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
  29.8-2.9.16, No. 637  
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Foreign Policy

China donates 82,000 USD for renovation of quake-damaged pagodas in Myanmar (Xinhua)
2016-09-02
The Chinese Embassy in Myanmar and the Ruili Municipality of China's Yunnan province on Thursday donated 100 million kyats (about 82,000 US dollars) to Myanmar for renovation of quick-damaged pagodas in the country's Bagan. Myanmar's Minister of Religious Affairs and Culture Thura U Aung Ko thanked China for the donation, saying that as a traditionally good neighbor, China provided assistance to Myanmar when Myanmar is hit by natural disaster. Chinese Ambassador Hong Liang said China would continue to provide assistance to Myanmar, adding that a Chinese experts team will be sent to Myanmar to help renovate the damaged pagodas in Bagan. A 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit the central Myanmar on Aug. 24, damaging nearly 400 pagodas and temples in Bagan-Nyaung Oo region. Bagan region was also hit by a strong earthquake in 1975damaging over 1,000 pagodas and temples out of 2,217, the minister said. ^ top ^

China's top military body orders officials to pull out all stops to resettle 58,000 redundant troops (SCMP)
2016-09-02
Leaders of 10 provinces and municipalities have pledged to find jobs for redundant 58,000 military officers, the first batch affected by President Xi Jinping's plan announced last year reduce the People's Liberation Army by 300,000 troops. In a rare move, the People's Liberation Army Daily on Thursday published a full-page special report made up of promises from party chiefs, deputy governors and mayors, as well as officials in charge of personnel affairs in the municipalities of Beijing and Shanghai, and provinces of Hebei, Liaoning, Zhejiang, Shaanxi, Jiangxi, Shandong, Guangdong and Fujian. Their promises came after the Central Military Commission, the party-appointed body chaired by President Xi Jinping that exercises control over China's armed forces, decreed that local governments should not consider veterans' ages or rank, especially those who served in hardship posts or special assignment, when they resettled in prefectural level cities, which have the best services and amenities, the Daily reported. “Local governments cannot place additional conditions or set obstacles when handling their resettlement,” the report said. It said Zhao Kezhi, party chief of Hebei province which practically encircles Beijing and hosts the largest garrisons to protect the capital, promised to make sure the resettlement proceeded smoothly. Other provinces also vowed to cooperate with the CMC. Xi announced that the PLA would be cut by 300,000 troops shortly before presiding over last September's grand military parade in Beijing to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war. The cuts – twice the size of the British armed forces – are scheduled to complete by the of next year, meaning the remaining 242,0000 redundancies will take place over the next 16 months. But a retired senior colonel in Beijing told the South China Morning Post that resettlement timetable was extremely ambitious and was likely to be postponed due to the difficulties. “Although the CMC's order for local gov­­­ernments to cooperate are legally binding, China lacks the extensive veterans' rights of other countries,” said the veteran, who did not want to be named. Many of laid-off officers are middle-aged and older, and some have no special skills. They cannot compete for jobs with millions of new university graduates.” The retired veteran said the CMC was aware of the problem, and that some military specialists were studying proposals on how to overcome them. ^ top ^

Special gift from Canada's Trudeau to Premier Li (China Daily)
2016-09-01
A memorial medal, made 43 years ago honoring the work of an inspirational doctor, was presented to Premier Li Keqiang by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when they met in the Forbidden City on Tuesday. "I am honored to present Premier Li Keqiang a memorial medal of Norman Bethune, which was made in 1973 during my father's visit to China," Trudeau said on WeChat. The Canadian physician Bethune was well-known and widely respected in China. He has been seen as symbolizing friendship between the two countries for treating wounded Chinese soldiers and sick villagers against Japanese invaders during World War II. Trudeau is on an eight-day visit to China, including three and a half days in Beijing. He will also go to Shanghai and Hong Kong and will attend the G20 summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. In 1973, his father Pierre Trudeau was the first Canadian prime minister to visit Beijing, three years after the establishment of diplomatic ties. He also visited the Forbidden City. Pierre Trudeau made 50 medals of Norman Bethune and presented two of them to Chairman Mao Zedong and former Premier Zhou Enlai. Trudeau also posted pictures of his trip to Beijing, including meeting with entrepreneurs and the moment when he presented the medal. ^ top ^

China to deepen military engagement in troubled Middle East to protect growing interests (SCMP)
2016-09-01
China plans to protect its growing interests in the troubled Middle East by deepening its military engagement in the region and may break its non-alignment policy in the future, analysts said. The nation was willing to push military relations with Saudi Arabia to a new level, Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan said Wednesday. It is another step in Beijing's engagement in the Middle East after China reached a deal with Damascus to provide aid and training to the Syrian government on August 14. Wang Yizhou, an international relations expert at Peking University, said China's interests in the Middle East were growing deeper than ever because of its ties in areas such as labour, tourism, business and natural resources. Chen Gang, a senior researcher at the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore, said a fledgling China would fill the power vacuum as Washington's decades-long period of dominance in the Middle East was drawing to a close. “China might break its non-alignment policy in the future to better protect its overseas interests as it has no foreign military base right now,” Chen said. In contrast to the countless overseas installations and bases owned or used by the United States' armed forces, China has only one military facility in the northeast African nation of Djibouti. Song Junying, an international affairs expert at the China Institute of International Studies, said a stable Middle East region was the key to ensuring the smooth development of Beijing's “One Belt, One Road” initiative – China's grand eco-political strategy to revive the land and maritime Silk Roads dating back to the days of Marco Polo. “If situation in Middle East deteriorates, China's interests would also be badly affected,” Song said. China's President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran during his trip to the Middle East in January. ^ top ^

Full text: Joint Press Release between the People's Republic of China and Canada (Xinhua)
2016-09-01
At the invitation of His Excellency Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, is paying his first official visit to China from August 30 to September 6, 2016. Over the course of the visit, Prime Minister Trudeau will take the opportunity to visit Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Hong Kong, while also attending the G20 Leaders' Summit. During Prime Minister Trudeau's visit to Beijing, His Excellency President Xi Jinping of China and His Excellency Chairman Zhang Dejiang of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress met respectively with Prime Minister Trudeau, and Premier Li Keqiang held talks with Prime Minister Trudeau. Leaders, reflecting on the remarkable progress that has been made since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Canada in 1970, reaffirmed their commitment to develop a robust and comprehensive strategic relationship between the two countries. The two sides had an in-depth, sincere and productive exchange of views on China-Canada relations, and regional, international, and global issues of shared interest. Leaders discussed ways to advance China-Canada relations, including the strengthening of the high-level dialogues and expanding exchanges at all levels. The two sides agreed to act based on principles of mutual respect, equality, and shared benefit, and to deepen mutual understanding and trust. The two sides agreed to expand practical cooperation and exchanges, including on rule of law, and to address constructively differences and sensitive issues. Both sides also agreed to make joint efforts to open a new era in the China-Canada strategic partnership. The two sides agreed on the importance of enhancing economic growth by promoting the China-Canada economic relationship. On this, both sides agreed to deepen their trade and investment relationship in the areas of energy, clean technology, agriculture, infrastructure, transportation, financial services, as well as innovation, science and technology for mutual benefit. Recognizing the importance of people-to-people ties, both sides agreed to expand exchanges in education, culture, health, tourism and sports, to promote connections between the two peoples. The two sides committed to deeper judicial and law enforcement cooperation, and continued military-to-military cooperation. Both sides agreed to maintain dialogue and exchanges on human rights on the basis of equality and mutual respect. The two sides had an in-depth exchange of views on the upcoming G20 Hangzhou Summit and considered opportunities to promote strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive economic growth, promote innovation, create jobs, reinforce the resilience of the global financial system, and build the open world economy. Both agreed to work together to make the Summit a productive and milestone event, and will maintain close coordination and cooperation within the G20 framework on the implementation of the outcomes of the Hangzhou Summit. On regional and global issues, both sides agreed to strengthen coordination on the provision of public goods to the international community, including seeking to strengthen cooperation on environmental protection and climate change, United Nations peacekeeping and inclusive growth. The two sides agreed to work together to promote peace, stability, and prosperity across the Asia-Pacific region through bilateral and multilateral channels. The two sides announced a series of important developments and signed relevant agreements. These include the following: 1. Agreeing to maintain close dialogue and exchanges between leaders of both countries, and announcing the establishment of the annual dialogue between the Premier of China and the Prime Minister of Canada. 2. China's welcoming of Canada's decision to apply for membership at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. 3. Establishing the China-Canada High-Level National Security and Rule of Law Dialogue. 4. Enhancing our efforts to address climate change through the full and effective implementation of the historic Paris Agreement and to work together with international partners to strengthen the global response to climate change. 5. Announcing that quarantine authorities on both sides are actively consulting and researching science-based measures related to the canola trade between China and Canada to support an appropriate solution at an early date. During this transitional period, canola trade between China and Canada can continue under current quarantine conditions (August 2016). 6. Announcing 2018 as the China-Canada Year of Tourism and agreeing to increase cooperation to boost the two-way flow of tourists. 7. Agreeing that China will authorize Canada to open seven additional visa application centres in China. 8. Establishing a working group under the China-Canada Joint Declaration on Clean Technology. 9. Signing the Statement of Cooperation between the National Development and Reform Commission of China and the Parks Canada Agency on the Establishment, Conservation, and Management of National Park Systems. 10. Announcing Canada's commitment to Phase VI of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development. 11. Expanding judicial cooperation by welcoming the combined efforts of institutions to train judges and pursuing the exchange of legal practitioners and academics. 12. Welcoming further cooperation on labour and employment, including the implementation of the Cooperation Framework in the Field of Industrial Relations and Labour Standards as well as the Joint China-Canada Labour Mediator and Arbitrator Capacity Building Project. 13. Signing a bilateral Film Coproduction Treaty between the Government of China and the Government of Canada. 14. Signing the Programme of Cooperation for the Years 2017 to 2019 under the Cultural Agreement between the Government of China and the Government of Canada. 15. Enhancing collaboration in support of gender equality and the empowerment of women and children globally. 16. Agreeing to explore ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation in support of United Nations peace operations, as well as dialogue and cooperation in the areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and military education. 17. Collaborating on global development initiatives, including supporting the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. ^ top ^

Spotlight: Sustainable global development calls for G20 v2.0 (Xinhua)
2016-09-01
The U.S. Federal Reserve, citing "solid performance" of the U.S. labor market and economy, has been whipping up expectations that it would raise interest rates soon. The suspense evoked by the central bank of the world's largest economy and sole superpower, however, appears to many to be a sword of Damocles, as any interest rate uptick would suck capital to the United States from other countries, of which many are already struggling. Given the tight interdependence between economies, experts say, such differences in their needs and concerns demand that closer international coordination be carried out to guarantee sustainable global development. More specifically, that necessitates an upgrade of the world's premier platform of global economic governance -- the Group of 20 (G20). FROM CRISIS TO "NEW MEDIOCRE" G20 leaders met for the first time in November 2008 in Washington in the throes of the worst global financial crisis in decades, and the following series of summits played an indispensable role in pooling international efforts to tide the world over. The height of the crisis has now passed, but sustainable development remains elusive. The world economy is still reeling from its aftermath and appears that it is sliding into what International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde described as a "new mediocre." Despite improvement in some economies, the IMF has lowered its prediction of the 2016 global economic growth rate from 3.1 percent to 2.9 percent. Should that forecast come true, this year would be the second in a row with a global growth rate of less than 3 percent. The pace was 2.4 percent in 2015. The IMF has warned that a prolonged period of slow growth has left the global economy more exposed to negative shocks and raised the risk of plunging into stagnation. "If we don't take action to boost productivity and potential growth, both younger and older generations will be worse-off," said Catherine L. Mann, chief economist of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). "The longer the global economy remains in this low-growth trap, the harder it will be for governments to meet fundamental promises," she said. LACK OF COORDINATION One of the burning issues beleaguering the world economy is a rupture in policy coordination among countries at various stages of development backdropped by resurgent protectionism, nationalism and isolationism, said Zhu Jiejin, a professor with China's Fudan University. In dealing with the problem, the G20 has an inescapable and significant role to play. As early as at their September 2009 summit, G20 leaders designated the young crisis response mechanism -- more representative than the rich-world club of Group of Seven -- as the premier forum for international economic cooperation. In order for the world economy to break away from the slow-growth rut and realize sustainable development, many experts agree, the G20 needs to further strengthen international macro-policy coordination and shift its primary function from crisis response to long-term governance. Noting that the G20 mechanism "has retained most of the features of the crisis response platform in 2008," Zhu pointed out that "a crisis cannot be there forever." China has been a steadfast champion of this transformation. At the upcoming 11th G20 summit in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, boosting international coordination is an integral element of its theme, which is "Toward an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy." Forging "a community of common destiny" among developed and developing countries is at the core of "an interconnected world economy," commented Jiang Yuechun, director of the Department for World Economy and Development at the China Institute of International Studies. INSTITUTIONAL INNOVATION Recognizing the vital significance of innovation to reinvigorate the global economy, China, first-time host of the G20 summit, has placed innovation high on this year's agenda. Among others, Beijing has been pushing for an innovative growth blueprint and an action plan for the implementation of the UN-adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. "It is right for China to put forward a blueprint for innovative growth and consider the lack of growth impetus as a key issue at this year's summit," said Zhang Yuyan, director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Noting that innovation includes not only technological innovation but also the improvement and spread of existing technologies, Zhang also stressed that institutional innovation is also important to realizing sustainable development. Taking a concrete step in this direction, China has invited the leaders of several developing countries to the Hangzhou summit, making it the most representative of developing countries in G20 history. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that Beijing has taken the summit to another level of inclusiveness. China, as the second largest economy and the largest developing country in the world, is in a unique position to bring together developed and developing countries and promote positive engagement among them, experts say. John Kirton, founder and co-director of the G20 research group at the University of Toronto, says reaching a general agreement among the G20 members and guests on how to proceed with managing the global economy will be key to China's success as host. China, Kirton says, has the "recurrent strong wisdom to adjust to the overwhelming consensus and the consensus of its partners to produce collective success." ^ top ^

China, India agree to jointly consolidate border peace (Xinhua)
2016-09-01
Maintaining peace and tranquility along the border area is China and India's greatest common interest, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Thursday. China and India met under the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on China-India Border Affairs in New Delhi from Tuesday to Wednesday, spokesperson Hua Chunying told a press conference. During the meeting, the two sides spoke positively of the bilateral border affairs since last year, Hua said. According to an important consensus reached by governments of the two countries, the two sides will continue to communicate and cooperate to deal with border affairs, promote various measures to enhance mutual trust,and consolidate the overall peace and tranquility in border areas, Hua said. She said the consolidation of peace and stability in the border area will create favorable conditions for border negotiations, bilateral ties and high-level visits in the next stage. ^ top ^

China hosts international meeting to promote sustainable agriculture (Xinhua)
2016-09-01
To promote dialogue and share experiences on implementing Agroecology approaches in Asia and China, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and partners met on 29 to 31 August 2016, in Kunming, China. The International Symposium on Agroecology for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems has been co-organized by FAO and CAAS, and in cooperation with the Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, with the support of the Government of France. In his message from the Director General of FAO, Ren Wang, Assistant Director-General stressed that: “Agroecology is based on the 3 pillars of sustainable development, which is aligned with FAO's Common Vision for sustainable food and agriculture and contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.The Sustainable Development Goals tell us that, by 2030, we need to shift to sustainable food systems that produce more with less environmental, economic and social costs. In this context, Agroecology offers an innovative solution”. Agroecology has a strong scientific base and is increasingly receiving attention from governments. In September 2014, FAO convened a global symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition. This was followed in 2015 by three regional meetings in Brazil, Senegal and Thailand. This year, the symposium on Agroecology in China has brought together stakeholders from academia, policy and civil society to better understand the role and potential of Agroecology. The Chinese government attached great importance to Agroecology and a series of policies have been released in recent years. “As the national leading institution, CAAS is committed to improving China's food security and nutrition by research and innovation, and attached great importance in Agroecology. CAAS has launched four collaborative innovation initiatives, namely heavy metal pollution control, black soil conservation, water saving for grain production, the integrated technology-based green producing, which use the principle and philosophy of Agroecology in major grain and meat producing areas to address the rampant diminishing agricultural resources”, said by CAAS Vice President Wu Kongming. During this Symposium, participants highlighted many Agroecological initiatives and practices which have a positive impact on the reduction of rural poverty, hunger and malnutrition, promotion of sustainable agricultural development, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, improving soil fertility, increasing resilience of agriculture to climate change, and expand work opportunities for rural communities – all of which are essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. “With the aim of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and building a future that leaves no one behind, we believe that Agroecology can contribute to improving food security and nutrition situation at global, regional and local levels and create the conditions for the emergence of the zero hunger generation”, said Vincent Martin, FAO representative in China, DPRK and Mongolia. China's 13th Five-year Plan sets a clear goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Agroecology becomes a key component of China's “ecological civilization”, a priority for the government. The symposium attracted participants from across Asia as well as Europe and North America, reaching the goal of continuing the efforts made by FAO and CAAS to promote dialogue around the scientific basis and the experiences of implementing Agroecology in Asia and China. ^ top ^

The weakest links: Bishkek attack exposes security risks for Chinese projects in Central Asia (SCMP)
2016-09-01
The suspected terrorist attack on the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek has yet again exposed weak links in security in Central Asia, a key focus of Beijing's energy and overseas investment agenda. With the suicide bombing pointing to a resurgence in terrorist threats in the region, analysts have called on Beijing to weigh security concerns carefully as it rolls out its ambitious “One Belt, One Road” scheme. The analysts said the timing of the attack was significant, coming just days ahead of the Group of 20 summit this weekend and the 25th anniversary of the 911 terrorist attacks in the United States. Alexander Gabuev, a security specialist at the Carnegie Moscow Centre, said the attack showed terrorist threats in Central Asia were on the rise, and China had become a target. “[The] recent development sets an important precedent. China can't feel secure about its citizens or installations in the region and needs to think about their security in a more comprehensive way,” he said. Li Lifan, a researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, also said Chinese personnel and China-backed projects would face greater security risks in the region. “The attack will almost certainly have security implications for many Chinese projects in Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian nations as they become the new linchpin of the 'One Belt One Road' initiative,” he said. China has completed three pipelines pumping natural gas from Turkmenistan to Xinjiang via various Central Asian nations. A fourth pipeline passing through Kyrgyzstan is being built. Like other Central Asian nations which have been plagued by ethnic tensions and political instability, Kyrgyzstan, which borders Xinjiang, has a large Uygur community and is a hotbed for Islamic fundamentalism and other terrorist forces. Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said security conditions were set to worsen due to collusion between local fundamentalist movements and the exiled Uygur Muslim extremist groups. Although China has stepped up security and counterterrorism efforts with Russia and Central Asian nations within the framework of the regional security alliance the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, “Islamic extremist forces, such as Isis, have accelerated infiltration into the region over the years, posing fresh security challenges and exacerbating the security situation in the region”, Li said. Both China and Kyrgyzstan condemned Tuesday's attack as an act of terrorism. Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev ordered a thorough investigation into the bombing, promising to take “all the necessary measures to protect the Chinese mission”. In a phone call with his Kyrgyz counterpart on Tuesday night, Foreign Minister Wang Yi asked Kyrgyzstan to “establish the truth as soon as possible, severely punish the culprits and prevent such an incident from happening again”, according a statement on the foreign ministry's website. Wang and Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev also agreed to deepen counterterrorism cooperation, especially against religious extremists, ethnic separatists and terrorists in Central Asia. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing was willing to aid the investigation. “We will work together with the Kyrgyz side to establish as soon as possible information about the people and organisation that had carried out this terrorist attack,” Hua said. Kyrgyz authorities said none of the Chinese diplomats was injured and all had been evacuated to a “safe place” in Bishkek. The suicide bomber was killed at the scene when he rammed a van through a side entrance to the Chinese embassy. Three other Kyrgyz nationals working at the embassy were injured. Li Wei said it could take investigators some time to identify the attacker, his motives and any link with extremist groups. Although no group has claimed responsibility, both Chinese experts said they thought the Turkestan Islamic Party, a Uygur separatist group formerly known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, was behind the attack. Professor Barry Sautman, of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, agreed. He said it remained to be seen whether the bombing would herald more attacks. The attack “follows a recent pattern, in which attacks inside Xinjiang appear to have declined due to the pervasiveness of security forces stationed across the restive region, while terrorists look outside the region for soft targets”, he said. He said China should rapidly improve the situation of Uygurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, as well as exert pressure on states that “funnelled support for 'religious extremists' in Central Asia”. Gabuev said given that Central Asia was not high on the US counterterrorism agenda, China should beef up cooperation with Russia and increase aid to the militaries of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as making arrange to protect its own infrastructure projects and personnel. “It needs to be noted that development brought by China is strengthening security in the region, but its impact is long term and the results are less visible,” he said. ^ top ^

China holds joint drills in show of maritime strength near Gulf of Tonkin (SCMP)
2016-09-01
The PLA's South Sea Fleet joined forces with coastguard, maritime department and fishing vessels last week for a series of drills near the Gulf of Tonkin. The three days of drills, which ended on August 23, came less than two weeks ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou. Maritime observers said the exercises were designed to demonstrate China's capacity to mobilise military and civilian forces in the waters. “The Gulf of Tonkin is a less sensitive place in the disputed South China Sea. China and Vietnam reached a boundary deal over it in late 2000, so the exercise is not aimed at Vietnam,” Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said. “But the drills show the United States that China's military and civilian forces are strong enough to defend the country's maritime sovereignty as Washington continues to try to put the South China Sea on the G20 summit agenda.” The drills involved warships from the navy, aircraft from the naval air force, and 13 ships from the coastguard, including escort vessels, minesweepers and landing boats. More than 10 fishing boats also took part, the People's Liberation Army Navy's Modern Navy magazine reported on ­Tuesday. “A joint operations system involving the navy, coastguard, and local fishermen has been fine-tuned in recent years through joint drills,” the report said. The more than two dozen vessels were divided into two teams to simulate 20 scenarios, including joint escorts, joint attacks and drilling rig defence, it said. Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea, where Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, and Malaysia, as well as Taiwan are also claimants. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled against China's territorial claims over the area in July, a decision the Chinese government has refused to acknowledge. Professor Wang Hanling, from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Gulf of Tonkin drills were designed to train fishermen in what to do during a maritime accident. “The Chinese navy has ramped up drills with other civilian agencies in recent years, with the latest joint exercises being one of the routine drills,” Wang said. “The fishing off season in the South China Sea ended in August, and the Gulf of Tonkin is a traditional fishing ground for Chinese fishermen. The fishing crews need to learn how to work closely with the navy and coastguard in case there is a disaster.” Wang said this need was brought home on August 9 when a Chinese fishing boat sank after colliding with a Greek-flagged ship off the Japan-controlled Diaoyu Islands – known in Japan as the Senkakus – which China claims. ^ top ^

Myanmar begins peace talks to end ethnic violence (Global Times)
2016-09-01
A historic peace conference between Myanmar's government and the country's ethnic minorities began on Wednesday in Nay Pyi Taw hoping to achieve national reconciliation and end the decade-long violence. Although no concrete deal is expected from the meeting, the gathering gives hope to the peace process and is conducive to Sino-Myanmar relations in the long-run, experts said. The five-day 21st Century Panglong Conference includes representatives from the government, parliament, military, armed ethnic and non-armed organizations and civil society. Speaking at the opening session, Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi said the peace conference marks the start of the path to peace in the country, and that the Nationwide Ceasefire Accord (NCA) is the first step not only toward peace but toward the establishment of a democratic federal union, the Xinhua News Agency reported. "So long as we are unable to achieve national reconciliation and national unity, we will never be able to establish a sustainable and durable peaceful union," she told delegates. Chinese special envoy for Asian Affairs Sun Guoxiang also attended the conference as an observer. "The presence of a Chinese representative at the meeting shows China firmly supports Myanmar's national reconciliation and peace process. China has always promoted this process," Sun said. "We hope those at the meeting can exchange ideas, narrow the differences and reach an agreement under the common goal of peace," Sun said. Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw and two vice presidents attended the opening ceremony. The 17 armed ethnic organizations present include eight signatories and seven non-signatories to the NCA, represented by the United Nationalities Federal Council, as well as the Mongla and Wa groups. The opening ceremony was also attended by representatives from UN agencies and foreign diplomats based in the country. Arduous process Shan Youth Organization delegate Sai Aung Myint Oo said more time is needed to achieve a cease-fire as fighting still breaks out in some areas between government and ethnic forces. His views were echoed by U Oo Hle Saw, a lawmaker from Rakhine State, who said the conference is just the beginning of a long process to end ethnic conflicts. He highlighted China's role in Myanmar's national reconciliation process, and said China's input is essential to the peace process. "Some Western media said China benefitted from Myanmar's civil war. It's an underestimation [of our character]. Only peace in Myanmar can lead to stability in border area, which is in China's core interest," Xu Liping, an Southeast Asian Studies expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. Chin Chin, a representative from the ethnic Chin minority, said her ethnic group wants greater equality, self-determination and freedom. She said she hopes the conference is based on the 1947 Panglong Agreement, and that future conferences could be more inclusive and democratic. "The Panglong Conference comes at the right time as Myanmar's new government supports peaceful means in handling ethnic conflicts, and Suu Kyi is seeking to gain politically from a peaceful solution, which is the most significant issue in the country," Zhuang Guotu, head of the Center of Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University, told the Global Times. During Suu Kyi's visit to Beijing earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to "play a constructive role in promoting Myanmar's peace process." Lei Zhuning, a senior researcher at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Myanmar Studies, said it is unrealistic to expect this meeting to solve all of the problems, but the fact that so many ethnic groups are willing to participate is in itself significant. "The conference would also ease distrust between China and Myanmar, which could help Myanmar rebuild its economy if the country joins the 'Belt and Road' initiative," Zhuang said. ^ top ^

China, US set to release review of each other's fossil fuel subsidies in historic move at G20 summit (SCMP)
2016-08-31
China and the United States – the world's two largest economies and worst carbon polluters – are expected to make public a cross-checking of each other's fossil fuel subsidies at the G20 summit in Hangzhou this weekend, people familiar with the matter say. It will be the first time that China has allowed a foreign country to review its domestic energy subsidies. The arrangement is also the first among G20 powers. While the real impact may be small, it signifies that China will, on a limited basis, allow the US to influence its domestic energy subsidies, in a major gesture to the US and the world that China is taking climate change seriously. A mentality of looking after one's own concerns while hoping for the best has often hindered real progress on climate change measures. The peer-review mechanism between Beijing and Washington, the first under the framework of the Group of 20 major economies, can help translate political will into a deliverable plan to gradually phase out fossil fuel subsidies, six years after leaders of the group agreed to do so, experts said. Liu Shuang, programme officer of Energy Foundation China's low-carbon programme, said the mutual reviews would not only set a good example for other countries in the group – major contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions – but would also prompt China to work out “a reform road map” to effect real changes domestically. “This will help China to do a systematic review of its fossil fuel subsidies, identifying those that are the least efficient and paving ways for reforms,” Liu said. Both China and the US are major fossil fuel consumers and heavily subsidise the dirty energy that worsens air pollution and global climate change. All G20 countries subsidise their fossil fuel industries despite a pledge made by leaders at a 2009 summit in Pittsburgh to phase out such subsidies. Finance ministers were later instructed to develop a voluntary peer-review process to speed up fossil fuel reform and, in 2013, the group published a methodology to evaluate the policies and implementations of other countries. In the three years since, the G20 has failed to introduce tangible measures to turn political commitment into action, Liu said. Gerd Leipold of Climate Transparency, which tracks the G20's climate policies, said such subsidies have a double delaying effect on the world's transition to a low-carbon economy and meeting targets set in the Paris Agreement last year, by both supporting fossil fuels and limiting renewable energies. The Paris climate agreement reached by more than 195 countries in December aims at holding global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and to “pursue efforts” to limit it to 1.5 degrees. “The good mood of the Paris conference continues, and the G20 forum needs to take that forward,” Leipold said. “Countries used to point fingers at each other on fossil fuel subsidies, but the situation is quite different from seven years ago. The world will be disappointed if the G20 leaders once again produce only a decorative statement without good plans.” On Tuesday, insurers with US$1.2 trillion under management called on G20 leaders to set a timetable to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels by 2020, calling climate change “the mother of all risks” to business and society. A study published by the International Monetary Fund last year said governments around the world provided a total of US$5.3 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies a year, after factoring in the true costs of environmental and health effects from pollution and climate change. The study named China as the biggest subsidy culprit, accounting for US$2.3 trillion, or more than 40 per cent, of the total thanks to its heavy reliance on coal. The US spends the equivalent of US$699 billion, or 13 per cent, while the EU accounts for another US$330 billion in subsidies, or 6 per cent of the total. ^ top ^

China, Philippines are keeping up important exchanges 'behind the scenes' to fix frayed ties (SCMP)
2016-08-31
China and the Philippines have retained “important backstage” contacts to improve bilateral ties affected by the South China Sea dispute, a senior Chinese ­diplomat said on Wednesday. The inauguration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte two months ago was an opportunity for the two sides to repair their relationship, which had been damaged by the Philippines initiating international arbitration on the South China Sea, ­according to China's deputy ­foreign minister Liu Zhenmin. “Apart from the publicly reported contacts such as the Hong Kong trip by ex-president [Fidel] Ramos to meet his old Chinese friends, there have been important exchanges behind the scenes,” Liu said in Beijing. “The Chinese ambassador to the Philippines is also in close contact with Duterte himself, his team and his foreign ministry.” Liu said such exchanges could bring the South China Sea dispute back on track to be properly resolved through bilateral dialogue. Former Philippine president Ramos visited Hong Kong as a special envoy of Duterte last month. Duterte's predecessor, ­Benigno Aquino, in 2013 filed a case to the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration challenging China's vast claims and assertive activities in the much-contested South China Sea. The move angered Beijing, which refused to take part in the legal proceedings and insisted the issues be dealt with through bilateral negotiation. Liu was speaking at a press conference about a trip by Premier Li Keqiang to Laos next week for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit. Li will also have bilateral meetings during his stay in Vientiane. Observers will be watching closely to see if the Chinese leader and the Philippine president meet for the first time since the arbitration ruling and personally discuss the ­tensions in the South China Sea.“Whether they will meet ­depends on further contacts ­between the two sides,” Liu said. Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said the backstage contact would be non-official talks conducted by various “friends” of the Philippines in China and ex-Philippine leaders. “In backstage contacts, the Philippines will take the initiative because Duterte cannot afford an increasingly deteriorating relationship with China,” Wu said. ^ top ^

China says ties with ASEAN entering "period of maturity" (Xinhua)
2016-08-31
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said here Wednesday that its ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is entering the "period of maturity." Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will attend the 19th China-ASEAN (10+1) leaders' meeting, the 19th ASEAN-China, Japan and Republic of Korea (10+3) leaders' meeting, and the 11th East Asia Summit in Vientiane, Laos, from Sept. 6 to 9, Liu told a news briefing. Li will also pay an official visit to Laos. Liu said Li's upcoming visits will help deepen China-ASEAN relations, promote the integration of East Asia and maintain regional peace and stability. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of dialogue relations between China and ASEAN, Liu said, and developing ties with ASEAN is a priority of China's peripheral diplomacy. He said the two sides have deepened political mutual trust and achieved fruitful results in practical cooperation such as the new China-ASEAN free trade area agreement. Moreover, China is the largest trading partner of ASEAN, and ASEAN is China's third largest trade partner, Liu said, adding that bilateral trade volume in the first half of 2016 reached 209 billion U.S. dollars. He said Premier Li will suggest making people-to-people exchanges a new pillar for China-ASEAN cooperation, and will stress China's constant support for ASEAN common community building as well as a bigger role for ASEAN in international affairs at the China-ASEAN leaders' meeting. At the ASEAN-China, Japan and ROK leaders' meeting, Li will urge all parties to enhance cooperation in areas such as financial security, trade and investment, agriculture and poverty relief, connectivity, capacity and people-to-people exchanges, Liu said. As for the East Asia Summit, Liu said the premier will introduce China's views on the summit's future development, and emphasize adherence to the positioning of the summit as a strategic forum, adherence to principles such as ASEAN-led, negotiations for consensus and accommodating all sides' comfort level. China will urge the related parties to continue implementing the "Plan of Action to Implement the Phnom Penh Declaration on EAS Development Initiative", advancing cooperation in six key areas and sticking to the "two-wheel drive" of economic development and political security, so as to promote the sound and stable development of the summit, Liu said. ^ top ^

Canada to apply to join China-led AIIB, leaving Japan as sole US ally to remain non-member (SCMP)
2016-08-31
Canada will apply to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, leaving Japan the sole major US ally to remain a non-member of the new development bank. “Canada is always looking for ways to create hope and opportunity for our middle class as well as for people around the world. Membership in the AIIB is an opportunity to do just that,” Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in a statement issued in Beijing on Wednesday. The announcement comes as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits Beijing on his first official trip to China. Trudeau met President Xi Jinping on Wednesday afternoon. President Xi Jinping welcomed Canada's joining the lender in his talks with Trudeau on Wednesday, saying China was willing to expand cooperation with Canada in energy and finance. The United States has previously expressed reservations about the AIIB and a reluctance to apply for membership. Washington is concerned the AIIB will undercut the World Bank, in which it has the greatest clout, as well as the Asian Development Bank, of which it is the largest shareholder after Japan. But its long-time partners and major allies – including Britain, Germany, France, Australia and South Korea – have one after another applied to join the new financial institution despite US pressure. Japan is now its only ally that has yet to apply to join the AIIB. Ruan Zongze, Vice-President of the China Institute of International Studies, said Canada's move had shown that it could act independently of the US. Huang Wei, an analyst at the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said joining the AIIB might not bring immediate economic benefits to Canada, and was largely a gesture to recognise the potential of the bank. Canada's gross domestic product expanded just 1.2 per cent last year, and observers have said it needed to diversity its trade and be less reliant on the US. “With China likely to become the world's largest economy in this or the next Trudeau term, it is in our long-term interests to deepen the economic relationship,” said Wendy Dobson, a former Canadian finance official. Meanwhile, Trudeau, speaking at a joint press conference with Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday morning, said Beijing had agreed not to impose new restrictions on canola imported from Canada after their meeting. Lobbying China not to impose a new standard for canola imports, which threatens C$2 billion (HK$11.9 billion) in business, has topped Trudeau's agenda for his first official trip to Beijing. He said he was happy to reassure Canadian farmers over the canola issue. “We will be able to continue with the current regime on canola and we will work together very closely towards long term solutions,” Trudeau said. Beijing originally set a September 1 deadline for Canadian producers to tighten their screening of canola oil exports to China, saying it wanted to prevent the spread of blackleg disease – an infectious bacterial disease – from Canada to China's crops. The proposed new standard would have limited the amount of foreign matter allowed in shipments to 1 per cent, down from the current 2.5 per cent. When Trudeau met Chinese entrepreneurs in Beijing on Tuesday, he assured them that Canadian agricultural products were safe. Separately, Li promised Trudeau at the press conference on Wednesday that Canadian citizen Kevin Garratt, who has been detained in China for two years on suspicion of spying, would be “treated humanely and that his case would be handled in accordance with the law”. It is rare for Chinese leaders to comment publicly on such sensitive cases. China indicted Garratt in January on charges of spying and stealing state secrets after he was detained in August 2014 near China's border with North Korea. Trudeau told reporters, “Every time I have the opportunity to sit down with the Chinese leadership, I have highlighted a number of consular cases including the Kevin Garratt case.” In a response to Trudeau and Li's remarks at the press conference, the Garratt family said it was “extremely frustrated and disappointed by the lack of progress in securing Kevin Garratt's release from detention”. They asked both governments to work to allow Garratt to exit China and obtain “critically needed medical treatment”, and to return to his family. In opening remarks during his meeting with Li on Wednesday morning, Trudeau had told the media that he was “enthusiastic” about strengthening ties with China. After the meeting, the Canadian prime minister said the two countries would set up a regular communication system “of the highest level” on a range of issues including national security and the rule of law. Such mechanisms would facilitate communication between China and Canada's prime ministers, foreign ministers and national security departments. On several occasions, Trudeau also stressed his family ties with China. His father Pierre Trudeau was among the first Western leaders to establish ties with China – a legacy seen as important political capital for the Canadian prime minister in building ties with China. “My father played an important role in establishing diplomatic relations between our two countries. I'm happy extending that effort now,” he said. ^ top ^

China, Saudi Arabia ink cooperation deals (Xinhua)
2016-08-30
China and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday signed 17 cooperative agreements after the first meeting of a high-level steering committee for coordinating bilateral cooperation. Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli and Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman co-chaired the meeting in Beijing. The documents covered politics, energy, finance, investment, housing, water resources, quality inspection, science, technology and culture. Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Saudi Arabia in January, reaching a consensus on various issues with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. During that visit, the two countries announced a comprehensive strategic partnership and set up a high-level steering committee to guide and coordinate cooperation. Noting that Saudi Arabia is an important cooperative partner of China in the West Asian and North African region, Zhang said China views bilateral ties from a strategic and long-term perspective. China is willing to share experiences with Saudi Arabia on state governance, he said, calling on the two sides to support each other's core interests and major concerns and cement strategic mutual trust. China is ready to synergize the Belt and Road Initiative and Saudi Arabia's Economic Vision 2030, he said. Under the framework, Zhang suggested the two sides promote cooperation in industrial capacity, equipment manufacturing, energy, trade, investment, finance, science and technology, culture and security. Mohammed said relations between Saudi Arabia and China are of strategic importance, noting that the two sides enjoy great potential for cooperation. Saudi Arabia firmly supports China's stance on issues related to Taiwan, Xinjiang and the South China Sea, he said. Saudi Arabia hopes to join in the Belt and Road Initiative and forge a stronger partnership with China in the areas of energy, trade, investment, finance, industrialization and mining, he added. The Saudi prince also called on the two sides to strengthen coordination, jointly fight terrorism, and promote international and regional peace and stability. Saudi Arabia supports China in holding a successful G20 Summit, he said. Later on Tuesday, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi met with Mohammed bin Salman. He said China values Saudi Arabia's support within the G20 framework, hoping the two countries will make joint efforts with other relevant parties for a successful G20 Summit. Mohammed, also Saudi Arabia's defense minister, will attend the G20 Summit in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, scheduled for Sept. 4-5. ^ top ^

Japan urged to work on relations (China Daily)
2016-08-27
China hopes that Japan will take the action and create conditions necessary for the two countries to maintain high-level contacts, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Friday. "The contacts themselves bear great significance for developing the China-Japan relationship," he said at a regular news conference in Beijing. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has recently expressed his desire to have a meeting with President Xi Jinping during the upcoming G20 summit in Hangzhou next month. It has been widely speculated that the goal of a recent visit to China by Shotaro Yachi, a key foreign policy adviser to Abe, was to pave the way for such a meeting. Yachi attended the third China-Japan High-Level Political Dialogue in Beijing from Aug 24 to 26 and met with Premier Li Keqiang and State Councilor Yang Jiechi on Thursday. Li said that both countries should properly handle disputes and safeguard the momentum of stabilizing and improving their bilateral relationship. Lu did not confirm that Abe and Xi would meet, but he said that many leaders who are coming to the summit have expressed their desire to meet with Xi. Ties between Beijing and Tokyo have been strained by disputes over historical and territorial issues. Foreign Minister Wang Yi wrapped up a trip to Tokyo on Wednesday, where he attended a trilateral foreign ministers' meeting with counterparts from Japan and the Republic of Korea. When meeting his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, Wang said the China-Japan relationship still faces difficulties and is at "a critical juncture". Lyu Yaodong, an expert on Japanese foreign policy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said a meeting between the leaders will help avoid further deterioration of China-Japan relationship. But Japan could be using this meeting to create a good atmosphere for an annual trilateral leaders' meeting of China, Japan and the ROK that it will host later this year, he said. "However, Japan should show its sincerity with practical action in order to improve its relationship with China," he added. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China's State Council to issue guidelines to promote venture capital (Xinhua)
2016-09-02
Comprehensive guidelines are to be issued by China's State Council to ensure the healthier and more sustainable development of venture capital. The new guidelines were approved on Thursday at the State Council's executive meeting. Premier Li Keqiang, who presided over the meeting, highlighted the importance of venture capital development. "Encouraging venture capital development means a lot for the country's efforts in maintaining sustainable growth and creating jobs," Li said. "Meanwhile, China's economy still faces considerable downward pressure, yet we notice that regions that perform well in the new economy have much less pressure in ensuring the employment rate than areas that did poorly in developing the new economy," he said. Venture capital in China refers to growth equity capital, or loan capital, invested by private investors or specialized financial institutions in innovative business start-ups. Investors mainly gain profits through transferring their share of equity as these companies mature. Temporary measures were previously put in place in 2005, when the sector was still burgeoning. Over the past decade, venture capital in China, on average, has recorded an average growth of up to 20 percent a year. The new guidelines emphasize that the development of venture capital should prioritize the new economy, and prevent the possible risk of a capital bubble. Investors should apply a more professional approach based on their own features, use credit wisely and be aware of their social responsibilities. The new guidelines are in line with the "mass entrepreneurship and innovation" program, created by the premier in 2014, and the government has been reinvigorating the economy by encouraging more people to start their own businesses and unleash their innovation potential. Figures from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) show that the number of newly registered enterprises exceeded 2.62 million in the first half of 2016, up 28.6 percent compared with last year. By the end of 2015, venture capital had contributed about 2.17 million jobs. "Developing venture capital will contribute to our country's innovation-driven development strategy and boost private investment," Li said. "We need to encourage private investors and protect their lawful rights and enthusiasm," he said. Venture capital has also contributed greatly to the commercialization of innovation and scientific research findings, and it plays an increasingly important role in China's economic upgrading. However, regulation and legislation still lag behind the sector's robust growth. As pointed out during the Thursday meeting, supervision needs to be upgraded, and better credit facilities are in high demand. Li pointed out that the development of venture capital should be guided by market demand and a wider range of international practices should be implemented. "It is necessary to draw foreign investment into innovation and entrepreneurship efforts with more robust opening up efforts. We can also learn a lot along the way," he said. According to the new guidelines, the country will also encourage more diversified venture capital companies, including angel investors. Financing channels for venture capital investors will be expanded, and tax policies for the sector will be better developed. Policy coordination is necessary for the NDRC, which is in charge of the new guidelines along with various other government departments. Policies regarding venture capital need to be adjusted, in case of overlap, with various department regulations so that the sector will be more efficient. The mechanism of equity withdrawal in venture capital will be expanded and improved, while the guidelines also call for more comprehensive legislation on venture capital. Government funding should play a bigger role in guiding a more sustained development of the sector, the premier said. The State Council has just given the go-ahead to a venture capital plan in July, aiming to empower entrepreneurial innovation and boost industrial upgrading. During a news conference a week ago, Lin Nianxiu, vice chairman of the NDRC, announced that a national venture capital fund for emerging industries, totaling 40 billion yuan (6 billion U.S. dollars), is just around the corner. "The role of government funding needs to be fully developed. State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) also need to promote mass innovation and unleash their potential so as to develop more vigorously with a wider market," Li said. "Otherwise, SOEs may lose their vitality." ^ top ^

Legislators call for enhanced effort to invigorate higher education (Xinhua)
2016-09-02
Chinese lawmakers applauded the significant progress made in higher education but stressed the need for more effective measures to tackle limitations to long-term development. During panel deliberations on Thursday afternoon, the legislators discussed a report on higher education reform in China, and agreed that problems such as imbalances in resources and a lack of quality staff, should be addressed. The report was submitted Wednesday to the ongoing bimonthly session of the National People' s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, China's top legislature, for review. RESOURCE IMBALANCE Access to higher education has expanded constantly, with 36.5 million students receiving higher education in 2015, an increase of 17.5 percent from 2010, China's education minister, Chen Baosheng, told the legislators. The gross enrollment ratio for higher education, a gauge of education opportunities, was 40 percent in 2015, 13.5 percentage points higher than in 2010, exceeding the average level of medium-to-high income countries, Chen said. However, some lawmakers pointed out that special attention should be given to the figures of the central and western regions, short of educational resources. According to Chen's report, in the last five years, the government has spent 10 billion yuan (about 1.5 billion U.S. dollars) on improving the infrastructure and teaching quality of 100 colleges and universities in the central and western regions. Also, this year, 5.6 billion yuan has been spent on establishing national universities in 13 provinces and autonomous regions that used to only have provincial-level ones. "Those provinces and regions, most of which sit along the border and are inhabited by ethnic minorities, occupy 66 percent of China's land area and 34 percent of the total population. It remains an urgent task for planning authorities to allocate more resources to address the imbalance," legislator Long Zhuangwei said during discussion. TALENT TRAINING New majors catering to strategic emerging industries and poverty relief have been set up in universities. They include cyberspace security, Internet of things and big data, said the education minister. On Wednesday, the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences established the school of future technology, the first of its kind in China, which will focus on studies of advanced subjects, such as brain science, quantum and genome technology. China has been striving to training more applied graduates via cooperation between universities and enterprises. More than 200 colleges and universities have programs in partnership with domestic and foreign companies, including Alibaba, Tencent and Intel. Impressed by the progress, some lawmakers still called for improved measures to ensure college education serves the needs of social and economic development. Lawmaker Si Jianmin suggested central education authorities give more freedom to universities in regard to majors. "Students should be encouraged to choose majors according to social needs as well as individual interest after receiving general education in the first year of college," said Si. Some legislator said that the government should make specific rules on internships. At present, the higher education scheme in China does not guarantee enough time for students to work as interns before graduation, said lawmaker Shen Chunyao. "Internship for a month or two won't help the students really understand the industries they are going to work in." Also on Thursday afternoon, top legislator Zhang Dejiang presided over a meeting of NPC Standing Committee's chairman and vice chairpersons. The attendees of the meeting were briefed on reports on the reviews of the draft law on national defense transportation and the draft amendments to the law on foreign-invested companies, among others. ^ top ^

China's first Charity Law takes effect to upgrade industry (Xinhua)
2016-09-01
When China's national lawmakers passed the country's first Charity Law in March, Zhou Weihong established a charity in Shanghai. The charity has already helped over 60 impoverished children in the northwest autonomous region of Xinjiang go to school, and with the law taking effect Thursday, the charity projects that it will help more than 100 in 2017. The new law eases restrictions on the fundraising and operational activities of charity groups, promising tax benefits, and improved supervision. It is the first time that the way in which charities are registered has been written in to law, giving approved charities more freedom and credibility than ever before. The law was well received by charity groups and law experts for responding to public concerns. "The new law encouraged us and made us more determined to carry out our plans," said Zhou, president of Ailawennuan public service organization, another charity that helps impoverished children in Xinjiang access education, and urban life. China had about 670,000 registered social organizations as of the end of June, including 5,038 foundations, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Annual donations to registered charities in China soared from 10 billion yuan (1.5 billion U.S. dollars) to 100 billion yuan over the past decade. The charity sector will support the ongoing poverty alleviation campaign, which has the pressing goal of lifting all rural residents above the poverty line by 2020. As of the end of 2015, 55.75 million rural Chinese were still classed as impoverished, meaning they had a per capita net income of less than 2,800 yuan a year. Li Bian, co-founder of AIDS Prevention Education Project for Chinese Youth (APEPCY), believes the Charity Law will create more job opportunities and its impact will be similar to the passage of the Corporation Law in 1993. "Fifteen years after China rolled out its first corporation law, it has become the second largest economy in the world and, it is expected, that in another 15 years, it will have the largest number of social organizations in the world," he said. Take Beijing for example, the city has over 30,000 registered social organizations, which employ over 60,000 people. With total assets of about 19 billion yuan, the charity industry has become one of the major forces of social economic development in the capital, said Dong Minghui, deputy director of the municipal Civil Affairs Bureau. The sector still has much room for improvement compared with developed countries, Dong said, adding that more detailed supportive policies are being drafted that will support the upgrade of the industry. The implementation of the Charity Law will let social organizations play a bigger role in social governance and promote development and innovation in areas overlooked by market and government investment, said Wang Zhenyao, dean of China Philanthropy Research Institute under Beijing Normal University. He said the enforcement of the law will upgrade China's charity industry, meanwhile, more specific measures and standards are needed from relevant administrative bodies during the actual operation process. As to Zhou Weihong's charity group, helping impoverished children in Xinjiang and inviting them to Shanghai to broaden their world view is only a tiny part of poverty-relief work. "We definitely have much more to do," Zhou said. ^ top ^

CPC official calls for better religious work (Xinhua)
2016-09-01
A Communist Party of China (CPC) official on Thursday said work in religious affairs should be improved. Sun Chunlan, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and head of the CPC Central Committee United Front Work Department, made the remarks at a seminar for provincial-level officials in charge of religious affairs. Sun asked leading officials to learn from remarks made by President Xi Jinping at a meeting on religious work in April. Officials should be more politically sensitive, and recognize and address religious issues on the basis of protecting the interests of the Party and state, Sun said. Sun also called for the consolidation of local-level religious work and fostering religious representatives. ^ top ^

Chinese rights activist in critical condition with head injuries day after being sentenced to jail (SCMP)
2016-09-01
A rights activist in central China remained in critical condition on Thursday after suffering serious head injuries at a detention centre the day after being handed a four-and-a-half-year jail term, according to his son. Police at the detention centre in Henan province's Xi county said Xing Wangli had tried to hang himself on Saturday and was injured while being rescued, according to Xing's family, but they did not believe the explanation. Xing, 45, was detained in May last year for calling public attention to the suspicious death of a petitioner in Xi county. He was sentenced for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” by a court in Xi county last Friday. Xing's son, Xing Jian, who is in Thailand, said his mother was taken to a local hospital in the early hours of Sunday morning, where his father underwent a four-hour-long emergency operation for a skull fracture and bleeding in the brain. The 20-year-old son fled to Thailand in October following his father's arrest. Police told Xing's wife that Xing had used a blanket to cover his head and hanged himself from the iron bars of a window. His head hit the floor when he was being freed by fellow inmates, they said. “They told my uncle that he had used cardboard from a box to make a rope to hang himself with. But how is that possible? He's under surveillance 24 hours a day at the detention centre, so there wouldn't be any chance at all for him to make a rope,” Xing Jian said. The detention centre and public security bureau in Xi county could not be reached for comment on Thursday morning. The public security bureau in Xinyang city, which oversees Xi county, was also unavailable. Xing Jian said he called the local police chief to ask what had happened to his father but the chief refused to explain. The police chief also refused to share any surveillance footage, Xing Jian said. According to Xing Jian, his father had immediately demanded an appeal after receiving his sentence and had asked the court to give him the written verdict. But the court told the senior Xing that he could have the document only later, the son said. Xing Wangli's lawyer Gao Chengcai said that according to China's criminal law procedures, the court should have hand over the written verdict on the spot. Gao said he suspected the court was trying to postpone his client's appeal, which could not start without a written verdict. Xing Jian said both his mother and his uncle had since been put under heavy police surveillance. “My mother was followed everywhere, even when she went to the toilet at the hospital,” he said. His mother could not be reached by phone on Thursday. Xing Jian said she had been told by police not to talk to the press. “They threatened that if she did so, my father's medical treatment could be affected,” he said. ^ top ^

Former head of China's state secrets agency sacked from nation's political advisory body (SCMP)
2016-09-01
A former head of the government agency responsible for the protection of state secrets in China has been sacked from the nation's top political advisory body for a “serious violation of discipline”. Xia Yong, who was also a former member of the Hong Kong Basic Law Committee, has been formally removed from his post, the advisory body said in a statement, but no details were given of the alleged offence. Xia is the latest senior official to fall from grace since the former presidential aide Ling Jihua was jailed for life on graft charges in July. Xia sat on the national committee of the political advisory body the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The decision to sack Xia from his post was formally ratified this week, according to a notice on the consultative conference's website. Xia was the director of the National Administration of State Secrets from 2010 to 2013. He previously served as a deputy research chief at the Communist Party's Central Committee General Office. Xia had a legal academic background and before joining the office was head of the Institute of Law under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. ^ top ^

Ningxia museum drops Ai Weiwei from exhibition (Global Times)
2016-09-01
An invitation to controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to participate in an exhibition in Yinchuan, Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, was rescinded recently by the organizer, who explained that the newly established museum had to prioritize its sustainability. Ai posted on his Instagram on August 25 that his artwork has been excluded from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Yinchuan's biennale exhibition - which begins September 9 - due to his "political sensitivity." Xie Suzhen, the museum's art director, confirmed with the Global Times on Wednesday that the museum's board of directors decided to rescind Ai's invitation on August 21 after much deliberation. "As a professional art museum manager, my most important responsibility is to guarantee its sustainability. We hope that we can receive support and cooperation from the local government, academic institutions and universities," Xie said. She explained that although Ai is a sensitive figure in China, she personally admires his artwork very much, and the museum thought it was okay to invite Ai since "he also participated in many other exhibitions around China." According to media reports, Ai held a personal exhibition of his art in Beijing's 798 Art Zone in June 2015. "The museum is like a little tree of modern art located in Northwest China, and we want it to grow into an eternal, towering tree," Xie said. Xie declared that "by holding the Yinchuan Biennale, we will build a professional base to spread culture in the city with the promotion of the Belt and Road initiative." The museum first opened in 2014. According to its official website, the Yinchuan Biennale invited 73 artists from 33 countries to take part in the exhibition, which will run through December 18. The museum's directing institutions include governmental authorities, such as provincial and municipal publicity departments. Bose Krishnamachari, curator of the biennale, said on the website that Yinchuan is a key point on the Silk Road and is "the intersection of Chinese and Islamic culture; Wish Yinchuan could be another stronghold of contemporary art besides Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong." ^ top ^

Foreigners to gain easier access to court verdicts (China Daily)
2016-08-31
An English-language version of a website operated by China's top court will make it easier for foreigners to learn how the country's courts make judgments. It will also provide them with information about related judicial documents. "We need to introduce the verdict website in English, as disputes involving foreign litigants are rising rapidly, and to assist in the preparation of related work," said Li Liang, director of the Trial Management Department at the Supreme People's Court, on Tuesday. Although verdicts must be written in Chinese to comply with the law, "We'd like to provide foreigners with a better guide in English on the website if they need to search for verdicts and related judicial documents", Li said. He said some courts in coastal regions, such as Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, have been looking to provide foreigners with legal services amid an increasing number of foreign-related cases in these regions. "We hope to ease access to courts for litigants, no matter where they are from," he said, adding that the English-language version would be based on the Chinese website that covers verdicts. Since July 2013, the Chinese version has attracted more than 2 billion visits, including 500 million from overseas, and has published more than 20 million verdicts, according to the top court. Liu Xuewen, a member of the court's Judicial Committee, said the website helps users who register to search for and download verdicts. "This is an effective way to improve judicial transparency," Liu said. To better regulate disclosure, the top court also issued a revised rule on Monday to clarify how verdicts should be released and the types of judgments that should not be disclosed. From Oct 1, when the new rule takes effect, all verdicts should be open to the public online within seven days, and the range of disclosures will be expanded. "In the past, some courts did not release initial rulings on the website as there was no unified standard on disclosure," Li said. "But starting in October, judgments made at any stage will be released." The rule makes it clear that verdicts relating to divorces, offenders under age 18 and State secrets are exempt from disclosure. Litigants' personal information, such as home addresses, bank account details and numbers of car registration plates or identity cards, should be deleted from the verdict, the rule states. Huang Jin, president of China University of Political Science and Law, praised the new move, but said some courts are too conservative in making administrative and criminal verdicts public. Of the 20 million verdicts published since July 2013, 3.6 million related to criminal cases, while 680,000 involved administrative cases, Huang said. The website should also supply a channel for people to report suspected flawed verdicts or improper disclosure promptly, he said. ^ top ^

Rights lawyer says he was forced to smear fellow activists caught in China crackdown (SCMP)
2016-08-31
A Christian lawyer is retracting criticisms he made of other rights activists targeted in the “709” crackdown, saying he made the comments against his will. Christian and rights lawyer Zhang Kai, 36, has confirmed that he wrote a notice released online yesterday. It essentially overturned an interview given on the evening of August 4 about the trial of lawyer Zhou Shifeng, who sits at the centre of a campaign that saw more than 319 lawyers and activists arrested in an unprecedented crackdown that began last July. The statement was also posted on Zhang's Weibo account, but the account was deleted by authorities yesterday afternoon. Zhang refused to comment beyond what is in his statement. Zhang was detained last August for representing about 100 churches, whose crosses were demolished by government officials in Zhejiang province. He was subsequently seen in a state television confession in February urging other human-rights lawyers to refrain from colluding with foreigners. In March, Zhang was released, and was then seen after the trial of Zhou on August 4, in which Zhou was charged with subversion and sentenced to seven years in prison. “With a Christian faith and a free conscience, I am officially stating that the interview with a number of media, including Phoenix Television, over the trial of Zhou Shifeng was against my own will,” Zhang's statement read. “It was a forced act out of fear and I'm retracting all of my comments,” it added. During the interview earlier this month, Zhang said that from the perspective of a lawyer, the court in Tianjin had handled Zhou's case fairly. “I personally think they might have gone too far,” Zhang said during the interview, referring to activists Zhai Yanmin, Hu Shigen and Zhou, who were among the first three detainees to go on trial over the crackdown. “An individual's belief and political advocacy should remain consistent to the background of our era and historical circumstances,” Zhang said in the interview, adding that “we should refrain from harming national security and unity with overseas funding”. Zhang's statement yesterday said such comments were forced out of him. “My elderly parents were living in fear and worry during the six months of detention in which I was held in darkness. [I was] powerless to resist the pressure imposed by a strong regime,” Zhang wrote. “I am willing to confess to God for [my] weakness and fear in my heart and spirit and I ask the forgiveness of other family members of 709 [victims],” he added. Currently, 17 people who were detained as part of the 709 crackdown are waiting for their trials. Xie Yang, a detained lawyer, has complained to his lawyer that he was subjected to torture while behind bars. ^ top ^

Beijing bans entertainment news that promotes Western lifestyles and celebrities, or pokes fun at Chinese values (SCMP)
2016-08-30
Beijing has forbidden reports of entertainment news that promote “Western lifestyles”, poke fun at traditional Chinese values and cultural classics, such as mythical heroes, or publish details of celebrities' love affairs. An official notice issued by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television has ordered all news platforms, including radio, television, and new media, to ensure their reports about the world of entertainment and celebrities comply with the Communist Party's ideologies and adopt a positive tone. Reports that focus on Western lifestyles, the lives of celebrities, and give details of personal private matters, including love affairs and family disputes, must be “firmly prevented”, the notice added. Stories that exaggerate details about peoples' rise to overnight fame and fortune, and show off their wealth, or report how they achieved success by being selfish or using intrigue against others are also banned. The entire news-gathering process needed to stick to what the authorities regarded as politically correct, Xinhua said. Each section of the work flow at news organisations needed to be closely monitored and all employees must take full responsibility to ensure that they do not report anything that could be considered as inappropriate, Xinhua reported the notice as saying. News organisations must also set up an performance review mechanism that will monitor the idealogical orientation of their work to help “strengthen restrictions, promote the good and eliminate the bad”. Those news organisation that are found to be violating the regulations will be punished. Penalties could include public criticism, the suspension of programmes and even the revoking of the organisation's production licence, the notice said. The announcement was made as the National People's Congress Standing Committee is reviewing a draft law on the film industry to ensure that those who that work in it will strive for “excellence in both professional skills and moral integrity” while maintaining a positive public image. Lawmakers began a second reading of the bill on Monday. The first draft appeared in October. The move comes after the high-profile arrests of various celebrities for drugs and soliciting prostitutes, including Li Dai­mo, Zhang Mo and Jaycee Chan, son of kung fu star Jackie Chan. ^ top ^

Suburbs to help capital ease pressure from population (China Daily)
2016-08-30
Beijing will improve infrastructure construction and public services in its suburban areas during the 13th Five-Year-Plan period (2016-20), helping the capital manage its large population. The municipal government released an urban-rural integration plan on Monday, which says that the development of Beijing's suburban and rural areas is the key for relieving the pressure of the city's population. Beijing will accelerate the construction of suburban areas, improving services for education, employment, health, sports and culture to move some city functions away from the downtown center. Sun Wenkai, director of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Rural Affairs, said during a news conference that it's urgent to improve the development of suburban areas in Beijing. "The capital will build a group of towns with various functions for people from the city to travel or work," he said. "It will improve ecological economic development in rural areas and raise local people's incomes." Sun Jiuwen, a professor in the School of Economics at Renmin University of China, whose research interests are regional economy and sustainable urban development, said dispersing the population and city functions throughout Beijing will bring huge development opportunities to suburban areas. "The integration of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei will become a key task during the 13th Five-Year-Plan period and even beyond that, which means suburban areas will take some functions from Beijing, including science and cultural development, education and medical care, as well as high-tech industrial growth. For a cleaner city, the government has been promoting clean energy use in rural areas, he said. Su Weidong, deputy head of the commission, said coal use for cooking and heating will be changed to natural gas in all 3,000 or so villages in Beijing by the end of 2020 to create a better environment. ^ top ^

Top legislature reviews laws on defense transport, film (Xinhua)
2016-08-29
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature, on Monday started its bimonthly session, with lawmakers discussing revisions to the draft laws on national defense transport and film, among others. Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, presided over the opening meeting of the session, which runs from Monday through Saturday. The draft law on national defense transport, which was deliberated for the second time on Monday, was ready to be submitted to China's top legislature for approval. The new law, covering the use of railways, waterways and air routes for defense purposes, is expected to regulate the planning, construction, management and use of resources in transportation sectors, such as railways, roads, waterways, aviation, pipelines and mail services, for national defense. Lawmakers also reviewed a draft film law with a key focus on making sure that people working in the film industry maintain professional ethics. The draft stresses that film distribution companies and cinemas should not fabricate movie ticket sales or engage in "improper methods," and cancels the need for government approvals on film shoots. The top legislature is mulling plea bargains in criminal cases, as part of measures to find balance in criminal justice decisions. The bimonthly legislative session considered proposals allowing suspects and defendants to plead guilty in return for a lesser charge. The central government submitted a draft environment tax law to the top legislature for its first reading, one step closer to a national taxation on various pollutants from business activities. Lawmakers also began their first reading of a draft amendment to four laws regarding foreign and Taiwan investment, following successful trials in several free trade zones. In addition, they also reviewed a draft amendment to the Marine Environment Protection Law, imposing more severe penalties for pollution. A revised draft law on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) was submitted to the top legislature, under which pharmaceutical companies and TCM dealers must keep records of their purchases. Legislators began to read a proposal to review and ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change. They will later review those drafts in a group discussion, and will listen to reports on economic and social development, budget implementation, reform and development of higher learning, among others. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

New Party chief in Tibet praised for focus on people's livelihoods (China Daily)
2016-08-30
The newly-appointed top official of Tibet has won applause for saying people's livelihoods have been his top priority during his entire political life in the autonomous region. Named Party chief of the Tibet autonomous region by the Communist Party of China Central Committee on Sunday, Wu Yingjie, 59, is the first person to hold the position after spending his whole political career in the region. Since 1974, Wu, who was born in Shandong province, has worked on livestock farms, at power plants, in education and for the government and Party Committee in Tibet. "Since I was young, I have lived, worked and grown up in Tibet. I was brought up by the Party, the people, the Tibetan Plateau and all the ethnic groups of Tibet," he was quoted as saying by Tibet Daily. "Tibet is my second home. I think of myself as a local Tibetan," he said. "I deeply love the land and the hardworking people here." The 59-year-old Wu said he has experienced hardships and enjoyed the happiness of success with the people of Tibet. "In my new position, I will continue to serve the more than 3 million people of Tibet. I know it is a glorious mission, but I do not think it will be easy," he said. Huang Keqing, the supervisory board chairman of Tibet's State-owned Assets Management Company, said she was pleased with Wu's promotion. "He knows Tibet well," she said. "I constantly see him on TV making trips to remote places, and I think he is especially concerned about the residents in remote areas and vulnerable groups." She described him as being "approachable". After Wu began working on Tibet's Regional Education Committee in 1983, he spent almost two decades in the education sector. Dorjee Dradul, an editor and translator at the region's teaching materials compilation center, said Wu made great contributions to Tibet's educational development. "He has a heart for Tibet. He has done much for the compulsory education system and for illiterate young adults." He was instrumental, Dorjee Dradul said, in implementing tuition-free schools, with paid living costs and allowances. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

New Xinjiang chief sees growth ahead (China Daily)
2016-08-30
Chen Quanguo, former Party chief of the Tibet autonomous region, has replaced Zhang Chunxian, a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party, as the top official of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, the central government announced on Monday. "Xinjiang's works are especially important to China, so I feel proud and a heavy responsibility on my shoulders," Chen said on Monday. He added that he is confident of ensuring Xinjiang's stability and continued development. Zhang, 63, was appointed as the Party chief of Xinjiang in 2010. At that time, the region was still recovering from a deadly riot that hit Urumqi, the regional capital, on July 5, 2009. He became a member of the Politburo in 2012. During a meeting announcing the decision on Monday in Urumqi, Zhang thanked the people of Xinjiang for accepting him as their son. The announcement did not list Zhang's new post. "I have been to every corner of the region and feel excited about the changes I see. I will always love and support Xinjiang," Zhang said. He had conceded when he was appointed Party chief of Xinjiang that the riot, which left 197 dead and more than 1,700 injured, caused estrangement among people of different ethnic groups. He had said he was determined to fix that, and he chose to live in the Xinjiang Guest House near the traditional ethnic neighborhoods because he wanted to set a good example. Preventing terrorist activities has been the biggest challenge for top officials in Xinjiang, which has been China's front line in the fight against terrorism. To help curb the spread of religious extremism, which led to an increasing number of terrorist attacks in the heavily Muslim region, Zhang once said he read many books on the history of Islam and sought advice from religious leaders at home and abroad. While Zhang is well known for his friendly approach with the media, Chen, 61, was very low-key during his five years in Tibet. During that time, the autonomous region remained stable and achieved high economic growth. The central government has changed the top officials of three of the China's five autonomous regions in recent days. Wu Yingjie, deputy Party secretary of Tibet, replaced Chen on Sunday and Li Jiheng, former Party chief of Yunnan province, was appointed the new Party chief of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region on Monday. Also on Monday, Li Jinbin, former governor of Anhui province, was appointed as the new Party chief of Anhui. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

4 million to vote for new Hong Kong legislature (Global Times)
2016-09-02
Four million voters will elect 70 members of Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LegCo) Sunday for a new four-year term. The election is seen as a significant political event for Hong Kong as politicians from pro-establishment camp and pro-independence camp vie for seats in the legislative body that might decide Hong Kong's future. Anti-establishment candidates, especially some young people who participated in the "Occupy Central" campaigns in 2014 and some who even advocate Hong Kong independence, are reportedly planning to expand their battlefield to the legislature, in order to control the legislative body that is currently mainly occupied by legislators supporting the central government. The pan-democracy legislators, who currently occupy 27 seats, will need to retain more than one-third of the LegCo seats to keep their veto power of major issues such as reform of the election of Hong Kong chief executive. "If anti-establishment candidates win half of the seats, LegCo may face a meltdown, as many items on the agenda will get bogged down in infighting between the two groups of legislators," Tian Feilong, assistant professor at Beijing-based Beihang University, told the Global Times on Thursday. "It's going to be a very difficult situation, as proposals to improve people's livelihood will not get passed in the legislature," he said. Zhang Dinghuai, deputy director of the Center for Basic Laws of Hong Kong and Macao at Shenzhen University, said if Hong Kong people focus on political struggle in the legislature election, they will have to pay the price of electing a paralyzed legislature. Political reform to elect the next Hong Kong chief executive in 2017 by referendum was already stalled following strong opposition by some pan-democratic activists in the past two years, who demanded easier access to becoming a candidate. But the central government is determined to bar those from office who have expressed sympathies toward seeking independence or defying Hong Kong's Basic Law. Days before the LegCo election, Hong Kong authorities barred several candidates with open pro-independence views from running. Many of these radical activists are young people, including 25-year-old Andy Chan of the Hong Kong Nationalist Party, Hong Kong-based Takungpao newspaper reported. Tian said many young people lack a sense of connection with their motherland like the older generations. "Coming out of college, they face more fierce social competition; life is more difficult, social inequality may be more intense," Tian said. "They tend to link the discontent to Hong Kong's return to the Chinese mainland and the 'one country, two systems' arrangement." He said it is irrational for young people to attribute personal challenges and difficulties to Hong Kong people's national identification, and it is even worse to hate the mainland. Former security chief Regina Ip, now a Hong Kong lawmaker seeking re-election, shares the view that much public anger stems from income inequality. She said the independence seekers feel marginalized by the mainland's economic rise, which leaves them feeling unable to compete for jobs. "I am trying to mobilize the silent majority to vote for reconciliation, to vote for a constructive way forward," she told the AP. Recruiting the young Observers say Hong Kong society has been increasingly split, as the pan-democratic activists and so-called localists continue to seek greater support from young people. Some activists handed out pamphlets at schools on Thursday as students returned to school after summer break. Eddie Ng Hak-kim, head of Hong Kong's Education Bureau, said on Thursday that teachers must have a clear stance under the Basic Law, and if some students advocate Hong Kong independence or exhibit violent tendencies, the teachers will be held responsible, Radio Television Hong Kong reported. Some believe that pan-democratic advocates have lost popularity after political showing-off and in-fighting in the past few years. Mandy Ng, a Hong Kong school public relations staff member, said she is pessimistic about the pan-democratic candidates winning more seats, as many of their votes may be taken by younger candidates who support Hong Kong independence. "Hong Kong society may end up more split than before," she said. Zhang said an excessively politicized and split society will do no good for either side, and the Hong Kong government should focus on developing the economy to change this situation. ^ top ^

Legco candidate Ken Chow needs help – in more ways than one (SCMP)
2016-09-02
The Electoral Affairs Commission and the Independent Commission Against Corruption are jumping into the case of Ken Chow Wing-Kan. That's all very well. I hope they get to the bottom of Chow's allegations, which if proven true, pose a direct threat to our electoral system. But, to paraphrase an old saying, extraordinary allegations require extraordinary proof. So far, the Liberal Party's candidate for New Territories West in Sunday's Legislative Council elections has offered little to substantiate his sensational claims. Instead, he has fled to Britain. Unfortunately, in the paranoid and fact-free politics of Hong Kong today, his allegations have taken on a life of their own. In a dramatic appearance, Chow – dressed all in black – announced at an election debate forum on television last week that he was quitting the race because of threats not only against him but those close to him who might be caught in “higher-level troubles and pay a heavy price”. He has provided various media outlets with a recording in which the assistant of an election rival apparently threatened to bring dozens of men to “clash” with him. That could be a criminal threat, but it would fall well within local jurisdiction. Later, however, Chow offered a different story, saying the unnamed source of the threats was outside Hong Kong jurisdiction and that it was more powerful than the triads or the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong. He also claimed someone offered him money – twice as much as his HK$2.5 million election expenses – to quit the race. A rational even if scared individual might consult with his party colleagues, the police or any law enforcement agency and regulators before going public. He apparently consulted no one, and even surprised his own campaign workers. To be credible, he might, for example, explain why such a “powerful force” would target a minor political player such as himself. Furthermore, the Liberal Party is generally considered a pro-establishment group. Campaigning is stressful even in normal circumstances. In today's highly divisive political climate, the pressure is especially high on election candidates. Anyone can crack under such intense stress. Chow has made sensational allegations about a powerful force, yet rules out the usual suspects. Instead, he conjures up a hidden conspiracy coming from outside Hong Kong. The ICAC should investigate. But in the meantime, his loved ones may consider seeking professional help for him. ^ top ^

Photo finish: tight race for last super seat in Hong Kong elections (SCMP)
2016-09-02
A breathtaking, photo-finish battle to the bitter end can be expected in the “super seats” race this Sunday as two rising stars from the pan-democratic and pro-establishment blocs fight for the final ticket to the legislature. The University of Hong Kong's ongoing rolling poll has suggested the popularity of the Democratic Party's Roy Kwong Chun-yu, a romance novelist, has been consistently above three of his pan-democrat competitors. He is running neck and neck with Holden Chow Ho-ding, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, for the fifth seat of the District Council (Second) functional constituency. Both candidates have a respectable popularity rating of 9 per cent. The five so-called super seats are contested by district councillors and returned by 3.5 million registered voters who get to cast a second vote in the trade-based constituency, in addition to the geographical constituencies. According to data analysis by media intelligence firm Meltwater, Kwong and Chow both lead the way as the most mentioned candidates on social media, with 984 and 652 mentions respectively from June 30 to August 28. The pan-democrats won big at the last legislative elections four years ago by grabbing three of the five super seats, after DAB veteran Lau Kong-wah lost the race to Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan. Veteran Democrat James To Kun-sun, the Neighbourhood Workers Service Centre's Leung Yiu-chung, the DAB's Starry Lee Wai-king and Wong Kwok-hing, of the Federation of Trade Unions, are expected to win seats. That means all eyes are on whether the pro-establishment camp can manage the last seat this year. Both Chow and Kwong have made emergency appeals to voters this week. “I am running a very tight race now with pan-democrats as... I am still lagging behind,” Chow told the Post, urging the “silent majority” who are sick of the filibustering in Legco to vote for him. But the pro-establishment solicitor faces one less problem than arch-rival Kwong. The Beijing-friendly camp has fielded only three slates this year, compared with six people fighting against each other on the pan-democratic side. The Civic Party's Sumly Chan Yuen-sum and the NeoDemocrats' Kwan Wing-yip have both vowed to fight until the end, despite recording only 6 per cent and 1 per cent in popularity on Thursday. When asked if he would urge voters to back Kwong in the next couple of days instead to secure the camp's majority in the constituency, Kwan's answer was a resounding “no”. “How can I help Kwong if my popularity is so low, as suggested?” he said. Chan insisted he had received positive feedback from voters and argued he was also fighting for the last seat. “I hope the voters know that, indeed, I have a chance of winning.” Kwong said he had faith in Hongkongers' wisdom. “I believe Hongkongers would vote for the candidate who has the highest chance to grab the last seat at such critical time,” he told the Post as he canvassed votes in Kwai Tsing early Tuesday. ^ top ^

Hong Kong Legislative Council election candidates go down to the wire (SCMP)
2016-09-02
1. The unpredictability of pre-election polling The record number of candidates and the entry of a band of localists mean voters have the widest ever range of choice. Two public opinion polls, by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme and the Hong Kong ­Research Association, show that the margin between many candidates in directly elected constituencies is very close. In New Territories East, where 22 lists are vying for nine seats, Thursday's HKU rolling poll showed that except for the top three – the Civic Party's Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu and the DAB's Elizabeth Quat and Gary Chan Hak-kan – the race for the 12 hopefuls immediately following them is too close to call. Scoring a popularity rating ranging from 3 per cent to 7 per cent, all 12 have an “equal chance of winning”. In New Territories West, where 20 lists are contesting nine seats, Civic Passion's Cheng Chung-tai ranked third with a 10 per cent popularity rating in Thursday's poll – but just a day earlier, the localist fell out of the race in the other poll, ranking 13th with just 2.5 per cent. The ever changing results are unsettling those shown to be at risk. The Democratic Party panicked. “We were frightened by the rolling poll results,” said party veteran Cheung Man-kwong, who is helping his colleagues' campaign “We needed to urgently spare money to place ­advertisements on public transport and in newspapers to support our candidates.” The Civic Party convened an urgent press conference urging supporters to get friends and family members to support three of its candidates whose performance slipped in the polls. “They were up high before – and then probably people thought they did not need to worry about us and decided to support other parties,” Bill Lay Yan-piau, the party's general secretary, said. 2. Lack of debate on major issues Although major political parties have their platforms, most of their ideas dissipate when they cross swords at election forums. The Democratic Party, for example, sells its track record of hard work tackling livelihood issues including the lead-in-water scandal and bid-rigging in renovation work for residential buildings. The Civic Party says a “Convention on Hong Kong ­Affairs” should be convened by the people to discuss a review of the Basic Law, cross-border livelihood issues and ideas for finding the way ahead after 2047, when the “one-country, two-systems” principle expires. The several localist groups, however, advocate different forms of self-determination. Why haven't these platforms been thoroughly discussed? The presence of too many candidates and lack of time is the main reason. With 12 to 22 candidate lists running in each geographical constituency, each team is given barely two minutes to introduce their platforms. When they have a chance to take on their competitors, they tend to go after scandals or make them state their stance on controversial issues such as ­national security legislation. If any social issues are ever discussed, retirement protection and asylum seekers usually dominate. But again, candidates ­exploit such matters to smear others rather than to delve deep into the issue. At a forum in New Territories East last week, Gary Chan Hak-kan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and Tang Ka-piu of the Federation of Trade Unions called on Hong Kong to quit the UN Convention Against Torture. They said the city's resources had been “abused” by “fake refugees” from South Asia. They then slammed Labour Party candidate Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung for supporting refugees having the right to work. Some localists share the same tendency. At another televised forum, Youngspiration's Wong Chun-kit compared his group's proposal on retirement protection with that of Labour Party veteran Lee Cheuk-yan. But stopping short of explaining its merits and demerits, the 29-year-old only wanted to attack Lee's scheme for including new immigrants from the mainland, whom in his view did not deserve the benefit. 3. Allegations and scandals Election allegations and reports on scandals have largely come from the pro-establishment Sing Tao Daily News, Headline News and Eastweek, which are all in the same media group. They first hit the information technology functional constituency, with Sing Tao charging in a front-page report that the pro-democracy Professional Teachers' Union was rigging votes. The report, citing sources, said the union had arranged for as many as 1,500 IT teachers who were education-sector voters to move to the IT sector to help pan-democrat Charles Mok's re-election bid. The case was dismissed by the Electoral Affairs Commission, which responded to state only 72 teachers had switched to the IT sector in the past four years. The union is demanding an apology from the newspaper. Another attack was on pan-democrat Kenneth Leung of the accountancy sector, who is also seeking re-election. Leung was accused by Eastweek of having had an affair with his former assistant, Crystal Chow Ching, and offering her a favourable remuneration package. Leung responded by disclosing his office expense details – including a HK$15,000 monthly salary to Chow – and referring the matter to his lawyers. The press group's latest target is Ricky Wong Wai-kay, who became a hero to opponents of Leung Chun-ying in 2013 after the chief executive's cabinet denied his HKTV the free-to-air television licence he craved. In a front page report on Thursday, Sing Tao accused the Hong Kong Island candidate of sexually assaulting a subordinate in 2012, claiming it had received a complaint letter written by the woman to the chief executive. Wong gave a categorical denial, calling the attack “political suppression”. 4. The new localist force After six independence advocates were disqualified, all eyes turned to the dozen localists who were allowed to enter the race. Except for Kowloon East's Chan Chak-to, others advocating self-determination have been ambivalent about their stance. Some were even exposed to have a flimsy understanding of their agenda. Alvin Cheng Kam-mun, a Hong Kong Island candidate, is a case in point. His Civic Passion, which is allied with Wong Yuk-man's Proletariat Political Institute and Horace Chin Wan-kan's Hong Kong Resurgence Order, has adopted Chin's idea to “sustain the Basic Law” with amendments to protect Hongkongers' rights against mainland intrusion. But the localist repeatedly struggled to explain the concept when he was grilled by rivals and even the hosts at different election forums. This week, when the host at Now TV asked him about the steps laid down in Article 159 of the Basic Law for amending the mini-constitution, Cheng replied: “We're not trying to make it happen using the current system.” The host cut him short: “If you don't want to follow the system, why do you want to sustain the Basic Law?” Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said most localists had been “evasive” on the independence issue. “They may not want to be disqualified by advocating independence, but the idea of sustaining the Basic Law seems to me full of contradictions,” Ma said. A second localist group, Youngspiration, tried to impress voters with an ambitious proposal that Hong Kong should exploit natural gas resources in an “exclusive economic zone”, a term used in international law to delineate rights to use ocean resources and which implies sovereignty. Independent candidate Clarence Ronald Leung Kam-shing asked what probably some voters had in mind: “How can you convince China to give Hong Kong the right to the zone in order to be independent from the country's energy supply?” The question left Youngspiration's Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang stuttering. 5. Rise of rural forces The tension between different rural forces in the elections has come under the spotlight in the past two weeks. Raising the curtain was Ken Chow Wing-kan, a Liberal Party candidate and a long-time district councillor who has close ties to rural elites in Yuen Long. Last week, when Chow tearfully announced he would stop electioneering due to alleged threats at an election forum, all eyes ­focused on Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, whose supporters, Chow said, had planned to “pursue” him and deter him from campaigning. There is speculation that Chow's dramatic move was designed to destabilise Ho, who had been predicted by polls to win a seat in New Territories West, a claim Chow has categorically ­denied. Rival candidate Eddie Chu Hoi-dick said Ho's rise was backed by the government. Just days before Ho announced his candidacy in July, the government named him a Justice of the Peace, a position that enables him to be an ex-officio member of the Heung Yee Kuk rural body. He said by sending Ho to the kuk, the government would have more control over the body, which has 26 members on the election committee that picks the city's leader and one in Legco. It remains to be seen whether Chow's case will hurt Ho. However, the Chow saga has benefited Chu, a social activist who has helped villagers who lost their homes to development projects backed by the government and the kuk. ^ top ^

Hong Kong election ballot papers at risk of tampering in the homes of officers (SCMP)
2016-09-01
Critics have urged the government to improve the handling of ballot papers after it emerged that the documents were being stored in the homes of polling station officers prior to the election. News agency FactWire reported on Thursday that, according to a handbook issued by the Registration and Electoral Office, officers were allowed to take ballot papers back to their homes a week before the Legislative Council election on Sunday. The news report said the ballot papers were sealed in plastic bags after being counted and would only be opened on the day of the election. A reporter from the agency also managed to enter the venue where the election material was being distributed and witnessed around a dozen officers queuing for taxis with the documents. Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at the Chinese University, said placing the ballot papers in the officers' homes increased the risk of the documents being tampered with. “And if the ballot papers are lost or stolen, it will be disastrous,” he said. “The public's trust in the government has been tumbling in the past few years. I think it's unnecessary for authorities to use measures that might make the public become even more suspicious of the integrity of election.” In future, the academic urged the government to assign more resources to ensure ballot papers are delivered directly to polling stations on the day of the election. But a presiding officer, who wished to remain anonymous, said there was no problem with the practice and it was “demoralising” to hear some calling their credibility into question. “The plastic bags are sealed with wax... If the seals are broken, they'll definitely know [the ballot papers have been tampered with],” the officer told the Post. The Registration and Electoral Office did not respond to enquiries from the Post. ^ top ^

Explained: how Hong Kong's legislative candidates are voted in (SCMP)
2016-09-01
Hong Kong's voting system is more than a simple popularity contest. Its aim is to use proportional representation to allocate seats in the Legislative Council. There are 70 seats in Legco and 35 go to candidates in the geographical constituencies. Each geographical constituency has a fixed number of seats to fill, determined by the constituency's population size. Hong Kong uses proportional representation to return its lawmakers. As there are more candidates than seats in the geographical constituencies, the election becomes like a game of musical chairs, only with more significant consequences. Two principles form the heart of Hong Kong's electoral system: quotas and remainders. The quota A quota is the number of votes divided by the number of seats available. In other words, it's the number of votes a candidate needs to receive in order to be elected. Say a million people cast their votes in a constituency called Seafront, which has five seats available. But there are 10 candidates. To get elected outright, candidates need to attain the quota. But let's say in Seafront only two candidates received more than 200,000 votes. Gem Tan was the most popular candidate, with 360,000, followed by Leon Zammel, with 205,000. Two candidates win outright: Tan and Zammel. Brangelina Kwok brought in 175,000, Kitty Chow took in 135,000 and Jacky Kwok scored 90,000. None of them reached the quota. To make sure all the seats are filled, the next process kicks in. The remainder According to the largest remainder method, if there are not enough candidates who have reached the quota to fill the available seats, another draw based on remainder is held. This process gives the second candidate on a list a chance at a seat. This time, Tan's next-listed running mate Andy Lai is in line for a seat. This is because once the top candidate on a list is elected, the remaining votes exceeding the quota – here, 160,000 – transfer to a list's number two candidate. Likewise, Zammel's next-listed running mate, Magdalene Fok, is still in the race, with a remainder tally of 5,000. The result After Tan and Zammel, three seats were left, so under the largest remainder method, the three remaining candidates with the most votes are elected. Brangelina Kwok, Andy Lai and Kitty Chow become Seafront representatives, while Jacky Kwok and Magdalene Fok have to find something else to do for the next four years. ^ top ^

Pro-establisment newspaper approved to conduct exit polls in Hong Kong election (SCMP)
2016-08-30
A pro-establishment newspaper has been approved to conduct exit polls during the Legislative Council election on Sunday, while a lack of sponsorship has force another long-time provider to scale down its survey. Sing Pao Newspaper Company is covering some 300 out of the 571 general polling stations on September 4. The newspaper, which has been plagued by debt and had its ownership repeatedly change between pro-establishment businessmen over the past decade, is one of the three organisations approved by the Registration and Electoral Office to interview voters on Sunday. “We are fielding more than 100 pollsters in different stations and different times. The results will be published only after the poll closes,” Lau Mei-yee, editor-in-chief of Sing Pao, said, adding that the paper has also conducted surveys on candidates' popularity. Meanwhile, HKU's public opinion programme, which has conducted exit polls for Legco elections since 1991, said this year it could only afford to run a “voluntary student project”, because of lacking sponsorship. “It's a pity we don't have the resources to do a full-scale survey this time,” Karie Pang Ka-lai, assistant director of the programme, said. “We don't just ask people who they vote for, but also their age and occupation, background and so on, for more academic research and analysis.” HKU will not carry out data analysis on the election day or predict election results due to the limited sample size. During the by-election in February, Hong Kong Research Association released exit poll data for free. Frank Lee, research manager of the HKU's programme, said the free service may have deterred would-be financial sponsors. Ma Ngok, a political scientist from the Chinese University, said the rules did not forbid a newspaper from conducting exit polls. “But after all, the newspaper has a political stance. I doubt the poll results would be accurate if people shun their pollsters or give them false answers,” Ma said. The newspaper raised eyebrows yesterday after it ran a full-page commentary slamming Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for allegedly encouraging Hong Kong independence when it was only a “false proposition” supported by few people. It also criticised Leung for allowing Beijing's liaison office to interfere in domestic affairs, alleging that the office might not be representative of the central government's view. Senior management of Sing Pao told the Post that putting the commentary on the front page was “a political gesture”, and the newspaper endorsed the commentator's view. But as to whether this amounted to taking a stance on the chief executive election, the source said it was too early to say. In response, Leung told the media there had been pro-independence talk in books and in schools before he raised the issue. ^ top ^

Tear gas, pepper spray in full swing at Hong Kong police riot drill to prepare for possible polls violence (SCMP)
2016-08-30
Tear gas canisters were fired and pepper spray was used to disperse mock protesters during a security drill by police yesterday to prepare for possible chaos during this Sunday's Legislative Council elections. Anti-riot weapons were in full use at the Police Tactical Unit training ground in Fanling, as 'protesters' wearing face masks and sunglasses marched towards a police cordon hurling mock bricks, the Post learned. During a simulated Mong Kok riot sequence, officers in anti-riot gear fought fire with portable extinguishers and removed mock trouble-makers who occupied a road and set fire to items. In the exercise which ended at 5.30pm yesterday, officers from the elite “blue team” were also deployed to capture ringleaders and rescue colleagues who were under attack. The team comprises officers from the force's counter-terrorism division and airport security unit. In all, more than 1,000 officers participated in the training session, which saw Deputy Commissioner of Police Alfred Chau Kwok-leung and Director of Operations Lau Yip-shing turn up to show their support. “New tactics on how to disperse a large crowd on a busy street and how to separate and capture ringleaders were tested during the drill,” one source said. He said officers also received training on how to remove people from a sit-in protest and how to process the arrests. Yesterday was the second day of the two-day security drill amid worries radical localists may disrupt the polls on Sunday. According to police, the force conducts regular training exercises to enable officers to execute duties in a professional and efficient manner. The drill follows a report by the Post last week that at least 5,000 police officers would be mobilised on Sunday. About two officers will be posted at each polling station and traffic policemen will be deployed to escort the delivery of ballot boxes to the central counting station at the AsiaWorld-Expo near the airport. Another source said initial assessment showed the risk level for violence during the election period was not high. The force is still collecting intelligence to see if anyone planned to cause trouble. It is understood police are concerned radical groups might disrupt the elections over the disqualification of some localist candidates. Officers from the force's crime wing and Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau at the Wan Chai headquarters have been deployed to monitor online forums and Facebook pages run by localist groups. Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said on Monday: “We have operation plans in place as well as sufficient officers on duty so that if there is any situation that needs to be dealt with, it can be dealt with swiftly and in an orderly manner”. ^ top ^

Balance freedom of debate with respect for law, says outgoing British consul general (SCMP)
2016-08-30
Young people should enjoy freedom of debate as long as it is done with respect for the law, the outgoing British consul general says, when she was asked to comment on the Hong Kong government warning against independence talk in schools. But Caroline Wilson treads carefully on the disqualifications of some separatist candidates from running for the legislature, noting that the matter has entered a judicial process. “I'm not going to comment on specifics – all I'll say is freedom of expression, freedom of debate and also developing a questioning approach in people's minds and, for young people, the need to learn how to differentiate different arguments” are very important, Wilson said in an interview with the South China Morning Post and two other media organisations. “Sometimes it's really important to debate things, but all has to be done with respect for the law and the broader constitutional framework in Hong Kong.” But the diplomat also reiterated that the British government had made it clear it did not support the city breaking away from China, and she felt the idea “doesn't make any sense”. Her comments came as Hong Kong officials have stated there was little room for discussing the city's independence in schools, warning teachers who do not comply could risk losing their jobs and students could be kicked out. Critics of the candidates' disqualifications have pointed to the situation in Britain, where advocates for Scottish independence are represented in the legislature. But Wilson said the situations in the two places were different, because Hong Kong had a written constitution that stated it was part of China. “As the representative of the country that signed the Joint Declaration, I support freedoms to be exercised in Hong Kong, but I also have to recognise... Hong Kong's constitutional structure.” That structure should not and does not unduly restrict rights and freedoms, and “I just think it requires an intelligent approach”, she said, but did not elaborate. Referring to the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, Wilson said “one country, two systems” had been an “unprecedented success”. China's actions over the “involuntary” removal of bookseller Lee Po to the mainland for investigations was the one single “serious breach” of the treaty so far, as recognised by the UK Parliament, she noted. “Let's hope that remains a one-off, unprecedented [breach].” Turning to her work on promoting the rights of sexual minority, Wilson said the Hong Kong government had issued a note objecting to her holding same-sex marriage ceremonies within the consulate. There were concerns that a number of Hongkongers who hold British National (Overseas) passports might get married this way, circumventing the city's legislation that disallows such unions, she noted. Wilson will leave for her home country early next month and will be working on European Union issues back home. ^ top ^

 

Macau

Macau set to host war-torn Syria's World Cup soccer qualifiers (SCMP)
2016-08-28
Macau is set to become a bit player in the tragedy of war-torn Syria, thanks to a Beijing-brokered deal which will see the world's biggest gaming destination become a temporary “home” for the country's displaced national soccer team. Next week Syria will take on South Korea in the Asian qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup at Macau's Olympic Stadium in Taipa – a venue which could not be further from the besieged city of Aleppo where they play many of their home matches. While next week's game is listed on FIFA's schedules, venues for Syria's four other “home” matches are not, but the South China Morning Post understands that a deal will be sealed for the former Portuguese enclave to become the conflict-ridden nation's adoptive soccer home for all their games in Group A, which includes China. The Macau move came after alternatives to their homeland, first Iran then Lebanon, were ruled out by footballing chiefs due to security and other concerns. A source has confirmed that with the blessing of Beijing, Macau was proposed as a venue and will almost certainly host Syria's “home” games against China, Uzbekistan, Qatar and Iran, as well as next Tuesday's match against South Korea. Mainland and Macau watcher Sonny Lo Shiu-hing, a political scientist at the Education University of Hong Kong, said the soccer switch had clear geopolitical undertones. “Beijing has traditionally used Macau, especially since its return in December 1999, as a springboard for its diplomatic relations with not only Portuguese-speaking countries but the developing world in general,” Lo said. “Macau is seen as politically stable, diplomatically useful, and economically and culturally a unique model of development for the developing world. “This goodwill gesture to Syria fits as Beijing wants to be seen as relatively independent in its foreign policy, supportive of all developing countries in the world. It is a logical move,” Lo said. Earlier this month China's military announced it would provide aid and training to the Syrian government under a deal reached between Beijing and Damascus. China has sided with Russia on UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, but Beijing has not been as directly involved in the conflict as Moscow, which has helped the Syrian government conduct air strikes on rebels. Since President Xi Jinping's visit to the Middle East at the start of the year, China has stepped up its presence to promote stability in the region, including meetings with Syrian government officials and opposition representatives. Since 2011, almost half a million people have died in the Syrian civil war and more than 4.8 million people – close to half of them children – have been displaced. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan names former foreign minister to head cross-strait agency amid strained ties with Beijing (SCMP)
2016-09-02
Taipei has named a former foreign minister as head of a cross-strait body in the hope of restoring dialogue with Beijing. But Beijing, which cut communication with the island in June, said resumption of links hinged on the “1992 consensus”. Analysts said the new chief of the semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation could do little to improve cross-strait ties without agreement on the consensus. President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party has refused to acknowledge the consensus since her inauguration in May. On Wednesday night, she named Tien Hung-mao as head of the SEF, which represents the island's government in talks with Beijing. Tien, 77, was foreign minister between 2000 and 2002 and is head of the Institute for National Policy Research. His future boss, Mainland Affairs Council chief Katharine Chang was his spokeswoman when he was foreign minister. Though he is seen as a DPP moderate, his stint at the now defunct National Unification Council set up during Lee Teng-hui's presidency in the 1990s allowed him to forge good links with Kuomintang bigwigs, including former vice-president Vincent Siew and former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng. “The government hopes to use Tien's expertise and experience to explore opportunities for Taiwanese businesses, help them solve problems and maintain cross-strait exchanges,” Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang said. But Zhang Zhijun, director of the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office, said resumption of formal communications rested on the 1992 consensus. “The key is the political basis used for talks,” Central News Agency quoted Zhang as saying. The 1992 consensus, reached by the KMT and the mainland in 1992, allows the two sides to continue to talk as long as they acknowledge there is only one China. Each can have its own definition of what China stands for. National Taiwan University political science professor Chang Ya-chung said he did not expect Tien would be able to reopen talks as long as the Taipei refused to accept the consensus. “Without the consensus, whoever heads the SEF would be unable to resume the original function of the negotiating body,” Chang said. DPP legislator Huang Wei-che said though Tien's appointment might please the hardcore pro-independence camp, he could do little more than “maintain the basic liaison function”. ^ top ^

Taiwan jails 14 people over railway sex-for-contracts scandal (SCMP)
2016-08-31
Taiwan has jailed 14 people for up to 17 years in a corruption scandal which saw railway officials accepting sex services and visits to hostess clubs in exchange for business contracts. In the biggest ever graft case to hit the state rail sector, seven Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) officials were convicted and sentenced for corruption. They were found to have received perks as a reward for helping companies secure contracts for eight rail projects worth more than NT$1.1 billion (US$34.7 million), in the past six years. A construction broker and six businessmen – including the head of a construction company and the head of a plastics company – were also jailed for up to five years for bribing officials. All were convicted and sentenced by Taichung district court in central Taiwan on Tuesday. The highest-ranking defendant was Chung Chao-hsiung, a former deputy head of the TRA, who was sentenced to 10 years and two months for accepting banquets and paid-for hostess clubs in exchange for favourable treatment. TRA official Cheng Wen-chung received the heaviest sentence after accepting more than 100 visits to hostess clubs. “Cheng was implicated in more cases than other defendants and accepted the most visits to hostess clubs,” said Chuang Shen-yuan, a spokesman for the court. “He seriously violated the civil servant's code of conduct.” TRA employee Chang Ching-tsai was jailed for 15 years for accepting paid-for sex services to help firms pass quality checks. All the defendants can appeal against their convictions. Five officials were cleared of corruption and instead were found to have committed “administrative negligence”. They were not jailed. ^ top ^

Taiwan's tussle with mainland China over ties with the Vatican and why it matters (SCMP)
2016-08-29
Mainland China's tussle with Taiwan to forge ties with the Vatican has intensified since the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took power on the island earlier this year and Beijing tries to reduce its limited number of allies around the world, according to analysts. Relations between Beijing and the Holy See were cut in 1951 after the mainland launched a crackdown on organised religion and the Vatican is Taiwan's only formal ally in Europe. Deteriorating ties between Beijing and President Tsai Ing-wen's government in Taiwan since she took office have prompted mainland China to step up efforts to poach its allies, including the Vatican, analysts said. “Under the governance of Tsai, who refused to acknowledge the '1992 consensus', mainland China will inevitably accelerate the speed in establishing relations with the Vatican,” said Liu Xiangping, the deputy director of Taiwan affairs institute at Nanjing University. The 1992 Consensus is the tacit understanding reached by Beijing and Taiwan that there is only one China, but each side can have its own interpretation of what that means. The mainland considers Taiwan to be a breakaway Chinese province that should be reunited with the rest of the nation. Mainland China has its own authorised Catholic church and it appoints bishops without the Vatican's consent. However, in a lengthy article in the diocesan publication Kung Kao Po in Hong Kong earlier this month, Cardinal John Tong Hon said the Vatican and Beijing had reached an initial agreement that the Pope would choose from a list of candidates recommended by a conference comprising bishops from the official and unauthorised Catholic churches in China. The bishops conference would only have the power to recommend candidates while the final decision would be left to the Pope. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin also appeared upbeat this month about ties with Beijing. He said there was “much hope and expectation that there will be new developments and a new season in relations with China”. Zhou Tailiang, the head of secretariat of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association in Beijing, said it would like to see any agreement with the Vatican signed swiftly. Liu Jiayan, a researcher at the Taiwan affairs institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said it was “just a matter of time” for Beijing and Vatican to establish formal diplomatic relations after a resolution on the appointment of mainland bishops was agreed. Taiwan does appear to feeling the pressure to shore up ties with the Vatican. Taiwan's Vice-President Chen Chien-jen will embark on a six-day visit to the Holy See on September 2. Chen will be accompanied by National Security Council deputy secretary-general Tseng Hou-jen, Deputy Foreign Minister Wu Chih-chung, and other officials, according to Taiwan's foreign ministry. “Chen's trip to Vatican is probably to save Taiwan's precarious ties with the Holy See,” said Zheng Zhenqing, a Taiwan affairs expert at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Lukacs Chang, a political science expert at the National Taiwan University, said that if Beijing managed to restore diplomatic ties with the Vatican the impact on Taiwan may be limited. “If the Vatican drops Taiwan in the future, the impact would be small given the limited number of Roman Catholics in Taiwan, while the symbolic meaning looms large, which can be interpreted as Taiwan losing a partner in Europe,” he said. “But Taiwanese would not blame Tsai for losing allies if she can stimulate Taiwan's economic growth.” Taiwanese would “hate Beijing more for squeezing Taiwan's international space,” he added. Taiwan's deputy foreign minister Wu said on Sunday that Taiwan should look at the dialogue between Beijing and the Vatican in a positive light and this was not a zero-sum game in which either Taipei or Beijing must lose its friendship with the Holy See. Beijing's attempts to isolate Taiwan after Tsai's election victory include it re-establishing ties with Gambia in March. Relations were suspended in 1995 after the African nation recognised Taipei.. ^ top ^

Taiwan's KMT cruises to mayoral win on anti-DPP electoral wave (SCMP)
2016-08-28
A victory by the Kuomintang in a weekend mayoral race is a small but significant win, reflecting electoral dissatisfaction with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's performance, including its cross-strait policy, an analyst says. KMT candidate Wei Chia-hsien defeated his DPP opponent Chang Mei-hui by a comfortable 17,923 votes to 13,958 in the election for mayor of Hualien on ­Saturday. Wang Kung-yi, professor of international relations and strategic studies at Tamkang University in Taiwan, said one of the major reasons for Wei's win was voter unhappiness with the policies of President Tsai Ing-wen, “including those related to cross-strait ­relations”. Tsai, from the independence-leaning DPP, was inaugurated on May 20. Wang said Hualien, on the island's east coast, was dependent on tourism and used to be a popular destination for mainland visitors. But because of Tsai's reluctance to accept the “1992 consensus” – seen by Beijing as a political basis for continued cross-strait interaction – ties with the mainland have cooled since Tsai came to office. “This has resulted in the sharp reduction of mainland tourists to Hualien and, naturally, voters are disgruntled,” Wang said. Beijing has repeatedly urged Tsai to acknowledge the consensus reached by the KMT and the mainland in 1992. The agreement allows the two sides to continue to talk with the understanding that they recognise there is only one China, but can have their own interpretation of what “China” stands for. But Tsai has said doing so would mean her government supports Beijing's “one China”, making Taiwan a mainland territory. She later offered to maintain the cross-strait status quo, hoping to keep relations across the Taiwan Strait peaceful. Opinion polls now put Tsai's popularity at less that 50 per cent compared with more than 65 per cent when she was first elected. Analysts said the DPP's defeat – the third small local government and council by-election since Tsai took office in May – was a boost to the beleaguered KMT, which lost both the presidential and parliamentary elections in January. “It wasn't a major election but... the DPP had hoped it could retain control in Hualien so it would have a better chance to win the bigger Hualien county election in 2018,” Wang said. “Having the KMT regain Hualien city would be discouraging to the DPP.” The city was controlled by the KMT until Tien Chih-hsuan, who died in May, won the post for the DPP in 2010 and again in 2014. Analysts said the KMT framed the Hualien race as a vote of confidence in Tsai's first 100 days in office to try to capitalise on her declining popularity. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China adds 7 new free trade zones (Xinhua)
2016-09-01
Chinese authorities have decided to set up seven new free trade zones across the country, bringing the total number to 11, as China looks to replicate the success of previous trials. The new FTZs will be in Liaoning, Zhejiang, Henan, Hubei, Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces as well as Chongqing municipality, according to Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng. The expansion comes three years after the launch of China's first free trade zone, in Shanghai, to test a broad range of economic reforms, including more openness to foreign investment and fewer restrictions on capital flows. In late 2014, FTZs were approved for Fujian and Guangdong provinces and Tianjin. With the addition of seven more, China is hoping to press ahead with wider reforms, while allowing the regions to tap their unique geographical and industrial advantages for further experiments. "The decision to expand the FTZs shows authorities' strong resolution in advancing reforms and opening up," Gao said. The FTZs will be launched after necessary steps are taken, Gao said, but he did not give a time frame. According to Gao, Liaoning province in Northeast China will focus on market-oriented reforms to transform the old industrial base into a more competitive area, while coastal Zhejiang is expected to explore trade liberalization for commodities.^ top ^

Preparation in progress for Shenzhen-HK stock connect (China Daily)
2016-08-28
The Shenzhen stock exchange has urged securities companies to complete all preparation work for the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect program by early November. Before the end of September, companies should develop the technical systems required for participating in operational tests, the bourse said in a recent statement. "Some securities companies have already finished technological development and will soon complete the entire preparation process," it said. All preparation should be completed by early November in order to meet requirements for the official launch of the stock connect program, the statement said. The China Securities Regulatory Commission said earlier this month that it signed a joint announcement with the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission on approving the establishment of the Shenzhen-HK Stock Connect mechanism. The formal launch will only take place after full preparation for trading and clearing rules and systems, regulatory approvals, operational and technical systems, regulatory and enforcement cooperation, as well as investor education, the commission said. A similar link between the Shanghai and Hong Kong bourses was launched in November 2014. Both schemes allow investors on the mainland and those in Hong Kong to trade selected stocks on each other's exchanges within a fixed daily quota.^ top ^

 

DPRK

North Korea denounces UN over condemnation of its missile tests (SCMP)
2016-08-30
North Korea has denounced a UN Security Council statement condemning its four latest ballistic missile launches, calling it “a hostile act” perpetrated by the United States and warning that it could precipitate America's “self-destruction.” A Foreign Ministry statement sent to UN correspondents on Monday also warned that North Korea “has substantial means capable of reducing aggression troops in the US mainland and the operational theatre in the Pacific to ashes in a moment.” A press statement approved Friday night by all 15 Security Council members, including North Korea's ally China, called the four launches in July and August “grave violations” of a ban on all ballistic missile activity. The council expressed “serious concern” that North Korea had carried out the launches after six ballistic missile firings between April and June, “in flagrant disregard” of the council's repeated demands to halt all missile launches and nuclear tests which violate UN resolutions. North Korea's Foreign Ministry accused the United States of instigating the statement and “abusing” the Security Council, to deter the country's “legitimate right to self-defense.” The ministry called the council statement “a reckless provocation harassing peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.” It accused the Security Council of deliberately disregarding a complaint sent by the North Korean government about US-South Korean military exercises currently underway. North Korea has threatened retaliation for these exercises, which it views as a rehearsal for invasion by the US and other adversaries. “This is an illegal action taken by the world body to side with the US in the acute standoff between the DPRK and the US without an iota of impartiality,” the ministry said, using the initials of the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. North Korea singled out the council's condemnation of the latest submarine launch of a ballistic missile on August 24, days after the US and South Korea began their annual military exercises. North Korea usually responds to the annual South Korea-US military drills with weapons tests and fiery warlike rhetoric. South Korean officials said the missile flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles), the longest distance achieved by the North for such a weapon. That means all of South Korea, and possibly parts of Japan, are within its striking distance. The Foreign Ministry recalled its warning to the US of military action if it criticised the submarine missile launch and “enraged people of the DPRK.” “Now that the US posed threats to the dignity and the right to existence of the DPRK defying its serious warning, it will continue to take a series of eventful action steps as a full-fledged military power,” the statement said. Acquiring the ability to launch missiles from submarines would be an alarming development because missiles fired from submerged vessels are harder to detect in advance. US Strategic Command said last week that the latest North Korean missile launch did not pose a threat to North America but that the US military “remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations.” North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons development programmes have brought heavy international sanctions down on its head, but Pyongyang says they are justified because of the threat posed by the US and South Korea. ^ top ^

China urges for restraint on DPRK's ballistic missile launch (Global Times)
2016-08-30
China on Monday called on all parties concerned to maintain restraint and remain calm over the ballistic missile launch by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) last Wednesday. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying made the remarks at a daily press briefing in response to a statement issued by the UN Security Council on Friday condemning the launch as a "grave violation of" the Pyongyang's international obligations under Security Council resolutions. "We hope all parties can refrain from doing things that may irritate others or escalate the tensions," she said, adding that the signal sent by the Security Council "needs to be comprehensive and balanced." The Security Council has adopted five resolutions -- resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) and 2270 (2016) -- to curb the DPRK's nuclear and missile programs. The latest one, adopted in March, imposes the most severe sanctions yet on the country, including an export ban and asset freeze. Stressing that China has been consistent on the Korean Peninsular nuclear issue, Hua said China would continue to support the denuclearization of the peninsula, protect peace and stability in the peninsula and support the resolution of differences via negotiation and dialogue. The DPRK on Wednesday test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine off its east coast into the sea. The launch came after the Republic of Korea and the United States began their annual military drills last Monday. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Cabinet meeting in brief (Montsame)
2016-09-01
A governmental resolution was approved at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday on re-opening the hospital for special public servants. This hospital will serve for servicemen and authorities of emergency, border protection, law enforcement as well as people from the city's Chingeltei district. - A composition of the Council of Food Safety was reapproved. This Council is chaired by the Prime Minister. - The cabinet reapproved a composition of an organizing commission for marking the 100th anniversary of Yu.Tsedenbal, a prominent political and social figure. The commission is led by head of the Cabinet Secretariat for Government. - The cabinet decided to withdraw from parliament a draft amendment to the law on rule of maintaining the law on debt management and a bill on rule of maintaining some clauses of the law on the Bank of Mongolia. ^ top ^

New heads of some authorities named (Montsame)
2016-09-01
On Wednesday's regular meeting of the cabinet, new chairpersons were appointed for some agencies. Upon the voluntary retirement of the previous chairman Sh.Lkhachinjav of the Border Protection Authority, Ts.Sergelen was appointed the chairman. B.Batkhishig was appointed the chairman of General Customs Authority, and L.Byambasuren - the chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority upon the dismissal of the acting chairman G.Nyamdavaa. Kh.Gantsogt was dismissed from the position of the State Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, in regard of his assignment to other position. ^ top ^

New vice governor appointed for Mongolbank (Montsame)
2016-09-01
On the plenary session of the State Great Khural (Parliament) of Mongolia, held Thursday, the parliament dismissed Batshugar Enkhbayar and appointed Lkhagvasuren Byadran to the position of the Vice Governor of the Bank of Mongolia, the state central bank, on September 1. Dismissal of E.Batshugar was backed with 81.2 percent approval, and the appointment of B.Lkhagvasuren was approved by 83.7 percent. The latter was born in 1965 in Ulaanbaatar, graduated the National University of Mongolia (NUM) majoring in economic planning in 1989, and defended master's degree at the University of Columbia of the USA on international economic relations. He worked as a researcher at the State Planning Commission and the Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences between 1989 and 1994, economist at the Bank of Mongolia in 1994-1998 and as the head of Monitoring Department, assistant of the Governor, head of the Department of Registry and IT, director of the Bank's training center in 2000-2013, consultant at the Northeast Asia and the Pacific Division of the World Bank between 1999-2000, and executive director of the Savings Insurance Corporation from 2013 to the present. ^ top ^

MNT 41.4 billion required for building of Tosontsengel-Uliastai road (Montsame)
2016-09-01
On the regular meeting of the cabinet on Wednesday, the affiliated ministers were given obligations to hold negotiations with the Chinese authorities on dedicating the economized financial source from the soft loan of USD 500 million, allowed from the Government of China to the Government of Mongolia, for the building of 67 km paved road connecting Tosontsengel and Uliastai of Zavkhan province. Economized balance of the soft loan totaled to USD 24.9 million. ^ top ^

Some 300 foreign reps to gather here (Montsame)
2016-09-01
The first international conference on Silk Road tourism will take place on October 13-15, 2016 in Ulaanbaatar. It is expected that some 300 delegates of foreign countries will attend the conference. The cabinet meeting held Wednesday decided to allot money of MNT 168 million and 775 thousand from the governmental reserve. ^ top ^

State Commission anticipates Day of Politically Repressed (Montsame)
2016-08-31
Mongolia observes the Day of Politically Repressed and pays tribute to the victims of false charges on September 10 of each year. In the regard, the State Commission on Rehabilitation Management called a meeting on Tuesday to discuss events, dedicated to the day. In the margin of Day of Politically Repressed, landscaping and cleaning of the surroundings of the Memorial for the Political Repression Victims, the cemetery behind Songinokhairkhan Mountain and the Stupa of Khambyn Ovoo will take place. Laying wreaths to the Memorial and cash aid to the families and children of the politically repressed are expected. ^ top ^

UB's largest district to solve lighting problems through cooperation with S.Korean engineers (Montsame)
2016-08-30
Number of households without electric power supply is greater in Songinokhairkhan than any other districts of Ulaanbaatar. The administration of Songinokhairkhan and the Korea Electrical Engineering Association established an agreement on cooperation in this matter. In accordance, the two sides will set out certain plans to resolve the lighting for these households of ger (national dwelling) -areas. The agreement will be effective for three years. ^ top ^

“Mongolia aspires to boost economic cooperation with UAE” (Montsame)
2016-08-30
Prime Minister of Mongolia J.Erdenebat said Mongolia wants to foster the economic cooperation with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) when he met Tuesday with Abdullah Abdulrahman Abdullabin Rabia Al Tinij, the UAE Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Mongolia. Saying that opening of the UAE Embassy in Mongolia is an evidence of the country to attach a great importance to its relations and cooperation with Mongolia, the Premier underlined a vital role of the Ambassador in making the bilateral ties closer. He pointed out that the government of Mongolia intends to discuss a Mongolia-UAE agreement on the economic and technical cooperation next month. In response, the Ambassador noted he is focusing attention to strengthening the bilateral relations since the opening of the Embassy here, and then asked the Premier to pay attention to a proposal on setting up the Mongolia-UAE intergovernmental commission. The Premier supported the proposal, saying that this commission will contribute to progressing the bilateral cooperation. ^ top ^

Vatican interested in taking action for development of children and vulnerable groups in Mongolia (Montsame)
2016-08-30
Mayor of Ulaanbaatar, Mr S.Batbold received Monday the Apostolic Nuncio of Vatican to Mongolia, archbishop Osvaldo Padilla. The congratulated S.Batbold for being appointed the Governor of the Capital city and conveyed the greetings of the Pope, the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. “Mongolia and Vatican has long-standing ties from the ancient times. We have the historic evidences such as letters sent by the Great Khans of Mongol”, he said and noted that he has brought a copy of the Guyeg Khan's letter to the Roman Pope, which was sent in 12th century. Although Vatican is a small state, it has strong endeavours to reach out for people in need, said the nuncio and thanked the UB City administration for enabling Vatican to do so in Mongolia. Mr Padilla expressed interest in collaborating with the city on promoting people from vulnerable groups of society, especially the disabled. Our countries have strong historic bond, highlighted the Mayor S.Batbold and noted that the diplomatic mission of Vatican, since its establishment, has been conducting various activities toward Mongolian citizens and children's development, through its 22 subsidiary bodies in Ulaanbaatar and localities. At the end of the meeting, the Mayor expressed his confidence that the cooperation will prosper in many other projects and said that “our doors will always be open” for Vatican. ^ top ^

Mongolia and China to cooperate in quarantine sphere (Montsame)
2016-08-29
Deputy Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh received Monday a delegation led by Mei Kebao, the Vice Minister of the China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (GAQSIQ), in the State House. Beginning the meeting, U.Khurelsukh noted that high-level mutual visits have been regularizing, and the bilateral relations and cooperation have widened in all spheres. The sides exchanged views on the ties and cooperation between the General Authority of Specialized Inspection of Mongolia and the China's GAQSIQ, on quarantine actions during exporting and importing of agricultural and livestock products and on transit transportation. They agreed with a necessity to make the cooperation closer in augmenting the export and import of products which satisfied the quarantine and safety standards. Within the visit here, the China's Vice Minister will sign memorandums on plant quarantine requirements for Mongolia's export of silimarina seeds to China, on quarantine for mutton, beef and goat meat, hygiene, veterinary service; and a Mongolia-China cooperation agreement on border hygiene and quarantine.  ^ top ^

 

Ms. Annina Burri
Embassy of Switzerland
 

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
 
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