Nansha Islands and its surrounding waters. The construction and defense facility deployment on relevant islands and reefs are within China's sovereignty, the ministry said, urging the United States to stop pointing fingers. ^ top ^

6 key phrases from Chinese top political advisor's African visit (Xinhua)
2016-04-19
China's top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng is about to conclude a visit to Africa. Following are six key phrases that highlight Yu's visit. 1. "I WOULD DANCE FOR OUR COOPERATION." "Upon arrival ... we were greeted with songs and dances. If I had the skills, I would have danced for our cooperation as well," Yu told reporters together with Cote d'Ivoire Parliament Speaker Guillaume Soro. 2. WIN-WIN COOPERATION AND COMMON DEVELOPMENT China follows the idea of win-win results and common development in cooperation with Africa, Yu told executives of Chinese enterprises operating in Ghana. "We sincerely hope that Africa will achieve development. Africa's development will bring more opportunities to China-Africa cooperation and China's development." 3. MAJOR OPPORTUNITIES While meeting with representatives of the local Chinese community in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, Yu said the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and the 10 major plans of China-Africa cooperation announced at last year's Johannesburg summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will bring major opportunities to Chinese living in Africa. 4. THREE WISHES While talking with representatives of the local Chinese community in Cote d'Ivoire, Yu said he had "three wishes" for them: they would respect local people, abide by local laws and regulations, be honest in business and assume social responsibilities. 5. FOUR ADJUSTMENTS While meeting with representatives of Chinese enterprises operating in Ghana, Yu said the Chinese enterprises should make adjustments in line with the latest developments in global market and changes in Africa: to transfer from construction work to overall contracting; to transfer from contracting to investment and business operation; to move up the industry value chain; to transfer from trade of goods to industrial capacity cooperation. 6. "IF I WERE YOUNG" In discussions with Ghanaian Parliament Speaker Edward Korbly Doe Adjaho about cooperation between enterprises of the two sides and people-to-people and cultural exchanges, Adjaho said: "If I were young, I would go to China to study." Yu quipped: "If I were young, I would come to Ghana to start a business." The conversation won laughter and applause. ^ top ^

China, India mull military hotline (Global Times)
2016-04-19
Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar's first visit to China is expected to center on border issues, showcasing the two sides' continuing efforts to tackle boundary disputes while defending the status quo in bilateral ties, experts said. Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan said the Chinese side is positive toward establishing a hotline between the Chinese and Indian armed forces headquarters and hopes to enhance border exchanges and make joint efforts to maintain peace and stability, the Xinhua News Agency reported Monday. "India attaches the highest priority to relations with China and is committed to further developing friendly and cooperative relations with China," Parrikar told Chang on Monday in his opening remarks before the two delegations started talks in Beijing, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. As the Indian government has long been dedicated to settling border disputes with China, Parrikar's visit to China aims to reduce tensions caused by border patrols, although the issue cannot be solved overnight, said Zhao Gancheng, director of South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. Normal patrols on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control have been portrayed in the Indian press as "aggressive" incursions in the Indian territory. In a fresh standoff between the two sides in March, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang denied accusations of "border crossing," saying some media "twisted the facts and hyped up the China-Indian boundary question." […] Beijing and New Delhi inked the agreement in October 2013 during former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to China, formulating a formal mechanism to improve security along the more than-4,000-kilometer border. While wrongly considering the agreement as a signal of China's acquiescence in the status quo of the disputed territories on the eastern section of the border, India has demanded fewer normal patrols by the Chinese troops in the western section, Fu noted, calling the country "insatiable." The overreaction from the Indian side has cooled the peaceful climate to a certain extent, Fu said, adding that it is also one of the reasons that several exchanges between military officials from both sides have made little headway on border issues. At Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with visiting Vice Chairman of China's Central Military Commission Fan Changlong in November 2015, Modi expressed his wish to deepen military exchanges with China to help develop bilateral ties and safeguard peace and stability in border areas between the two neighbors. India's home minister Rajnath Singh also visited China in late November. […] Fearing an expansion of China's influence in the South China Sea and into the Indian Ocean, on April 12, India agreed in principle with the US to share military logistics, as both sides seek to counter China, Reuters reported. "As defense cooperation takes up a great part of India-US ties, India is aware that any closer collaboration with the US will keep China alert," Zhao told the Global Times. However, since India, a country that upholds an independent foreign policy and makes its foreign policies based on its own interests, is also unwilling to sour diplomatic relations with China for the US, Parrikar might take the initiative to explain the logistics support agreement, Fu said. ^ top ^

In a first, Navy plane lands on Yongshu (China Daily)
2016-04-19
The historical landing of a naval patrol aircraft on Yongshu Reef, part of the Nansha Islands, reflects that China's installations in the South China Sea can provide better service in fulfilling the country's humanitarian mission there, analysts said. The analysts also predicted that the recent tension in the South China Sea will continue, and even escalate, if the United States keeps provoking China. The patrol aircraft landed on the island on Sunday morning to pick up three construction workers who were seriously ill. It was the first time that a Chinese military aircraft has landed on Yongshu Reef. The mission was ordered by Wu Shengli, commander of the PLA Navy, and Miao Hua, political commissar of the PLA Navy. The sick workers were taken to No 425 Hospital of the Navy in Sanya, Hainan province, to receive treatment. Foreign spokesman Lu Kang told a regular news conference on Monday that it's a good tradition of the People's Liberation Army to rescue people in emergencies, and that the case is quite regular, as it happened on Chinese territory. The Ministry of National Defense did not comment on the issue as of press time. In January, the Foreign Ministry confirmed that China had completed an airfield on Yongshu Reef, the country's southernmost airfield. On Jan 6, two civilian aircraft left Haikou in Hainan province and landed on Yongshu Reef after test flights of nearly two hours. Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said that the rescue of the sick workers showed that China's construction in the South China Sea is helpful for humanitarian rescue missions. "The maritime situation in the South China Sea region is complex, with a large number of fishing boats and commercial ships. If a disaster occurs, China's aircraft and ships can provide rescue service immediately with the equipment on the islands and reefs," he said. Zhong Zhenming, an international relations scholar at Tongji University in Shanghai, said that the landing of the naval aircraft on Yongshu Reef should not be seen as a threat to regional peace. China has established hydrological observation points on Yongshu Reef since the 1980s, which has already been acknowledged by the international community, Zhong said. The installations can be helpful for navigation, anti-piracy and telecommunication efforts, he added. "The US worries about China's military deployment and strategic deterrence in the South China Sea region, especially after the land reclamation that occurred last year," Zhong said. For example, he added, "It would be difficult for the US to detect if a Chinese submarine is deployed there." The recent tension in the South China Sea is going to continue, as the United States is trying to maintain its maritime control in Asia and the Pacific region, Zhong said. "The US has its strategic goals in the region, while China's stance on territorial sovereignty is also very firm," he said. "The situation depends on how the two countries maintain a balance to make sure that both interests will be safeguarded." On Friday, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited the US aircraft carrier John C. Stennis on the final day of a joint US-Philippine military exercise. Carter told about 9,000 troops that the United States would back up the Philippines and other allies in the region. ^ top ^

“Sky is the limit” for China-Israel coop: Israeli parliament speaker (Xinhua)
2016-04-18
There is an enormous potential in China-Israel innovative and economic cooperation, said Yuli Edelstein, speaker of Israeli Knesset (parliament), during an exclusive interview with Xinhuanet recently. "I would say that the sky is the limit, and we have to closely follow the developments," Edelstein told Xinhuanet. "China is a very big player on the international arena. Israel is probably a small country, but in this field of innovation of high-tech, we are definitely a player, too. If we play together we will be a much stronger team," he added. On trade and economic ties, Edelstein hailed the official start of FTA negotiations, as announced by Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong during her Israel visit last month. China and Israel have agreed on issuing 10-year multiple-entry visa to citizens bilaterally while direct flights between them are already in operation. “I think it is very important for Israeli businessmen. But it's no less important for tourists,” Edelstein said. With regard to the opportunities his country will gain from the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China, the speaker used the expression "the sky is the limit" again. "We want very much to be part of the development under the initiative. We are the founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank,” he noted. “Here the projects are really unlimited in what they could do via the structure of AIIB,” he said, adding that “something should be institutionalized, should not be just sporadic initiatives.” Edelstein also expressed his country's genuine wishes to cooperate with China in other fields, such as medicines, agriculture, tourism and cultural exchanges. ^ top ^

South China Sea Arbitration initiated by the Philippines widely refuted (Xinhua)
2016-04-17
Both foreign and Chinese experts questioned and refuted the Philippines' standing on the South China Sea issue at a seminar that closed on Sunday in central China's Wuhan City. Manila filed a case with the tribunal that arbitrates maritime disputes under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on April 3. However, China has legitimate rights under international law to reject the arbitration, unilaterally initiated by the Philippines, as the UN tribunal has no jurisdiction over Manila's territorial claims to several islands, rocks, shoals and other land features across the South China Sea. In addition, when ratifying the UNCLOS in 2006, China had the right to opt out of various aspects. One of these was compulsory arbitration of maritime boundary delimitations and historical rights by the tribunal. The International Seminar on the Application of Compulsory Procedures under the Convention on the Law of the Sea to the South China Sea Arbitration initiated by the Philippines, discussed topics including the nature of the dispute, historic rights and maritime features. More than 30 scholars and experts from Austria, Canada, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Britain, and the Chinese mainland and Taiwan attended the seminar. Dean of the China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies at Wuhan University Hu Dekun said the origin and nature of the South China Sea dispute was the Philippines' illegal occupation of the Chinese islands and reefs, thus, he called on international law scholars to consider the South China Sea Arbitration in compliance with history and facts. Hu shared how Chinese people first discovered and used the South China Sea islands, and how successive Chinese governments have enjoyed the sovereignty and have been exercising jurisdiction over the South China Sea islands for a long period of time. Xiao Jianguo, deputy director general of the department of boundary and ocean affairs, under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, restated China's position on the issue, namely, non-acceptance, non-participation, non-recognition and non-implementation. Xiao said the Philippines' unilateral arbitration was not a simple legal case, but political provocation under the cloak of law, which has gravely hindered mutual political understanding between the two sides, and constitutes a serious threat to regional cooperation. Gao Zhiguo, a judge with the International Tribunal on the Law of Sea and a researcher with the China Institute for Marine Affairs under the State Oceanic Administration, said the current arbitration has failed to reach the goal of settling disputes and proposing solutions. Gao said the tribunal had deviated from a just and objective stance due to the apparent bias in favor of the Philippines. Thomas Cottier, professor at the University of Bern, Switzerland, said the exclusive economic zone delimited by China does not impede freedom of navigation in the region. He said China's non-acceptance and non-participation position is understandable, as the case is not simply a legal dispute, but involves political factors, and the arbitration initiated by the Philippines is unable to solve the dispute. Fu Kuncheng, director of Xiamen University's South China Sea Institute, said the essence of the case is sovereignty and delimitation, adding that China should step up the research and expounding of its historic rights, which does not come into conflict with the statutory rights given by conventions. Hyun-soo Kim, professor at Inha University in Republic of Korea, said China and the Philippines should try to settle the dispute through negotiation. Kim said the Declaration on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, signed by China and ASEAN, could the legal framework for the settlement of the issue. The two-day seminar was hosted by the Collaborative Innovation Center for Territorial Sovereignty and Maritime Rights and Wuhan University China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China destroys more than 14 mln pirated, illegal publications (Global Times)
2016-04-21
More than 14 million pirated or illegal publications were destroyed across China on Thursday just ahead of World Intellectual Property Day on April 26. The items included pirated audio and visual products, books, digital publications and unauthorized newspapers and periodicals, according to a statement issued by the National Copyright Administration. About 600,000 items were destroyed in Beijing alone, the administration said. The nation faces an arduous task in fighting piracy as more illegal publications have moved online and repeated cases were reported in some places, said Yan Xiaohong, deputy head of the administration. Yan, who is also deputy head of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television, called for intensified efforts to protect intellectual property rights (IPR) for a favorable environment for innovation. According to the statistics of the administration, more than 7 million pirated publications were confiscated in 2015. In the first quarter this year, about 1.2 million pirated publications were seized nationwide. ^ top ^

Last member of China's Cultural Revolution Group, Qi Benyu, dies at 85 (SCMP)
2016-04-21
Qi Benyu, a Communist Party theorist and propagandist who played a significant role in the Cultural Revolution, died yesterday in Shanghai at the age of 85. Qi was the last member of the ultra-left Cultural Revolution Group (CRG), which had superseded the party's top decision-making Politburo and Secretariat to emerge as the de facto top power organ of the country at the height of the political turmoil between 1966 and 1976. Qi, a Shandong resident born in Shanghai in 1931, died of cancer, according to mainland media, citing one of his friends. Once the late leader Mao Zedong's right-hand man for propaganda, Qi is said to have played a role that led to the purge of President Liu Shaoqi. Until recently, Qi continued to air his ultra-left views, with radical calls to relaunch the Cultural Revolution in the country. His demise comes amid heated debate on the Cultural Revolution and Mao's rule as May 16 will mark its 50th anniversary. The party's official verdict on the Cultural Revolution is that it was a period of “internal turbulence” and “disaster”. But the leadership has long avoided holding Mao responsible and has restricted academic study and artistic work on it. Qi's political career was associated with Jiang Qing, Mao's wife. He was made a staff member at Mao's personal office in 1950 after graduating from the Youth League school. The office was led by Jiang. Qi had been elevated to become the acting director of the general office of the party's Central Committee and the deputy editor of Red Flag, the ruling party's theoretical journal and a key source of Maoist ideological inspiration and guidance during the Cultural Revolution. It was replaced by a magazine called Qiushi, or Seeking Truth, in 1988. Qi and Yao Wenyuan, a member of the notorious “Gang of Four” led by Jiang, played the crucial role in a campaign to denounce a historic Beijing opera called Hai Rui Dismissed from Office, which was seen as a prelude to the launch of the Cultural Revolution. As a secretary at Mao's office and a closeaide of Jiang, Qi had also played a key role in the draft of the so-called “May 16 Notification”, which, formalised by “an expanded Politburo” meeting, announced the establishment of the CRG and also declared the launch of the Cultural Revolution by announcing the overthrow of a group of moderates, including Beijing party boss Peng Zhen and police chief Luo Ruiqing. Qi Benyu's memoir will be published soon. ^ top ^

New hiv testing project targets groups most at risk (China Daily)
2016-04-21
Almost every day for the past seven years, "Old" Peng has visited a hillside pavilion in Beijing's Dongdan Park. The 60-something gay man is usually looking for a casual sexual encounter, but he also spends time listening to gay men who are struggling with their sexual orientation, and distributing condoms and tips on how to prevent becoming infected with HIV. Although the number of young gay men visiting the park, a well-known haven for the gay community, has fallen in recent years, Peng and five fellow volunteers from the Dongcheng district disease control and prevention center still performed about 6,000 rapid HIV tests last year. The park, 2 km east of Tian'anmen Square, has long been a popular venue for gay men from across China looking to land a date and experience a sense of belonging, according to Peng. In recent years, an increasing number of young gay men have moved from physical meeting places to gay dating sites, and now about two-thirds of the men who regularly visit the park are middle-aged or older. The move to the internet is one of Peng's biggest concerns: "It makes it even harder now to reach young gay men and provide AIDS intervention, but the HIV epidemic is exploding among them." Wu Hao, a leading AIDS specialist at the Beijing YouAn Hospital at the Capital Medical University, said nearly 90 percent of HIV/AIDS cases reported in Beijing last year involved gay men. In 2013, the figure was around 70 percent. Nationally, the incidence of HIV among gay men has soared to 8 percent from less than 1 percent in 2003, according to statistics from national sentinel surveillance sites, which measure the incidence of disease via a limited network of carefully selected sites. By contrast, the national incidence of HIV is less than 0.1 percent. "An HIV epidemic is exploding among the nation's gay men population," Wu warned. Experts estimate that China's gay men population is 25 to 30 million, but the number is not recognized by the government. Same-sex marriage has not been legalized, which makes it hard for gay men to settle down with a partner, according to Peng. In addition, many practice anal sex, which carries a far higher risk of HIV transmission than other sexual activity. Shang Hong, director of the HIV/AIDS key lab at the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said a survey conducted in 11 major cities last year found that the HIV prevalence rate among 8,943 men who have sex with men was 9.9 percent. Furthermore, only 4.9 percent of men with HIV informed casual sexual partners of their positive status, and nearly 46 percent reported having unprotected sex. Intravenous drugs users are at greatest risk, she added. Despite growing public tolerance of gay men, discrimination and social stigma still exist, and about 20 to 30 percent marry to mask their true sexual orientation, according to a 2014 study conducted by Shang's team. Gay men in this situation are more likely to seek sex with male prostitutes, increasing their chances of contracting HIV, Shang said. "Their wives and children are at risk as well," she added, noting that many married gay men conform to social pressures by having sex to produce children, thus further increasing the chances that their partners and offspring may contract the disease. She warned that without effective intervention, the epidemic could spread to the wider public. ^ top ^

Soil hazards lurk under the surface of China's expanding cities (SCMP)
2016-04-20
The pollution scandal hanging over the Changzhou Foreign Languages School is a reminder of the potential environmental and health hazards of the multitrillion yuan market in rehabilitating former industrial land to make room for urban expansion. About 500 pupils at the elite private school next to a contaminated site in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, have reportedly fallen ill, possibly due to soil and groundwater pollution. The city government has disputed the figure, saying only 133 pupils who underwent health checks reported abnormalities. The city government decided in March 2014 to rehabilitate a 10 hectare parcel of land known as Changlong for commercial use. The site's soil and groundwater were severely polluted by three former chemical plants but an environmental official said money was set aside to excavate and then incinerate the contaminated soil, with the residue to be used to make cement. The project was scheduled to be completed in the first half of 2015 before the pupils moved into their new campus across the road. But the excavation was delayed as demand for cement dwindled, the official said. When the pupils moved into the new campus, the polluted soil was still exposed to the air and there were strong smells from the site. “The remedial project obviously failed to identify and effectively contain the environmental and health risks,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. There are no laws or standards for soil rehabilitation and long-awaited legislation on tackling soil pollution is not expected to be passed until next year, despite years of government research. The central government said in a 2014 report that about 16 per cent of the nation's soil – including 19 per cent of the country's arable land – was polluted. Hazardous levels of cadmium, nickel, arsenic, lead and mercury are particularly prevalent in the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas. Minsheng Securities estimated that China had about 500,000 “brownfield” sites, covering more than 25 million hectares of polluted land, waiting to be treated and restored. About 60 per cent of this former industrial land is in cities. “Local governments and property developers have strong financial incentives to restore polluted soil for reuse,” Ma said. Minsheng Securities said the market for soil rehabilitation could be worth about 6 trillion yuan (HK$7.2 trillion) once the relevant laws were passed to formally recognised the industry. By 2013, there are about 300 companies that specialised in such projects, but few of them were up to standard, the report said. “Without effective quality monitoring of such projects, the health impact could be immense as soil pollution, unlike air and water pollution, is not visible,” Ma said. ^ top ^

Watershed crisis: China's cities tap into sea of polluted water (SCMP)
2016-04-20
Roughly three-quarters of the water sources tapped by China's 30 biggest cities have major pollution, affecting tens of millions of people, according to an international environmental watchdog. In its “China Urban Water Blueprint” released on Monday, The Nature Conservancy examined the water quality of 135 watersheds in the cities, including Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Wuhan. Overall, 73 per cent of the catchments had medium to high levels of pollution. Land development in catchment areas had triggered sediment and nutrient contamination of water supplies for more than 80 million people, the report said. This kind of pollution was particularly high in watersheds in Chengdu, Harbin, Kunming, Ningbo, Qingdao and Xuzhou. Hong Kong's water catchments also had high levels of sediment pollution but medium levels of nutrient pollution; while Beijing had low levels of both types of contaminant, the report said. 80 per cent of groundwater in China's major river basins is unsafe for humans, study reveals( China, which has almost one-fifth of the world's population but only 7 per cent of the planet's fresh water, has long been plagued by water pollution. About half of the pollution was caused by improper land development and soil degradation, especially fertilisers, pesticides and livestock excrement discharged into the water, the report said. The problems stemmed from China's four-decade-old model of economic development that “ignored environmental protection and traded the environment for growth”. Local officials often overlooked environmental issues in the pursuit of high economic growth, which was a key factor in their promotions, it said. As a result, forests and wetlands were lost in the rush to sell land to property developers to fill local government coffers. The land around one-third of the 100 catchments examined by the environmental group had shrunk by more than half, losing ground to agriculture and urban construction. The report pointed to nature as a key solution to improving water quality. If conservation strategies – such as reforestation and better agricultural practices – were applied to roughly 1.4 million hectares in the cities, there would be a clear drop of at least 10 per cent in sediment and nutrient pollution, the report said. In turn, more than 150 million people in these cities would have better water quality, it said. “The power of nature to solve water crises should not be underestimated,” Zhu Jiang, deputy director of the Ministry of Water Resources' International Cooperation Centre said on Monday at the report's release. “In China, developing a natural model for water treatment can not only protect urban water source catchments to ensure water safety, but effectively lower the costs of water treatment.” ^ top ^

Authorities in Changzhou deny reports of student illness (Global Times)
2016-04-20
Local authorities in Changzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province have denied reports that students at a local school were diagnosed with leukemia as a result of water and soil contamination. "There was no student diagnosed with leukemia," the Changzhou government asserted in a Monday press release. It admitted that one student had been diagnosed with lymphoma, but insisted it was "two months before the [school's] relocation," news site thepaper.cn reported Tuesday. The results of physical examinations of students at Changzhou Foreign Languages School (CFLS) in January and February also found that only 133 of the students had abnormal blood parameters, which local doctors said could not be clearly linked to pollution, the China Youth Daily reported. The response came after students' parents reportedly attributed abnormal blood parameters and illnesses among a total of 493 students to pollution at a construction site north of the school where three chemical factories used to be located. The level of pollutants detected in the groundwater and soil at the site were excessively above safety standards, China Central Television reported. Citing water and soil monitoring data and testing results, the Changzhou government said that no large amount of chemicals was detected, thus there is no contamination, according to thepaper.cn. ^ top ^

China will boost cyber deterrence powers, vows President Xi Jinping (SCMP)
2016-04-19
China will beef up its cybersecurity capabilities, including cyber deterrence, President Xi Jinping said yesterday, a move analysts said was needed to counter other countries' capabilities. Speaking to senior officials, engineers and information technology executives, Xi encouraged internet firms to expand globally and told governments bodies to help companies lure global talent to work in China's internet sector. Xi said accelerated development of China's cybersecurity systems was needed to protect key information infrastructure and to “strengthen cyber defence and deterrence capabilities”. The new five-year plan, passed in March, devotes much attention to the development of the internet sector and cybersecurity, including cyber defences. But it does not mention “cyber deterrence”. Last year, the US defence department updated its cyber strategy to include “cyber deterrence”. “Some countries would use supremacy in cyber power to attack other countries,” said Huang Chengqing, director of the National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team/Coordination Centre of China, who was at the meeting. Cybersecurity issues have long strained Sino-US ties. Qin An, director of the China Institute of Cyberspace Strategy, said no major country could afford to ignore cybersecurity. Qin said China's core technology had lagged that of other major countries and upgrading cybersecurity systems was essential to combat ­cyberattacks, cybercrimes and cyberterrorism. Xi called on the industry to work towards breakthroughs in core internet technology. “More personnel, material and financial resources should be put into research and development of core and strategically important technologies,” Xi said. Xinhua said experts attending the meeting included Wu Manqing, chief engineer of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation; Jack Ma, chairman of internet commerce company Alibaba – owner of the South China Morning Post; Ren Zhengfei, CEO of tech company Huawei; and Tong Liqiang, director of Beijing's cyberspace information office. Xi urged officials to go online to monitor public opinion and address grievances. “Officials of all levels should always check the internet to understand what the people are thinking,” Xi said, adding that the authorities would strengthen regulation and propaganda so cyberspace did not become “filthy and chaotic”. Xi also tried to ease the fears of foreign firms. “China's door to opening up cannot and will not close. We welcome all foreign internet companies as long as they follow China's law.” ^ top ^

Xi Jinping tightens reins on business ties of Chinese officials' families in first mention of pilot scheme after Panama Papers' release (SCMP)
2016-04-19
The Communist Party's leadership is expanding a Shanghai pilot programme aimed at weeding out corruption via the families of senior officials. The programme, which defines and regulates the business activities of officials' relatives, has been up and running in Shanghai since the middle of last year and on Monday a central task force headed by President Xi Jinping decided to expand the experiment to cover four other provincial-level regions: Guangdong, Xinjiang, Beijing and Chongqing. The expansion of the programme also comes after the Panama Papers revealed that, among other countries' prominent figures, family members of eight serving or retired Chinese leaders were involved in using offshore companies for business. The decision to expand the programme was taken at a meeting of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, chaired by Xi. State media said earlier that the Shanghai scheme was a pilot for national regulations as part of Xi's wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign. The rules are among the most direct attempts to rein in graft among officials through the business dealings of family members. Yesterday's meeting did not offer much detail about what rules would apply in the other four ­regions. But it said the aim was to define and constrain such behaviour among family members of senior officials. “We will work to strictly define such business activities, to make detailed rules and procedures for implementation,” Xinhua reported, citing a post-meeting statement. The statement added that such rules would be institutionalised and become long-term and “normal” practice. Reports of corruption cases that have come to light suggest that it is common for family members of senior officials to use their relationships to enrich themselves financially. The families of some senior officials have also taken up residence in other countries while the officials continue in their posts in China. Many of these “naked officials” have since lost their jobs. Xinhua's report said the four areas in the expanded scheme would follow the example set by the test run in Shanghai. In the Shanghai experiment, spouses of senior officials are banned from holding top positions in private companies or senior jobs in foreign-invested enterprises. Their children and the children's spouses may engage in business, but not in the administrative area where the official works. Officials are also required to make regular reports to their superiors on the business activities of their relatives. But Shanghai's scheme does not spell out specific punishments for violations of such terms. The task force also discussed other issues and endorsed 10 other documents on reform. Those documents covered issues including establishing a level playing field for market competition, management of civil servants, construction of private schools, and protection of police officers. ^ top ^

China raises corruption threshold for death penalty (SCMP)
2016-04-19
Mainland authorities have raised the graft bar for officials to face the firing squad to 3 million yuan (HK$3.6 million), under new judicial guidelines. In the past, officials convicted of accepting bribes totalling 100,000 yuan could have been sentenced to death. Defendants convicted of “especially serious” offences of graft of between 1.5 million yuan and 3 million yuan, including embezzling disaster relief funds, embezzling money for illegal activities or refusing to hand over illicit funds, could also face the death penalty under the new rules. The Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate jointly issued the amended criteria as a supplement to the revised Criminal Law. The new standards replace those set out in the Criminal Law in 1997, which have long been criticised as being out of date after years of inflation and income growth. Despite the low threshold, an immediate death penalty has seldom been imposed on senior corrupt officials in recent years. Instead, they have been more likely to be given death sentences suspended for two years. Suspended sentences can later be commuted to life imprisonment if no additional offences are committed during the suspension period. Life terms can also be ­reduced. Former railways minister Liu Zhijun was given a suspended death sentence in 2013 for taking 60 million yuan in bribes. That sentence was commuted to life imprisonment last year. Former security tsar Zhou Yongkang was jailed for life in June for 129 million yuan in bribes he and his family took. According to the judicial interpretation, a two-year suspended death sentence may be issued if there are mitigating factors, such as a confession or voluntary return of ill-gotten gains. However, a suspended death sentence can also be commuted to life without the possibility of parole or a further reduction in the sentence. The interpretation also set out a new threshold for the prosecution of officials. Those suspected of bribery involving sums of 30,000 yuan or more are likely to face prosecution. Those suspected of embezzling or receiving bribes of 10,000 yuan or more could also face court if the cases are believed to involve “relatively serious” offences. The Criminal Law's earlier threshold for criminal prosecution of officials was bribes of 5,000 yuan or more. Zhao Zhengbin, a Beijing-based lawyer specialising in embezzlement and bribery cases, said including specific standards in a judicial interpretation rather than the Criminal Law itself would make sentencing more practical and flexible. “Provincial high courts can now adjust the standards according to local economic development, which varies greatly across China,” Zhao said. ^ top ^

Parents unconvinced as Chinese authorities pledge investigations into soil blamed for students' health problems, including cancer (SCMP)
2016-04-19
Parents of students suffering health problems blamed on polluted soil near a school in Jiangsu are sceptical of investigations by state environmental and education authorities. Some do not even trust local hospitals to carry out health checks on their children, suspecting they may have been pressured by the city authorities. Many are questioning whether to continue sending their children to the school, which charges 8,500 yuan (HK$10,170) per ­semester and is among the best in Changzhou. The ministries of environmental protection and education ordered investigations into the problems at Changzhou Foreign Language School, prompted by an expose by state broadcaster CCTV. The broadcaster said 493 pupils had developed health problems, including bronchitis, blood and thyroid abnormalities, and even lymphoma and leukaemia, after the school moved last September to a new campus adjacent to a site that had been contaminated by three chemical plants. The plants left in 2010 and when the school moved to the campus, a project to remedy the polluted soil was launched. However, the project was thought to have released some of the site's toxins into the atmosphere. The city's environmental authorities say the air and soil are now safe, after the project was suspended and the site covered with a layer of clay in February. But CCTV said the soil and groundwater still contained toxic compounds. It said the level of cancer-causing chlorobenzene in the groundwater was nearly 100,000 times the safety limit. “We are very scared and don't know which side we should believe,” the mother of a 14-year-old boy said.“It's horrific… the chemical pollution poses long-term [health] risks.” She took her son to a hospital in nearby Wuxi for a checkup, as parents suspect hospitals in Changzhou have been told by the government to give “special treatment” to pupils from the school. “I was told that all students from the school received the same result: that there is no problem with their health,” she said. The doctor in Wuxi found the boy to have a slight thyroid problem, but did not directly link the illness to the environment. A father surnamed Kang whose daughter is in grade eight hoped the school would relocate. “My daughter took a week off at the start of this semester [over pollution concerns]. But she wanted to go back to school so dearly. Every day I am in a dilemma over whether I should let her go to this school or not,” he said. He told his daughter not to drink the water at the school, and hired a maid to prepare and deliver lunch to her every day. On January 15, nearly 1,000 parents joined an overnight protest demanding the school relocate. Hundreds of police were deployed to scatter the crowds. They later visited protesters' homes and said those who worked at government agencies or state-owned companies were risking their jobs. The mother said some students were reluctant to leave the school as they had grown emotionally attached to teachers and schoolmates. […] The soil remedy project had obviously failed to identify potential health concerns – and China still did not have a law to regulate such practices, Ma said. A lack of transparency over soil pollution and chemical pollutants in general made public supervision near impossible, he added. Simply covering the soil with a layer of clay would not solve the problem, as the health implications of polluted soil and groundwater could take decades to emerge, Ma said. ^ top ^

Procedures in works for hukou reform (China Daily)
2016-04-18
China's top planning authority pledged it will issue procedures designed to help migrant workers and their families acquire full urban residential status. The National Development and Reform Commission will, for the first time, take over the leadership of the process and speed the change, according to Xu Shaoshi, the NDRC's chief, at a high-level conference about the reform held last week. Providing full urban household registration, or hukou, to migrant workers was listed as one of the major tasks for the NDRC this year. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and some provinces have already adopted their own plans to facilitate the change, ahead of the central government's announced goal of helping up to 100 million rural migrants, before 2020, to permanently settle in the place where their city jobs are located. The hukou system, dating back a half-century, features strict separation between urban and rural citizens in their economic rights and welfare entitlements. But despite the Chinese leaders' call for change in 2014, not many migrant workers have been given urban hukou, officials said. Speeding things up will help not only to create more urban consumers but also to fill some unsold urban housing units with new residents through the government's subsidized rental programs for low-income families, a document from the NDRC said. Helping migrant workers and their families change their hukou status will be particularly useful as some third- and fourth-tier cities need to offload excess real estate inventory, Xu said. Yao Yang, dean of Peking University's National School of Development, previously suggested that local governments should buy back some unsold homes to turn them into low-rent properties for workers. Others, including Sun Di, an economics professor at California State University, Long Beach, questioned whether the government's ambition can be realized, saying local governments are already cash-strapped and may not be able to help many migrant workers. ^ top ^

Hundreds of pupils at school near toxic site in east China fall ill, some with cancer, state TV reports (SCMP)
2016-04-17
Hundreds of teenagers developed serious health problems, with some diagnosed with cancer, after their school in east China's Jiangsu province was relocated beside a former site for chemical plants, state television reported on Sunday. Soil and groundwater in the area was found to contain toxic compounds and heavy metals, with the level of one carcinogen almost 100,000 times the safety limit, according to China Central Television. Parents of the pupils attending the Changzhou Foreign Language School had suspected for months the contaminated environment was to blame for the rashes, coughs and headaches their children began to develop at the end of last year. CCTV said one of the three factories used to discharge sewage into a dried-up canal on the site about 100 metres from the school. Parents had demanded the pupils be moved to a safer area, but the school management and local education authorities refused. Still, officials ended the autumn semester earlier than usual in ­January. According to the CCTV report, 641 pupils underwent hospital medical checks, which revealed that 493 teens had health problems, including abnormalities in their blood and thyroid, bronchitis and in some cases lymphoma and leukaemia. “When talking to other parents, we found that almost all the pupils had similar symptoms, and we could all smell the stench. Then we began to suspect [the symptoms] were caused by pollution,” the father of one pupil was quoted as saying. When the pupils moved into the new buildings, the soil was being excavated for treatment, which left a heavy stench in the area. But to allay concerns, authorities decided that instead of treating the soil, they would seal it with a layer of clay. The school issued a statement in mid-February, saying the air and clay cover had tested safe, according to an earlier report by Caixin. Still, some parents were not convinced and chose to transfer their children to other schools. The soil was severely contaminated by a number of toxic chemicals and heavy metals, CCTV said, with the level of carcinogenic chlorobenzene in the groundwater 94,799 times safe limits. Yet a local education official insisted there was no problem with the location, and said it passed an environmental impact assessment. The CCTV investigation found the construction of the 310 million yuan (HK$371 million) school started seven months before the assessment was completed. The assessment concluded it was safe to build the school but suggested the groundwater should not be used as “soil and groundwater in the area has been polluted”. Parents commissioned their own tests and found chemical pollutants including toluene, acetone, and carcinogenic benzene in the air, and excessive levels of manganese and fluoride in the groundwater the school was using, the report said. The environmental ministry confirmed in January a total of 1,500 cubic metres of contaminated soil containing petrochemical pollutants had been removed. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

700 teachers from developed regions to support Tibetan schools (Global Times)
2016-04-20
Some 700 teachers from China's developed regions have been dispatched to 20 schools in the Tibet Autonomous Region for a three-year program to improve the quality of education in the region. The first group of 76 teachers have arrived in Tibet, ready to take up positions in the regional capital of Lhasa, and in more remote areas such as Xigaze, Nyingchi, Shannan and Qamdo. Sponsored by the ministries of education, finance, human resources and social security, the program will improve education in Tibet, which is dependent on both central and regional government funding to ensure education for farmers and herdsmen. Fang Lingmin, vice chairman of the regional government, said that the teachers from 17 municipalities and provinces including Beijing and Jiangsu Province, will be divided into 20 groups to assist teaching in the schools. Under the program, 400 teachers will also be selected from Tibetan kindergartens and schools every year to receive training and hands-on experience in schools in developed regions. The central government has carried out various programs to support Tibet's development. Under the assistance mechanism, teachers from developed areas are encouraged to take short contracts at Tibetan schools to help improve the local education. The new initiative, however, aims to concentrate the efforts in the 20 designated schools to make more significant changes. Tibet has 1,855 schools and more than 600,000 students. The region was the first in China to offer a 15-year free education for all children from kindergarten to high school, which has helped increase the average enrollment rate of primary, junior high and high schools to 98 percent, 96 percent and 74 percent, respectively. However, schools in remote areas still lack basic infrastructure to ensure stable power supply and even access to clean drinking water. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Prominent Hong Kong politicians and businessmen named in new round of Panama Papers leaks (SCMP)
2016-04-21
Four more Hong Kong lawmakers, all from the pro-establishment camp, have joined the list of prominent politicians and business leaders revealed to have stakes in offshore companies set up in world-famous tax havens, according to the latest batch of Panama Papers examined by the South China Morning Post. Also in the documents, provided by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, are two members of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's cabinet – development minister Paul Chan Mo-po and Executive Council member Bernard Chan – sparking fresh calls for a tighter system of interest declaration and transparency. In his defence, Paul Chan said he was not involved in an offshore firm run by his family, while Bernard Chan said he had made all necessary disclosures. The papers also revealed former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, Leung's election rival in 2012, owned an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands that ran a private jet business. Three days before he took up the post of commerce minister in 2002, Tang transferred his shares in Fair Alliance to his father for a token price of US$1. Tang yesterday denied any wrongdoing or conflict of interest, saying he had made the required disclosures “in strict accordance” with Exco and government rules, although critics argued the system was still far from transparent. New People's Party lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun apologised for not disclosing his stake in an offshore firm as well that he claimed was only for membership at a Shenzhen golf course. The four lawmakers making a debut in the leaked papers are Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, Ann Chiang Lai-wan, Paul Tse Wai-chun and Yiu Si-wing. While all of them played by the rules – disclosing assets in which they had a 1 per cent stake or more – their pan-democratic counterparts in the legislature started calling for tighter scrutiny. Accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung demanded a review of the system for officials, executive councillors and legislators to reveal their assets. “Even if there isn't a review… there should be a clearer guidance for [officials and politicians]. Even with the help of lawyers, it may not be clear what the requirements for declaration of interest are because there are only a few lines. It's difficult to interpret,” he said. Democratic Party leader Emily Lau Wai-hing, deputy chair of the Legislative Council's Committee on Members' Interests, agreed but added that such changes would take time and might only be possible in the next Legco session. Former civil service minister Joseph Wong Wing-ping urged the government to review its “dysfunctional” declaration system and ban officials from holding stakes in any offshore company. “Members of the public might exhaust legal loopholes to avoid taxes, which is completely legal,” Wong said. “But it is not acceptable for the public officials to manage their assets secretly as it is unsure whether they would abuse their power for self interest.” He said Hong Kong had no choice but to follow the global trend to tighten interest declaration systems and improve transparency in the wake of the Panama Papers, named after the country where the law firm holding the confidential documents was based. Another focus for Hong Kong in the latest round of revelations is on nationality – a sensitive issue in a city where holders of key public offices come under pressure to explain a non-Chinese nationality. […] ^ top ^

Top editor at major Hong Kong newspaper abruptly sacks deputy
2016-04-22
A top editor of a major Hong Kong newspaper was abruptly fired on Wednesday, triggering anger among its staff members and deepening concern about press freedom in the city. Management at Chinese-language Ming Pao insisted that staff members including executive chief editor Keung Kwok-yuen were dismissed to cut costs, but the paper's union believes that the move was meant to punish “dissidents of editorial decisions” like Keung. The news came a month after the Journalists Association's survey showed the perception of press freedom in Hong Kong had deteriorated for a second straight year. It also came as local media companies struggled to survive. Earlier this month, Sing Tao News Corporation announced a pay cut for senior news executives. A Ming Pao Staff Association spokesperson said Keung was fired by his boss, chief editor Chong Tien Siong, early Wednesday with immediate effect, and the staff members “are extremely angry”. Keung could not be reached for comment. Ming Pao's former executive chief editor Simon Fung Shing-cheung described the saga as “a serious underestimation of the readers and employees' intelligence”. “This rude manpower management approach was not only detached from 21st century Hong Kong, it also ... damaged the paper's credibility,” Fung said. Without giving names or details, a Ming Pao Group spokesperson said financial difficulties drove the decision. “Ming Pao's editorial policy remains unchanged,” the spokesperson added. It was understood that in a meeting with more than 100 staff members on Wednesday, Chong described Keung as his “most competent aide”. An insider revealed that Chong said since he and Keung were the best-paid in the newsroom, the company had to fire the latter to meet an eight-per-cent cost-cutting target. He declined to say if Keung's dismissal was related to his dissident style. The association's vice-chair Wong Chun-ho said: “We do not believe that cost was the reason ... We urge the management to come clean, show us the financial records and review the dismissal.” Keung's departure, which came hours after Ming Pao published reports about Hong Kong tycoons named in the Panama Papers, worried Human Rights Monitor, pan-democrat lawmakers and journalists. In a joint statement, the Journalists Association and six unions said Keung played a leading role in covering politically sensitive issues such as the July 1 protest march in 2003 that drew half a million participants. “We express our utmost regret that a veteran and objective journalist like Keung ... was no longer [welcome] at Ming Pao,” the statement read. In February last year, Chong was criticised after he replaced a front page story on the Tiananmen massacre at the eleventh hour with a story on Alibaba's young entrepreneurs fund. Alibaba now owns the Post. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan lodges protests after it's barred from steel industry event in Europe (SCMP)
2016-04-20
Taiwan has lodged protests against mainland China, Belgium and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development after the island was pressured to pull out of an international symposium on the steel industry on Monday in Brussels, a Taiwanese official said. Taiwan's Foreign Ministry asked the Mainland Affairs Council, the island's representative office in Belgium and its diplomatic mission in France where the OECD is based, to lodge the protests, the official said. “We find it unacceptable,” said Michael Hsu, director general of the Foreign Ministry's Department of International Organisations, at a press conference on Tuesday. Hsu said Taiwan has been taking part in the OECD steel committee meeting as an observer since 2005 and as a participant since 2013, so it should have been able to attend as scheduled. The OECD also organised with the Belgian authorities a symposium on excess capacity in the steel sector in Brussels on Monday. The Taiwanese delegation attended the morning session, but Beijing pressured the Belgian government to bar its participation in the afternoon session, according to Eleanor Wang, a spokeswoman at the Foreign Ministry. The meetings brought together ministers and other high-level government officials in charge of policies relating to the steel industry, the OECD said on its website. Hsu said the mainland had no right to bar Taiwan from the meetings. “China did not have any problem with our participation in the event last time,” Hsu said. He declined to speculate on whether Beijing's alleged move was targeted at the Democratic Progressive Party, which won January's presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan. Beijing appears to be stepping up efforts to put pressure on the independence-leaning party before president-elect Tsai Ing-wen takes office next month. Tsai and her party do not recognise the so-called “1992 consensus” on the “one China” principle, which outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou's Nationalist Party and the Communist Party of China consider as the political foundation for cross-strait talks. President Xi Jinping has warned, “If the foundation is undermined, the ground will shake”, referring to the “1992 consensus”. Tsai has said her China policy is to “maintain the status quo” across the Taiwan Strait, but many have questioned how she can put it into practice. Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately since they split after the civil war in 1949. Beijing has since tried to isolate Taiwan, which it regards as a renegade Chinese province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. ^ top ^

Taiwan's weak punishment of crooks leads to telecom scam boom (Global Times)
2016-04-20
Taiwan police's surprising release due to a lack of evidence of 20 telecom fraud suspects who were deported from Malaysia on Friday pushed to new heights the recent cross-Straits debate about the island's legislation and law enforcement regarding such crimes. The release follows public outcry in Taiwan over Kenya deporting 77 telecom fraud suspects, including 45 Taiwan residents to the mainland last week. "By releasing the suspects, Taiwan authorities disregarded many victims' interests and harmed them a second time. It also harmed the two sides' cooperation in jointly cracking down on crimes," An Fengshan, a spokesperson of the Taiwan Affairs Office of China's State Council, said on Saturday, the Xinhua News Agency reported. A preliminary investigation found that an annual average of over 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) in illicit money was taken by the fraudsters from the mainland to Taiwan in recent years while only 200,000 yuan has been recovered so far, An previously told a press conference. In recent years, suspects from Taiwan have organized telecom fraud groups in Southeast Asia, Africa and Oceania and defrauded mainlanders via phone calls by pretending to be public security officials or procuratorial and judicial authorities according to China's Ministry of Public Security, China Central Television (CCTV) reported. Equipped with advanced computer software, telecom fraud groups have a clear division of labor, according to a Taiwanese suspect in the recent Kenyan deportation incident, CCTV reported Friday. Some members of the criminal group first use computers to make random calls to phone numbers registered in the mainland. The scam begins once victims answer the phone, hear a prerecorded voice message informing them that there is something wrong with their medical insurance and telling them to contact a government official - really a fraudster in disguise. Most of the victims were convinced by the fraudsters when one of the gang calls them pretending to be a policeman, using software that can change the incoming call number displayed on a victim's phone. A Beijing resident surnamed Liu that was conned lost all her savings of 190,000 yuan and another 5 million yuan which she made by selling her family home, news site thepaper.cn reported. Taiwanese criminal groups are involved in 20 percent of all the telecom fraud cases that hit the mainland but made about half of the businesses' profits. Most of the major cases involving a loss of over 10 million yuan were related to Taiwan fraud gangs, The Beijing News reported Saturday. The spread of fraudsters in Taiwan is due to the island's weak punishment for such crimes and this has affected its reputation, experts said. "Taiwan's laws dealing with frauds are too weak" to deter such crimes, Zhou Hongjun, an expert on international law at the East China University of Politics and Law, told the Global Times. […] Compared with other parts of the world, the penalties for telecom fraud in Taiwan are light, Luo Ying-shay, head of the justice authorities in Taiwan, told media after the Kenyan deportation incident, citing a fraud case in the Philippines in which 14 Taiwan people were deported to the Chinese mainland in 2011, Taipei-based Broadcasting Corporation of China reported. In this case, a total of 100 million yuan was swindled from mainlanders. However, after the fraudsters were sent back to Taiwan for a trial in July 2011, the 12 who were eventually convicted were only given between 16 to 44 months in prison, which could be commuted to fines, Taipei-based Radio Taiwan International reported. In Chengdu, Sichuan Province, 29 members of a telecom criminal group were all sentenced to life in prison for stealing over 4 million yuan, the Procuratorate Daily reported. […] ^ top ^

Beijing 'takes aim at Taiwan's president-elect' over deportations (SCMP)
2016-04-16
Tensions continue to simmer over the deportation of Taiwanese fraud suspects to the mainland amid fears that cross-strait relations will be further strained ahead of the investiture of Taiwan's new president next month. Analysts said the latest dispute between mainland China and Taiwan over a string of deportation controversies in countries such as Kenya, Malaysia and Indonesia was part of Beijing's diplomatic offensive targeting president-elect Tsai Ing-wen from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party. While mainland China and Taiwan aresparring over whether Malaysia should repatriate 52 Taiwanese wire fraud suspects to the mainland as Beijing requested, the island's Legislative Yuan yesterday denounced the mainland and Kenya for forcibly deporting 45 Taiwanesecitizens involved in fraud allegations to the mainland. In a strongly worded statement, Taiwanese legislators from across the political spectrum accused Beijing of deliberately ignoring a tacit 2011 agreement on dealing with crimes committed by Taiwanese ormainlanders in a third country and severely undermining cross-strait ties. “Such violent actions only create negative perceptions among the Taiwanese public,” the statement said. Taiwan's foreign ministry confirmed that Malaysia had delayed a flight, where an initial group of 20 fraud suspects was set to return to Taiwan yesterday. Malaysian officials were quoted by the Associated Press as saying the deportation case was still under discussion and the postponement was because of Beijing's insistence that the suspects be sent to the mainland. In a separate case, Taiwan's Foreign Minister David Lin Yung-lo confirmed earlier this week that another 31 Taiwanese citizens were detained in Indonesia on suspicion of committing wire fraud, but he promised the Taiwanese would not be deported to the mainland, citing the island's warm relations with Jakarta. Beijing continued to defend its detention of the Taiwanese nationals, blaming law enforcement authorities in Taiwan for failing to crack down on rampant phone scams mainly targeting mainland victims. Two Taiwanese suspects who were repatriated from Kenya confessed on state broadcaster CCTV yesterday to their alleged involvement in wire fraud against victims on the mainland. Their confessions were also highlighted in a story by Xinhua news agency on Friday shedding light on the ongoing investigation. Analysts from both the mainland and Taiwan have noted that such a trial by media would fuel public resentment on the island towards Beijing. Li Fei, deputy director of Xiamen University's Taiwan Research Institute, said the dispute over deportation cases was another warning shot from Beijing against Tsai following her crushing victory over the mainland-friendly Kuomintang administration this year. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China suspends new registrations of finance companies (SCMP)
2016-04-22
Mainland authorities are stepping up their crackdown on illicit financing by suspending new registrations of finance companies. Applicants with finance-related names or business would not be able to register via local branches of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, financial news portal Caixin reported yesterday. The companies first need to get approvals from financial regulators. In Shanghai, the city's administration for industry and commerce has stopped approving new investment firms or businesses whose company names include words such as “financial”, “wealth management” and “fund management”, according to registration agents and lawyers. Business registration authorities in the city have also tightened rules on setting up new companies and increased policing of business activities, targeting all investment, financial consulting and asset management firms amid a nationwide campaign to clean up the sector. The administration has also started targeting “financial” companies involved in illegal activities such as illicit public fundraising, loan sharking schemes and defrauding investors via online peer-to-peer platforms. Law enforcement authorities, including police, have already teamed up with business-registration authorities to raid some of the illegal operations. “[Shanghai} officials believe the administration for industry and commerce failed to effectively regulate the market,” said a source with knowledge of the local government's thinking. “The suspension of business approvals is an administrative measure rather than a rule or ­regulation.” The industry administration is responsible for overseeing companies to ensure their operations are legal. Certain business descriptions such as “asset management” in corporate names are legal to register. The decision to suspend approvals comes after a string of failures of P2P operators and asset management firms since late last year. The firms were alleged to have illegally taken deposits or defrauded investors. Victims of the biggest scam so far, run by a P2P platform called Ezubao, took to the streets and protested, saying the authorities turned a blind eye to the schemes until state financial regulators and law enforcement authorities became aware of the risks from the business failures. Mainland police are expecting a large number of defaults from the illegal private lending and wealth management sector in the middle of this year as due dates for payments fall. “The authorities have reason to tighten control on all 'financial' businesses now, but they have to keep their policies consistent,” Shanghai Ronghe law firm partner Gong Zhenhua said. Unethical businesses have long taken advantage of capricious policymaking and inefficient law enforcement on the mainland. In 2011, dozens of underground banking operators or borrowers either committed suicide or fled the mainland after running illegal businesses for years. It was only then that Beijing stepped in to police the grey financing market.^ top ^

Premier Li stresses support for foreign trade (China Daily)
2016-04-21
Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday urged more support for the development of China's foreign trade so as to promote balanced and steady development of the country's economy. "Foreign trade is an important part of the national economy. To stabilize foreign trade and make it stronger is important to ensure the economy runs smoothly and upgrade," according to a statement issued after a State Council executive meeting chaired by Premier Li. Tepid global demand and slowing domestic economy have dealt a blow to China's foreign trade. It fell 7 percent year on year in 2015, with exports down 1.8 percent and imports down 13.2 percent. However, the March data provided some relief. Exports last month surged 18.7 percent year on year, the first increase since December, compared with falls of 20.6 percent in February and 6.6 percent in January. Imports dipped 1.7 percent, an improvement from February's 8-percent drop. According to Wednesday's statement, several measures are in the pipelines to prop up foreign trade. Financial institutions are encouraged to increase financial support for foreign trade enterprises that are "making profits and receiving orders." The tax rebate rate for some mechanical and electrical products will be increased. The statement did not specify what products it was referring to. There will be more cross-border e-commerce pilots to support Chinese companies in increasing their overseas presence. "Proactive import policies" will be implemented, with extra support for the import of advanced equipment and technologies, the statement read. The meeting also pointed out that improvement in transportation infrastructure is badly needed in old revolutionary bases, ethnic minority areas, border areas and poverty-stricken areas. Strengthening the construction of transport infrastructure is key to lifting the underdeveloped areas out of poverty and promoting balanced development among regions, according to the statement. China will accelerate the construction and upgrading of rural roads, expressways, rails and airports over the next five years to benefit its people, said the statement. The meeting set a batch of innovation and entrepreneurship demonstration bases in provincial-level regions to draw innovators throughout the country and promote the development of the new economy. The demonstration bases should run trials on creating a level playing field, talent flow, and collaborative innovation, among others, according to the statement.^ top ^

China sets major tasks for reform in 2016 (Global Times)
2016-04-17
China's top economic planner has listed major tasks in propelling economic reforms this year, including reforms of state-owned enterprises (SOE), market supervision, investment, urbanization, opening up and innovation. China will initiate mixed-ownership pilots in SOEs and push forward reforms in electricity, oil, natural gas and salt industries, said a statement issued after a two-day meeting of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), held on Thursday and Friday. The government will further cut red tape and improve market supervision, including compiling a negative list to enhance market access regulation. Market threshold of some major industries will be lowered for investors, and the current investment and financing mechanism will be improved, according to the statement. China will implement the household registration reform to urbanize more rural migrants with a plan to help 100 million people settle in cities. The country will continue to push forward opening up, stepping up the Belt and Road construction, promoting international production capacity cooperation, further opening service and manufacturing sectors, and establishing a negative list for foreign investment. The government will also better its support for innovation and entrepreneurship. Other tasks include accelerating a pricing reform in electricity, medical services and transport, and improving the way China uses natural resources and protects the environment.^ top ^

 

DPRK

China, US renew opposition to North Korea's 'provocative' moves (Global Times)
2016-04-22
China and the US reiterated on Thursday their firm opposition to North Korea's "irresponsible and provocative" moves, as the US special envoy for North Korea held talks with his Chinese counterpart, who will also meet South Korea's top envoy Friday on the stalled Six-Party Talks. China has a very key role to play in the North Korean nuclear issue and is working very closely with the US to implement UN sanctions, Sung Kim, the US special envoy for North Korea, told reporters in Beijing. "I just had a very productive session with my counterpart Wu Dawei, [China's special representative on Korean Peninsula affairs]," Kim said, adding that the two countries remain united on the issue. In the meantime, Kim also reassured China about the possible deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, after North Korea tested its fourth nuclear bomb in January and launched a long-range rocket early February. "It's a completely defensive system. There is no need for China or Russia to be concerned about this system," Kim told the Global Times on Friday. "The fact is North Korea presents a very serious missile threat to the Korean Peninsula," Kim said. However, the US plan to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea has long been opposed by China. "The situation on the Korean Peninsula is very complex and sensitive," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a daily briefing in March. "We hope the relevant country cautiously handles this issue, and we demand they do nothing to harm China's security interests." South Korea's foreign ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuk told a press briefing on Thursday that Kim Hong-Kyun, chief South Korean envoy for the six-party dialogue to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, will visit China on Friday to meet with Wu, the Xinhua News Agency reported. The two diplomats will also discuss ways the two countries can cooperate on the North Korean nuclear program, according to the spokesman. Kim said China had taken "a number of steps" toward implementing the latest UN resolution. ^ top ^

Parallel-track approach essential to peace, stability on Korean Peninsula: experts (Xinhua)
2016-04-20
Denuclearization and a peace treaty should be brought to the negotiating table together in order to realize peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, experts said here Wednesday. The nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula is "a complex problem for every party related," Yang Xiyu, a senior fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, said during a briefing on the 2016 China-U.S. Young Leaders' Dialogue. A parallel-track approach should be the solution to fundamentally achieve peace and stability in the region, he said. Yang said the solution meant that on the one hand, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) must abandon its nuclear programs completely. On the other hand, its legitimate concerns in political, economic and security areas should be addressed, which means replacement of the Korean armistice with a peace agreement, he added. The United States still distrusts the DPRK, which results in the reluctance to respond to the parallel-track approach proposed by China, Yang said. "But they never said 'No' to the proposal." In March, in response to the DPRK's Jan. 6 nuclear test and Feb. 7 ballistic missile launch, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on tougher sanctions on the DPRK to curb the country's nuclear and missile programs. UN Security Council members also called for an early resumption of the six-party talks. "The six-party talks are the way to go," Su Ge, president of the China Institute of International Studies, said. "So far, it still seems to be the most efficient platform to address the problem." The six-party talks, a mechanism involving the DPRK, South Korea, China, Japan, the United States and Russia, is believed to be a practical way to realize denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. Launched in 2003, the talks were stalled in December 2008. The DPRK quit the talks in April 2009. Su also noted that the parallel-track approach is a reasonable and workable solution to solve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. ^ top ^

South Korea feels China should understand its fears of nuclear missile threat from North Korea (SCMP)
2016-04-19
China needs to understand that it is a matter of life or death for South Koreans to protect themselves from possible North Korean nuclear attack and that Beijing should engage in talks over the possible deployment of a new US anti-missile system there, a senior South Korean official said on Monday. The United States and South Korea began talks on possible deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system after North Korea tested its fourth nuclear bomb on January 6 and launched a long-range rocket on February 7, but China firmly opposes the move. Shin Beomchul, director-general for policy planning at South Korea's foreign ministry, told a seminar that more conversations were needed with China on the issue. “I hope to ask China's understanding of what (South) Korea is feeling about the North Korean threat,” he told the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It is not the usual threat, it is a nuclear threat. That's very serious. We are now in the live-or-die situation,” he said. “We have to solve the ... misunderstanding, but the fundamental point is that to protect our country is the top priority.” Ultimately, the way to resolve the controversy would be to decrease the North Korean threat, he added. Mark Lambert, director of the Office of Korean Affairs at the US State Department, told the seminar Beijing was still refusing a US offer of briefings to explain that the system was not aimed at limiting China's defence capabilities. South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Hyoung-zhin stressed the need for all countries to put pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme through full implementation of international and bilateral sanctions. He said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's government did not look likely to give up nuclear weapons under any circumstances, but did respond to external stimuli. “If these elements are tightly interwoven without any loophole ... the Kim Jong Un regime will realise that it cannot survive unless it gives up its nuclear programme and takes steps towards denuclearization,” he said. Lambert said US experts wanted to explain that the THAAD system would not negate China's nuclear deterrent as its radars would be pointed northeast into North Korea, not into China. “We need to have that dialogue. But unfortunately to date, officials in Beijing have been unwilling to meet with our officials and hear that.” ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

R.Gonchigdorj participate in first meeting of Eurasia parliament Speakers (Montsame)
2016-04-21
A Vice Speaker of parliament R.Gonchigdorj took part in the First Meeting of Eurasia Parliament Speaker held April 19 in Moscow, Russia, at joint initiative of S.Ye.Naryshkin, Chairman of the Russian State Duma; and Chung Eui-hwa, Speaker of Korean National Assembly. Participants at the meeting discussed issues of intensifying inter-parliamentary talks focused on expanding the regional cooperation in politics, economy, security, law, humanity and environmental protection, and then issued a statement designing directions of further collaboration. Representing his country, the Vice Speaker Mr Gonchigdorj addressed the meeting. A member of parliament Yo.Otgonbayar; and the Ambassador of Mongolia to Russia B.Delgermaa also attended the meeting. The First Meeting of Eurasia Parliament Speaker brought together parliamentary representatives of 19 countries. ^ top ^

Speaker Z.Enkhbold and Italian Senate President P.Grasso start official talks (Montsame)
2016-04-22
Chairman of the State Great Khural (Parliament) Z.Enkhbold welcomed April 21 the President of the Senate of the Republic of Italy Mr Pietro Grasso at Chingis Square. After paying respect to the statue of Great Chingis Khaan, the two legged the Pillared Chamber of the State House. Mr Pietro Grasso signed the book of honored guests. Afterwards, Speaker of Mongolian Parliament Z.Enkhbold and the President of Italian Senate started the official talks. The president of the Italian Senate will pay a courtesy call of the President of Mongolia and will receive the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Alongside of his official visit here, Mr Pietro Grasso is to attend the Ninth Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting (ASEP9), and will give an address to the opening. ^ top ^

Nat'l council for ASEM Summit preparation meets (Montsame)
2016-04-20
At its meeting on Wednesday, this council discussed several matters regarding the preparation. The gathered considered issues such as authorizing one organization to erect a memorial monument dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the ASEM and creating a smart phone application for the ASEM guests. These matters will be discussed by related sub-working groups. A report was given on resolving money for services at the ASEM Villa, hotels and souvenirs, after which it was decided to approve of the finance after the Finance Ministry's consideration. Another matter thought was a technical non-refundable aid to be rendered by Turkey's government. It will be discussed at a sub-working group after having been scrutinized by the Ministry of Justice.  ^ top ^

Cabinet meeting in brief (Montsame)
2016-04-20
In accordance with the cabinet decision on Monday, the Monitoring and Information Center for vocational education and training has been included in a structure of the Ministry of Labor. - The cabinet approved a rule on holding a registration of people in alternate services of the Armed Forces, payment and exploitation of the money. - The cabinet backed a draft resolution of parliament on establishing a free-zone at a new international airport being built in Khoshig Valley in Tov aimag. Obligation were given to some Ministers to formulate the draft resolution and to submit it to the government. - The cabinet also backed a draft new version of the law on tourism. It will be submitted to parliament. The cabinet also suported in principle a draft amendment to the law on establishment of court. Related proposals will be conveyed to the General Council of Court. - The cabinet discussed a matter on establishing here an international training center for election observers and let FM L.Purevsuren include this center in his 2016 budget package. - The cabinet discussed results of the PM's participation in the 19th Annual Asian Investment Conference held this April 5-8 in Hong Kong. The FM was ordered to submit this matter to the National Security Council (NSC). - The cabinet approved results of a visit of a Deputy PM of Belarus to Mongolia this March 16-19. The Deputy Premier Ts.Oyunbaatar was obliged to approve a plan of works, to be executed by the visit's outcome, and to monitor the implementation. - Results of the 12th Mongolia-UK round-table meeting were approved as well. ^ top ^

Speaker Z.Enkhbold holds officials talks with Lok Sabha Chairwoman (Montsame)
2016-04-19
The Chairman of the State Great Khural (parliament) of Mongolia Z.Enkhbold and the Speaker of the Lower House (Lok Sabha) of the Indian parliament Ms Sumitra Mahajan Tuesday held official talks at the State House. Mr Enkhbold thanked Ms Sumitra for paying the official visit to Mongolia, “this is the first visit of India since the two countries brought their relationship into a strategic partnership level in 2015”. High level mutual visits have been regularizing, “and I am satisfied with the Indian Speaker's visit that has been coinciding with the 9th Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting in Ulaanbaatar”, he said. In response, Ms Sumitra thanked the Mongolian Speaker for the warm meeting and expressed a satisfaction with broadening of the Mongolia-India long-year relations and with enriching them with new contents. She underlined a historical significance of the state visit of the Indian Premier Narendra Modi to Mongolia last year. The Mongolia-India relations and cooperation, based on historical and cultural ties, on common values of democracy, on bilateral willingness to ensure regional and international peace and stability, have been intensively developing under by the strategic partnership principle, Mr Enkhbold said. He also underlined that the very first visit of the Indian PM to Mongolia, in times of the 60th anniversary of the diplomatic relations in 2015, lifted up the friendly relations in IT, renewable energy, industry and agriculture spheres, not mentioning traditional areas such as culture and education. The Speaker pointed out that the Mongolian FM plans to visit India late this month in order to sign a general credit agreement on a one billion US dollars soft loan granted by India, and that our parliament is to authorize this week the government to discuss and sign this agreement. Ms Sumitra said India and Mongolia--similar in historical things and vast territories--have been keeping their traditional friendly relations. India attaches a great importance to supporting the landlocked countries such as Mongolia, Bhutan and Nepal. One of the main directions of India's foreign policy is to fully support Mongolia that has become an example in the region by its democratic way, she went on. Mongolia has big mineral resources, while India--highly developed technologies. If to combine these advantages, our countries will gain fruitful opportunities and a brighter future in the cooperation, Ms Sumitra said. Mr Enkhbold said the inter-parliamentary mutual visits immensely contributed not only to expanding of the cooperation between the two legislative bodies, but also to the whole bilateral relations. He stressed am significance of the Indian policy on backing the landlocked countries and said Mongolia is working on establishing the International Think-Tank for Landlocked Developing Countries, in Ulaanbaatar. Mr Enkhbold expressed a willingness of Mongolia to boost the win-win, mutually-satisfying and sustainable cooperation in economy and trade with India, and emphasized an importance of the Mongolia-India cooperation joint committee in terms of designing frames of the trade and economic collaboration, proper directions and forms, and of supporting the ties between the private sectors. He congratulated India on its increasing position and influence in the world and in region, and said Mongolia wants to maintain a tradition of supporting each other at international and regional arenas and of strengthening a cooperation within the UN, international and regional organizations. He is confident that Indian high level delegation will participate in the 11th ASEM Summit, which will run here this July. The high guest supported the Mongolian Speaker's opinions on the bilateral cooperation in several spheres, and said India is attaching a great importance to the development of its remote regions, Mongolia may be willing to learn this experience, as well as that of Research Bureau and the Office at the Indian parliament. She also said that a delegation, led by the Indian FM, will participate in the 11th ASEM Summit, and congratulated Mongolia on hosting such a grand event. The Mongolian Speaker expressed a satisfaction with holding these talks, which covered Mongolia-India relations and cooperation, regional and international issues, and said that developing the ties and collaboration with India is one of the priorities of the Mongolian foreign policy. Present at the talks were D.Demberel MP, a head of the Mongolia-India inter-parliamentary group; B.Boldbaatar, a secretary-general of the Parliamentary Office; D.Gankhuyag, the State Secretary of the Foreign Ministry; Ts.Narantungalag, a head of the External Relations Division at the Parliamentary Office; and other officials. ^ top ^

Mongolia and Turkey to renew agreement on developmental cooperation (Montsame)
2016-04-19
Cabinet at its regular meeting, held April 18, decided to submit a bill on ratification of Intergovernmental Agreement on Developmental Cooperation between Mongolia and the Republic of Turkey. The preceding one--the Intergovernmental agreement on establishing a representative office of the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) in Mongolia--was executed in 2004 and ratified by the State Great Khural the same year. TIKA implements its projects and aid programs in over 50 countries, has funded more than 400 projects in Mongolia's infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, healthcare, environmental protection, education and sciences, with over 30 million USD, in a form of non-refundable aid. In connection with the due termination of this agreement, the new Intergovernmental Agreement will act as the key legal document that governs the financing of projects to be implemented in Mongolia on the non-refundable aid by the Turkish Government and the activities of the TIKA representative office in Ulaanbaatar. ^ top ^

UNDP to support realization of policy document on sustainable development (Montsame)
2016-04-18
Head of the parliamentary Standing committee on state structure A.Bakei Monday received a delegation led by Ms Daniela Gasparikova, the first Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to Mongolia. The latter said the UNDP decided to implement a special program to realize a policy document of Mongolia named “Concept on sustainable development of Mongolia 2030”, adopted by parliament in February of this year. A work launched to formulate the project, so the UNDP wants to hear the Mongolian government's views about methods of the assistance, she added. While talking about the project by the UNDP, Ms Gasparikova said it will be implemented until 2020 in two phases. In the first phase, a preparation will be ensured for realizing the document about the concept on sustainable development of Mongolia. Within the second phase, which will mostly focus on implementation of the policy document, programs will be worked out on middle-term development policy, and research will be done based on the policy. Data on the program will be created, and measures will be taken for strengthening the parliamentary potential for monitoring over the realization, Ms Gasparikova said. In response, A.Bakei thanked the UNDP for supporting a realization of this policy document and emphasized a significance of promptly starting the project's first phase, prior to a formation of the new cabinet. Present at the meeting were S.Demberel MP; R.Khatanbaatar, a deputy chair of the working group for the policy document; officials at the Standing committee; Patrick Duang and Tom Beloe, consultants to the UNDP. ^ top ^

 

Mrs. Mirjam Eggli
Embassy of Switzerland
 

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