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
  19-23.12.16, No. 652  
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Foreign Policy

China vows action as THAAD wins support (China Daily)
2016-12-23
Beijing reiterated that China would "resolutely" take necessary actions to protect its security interests in response to US deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in the Republic of Korea. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying made the remark Thursday in response to Michael Flynn, US president-elect Donald Trump's designated national security adviser, calling the decision to deploy THAAD an "appropriate move". "China has repeatedly expressed its serious concerns and clear opposition," Hua said. "The THAAD deployment by the US in the ROK severely undermines the regional strategic balance and the strategic and security interests of relevant regional countries including China. "It will not help preserve the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula. We hope that relevant countries can take our legitimate concerns seriously and halt the deployment." This was the first time that a senior adviser to Trump offered clear backing for THAAD. It suggests that Trump, who repeatedly hinted in the election campaign at the possibility of the US reducing its military presence overseas, would continue to pursue deployment of the THAAD antimissile system in the ROK, according to the ROK's Dong-A Ilbo newspaper. Flynn, speaking to a delegation from Seoul in Washington, said, "The Seoul-Washington alliance remains strong and firm," according to media reports. He also called for closer collaboration with Seoul to deal with nuclear and missile issues from Pyongyang, which THAAD was designed to deter. Shi Yongming, an Asia-Pacific studies researcher at the China Institute of International Relations, said THAAD support from a Trump senior adviser is meant to strengthen the trilateral intelligence alliance between US, ROK and Japan, and "build a NATO-like organization in Asia." "The US can use THAAD as a ploy to install powerful radar that can detect missile activities in China and Russia," said Shi. With the ROK and Japan signing an intelligence sharing pact last month, the US might put forward its own intelligence sharing pact and use THAAD to give itself an edge in negotiations, Shi said. Teng Jianqun, research director at China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said the goal is to use THAAD in the ROK to contain China. Last week, ROK leadership contender Moon Jae-in suggested the deployment should wait, but acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn on Wednesday called for immediate deployment of THAAD to deter the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, according to Yonhap news. In the final analysis, it will be the ROK population that will decide the fate of THAAD, which remains uncertain given the country's internal turmoil, Teng said. ^ top ^

Chinese premier stresses flood control (Xinhua)
2016-12-23
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has stressed the need for improvement in flood control and disaster prevention. In his instruction to the plenary meeting of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, Li expressed appreciation to all those participated in flood control and relief this year, which saw the most serious floods since 1998. The country should push forward reforms to disaster prevention and relief strategies, strengthen disaster surveillance and emergency management and speed up post-disaster reconstruction and building of major water projects, Li said. Vice Premier Wang Yang, head of flood control, said at the meeting that efforts should be made to accelerate water conservancy and flood control capabilities in flood-prone cities. Disaster prevention and risk reduction should be put at the forefront, Wang said, adding that China should establish early warning for rural flood and build more urban underground pipelines to avoid waterlogging. ^ top ^

'Sino-US trade frictions loom' with Trump's new pick for policy adviser (SCMP)
2016-12-23
Trade frictions between the US and China are tipped to rise with US president-elect Donald Trump choosing a strident critic of Beijing to head a new White House council on trade. On Thursday, Trump named Peter Navarro – best known for his books Death by China and Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World – to be director of trade and industry policy. Observers said the pick suggested Trump might follow through on his election pledges on trade with China. On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to label China a currency manipulator and slap a 45 per cent tariff on imports from China. Kevin Lai, Daiwa Capital Markets chief economist for Asia, said Navarro's appointment and Trump's remarks on the one-China policy pointed to more frictions between the two countries. “Trump seems to be very serious about what he pitched during the campaign,” Lai said. “A trade war is becoming more likely.” Huo Jianguo, vice-chairman of the China Society for World Trade Organisation Studies, also saw trade confrontations ahead between China and the US. Trump said Navarro, a professor at the University of California-Irvine, would play an essential role in his administration as a trade adviser. “I read one of Peter's books on America's trade problems years ago and was impressed by the clarity of his arguments and thoroughness of his research,” he said. “He has presciently documented the harms inflicted by globalism on American workers, and laid out a path forward to restore our middle class.” Navarro's appointment adds more uncertainty to Sino-US ties, with Trump questioning the ­validity of the one-China policy. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Sino-US ties would face some “complexity” in the future, People's Daily reported on Thursday. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing was concerned by Trump's policy direction. “I hope the United States and China can work together to maintain Sino-US relations, including the healthy and stable development of economic and trade ties,” she said. The Trump team has accused Beijing of manipulating the yuan, and blamed it for the US trade deficit with China, which stood at US$289 billion for the first 10 months of the year. But Fraser Howie, director of Newedge Financial in Singapore, said it was too early to conclude that a trade war was coming. “There are many issues where I think a tougher stand against China is needed. Economics is one but that does not equate to a trade war,” Howie said. Wu Xinbo, head of American studies at Shanghai's Fudan University, said Trump's key concern would be the trade deficit, and he would demand China lower tariff barriers and give US companies more market access. With Trump vowing to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, Trump would need to use bilateral engagement to exert pressure on China on issues such as labour rights, Wu said. Observers said China would find it difficult to meet US demands. “China is not ready to open up any further... I don't think China can do a lot,” Lai said. Peking University international relations professor Jia Qingguo said Navarro had been a big influence on Trump but other voices could also have an impact. “Look at how many CEOs of multinationals he has appointed in the cabinet who have extensive experience and deeper and more balanced views about world trade and the economy,”Jia said. ^ top ^

Vatican asks China for 'positive signs' to help dialogue (SCMP)
2016-12-21
The Vatican said on Tuesday it hoped China's communist government would give Catholics there “positive signs” that would help them have faith in a push by Pope Francis to heal a decades-old rift with Beijing. Catholics in mainland China are divided between those who are loyal to the pope and those who are members of a government-controlled official church. The Vatican has been seeking a compromise with Beijing on the appointment of bishops but some see that as selling out those who have remained loyal to the pope. Beijing says bishops must be appointed by the local Chinese Catholic community and refuses to accept the authority of the pope, whom it sees as the head of a foreign state that has no right to meddle in its affairs. A statement said the Vatican was “certain that all Catholics in China are waiting with trepidation for positive signals that would help them have trust in dialogue between civil authorities and the Holy See and hope for a future of unity and harmony”. In Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had always been sincere in wanting to improve relations with the Vatican and had worked hard to that end. “We are willing to meet the Vatican halfway to promote constructive dialogue so the process of improving bilateral relations can continue to make new progress,” she told a daily news briefing. The two sides have been at loggerheads since the expulsion of foreign missionaries from mainland China after the Communist Party took power in 1949. Prospects for a deal were set back this month after Lei Shiyin, a government-backed bishop excommunicated by the Vatican, participated in the ordination of new bishops. His presence angered and worried Catholics loyal to the pope. The statement, its first official comment since the incidents involving Lei, said Lei had created anxiety and unease among many Catholics and that the Vatican “shared this pain”. ^ top ^

China, UK vow to keep 'golden era' ties despite differences over Hong Kong (SCMP)
2016-12-21
China and the United Kingdom have vowed to continue their “golden era” ties, one of the diplomatic legacies of former prime minister David Cameron, despite uncertainties over the Brexit process and discord about Hong Kong. State Councillor Yang Jiechi, the most senior diplomatic adviser to President Xi Jinping, attended the eighth China-UK Strategic Dialogue in London and talked with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Yang also met Cameron's successor Theresa May at 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's official residence. May also reaffirmed in a statement her commitment to developing a “genuine strategic partnership” with China and that priorities for 2017 would be trade and investment, closer cooperation on security and other global challenges such as climate change. According to a Chinese foreign ministry statement, Yang told May that Beijing was looking forward to greater cooperation with the UK in nuclear power, high-speed railways, finance and innovation, sending a message that it wanted to trade with and invest in the UK even though it is leaving the European Union. Yang and Johnson also agreed to work more closely in support of reconstruction in Afghanistan, where UK had played the “great game” against Russia in the 19th century and this century joined the US-led war against the Taliban. While China has not been involved militarily, it is exerting growing economic influence in the war-torn country. Despite the warm words and pledges, however, differences are plain to see. The UK foreign office said in a statement after the dialogue that Yang and Johnson “exchanged views on human rights and Hong Kong, including the importance of maintaining confidence in 'one country, two systems'.” China's foreign ministry's statement, however, did not mention human rights nor Hong Kong. While Johnson tweeted that his talks with Yang were “excellent”, it was only two months ago that Beijing rebuked Johnson's comments over Hong Kong. Johnson said in a report in October that he had specific concerns about “integrity” of law enforcement in Hong Kong, which Britain handed back to China in 1997 under an arrangement where the former colony would retain a “high degree of autonomy” including its Common Law legal system. Johnson raised the issue following the disappearance of five Hong Kong residents who sold books critical of Chinese leaders. In response, China said bluntly that Johnson should mind his own business. “Hong Kong is China's domestic affair. Foreign countries have no right to interfere,” a foreign ministry spokesman said in Beijing at the time, adding the China “resolutely opposed” the British Foreign Office's “unfounded criticism” of China. The incident was just one sign of how Sino-UK relations have cooled from the sizzling moments during President Xi Jinping's state visit to UK last year when the “golden era” phrase was coined. At the time, the British government rolled out the red carpet for Communist Party chief in such an extravagant way that some blamed London for “kowtowing” to Beijing. Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, were received by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace, while Cameron and Xi dropped into a country pub for a pint with the locals. In a kind of honeymoon moment for the two nations, Britain – to Washington's displeasure – joined the Chinese-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). China picked up London as a key offshore market to issue yuan bonds, and Xi's visit was said to result in deals worth £40 billion (HK$384 billion), including the controversial Hinkley Point nuclear power plant project. The referendum result to leave the European Union, followed by a government reshuffle, has brought new uncertainties to Sino-UK relations. The newly-installed UK government under May appeared to be less zealous in being too close to Beijing. The AIIB, Beijing's creation to further its geopolitical ambition, has not made real big impact since its official launch, the offshore yuan market in London is lukewarm as the yuan continues its slide against the dollar, and the Hinkley Point project triggered heated debate within UK about foreign control over strategic resources – although May finally approved the project. The “golden era” relations were further tainted by a leaked video clip, in which Queen Elizabeth II accused Chinese officials of being “very rude” to the British ambassador during Xi's visit. And The Plough at Cadsden, the 16th-century Buckinghamshire pub where Xi and Cameron shared a drink, was reportedly sold to Chinese investors. ^ top ^

US gets drone back, but Singapore still waiting on armoured troop carriers (SCMP)
2016-12-20
China and the US have settled the seizure of a maritime drone, but Beijing's wrangle with Singapore over troop carriers held by Hong Kong drags on. The Chinese ministry of defence said on Monday there was no progress to report. Hong Kong customs discovered the “Terrex” infantry carrier vehicles aboard a civilian cargo ship going from Taiwan to Singapore on November 23 and impounded them. No formal reason has been given, but sources have said the shipping company lacked the required permits. The vehicles were used as part of a military training exercise in Taiwan, under a defence cooperation agreement with Singapore. After the seizure, Beijing said any diplomatic contact between a country and Taiwan violated the one-China principle. Song Zhongping, a military commentator for Phoenix TV, said the impasse might have been overcome already if Singapore had offered reassurances it abided by the one-China principle. China and the US came to an understanding over the maritime drone more quickly because their navies had established communication channels, Song said. The PLA snatched the US drone while it was operating in international waters less than 100km from the Philippines, citing concerns over maritime navigational safety concerns. The defence ministry said yesterday it had been returned to the US. Song said the Chinese side had made clear that any close-in reconnaissance or military surveys in waters China claimed would again be stopped. “Upon all these conditions [being met] the US drone was returned. But as for the Singaporeans, the door of communication has been open all the time but they still haven't made the call,” Song said. Hoo Tiang Boon, a foreign ­affairs expert at Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University, said the US drone case was slightly different, in that the technology involved was largely civilian and the incident occurred in international waters. Returning military vehicles would involve a complicated legal process. Hoo said a stand-off in 2010 involving a South Korean armoured vehicle in Hong Kong took 51 days to resolve. “We haven't heard much about [the latest case] recently. I believe there are talks behind the scene,” Hoo said. ^ top ^

Let's put Nobel spat behind us: a look back at China and Norway's ties (SCMP)
2016-12-20
Norway and China resumed diplomatic relations on Monday, which have been largely frozen since the 2010 award of the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power”. China cancelled meetings with Norwegian officials and denied visas to visiting dignitaries, even though Norway's government said it had no influence over the Norwegian Nobel Committee that made the award. The two sides have spent three years in talks to rebuild trust. Here we take a brief look at the history of bilateral relations between Beijing and the Scandinavian nation, which were first established during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Early years of diplomatic relations Norway has had diplomatic representation in China since 1851, when a Norwegian-Swedish Consulate General was established in Guangzhou during the 1814-1905 union between Norway and Sweden. In 1853 a vice-consulate was established in Shanghai and 10 years later Shanghai became the Consulate General and the office in Guangzhou was turned into a vice-consulate. After the union between Norway and Sweden was peacefully dissolved in 1905, Consul-General Thorvald Hansen was appointed to Shanghai was part of the first group of Norwegian envoys to be sent abroad. Under the Consulate General in Shanghai there was also a vice-consulate in Hong Kong, where Jorgen Jacob Eitzen was appointed vice-consul. China's first official visit to Norway took place in April 1906. The delegation, headed by Dai Hongci, chairman for the Imperial Court's cultural department, included a visit to Oslo as part of their tour of Europe to study Western political administration and technology. The Norwegian Embassy in Beijing dates back to 1919, when it was established as a legation. The legation was merged with the Consulate General in Shanghai in 1930 and remained so until 1954, except when it set up as an Embassy in Chongqing from 1943 to 1945. What is special about Norway and China's diplomatic and economic ties? In January 1950 Norway was among the first batch of Western countries to recognise the People's Republic of China, which had been proclaimed by Mao Zedong on October 1, 1949 following the Communist Party forces victory in the Chinese Civil War. The two nations established a formal diplomatic relationship in 1954 and exchanged ambassadors one year later. Norway was also the first country in the West to sign a cultural agreement with China in 1963. China is Norway's top trading partner in Asia, the third largest provider of goods and its fifth-largest trading partner. Beijing's main exports to Norway are ships, textiles and garments, and mechanical and electronic products. Norway's largest exports to China are crude oil, mechanical and electrical products, fertiliser, construction, mining equipment, factory and plant equipment, and salmon, as well as raw metals. The two maintained close exchanges during the first decade of the 2000s, but these were all but frozen after Liu was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010. Norway had a market share of more than 90 per cent of fresh salmon sold in China before 2010, but this had dropped to 30 per cent by mid 2014. What happened after the Nobel Peace Prize spat? The Norwegian Nobel Committee, appointed by the Norwegian parliament, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the Chinese dissident writer Liu in 2010 for his “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”. The committee said Liu was “the foremost symbol” of the struggle for human rights in China. The decision infuriated Beijing, as Liu had been sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power”. Liu was also a key leader in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Beijing quickly condemned the award, saying it could damage China-Norway relations, and summoned the Norwegian ambassador in protest. Since then, the two countries had ceased all top-level contact, and stopped negotiations over a free trade agreement started in 2008, which was almost complete before Liu was awarded the Nobel Prize. Efforts at reconciliation had mixed results in the intervening years. China boycotted Norwegian salmon and Norway expelled a Chinese doctorate student in 2015 on suspicion of espionage and cited China as a “possible source” of cyber-spying. On the other hand, Beijing approved of a decision by Norwegian statesmen to avoid meeting the Dalai Lama, another Nobel Peace Prize laureate, when the Tibetan spiritual leader visited Norway in 2014 and 2015. China considers him a separatist. In 2015 China accepted the Norway as a founding member of its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which was considered as a move to break the ice in their frozen ties. What can we expect after China and Norway have normalised ties? A great deal of work between the two nation lies ahead. But the normalisation of ties between China, the second largest economy in the world, and the Arctic nation was a win-win situation for them both, said Yan Jin, director of the Centre for European Studies at Renmin University of China. “For Norway, China is an emerging power with lots of economic and trade contributions to the world that Norway can't stand to lose,” Yan said. “For China, Norway has advantages in the energy industry, ship building, sea transportation and Arctic development – all of which are future cooperative areas between two countries.” The Norwegian government is planning additional political visits to China in spring 2017. A diverse group of business representatives will accompany the Norwegian delegation. Since 2007, China has participated as an ad hoc observer at Arctic Council meetings, allowing it to gain a better understanding of the council's work. In 2008, Beijing began officially expressing its intentions to become a permanent observer to the Arctic Council and finally got the status in May 2013. Norway has said it welcomes China as a partner to develop Arctic energy resources. It is doing business with China's China National Offshore Oil Corporation. The Arctic region could provide Beijing with shipping benefits, rich resources, polar research advantages and help Beijing's to increase its geopolitical influence in proportion to its economic power. ^ top ^

Chinese envoy calls for joint efforts to combat trafficking in persons (Xinhua)
2016-12-21
A Chinese envoy Tuesday called on the international community to fight against trafficking in persons in conflict areas and protect rights and interests of women and children in a joint endeavor. Wu Haitao, China's deputy permanent representative to the UN, made the appeal at a Security Council debate on the topic of trafficking in persons in conflict situations. Wu said with conflicts breaking out and dragging on, women and children become vulnerable groups who are subjected to violence and crime. Therefore, he noted that countries need to deepen international cooperation in areas like border control, financial regulation and judicial assistance to combat this transnational organized crime. At the debate, the Security Council adopted a resolution which asked UN member states to investigate and dismantle networks involved in trafficking in persons in areas of armed conflict. Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the council that extremist groups like the Islamic State, Boko Haram and Al Shabaab are using trafficking and sexual violence as a weapon of terror as well as an important source of revenue. He urged countries to adopt dedicated anti-trafficking laws and national action plans and consider creating law enforcement units to address this threat. ^ top ^

Duterte said to rebalance by freezing S. China Sea issue (China Daily)
2016-12-20
Analysts call Philippine president's tough talk an effort to maintain an independent stance Analysts say that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte appears to be seeking to change what they described as an unequal relationship between Washington and Manila by taking measures to improve ties with China. The latest example is his setting aside an arbitration ruling on the South China Sea, which he did over the weekend. "In the play of politics, now, I will set aside the arbitration ruling. I will not impose anything on China," Duterte said at a news conference on Saturday. Duterte praised China as having "the kindest soul of all" for providing financial assistance. "So, what do I need America for?" The arbitration case was unilaterally launched by Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, over South China Sea disputes. Duterte also expressed anger toward Washington's criticism of his anti-drug efforts, and he urged US forces to leave the Philippines. Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said on Monday that the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will fund two infrastructure projects for the Philippines, which is also a founding member of the AIIB. On Friday, the Chinese and Philippine coast guards had the first meeting of its kind, during which they established a Joint Coast Guard Committee to cooperate in areas including fighting drug trafficking and other maritime crimes, environmental protection and search and rescue operations. "This is a milestone because it opened the communication lines between the two agencies involved in the (South China Sea)," Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Armand Balilo told AFP. Xu Liping, a senior researcher of Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Duterte's remarks showed his dissatisfaction toward what he called the unequal relationship between Washington and Manila. Duterte aims to safeguard his country's core interests and maintain independent diplomacy, he said. "In Duterte's opinion, if a country has foreign armies deployed on its territory, the leaders will hardly have independence to safeguard national interests," Xu said. Li Guoqiang, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said, however, that there is unlikely to be any substantial change in the framework of the US-Philippines alliance. "Overall strategy is still based on their national interests," he said. However, Duterte's comments are "a positive sign", Li said. ^ top ^

China holds 'first ever' underwater drone symposium two days after it seizes US device (SCMP)
2016-12-19
China's first-ever national technology symposium on underwater drone research and uses was held on Saturday – only two days after a Chinese Navy warship seized an underwater drone deployed by an American oceanographic vessel in international waters in the South China Sea. While the two incidents are not directly related, the gathering of more than 100 experts, organised by the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Shenyang Institute of Automation – one of the country's leading organisations involved in using the technology – shows China's growing interest in the field. A statement on the Shenyang institute's website said the symposium was attended by top underwater drone technology experts from China's State Oceanic Administration and other 31 institutions. The experts reached a consensus at the meeting that China should set up a nationwide underwater drone research organisation to share technology, resources, data and experiences. There was an “urgent need” for domestic research institutions, manufacturers and clients to improve their cooperation to ensure the development of underwater drone research was coordinated, the statement said. “Underwater drones are one of the most promising hi-technologies in marine observation,” Yu Haibin, director of the institute, was quoted as saying. “It can be widely used in marine science, marine environment and marine security.” Hu Dunxin, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the nation's use of underwater drone technology was mature but the authorities should develop the industry further so that it could be put to even greater use. The Shenyang Institute of Automation, which was already carrying underwater drone research, had developed a series of drone models that could operate at depths of between 300 metres and 7,000 metres, the statement said. A Chinese Navy warship seized the underwater drone deployed by an American oceanographic vessel in international waters in the South China Sea on December 15, just as the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic survey ship, was about to retrieve in waters off the Philippines. The US lodged a protest and demanded the return of the drone, which it said was “unlawfully” taken and was an unclassified ocean glider used to gather data on salinity. Beijing insisted the seizure was legitimate, and said the drone might interfere with navigation and the safety of ­personnel. It is expected to demand that the US scales back its ­surveillance in the South China Sea when it hands the drone back. ^ top ^

How a gold mining deal in Africa inflamed hostility toward Chinese (SCMP)
2016-12-19
The mine had not yet opened but Madagascans were already seething with rage. The Chinese management finally quit Soamahamanina, leaving behind empty tents and cigarette butts. For months, this small city in central Madagascar was engulfed by protests targeting a Chinese gold mining company, Jiuxing. Every Thursday, city residents would take to the streets in downtown Soamahamanina to demonstrate against Jiuxing, which had secured a 40-year gold mining licence on a 7,500-hectare piece of land. For the protesters, the mining operation risked ruining their farms – one element of a nationwide aversion to the new wave of Chinese investors on the large Indian Ocean island. Not just in Soamahamanina but across the country, Madagascans have openly expressed their hostility towards the growing presence of China, the country's largest trading partner. “Forty years of operation – that is called selling the country,” said Marise-Edine, a street vendor. Some anti-Chinese sentiment is on the rise in Africa as Beijing increases its business presence on the continent for natural resources while flooding the markets with Made in China goods. “Madagascar belongs to the Madagascans, not the Chinese or any other foreigners,” said Fenohasina, a local student. Many farmers who were eager to take advantage of the windfall and had agreed to sell their land to the Chinese miner, are now regretting it. “Our compatriots are angry with us and accuse us of selling away the country,” said farmer Perline Razafiarisoa. But a local worker at Jiuxing blames the hostilities on politics. “It's people from outside who are encouraging people here to dislike the Chinese,” said Chrysostome Rakotondrazafy, a Jiuxing Mines foreman. “There is political manipulation behind all this.” Buckling under the weight of the relentless protests, the Chinese mining workers had little choice but to pack their bags and leave in October. “As a company we think we have the right to stay but for the sake of social appeasement, we chose to withdraw,” said Stella Andriamamonjy, the mine's spokeswoman. “We hope to return under new terms [and] repair past mistakes.” For the locals in Soamahamanina, the return of the Chinese would not be welcome. “I would like to tell our leaders that the big powers in this world are only turning us against each other to destroy our country,” warned resident Marie Rasoloson. With more that 800 companies now on the island, China has rapidly established itself as Madagascar's largest trading partner. In a country where 90 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, such investment has given an unexpected boost to infrastructure development. But, as elsewhere on the African continent, the mass arrival of Chinese investors has created tensions. In 2011, police stepped in to prevent riots in the Chinatown section of the capital Antananarivo after an Asian trader beat up his two Madagascan employees. Three years later, clashes over wage demands left six people dead at a “Chinese” sugar factory in western Morondava town. The Chinese embassy has warned the authorities in Madagascar against tarnishing its image as an investment destination. The government is concerned at the growing hostilities towards its powerful partner. “It is essential to prevent this from degenerating into xenophobia,” said the ruling HVM party leader Rivo Rakotovao. Officially launching a Chinese-built road recently, President Hery Rajaonarimampianina praised Beijing's “helping hand”. Chinese ambassador Yang Xiaorong promised to strengthen the “win-win cooperation” between the two countries. “Chinese companies are well integrated into the local community,” said the embassy, adding that 90 per cent of the 17,000 jobs created so far are occupied by locals. ^ top ^

China supports UN sending observers to Syria's Aleppo (Xinhua)
2016-12-19
China on Monday said it supports a new draft resolution aimed at sending UN observers to monitor evacuations from besieged parts of Syria's war-torn Aleppo. The UN Security Council Sunday held closed-door consultations on sending observers to monitor evacuations and to report on the protection of civilians inside Aleppo. A vote on the France-drafted resolution is expected Monday night. China has an eye on the humanitarian situation in Syria and supports the UN's coordinator role in assistance efforts, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a daily press briefing. "All parties have preliminarily reached an agreement on the draft," Hua said, adding that China hopes UN Security Council members will work together and ensure passage of the resolution on the basis of consensus. China has participated in consultations in a constructive way and maintained a just and objective stance to promote Security Council members to work in the same direction and garner consensus, Hua said. Security Council resolution 2254 is fundamental for easing the tension in Syria, according to Hua. "China will continuously take an active role in the political settlement process in Syria and make constructive contributions to peace and stability in Syria," Hua added. Once Syria's commercial hub, Aleppo has been divided roughly in two since 2012, with western parts under government control and eastern districts held by rebels. The situation in Aleppo has deteriorated rapidly after a truce accord collapsed in September. According to the UN, tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped in Aleppo and are subjected to air strikes. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Wrongfully convicted men declared innocent, freed (China Daily)
2016-12-23
Jiangxi High Court found that the facts of the case were unclear and evidence was insufficient After staying behind bars for more than a decade for homicide, four men in Jiangxi province were declared innocent on Thursday, the latest case of a wrongful conviction being corrected in the country. The Jiangxi High People's Court withdrew all previous verdicts on Huang Zhiqiang, Fang Chunping, Cheng Fagen and Cheng Lihe as the court found the facts of the case were unclear and evidence was insufficient. The court also said in a statement that the four might have been forced or tricked into making confessions, which resulted in the previous verdicts. The four were sentenced to death at a local court in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, in July 2003 in connection with the murder of a man, as well as the rape, murder and dismemberment of a woman. They appealed, and the Jiangxi High People's Court in May 2006 changed the punishment to death with a two-year reprieve, a sentence usually commuted to life in jail. The latest retrial was conducted on Nov 30 after repeated appeals from their families. After the final verdict, Xia Keqin, deputy head of the court, made a face-to-face apology to the four men and informed them of their right to claim State compensation. Zhang Weiyu, the lawyer representing Fang, said the four were released on Thursday and united with their families. A court statement released after the verdict said: "As a judicial organ, courts should learn a lesson from the case." The concept of protecting human rights should be enhanced, the principle of evidence should be upheld, checks and balances should be strengthened among judiciary departments, and a quick response and correction of wrong rulings should be carried out, it said. Liu Weidong, deputy head of the Jiangxi Lawyers Association, said the overturning of the case will facilitate judicial progress across the nation and reinforce the credibility and authority of judicial departments. "The protection of human rights should be prioritized in the process of clamping down on crimes," he said. The authenticity, correlation and legitimacy of evidence are the key to a court ruling, Liu said, adding that no doubtful evidence should be used in a ruling, nor should a verdict be made without solid evidence. Chinese media reported that the original ruling cited a police probe that said the four had confessed to the crime, but the men later said they were tortured into confessing. In the latest retrial, the court ruled that based on new evidence, including forensic examinations, the confessions lacked legitimate grounds. On Dec 2, the Supreme People's Court, the top court, exonerated Nie Shubin, a young man from North China's Hebei province, who was wrongfully executed 21 years ago for rape and murder. ^ top ^

Major centers look for ways to cure 'big city disease' (China Daily)
2016-12-23
Unbalanced urban and rural development is driving up the populations of China's largest cities and resulting in a lack of basic amenities and social services. Du Juan reports. Editor's note: This is the last in a series of special reports looking at the effects of hukou, China's household registration system, on the lives of ordinary citizens who have left their homes to work in other areas and regions. This week's pollution red alert in Beijing and many other large cities not only aroused public concern about air quality, but also drew attention to what has become known as "big city disease", a key urban issue the government has attempted to address in recent years. This "disease" - environmental pollution, traffic congestion and a shortage of public services, including education and medical care - has been caused by the rapid rise in the populations of megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai. Major centers look for ways to cure 'big city disease' In part, the problem is the result of the unbalanced allocation of resources between rural and urban centers, which has caused economic disparities and prompted people to rush to the largest cities in search of work, banking on more opportunities and fairer systems of resource allocation. Every Chinese citizen must be registered with their local public security department at birth. However, there are two types of hukou, or household registration - rural and urban - which are accorded different rights. Traditionally it has been hard to change classification. In October, the State Council, China's Cabinet, announced a plan to narrow the gap between urban and rural areas and promote better-balanced development by lifting the requirements on people with rural hukou who want to settle in cities. The plan encourages rural people who are able to work and live without the aid of government subsidies to register in cities and change their hukou status to "urban". The objective is clear: By the end of 2020, about 45 percent of the population should be living in urban areas, according to the central government. That will mean that during every year of the 13th Five-Year-Plan period (2016-2020) as many as 13 million rural households will have to become registered urban citizens. ^ top ^

China rights website founder arrested for leaking state secrets, says Amnesty (SCMP)
2016-12-22
The founder of one of China's few websites dedicated to reporting human rights abuses has been formally arrested for leaking state secrets, Amnesty International said on Thursday – the latest blow in a broad crackdown on activists. Huang Qi ran the website “64 Tianwang”, named in part for the bloody June 4, 1989, crackdown on Tiananmen Square protesters, for nearly two decades. Its headlines – such as “Village officials stab campaigner” and “Gangsters detain protester” – are rarely seen in ordinary Chinese media, and the content is blocked on the mainland. The site was awarded the Reporters Without Borders (RSF)-TV5 Monde Press Freedom Prize in early November. Twelve years ago, Huang received RSF's “Cyber-Dissident Prize”. Just weeks after receiving the most recent prize, Huang was detained by police in his hometown of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, according to Amnesty, in his third detention this year. Last Friday, his family received official notice that he had been formally arrested for leaking state secrets to overseas entities, the campaign group said. It remained unclear whether Huang had access to a lawyer, Amnesty China researcher Patrick Poon said, stating that Huang was “at risk of torture and other mistreatment”. “He may have been targeted because of the international attention he and his website received” from the prize, Poon said. Huang's arrest might also be intended as a warning to websites chronicling grassroots activism in advance of a controversial new law set to impose restrictions on foreign NGOs operating in mainland China, which will come into force in January. The law gives police wide-ranging powers over overseas charities and bans them from recruiting members or raising funds in the country. “I'm quite worried that the government is trying to send a signal to organisations that they believe to have foreign links,” Poon said, noting that authorities detained Liu Feiyue, the founder of the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch website, around the same time as Huang. President Xi Jinping has overseen a wide-ranging clampdown on civil society since assuming power in 2012. But Huang's struggles to continue his work date even further back. In 2000, he was jailed for five years, the first ever Chinese “cyber-dissident” to be imprisoned for online activism. He was imprisoned for a further three years in 2009 for reporting on low-quality school buildings that collapsed in a massive earthquake the previous year in Sichuan, claiming 87,000 lives. He had been physically abused while in jail, Huang said during an interview last year, but stated that he nevertheless felt that authorities now appreciated his coverage, as the exposure of injustices committed by local officials dovetailed with an anti-corruption campaign also launched under Xi. “The top levels of government no longer think of me as a threat,” he said at the time. “They even see me as useful, because I expose a lot of cases that they don't know about.” ^ top ^

Xi says people first in seeking economic growth (Xinhua)
2016-12-22
China should stick to its people-centered development philosophy and address people's common concerns in promoting economic growth, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Wednesday at a meeting. "The fundamental goal of maintaining growth pace and promoting economic development is to seek proper solutions to prominent issues of people's common concerns," Xi said at the 14th meeting of the Central Leading Group on Finance and Economic Affairs. The meeting reviewed progress in 165 major projects outlined in the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) and discussed some major projects concerning people's livelihoods, according to a statement released after the meeting. Winter heating using clean energy is one of them, as the country still relies heavily on coal as a major energy source. "Promoting clean winter heating in northern areas has a bearing on people's warmth in north China and also on whether the number of smoggy days can drop," according to Xi, who heads the central leading group. A large part of north China has been under heavy smog since last weekend, with more than 20 cities on red alerts, the highest level in a four-tier warning system. Natural gas and electricity can be substitutes for coal in heating buildings in north China, Xi said. Clean energy should be used as much as possible and supply a larger share of winter heating, Xi said, adding that the government will give enterprises a major role in the process to ensure heating is affordable. Xi also said that regulating the housing rental market and curbing property bubbles are two major projects serving Chinese people's residential needs. The country should accurately understand the residential feature of housing and form a housing mechanism that serves both purchase and rental purposes and meets housing demands of a new urban population, he said. The market will play the leading role in catering to multilayered demand, while the government will take care of basic housing demand. China will take a varied approach to regulating the property market, adopting financial, fiscal, tax, land and regulation measures to build a long-term housing mechanism that provides housing for all people, according to Xi. China will roll out garbage classification nationwide to improve people's living environment, Xi said. The country should emphasize classification in garbage collection, transportation and treatment, and strive to raise the coverage of the system. The country will also raise the service quality at nursing homes for the aged and reinforce supervision over food safety, according to Xi. Members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli also attended the meeting, together with other central and local government officials. ^ top ^

Work safety in China faces severe situation, despite progress: report (Xinhua)
2016-12-22
Although legislation has improved China's work safety record, the situation remains dire, due partly to insufficient supervision, a report said Wednesday. The report on the implementation of The Work Safety Law by the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee was submitted to the top legislature at its bi-monthly session. Delivering the report, Zhang Ping, vice chairman of the committee, told a plenary session that accidents at work had dropped from just over a million in 2002 to less than 300,000 in 2015, with casualties in the same period reduced by more than half from 139,000 to 66,000. The 2002 Work Safety Law was revised in 2014 with more clearly defined areas of accountability. Governments at all levels have worked harder to ensure the law is enforced since a State Council inspection system was established, and lessons have been learned from some major accidents. As of October, 645 persons had found themselves in court this year as a result of work safety accidents and 1,483 more had received party or administrative penalties. In 2015, there were 38 extremely serious or serious accidents -- those involving more than 10 deaths or direct losses over 50 million yuan -- with almost 300 casualties. Inspectors found some businesses lacking the awareness of work safety, with outdated equipment and indifferent management. Responsibilities of authorities are still not clear, and some sectors, such as offshore oil production, lack supervision entirely. Regulations and standards are out of date, and even conflicting, according to the report. Regulation lags far behind the development of production techniques. Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, attended the meeting. ^ top ^

Quick fixes, empty promises and breathtaking inaction: how China has responded to its smog problem (SCMP)
2016-12-21
Dismissing use of masks during the ­ 2008 Olympics In August, 2008 when four cyclists from the US Olympic team were spotted in Beijing wearing black masks, state media and government officials branded the act as an insult to China. Du Shaozhong, the then spokesman for Beijing's environmental protection bureau, said it was unnecessary to take masks to China. “[You] just added a bit of weight to your luggage. You won't find it useful,” Du said. Amid huge pressure from the Chinese public, the four athletes were forced to “write an apology” to the Beijing Olympics organising committee. Attacking the US embassy for releasing air quality data The US embassy in Beijing started to monitor air quality in 2008, using PM 2.5 particulates as an indicator. It later began releasing the data to the public before the concept was known on the mainlan. The information attracted growing international and domestic attention, as the country's air quality continued to worsen. Interest hit a peak with a particularly bad reading in Beijing in late 2010. The releases angered the central government, culminating on World Environment Day in June 2012 with the then vice-minister of environmental protection, Wu Xiaoqing, saying the US embassy's data was “technically inaccurate” and the practise violated international law. A few days later, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said the US embassy was not qualified to monitor air quality and was “irresponsible” in doing so. The US embassy resisted the opposition and continued publishing air quality data. Putting a size on an elephant too big to hide As the smog has worsened, many urban residents have stocked up on air filters and started using mobile apps to track air quality data sourced from the US embassy. Municipal authorities in Beijing began publishing their own PM2.5 data in January 2012, although the readings have often been lower than the US embassy's figures. In his annual work report in March 2013, then premier Wen Jiabao said the government would revise its air quality monitoring rules to measure PM2.5, officially recognising the problem for the first time. For many mainlanders, checking PM2.5 levels has become as important as checking the daily temperature. Promising quick fixes and to “chop off my head” In September 2013, the State Council published a grand action plan, vowing to achieve “a noticeable improvement in air quality” in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei zone, and the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas within five years. Local governments also made similar promises. In early 2014, Hebei forced municipal governments to promise that air quality would improve in three years and do so “significantly” in five years. On Monday, levels of PM2.5 in the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang went past 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre. The World Health Organisation recommends an annual average of no more than 10 micrograms per cubic metre. The Beijing municipal government earmarked 760 billion yuan (HK$850 billion) in 2014 to clean up the air. Then mayor Wang Anshun was widely quoted as saying Beijing would clear the air by 2017 or he would “chop my head off”. Wang resigned as Beijing's mayor two months ago. Many authorities opt for quick fixes if air quality turns really bad. In the latest red alert in the country's north, private cars can only be driven on alternate days, children have been advised not to go to school, and some factories have been ordered to stop work. Engineering politically correct blue skies While the central government has had little success in curbing pollution across the country, its heavy-handed tactics – from shutting factories to stopping construction – have ensured blue skies for key political events, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing in 2014 and the G20 leaders' summit in Hangzhou this year. But some mainland research suggests that these quick-fix blue skies are usually followed by a plunge in air quality – often worse than before. Allowing jokes but no questioning or protests The persistent smog has clouded public trust in government pledges. Jokes about the pollution have mushroomed online but the government has censored serious questioning of public policy on the issue. A documentary by former CCTV reporter Chai Jing was viewed millions of times online in early 2015, only to be pulled from websites. Earlier this month, police in Chengdu stepped up security amid mounting public complaints about smog, after briefly taking away eight mask-wearing protesters for questioning. The demonstrators were artists staging a brief sit-in after a mass protest over the pollution planned for the weekend was snuffed out by police before it started. ^ top ^

General public have their say on government (Xinhua)
2016-12-20
From this Tuesday, Gov.cn, in cooperation with 21 online media outlets, is seeking suggestions on how to make the government work more efficient. It is the third year that Gov.cn, an online platform of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, has invited the general public to give their advice on the government work report. Suggestions will be collected on 15 different topics, including streamlining administrative procedures, pensions and medical services. Useful opinions and suggestions will be sent to the leaders of the State Council and the drafting team putting together the government work report. After running a similar exercise, some content in the Report on the Work of the Government in 2016 strongly reflected netizens' suggestions. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also took the opportunity to answer questions raised by netizens about building a nationwide network for basic medical insurance at a press conference at the conclusion of this year's annual parliamentary session. Relevant government departments also responded to suggestions submitted by netizens to the premier, including the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the State Administration of Taxation. Other online media involved include People.com.cn, Xinhuanet.com, CCTV.com, Chinadaily.com.cn, Gmw.com, QQ.com, 163.com, Sohu.com, ifeng.com, Toutiao.com, Yidianzixun.com, Sina Weibo and Wechat. Several Chinese and English websites of ministries and local governments are also taking part in this activity. This activity will last until the end of next year's "Two Sessions". ^ top ^

Chinese lawmakers consider supervisory system reform (Xinhua)
2016-12-19
Chinese top legislature on Monday deliberated a draft decision on piloting supervisory system reform in Beijing and the provinces of Shanxi and Zhejiang. The draft was submitted for review by legislators at the bimonthly session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, which runs from Monday to Sunday. According to the draft, new supervision committees will be established in the three areas to produce an integrated supervision system that will be more authoritative and efficient. The new supervision committee will integrate the supervision departments, the corruption prevention department, as well as People's Procuratorate departments for handling bribery and dereliction of duty cases or prevention of duty-related crimes, according to the draft. All public servants that exercise public power will be supervised by the new committee, the draft says. It confers on the committee the power to supervise, investigate and hand out punishment. Explaining the draft to lawmakers, Li Jianguo, vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, said deepening supervisory system reform is a major issue in the country's political life and is of great and far-reaching importance for strengthening the Party's leadership, deepening reform and advancing rule of law. ^ top ^

Former HK chief Tung lays out the case for consultative democracy, Chinese style (SCMP)
2016-12-19
Former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa leapt to the defence of the Chinese style “consultative democratic system” ­yesterday, saying competitive elections were not the sole yardstick for democracy and could create divisions. Addressing a forum on China's social and political system organised by the Our Hong Kong Foundation, a think tank he established, Tung, 79, warned that competitive elections could trigger conflicts between various groups, races, religions or peoples, or lead to confrontation between the rich and the poor. That could result in clashes ­between different camps or even divisions in a country in the absence of a shared conviction and sense of national identity. “We have no intention to deny the importance of democracy, but when we take competitive elections as the key part of, or even the only measurement for, democracy, the judgment itself will undoubtedly be an erroneous one,” Tung said. Tung's comments come three months ahead of the election for Hong Kong's next chief executive. He declined to comment on Beijing's response to Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah's resignation or whether he would support a bid for the top job by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. In contrast to the universal suffrage, separation of powers and a multi-party system of “Western-style” democracy, President Xi Jinping has tried to promote “consultative democracy” – or a system of consultative conferences – to foster public consensus. Tung, vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said the value of a system of government should be judged by its benefits to the country and its people, especially whether it enabled people to lead a stable, comfortable and prosperous life. Tung said India, which adopted the Western parliamentary system, had a per capita GDP that was only one-fifth of that of China's, even though both countries embarked on development programmes in the mid-1980s. Hong Kong-based veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Tung had delivered an ­accurate account of the views of Beijing's leaders on elections. “For decades, Beijing has regarded competition as something controllable,” Lau said. “It is, after all, progress for the central authority when it allows competitive elections, although it rules out competition playing a major part in the election. Of course, this kind of practice has nothing to do with free elections in a real sense.” Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok said there was no point calling a political system “democratic” when it was rarely adopted by the rest of the world. “Why doesn't Tung quote North Korea as an example?” he said. He said South Africa managed to settle racial conflicts when it came to democracy and abolished its decades-long notorious apartheid system, after years of negotiations. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping's chance to cement power at Politburo's top table (SCMP)
2016-12-19
A question at a press conference three months before the Communist Party's 18th national congress in 2012 caught a spokesman for the party's Organisation Department off guard. “How many people are there in the next Politburo Standing Committee?” an American journalist asked. The spokesman for the department, which oversees the party's apparatchiks, could only reply: “I don't know.” In fact, before the members of the new Politburo Standing Committee, the party's top decision-making body, walked onto the stage at the conclusion of the five-yearly party meeting to pose for pictures, the world was as clueless about their identity as it was about their number. Analysts said the five-yearly reshuffle at the top of the party looming late next year, centred around its 19th national congress, would present a good opportunity for party general secretary Xi Jinping to consolidate his power by reducing the Politburo Standing Committee membership from seven to five. Fluctuations in the size of the Politburo Standing Committee are important because the numbers game can decide which faction has the upper hand at the pinnacle of power and thus significantly affect top-level decision making – even for Xi, who was anointed “the core” of the party's leadership in October. If there is no change to the size of Politburo Standing Committee or the retirement age for its members next year, five seats will be up for grabs, with all the incumbent members – except for President Xi and Premier Li Keqiang – having reached the unofficial retirement age of 68. While the list of candidates for elevation to the Politburo Standing Committee is not released publicly, it is possible to narrow down the pool of contenders, based on the party's top-level retirement rules and the claims of hundreds of officials of ministerial level or above, especially those with more convincing portfolios of work. However, the size of the Politburo Standing Committee is more unpredictable, with the number of seats swinging between three and 11 since 1927, when it was first formed. The Politburo Standing Committee has not always been the party's supreme body. It was replaced by the Central Secretariat between 1934 and 1956 before making a comeback in the decade before the Cultural Revolution. Then it was sidelined for another decade from 1966 after then party leader Mao Zedong unleashed the Cultural Revolution, a destructive decade of political and social upheaval. Technically, it only gained exclusive decision-making power in 1992, when then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping disbanded the Central Advisory Commission, a body comprised of influential, retired party elders, which previously had the final say on key decisions. But party elders still retain varying levels of non-institutional influence, depending on their personal power. While moving the Politburo Standing Committee up or down in the party's chain of command was possible under Mao and Deng, Ding Xueliang, a professor of Chinese politics at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said leaders since Deng could only content themselves with tinkering with its scale. “In the early years, Mao had influence on decision making by bringing people from his camp to enlarged meetings,” Ding said. “Jiang [Zemin] did the same thing when he could not kick out people already in the Politburo Standing Committee. He simply enlarged it and installed his own people.” When Jiang stepped down as party general secretary in 2012, the Politburo Standing Committee was expanded from seven members to nine – more than half of them Jiang allies or proteges – it what was seen as an effort to undermine the power of new party boss Hu Jintao. When Xi succeeded Hu at the party's 18th national congress in 2012, the number of Politburo Standing Committee members was altered again, being trimmed back to seven. Both changes – the increase and the decrease in the size of the Politburo Standing Committee – took place during decennial changes at the very top of the party hierarchy, marked by the succession of a new general secretary. Its size has tended to be stable at other times. But while next year's 19th national congress will not see a change at the very top, the fact that up to five of the Politburo Standing Committee members could be forced into retirement by informal age limits – plus Xi's increasing dominance – has some people speculating that the number of seats could be reduced. The conventions governing the composition of the Politburo Standing Committee could be easily bent, as there had never been clear, formal rules, said Kerry Brown, director of the Lau China Institute at King's College in London. “For all these rules, about retirement ages and sizes of committees, nothing is written down,” Brown said. ”It will be a simple calculation under the Xi leadership, which has shown itself to be highly tactical and political, of what sort of arrangements will help this leadership achieve its main goals. “The priority now is to deliver, and rules that help in this will be observed, while those that don't won't be.” Bo Zhiyue, director of the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre at Victoria University of Wellington, said cutting the number of Politburo Standing Committee members to five would work in Xi's favour because it would concentrate his power. “The future composition of the Politburo Standing Committee might work against Xi,” Bo said. “The next echelon of cadres waiting to enter was arranged by others. They do not have backgrounds close to Xi.” Xi's proteges were relatively junior at the moment, Bo said, making it difficult for Xi to promote them to the Politburo Standing Committee directly, but elevating them to the wider Politburo was possible. “There is a theory of queuing in the party: if I'm ahead in the line, there has to an explanation if I'm not promoted first,” he said. The queueing convention originated in the Deng era and was a reaction to the meteoric promotion of left-wing fanatics in the last days of Mao's reign. Deng said “good seeds shall be promoted stair by stair”. Being able to muster a majority in the Politburo Standing Committee is important as the secretive body is supposed operate as a consensus-driven collective leadership, with the party general secretary only “first among equals”. Jiang was quoted as saying on more than one occasion that “we are a team and as the team leader I only have one vote too,” according to his officially endorsed biography, The Man Who Changed China. Reducing the size of the Politburo Standing Committee would make it easier for Xi to win majority support, said Professor Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at SOAS University of London. “Reducing it to five will mean that he is likely to have a clear majority of supporters – he would only need two allies to have a majority,” Tsang said. “But getting there is the tricky bit. The establishment as a whole will fight tooth and nail to resist this, if this were Xi's plan.” But Tsang said such discussion was largely speculative at the moment. “As politicians say, a week is a long time in politics,” he said. “A year in advance is eternity. Who knows what will happen a year from now.” ^ top ^

How China's highly censored WeChat and Weibo fight fake news... and other controversial content (SCMP)
2016-12-16
Facebook on Thursday rolled out new features to help combat a rash of fake stories being shared on its news feed, following fierce debate around the world's largest social network's role in spreading false information. The new features, available for the time being only to select users in the United States, add options for readers and third-party fact checkers to flag suspect articles and tweak Facebook's algorithms, and provide more restrictions on advertising. Such features aren't new to China's internet users. In China, where online content has for years been subject to strict controls, Chinese social networks have developed sophisticated systems to combat what authorities describe as “online rumours”. We look at some of the ways China's social media sites tackle false information being shared across a vast country with 700 million internet users. How does Weibo, China's version of Twitter, address fake news? Similar to the new function unveiled by Facebook, Weibo users can report a hoax by clicking the upper right hand corner of a post. A team at Weibo will then examine the post if it has been reposted for more than 100 times or has been reported by more than 10 users. Posts that are “obviously untrue” will be marked as such. In some cases, those who are for and against the content are allowed 24 hours to submit evidence, during which the post is marked as “under debate”. An “expert committee” later makes a final decision on the post's truthfulness based on the evidence. Users who post false rumours will be banned from posting for up to 30 days depending on the number of reposts. An account will be suspended if a user posts fake content five or more times in a three-month period. Every Weibo user has a credibility score and points are deducted if the user posts rumours, or abuses or harasses other users. Accounts are marked as “not credible” for having a low score and users can be banned. What about the instant-messaging app WeChat? WeChat users can report other users for sharing false information by clicking a button on the profile page. They can also report an entire chat group for harassment or gambling. Users can also report suspect articles and websites shared by their friends on WeChat Moments. The reports are then examined by employees at Wechat. The platform keeps a database of fake news, so similar content can be blocked automatically if reposted in the future. Last year, a security officer at WeChat said the platform receives more than 30,000 fake news reports a day, and an average of 2.1 million false rumour posts were blocked by the system every day, according to the Southern Metropolis Daily. In November, WeChat public channel News Breakfast was banned from posting for seven days after reports from users that it was publishing fake news. One article flagged as being misleading claimed some cheap roast duck on the market was from sick ducks and contained hazardous chemicals, according to a statement from WeChat. How do these efforts differ from those taken by Facebook? China imposes strict control on online speech and internet companies work hand-in-hand with the government to address fake news. In May, for example, Weibo and the Ministry of Public Security jointly launched a national online platform to combat rumours. Employees at Weibo filter and group the reports from users and send them to China's internet police for examination. After false information is identified, the police will inform the public through their Weibo accounts. They can also take legal action to punish the publishers if the fake information has caused “serious consequences”. Local internet authorities also frequently shut down WeChat public channels that they say have been used to spread false rumours. In 2013, China's top court said people would be charged with defamation if false rumours they shared online were viewed by 5,000 internet users or reposted more than 500 times. Is it only fake news? Social media users must follow the “nine don'ts and seven bottom lines” set out in China's internet regulations. According to the regulation, websites may not carry any content that hurts national unity, provokes ethnic tension or promotes superstition. The government often cites the regulation in cracking down on online dissidence. In October 2016, internet watchdogs and mainland websites recorded 2.56 million “effective reports” on illegal information, official data showed. About 60 per cent of the reports were about obscene content, and 13.1 per cent were “politically harmful information”. China's powerful internet censors also keep a close eye on everything that is published online, even content that has not been reported as suspect. Authorities remove large numbers of articles and websites from cyberspace every year without informing the publishers or readers. ^ top ^

Non-communist party convenes plenary session (Xinhua)
2016-12-16
China National Democratic Construction Association (CNDCA), one of China's non-communist political parties, opened the fifth plenary session of its 10th Central Committee on Friday. When summarizing its work in 2016, Chen Changzhi, CNDCA chairman, said the party had increased its awareness of the role of social services, prioritizing the tasks of precision-poverty relief and democratic supervision of poverty alleviation measures. Chen added that the party had also improved its organizational structure this year. The CNDCA is one of the country's eight non-communist parties. Its 11th national congress will be held next year, according to Chen. Chen stressed that the party should hold high the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics and play a greater role in realizing the country's "two centenary goals" and the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The two centenary goals are the building of an all-round moderately prosperous society by the CPC's centenary in 2021; and creating a prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious country by the centenary of the People's Republic of China in 2049. Founded in 1945, CNDCA members are mainly individuals in economic circles. Under China's multi-party cooperation system, non-communist parties participate in state affairs under the leadership of the CPC. The CPC and non-communist parties work together and supervise one another. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Beijing's 'smog refugees' flee the capital for cleaner air down south (SCMP)
2016-12-19
Legions of Beijing residents are fleeing the capital and heading south in search of cleaner air as the year's worst smog lays siege to the city. This year's first red alert for air pollution was issued in at least 23 northern cities, including Beijing, on Thursday, with choking smog forecast to blanket much of the north until Wednesday. The red alert – the highest warning level in the four-tier system – triggers limits on the use of cars as well as school and factory closures. Beijing's air quality index in the capital was at “very unhealthy” levels for much of the day but conditions were worse in neighbouring Hebei province. In Shijiazhuang, levels of PM2.5 – fine particles that are hazardous to human health – soared to more than 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre, according to Xinhua. A World Health Organisation guideline recommends an annual average of no more than 10 micrograms. The Ministry of Environmental Protection had expected the air pollution to hit peaks on Monday, Tuesday morning and again on Wednesday. The Beijing Evening New s reported that tickets on flights to inland areas in the west and coastal areas in the east of the country were three times higher than before the red alert, based on searches on travel website Qunar.com. Except for the most expensive first-class seats, seats on flights to popular resort areas in the south – such as Sanya, Dali, and Xiamen – were almost sold out. Full-fare tickets to other popular holiday destinations in the south, such as Kunming in Yunnan, and Guilin, in Guangxi province, were still available. Valen Lin, an office worker in Beijing, fled to a ski resort in Hebei on Friday to escape the smog. “The smog will last for a very long time and affect a large area, so I thought I'd better take advantage of the weekend to clean my lungs,” Lin said. Lin said her awareness of the hazards of smog had grown in recent years and she would arrange to take longer leave in the winter when the air pollution was worse. “It was very painful to get back to the air in Beijing. My throat hurt again,” Lin said. Lin said she realised it could take years for the government to remedy the problem but she was upset that conditions had not improved enough. Residents were also fleeing Chengdu, in Sichuan, after enduring 12 days of smog in a row up to last Wednesday. The pall was expected to set in again for three days from Monday. Emma Zhang took her three-year-old son to Tengchong, Yunnan, for a breather over the weekend. “I finally saw the blue sky. It was wonderful!” Zhang said. “The persistent cough we had in Chengdu also stopped.” She said her son complained of throat pain on the way home from the airport. Beijing Jiaotong University tourism management Professor Zhang Hui,said traditionally people in the north tended to go somewhere warm in winter, but now clean air also determined their destination. Online travel agencies, such as Ctrip.com, have been quick to promote holiday packages to escape the smog. In a report on the weekend, Ctrip.com estimated that 150,000 people would travel overseas to avoid pollution and that each year, more than one million tourists went abroad for that reason. Those most keen to travel to avoid the pollution are residents in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Tianjin. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

China confirms third case of human bird flu in a week (SCMP)
2016-12-22
The Chinese authorities have confirmed the country's second and third cases of human bird flu infection this week as South Korea and Japan battle to control outbreaks of the deadly virus. The new cases were in Shanghai and Xiamen in Fujian province in eastern China. Shanghai's health authority said it was treating a man diagnosed with H7N9 bird flu. The man had travelled from the neighbouring province of Jiangsu, the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning said on its website on Wednesday. First imported case of bird flu this winter confirmed by Hong Kong health authorities (The local authorities in Xiamen ordered a halt to poultry sales from Thursday in the Siming district after a 44-year-old man was diagnosed with H7N9 avian flu on Sunday, Xinhua reported. The patient is receiving treatment in hospital and is in a stable condition, Xinhua said, citing Xiamen's diseases prevention and control centre. Shanghai is China's largest city by population with more than 24 million residents while Xiamen has a population of about 3.5 million. The latest incidents come after Hong Kong confirmed an elderly man was diagnosed with the disease earlier this week. The cases come as South Korea and Japan have ordered the killing of tens of millions of birds in the past month, stoking fears of regional spread. Bird flu is most likely to strike in winter and spring and farmers have in recent years increased cleaning regimes, animal detention techniques and built roofs to cover hen pens, among other steps, to prevent the disease. Still concerns about the spread of the virulent airborne bird flu comes as farmers in China are preparing for the year's peak demand during the Lunar New Year celebrations at the end of January. In light of the recent outbreaks in nearby countries, they are feeding their flocks more vitamins and vaccines and ramping up hen house sterilisations in a bid to protect their birds. The authorities said on Wednesday they would ban imports of poultry from countries where there are outbreaks of highly pathogenic bird flu. South Korea, Japan step up poultry cull to contain highly contagious H5N6 bird flu strain( It already prohibits imports from more than 60 nations, including Japan and South Korea. The last major bird flu outbreak in mainland China in 2013 killed 36 people and caused about US$6.5 billion in losses to the agriculture sector. China's ministry of agriculture website said delegations from Japan, South Korea and China gathered in Beijing last week for a symposium on preventing and controlling bird flu and other diseases in East Asia. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

China's "One Belt One Road" to play crucial role in South Asia infrastructure development: Nepalese minister (Xinhua)
2016-12-22
The "One Belt One Road" initiative introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping can play a crucial role in the infrastructure development of Nepal and the entire South Asia region, a Nepalese minister said here Wednesday. Nepalese Minister for Federal Affairs Hitraj Pandey made the remarks during a meeting with a visiting delegation of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress of China, which arrived Wednesday at the invitation of Nepalese Parliament Speaker Onsari Gharti. "Nepal has already welcomed the 'One Belt One Road' initiative introduced by the dynamic Chinese leadership under President Xi Jinping, while we have also become one of the founding members of the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)," the minister said. "Our government believes that China's such tremendous initiatives can play crucial role in the infrastructure development in Nepal and the entire South Asia region," he said. The minister said that Nepal wants to reap benefit from China's rapid socio-economic development. "China's socio-economic, infrastructure and cultural development is role model for the entire world." Reaffirming Nepal's long-standing One China Policy, Minister Pandey said that Nepal will not allow any anti-Chinese activities in its territory. The minister thanked the Tibet Autonomous Region for extending food and agricultural support to various districts of Nepal bordering China and hoped that China's central government will further help enhance road connectivity in the northern districts of Nepal bordering Tibet. Head of the Tibetan delegation Padma Choling (Bai Ma Chilin), who is also Chairman of the Standing Committee of Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress, said that China has given top priority to helping develop infrastructure in South Asia under the "One Belt One Road" initiative, as is set out in the 13th five-year development plan. During the visit, the Tibetan delegation will also hold meetings with Nepal's Parliament Speaker Onsari Gharti, Deputy Prime Minister Bimalendra Nidhi and Foreign Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Activists launch HK$5 million campaign for Hong Kong lawmakers fighting to save seats (SCMP)
2016-12-22
Two co-founders of the Occupy Central democracy movement have launched a campaign to raise at least HK$5 million in legal fees for four pro-democracy lawmakers whom the Hong Kong government is seeking to unseat through a judicial battle. Edward Yiu Chung-yim, one of the four, revealed he had written to the Legislative Council's secretariat, asking the legislature to pay their legal fees, which could amount to millions of dollars. But the Legco Commission, dominated by pro-establishment lawmakers, is unlikely to accept his request when they discuss it on January 16. The other three lawmakers caught in the legal battle are Lau Siu-lai, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung. Chan Kin-man said on Thursday he was setting up the Justice Defence Fund with another Occupy co-founder, the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, and a former secretary general of the Civic Party, Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, to raise funds for the four. “The challenge of their status launched by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is a violation of the authority of Legco,” Chan, a sociologist at Chinese University, said. “While the C.Y. Leung administration is supported by public funds, the four legislators will have to bear the costs themselves. If they lose their cases, they may become bankrupt … the asymmetry of the legal battle constitutes an injustice.” Chan said street booths would be set up during the Civil and Human Rights Front's march on New Year's Day to collect donations, while Cheng revealed that groups such as the Democratic Party, Labour Party and Civic Party were likely to transfer donations they received that day. Chan said they would also accept donations via crowdfunding on the internet and from professionals and businessmen. Last month the High Court unseated pro-independence lawmakers Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching for pledging allegiance to a “Hong Kong nation” and insulting China during their Legco swear-in. The Youngspiration pair launched a crowdfunding programme to raise at least HK$5 million in legal fees but has so far only garnered about HK$485,000. Although Lau, Law, Yiu and Leung Kwok-hung do not advocate Hong Kong independence, the government challenged them for “declining to swear in sincerely”. Asked if he was confident that their campaign would do better than that of the Youngspiration duo, Chan said: “A lot of residents are angry about the legal battle against the four, so I have some confidence that our campaign will do slightly better. It is a challenging task.” He added that if they exceeded their target and the Youngspiration pair asked for help, the fund would not rule out the possibility of helping them. ^ top ^

Mainland No 3 official, CY Leung hold private meeting in Beijing (SCMP)
2016-12-22
The mainland's No 3 official on Thursday held a closed-door meeting in Beijing with Hong Kong's outgoing leader, Leung Chun-ying, whose shock decision not to seek a second term was followed by a new opinion poll recording the city's highest level of trust in the central government in five years. Two days into his final annual duty visit to the nation's capital, some of Leung's limelight was stolen by his No 2 official, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. She attracted a media frenzy on Thursday when she arrived in Beijing amid intense speculation over her expected bid for Hong Kong's top job, although she was not officially in the capital to discuss the possibility. Lam, who will stage a high-profile and rare press conference in the Forbidden City on Friday as part of her involvement in organising events to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China, remained tight-lipped on her pledge to “reconsider” whether to run for chief executive in the March election. She made her pledge soon after Leung ruled himself out of a second term two weeks ago. Leung was seen on Thursday entering the Great Hall of the People, where he met Zhang Dejiang, the nation's third highest-ranking official. Zhang received the chief executive as head of the Communist Party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs. On Thursday afternoon, just across Chang'an Avenue, Lam paid a visit to the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City to prepare for a press conference that she is to host Friday on the handover anniversary events. Lam, who is to go on holiday starting Saturday, did not answer media questions on whether she would meet any central government officials to discuss her election plans while on leave. Earlier in Hong Kong, she insisted that her two-day trip would solely focus on the cultural programmes being planned to celebrate the handover anniversary, with priceless artefacts and national treasures being loaned to the city from the Palace Museum. In a related development, a Lingnan University poll commissioned by NowTV was released on Thursday showing that public support for Lam as a chief executive candidate surged to 20 per cent, or a 12-point jump from before Leung's announcement. That put her just six points behind John Tsang Chun-wah, who previously enjoyed a dominant lead. Tsang is waiting for Beijing's approval of his resignation as financial secretary before announcing his widely expected bid for the chief executive's job. Leung will meet President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on Friday, his first meeting with state leaders since announcing his retirement. Meanwhile, the central government has received the highest rating of trust among Hongkongers since Leung was elected in March 2012, according to the latest University of Hong Kong public opinion poll. The poll – conducted between December 12 and 15 – found the level of trust at 38.9 per cent, the highest since March 2011. That compared with 38.6 per cent around the time Leung was elected. “This shows that Hongkongers generally do not believe in Leung's version that he chose not to seek re-election due to family reasons,” Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, said. “They consider it as Beijing's removal of the leader, which reflects the public mood.” The poll also recorded Hongkongers' distrust of the Beijing government dropping nearly 10 points to 37.3 per cent, compared with the last poll in August. Subtracting the level of distrust from the level of trust, the “net trust” rating is 1.6 points, which is up 18.5 percentage points and marks the third-biggest increase since the 1997 handover. ^ top ^

Regina Ip will risk 'collusion' criticism to engage Hong Kong tycoons on subsidised housing (SCMP)
2016-12-22
Chief executive contender Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee has said she would not shy away from discussing with tycoons about building subsidised housing on their land, even if it means facing criticism for “colluding with businessmen”. Ip, a lawmaker and former security minister, was speaking two days after housing minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung conceded that the government was likely to fall short of its target of building 280,000 public housing flats over the next decade due to increasing difficulties in securing land – a thorny task expected to be thrust into the hands of the city's next leader. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who will not seek re-election next March, was regarded by commentators as being unafraid to challenge the vested interests of property developers. Speaking on the Metro Radio on Thursday morning, Ip said the government was falling short of its housing target partly because the land plots it had been relying on were too small. “We need to adopt a multi-pronged approach. For example, we should reclaim more land outside Victoria Harbour, and consider developing parts of our country parks,” Ip said. “There are also plenty of farmland and brownfield sites in the New Territories owned by the major property developers … This land has to be involved if you are building homes.” In September, the government came under fire after officials confirmed they had controversially dropped two phases of the Wang Chau housing project after meetings with rural leaders who owned land in the area. “I have discussed with civil servants who worked on land planning, and they said the government might not be wrong in having informal consultation sessions,” she said. Asked if she was worried about the administration being criticised for “colluding with the business sector” and being too close to tycoons – accusations United States president-elect Donald Trump faced – Ip said: “We still need to do it because they own the most land plots.” “It has to be done whoever the next chief executive is, but it is hard for me to collude with the business sector, because I had a clean record in the civil service and not many ties with the sector in the past decade, so no one can accuse me of accepting money from them.” ^ top ^

Reverend Paul Kwong: Hong Kong independence movement is 'destructive' and 'polarising' (SCMP)
2016-12-22
The head of Hong Kong's Anglican Church yesterday warned of a “breakdown of social values” revealed by independence advocacy and the Legislative Council oath-taking controversy. Echoing the No 2 government official's concerns in his Christmas message, Archbishop Paul Kwong lamented that people were “worried, concerned, disheartened and discouraged”, as he urged followers to “dispel hostility” with love. Kwong, a member of China's top political advisory body, noted how “ongoing armed conflicts and terrorist attacks in some parts of the world continued to draw public attention” over the past year, while in Hong Kong, “there were movements of independence and the Legco oath row”. He was referring to contentious calls for Hong Kong's separation from China as well as the anti-China antics of newly elected pro-independence lawmakers Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching during their swearing-in, which led to their disqualification after the government took them to court. “People are becoming increasingly anxious about our situation, and so it is no wonder that a senior government official recently said that people are worried, concerned, disheartened and discouraged about Hong Kong,” Kwong said, referring to Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who is widely expected to run for chief executive. “If we look more deeply, all of these [events] are really about the breakdown of social values and the distortion of human relations,” the archbishop said. “At the root of all these issues are human egocentricity, arrogance, narcissism and rebellion.” He warned that such destructive forces could disintegrate society by causing polarisation and reducing issues to black or white – where people are only seen either as friends or foes, and all of politics is categorised as either pro-democratic or pro-establishment. “To put it plainly, we don't see ourselves as the problem but we blame others,” he added. Hong Kong has a Protestant congregation of around 500,000. The Anglican church, known as the Sheng Kung Hui, has up to 40,000 followers and is one of the most powerful denominations in the city. The next chief executive will be picked by the 1,194-strong Election Committee, which includes 60 religious subsector seats – 10 from each of the city's six major religions. The Anglican Church has two representatives on the committee. Kwong added that Hong Kong people “are sick and tired of the damage done to our country, society and human relations”, and hope to live in “a harmonious, stable and happy environment... where people treat each other with respect and deal with issues based on humane values”. In their Christmas messages last year, both Kwong and the head of the city's Catholic Church, Cardinal John Tong Hon, called for an end to Hong Kong's political conflicts and divisions. Tong will deliver his Christmas message today to Hong Kong's 384,000 Catholics. ^ top ^

China's Public Security Ministry labels Hong Kong democracy activists 'foreign proxies' (SCMP)
2016-12-21
China's Ministry of Public Security has published a video that depicts Hong Kong as a base for “colour revolutions” and labels two prominent figures of the city's universal suffrage movement, Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Benny Tai Yiu-ting, as proxies for foreign forces. The ministry posted the video with a title “Who wants to topple China the most?” on its official Weibo microblog last Thursday. It has circulated on Youtube since at least late September although it's unclear who made it or originally uploaded it. The ministry's move comes after Hong Kong's chief executive said he would not seek a second term, triggering a guessing game over which senior officials could marshal the support of the city's 7.2 million inhabitants and the backing of the leadership in Beijing. The video, which runs more than seven minutes, is composed of short clips and photos along with text and an unidentified narrator. It argues that the countries and movements involved in the “Arab Spring” that swept North Africa and the Middle East beginning in 2010 ultimately led to turmoil and despair. It warned Hong Kong was being used as an operational base to stage such a “colour revolution”, with foreign forces, particularly the United States, using universal suffrage leaders as proxies. It shows Wong urging student protesters to charge a barricaded forecourt outside government headquarters in Admiralty on September 26, 2014. In another clip taken the following day, Tai, a legal scholar, is seen announcing the launch of “Occupy Central”, a civil-disobedience movement for universal suffrage that would later bring the city to a standstill. The movement was in response to Beijing decision that the city would not be allowed to carry out fully open elections for its chief executive in the near future. The video also accuses local media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying of being the mastermind behind prominent democracy campaign leaders including Wong and Tai. It ends by saying localist forces arose in the wake of the Occupy Movement, introducing instability into what was a peaceful city. The reposting of the video by the ministry came a week after Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying made the shock announcement he was stepping down, due to family concerns. Two candidates have since declared their intention to run, and more are expected to join the race. Backing by Beijing is seen as crucial to any candidate's chances, although officially, the winner is decided by the 1,194 members of the Election Committee on March 26. On Monday, Hong Kong former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa urged residents against viewing competitive elections as the most essential aspect of democracy. The city's election process served better as an education about consultative democracy, which had allowed mainland China to transform its economy in three decades. Officially, the Communist Party follows the consultative democratic approach, where the party makes the final decision about candidates in an election, after rounds of consultations. This is not the first time authorities in Beijing have released videos targeting Wong. In August the Supreme People's Procuratorate ran a clip on its official Weibo account saying he was a pro-independence advocate backed by the US who wanted to turn China into another Syria. ^ top ^

Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung says he has 'no information' about Financial Secretary John Tsang's resignation (SCMP)
2016-12-21
Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying says he has no idea when Beijing will approve the resignation of Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, whose decision to contest the chief executive election is now up in the air. Leung stressed he sent Tsang's notice to the central government as soon as he received it, addressing speculation the process was being slowed down deliberately. Still, the chief executive, who is not seeking a second term, hinted of the heavier burden his government was saddled with as a consequence of Tsang's departure as he revealed how he toiled “until 3am in the morning” over the weekend to prepare the annual policy address he will deliver next month. The city's No 2 official, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, has also hinted at a bid to succeed Leung. Tsang tendered his resignation nine days ago, but there has been no word from Beijing. Speaking before the Executive Council meeting yesterday, Leung had “no information to offer” on why Beijing was taking its time to approve the resignation. Asked if he had submitted the notice, and if Lam's possible resignation would further hamstring his administration, Leung said: “We have reported Tsang's resignation to the central government and asked it to handle the issue immediately after we received it. “We were working on the policy address recently, and at 3am [on Monday] I was still reading a draft. The measures involve the financial secretary's office. So traditionally, the period from December to February are the busiest times for the chief executive and financial departments.” Lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing are the only candidates to have officially launched election bids. Leung flew to Beijing last night for his final annual duty visit. Asked by the Post if the agenda included discussions on the leadership race, Leung replied: “I will truthfully report to the state leader based on what he asks, including what he wants to understand about Hong Kong.” He is expected to meet President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang before his visit concludes on Friday. Lam is also visiting the capital for two days starting tomorrow. She will attend a ceremony for a cultural project with Leung on ­Friday. Tsang did not comment on his plans yesterday, but he wrote on his Facebook page that he had met a group of secondary school girls, teachers and parents while walking on Lugard Road, The Peak. He posted a picture he took. Meanwhile Zhang Xiaoming, the head of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, attended a reception last night hosted by the foreign ministry's commissioner in the city. Zhang's absence from several public events last week had led to speculation about his career. ^ top ^

20 years on, and the fight against prejudice and bias continues in Hong Kong (SCMP)
2016-12-19
In seemingly the blink of an eye, the Equal Opportunities Commission has completed 20 years of serving the Hong Kong community. On December 20, 1996, the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, under which the commission was established, came into full force when its employment-related provisions became effective. Since then, the EOC has been implementing the four related ordinances to give voice to those facing discrimination on the grounds of their sex, marital status, family status, pregnancy, disability and race. In the 20 years to August this year, the EOC had handled more than 13,300 complaints and innumerable inquiries, and secured over HK$100 million in compensation for the complainants, as well as other forms of redress through conciliation and legal action. While these figures represent the commission's achievements through the years, a more important part of the work – perhaps less quantifiable and tangible – is to encourage social change. This is because prejudice, bigotry and often traditions are the biggest enemies of equality. For discrimination to be defeated, mindsets have to be reformed, and it is best done through education – one of our key areas of work. However, since some of its work clashes with deep-rooted social values and the vested interests of different groups, the EOC faces controversies and opposition from time to time. For example, the judicial review initiated against the Education Department on the Secondary School Places Allocation System in 2000 and, more recently, the advocacy for better protection for the rights of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people, have stirred vigorous, and at times acrimonious, social debates. Despite the sometimes controversial nature of its work, the commission has gained increasing recognition from society at large. Two decades ago, few were aware of its existence. Today, many understand the values it stands for and defends. The latest Equal Opportunities Awareness Survey, results of which were released in July, showed 98 per cent of respondents were able, upon prompting, to identify the EOC as the organisation tasked with promoting equal opportunities and eliminating discrimination in Hong Kong. This can be compared to 95 per cent in 2007 and 87 per cent in 1998. Contrary to popular belief that equality is merely “decorative” for a money-driven city like Hong Kong, equality actually makes good business sense. SSTalented people find better incentives to contribute to a society where they feel welcome and at home In recent years, there has been a conscious movement for diversity and inclusion policies to be made explicit among high-flying businesse s across a number of sectors, including finance and banking, law, information technology, and design and fashion. The rationale is simple: people should be valued for what they are capable of, rather than who they are, because talented people find better incentives to contribute to a society where they feel welcome and at home. The big corporations in ”Asia's world city” know very well that an anti-discrimination policy championed by the government is crucial for Hong Kong businesses to go global and stay competitive. It also implies that the EOC plays a significant role in shaping Hong Kong's future. To maintain Hong Kong's competitiveness, the commission finds it necessary to update anti-discrimination laws in tune with the times. Between July and October 2014, the EOC consulted the public on their views on reforms to the existing anti-discrimination legislation, and submitted 73 recommendations, 27 of which were deemed of higher priority, to the government in March this year. Apart from better safeguarding those vulnerable to discrimination, the reforms aim to make the scope of protection more comprehensive, and equal opportunity values a vital element of public policies. We once again urge the government to seriously consider these recommendations, which Hong Kong gravely needs to live up to its reputation as a world-class, civilised and developed society, and revise the legislation to offer all those living and doing business in Hong Kong the protection they deserve. For my part, I feel fortunate to have arrived at the door of Hong Kong's gatekeeper on the equality front as it reaches its 20-year milestone this year. ^ top ^

Hong Kong activist banned from mainland for 23 years now free to enter (SCMP)
2016-12-18
A prominent Hong Kong democracy campaigner whose organisation has long been branded as subversive by Beijing has become the first barred activist to set foot on mainland soil after the lifting of a decades-old travel ban. Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong ­Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, confirmed Sunday that he had received his home return permit on Saturday after his application filed late last month was approved. He applied for the permit on November 30, reacting to ­rumours, hours before Beijing ­informed the local government that it would be willing to re-issue pan-democrats with the travel documents that Hong Kong permanent ID card holders are ­required to have when they cross the border. Tsoi is the first pro-democracy activist to disclose the successful renewal of his permit after Beijing made the conciliatory offer to its political opponents, while prominent lawmakers from his camp earlier rejected the olive branch. On Saturday, Tsoi travelled to Guangzhou, where his permit was cancelled by the authorities in ­August 1993 after a tour with Han Dongfang, an advocate for workers' rights on the mainland. It was the first time he had set foot on mainland soil since then. “My application and the mainland visit was mainly a test to check whether [the Beijing U-turn] was real,” Tsoi said. The approval process took longer than usual, he added, as did the border official who checked his permit, but there were no problems during the trip. Tsoi said he stayed in a Guangzhou hotel for a night, met some friends and bought some children's books for his daughter. He said he did not find anyone suspicious following him. He returned to Hong Kong Sunday afternoon. Asked if the granting of the permit would pull him away from his lifelong fight for democracy both on the mainland and in Hong Kong, he said: “My commitment to the alliance is lifelong. I will not take lightly my concern for the democratic and human rights movements on the mainland.” Pan-democratic lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung said he was pleased to learn that Tsoi could go back to the mainland but he had no plan to apply for the permit himself. “It is good news. Beijing can at least honour its promise. But I am not going to follow suit. I do not have any need to go back to the mainland. I don't have friends there,” Leung said. “It has nothing to do with being defiant or hostile towards Beijing. But I do not see I have any need [to cross the border] for the near future, so I won't bother to apply for the permit.” Former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, also a former chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance, said he, too, had no plan to apply for a permit. “I won't apply for it just for the sake of testing whether Beijing will honour its promise,” Lee said. “It is Tsoi's personal decision to apply for the permit and go back to the mainland. As far as I know, he did not tell alliance leaders of his plan. There is no rule in the alliance either requiring him to report this to the organisation.” The first hint that the travel ban on pan-democrats would be lifted came from Zhang Dejiang, head of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, when he met lawmakers during a visit to Hong Kong in May. The first unofficial confirmation came from Robert Chow Yung, a vocal critic of the pan-democrats, when he visited Beijing, on November 30. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan losing out in 'diplomatic war' with Beijing as Sao Tome severs ties with island (SCMP)
2016-12-21
A small West African nation has announced it will end diplomatic ties with Taiwan, in the latest sign of the diplomatic war between Beijing and Taipei heating up after US president-elect Donald Trump questioned Washington's stance towards the one-China policy. Sao Tome and Principe – a former Portuguese colony with a population of 200,000 – said on Wednesday it would sever formal diplomatic ties with the Republic of China, Taiwan's official name. The Chinese foreign ministry said it “appreciated” the decision and “welcomed Sao Tome and Principe back onto the correct path of the one-China principle”. Beijing did not specify if it would immediately set up formal diplomatic ties with Sao Tome, however. Taiwan's foreign minister David Lee expressed “regret” over Sao Tome's decision, adding that the self-ruled island would not engage in “dollar diplomacy”. Lee was quoted as saying that Sao Tome severed ties with Taiwan because the island was unable to satisfy the West African nation's financial needs. Sao Tome's move comes weeks after US president-elect Trump's protocol-breaking phone call with Taiwan's leader Tsai Ing-wen and his tweet suggesting that Washington did not have to abide by the one-China policy, which has been the bedrock for Sino-US relations for the past four decades. Most countries recognise Beijing as China's legitimate government. After Sao Tome's decision, the Republic of China in Taiwan now has diplomatic ties with only 21 countries, mostly small states. Beijing,with its deep pockets and global clout, appears to have the edge in the diplomatic war with Taipei, squeezing the international space that the self-ruled island occupies. Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province with no diplomat rights, though the island has been ruled separately since 1949 when communist forces defeated the Kuomintang. The two sides came to a diplomatic “truce” in 2008 after Ma Ying-jeou, of the pro-Beijing KMT, became the island's president. But relations have since soured after Tsai Ing-wen, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, won the presidency earlier this year. She has since refused to endorse the 1992 consensus, on which Beijing says cross-strait ties are based. The consensus is an understanding between both sides that there is only “one China”, but that each side could have its own interpretation of what constitutes “China” In March, Beijing resumed relations with Gambia, another former Taiwan ally in Africa. Gambia severed ties with Taipei in 2013. Sao Tome's decision showed that Beijing had ended the diplomatic “truce” with Taiwan and had persuaded another small country to break off relations with the island because of its unhappiness over Tsai, according to Ross Feingold, a senior adviser at DC International Advisory. “China has the leverage to offer greater aid and trade than Taiwan can, and can also determine the timing for when remaining countries can switch recognition,” Feingold said. “Taiwan must prepare for more of the remaining countries to switch, and have strategies to maintain its presence in international organisations.” He added that Wednesday's announcement was timed in part to detract from Tsai's Tuesday press conference that revealed details of her upcoming trip to Central America. ^ top ^

Taiwan says Beijing pressure not delaying Tsai Ing-wen's Latin America trip plans (SCMP)
2016-12-21
Beijing's objection to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen passing through the United States en route to Latin America in January had not delayed planning for the trip and transit locations would be announced in days, the presidential office said on Tuesday. Tsai's office said she would visit Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador in that order, and would depart from Taiwan on January 7 and return on January 15. When asked whether the transit stops would include the United States, Taiwan's presidential office spokesman Alex Huang declined to comment. Beijing is deeply suspicious of Tsai, whom it thinks wants to push for the formal independence of Taiwan, and has called on the US not to let her transit. Taiwan is a self-governing island that Beijing regards as a renegade province. US president-elect Donald Trump irked Beijing earlier in December by speaking to Tsai in a break with decades of precedent and cast doubt on his incoming administration's commitment to Beijing's one-China policy. Huang said details of the transit stops would be disclosed within days as Taiwan's foreign ministry was still working them out with foreign counterparts ahead of work closures owing to the Christmas and New Year holidays abroad. Asked whether the planning or disclosure of the transit stops were being delayed owing to pressure from Beijing, Huang said: “No. That is over-speculation, there is no problem of that kind.” The US normally does not host Taiwan presidents owing to Washington's maintenance of the one-China policy. Transit stops are seen as unofficial and carried out under tight protocol. When Tsai visited Panama and other allies in June, a month after she took power, she transited in Miami and Los Angeles. The 90-plus member delegation, travelling on a chartered jet, with Tsai would include Joseph Wu Chao-hsieh, her national security council chief, and Foreign Minister David Lee Ta-wei, Deputy Foreign Minister Javier Hou Ching-shan said. ^ top ^

Gay, mums to twins and barred from marrying... one couple's story in Taiwan's same-sex marriage debate (SCMP)
2016-12-20
Watching her boisterous twin toddlers romp around the living room, Hope Chen worries what would happen to them if she ever fell seriously ill or had an accident. In a worst-case scenario, it should be her partner of seven years who would look after them, Chen says. But Taiwan does not recognise them both as legal guardians because they are gay and cannot marry. Chen, 37, gave birth using eggs from her partner Zoro Wen. She had to travel to Thailand for IVF, which is allowed in Taiwan only for legally married couples. “I'm the mother who gave birth so I'm the only legal parent,” Chen, 37, said from the family's Taoyuan apartment in the north of Taiwan, where a floor-to-ceiling bookcase includes the title “Why do you have two moms?”. “For her, even though they have blood relations, she has no parental rights,” says Chen. Men in an unmarried heterosexual relationship can still gain guardianship of their children through adoption – an option that is also not available to Chen and Wen. The couple hopes things will soon change as parliament debates amendments to the civil law that would make the island the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. But while support for marriage equality has gained momentum since pro-gay rights President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in May, so too have resisting voices, revealing a divided society deeply rooted in traditional family values. Both sides have staged large-scale rallies in the past month, attracting tens of thousands, ahead of a critical second review of three draft bills for marriage equality on December 26. The first review in November held by a parliamentary vetting committee – to decide on one version to put forward to the legislature – ended without consensus as thousands of protesters criticised the lack of public participation in drafting the bills. “There is now such a high expectation for the dream to be realised. You can't bring it crashing down, can you?” said Yu Mei-nu, a lawmaker who proposed one of the bills on behalf of Tsai's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), referring to opponents of reform. Taiwan is one of the region's most forward-thinking societies when it comes to gay rights, hosting a gay pride parade which draws tens of thousands every year. Still, past attempts to legalise same-sex marriage stalled under the then ruling Kuomintang, which dominated politics for decades before being unseated by the DPP in this year's elections. A recent poll by think tank Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation shows the public is evenly split on the issue. Mother-of-three Becky Wu, who is the head of a parents' union of Taipei elementary schools, says she is concerned that changes to the civil law will impact what she sees as fundamentals in Taiwanese society. “Our basic morals and concepts, ancestry, grandmother, grandfather, mother, father – all those will disappear. It becomes the rights of the minority over the rights of the majority,” she said. “In the past, kids were taught men and women have sex because they love each other and marry. Now they're told love is not a prerequisite and they're free to experiment, whether with men or women.” Religious groups remain the staunchest critics of gay marriage, with an alliance of Buddhist, Taoist and Christian organisations issuing a statement last month warning of the destruction to social ethics and traditional family values. Some opponents suggest a separate new law should be made covering same-sex unions, rather than changing the current law to become gender neutral, as is proposed. But gay marriage advocates say that would lead to segregation, and would not support the rest of the LGBT community. The civil law should be made completely gender-neutral to cover bisexual and transgender people as well, according to Victoria Hsu, a lawyer who leads campaign group Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights. “Everyone is a citizen, so why can't we use the civil law to marry?” Hsu said. For Chen, the lack of legal recognition meant her partner was not allowed into the operation room when she was about to undergo a difficult Caesarean section. It was also a complicated process to list their children as insurance policy beneficiaries to Wen, a doctor who is the main breadwinner in the family, said Chen. But to the twins, there is nothing questionable about the difference in their family. They call Chen “ma-mi” and Wen “ah-bi” – a family name they conjured. “They're very clear that other families are 'ba-ba' and 'ma-ma,' while we are 'ma-mi' and 'ah-bi,'” Chen said. “They've naturally accepted that's the way our family is.” ^ top ^

CPC, KMT to hold dialogue on cross-Strait ties (Xinhua)
2016-12-20
A dialogue between the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang party will be held on Dec. 23 in Beijing, a mainland spokesperson said Tuesday. An Fengshan, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said the exchange will focus on relations between the two parties and cross-Strait ties, aiming to promote exchanges, cooperation, cross-Strait stability and the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations. An was also asked to comment on Taiwan's legislative body lowering the threshold for a referendum by adopting a "law amendment." "We firmly oppose 'Taiwan independence' activities or moves that open the door to 'Taiwan independence' launched by any force or any means, including the means of so called legislation or law revision," he said. ^ top ^

Taiwan pro-independence forces play Trump card (Global Times)
2016-12-20
Pro-independence forces in Taiwan are taking advantage of the confusion caused by US President-elect Donald Trump but they could face economic sanctions from the Chinese mainland if they keep whipping up sentiment hostile to the one-China consensus, according to analysts. Chang Hsiao-yueh, head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, on Monday said at a plenary session of the interior-affairs committee under Taiwan's "Legislative Yuan" that "threatening words does no help to cross-Straits ties and the island hopes to maintain stable and peaceful developments on both sides," Taiwan-based China Times reported on Monday. Chang said that the mainland has always applied a carrot and stick policy toward the island. His words came in response to comments from former deputy commander of the Nanjing military region Wang Hongguang, who said that military conflicts would occur between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan by 2020 at an annual meeting of the Global Times on Saturday in Beijing. Liu Xiangping, head of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at Nanjing University, slammed Chang's comments about the mainland's policy on Taiwan as "very irresponsible." Liu said that Wang's comments were based on the Anti-Secession Law as well as the current situation of cross-Straits ties. "Wang's comments also reflect a growing concern in the mainland over 'Taiwan independence' given the strong pro-independence sense of current leading groups," said Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China. Not revisiting policy According to Liu, pro-independence forces in Taiwan were encouraged recently by US President-elect Donald Trump after his phone call with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen where he referred to Tsai as the "Taiwan president." Former Taiwan "vice-president" Lu Hsiu-lien said Monday that there was hope that the next US government would rethink their relationship with Taiwan after the call. Trump made another surprising remark about the Taiwan question last week during an interview on the Fox News network, saying "I do not know why we have to be bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade." Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus denied on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace that Trump would revisit Washington's decades-old one-China policy after Obama warned Trump in the conference not to incur Beijing's "very significant" reaction. "We are not suggesting that we are revisiting the one-China policy right now," Priebus said, adding that Trump was not president right now and he was respectful to the current president. However, Ni Yongjie, vice director of the Shanghai Institute for Taiwan Studies, said that Priebus' words should not be taken as a sign that Trump was stepping back on the Taiwan question given his recent assignment of several hawkish officials. Jin said that Sino-US ties would become strained after Trump takes office. Economic slump Recent comments by US President Barack Obama and Trump's questioning of the one-China policy have created a favorable situation for Taiwan, Taiwan-based Central News Agency reported on Sunday, citing Wu Rwei-ren, an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica's Institute of Taiwan History. However, Ni warned that Trump is only using Taiwan as a bargaining chip to gain advantage in cooperation, especially in trade, with China. Jin said that it is very possible that the mainland would impose sanctions on Taiwan by suspending economic cooperation and compressing its international space if cross-Straits ties keep worsening. Liu added that Taiwan pro-independence forces will hurt the interests of Taiwan eventually if they sacrifice cross-Straits ties in seeking support from the US. "Without mainland support, it is impossible for the island to complete an industrial upgrade," Liu noted, adding that the Taiwan economy would end up in a long-term slump if a standoff is incurred. ^ top ^

How Trump's Taiwan gambit could suck Japan, Korea into a war (SCMP)
2016-12-18
Cross-strait ties and the US-China-Taiwan relationship had, until recently, been a rare bright spot in the increasingly conflicted security dynamics of the Asia-Pacific region. For the past half-decade or more, cross-strait ties have kept on an even keel, even as tensions spiralled dangerously on the Korean Peninsula and episodically in the East and South China Seas. Judging by the early inclinations of Donald Trump, that period of calm may be coming to an abrupt end as he publicly questions the need for the US to hew to its “one-China” policy. Trump is surrounded by a set of iconoclastic advisers, some of whom have long sought a loosening of the one-China policy that has been both the foundation of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington and the principal obstacle to expanding democratic values-based strategic ties with the government in Taipei. As much as one might consider Trump's views as being part of a familiar pattern of semi-ignorant, off-the-cuff remarks, they tap into much deeper intellectual roots within minority sections of Washington's Republican Asia policy establishment. If a US-fomented political crisis is to break out in the Taiwan Strait under Trump, its long shadow will not be confined to the strait. Were this crisis to degenerate into a three-cornered outbreak of hostilities, it could extend and envelop the whole East and North East Asian region, too. In an ironic twist, it was the North Korean attack across the 38th parallel in 1950 that galvanised the Truman administration to reverse its policy of non-interference in the Chinese civil war and dispatch the Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Strait. That fleet continues to remain the core deterrent to China's cross-strait military ambitions. The provocation and outbreak of hostilities in the Taiwan Strait today, equally, will invite a political reaction by China in favour of Pyongyang – compounding an already tense and combustive action-reaction chain of behaviour on the peninsula. China's more sophisticated military capabilities makes such war contingency planning an extremely hazardous task, both on the peninsula and in the strait. For Japan, the Korean peninsula and Taiwan have been its twin forward ramparts through much of its history. Instability or hostile foreign intervention on the peninsula or on the island was deemed to impinge on Tokyo's vital interests. The Seventh Fleet that sailed into the Taiwan Strait in the summer of 1950 and continues to deter the PLA Navy is homeported today in Yokosuka. During the Korean War, minesweepers manned by ex-Imperial Navy personnel played a covert role in the peninsular waters. That covert role has now been overtly formalised. In the 1997 US-Japan Defence Guidelines, Tokyo committed to de facto extend the reach of the Self-Defence Forces' (SDF) rear-area logistics activities to enable it to support US forces during a cross-strait contingency. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expanded the range of military activities that can be conducted as logistics support activities in aid of US forces. The SDF is henceforth authorised to provide ammunition and fuel to US combat forces in close proximity to an actual battle zone. If a full-blown cross-strait contingency constitutes a “survival-threatening situation” to Japan, the SDF may even exercise the right to self-defence in combination with US forces. Japan, willy-nilly, cannot exclude itself from a breakdown in cross-strait political and military comity. Of its own volition, in fact, it has become a full accessory to any military conflict in the Taiwan Strait. ^ top ^

Taiwan-mainland war discussions break out (Global Times)
2016-12-18
A photo published by the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) showing a bomber flying above the clouds has caused great concern in Taiwan amid discussions about whether the mainland will reunify the island by force. The PLA Air Force published the photo on its Sina Weibo account, showing an H-6K bomber flying above the clouds with two mountain peaks rising in the distance. Military commentators on the mainland believe the peaks are of a mountain in Taiwan, which has made many netizens marvel at the PLA's military capability. However, the spokesman of Taiwan's "Defense Ministry," Chen Zhongji, told the Central News Agency that military aircraft from the mainland could only fly outside the air defense identification zone of Taiwan and the ministry could grasp their movements, saying the guesses were groundless. Military expert Chen Weihao told Taiwan-based satellite television channel and cable TV network TVBS that it was the first time that mainland aircraft had been photographed with Taiwan landscapes, which has a psychological impact on the island. Discussions about the possibility of the mainland reunifying Taiwan by force continues to gain momentum as pro-independence Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen keeps whipping up anti-mainland sentiment. "The Taiwan regional government has lost its independence and become an agent of US and Japanese anti-China forces," Wang Zaixi, former vice president of the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, said at an annual meeting of the Global Times on Saturday in Beijing, adding that the mainland is the only force at present that could curb "Taiwan-independence" forces. "Military conflicts would occur between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan by 2020. It is quite possible that the mainland will take the island in one stroke," former deputy commander of the Nanjing military region Wang Hongguang said, adding that US President-elect Donald Trump has pushed cross-Straits ties to a critical point, given his recent words on the Taiwan question. However, Chen Yixin, a political expert from Taiwan-based Chinese Culture University, told the Global Times that Chinese leadership might not favor reunification by force, which would hurt both sides' interests. "The mainland is upset about some of Tsai's policies such as Taiwan's culture independence, but they haven't had a great impact yet," Chen said. "Even though Tsai wants to pave the way for jurisprudential independence, she does not have the nerve to do it, and the US will not necessarily admit the independence," Chen said, adding the mainland should show some restraint. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China 'disappointed' by EU trade remedy extension (Xinhua)
2016-12-22
An official with the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) on Thursday expressed disappointment with the European Union for its intention to extend trade remedy measures on Chinese photovoltaic (PV) products. Continued anti-dumping and countervailing duties will hurt the interests of Chinese companies, the long-term benefits of the EU and the world's efforts to combat climate change, according to Wang Hejun, head of the MOC trade remedy and investigation bureau. PV products carry great significance for all countries to address climate change, Wang said. "EU should put an end to trade remedy measures against PV products as early as possible to turn the PV market back to normal," Wang added. As important strategic and trade partners, China and the EU should do more to create a sound environment for world economic growth and combating climate change, he said. On Tuesday, the European Commission disclosed documents that recommended keeping anti-dumping and countervailing duties that have been in effect for more than three years on Chinese products. ^ top ^

China not following through on market reform promises, says German ambassador (SCMP)
2016-12-20
China isn't following through on its market reform pledges as quickly as desired, German ambassador to China Michael Clauss said in an interview. “I regret to note that the reform initiatives taken at the third plenum apparently have lost momentum,” Clauss told the South China Morning Post in Beijing. The Communist Party, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, pledged three years ago that China would allow the market to play a “decisive” role in resources allocation. But the promises of adopting more market-oriented changes have mostly been shelved as Beijing beefs up intervention in economic activities, from coal mine operations to capital account controls. “It seems that preserving social stability and discipline are the order of the day much more than implementing the necessary economic reforms,” Clauss said. “Officially, China propagates a policy of open markets and unfettered access for foreign trade and investment. However, we note that very often [the] reality on the ground does not correspond to the declared intention of the Chinese government to facilitate foreign direct investment. “On a long-term perspective, we sense a growing tendency in China towards market closure and favouring of indigenous production,” he said. At a key policy meeting that ended on Friday, the leadership again highlighted “stability” and “financial risk prevention” as priorities for the coming year, sending a clear message that bold moves in market opening or liberalisation were off the table, observers said. They are worried that Beijing is also unlikely to make painful cuts in the bloated state sector, for fear of possible social unrest, before the top leadership reshuffle at 19th party congress in the autumn. Survey results of commerce chambers of China's major trading partners have underscored the increasing difficulties of doing business in China, including ambiguous security laws, limited market access and an official favouring of domestic technology. Last year Beijing launched “Made in China 2025” – a campaign to revamp its manufacturing sector, and establish a home-grown hi-tech powerhouse. “We wonder whether this is what in the end China 2025 is all about: a future Chinese economy relying on its own, leaving no room for exchanges with its partners,” Clauss said, adding that plans for German companies to expand investment in China had fallen to a three-year low. Since late last year, Beijing has strengthened controls on individuals and companies transferring funds overseas to stem capital outflows and defend the yuan's exchange rate. Legitimate fund transfers overseas have been delayed and it is taking longer to complete cross-border deals. Firms, especially state ones, are under greater scrutiny over outbound mergers and acquisitions. Clauss said there was a lack of “clear understanding in the banking system” on how to implement the controls and such uncertainty “creates arbitrariness in the application”. “What is worrying us, however, is above all the fact that regulations like these are very often not communicated in a transparent manner. The legal uncertainties arising from this pose considerable challenges to German companies,” he said. Ties between China and Germany, a core member of the European Union, face strain arising from Beijing's increased protectionism and slow efforts to address overcapacity. That excess capacity has complicated the issue of granting China market economy status, which Beijing wants but its major trading partners have so far resisted. In a bid to find a solution, Premier Li Keqiang and EU leaders announced following a China-EU summit in July they would set up a joint team to check and monitor the progress of reducing capacity. The decision was met with strong criticism in the EU, where industrial associations argued the bloc was failing to defend domestic industries. In September, the Group of 20 nations agreed to set up a global forum to address steel overcapacity by exchanging information and stepping up cooperation. Beijing claims it has met its annual targets for reducing steel and coal output ahead of schedule. China said earlier this month the G20 and members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development held a meeting on November 15, and carried out “in-depth” discussions on a draft outlining the forum's responsibilities. “Up to now we do not see much progress in the establishment of the Global Forum,” Clauss said, adding that the pace of trimming excess overcapacity in China was slow. “I wonder whether China is still committed to this pledge,” he said. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

N.K. leader watches rocket firing contest, combat flight drill (Yonhap Online)
2016-12-21
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un observed a firing contest by the military's batteries of multiple rocket launchers and a night flight drill by fighter pilots, Pyongyang's state media said Wednesday. He watched the artillery contest by multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) batteries of the Korean People's Army, ordering all gunners to train under simulated conditions of actual war, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Kim called on them to prepare to hit targets anytime, saying that military officers and gunners should intensify the training day and night, it added. The KCNA also reported that the North's leader watched the night combat flight drill, saying that the scene of planes' hitting targets precisely made him think that he guided the drill in daytime, not at night. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un observes a firing contest by multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) batteries in this photo unveiled by the Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's main newspaper on Dec. 21, 2016. (Yonhap) His remarks came as the military kicked off a months-long winter training program in early December, which usually runs until April. In December, North Korea focused on artillery drills that simulated striking military targets in South Korea and the presidential office. The exercises came amid political turmoil in South Korea sparked by an influence-peddling and corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her long-time confidante. Also the North intensified military drills this month in response to the United Nations Security Council's imposition of more tough sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear test in September. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un observes a night combat flight drill by fighter pilots in this photo unveiled by the Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's main newspaper on Dec. 21, 2016. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Dzud may affect up to 150,000 herders (The UB Post)
2016-12-23
Around 150,000 herders in the northern belt of Mongolia are at risk of losing their animals and livelihoods this winter as officials prepare to scale the dzud risk up to an emergency. As temperatures plummeted to below -40 degrees Celsius in northern Mongolia and -56 in the West in recent weeks, the national State Emergency Commission dispatched authorities and aid groups to conduct risk assessments across the country. A total of 110 soums in 13 provinces were identified as “at risk”. The assessments found 153,000 herders lived in the affected areas and around 16,000 households with seven million livestock must move to new pastures immediately. Unlike the last dzud, this one is expected to impact northern and eastern Mongolia. The most vulnerable are the 2,500 pregnant women, 26,000 children and 8,000 elderly people living in winter pastures. A dzud is an extreme weather phenomenon unique to Mongolia that occurs when a large number of livestock, mostly cows, sheep and goats, die from starvation or cold. It usually occurs after a dry summer combines with heavy snowstorms creating an ice crust that makes it difficult for animals to dig through to reach grass. During dzuds, heavy snowstorms create an ice crust that makes it difficult for animals to dig through to reach grass. Over one million livestock died in last winter's dzud. During dzuds, heavy snowstorms create an ice crust that makes it difficult for animals to dig through to reach grass. Over one million livestock died in last winter's dzud. This year, the dry summer in the northeast and late autumn rains means the dzud risk is high. Heavy snowfall from October has refrozen after more heavy snow in November. Last week on a visit to Khentii and Dornod, risk assessors from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO) found many herder households were already suffering from the dzud. “A dzud is usually officially declared once a certain number of animals have died, which is likely to be around March next year,” said UNFAO deputy representative in Mongolia, Kevin Gallagher. “But if we look at livelihood impact, the dzud is already here. People are already facing hardship.” A third of Mongolia's population relies directly on livestock as their primary source of food and income. This means that without their animals, they will plunge into poverty. Herders' lives depend almost entirely upon their animals: for milk, cheese and meat, dung for heating, and fur for clothing and to sell to cover their children's schooling. On the UNFAO's visit, they met Buryat Mongolians who are regarded as leaders in herding practices and technology. The Buryats are struggling to recover after a large steppe fire destroyed pastures earlier this year, which was later followed by a drought. This meant pastures were inadequate for animals to graze on. “The Buryat people have never struggled before, they've been able to sustain the harsh dzuds, but this year they are struggling because vast territory was affected by fire and destroyed the pastures,'' said UNFAO Mongolia Programme officer, S.Jigjidpurev. In settlements like Dornod and Khentii, 90 percent of herders have bank loans that they are struggling to repay, according to UNFAO. “This number (of bank loans) is quite unprecedented,” Dr. S.Jigjidpurev said. Dzuds usually occur in five-yearly cycles and last for two winters. Mongolia is still reeling from the 2015-2016 dzud which killed 1.2 million livestock and left tens of thousands of herders in poverty. The 2010 dzud was much more deadly, killing eight million animals and costing the government millions in aid response. UNFAO rejected claims that herders were unfairly burdening taxpayers by not doing enough to protect themselves from the financial and social impact of dzuds. Dr. Gallagher said the failing domestic and international market and the overpopulation of animals were to blame. “The herders are doing the right thing; they are doing what they can. This is market driven and outside of their control,” Dr. Gallagher said. “They can sell cashmere and wool but they can't sell meat because the abattoirs are either closed down or broke,” he said. “No-one's buying their animals.” Some herders are selling meat to the markets in Ulaanbaatar but others don't have the transportation or cash available to organize the sale, he said. While experts cannot predict how bad the looming dzud will be, they are concerned about the levels of reserve fodder supply and predictions that snowfall will increase more than usual and the incoming La Nina weather cycle. According to the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), current winter preparation status for livestock is 82.8 percent at the national level, but hay and fodder stockpiles at the local district level are only at 50 percent of what is required. The government and herders have been stockpiling fodder since summer. Dr. Gallagher said individual herders could do better at improving their fodder supplies. “This year, one of the problems uncovered on the visit to Dornod and Khentii is that the herders were harvesting grass and then it rained and spoiled the grass, which became mouldy. So yes, herders can do better at collecting fodder supply,” he said. Some herders, many of them elderly, only have a flock of four animals while other well-off herders have up to 1000 animals, he said. The overpopulation of animals is a problematic issue for Mongolia. It not only leads to pasture degradation and overgrazing, but also raises questions about whether herders will be able to continue to sustain their livelihoods if markets change and if more people move from regional centers to Ulaanbaatar. “The dynamics are beyond the herders; something else has to change,'' he said. UNFAO's next step is funding market forces that will allow herders to downsize their herds. While the government has approved 1.1 billion MNT (approximately 445,000 USD) in funding for emergency preparations for this year's dzud, the Deputy Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh convened a special meeting last week calling on international aid support. Even though the government's preparedness for dzuds improved in recent years, capacity is expected to be much lower this year due to cost blowouts from the 2016 election, the economic downturn and the recovery of the last dzud only six months ago. It is NGOs like Save the Children, the UN, Red Cross and other agencies that step in to fill the gap by delivering vital humanitarian aid. In the 2015-2016 dzud, Save the Children Mongolia spent 1.1 million USD to assist 32,121 people affected by the dzud. The charity distributed fodder and cash grants to vulnerable families and helped fund hospital outreach programs in hard-to-reach communities. The organization's Humanitarian Program manager E.Telmen warned that without aid this year, families would go without enough food, and many may be forced to cut costs on medical care and warm clothing. “These households rely solely on animal fur for warmth, animal's milk to stay nourished, and income from the herd to pay school fees and provide health care for their children,” E.Telmen said. E.Telmen explained that the social impacts of dzuds are wide-ranging; from poverty and loss of livelihoods, to children missing school as they help their families tend to the herd, as well as a loss of identity from herders who lose their nomadic roots. “Kids can also be stuck in the dormitories for long periods of time without contact with the parents, especially when parents are in their winter camps with no phone access.” But one of the biggest impacts of dzuds in recent years has been the mass migration of herders, who often have no skills to find employment, to Ulaanbaatar and regional centers. UNFAO says this year's dzud will be no different with many herders likely to be pushed out of herding, leaving them with little option but to migrate to the city. “As herders begin to face the deadly winter months, many will also be worrying if they can find new ways to survive in the city,” Dr. S.Jigjidpurev said. ^ top ^

Access to family education to be improved to prevent domestic violence (Montsame)
2016-12-22
On Wednesday, the cabinet backed the concept of draft new wording of the Law on Family, and assigned related ministers to prepare a draft law to submit to the State Great Khural. Concept of the bill outlines an objective to improve family education in order to raise awareness of family stability which is cricial for child development. The darft also suggests specifying responsibilities of parents and legal guardians of children; legalizing child's right to property; providing children and their guardians with full access to regular benefits; and regulating children's adoption by foreign individuals and families by law.  ^ top ^

Mongolia and Russia to boost agricultural cooperation in four main areas (Montsame)
2016-12-22
The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry of Mongolia has finalized a deal with the Russian side on cooperation in four main areas, including improvement of livestock health, export of animal origin products, establishing crop farm and trans-boundary trades. Minister of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry P.Sergelen paid an official visit to the Russian Federation on November 18-20. He met the Russian Minister of Agriculture A.N.Tkachev and the First Deputy Minister of Agriculture E.V.Gromyko, Chairman of the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance S.A.Dankvert and Director of International Department of Cooperation O.V.Garshina. The sides have reached certain agreements on resuming the joint program on improving health of Mongolian livestock, broadening the scope of Mongolia-Russia trade in agricultural products, increasing meat exports to Russia and implementing joint program on obtaining variety of crop sorts, as well as on export quotas for animal-origin goods to enter Russian territory. The commencement of the second stage of the livestock health program has been negotiated during the 20th meeting of Mongolia-Russia Intergovernmental Commission held in Ulaanbaatar. Both sides pledged to promote companies and projects, which will contribute to boosting agricultural ties of the two countries. The Minister of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, Mr Aleksandr N.Tkachev has officially notified of the ministry's interest to cooperate with the Mongolian side on protecting and preventing contagious livestock diseases in frames of the implementation of program on improving livestock health, through an official letter addressed to the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Light Indsusry, Mr P.Sergelen. The official letter further said that the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance will send a preliminary report on results of an inspection, carried out on September 17-28 of 2016 at meat processing factories of Mongolia, by the end of December; and that the Russian side will assist Mongolia by studying feasibilities of increasing the amount of meat export to Russia, after considering the results of the above mentioned inspection and some required demand research on Russian market. The Mongolian side is receiving from Russia 5 million doses of vaccine by December 25 out of the agreed total of 20 million doses within the scope of the Program on Improvement of Livestock Health. ^ top ^

Emir of Kuwait pledged to help Mongolia in times of economic decline (Montsame)
2016-12-22
On the second day of his official visit to Kuwait, Speaker M.Enkhbold paid a courtesy call on His Highness the Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. The Speaker of Mongolian Parliament conveyed the greetings of the President of Mongolia to His Highness the Emir and extended heartfelt gratitude for the consistent support for Mongolia in difficult times. He recalled that Kuwait has rendered financial assistance of USD 500.0 thousand during dzud of 2000-2001 winter and aid for eliminating the damages caused by last summer's flood in Bayan-Olgii. The Speaker also underlined that, while noting the bilateral political and economic relations has been progressing rapidly within the last couple decades, the people of Mongolia are always grateful for the developments constructed on the financing of Kuwait, such as the road constructions and the project on Taishir's Hydropower Plant. “The research center, initiated by Your Highness has been operating in Ulaanbaatar with success and is conducting the feasibility study for expansion project of Undurkhaan Airport”, added Mr Enkhbold. As Your Highness is well acquainted with Mongolia, he said, we have sea of cooperation opportunities in mining, agriculture, tourism, construction and infrastructure. Chairman of the SGK M.Enkhbold added that the new cabinet has been working for attracting more foreign investment, protecting investors' interests and sophisticating the legal and business grounds for promoting international investments to Mongolia. In turn, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said “We always appreciate Mongolia's support for Kuwait in times of Iraq war. Please make Yourself at home. Although the weather has been stern for the recent days in our country, I believe this is nothing for Mongolians. Please convey my gratitude along with my greetings to the President of Mongolia”. Expressing his hope that the issues of loan and financial assistance by the Kuwiat Fund would be settled with positive results, the Emir noted that Kuwait itself has been facing some economic decline in regard to the fall of oil price. “Nevertheless, our side will be willing to give a helping hand to our Mongolian friends”, he went on. His Highness the Emir said that he recognizes the Speaker's visit to his country of great importance as it is crucial to strengthen cooperation and friendship between the peoples and the legislative bodies. At the end this meeting, His Highness the Emir wished prosperity to the growth of Mongolia and wellbeing and happiness to the people. ^ top ^

Largest solar power plant in the country launches operations (The UB Post)
2016-12-22
As reported by the Energy Regulatory Committee, the largest solar power plant in the country (located in Darkhan) has started a trial run and has began supplying electricity to the city's main electricity grid. The ten-megawatt power station was built in Darkhan by Solar Power International, in cooperation with the Japanese multinational corporations Sharp and Shigemitsu Shoji. Early estimates suggest that the plant will produce 15.2 million kWh annually for the regional power grid. Officials noted that the solar power plant will help to eliminate 15 million tons of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere through the consumption of coal. The plant is home to 32,000 solar batteries, and most of its equipment was supplied by the German company SMA Solar Technology AG and the Swedish company ABB. The Head of the Energy Regulatory Committee, A.Tleikhan, said of the power plant, “We are pleased to be starting operations for the largest solar power plant in the country and opening up a new chapter in the development of energy. The effectiveness and the reliability of this power plant will decide the fates of future solar projects.” ^ top ^

Mongolia pledges to halt visits by the Dalai Lama (SCMP)
2016-12-22
Mongolia's government pledged to extend no more invitations to the Dalai Lama after China signalled that a trip last month by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader could derail ties. “The Dalai Lama's visit by the invitation of Gandan Monastery negatively affected two countries and these two countries have a misunderstanding,” Mongolian Foreign Minister Munkh-Orgil Tsend told the Onoodor newspaper on Wednesday. “The government feels sorry for this,” he said, adding that the Dalai Lama “probably won't be visiting Mongolia again during this administration”. The Mongolian foreign ministry declined to provide further information when asked about the minister's comments. China called off talks with Mongolian senior officials after the Dalai Lama's four-day visit to Ulan Bator last month. Mongolia has been seeking soft loans from sources including China and the International Monetary Fund as it struggles with a US$1 billion budget gap and looming debt repayments. A traditionally Buddhist nation that has deep historical ties to Tibet, Mongolia has hosted the current Dalai several times since 1979. Past visits have been met with reprisals from Beijing, which considers the Dalai Lama to be a separatist leader and routinely condemns nations that give him a platform to speak. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular news briefing on Wednesday in Beijing that China “attaches great importance to the explicit statement made by the Mongolian foreign minister”. “China's stand on Tibet-related issues is firm and clear,” Hua said. “We hope that Mongolia will truly learn lessons from this incident, truly respect the core interests of China, honour its promise and make efforts to improve the relations between China and Mongolia.” ^ top ^

MMC gives an update on the Tavan Tolgoi project (The UB Post)
2016-12-20
The board of Mongolian Mining Corporation released a statement on December 15, announcing that the consortium of Energy Resources LLC, China Shenhua Energy Company Limited, and Sumitomo Corporation received an official letter from the working group established by the government (formed after the election held in June 2016) asking to continue negotiations regarding the Tavan Tolgoi project. MMC stated, “The consortium has been informed that participation in discussions will continue with the working group representing the government regarding the terms and conditions of an investment and cooperation agreement and such other ancillary agreements in relation to the Tavan Tolgoi project. The company will make further announcements in connection with its conclusion of definitive agreements with the Government of Mongolia and/or its designated entities as and when required under the Listing Rules or other applicable rules and regulations.” The company also informed shareholders and potential investors that even if definitive agreements are entered into, completion of such agreements will be subject to the satisfaction of previously agreed upon conditions. They emphasized that the company may or may not benefit from the Tavan Tolgoi project. Shareholders and potential investors were advised to exercise caution when dealing in the securities of the MMC. The CEO of MMC, G.Battsengel,was interviewed by Bloomberg TV Mongolia on December 16, and provided details on the updates to the Tavan Tolgoi project. He reported that the structure of the consortium remains the same. “Compared to Tavan Tolgoi negotiations in the past, the government has expressed from the beginning that they will manage a majority stake in the railway. State-owned Mongolian Railway will own 51 percent and Shenhua Group will hold a 49 percent share. Energy Resources LLC will not be directly involved in the railway project,” said G.Battsengel. The MMC CEO reported that the consortium had proposed that 75 percent of the products be sold to China and 25 percent to Japan and South Korea. He also noted that the consortium is focusing on refining the mining products in Mongolia before exporting them. G.Battsetseg stated that MMC is ready to start the project as soon as the negotiations are finished. The price of MMC stock (975 HK) on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange was at 0.190 HKD a share on December 9. As of December 16, the price had surged to 0.295 HKD a share. ^ top ^

Average salary reaches 884.3 thousand Togrog (Montsame)
2016-12-20
The National Statistics Office has calculated the average monthly salary on the basis of the payment of the income tax. As of the third quarter of 2016, the average monthly salary per an employee amounted to MNT 884,300, which represents a 47.4 percent increase against the same period in 2015, but a MNT 3,700 decrease from the previous quarter. Dividing the companies by the numbers of employees, the average monthly salary stands at MNT 624,800 for companies with 1-9 personnel, MNT 728,400 for entities with 10-49 employees. The amount is MNT 802,200 for companies with 50-99 staff, and MNT 932,900 for companies with 100-199 staff, and MNT 1,208,100 for companies with more than 200 employees. ^ top ^

Parents to demonstrate against air pollution in Ulaanbaatar city (gogoMongolia)
2016-12-20
Parents will demonstrate against air pollution of Ulaanbaatar city, demanding officials to take urgent and efficient actions. "Mothers against air pollution" union initiated the demonstration. Moreover, parents joined to deliver recommendations on air pollition that are able to be implemented. The demonstration will take place on Dec 26th at 10 am at Sukhbaatar square. Everyone is allowed to join the demonstration and people attending the demonstration should bring boards with slogans, expressing their opinions. For more info on the demonstration, please contact at +976 88002839. ^ top ^

Mongolia to sign compact agreement with USA (Montsame)
2016-12-16
On December 14, Ms. Fatema Z. Sumar, Regional Deputy Vice President for Europe, Asia, Pacific and Latin America of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) of the U.S.A. informed the Foreign Minister of Mongolia, Mr Ts. Munkh-Orgil over the phone of the MCC's Board of Directors decision to include Mongolia in a list of countries eligible to sign the Second Compact Agreement. Through its Second Compact Agreement, the MCC aims at providing a sustainable and comprehensive solution to a major developmental issue facing Mongolia. Sharing this commitment, the parties are closely cooperating to define the target areas of investment, which are, as of today, identified as increasing bulk water supply of Ulaanbaatar, and improving water supply and sanitation in ger areas. Following the MCC's Board of Directors decision to select Mongolia as a Second Compact Agreement eligible country in 2014, by Resolution of the Prime Minister of Mongolia, the Working Group to provide leadership and direction for the development of the Second Mongolia Compact Agreement between the Government of Mongolia and the Millennium Challenge Corporation of the USA, headed by the Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil was established. The following year, the National Secretariat was set up. The preparations for the signing of the Second compact are underway. While, in general, Mongolia passes the Compact eligibility requirements, the Board noted that it expects Mongolia to demonstrate improved performance in combatting corruption. The sides are working towards signing the agreement in 2017. ^ top ^

Stricter punishments to be inflicted for bribery and white-collar crimes (Montsame)
2016-12-16
At its regular meeting held on Wednesday, the cabinet considered the draft amendments to the Criminal Code and decided to submit them to the Parliament. The draft amendments suggest important changes to the Law, such as imposing compulsory criminal liability on sentenced with bribery; revising the punishment policy reflected in the General Party of the Criminal Code of Mongolia and ruling that the minimum period for imprisonment sentence to be 6 months; recognizing the purchase of “properties” at higher costs than the average market prices a crime and the scope of violation to contain not only “properties” but also “goods and services”; changing that all crimes included in the Special Part of the Criminal Code were punishable by imprisonment and broader utilization of punishment by forced labor; to lengthen the period for deprivation of rights to hold public and elected offices from two years to five years; and many others. A bill on amending the new wording of the Criminal Code of Mongolia was passed on August 30 of 2016, and was regulated to take force on July 1 of 2017. ^ 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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