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

Press review, if not selected: all SinOptic
  13-17.2.17, No. 659  
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Foreign Policy

US poised to use marine guards at de facto diplomatic mission in Taipei (SCMP)
2017-02-16
Taiwan's relations with the United States are set to become closer as Washington reinstates marines as guards at the new compound of its de facto diplomatic mission in Taipei, a move likely to irk Beijing, analysts said. In a seminar in Washington on Wednesday, Stephen Young, a former director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) – the US embassy on the island in the absence of official ties – said Washington would send marines soon to guard the new compound. Young, who served as AIT director from 2006 to 2009, said he had pushed strongly for a marine security detachment for the Taipei mission and was “proud to say that it is the case today”, according to Taiwan's Central News Agency. Marines are posted at 148 US diplomatic missions around the world. But there have been no such deployments at the AIT since Washingtonswitched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979. Hu Benliang, an associate research fellow with the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the move showed the “duplicity” of US policy towards Taiwan, given that US President Donald Trump had pledged to honour the one-China policy, which recognises Taiwan as part of China. “What Trump says is different from the measures and policy that he is pursuing. Both sides are still engaged in a power play [over Taiwan],” Hu said. “But in order to contain China, [Washington] just cannot give up the Taiwan card.” ' In Beijing, the ministries of foreign affairs and defence did not respond to a request for comment. Nor did the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. Trump agreed to honour the one-China policy while on the phone with President Xi Jinping on February 9. Observers said the deployment, if confirmed, would be seen in Taiwan as a sign its relationship with Washington was stable. Lo Chih-cheng, the head of the international affairs department of Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said such a move by Washington would have “substantive significance” to Taipei. Lo said the US had rarely stationed marines to protect its missions in countries without diplomatic relations unless the situation there was risky. “If the relations are not stable, there is no need for the US to invest in a costly project like this,” Lo said. The AIT has said its personnel would be moved to the new office compound in Neihu district some time this year. It is not known whether marines guards at the new compound would wear a military uniform, as their counterparts do in US embassies in other countries. AIT spokeswoman Sonia Urbom yesterday said she would not discuss specific security matters for the facility. Yen Cheng-sheng, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations, said Washington had increased its defence commitments to Taiwan as part of its Asia-Pacific strategy. Yen noted that former US president Barack Obama had signed into law the 2017 National Defence Authorisation Act, which authorised the Pentagon to conduct senior military exchanges between Taiwan and the US. “The posting could mean there will be more obvious military exchanges between the United States and Taiwan, but it is far from the US stationing troops in Taiwan.” Beijing might be “uncomfortable” with marine guards, Yen said, but because of Trump's agreement on the one-China policy, it would not make the matter a big issue with Washington ^ top ^

China, EU may hold their annual summit early in 2017 to endore free trade (Global Times)
2017-02-16
Chinese analysts said that China and the EU may hold their annual summit in 2017 earlier than previous years, in a bid to support free trade and globalization as well as address challenges in the China-EU cooperation. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a press conference in Beijing on Thursday that "we are keeping communication and coordination with the EU on the summit this year, and we will release the information when it's appropriate." Three anonymous EU officials were quoted by Reuters on Wednesday as saying that the EU is "preparing for an early summit with China in April or May in Brussels to promote free trade and international cooperation in the face of a more protectionist US government," and one official said China had requested it to take place as early as possible. Although Geng failed to confirm the Reuters report, he said on Thursday that China always treats the EU as an important pole in the process of world's multi-polarization, irrespective of changes in the world. "China's determination to support multilateralism around the globe would not change; China will firmly support European integration process; and China sincerely hopes the EU can be stable and prosperous," said Geng. Zhong Na from the Press Office of the Delegation of the European Union to China told the Global Times on Thursday that there is no information about the summit to be released at this moment, but if both sides reach an agreement on the relevant details, the information will be released. "Both sides want to hold a summit as soon as possible this year. This is based on the mutual interests of China and the EU," Wang Yiwei, director of the Center for International Studies at the Renmin University, told the Global Times. "For the EU, it needs a summit with the world's second-largest economy to assure its people and elites that there is a powerful friend from the East willing to support Europe's regional integration and free trade," Wang said. Wang added that it will also "send a message to Donald Trump that the EU is not alone if the US refuses to support the European integration." Although both sides share common interests on supporting free trade and globalization, EU members have differences on some points. "Germany, France and Italy have called on Brussels to grant them a right of veto over Chinese high-tech takeovers, in a sign of growing protectionist backlash against Chinese investments in Europe's most sensitive industries," according to a Financial Times report on Wednesday. For China, "we also need to hold a summit as soon as possible to solve the difficulties and problems in trade and economic cooperation via negotiation with our EU partners," Wang said. ^ top ^

China's latest drug ban a 'game-changer' in battle against US drug trade (SCMP)
2017-02-16
China is adding the deadly elephant tranquilliser carfentanil and three related synthetic opioids to its list of controlled substances from the start of next month, China's National Narcotics Control Commission said on Thursday. The US Drug Enforcement Administration called the move a potential “game-changer” that is likely to reduce supply of key chemicals driving a surge of overdoses and deaths among unsuspecting drug users in North America. After China controlled 116 synthetic drugs in October 2015, seizures in the United States of compounds on that list plunged. “It's a substantial step in the fight against opioids here in the United States,” said Russell Baer, a drug agency special agent in Washington. “We're persuaded it will have a definite impact.” Some 5,000 times stronger than heroin, carfentanil is so potent it has been used as a weapon and is considered a potential terrorism threat. Dealers cut fentanyls into heroin and other drugs to boost profit margins. Beijing already regulates fentanyl and 18 related compounds. China said it was also placing carfentanil's less-potent cousins furanylfentanyl, acrylfentanyl and valerylfentanyl under control. All are prevalent in the US drug supply, Baer said. In October, Associated Press identified 12 Chinese companies that offered to export carfentanil around the world for a few thousand dollars per kilogram, no questions asked. That same month China began evaluating whether to add carfentanil and the three other fentanyls to its list of controlled substances. Usually, the process can take nine months. This time, it took just four. The DEA and US State Department have pressed China to make carfentanil a controlled substance. Although Beijing has said US assertions that China is the top source of fentanyls lack evidence, the two countries have been deepening cooperation as the American opioid epidemic intensifies. US opioid demand is driving the proliferation of a new class of deadly synthetic drugs, made by nimble chemists to stay one step ahead of new rules like this one. As soon as one substance is banned, others proliferate. After Beijing tightened its focus on fentanyls late last year, the AP documented how Chinese vendors began to actively market alternative opioids, like U-47700. “We don't think their scheduling actions will end with just these four,” Baer said. ^ top ^

Jailed kingpin asks Canada to pressure China on health check-ups (SCMP)
2017-02-17
The lawyer for a former Chinese tycoon serving a life sentence for smuggling has appealed to Canada to pressure mainland authorities to reinstate a series of health checks for his client. Lai Changxing, once one of China's most wanted fugitives, was extradited to China in 2011 under a deal that allowed Canada to request health checks for Lai, his lawyer said. Lai's lawyer, Shu Jie, said on Thursday that a number of monthly, six-monthly and weekly check-ups had been suspended since May without reason. Shu said Lai's older brother Lai Shuiqiang and an accountant with Lai's company died of heart attacks in prison in 2002. “We shouldn't allow the same thing happen to Lai, not in today's China, which upholds the law,” Shu wrote in a petition filed with Fujian's provincial judiciary department on Monday. China and Lai is suffering from heart disease, angina and diabetes, according to a notice from the prison in 2014. In a petition sent to the Canadian embassy in Beijing yesterday, Shu asked the Canadian ambassador to request mainland authorities allow Lai to undergo a full medical check-up. As the suspected architect of a 50 billion yuan (HK$60.5 billion) smuggling ring in Xiamen, Fujian province, Lai was one of China's most wanted fugitives when he fled to Canada via Hong Kong in August 1999. Lai tried to apply for refugee status in Canada and sought to avoid deportation by claiming he could face the death penalty or be tortured if he was sent back to China. But he was returned to China in 2011 after Beijing pledged not to give him a death sentence and a Canadian court ruled that Li would not be at risk. Lai was sentenced to life imprisonment for smuggling in 2013. The Canadian court ruling was partly based on the extradition agreement between China and Canada under which China must let “an independent Chinese medical establishment” examine Lai, if Canada requests it, according to the ruling. In 2013, Lai's family requested Canadian officials visit Lai, but the request was rejected, with the Canadian embassy saying those visits were only to take place before Lai's conviction in China. Lai's health had worsened recently and two weeks ago, Lai's family hired Canadian lawyer David Matas to sue the Canadian government for failure to fulfil its obligations, Shu said. “He had a recent chest pain that lasted three hours. We're seeking help because he's in real danger,” Shu said. Lai was among the most important fugitives extradited to China. Beijing has carried out a sweeping anti-corruption campaign since 2012, and has pledged to go after fugitive corrupt officials, netting hundreds of them in less than five years. ^ top ^

Honor one-China policy, India told (China Daily)
2017-02-16
Beijing urged New Delhi on Wednesday to stick to the one-China principle and respect China's core interests, following a rare visit by a delegation of Taiwan politicians to the Indian capital. China firmly opposes all forms of official contacts and exchanges between Taiwan and countries that have diplomatic ties with China, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news conference. China hopes that India will stick to the one-China principle and handle issues related to Taiwan prudently, he said, adding that China has lodged a protest with India on the issue. The spokesman's comment came after the visit of a Taiwan lawmakers delegation to New Delhi starting on Sunday. The delegation visited India's Parliament House complex on Monday. It was the first visit to India by an official Taiwan delegation since Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen took office in May. Tsai challenged the one-China principle in December when she made a congratulatory phone call to Donald Trump after he won the US presidential election. Trump assured President Xi Jinping last week that Washington will continue to honor the one-China policy. Noting that India has committed to recognizing the one-China principle, Geng said New Delhi should respect and understand China's core interests and maintain the healthy development of China-India relations. A report in the Indian newspaper The Hindu said the Taiwan delegation sought to upgrade "diplomatic ties" with India in the coming weeks, quoting anonymous sources from Taiwan. Like most countries, India does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. According to Resolution 2758, adopted in 1971 by the United Nations General Assembly, the People's Republic of China is "the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations". The one-China policy confirmed by the resolution has since been the consensus of the international community. Qian Feng, an expert at the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, said that some Indians want to use the Taiwan question as a bargaining chip in dealing with China. India's suspicions and dissatisfaction toward China have risen in recent years, especially over the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, he said. Jin Yong, a professor of international relations studies at Communication University of China, said the Taiwan delegation's visit will have a negative effect on China-India ties. Tsai, the "pro-independence" Taiwan leader, came up with the "new southbound policy" last year to enhance economic exchanges with Southeast Asia, South Asia and Oceania, Jin said, adding that Tsai hopes to put pressure on the mainland by seeking closer ties with India. "The one-China principle is a red line whose crossing will never be tolerated by Beijing," he said. ^ top ^

Trump still has plenty of room to manoeuvre on Taiwan despite one-China pledge, analysts say (SCMP)
2017-02-14
The United States can still offer significant support to Taiwan in the form of arms sales and other assurances of assistance, even as US President Donald Trump seeks to mend ties with Beijing by acknowledging the one-China policy, analysts say. Trump spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday, in their first conversation since the American leader was sworn into office in January. Trump told Xi he would continue to honour the one-China policy, which recognises Taiwan as part of China, easing fears the world's two biggest economies were headed for confrontation. Yet doubts persist over just how closely the Trump administration will hew to the policy. “Trump is predictable in his unpredictability. He has avoided the minefield for now, but there's still a lot of uncertainties,” said William Choong, senior fellow for Asia-Pacific security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore. “So the jury is out still on the China-US relationship.” Bonnie Glaser, an expert on US-China relations at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said Trump might more clearly define “one China” in the future. In the White House statement on the phone call, Trump said he would respect “our one-China policy”. “The US one-China policy is composed of the Taiwan Relations Act and three US communiqués,” Glaser said. ' The Taiwan Relations Act, signed in 1979 after the US government switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, provides the legal basis for the unofficial relationship between the US and Taiwan. “Trump did not state any specific definition of the one-China policy, so it isn't clear what he agreed to,” she said. “He certainly will not embrace China's definition – no US president has ever accepted China's definition.” Choong said Trump's pledge to stand by the policy does not in any way limit his room to manoeuvre under the Taiwan Relations Act. “It's completely within the Americans' rights to sell military hardware to Taiwan,” he said. Former US president Barack Obama signed into law in late December the 2017 National Defence Authorisation Act, which calls on the Pentagon to conduct senior military exchanges between Taiwan and the US. Beijing has previously denounced American arms sales to Taiwan. In 2015, it summoned a senior US envoy in Beijing after the US State Department said it intended to sell Taipei two Perry-class frigates, Javelin anti-tank missiles, anti-tank missiles, amphibious assault vehicles and a range of other military equipment. The direction of Sino-US ties are also expected to be shaped by Trump's approach to regional sovereignty disputes in the East and South China seas, observers said. On the heels of Friday's call, Trump hailed Japan as “a great ally” during a state visit by Japanese President Shinzo Abe and reaffirmed that the US-Japan Security Treaty covered the Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyus in Chinese. Under the treaty, the US will continue to recognise Japan as the rightful claimant and be prepared to defend the islands against invasion. ^ top ^

Japan to preach illegal claim on Diaoyu islands in schools (Global Times)
2017-02-15
Japan's education ministry released on Tuesday a draft of new curriculum guidelines which require elementary and junior high schools to teach in classes that China's Diaoyu islands as well as a group of disputed islands currently under control of Republic of Korea, are "inherent" territory of Japan. While asserting Japan's sovereignty over the two disputed island groups, the teachers will not be required to tell the students about Japan's neighbors' claims over the islands "in parallel" with Japan's claims, according to the education ministry. It is the first time that the Japanese ministry decided to make such requirements in the guidelines that stipulate what must be done by schools. The guidelines will be formally published next month and fully implemented for elementary and junior high schools from fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2021, respectively. Curriculum guidelines for elementary, junior high and senior high schools are revised roughly every 10 years, according to local reports. The release of the draft guidelines came after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump affirmed in Washington D.C. that Article 5 of the US-Japan security treaty covered the Diaoyu islands. China on Monday expressed grave concern at and firm opposition to the statements concerning the Diaoyu islands made by Japan and the US. "We firmly oppose that Japan asked for the endorsement of the United States on its illegal territorial claim in the name of the US-Japan security treaty," China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a daily press briefing. "Diaoyu island and its affiliated islets are China's inherent territory. No matter what anyone says or does, the fact that the Diaoyu islands belong to China cannot be changed," Geng said. "China will never waver in its determination and will safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity," he added. ^ top ^

China firmly opposes U.S. endorsement of Japan's illegal claim on Diaoyu islands (Xinhua)
2017-02-13
China on Monday firmly opposed the affirmation made by U.S. and Japanese leaders that the U.S.-Japan security treaty covered China's Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. "China expressed grave concern at and firm opposition to the statements [concerning the Diaoyu islands] made by Japan and the United States," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a daily press briefing. "We firmly oppose that Japan asked for the endorsement of the United States on its illegal territorial claim in the name of the U.S.-Japan security treaty." A joint U.S.-Japan statement issued over the weekend after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington D.C. affirmed that Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan security treaty covered the Diaoyu islands. "Diaoyu island and its affiliated islets are China's inherent territory. No matter what anyone says or does, the fact that the Diaoyu islands belong to China cannot be changed," Geng said. "China will never waver in its determination and will to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity," he added. He said that Japan and the United States should speak and act discreetly and stop making false statements so as to avoid complicating relevant issues and casting a shadow on regional peace and stability. The joint U.S.-Japan statement also mentioned China's reef construction in the South China Sea. Geng said that China's construction on its own islands was "totally within China's sovereignty and has nothing to do with militarization." Geng said that the leading cause of militarization in the South China Sea was that some countries had sent aircraft and vessels to show military force or drive a wedge between countries in the region. He said that China had indisputable sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea and its adjacent waters. He added that China was committed to solving differences with countries directly concerned in a peaceful way, and safeguarding stability in the region with ASEAN countries. "We urge the United States and Japan to view the South China Sea issue objectively and rationally and do more to contribute to the peace and stability of the South China Sea, not the other way around," Geng said. ^ top ^

One-China tensions ease but 'Trump could still use Taiwan chip' (SCMP)
2017-02-13
Beijing may have heaved a sigh of relief as US President Donald Trump agreed last week to honour the one-China policy but analysts said uncertainties remained as Trump would probably keep using Taiwan as a bargaining chip in dealing with Beijing. Tensions could also rise again if Beijing, increasingly wary of Taiwan's independence-leaning administration, sought to further squeeze Taiwan's international space. Trump's ice-breaking phone call with President Xi Jinping on Friday was the first between the two leaders since Trump was sworn into office in late January, and to some extent ended a period of great uncertainty in Sino-US ties. During the call, Trump assured Xi that the US would continue to abide by the one-China policy, which recognises that Taiwan is part of China. Trump had toyed with using the long-standing policy as a bargaining chip in exchange for concessions from Beijing on trade and currency. In response, Beijing insisted that the one-China policy was the “political basis” for Sino-US relations. Wu Xinbo, director of the Centre for American Studies at Fudan University, said Trump was likely to continue using Taiwan as a bargaining chip. “While we can now be assured that Trump agreed to maintain the framework of the one-China policy … there will still be struggles and disagreements over more concrete issues,” Wu said, adding that the US was likely to continue arms sales and high-level exchanges with Taiwan. ' Trump angered Beijing in December when he broke with decades-old protocol and took a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Beijing sees self-ruled Taiwan as its breakaway province and opposes any official communication between Taiwan and the United States. Bonnie Glaser, from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said there was unlikely to be another similar public phone call between Trump and Tsai. “[But] military and security cooperation between the US and Taiwan will continue unchanged, and may be strengthened,” she said. Tom Rafferty, a Beijing-based analyst with The Economist Intelligence Unit, said Trump would not appreciate the suggestion that he had been weak. “This might test his commitment to cordiality, particularly as we are doubtful that China will offer significant concessions to the US on issues such as trade, the South China Sea or North Korea,” Rafferty said. He said there were emerging signs that Beijing, which has become more concerned about Taiwan's government, might seek to tighten the definition of the one-China policy in its favour. One sign was the seizure of Singapore's military vehicles in Hong Kong on their way back from military drills in Taiwan. Jia Qingguo, dean of Peking University's School of International Studies, said Beijing remained concerned about the “political meaning” of the US selling weapons to Taiwan. “Now that the mainland is much stronger militarily than Taiwan, the US' arm sales to Taiwan are not significant in terms of defence, but in their political meaning,” Jia said. Jia said also Beijing would no longer tolerate a direct phone call between Trump and Tsai now that Trump had taken office. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Lawyers for rights activists in China increasingly persecuted, report says (SCMP)
2017-02-16
Lawyers who defend human rights activists and dissidents targeted by China's communist government increasingly face political prosecutions, violence and other means of suppression, according to a report released on Thursday. The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a coalition of groups working within and outside China, identified six occasions last year when lawyers were beaten by people they were pursuing legal action against, police officers or assailants probably hired by the authorities. In more than a dozen cases, the report found, detainees were pressured to fire their own lawyers and accept government-supplied attorneys. “The government is trying to give this impression that it's abiding by the rule of law,” said Frances Eve, a researcher at the network. “In fact, it's just legalising repressive measures.” Since President Xi Jinping took office China has widely suppressed independent organisations and dissenters, as well as lawyers defending people caught in the crackdown. The report says 22 people have been convicted since 2014 of subversion or other crimes against state security, including 16 last year alone. Dozens of lawyers have been questioned or detained in an ongoing campaign against dissident lawyers known as the 709 crackdown launched in July 2015. ' Wang Quanzhang, who defended members of the Falun Gong meditation sect banned by China, was charged with subversion of state power last year after previously being beaten and detained. His wife, Li Wenzu, said on Wednesday that Wang was now under indictment and held without access to family or lawyers. “We have to wait until the sentencing to see him in jail,” she said. Four people associated with Wang's law firm, Fengrui, were convicted in August on charges that they incited protests and took funding from foreign groups. China last year also passed a law tightening controls over foreign non-governmental organisations by subjecting them to close police supervision, a move critics called a new attempt by the authorities to clamp down on perceived threats to the ruling Communist Party's control. NGOs can be blacklisted if they commit violations ranging from illegally obtaining unspecified state secrets to “spreading rumors, slandering or otherwise expressing or disseminating harmful information that endangers state security”. Ordinary Chinese who share audio or video of a protest or other news event may be detained and the authorities can shut down phone and internet networks in response to perceived threats to national security and social order. Chinese internet censors already exercise tight control with the so-called “Great Firewall” that blocks many foreign news sites and social media platforms. Prominent activists have frequently been taken into custody without notice to their family or legal teams. One was Liu Feiyue, the founder of a website that detailed local corruption cases, veterans' issues, and allegations that perceived troublemakers were detained in mental hospitals. After his disappearance in November, Liu's family was told he was charged with subversion. Despite its well-publicised record, China was re-elected last year to the United Nations' Human Rights Council. But even as China reported its membership on the council through state media, it refused to let banned activists attend United Nations events, the report said. ' When Philip Alston, the UN's special rapporteur for human rights, visited China in August, the authorities forbade him from meeting several activists and tightly controlled his schedule. One activist who did meet with him, lawyer Jiang Tianyong, was arrested three months later and charged with inciting subversion of state power. Eve at Chinese Human Rights Defenders said some activists believed that after Xi became president in 2013 that they might find common cause over his stated goals of rooting out government corruption. But those limited hopes have not come to fruition, she said. “It's gone completely the opposite direction,” she said. “And it's a tragedy because those are the kinds of alliances that can make real impact.” The Chinese foreign ministry did not respond to faxed questions. ^ top ^

Human rights lawyer swept up in '709 crackdown' to face court in Tianjin for subversion (SCMP)
2017-02-16
A Chinese human rights lawyer swept up in a massive crackdown 19 months ago has been formally charged with subversion. Prosecutors in Tianjin charged Wang Quanzhang with “inciting subversion of state power” on Tuesday, his wife, Li Wenzu, said on Wednesday. Wang will be tried in the Tianjin No 2 Intermediate People's Court, where three other lawyers and an advocate rounded up in the “709 crackdown” were tried in August. They were sentenced to three to seven years in jail on subversion charges. The term “709” refers to the start of the crackdown on July 9, 2015. About 300 rights lawyers and activists were detained, interrogated or threatened in what some rights groups and observers have called the harshest crackdown on human rights and civil society in decades. Yesterday was Wang's 41st birthday and his second in custody since the crackdown. His wife and two lawyers have not been allowed to visit or speak to him since. Li, who married Wang more than five years ago, said she had never doubted her husband's innocence.“[The authorities] have been looking into the case for a year and seven months. If they have enough evidence, why would they put off the charges for so long?” she said. She said prosecutors twice handed Wang's case back to the police for “supplementary investigation”, the maximum number of times allowed by law. After being taken away by the police on July 10, 2015, Wang was put under “residential surveillance at a designated place” – an official term for secret detention – until he was formally arrested on subversion charges early last month. The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said last month that Wang and another 709 lawyer, Li Heping, had been subjected to various form of torture, including electric shocks, while in custody. Li said she feared for her husband's well-being, but she did not think the authorities would let her or his lawyers visit him because they would not want him to reveal the extent of his torture. Li said she had also been under watch in Beijing. “There are five or six surveillance cameras outside my flat and agents have rented a flat on the second floor of my building to monitor me,” she said. She said their four-year-old son missed his father over the Lunar New Year. “He told me, 'I miss Daddy' every night and asked why his father had not yet come home,” Li said. “Nobody can predict how the trial will end, but I won't give up until the last moment and will do everything I can.” ^ top ^

China death toll from bird flu soars to 79 in January (SCMP)
2017-02-15
China reported as many as 79 fatalities from H7N9 bird flu in January, the government said, far surpassing the number of deaths in recent years and stoking fears about the spread of the deadly virus among the population this winter. The news released by the National Health and Family Planning Commission late on Tuesday brings the number killed since October to 100. January's total far surpasses numbers for January over the past three years, which ranged between 20 and 31. Beijing joins list of mainland cities reporting bird flu cases in humans( Some 192 people were infected last month, the commission said, bringing the total since October to 306. The latest data will reinforce concerns about the spread of the virus among humans as neighbouring South Korea and Japan also battle major outbreaks among their poultry flocks. Chinese disease control experts have warned the public to stay alert for H7N9 avian flu. The virus usually strikes in winter and spring, and farmers have in recent years ramped up measures such as cleaning regimes to prevent the disease. Many major cities in the world's third-largest producer of broiler chickens and the second-biggest consumer of poultry have also closed some live poultry markets after people and chickens were infected by avian flu strains. China's fifth bird flu outbreak hits goose farm in Hunan province( China has confirmed five bird flu outbreaks among poultry this winter, which has led to the culling of more than 175,000 birds. Widespread infection can lead to severe health risks and big financial losses. The last major outbreak in China was in 2013, causing more than US$6 billion in losses for the agricultural sector. ^ top ^

Five Chinese lawyers sue local governments for failing to tackle smog (SCMP)
2017-02-14
Who is responsible for China's chronic and deadly air pollution? That depends on who you ask. Officials blame the weather or outdoor barbecues, activists blame steel companies and coal-fired power plants. But Yu Wensheng blames only one actor: the government. The 50-year-old lawyer has launched an unprecedented suit against the authorities in three regions in China, claiming they have failed in their responsibilities. For a government with the motto “Serve the People”, Yu feels the officials are serving other interests by allowing nearly half a billion people to choke on toxic smog. “Our bodies are being harmed because of the ineffectiveness of our government; because of their inaction and carelessness, we suffer,” Yu said. “The pollution has affected my family, my son is coughing, I'm also coughing and I feel the smog caused this. I am suing as a victim.” China orders cities to reduce emissions, as capital braces for another bout of heavy smog( Northern China is frequently blanketed with thick clouds of deadly smog that is linked to almost a third of all deaths in the country, caused by steel plants, a heavy reliance on coal for heat and power generation, plus millions of cars. While the authorities have “declared war on pollution”, many feel progress has been slow and the region is still hit with a yearly bout of “airpocalypse”. Cheng Hai, Yu and four other lawyers have filed cases against the governments of the capital Beijing, the neighbouring port city of Tianjin and Hebei province, home to some of the country's most polluted cities. “If the authorities don't accept the case or use some other method to dismiss it, it can only show the government has a bad attitude in the face of pressure from the citizens,” Yu said. “That would clearly show they don't serve the citizens at all.” ' Several in the group have been pressured by local branches of the justice ministry to withdraw the cases and another lawyer has already dropped out after he was visited by police in his home town. But Yu is undeterred, having previously spent stints in detention, where he says he was tortured. President Xi Jinping has made building “rule of law” a hallmark of his tenure, but critics say the ruling Communist party remains above the law and ordinary citizens still struggle for justice. The country's top judge rejected the idea of judicial independence in a speech last month, dismissing it as a “Western” notion. China mulls more curbs on coal, metal industries to combat smog( In the wake of the lawyers announcing their lawsuit, China's powerful censorship authorities issued a blanket ban on any discussion of the case – a rare edict for an environmental issue. In recent years the government has allowed some space for citizens to vent their anger over the country's chronically toxic air. Even government media frequently publishes articles lamenting pollution. In the midst of a week-long bout of bad air in the beginning of January, the state-run China Daily published an editorial lambasting the government for not doing enough to tackle the problem. “No matter how much importance the government says it has attached to pollution control, no matter how many efforts may have actually been made in this regard, the heaviest smog that has extended for the longest time and covered the largest number of cities in years flies in the face of the country's fight against environmental pollution,” the paper wrote. Environmental suits have been successful in the past, particularly civil cases suing for monetary compensation. A Chinese court ordered US oil giant ConocoPhillips to pay damages to 21 fisherman who claimed their livelihoods suffered after a spill at an oil rig operated by the company. Hebei man 'becomes first to sue government over smog'( China allowed non-governmental organisations to sue companies in 2015, with the goal of civil society taking a greater role in holding polluters accountable. NGOs with government affiliation and backing have been much more likely to have a case accepted by courts than independent groups. But one of Yu's colleagues sees little point in targeting companies. “We have to sue the government,” said Cheng Hai, another lawyer involved in the case. “A business can only control the emissions from its factories, but the government can reduce emissions across all the polluting industries. We have laws, regulations and systems to combat pollution, but they're not being enforced.” ' Their initial attempt at filing the case was rebuffed by a Beijing court, with court officials saying a case against each government needed to be filed separately in each location. “There's no point in just suing one government, such as Beijing,” Cheng said. “This is a regional problem and all three governments need to be held accountable for there to be any effect. If we don't sue, the air will just get worse.” The lawyers have since refiled their cases and are waiting for a response, but even if the court agrees to hear the cases, the chance of a landmark victory is almost non-existent. Why the rich breathe easier in China's choking smog( “This lawsuit on this topic at this moment in history is going to be an uphill battle,” said Rachel Stern, author of Environmental Litigation in China: A Study in Political Ambivalence. “I would be surprised if this lawsuit is successful and if I were betting, I don't even think it will get accepted by the court.” For the first 15 years of his law career, Yu shunned political cases, instead practising corporate and civil law. But in 2014 he staged a one-man protest, standing outside a Beijing detention centre for hours after he was barred from visiting a client held there. Two days later, police took him away. He would not emerge for more than three months, while interrogators accused him of supporting pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. “I really had nothing to do with the Hong Kong protests, but those 99 days changed my entire life,” Yu said. Once he was released, Yu put aside many commercial cases to focus on defending human rights and was detained again in 2015 as part of a nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists. “When I became a lawyer, I thought could contribute to society,” he said. “But after practising law, I found that it was not like that at all – because China is not a rule of law society, but a rule by law society.” ^ top ^

China's think tanks overflow, but most still think what they're told to think (SCMP)
2017-02-12
The term “think tank” may be new in China, but since ancient times the country's rulers and aristocracy have had a tradition of valuing counsel from scholars and people with diverse backgrounds. One such ruler was Lord Mengchang during the Warring States period more than 2,000 years ago. He supported up to 3,000 people as retainers in his home. He was known to take copious notes during many discussions while wining and dining his entourage and his family almost every night. Now the Chinese leadership wants to emulate Mengchang by grooming think tanks with global influence to match its expanding economic clout in the international arena. Liberal economist Mao Yushi cancels talk under pressure from leftists. But while making great progress, China faces some internal challenges when it comes to fitting modern ideas about think tanks into its political culture, especially when the institutions express thoughts that are in conflict with the government. On January 25, a media report showed China's 435 think tanks put it second in the world, behind only the United States with 1,835. And nine Chinese think tanks were included among the world's best in the 2016 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report, published by the think tank and civil societies programme at the University of Pennsylvania's Lauder Institute. Chinese economist Mao Yushi. But just five days before the media report, China's cyber-regulators shut down the social media accounts and website of the Unirule Institute of Economics, a liberal and non-governmental think tank founded by Mao Yushi, an outspoken economist. The closure came two days after Mao lashed out at the country's top judge, Supreme People's Court chief justice Zhou Qiang, for rejecting the concept of judicial independence. Ironically, Mao's institute is one of the nine Chinese think tanks that was reported to be among the best in the world. On Monday, in a high-level meeting to discuss reform matters chaired by President Xi Jinping (習近平), the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform approved a document to promote the development of non-governmental think tanks, according to Xinhua. Chinese leftists dumbfounded by lack of official support after Mao Yushi speechp While the details of the document have yet to be released, the report said that Communist Party theories would be used to guide the development of non-governmental think tanks, they would be asked to put social responsibility first and they should study major projects of the party and the state. It said think tanks that followed these guidelines would be given more channels to participate in policymaking and their talent management would be further improved. Xi reportedly took a personal interest in pushing the development of think tanks soon after he came to power in late 2012. A central government document in 2014 called for the establishment of highly professional and internationally influential think tanks by 2020 to focus on strategic issues and public policies to help improve China's governance and boost its soft power. Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Reuters This has led to what some analysts call a great leap forward in think tanks, as central government departments, local authorities and universities scramble to refashion old research institutes into think tanks, or set up completely new ones. But the mushrooming number belies the fact that high-quality think tanks are still rare. Most are directly owned and funded by the central government and local authorities. It is a setup not unique to China – many are also publicly funded in Germany and Singapore to avoid the influence of special interest groups – but government-funded Chinese think tanks are part of the bureaucracy, with researchers carrying bureaucratic rankings. This has severely narrowed the field of their policy recommendations – researchers tend to second-guess what the leaders want and form their conclusions accordingly. Chinese liberal think tank's days were numbered, director saysp The same can be said of the think tanks at universities that are also funded by the government. One example is that those think tanks value the comments of the government leaders on their internal reports more than having the reports out in the public domain. As a result, those think tanks have become the mouthpieces of government policies; they rarely criticise any government decision or offer effective alternative solutions and recommendations – something that anyone attending international symposiums and listening to presentations by Chinese researchers can attest to. Zhou Qiang, President of the Supreme People's Court. Photo: Simon Song The dominance of the government-controlled think tanks has severely restricted the rise of truly non-governmental outlets like the Unirule Institute of Economics, which not only faces funding and regulatory constraints but also risks retribution by publishing politically incorrect reports. At a time when China is taking up the reins as the champion for globalism, a golden opportunity has emerged for its think tanks to make a mark on the international stage. But for them to succeed, critical thinking and academic freedom are essential so that researchers can produce high-quality reports to gain international credibility and appeal. ^ top ^

Two men jailed in China for selling Hong Kong-published books, sources say (SCMP)
2017-02-11
Two people have been jailed in mainland China for illegally selling books published in Hong Kong, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The case was handled by the same police bureau that investigated five people linked to Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong who went missing from their homes two years ago, one of the sources said. The cases prompted fears that they had been abducted by the mainland authorities for selling gossipy works critical of government leaders and the controversy attracted international headlines. The booksellers later surfaced on the mainland helping the police investigate the alleged sale of unauthorised books across the border. The two men jailed in the latest case are Dai Xuelin, a Beijing-based social media editor at the Guangxi Normal University Press, and his business partner Zhang Xiaoxiong, the sources said. Dai was jailed for five years and Zhang was given a 3½- year prison term for running an “illegal business operation”, according to the sources. The sentences were handed down by a court in Ningbo in Zhejiang province earlier this month, the sources said. It is not clear whether the pair had direct business links with booksellers at Causeway Bay Books. Dai and Zhang's case was handled by police bureau in Ningbo, which also carried out the Hong Kong bookseller investigation, one source said, even though the pair do not come from the city. The pair had bought Hong Kong-published books not authorised for sale on the mainland from another distributor in China, the source said. Among the books sold by the Dai and Zhang singled out by investigators was How the Red Sun Rose, an academic work written by the prominent mainland historian Gao Hua, one source said. The Hong Kong-published book uses Communist Party documents to discuss the role of former leader Mao Zedong in the party's bloody internal purges in the 1940s. ' Hong Kong has seen the publication and sale of politically-sensitive books about mainland China flourish in recent years. The books have been highly popular among mainland tourists as they often include political gossip about top government leaders, content banned on the other side of the border. One source said officers led by the Ningbo police bureau carried out an exhaustive investigation into Dai and Zhang's affairs. “All their customers were summoned to police stations to confirm transaction records,” the source said. “Some were told by police that Ningbo police was leading the investigation.” Two of the Hong Kong booksellers detained on the mainland - Lee Po and Lam Wing-Kee - said after their eventual return home that they were taken to Ningbo during the police investigation. The Ningbo police bureau accused Lam in a written statement of running an illegal business operation by selling Hong Kong books to mainland readers. One of the five booksellers, Gui Minhai, is still in custody on the mainland. He went missing from his home in Pattaya in Thailand in October 2015. He later appeared on state-run television admitting he had fled from a suspended two-year jail term for causing the death of a 23-year-old university student while drunk-driving in Ningbo in 2003. Two Hong Kong-based journalists -Wang Jianmin and Guo Zhongxiao- were jailed across the border in Shenzhen last July for running an illegal businesses. The court said the magazines, registered and published in Hong Kong, were illegal publications. ^ top ^

Chinese Catholics wary of suggested reform to government-backed church (SCMP)
2017-02-12
Two priests and a former senior official in the government-backed organisation that oversees the Catholic church in China have rejected suggestions that its role should be downgraded as part of a deal to restore ties with the Vatican that were severed over 65 years ago. The comments came after the head of the church in Hong Kong claimed that the Vatican and Beijing are close to an agreement over how to appoint bishops on the mainland, one of the main stumbling blocks to normalising ties. Catholic bishops in the state-sanctioned church on the mainland are appointed by the government-backed Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, but not all are recognised by the Vatican. However, in recent months, the Holy See for the first time publicly recognised two bishops in Sichuan and Shanxi that affiliate to the association. Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong Hon wrote in the Sunday Examiner newspaper earlier this month that a deal was close in which Pope Francis would have the final say on the appointment of mainland bishops. Cardinal Tong also suggested in the article that the patriotic Catholic association should no longer nominate candidates to become bishops and that its role should focus on charity and social welfare. The association should reorient itself “to encourage clergy and the faithful to carry out social charities, actively start social services and work on matters of social interest”, he wrote. He also suggested that the mainland authorities should recognise more than 30 bishops belonging to unofficial, underground Catholic churches in China which place their allegiance solely with the Vatican. Most mainland catholics have yet to comment publicly on the negotiations, but a former vice-president of the Patriotic Catholic association, Liu Bonian, rejected the suggestions by Cardinal Tong about the future of the organisation and the appointment of bishops. “It's a matter of [Tong's] own opinion,” Liu told the South China Morning Post. “Whether Chinese will ordain their own bishops in future, it's up to future Sino-Vatican dialogue,” Liu said. He also dismissed the suggestion that bishops of underground churches should be recognised as their “political stance” made them “unfit for the [Communist] Party to work with”. ' A Guangzhou-based priest, who asked not to be named, said it was too early to talk about the future development of the government-sanctioned Catholic association as any agreements were only preliminary. “It's premature to discuss these matters before things are solid on paper,” he said. Another priest from a state-sanctioned Catholic church in central China expressed concerns over the suggestion the patriotic association should concentrate on social welfare. “It's a one-sided wish to have the association serve as an NGO for social services. There's no such proposal being heard on the mainland yet and no one is talking about it,” he said. The priest said more and more underground Catholic communities were acting in isolation as they had been “ignored” by the Vatican in the negotiations with Beijing. An underground priest in rural Hebei province was ordained last May as bishop of Zhengding diocese without the approval of Vatican or the Chinese authorities. A Catholic church member from Inner Mongolia, who also refused to give her name for fear of reprisals, said a small number of underground Catholic communities were concerned that the Vatican might make too many compromises with Beijing in an attempt to normalise ties. “We pray for those who are in the work of negotiating that they will not deviate from God's will,” she said. Beijing and the Vatican broke off diplomatic ties in 1951, creating a schism between mainland Catholics who acknowledge the Pope's spiritual authority and those who are members of state-approved churches. The pope has been trying to heal the rift, sanctioning a working group to resolve obstacles, including the appointment of bishops. ^ top ^

China aims to improve administrative law enforcement transparency (Xinhua)
2017-02-10
China's State Council General Office has issued a pilot plan to improve transparency in administrative law enforcement. The document includes publicity and recording mechanisms and a legal review mechanism for major decisions. The plan will be piloted in regions and government departments including Tianjin, Hebei, Anhui and the Ministry of Land and Resources. The plan is crucial to regulation of administrative law enforcement, supervision of performance and protecting the rights and interests of the people, the document said. It calls for prompt disclosure of information, and requires personnel to identify themselves while performing their duties and record their action via text and video. The plan sets out a coordination mechanism which includes the Legal Affairs Office of the State Council, National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Armed police out in full force after deadly Xinjiang terror attack (SCMP)
2017-02-15
Armed police in bulletproof proof vests are on patrol every 10 to 20 metres on the streets of Pishan county in China's restive Xinjiang region after eight people were killed during a knife attack, residents in the area said. The county has issued the highest level of security alert after what the authorities described as a terror attack on Tuesday evening. Three knife-wielding assailants attacked people in a residential compound. Five residents were killed and the three attackers were shot dead by police, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported Five people were also seriously injured. The government did not identify the suspects and victims, but some residents said the attackers were Uygurs, the main Muslim ethnic group in Xinjiang. A hotel manager said she was still in shock after the violence “It is the worst attack in Pishan in recent years. We hope the victims find rest in heaven,” said the woman, who asked not to be named. The attacks took place at the entrance to a residential compound, according to the hotel manager. The compound is in the west of the city, not far from the county government headquarters. A restaurant owner told the South China Morning Post most businesses and shops were open despite the huge security presence. “My business has not been affected. I don't smell fear in the air,” the Uygur restaurant owner said. Pishan county has been dubbed by law enforcers a “hotbed for terrorism”, according to an article in the state-run tabloid the Global Times following a suicide bomb attack three years ago. Four people from Pishan took part in bomb attacks at a morning market in Xinjiang's regional capital Urumqi in May 2014. Thirty-nine were killed, plus four of the attackers. Nearly 100 were injured. Xinjiang has been hit by a series of violent attacks in recent years which the authorities have blamed on Muslim separatists. The authorities have denied allegations by rights groups and exiled Uygurs that tensions have been inflamed by curbs on religion and ethnic minority culture and language in the region. But in Pishan many Uygurs openly challenge government's policies such as a ban on women and children wearing a veil to cover their face, according to the Global Times. Most Uygurs living in Pishan's villages do not speak Putonghua and the language barrier has widened the divide between Uygurs and Han Chinese, the report said. The article added that the government does not allow young Uygurs to get married unless they have completed middle school education, which has further inflamed anti-Chinese sentiments. Xinjiang's Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo has launched a fresh crackdown against the militants since he took office last year, including setting up a large network of small police bases and restricting the travel of some residents. Two senior officials in Xinjiang were placed under investigation for corruption and dereliction of duty last month days after a suicide attack rocked an office building in Karakax county. Police shot and killed the three attackers wielding knives who managed to detonate a home-made explosive device, Xinhua reported. An official and a security worker were also killed and three others wounded. ^ top ^

Eight killed in Xinjiang knife attack: police shoot three attackers (SCMP)
2017-02-15
Eight people were killed in a violent attack in China's restive region of Xinjiang on Tuesday, mainland media reported. A news portal of the Hotan government reported on early Wednesday morning that three knife-wielding men attacked and stabbed multiple people in Pishan county. Police shot dead the three attackers. Ten people were injured in the attack. Among them, five were certified dead after being sent to hospital. Social order has been restored and an investigation is ongoing, the report said. The identity of the attackers were not disclosed. Xinjiang has been plagued by violent attacks over the years, which Beijing blamed on Uygur separatists. In December, a car carrying several “terrorists” crashed into the yard of the office building of the local Communist Party committee in Karakax county and set off explosives. One person was killed and four assailants were shot dead. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Seven policemen convicted of assaulting Occupy activist Ken Tsang (SCMP)
2017-02-14
Seven policemen will be sentenced on Friday after being convicted of kicking and punching activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiu following his arrest for assaulting officers during an Occupy protest more than two years ago. All seven beat the original, more serious charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent, but were found guilty on one joint count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. The lesser charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in jail, compared with life imprisonment for the original. All the defendants, who walked into the District Court in identical suits and ties on the morning of Valentine's Day, left in the afternoon in prison vans, remanded until sentencing on Friday. District Judge David Dufton's verdict concluded one of the most controversial cases arising from the pro-democracy civil disobedience movement in 2014, when thousands took over major thoroughfares for up to 79 days to protest against Beijing's announcement of a restrictive political reform framework. There was a burst of applause from the policemen's supporters when the packed courtroom first heard the judge clear them of the original charge. But that was replaced by silence as Dufton went on to announce the alternative verdict, convicting them on the lesser charge which was not on the original indictment. The District Court previously heard Tsang, 41, testify that he was arrested and zip-tied after pouring liquid onto officers during a clearance operation in Admiralty on October 15. But instead of being put in a police van, he was frogmarched by a group of officers to a nearby substation where he was dumped on the ground and immediately assaulted for four minutes – leaving him with injuries to his face, neck, shoulder, flank, chest and back. Some 15 reddish marks on his body could have been caused by police batons, the court found. Part of what happened that night was captured on camera by multiple news outlets. The seven officers were subsequently identified as Chief Inspector Wong Cho-shing, 50; Senior Inspector Lau Cheuk-ngai, 31; Detective Sergeant Pak Wing-bun, 43; Constable Lau Hing-pui, 39; and Detective Constables Wong Wai-ho, 38; Chan Siu-tan, 33; and Kwan Ka-ho, 33. While noting the two more senior officers – Chief Inspector Wong and Senior Inspector Lau – were not seen assaulting Tsang, Dufton ruled in a 224-page judgement that all seven had carried Tsang to the substation with the sole intent to assault him. “Every police officer has a duty to intervene to prevent the commission of a crime, even by fellow police officers,” Dufton wrote. “A police officer's duty is to keep the peace. If a police officer stands by and watches his colleague beat up a suspected person, his failure to intervene is evidence of encouragement to carry out the assault.” But the judge was not satisfied that these injuries amounted to grievous bodily harm. Separately, Chan was also convicted of common assault – punishable by one year behind bars – for twice slapping Tsang at the Central Police Station when he was said to have refused to unlock his phone. Defence counsels are now seeking suspended jail terms, after arguing in mitigation that the assault arose from extraordinary circumstances of the protest which left these “conscientious” and “upright” officers under immeasurable pressure. Tsang was jailed for five weeks last May by another court over charges of assaulting and resisting police. He was immediately released on bail, pending appeal.^ top ^

Nominations begin for election of Hong Kong chief executive (Global Times)
2017-02-14
The nomination of candidates for the coming chief executive election in Hong Kong started on Tuesday based on original procedures, after the central government's reform plan on universal suffrage was voted down in 2015. Front-runner Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, her arch-rival John Tsang Chun-wah, former security minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing have announced to contest the election as of now, as the nomination for the chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) will run until March 1, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday. While Tsang, Ip and Woo have all pledged to restart the reform of chief executive election, Lam has yet to unveil her plan on the contentious issue. In her half manifesto released on Monday, Lam vowed to give more affordable homes, more spending on education and tax cuts for small companies, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday. "As a hopeful, Lam has to seek a balance between the local residents' demands and the central government's concerns," Tian Feilong, a legal expert and associate professor at Beijing's Beihang University, told the Global Times. After a reform plan proposed by the central government to elect the 2017 Hong Kong chief executive through universal suffrage was voted down by local legislators in 2015, a candidate's nomination must follow the original procedures and be subscribed by no less than 150 members of the Election Committee, a broadly representative body composed of 1,200 members from different sectors. In a bid to bridge the huge wealth gap and improve the livelihood of middle and lower classes, which the international financial center is plagued with, her plans focus more on raising locals' living standards, Zhang Dinghuai, deputy chief of the Center for Basic Laws of Hong Kong and Macao SARs at Shenzhen University, told the Global Times. Tian added that Lam also needs to meet the expectation of the central government that the new SAR government should restore social order, improve the livelihood of people and further integrate its economy with the mainland. However, a chief executive candidate will "lose points" if he or she dodges political reform, another major concern of the local residents, Tian noted. Although Tsang and Ip also belong to the establishment camp, they pointed out that they would prioritize the restart of the reform while maintaining the 2015 decision of the National People's Congress as the basis, according to the Hong Kong-based newspaper Ta Kung Pao. Thousands of protesters, arguing that the decision would not bring "true democracy," had immediately occupied major roads in the city. The movement lasted over two months.^ top ^

 

Economy

China to spend more in western regions (Xinhua)
2017-02-14
China will spend 150 million yuan (22 million U.S. dollars) on development in western regions this year. The money will fund preliminary work on major projects of the "Go West" strategy in 12 western provincial-level regions and Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a Tuesday statement. China launched the strategy in 2000 to boost development in Chongqing, Gansu, Guangxi, Guizhou, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Tibet, Yunnan, and Xinjiang. Under the strategy, western regions enjoy support in infrastructure construction, foreign investment, environmental protection, education and staff retention. The State Council approved a 2016-2020 plan on the Go West strategy in late December." ^ top ^

China's steel capacity grows despite drive to cut output, Greenpeace says (SCMP)
2017-02-14
China's steel industry saw an increase in operating capacity last year despite a government push to tackle excess production, Greenpeace and an industry consultancy say in a new report. The regional arm of the NGO and Chinese consultancy Custeel found that most steel mills shut down during the drive last year were already idle. The cuts made during the campaign were offset by resumed production and newly added output, leading to a net increase of 36.5 million tonnes in operating capacity, according to the report published on Monday. The study came as the top economic planner announced crude steel production increased 1.2 per cent to hit 808.37 million tonnes last year, against a 2.3 per cent drop in 2015. China, which accounts for about half of global steel output, has pledged to cut annual production by 100 to 150 million tones by 2020, to help shift the economy away from a reliance on polluting heavy industries. Steel exports have also become a source of friction with some of China's biggest trade partners, who accuse it of dumping cheap products in their markets, threatening local jobs. The central government said it cut 85 million tonnes of capacity last year, nearly double its original target, but the report said 74 per cent of the retired plants were no longer active. Some 23 million tonnes of operating capacity was cut, but the reduction was dwarfed by the 54 million tones of resumed production and 12 million tonnes of new capacity that came online, the report said. “Impressive as they seem, China's current steel capacity reduction targets won't suffice to limit oversupply, as local governments manoeuvre to shield zombie steel mills and minimise the impact of the policies,” Lauri Myllyvirta, an expert on energy and pollution at Greenpeace, said. “Global markets are awash with steel and the people of northern China continue to choke on the industry's major by-product, smog. Increasing steel capacity makes neither economic nor environmental sense,” he said. The iron and steel industry is the biggest contributor of harmful emissions in the dense urban belt that encompasses Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei. Operating steel capacity grew by 5 per cent in the region, and three-quarters of all restarted production occurred in Beijing's neighbouring provinces, Shanxi, Hebei and Tianjin, the report said. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

Malaysian deputy PM confirms dead DPRK man as Kim Jong Nam (Xinhua)
2016-02-16
Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Thursday that the man from DPRK that died in Malaysia was Kim Jong Nam. Malaysian police earlier identified the man as Kim Chol, according to his passport, but Zahid said the man was indeed Kim Jong Nam. During a press conference on Thursday, when asked if the man was confirmed to be Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of the DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, Zahid relied, "yes, certainly yes." He said he was briefed by the police that the DPRK embassy had confirmed Kim's identity. Malaysian authorities would only release the body after the postmortem is completed, said the official. Malaysian police said earlier that the 46-year-old man was holding a DPRK passport under the name Kim Chol. His body was taken to a hospital in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday for post mortem to ascertain the cause of his death. The results of the post mortem are yet to be released. Two female suspects who were captured by the surveillance camera at the airport had been arrested, police said. The two women hold Vietnamese and Indonesian passport respectively. The Malaysian boyfriend of one of the suspects was also arrested, police said. ^ top ^

FM: China following death of Kim Jong Nam (Xinhua)
2017-02-16
China is continuing to observe events following the death of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) top leader Kim Jong Un, a foreign ministry spokesperson said Thursday. "We are aware of relevant reports and will continue to keep an eye on any developments," spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a daily press briefing when asked about the murder of Kim in Malaysia. The DPRK Embassy in Malaysia confirmed that a 46-year-old man holding a DPRK passport under the name Kim Chol was Kim Jong Nam, according to local reports that quoted Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Kim requested help at Kuala Lumpur International Airport terminal two after feeling unwell on Monday. He died on the way to hospital. Malaysian police have arrested three suspects, including a 26-year-old male Malaysian, a female bearing an Indonesian passport, and a female holding a Vietnamese passport, in its investigation. Asked whether Kim's death would affect relations between China and the DPRK, Geng said that the two countries are friendly neighbors and have a tradition of friendly exchanges. ^ top ^

Uncertainty stalks China-N Korea ties with 'assassination' of Kim Jong-un's pro-Beijing half-brother (SCMP)
2017-02-15
China and North Korea are headed for another round of tensions and uncertainty if the death of Kim Jong-nam is confirmed as an assassination by agents of his half-brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, diplomatic observers said. Kim Jong-nam and his executed uncle Jang Sung-taek had close ties with China, and an assassination would no doubt irk Beijing, analysts said. But in Dandong, the biggest Chinese city on the border with North Korea, there was no sign on Wednesday of any fallout from the suspected assassination in Malaysia on Monday. Residents said all was normal and a travel agency owner, who only gave his surname Lin, said tours to North Korea had not been affected. Events to mark the 75th anniversary of late leader Kim Jong-il also went ahead at North Korea's consulate in Shenyang, Liaoning province. Lu Chao, director of the Border Study Institute at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, attended the event. Lu said a vice-chairman of the province's political consultative conference was also at the ceremony, suggesting that exchanges between the two countries were continuing. In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang gave only a terse response to requests for comment on Kim's death, saying China was closely monitoring developments. In a commentary published on its social media account, People's Daily, the Communist Party's official mouthpiece, said that even if the assassination was confirmed it would not have a big impact on security on the Korean peninsula. It said the region was already facing uncertainty from a joint military exercise between South Korea and the United States planned for next month, as well as Seoul's expected deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence anti-missile system. Ties between North Korea and China have been strained as Beijing has expressed dismay over Pyongyang's nuclear tests and missile launches and lent its weight to United Nations sanctions. At the same time Kim Jong-un has not visited China. China is under pressure from other countries, including the US, to impose more sanctions against North Korea but Beijing is reluctant to do so because the collapse of the regime in Pyongyang could lead to a flood of refugees to the border, and deprive Beijing of a buffer zone to keep US troops at bay. But analysts said Kim Jong-nam's death could make relations between China and North Korea more vulnerable. Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said the suspected assassination could be an attempt by Kim Jong-un to land a blow against China. “Kim Jong-nam was pro-China and he was also an alternative North Korean leader if Kim Jong-un's regime collapsed,” Wong said. “Kim Jong-un is not in harmony with Beijing.” In a book by Japanese journalist Yoji Gomi, Kim Jong-nam, who lived in exile in Beijing and Macau, was quoted as saying he was “never alone” in the Chinese capital. According to Gomi, Kim Jong-nam did not know if China was protecting or monitoring him, but having him in its orbit could be a “political card” for Beijing. At the 2012 launch of F ather Kim Jong-il and Me: Kim Jong-nam's Exclusive Confession, Gomisaid the exile's Western education and experience in China had made Kim Jong-nam an advocate for Chinese-style opening and reform in North Korea. Jang Sung-taek, the uncle of both half-brothers and another reported advocate of reform, was in charge of public security and business with China before he was purged and executed by Kim Jong-un in 2013. Jang was reportedly accused by the Pyongyang regime of selling off resources cheaply to China. Hwang Jae-ho, professor of international relations at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, said Kim Jong-nam's death “will surely dismay Beijing”. “If it really turned out that it was planned by Kim Jong-un, it just showed how brutal the North Korean regime was,” Hwang said. “Pyongyang would not take the risk [of killing Kim Jong-nam] if he was on Chinese territory. But he was in a third country, and China could not intervene.” Lee Kyu-tae, from South Korea's Catholic Kwandong University, said the death could provoke more struggles for power in Pyongyang, but for now, Kim Jong-un had prevailed by getting rid of his half-brother, presenting a dilemma for China. “Kim Jong-un will press ahead with his nuclear development. China has tolerated it for three years. Whether it will still be as tolerant is a big problem,” Lee said. Cai Jian, a Shanghai-based analyst on Sino-Korean relations, said Kim Jong-un's consolidation of power, together with North Korea's growing military strength could give Kim greater bargaining power when dealing with US President Donald Trump. Shi Yuanhua, from Shanghai's Fudan University, said North Korea's leader may bear grudges against China, but in the end Pyongyang could not survive without Beijing. ^ top ^

Female assassins 'used chemical spray' to kill Kim Jong-un's half-brother in Malaysia (SCMP)
2017-02-14
The estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was assassinated at an airport in Kuala Lumpur, telling medical workers before he died that he had been attacked with a chemical spray, a Malaysian official said on Tuesday. Kim Jong-nam, 46, was targeted on Monday in the shopping concourse at the airport and had not gone through immigration yet for his flight to Macau, said the senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case involves sensitive diplomacy. He was taken to the airport clinic and then died on the way to the hospital, the official said. Kim Jong-nam was estranged from his younger brother, the North Korean leader. He had been tipped by outsiders to succeed their dictator father, but reportedly fell out of favour when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport in 2001, saying he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland. He was believed to have been living recently in Macau, Singapore and Malaysia. ' Police official Fadzil Ahmat said that the cause of Kim's death had not been determined, but that a post mortem would be carried out on the body. “So far there are no suspects, but we have started investigations and are looking at a few possibilities to get leads,” Fadzil said. “The deceased... felt like someone grabbed or held his face from behind... He felt dizzy.” Kim Jong-un's brother spotted in Jakarta months after 'beloved' uncle's execution (Multiple South Korean media reports, citing unidentified sources, said Kim Jong Nam was killed at the airport by two women believed to be North Korean agents. They fled in a taxi and were being sought by Malaysian police, the reports said. A Malaysian police statement confirmed the death of a 46-year-old North Korean man whom it identified from his travel document as Kim Chol, born in Pyongyang on June 10, 1970. “Investigation is in progress and a post mortem examination request has been made to ascertain the cause of death,” the statement said. Ken Gause, at the CNA think tank in Washington who has studied North Korea's leadership for 30 years, said Kim Chol was a name that Kim Jong-nam has travelled under. He is believed to have been born May 10, 1971, although birthdays are always unclear for senior North Koreans, Gause said. Mark Tokola, vice president of the Korea Economic Institute in Washington and a former deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Seoul, said it would be surprising if Kim Jong-nam was not killed on the orders of his brother, given that North Korean agents have reportedly tried to assassinate Kim Jong-nam in the past. ' “It seems probable that the motivation for the murder was a continuing sense of paranoia on the part of Kim Jong-un,” Tokola wrote in a commentary on Tuesday. Although there was scant evidence that Kim Jong-nam was plotting against the North Korean leader, he provided an alternative for North Koreans who would want to depose his brother. In Washington, the State Department said it was aware of reports of Kim Jong-nam's death but declined to comment, referring questions to Malaysian authorities. The reported killing came as North Korea celebrated its latest missile launch, which foreign experts were analysing for evidence of advancement in the country's missile capabilities. For the next several days, North Korea will be marking the birthday of its late leader Kim Jong-il, the brothers' father, though they have different mothers. The major holiday this Thursday is called the “Day of the Shining Star” and will be feted with figure skating and synchronised swimming exhibitions, fireworks and mass rallies. ' Since taking power in late 2011, Kim Jong-un has executed or purged a slew of high-level government officials in what the South Korean government has described as a “reign of terror”. The most spectacular was the 2013 execution by anti-aircraft fire of his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, once considered the country's second-most powerful man, for what the North alleged was treason. Gause said Kim Jong-nam had been forthright that he did not have political ambitions, although he was publicly critical of the North Korean regime and his brother's legitimacy in the past. Kim Jong-nam had been less outspoken since 2011, when North Korean assassins reportedly tried to shoot him in Macau, Gause said, though the details of the attempted killing are murky. South Korea also reportedly jailed a North Korean spy in 2012 who admitted to trying to organise a hit-and-run accident targeting Kim Jong-nam in China in 2010. Despite the attempts on his life, Kim Jong-nam had reportedly travelled to North Korea since then, so it was assumed he was no longer under threat. Kim Jong-nam may have become more vulnerable as his defender in the North Korean hierarchy, Kim Kyong-hui – Kim Jong-un's aunt and the husband of his executed uncle, Jang Song-thaek – appears to have fallen from favour or died. She has not been seen in public for more than three years, Gause said. Kim Jong-il had at least three sons with two women, as well as a daughter by a third. Kim Jong-nam was the eldest, followed by Kim Jong-chul, who is a few years older than Kim Jong-un and is known as a playboy who reportedly attended Eric Clapton concerts in London in 2015. It's unclear what position he has in the North Korean government. A younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, was named a member of the Workers' Party of Korea's Central Committee during a North Korean party congress last May. She has a position in a propaganda and agitation department and is known as Kim Jong-un's gatekeeper, Gause said. ' While the most likely explanation for the killing was that Kim Jong-un was removing a potential challenger to North Korean leadership within his own family, he could also be sending a warning to North Korean officials to demonstrate the reach of the regime. It follows the defection last year of a senior diplomat from the North Korean Embassy in London who has spoken of his despair at Kim's purges. Evans Revere, a former US diplomat and specialist on East Asia, said the killing did not mean the North Korean regime was unstable. He said it showed Kim Jong-un's brutal control and ability to eliminate opponents or perceived opponents. Victor Cha, a former White House director for Asian affairs, disagreed. “He sacks the minister of state security last month and now kills the elder brother. Doesn't look so stable to me,” Cha said. ^ top ^

China, Russia slam N.Korea missile test (Global Times)
2017-02-14
China and Russia on Monday criticized North Korea's missile test as the UN Security Council (UNSC) has scheduled on Monday an emergency meeting on the launch. Although North Korea boasted it had successfully test-fired a new type of medium- to long-range ballistic missile, claiming advances in its weapons program, experts have raised doubts about North Korea's missile technology, saying the missiles may succeed in destabilizing the region but fall short of threatening the US. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a regular press conference in Beijing on Monday that "China is paying close attention to the dynamics of the event (the test-launching)." The UNSC's resolutions contain clear provisions on launches using ballistic missile technology by North Korea, and China opposes North Korea's behavior which violated the UNSC's decision, he said. Geng also urged relevant parties not to engage in provocative moves which could heighten regional tensions. "All parties need to exercise restraint to maintain regional peace and stability," he noted. Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the Russian lower house of parliament's international affairs committee, told Sputnik News Agency on Sunday that the test launch is "of course a challenge. Such actions contradict UNSC decisions, particularly the resolution adopted in November, and would, of course, worsen the situation in the region. Pyongyang's unpredictable actions provoke new tensions near the Russian border," Slutsky said, adding Moscow was concerned about the situation. However, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea's official news agency, North Korea claimed that the test "was conducted using the high-angle launch method, taking the security of neighboring countries into consideration." Old technology KCNA said the test was conducted by "the caterpillar self-propelled missile launch truck" and the test "also verified the position control and guidance in the middle section and section of re-entry after the separation of the missile's improved warhead to evade interception." "First, the caterpillar system is a very old technology. Both China and Russia can use wheeled vehicles or trains to transport missiles. Due to the sanctions, North Korea can't import vehicles for research," Song Zhongping, a military expert, told the Global Times. "Second, North Korea didn't recycle the warhead in this test, so its warhead's survival capacity and technology to combine a warhead with a missile are doubtful. Most data released by North Korea had not been verified," Song said, "so its current nuclear capacity cannot scare the US, but is potent enough to destabilize the region." "This shows that North Korea's missile technology remains underdeveloped, and that China's sanctions are effective," Song said. The test was mainly conducted for diplomatic and political purposes, Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times, "It's to encourage its own people on the anniversary of former leader Kim Il Sung's birthday, and to capitalize on South Korea's domestic crisis and Trump's unpreparedness to deal with the Peninsula's issue." Diplomatic headache The US, Japan and South Korea requested urgent UNSC consultations on North Korea's test launch on Sunday. The official said in a statement that the US expects a meeting to take place Monday afternoon. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called North Korea's test a "further troubling violation" of Security Council resolutions. "The DPRK leadership must return to full compliance with its international obligations and to the path of denuclearization," Guterres said. Geng confirmed that "China will take part in the discussions in a responsible and constructive manner." Slutsky said Russia disagrees with any further sanctions against North Korea and opposes the deployment of an anti-missile system, which would worsen the situation. Lü said North Korea's test would give South Korea more reason to deploy the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. He said, "Although North Korea also opposes THAAD, technically it won't affect North Korea too much but will seriously undermine China's and Russia's nuclear deterrence. So, to create more complications for China-South Korea or China-US ties, North Korea is willing to indirectly help the deployment." That's why when we had a chance to solve the THAAD issue peacefully with South Korea, North Korea created trouble, Lü said. ^ top ^

Trump vows to deal with DPRK "very strongly" after Pyongyang's missile launch (Global Times)
2017-02-14
US President Donald Trump on Monday vowed to deal with Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) "very strongly", calling the Asian country a "big, big problem." Trump made the remark at a joint press conference with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, after the DPRK test-fired its ballistic missile on Sunday. But the US president did not elaborate on what actions he planned to take in relation to the DPRK. "We have problems all over the Middle East. We have problems just about every corner of the globe no matter where you look," Trump said when asked about the most important national security issues facing the United States. On Monday, the Pentagon strongly condemned the DPRK's ballistic missile launch and vowed to "take all necessary measures to deter and defeat threats to US and ally territories and citizens." "The North American Aerospace Defense Command determined the missile launch did not pose a threat to North America," said Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the US Department of Defense. "We also worked very quickly with our Japanese and South Korean allies to make sure it did not pose a threat to them either." On Saturday, Trump vowed US support to Japan in a hastily called joint press conference with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Florida. "I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent," Trump said. The DPRK claimed on Monday it had successfully test-fired Pukguksong-2, a surface-to-surface medium- and long-range ballistic missile, and its top leader Kim Jong Un guided the test firing, according to the state news agency KCNA. Earlier Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a statement issued by his spokesman, strongly condemned the latest move by Pyongyang, saying "this action is a further troubling violation of (UN) Security Council resolutions." China said Monday it is opposed to the DPRK's test-launch of the ballistic missile, which is in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. China calls for all parties concerned to exercise restraint and jointly maintain stability in the region, Geng Shuang, a spokesperson of Chinese Foreign Ministry, told a routine press briefing. ^ top ^

China opposes DPRK's missile test-launch (Xinhua)
2017-02-13
China was opposed to the test-launch of a ballistic missile by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), which was in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Monday. China calls for all parties concerned to exercise restraint and jointly maintain stability in the region, spokesperson Geng Shuang told a routine press briefing. The U.N. Security Council will hold consultations on the missile test, he said, adding that China will participate in relevant consultations in a responsible and constructive manner. The DPRK on Monday claimed it had successfully test-fired Pukguksong-2, a surface-to-surface medium- and long-range ballistic missile, and its top leader Kim Jong Un guided the test firing, according to the state news agency KCNA. ^ top ^

DPRK claims successful test firing of medium long-range ballistic missile (Global Times)
2017-02-13
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Monday claimed it successfully test-fired a surface-to-surface medium- and long-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2 and its top leader Kim Jong Un guided the test firing, according to the state news agency KCNA. The state media called Pukguksong-2 a "Korean style new type strategic weapon," which was developed on the instructions of top leader Kim Jong Un on the basis of the success made in the test-firing of the submarine-launched ballistic missile last August. Kim received the report on the development of this surface-to-surface ballistic missile, set the date for the test launch and personally guided the preparations on the spot, it said. The missile test proved the reliability and security of the surface launch system and starting feature of the high thrust solid fuel-power engine and reconfirmed the guidance and control features of the ballistic missile during its active flight and working feature of the engines and those of separation at the stages, the KCNA said. The launch also verified the position control and guidance in the middle section and section of re-entry after the separation of the improved missile warhead, which can be tipped with a nuclear warhead, and the feature of evading interception, it added. The state-run media noted that the test firing was conducted at a high angle considering security of the neighboring countries. Kim was satisfied with the test launch, saying that the new type ballistic missile system "provides convenience in operation and ensuring speed in striking." He said Pukguksong-2 ballistic missile is a "Juche weapon in name and reality" because both the launching truck and the missile were designed and produced on indigenous efforts and technology. South Korea's Joint Chief of Staff said that the DPRK fired a ballistic missile which flew about 500 km into its eastern waters early Sunday. The presumed intermediate-range Musudan ballistic missile was launched at around 7:55 a.m. local time (2255 GMT Saturday) near Banghyeon in the DPRK's northwestern North Pyongan province. Pyongyang test-fired Musudan missiles near the same place, where an airfield is located, in October last year. It was the DPRK's first test-launch of a ballistic missile in 2017 and also the first since US President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20. South Korea's military said Pyongyang's launch of ballistic missile was a provocative act in violation of UN Security Council's resolutions, which ban the DPRK from testing any ballistic missile technology. The launch, the South Korean military believed, was aimed at drawing attention by showing off its nuclear and missile capability and was also part of armed protest against the Trump administration's hard-line stance toward the DPRK. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

EU brings relief to Mongolian herders affected by extreme winter (Montsame)
2017-02-16
In response to the particularly harsh winter which has struck large parts of Mongolia since November, the European Commission is providing over 115 000 EUR in humanitarian funding to bring immediate relief to the most affected families. The aid will directly benefit 5000 most vulnerable individuals in some of the country's worst-hit provinces, namely Khuvsgul, Selenge, Uvs and Zavkhan. This EU funding supports the Mongolian Red Cross Society in delivering much-needed assistance through the provision of first aid kits and unconditional cash grants. The kits enable herders to maintain their physical well-being in particularly challenging conditions, while cash assistance allows beneficiaries to cover other immediate needs triggered by the extreme climatic conditions, following their own priorities. The funding is part of the EU's overall contribution to the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Vast swathes of Mongolia, particularly in the north, have witnessed an exceptionally cold winter and heavy snow fall over the past few months. The premature severe weather patterns have placed an estimated 157 000 people in 15 out of 21 provinces under high risk of the what is known as the “dzud” climatic phenomenon. The adverse conditions have hampered the capacity of herders to access town centres, where health facilities and other services are located, and threatened the survival of livestock. The Government of Mongolia in late December called for humanitarian assistance from the international community as the situation worsened. Dzud, characterised by a prolonged summer drought followed by severe winter conditions, is not uncommon in Mongolia. The latest dzud in late 2015 killed more than one million heads of livestock and severely affected thousands of pastoralists whose livelihoods largely depended on animal husbandry. In response, the Commission had provided 420,000 EUR to its humanitarian partners in order to help alleviate the burdens of the most impacted households. ^ top ^

Gender-based violence under media spotlight (UB Post)
2017-02-15
A new program aimed at the media's reporting of gender-based violence plans to raise journalistic standards and shine a light on the seriousness of domestic violence in Mongolia. The Press Institute of Mongolia and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have teamed up to deliver several activities over the next year to encourage journalists and the media to not only cover more gender-based violence stories, but to be conduits for increasing public awareness through sensitive and compelling storytelling. Domestic violence is considered “one of the most serious, prevalent and persistent human rights violations in Mongolia”, according to the UNFPA. Figures show that one in five families has a violent relationship, one in five women suffer from physical violence, and one in two children and one in four seniors are victims of violence. In Mongolia, 88.3 percent of domestic violence is against women and 64.6 percent is against children. As of 2015, a total of 80 people died and 3,299 people were injured in the last five years as a result of domestic violence. Domestic violence is under-reported, largely due to the fact that the topic remains taboo in Mongolian society, said D.Munkhchimeg, a journalism teacher with the Press Institute of Mongolia. The UNFPA has stated, “There exists the prevalent, traditional perception that [domestic violence] is a private family matter, something better settled within the confines of the family without external involvement.” But there are hopes that the newly amended Law on Combating Domestic Violence will be a positive step forward in shining a light on this serious issue. The newly amended law makes domestic violence a criminal offense for the first time in the country's history, and marks significant positive action toward protecting victims and holding perpetrators accountable. The next step for the Press Institute and UNFPA is delivering training to journalists to not only encourage more reporting on domestic violence, but more importantly, to ensure that the media's reporting is sensitive to victims. “We've seen some bad cases recently, when a leading Mongolian newspaper and website printed a lot of information about a victim and even published a photo of the apartment in which the victim lived,” D.Munkhchimeg said. “We also see cases where media stories mention what clothes a woman was wearing and question whether or not she had a sexual favor [sic] with someone. When journalists are not trained properly and they write something wrong or insensitive like this, the public could blame the victim.” Putting an end to this type of victim-blaming, as well as knowing how to sensitively interview victims of domestic violence, including protecting their identity, is part of the training journalists will receive from the UNFPA and Press Institute's media training program. The Press Institute says there are currently no Mongolian media protocols or guidelines for responsible and sensitive reporting on women impacted by violence. “It's something we are working on and these trainings are the first step,” D.Munkchimeg said. She added, “The purpose is to train journalists and to raise public awareness about gender-based violence. If we expand journalists' knowledge about the issue, they can start the right dialogue with the community.” Other goals for the program include organizing a journalism competition for compelling reporting on gender-based violence and forming a media network focused on gender-based violence, the Gender-Based Violence Reporting Group for Journalists. The group held its first meeting on February 13, at the Press Institute, and discussed the Domestic Violence Law and ways in which the media can continue to report on gender-based violence. In 2015, there were 1,356 cases of domestic violence registered, and the number of domestic violence cases reported to the police increased by an average of 26 percent from the same period in previous years. ^ top ^

Ministry of Foreign Affairs presents plans for 2017 (Montsame)
2017-02-14
The monthly “Press Hour” conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took place on February 14. State Secretary of the Ministry D.Davaasuren introduced the ministry's plans for 2017 regarding the foreign trade and economic relations and gave information on the foreign minister's visit to Russia. According to D.Davaasuren, a total of 32 projects are included in the Program on the Establishment of the Economic Corridor of Mongolia, Russia and China. Within the framework of the program, proposals are sent to the two neighboring countries to establish “Investment Projecting Center” in Mongolia. Also, an expert-level meeting is expected to take place in Ulaanbaatar in March to talk issues concerning the program. The MFA is focusing on renewing the “national program to support exports” and advancing the implementation of “Mongol Export” program and the establishment of a free-trade zone in Zamiin-Uud and Erenhot cross-border port areas. Also, the Ministry informed about its plans for this year, which include joining Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement to increase and enable the exports of domestic products to the neighboring countries' markets, improving the legal environment of foreign trade, negotiating free-trade agreements with third neighbors and economic unions, attending ASEM Economic Ministers' meeting, promoting public-private partnerships and conducting effective economic "advertisements". The State Secretary also gave information on Mongolia's relations with its third neighbors and major trade partners. For instance, Mongolia and Japan signed Economic Partnership Agreement in June 2016. In this connection, 13 subcommittees were re-established to create a permanent consultation mechanism. On that note, the MFA officials noted that Mongolia is to sign free-trade agreement with the Republic of Korea. Within the framework, Mongolia and South Korea signed the terms of reference of a joint research team on establishing Economic Partnership Agreement in October 2016 and organized the first meeting of the joint group in December 2016. In addition, the officials noted that agreed with the Eurasian Economic Union to commence joint research on free-trade agreement with the union in order to reduce and remove tariffs and non-tariff barriers for Mongolia's export products to Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. During the press conference, the State Secretary of Foreign Ministry reported that Foreign Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil has been invited by Minister for Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, Wang Yi. The Foreign Minister of Mongolia may visit to China on February 19-20. ^ top ^

Fuel price surges highlight the importance of becoming less dependent on imports (UB Post)
2017-02-14
A sudden surge of 80 MNT to 150 MNT in the retail fuel prices of four large fuel importers shocked the nation. Prices rose despite Cabinet's explicit action to prevent sudden price surges by reducing petroleum import tax. The Ministry of Mining explained that an increase in the international market price for petroleum ultimately caused domestic retail prices to rise. The unexpected rise in the price of petroleum further highlights Mongolia's dependence on its two neighbors, specifically in terms of energy. What can Mongolia do to avoid being at the mercy of the international market? It is reported that Mongolia imports 94 percent of its petroleum from Russia. In 2016, out of 1.2 million tons of petroleum imported from Russia, state-owned Rosneft supplied 800,000 tons. This leaves Mongolia at the mercy of the international market and, more specifically, at the mercy of the Russian government. Any time the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which Russia is a leading member of, makes any changes to its production output, the price of petroleum inevitably fluctuates in Mongolia. This has proven to be an obstacle for ensuring national security. Something as vital as energy has an immediate and direct effect on the financial wellbeing of the entire nation. No matter how friendly our relations are with Russia, depending on another country for something so vital would leave any nation vulnerable. This dependence only enhances the unbalanced relations between the two countries. Since Rosneft is a state- owned company, the threat of cutting off access to fuel, while not likely, still remains in the punitive arsenal of the Russian government. Cabinet has taken some precautionary steps in hopes of avoiding a major increase in prices, yet those steps have been proven to be ineffective. Small moves, such as lowering the petroleum import tax, are only short-term moves to keep fuel prices down to appease the general public. To their credit, the cabinet has been discussing more long-term solutions to Mongolia's energy dependence problem. A one billion USD loan was offered to Mongolia by India during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Mongolia in 2015. Discussions by Cabinet on how to spend the money led to the proposal of building an oil refinery in Sainshand soum in Dornogovi Province. Studies estimated that such a refinery could generate annual revenue of 1.2 billion USD, and net profit could be as much as 43 million USD. The plan for the refinery includes the capacity to process up to 1.5 million tons of petroleum annually, and producing 560,000 tons of gasoline, 670,000 tons of diesel fuel, and 107,000 tons of liquefied gas meeting Euro 4 and Euro 5 emission standards. Studies estimate that the proposed factory could contribute to a 10 percent increase in the country's GDP and a two-fold increase in revenue generated by the natural resources processing sector. Some analysts forecast that the factory could result in a one billion USD decrease in the import of petroleum and reducing spending on foreign fuel by 20 percent, which could result in an 18 to 25 percent decrease in the MNT's currency exchange rate against the USD. Since its preliminary discussion, no new developments have arisen regarding the proposed refinery. It is possible that Cabinet will focus on the refinery later this year. There are many who believe the proposed refinery should be at the forefront of the government's agenda, especially now that we have seen what effect surging international market prices for petroleum can have on the country. It is unrealistic to expect the country to immediately meet all of its domestic demands, but building a refinery capable of cutting imports by 20 percent is a good start. According to the Petroleum Authority of Mongolia, Mongolia has proven petroleum reserves of 2.3 billion barrels, and is estimated to have 3.1 billion barrels of oil-in-place. Judging by these reserves, it is possible for at least 50 percent of the nation's demand to be met domestically in the future. Since Rosneft supplies the majority of Mongolia's petroleum, there is bound to be at least some pushback from the Russian government on producing fuel domestically. However, with the correct management, the government has the capability of implementing future projects to build up the country's petroleum industry. Alleviating dependence on Russia for fuel is an important objective that will help the country avoid falling into the boom and bust cycles it already experiences with the other resources it exports. The construction of an oil refinery would undoubtedly benefit both the economy and national security. Whether the project is carried out with a loan from India or not, the responsibility for stimulating growth in the petroleum industry rests on the government's shoulders. ^ top ^

Government to fully own Erdenet Mining Corporation (Montsame)
2017-02-10
On February 10, at its plenary meeting, the closing session of Parliament discussed the matter concerning the purchase of Russian Rostech-owned 49 percent of Erdenet Mining Corporation by the Mongolian Copper Corporation, and issued a resolution on some measures to be taken regarding the copper plant. The resolution was worked out by Parliamentary Standing committee grounded on the conclusion of the working group for examining the matter regarding the purchase of the 49 percent shares of the Erdenet plant. The working group and the Standing committee concluded that the deal has violated several legislations of Mongolia. The resolution sets out to transfer 49 percent of Erdenet Mining Corporation to government ownership the previous Cabinet's step regarding the selling of the 49 percent of Erdenet Mining Corporation violated the Constitution of Mongolia, Law of Mongolia on Government, Law on State and Local Property, and an intergovernmental agreement between the Governments of Mongolia and the Russian Federation. The Parliament rescinded the previous Cabinet's resolution no 330 issued on June 13 on some measures to be taken on 'Erdenet Mining Corporation JSC and Mongolrostsvetmet LLC'. The Parliament ordered the Parliamentary Standing committee on Justice and the Cabinet to take urgent measures to transfer of the 49 percent sold shares to government ownership, and operate the plant as a state-owned enterprise. According to the Parliament resolution, corresponding institutions will also be held responsible for their illegal activities. ^ top ^

Ms. Corinne Estermann
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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