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
  14-18.8.17, No. 683  
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Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Xi stresses importance of China-US military ties (Global Times)
2017-08-18
Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Thursday that the military relationship between China and the US should be a significant part of Sino-US relations, and that cooperation between the armies could play a positive role in developing bilateral ties. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks in a meeting with visiting Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the Xinhua News Agency reported. "You are the first US senior military official to visit China since President Donald Trump took office," Xi told Dunford. Xi said although the visit was brief, it was quite comprehensive, indicating that military-to-military relations between China and the US have substantially moved forward, Xinhua reported. According to Xinhua, Xi said that the Chinese and US armies have upgraded the communications on different levels, promoted the building of military trust and deepened the practical cooperation. "The military relationship has always been the significant and unique dimension in Sino-US relations," Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Thursday. Since the strategic distrust between the two countries usually involves the military, strengthening military trust could lead to the relations' long-term stability, Li noted. During Dunford's visit to China, the two sides signed a framework document on a communication mechanism between the joint staff departments, a move Li said could further heighten cooperation and trust between the Chinese and US militaries. "Next, the goal would be to overcome the distrust between the two armies and avoid misunderstandings in some areas, in order to avoid it damaging overall Sino-US relations," Li said. He also noted that building and upgrading military trust would be gradual. Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, also met with Dunford in Beijing on Thursday. In recent years, relations between the two militaries have seen a healthy development, with friendly exchanges between top officers and various other communication mechanisms operating smoothly at all levels, Fan said. However, the US' "wrongful actions" such as meddling in Taiwan, establishing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense around China, spying in Chinese sea and air territory, and constant activities by US planes and ships in the South China Sea have had a negative effect on mutual trust and military-to-military ties, Fan noted. Fan and Dunford also discussed the Korean Peninsula crisis. Fan said that related parties should remain restrained, and avoid actions or words that could intensify the situation. He said "military action cannot be an option." Dunford said Thursday that a military solution to the missile threat from North Korea would be "horrific," but allowing the country to develop the capability to launch a nuclear attack on the US is "unimaginable," USA Today reported. "Dunford's visit to China and China's restating of its stance to peacefully solve the Korean Peninsula issue shows that, at least in China's view, the current situation might get out of control," Zheng Jiyong, director of the Center for Korean Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Thursday. "From China's point of view, the US and North Korea are reaching for the red line and could spark a military conflict," Zheng noted. Zheng said that the US is pushing China to take more actions by implying use of military action against North Korea. "Of course, China will try to avoid a military conflict and friction with the US over North Korea," Zheng said, "but tensions on the Korean Peninsula were created by the US, which should take responsibility." "The US should take a step back to lower the possibility of a military conflict," he said. ^ top ^

Indian hegemony shaken by Doklam standoff: expert (Global Times)
2017-08-18
India's regional hegemony has been shaken by the Doklam standoff, as South Asian countries, some of which have been under India's control, remain neutral or even speak up for China this time, experts said. "India always has strong influence over many South Asian countries' decision-making on foreign policy, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. However, when India provokes China in the border area, the interesting reactions from these countries show that India's hegemony in South Asia is not that firm, and these countries also want to take the opportunity to shake off India's control," said Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. China and Nepal agreed Wednesday to boost bilateral pragmatic cooperation, especially under the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative, to further strengthen friendly ties between the two countries, the Xinhua News Agency reported. At a meeting with visiting Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang, Nepalese President Bidhya Devi Bhandari expressed appreciation for China's consistent support and assistance for Nepal's national development and post-disaster reconstruction. Bhandari also noted that Nepal and China have maintained frequent high-level contacts and bilateral cooperation in various fields has continued smoothly. She also pledged that Nepal will stick to the one-China policy and will never allow any anti-China activities to take place on Nepalese soil, Xinhua reported. Nepal's eastern border is only dozens of kilometers away from the Doklam Plateau. Ankit Panda, senior editor at The Diplomat magazine, told New Delhi Television on Wednesday that "China knows that its checkbook diplomacy with the smaller Asian states is a sore point with India, which simply cannot afford to put up this kind of capital outlay that the Chinese promise." Chinese experts said there is no surprise that Indian elites will show their jealousy. "India has never treated its small neighbors equally and it even used its overwhelming military strength and political influence to annex its neighbor Sikkim in 1975. India used an oil embargo to bully Nepal because Nepal implemented a new constitution in 2015," Hu said, adding "Bhutan doesn't even have independent diplomacy due to India's hegemony." Bhutan has no diplomatic relations with China or with any other permanent member of the UN Security Council due to India's control, and there is no Belt and Road investment in the country so far. Except for Pakistan, no South Asian country dares say no to New Delhi, but it does not mean these Indian neighbors do not want to shake off India's control. They know how to pick a reliable partner between China and India, Hu said. The Belt and Road initiative has benefited many South Asian countries. Pakistan will reap the benefits of the flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Maldives also welcomed investments and infrastructure projects from China. These countries are all keeping a neutral stance on the Doklam standoff, and Pakistan has clearly expressed its support to China. Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain Monday expressed concern over the reported Indian incursions into the Chinese territory and said that Pakistan fully supports the stance of China on the issue, according to Pakistani newspaper Dawn. Hussain, while talking to Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang at the President House, appreciated China for its adept handling of the issue and reiterated that Pakistan stands by China on the issues of the Tibet Autonomous Region, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and South China Sea, a statement from Pakistan said. India has very strong confidence on its own power, especially after Narendra Modi became the prime minister. Although Indian economic growth is faster than China's in the past few years, the Indian economy still ranks only seventh in the world, one-fifth of the Chinese economy, Ye Hailin, director of the National Institute of International Strategy under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday. India's groundless confidence will make it pay a heavy price, Ye said. "India's global influence cannot compete with China's, even in South Asia, and if China has identified India as a rival, the difficult times for India are just beginning," Ye noted.  ^ top ^

Russia says its military drills with India not against China (Global Times)
2017-08-18
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the upcoming Russia-India military drills do not target China and expressed confidence that China and India can resolve their border tensions. "Russia does not carry out military exercises or other cooperative events that may lead to worsening relations of a country we maintain multilateral ties with," said the ministry's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. Responding to a question raised by Xinhua at her weekly briefing, Zakharova reaffirmed that Russia has brilliant relations with China, adding that attempts to distort the situation can only be viewed as a "provocation". Indian media outlets reported last week that the "Indra" 2017 exercises will be held in Russia on Oct. 19-29 to improve the coordination of the two militaries. The "Indra" drills have been held regularly since 2003. Some newspapers stressed that the exercises are set to take place amid deteriorating ties between India and China following India's incursion into China's territory. Zakharova said that Russia always provides all interested parties with comprehensive information "in order to stop any speculation on such issues as soon as possible." As for the border standoff, she said: "We express absolute confidence that New Delhi and Beijing, as responsible members of the international community, will be able to find mutually acceptable ways to quickly resolve the tensions." ^ top ^

China opposes US religion report: Foreign Ministry (Xinhua)
2017-08-17
China firmly opposes a US report that made unreasonable assertions on religious freedom in China, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said here Wednesday. Media reported the United States on Tuesday issued its annual religious freedom report, calling out seven countries, including China, for serious problems in terms of religious freedom. Spokesperson Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing that the report ignores the facts on religious freedom in China. "China firmly opposes it, and has lodged serious representations to the United States on the issue," Hua said. "We calls on the United States to respect the facts, mind its own business, and stop using the religion issue to intervene in other countries' internal affairs," she said. Hua said China fully respects and protects freedom of religious belief, and Chinese people of all ethnic groups and all regions enjoy religious freedom in accordance with law. ^ top ^

Does China harbour strategic ambitions for Sri Lankan port? (SCMP)
2017-08-14
Sri Lanka says it's a way for it to help claw its way out of debt. China says it's a strictly commercial deal for one of its state firms. But analysts say the Hambantota port on the southern tip of Sri Lanka is part of Beijing's bigger push to challenge US naval dominance in the Indian Ocean and New Delhi's influence in the region. Last month state-owned China Merchants Port paid US$1.12 billion to the Sri Lankan government for a 70 per cent stake in the facility. The deal covers an area roughly twice the size of Macau and includes plans to develop a neighbouring industrial zone. China Merchants said the facility would be developed into "a major industrial and service port". It's the second time China has bought into a Sri Lankan port – it took an 85 per cent stake in the Port of Colombo on the country's west coast in 2013. Chinese interests have also bought into other harbour projects in Myanmar, Pakistan and Sudan, raising speculation that Beijing aims to establish a series of bases, or "string of pearls", from the Middle East to China, containing India's reach. China has already established one such base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, although Beijing refers to it as a logistics facility. The deal comes as India and China are locked in a tense stand-off in a contested area of the Himalayas. Beijing is also trying to expand its presence in India's backyard, with a visit by Vice-Premier Wang Yang to Nepal later this month. Colombo, which has strong traditional and cultural ties with India, has rejected claims that China will use the Hambantota port for strategic purposes. "We told China that we can't allow the port for military use and that 100 per cent responsibility of security matters should be with the Sri Lankan government," Sri Lankan Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told Reuters in last month. Nevertheless, Beijing will undoubtedly project its military power as its economic interests grow, according to Li Li, a Southeast Asia researcher from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. "As China emerges as a great economic power on the world stage, it's foreseeable that it will deploy military power to protect the country's interests," Li said. "It will certainly not be about fighting wars, but China will see if there is a need for military protection over the Indian Ocean. "We will need time to observe how closely Sri Lanka maintains its relations with both India and China, and ultimately how it prioritises their interests." Madhav Das Nalapat, director of the department of geopolitics and international relations at Manipal University, agreed the Hambantota deal had security implications but said it was more of a concern for the United States than for India. "The port, when fully developed, will affect the present US dominance in the Indian Ocean. China is becoming a player in the Indian Ocean, not just at the tip of South Asia but in the Persian Gulf as well, and this is a challenge to the US," Nalapat said. But Professor Wang Dehua, from the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies, said the international community was speculating too much about China's military ambitions. "The major objective of the deal is to prepare for an increase in China's maritime trade," Wang said. China already ships more than 80 per cent of its oil imports from the Middle East through the Strait of Malacca, a waterway that runs between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and links the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. "With the Hambantota port, China could have an alternative route or station for its vessels in the Indian Ocean," Wang said. ^ top ^

Beijing faces fresh challenges over its South China Sea claims (SCMP)
2017-08-13
Beijing might have got its way over the language used in last week's communique from Asean foreign ministers, but observers say its sweeping claims to the South China Sea are facing fresh challenges. At the gathering in Manila, Association of Southeast Asian Nations members avoided using any expressions that might displease Beijing in their statement regarding the territorial disputes. But Beijing is facing a more vocal rival claimant in Hanoi, and ties are strained with Singapore, which is edging closer to the United States and will take over as chair of Asean next year. And in a move that could challenge Beijing's interests in the world's busiest and most strategic shipping lanes, defence ministers from the US and Vietnam have pledged to deepen military ties for their common interests in the South China Sea. US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and his Vietnamese counterpart Ngo Xuan Lich agreed to allow a US aircraft carrier to visit Vietnam next year – for the first time since the Vietnam war ended in 1975. The agreement also includes expanded cooperation between their two navies and intelligence sharing. Tensions between Hanoi and Beijing flared at the Asean forum last week after Vietnam tried to persuade the bloc to state in the communique that a code of conduct with China over the disputed waters should be legally binding, and that it should express concern about "extended construction" in the area. It failed to win support from the other members. Later, a scheduled bilateral meeting between the two countries' foreign ministers – China's Wang Yi and Vietnam's Pham Binh Minh – was abruptly cancelled on the sidelines of the gathering. "Compared with the Philippines, which has territorial disputes with China over the Spratly Islands, Vietnam and China's dispute involves a wider region, in both the Spratly and the Paracel islands," said Zhang Baohui, professor of international affairs at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. "If the fundamentals of these disputes remain unchanged, the tensions between China and Vietnam could escalate given that Vietnam has been tough on territorial issues," Zhang said. Analysts see territorial disputes between China and Vietnam – another Communist nation – as potential flashpoints for a confrontation that would set Beijing against a neighbour that is closer to its rivals, including the US, Australia, Japan and even India. "If Vietnam thinks China is pushing it too hard, it will push back," said Ian Storey, senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, a think tank based in Singapore. "To maintain the legitimacy of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the country's leaders cannot be perceived to be buckling under pressure from China," he said. "Yet at the same time they cannot risk a major confrontation with their much more powerful northern neighbour." Beijing has been sensitive to any further engagement by what it calls "outside parties" in the South China Sea, especially after a ruling by an arbitration court in The Hague last year that invalidated Beijing's claims to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea. Such concerns have even strained its relations with Singapore. Although the city state is not a rival claimant, its support of the tribunal ruling and freedom of navigation missions in region, along with its close defence ties with Washington, have dismayed Beijing. Consensus-based decision-making applies within Asean and it is unlikely that all 10 members of the bloc would unite against Beijing, but China will be closely watching to see whether Singapore will try to "internationalise" the maritime disputes. "Even though Singapore is not a direct claimant, it has interests in the South China Sea," said Kang Lin, a researcher with the National Institute for South China Sea Studies. "It doesn't want one nation to become dominant in the dispute and it wants more checks and balances in the region – that's why it is actively cooperating with the US." Zhang from Lingnan University said there could be more pressure applied by other rivals such as the US, Australia and Japan, which have previously voiced opposition to land reclamation and militarisation in the disputed waters, upsetting Beijing. "But Singapore's strategy to keep the power balanced is unlikely to change. And the behaviour of the US, Japan and Australia is unlikely to change either, no matter how cordial relations between China and the other Asean members become," Zhang said. And with China putting pressure on Singapore to downplay the South China Sea issue, Storey said the city state would have its work cut out trying to keep everyone happy. "Singapore will strive to maintain its neutrality, ensure that the views of the other claimants are properly represented while at the same time trying to avoid upsetting China," he said. "It will require all of Singapore's deft diplomatic skills." ^ top ^

China plays more wise role to push for Mideast peace (Xinhua)
2017-08-13
A Palestinian party leader held that China can play more wise role in solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and China has a much more balanced role than that of other powers to thrash out an effective solution. Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative party, Mustafa Barghouti, make the remarks in an interview with Xinhua on Sunday. The Palestinian politician said the Palestinians need an effective and influential international framework with strong participation of a very convincing country such as China. "It is clear that the U.S. monopoly on the peace process has led to repeated failures and it is unable to be an effective mediator because of its absolute bias for Israel," he said. Barghouti affirmed that China enjoys strong and historic relations with both Palestine and Israel and has a firm stance in support of the right of the Palestinian people to freedom, independence and the establishment of a future state. "We believe that an effective international framework with the strong participation of China can be a real framework for achieving a real peace process," he added. Barghouti stressed that the Palestinian side will welcome any Chinese peace initiative, adding "because the Palestinians trust China." During his meeting with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Beijing last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China will host a symposium on peace between Palestine and Israel later this year to contribute wisdom to resolving the Palestinian issue. He said China is willing to participate and support all efforts that are conducive to a political settlement of the Palestinian issue. Commenting on the Chinese peace efforts, Barghouti said the proposed peace symposium will be very useful, noting that China has a great opportunity to make a success in resolving the Palestinian issue. Talking on the U.S. role in pushing the stalled peace process, Barghouti said that the administration of the U.S President Donald Trump is more biased toward Israel than all previous U.S. administrations. "Since Trump took office, the pace of settlement construction increased by 70 percent and the U.S. did not comment on this and did not take any action to stop the settlement expansion," he said. Barghouti stressed the expectation of the United States to play an effective and influential role alone has become impossible in light of such American Congress, Senate and administration that are biased towards Israel. In 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 181, which recognized the necessity to establish a Jewish state and an Arab state in the former British mandate territory of Palestine. The 1967 Middle East war resulted in Israel's occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. The last round of peace talks between Israel and Palestine failed in 2014, mainly due to the continuing expansion of Jewish settlements on the occupied territories of Palestine, which has become more rampant under the shield of the U.S. bias. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Chinese seafood traders under pressure as UN sanctions bite (SCMP)
2017-08-18
Chinese seafood traders are among the first to feel the sting from new international sanctions imposed on North Korea over its latest missile tests. Some said they were caught off guard by the ban on North Korean seafood that took effect on Tuesday, when delivery trucks trying to cross the border were sent back – meaning traders had to source local, cheaper products for their clients instead. China's Ministry of Commerce has banned imports of seafood, iron and iron ore from its neighbour to comply with the latest United Nations Security Council sanctions on North Korea. By stopping seafood exports to China, it has cut off a revenue stream that generated US$190 million for Pyongyang last year. Feng Yalong, a seafood vendor in Beijing, said he used to sell 1,500kg of North Korean shellfish a day, mostly to restaurants in the capital and neighbouring Hebei province. Now, very little seafood was arriving from over the border. He said shellfish from the North usually cost 20 yuan more per kilogram than local shellfish. "Today we only had 250kg," Feng said. "Our clients have to buy local shellfish instead. Every morning we have many people asking for North Korean shellfish, but all we can tell them is that we don't have enough." The preference for seafood from over the border is a relatively recent trend. Demand began to grow two years ago, when Chinese started developing a taste for North Korean seafood that is considered bigger and fresher tasting than that available locally. "It's because there's no pollution there and you don't even have to clean the seafood before you cook it," Feng said. The ban has hit traders in the border city of Huichun, in northeastern Jilin province, especially hard. One trader, identified as Zhang, told the South China Morning Post that it came out of the blue, and they only heard about it hours before it came into effect on Tuesday. The commerce ministry has said that cargo which was already on its way to China would be cleared by customs before the UN sanctions deadline of September 5. Zhang said he was worried about what would happen to the refrigeration storage he had built in North Korea at a cost of 1.5 million yuan (US$224,150). "We had heard that all seafood imports from North Korea would be suspended on September 5. But on Monday afternoon we were suddenly told that the ban would take effect the next day. Now it seems we don't have any other options," he said. Zhang's seafood had been sent back to North Korea since Tuesday, but he said 30 trucks on their way to deliver fresh or frozen seafood to other Chinese traders were stuck on a bridge connecting the city with the bordering North Hamygong province. "I'm the lucky one here, but who knows what will happen to those with trucks stuck on the bridge," Zhang said. "This has never happened before." The UN Security Council imposed the latest sanctions on North Korea on August 6 in response to two intercontinental ballistic missile tests – which it claimed could reach the US Pacific territory of Guam – last month. The sanctions could choke off more than a third of the regime's US$3 billion in annual export revenue. The Chinese authorities moved faster than expected to introduce the ban, a move analysts said reflected Beijing's desire to de-escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula. In a regional summit in Manila last week, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said Beijing was willing to "pay the price for the implementation of [the sanctions]" given its economic ties with the North. ^ top ^

Ex-leaders' influence 'wanes' at secretive Chinese Communist Party summer getaway (SCMP)
2017-08-17
The influence of Chinese Communist Party elders appeared to be on the wane at the key annual summer conclave this year, sources said, underscoring President Xi Jinping's dominance as he makes final preparations for his second term in office. The annual gathering at the seaside resort of Beidaihe – along with a preparatory meeting of ministers, provincial governors and military top brass in Beijing – used to be the main way to build consensus among the party's senior officials and retired leaders on issues such as major reshuffles or altering the party's ideology. But two separate sources told the South China Morning Post that no informal gathering of serving and retired leaders was held this year at Beidaihe to discuss the state of the country or this autumn's leadership reshuffle at a five-yearly party congress. One source close to a party elder said the regular meeting did not take place during the conclave earlier this month and the event was purely viewed as a "holiday" for senior party members. Another senior state media source confirmed that no gathering of present and former leaders took place. "Someone has already mustered full control and elders' politics has faded out," the source said. "There was no gathering at the seaside." The sources did not reveal whether current leaders had sought private meetings with some party elders individually to seek their views. State television reported late on Wednesday that the party's No 3 leader and top legislator Zhang Dejiang began a three-day tour of Hunan province on Monday, signalling the fortnight conclave had ended. Former president Hu Jintao's administration introduced polling at preparatory meetings ahead of the annual Beidaihe gathering about a decade ago. It allowed senior officials to indicate who they wanted to see elected to the party's Politburo. Their views would then be discussed by serving and former leaders at Beidaihe. At a preparatory meeting in 2007, about 400 top officials voted for around 200 people to be put forward as candidates for the 25-strong Politburo, state-run Xinhua reported. A third Beijing-based source said senior cadres attended preparatory meetings on July 26 to 27 and were able to vote on – and add to – a Politburo shortlist, but the two others sources' accounts suggests this list was not discussed in a group meeting with former party leaders at Beidaihe. State TV broadcast footage of Xi's speech addressing delegates at the preparatory meeting in Beijing last month. Xinhua reported that Xi had talked of the need to revise the party's guiding ideology. Observers said the remarks paved the way for amending the party's constitution at this autumn's congress to enshrine his political philosophy. Analysts said that after Xi was given "core leader" status within the party last year the importance of the senior officials preparatory meeting and Beidaihe as a forum to discuss policy and appointments diminished. Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said that if different political factions were sharing power within the party then the votes for membership of the Politburo took on a greater importance and significance. "This year may be different from what has happened before," Zhang said, given Xi's dominance. Bo Zhiyue, a Chinese politics expert, said details of the Beidaihe gathering were hard to glean because of the secrecy surrounding the annual event. However, Xi's dominant position suggested that elders in the party would have little say on changes within its leadership or constitution, he said. "Based on what Xi has done, he seems unlikely to listen to the seniors." Wu Qiang, a former Tsinghua University political science lecturer, said the Beidaihe gathering was a way for serving and retired officials to exchange ideas and thoughts and was still useful for the party under Xi's presidency. "The gathering is not for decision-making, but for the elite to talk," Wu said. "Xi will probably continue with the tradition. The conclave can still serve as a platform for negotiation and consensus-building." The Politburo is likely to meet later this month. It may finalise the shortlist of candidates for the next Politburo, according to one mainland media source. The list is subject to a final vote by the next session's Central Committee immediately after this autumn's party congress in Beijing. ^ top ^

Focus on performance and stop obsessing over promotions, Chinese officials warned as party congress nears (SCMP)
2017-08-15
As the countdown begins to China's 19th party congress, Communist Party officials across the country have been told to stay focused on their performance rather than obsess over the possibility of a promotion. According to a signed commentary in Thursday's edition of People's Daily, officials should not make scaling the party ranks their "highest pursuit". Such behaviour was leading officials to become indolent and "slack", the article said. "One reason why some officials are inactive is that they put too much emphasis on their position and... only work hard [if they can see it gaining them] a promotion. Otherwise they just... slack off," it said. The stern warning came just months ahead of a key party congress which will see a major reshuffle of the party's elite. Positions on the Central Committee, Politburo and its Standing Committee – the country's highest decision-making body – are all up for grabs as President Xi Jinping prepares for a second term in charge. In preparation for the congress, many lower level reshuffles within government and party organisations have already taken place. As a result, many of Xi's most loyal supporters, along with associates of his closest allies, have been placed on the fast track for promotion and are now poised to enter the Central Committee or even the Politburo. Top official who rose amid corruption scandals now named party chief of China's hi-tech hub (The commentary also made clear that there cannot be promotions for everyone, as "in reality, leadership positions are always limited in number." "There are rigid rules on the number of positions in each organisation, and the higher the level is, the fewer leadership posts there are," it said. "If [cadres'] eyes are always set on their position, it is unavoidable that they'll reach a 'ceiling' and become frustrated or upset." The problem of officials' "slackness" as highlighted by the article is one Beijing has been keen to tackle in recent years. Since the launch of a sweeping crackdown on corruption almost five years ago, many officials have been spooked into doing nothing rather than risk being caught doing the wrong thing. Such inaction, however, has slowed the implementation of central government policy directives, which has been a major concern for Beijing as seeks to push through its various reform policies. After Premier Li Keqiang – while presenting his annual government work report in March 2015 – accused officials of being "slack", several local governments introduced new rules to combat indolence. Six months later, Xinhua reported that 249 officials had been punished for offences such as failing to spend government funds, delaying projects and sitting on land earmarked for development. Thursday's commentary was a clear reminder that Beijing is still adamant that officials should toe the line and do their utmost to help deliver central party policy. Meanwhile, the article also called for wider use of social media programs such as WeChat and DingTalk by local governments to help them keep better tabs on their subordinates and monitor their performance. It gave the example of how the Hainan government managed to get 98 per cent of its local cadres to watch its television programmes on poverty alleviation by telling them to do so via DingTalk, a communication app designed primarily for use in offices. The software was developed by Alibaba Group, which also owns the South China Morning Post. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Subway pollution may raise heart disease, cancer risk for Beijing commuters, study finds (SCMP)
2017-08-17
High levels of air pollution in Beijing's subway system could be putting commuters at higher risk of heart disease and lung cancer, according to a new study by a Chinese non-governmental think tank. Releasing the study on Thursday, researchers from the independent Rock Environment and Energy Institute said passengers should wear face masks and the state-owned subway firm should improve ventilation to reduce exposure to the pollution. "We can almost tell how bad it is just by smelling," Zhao Ang, institute director and the lead author of the report, said. The findings were based on air quality readings in congested cabins during Friday night rush hours over 20 weeks. The results indicated that the average level of PM2.5 pollutants – fine particles particularly hazardous to human health – was 127 micrograms per cubic metre in warmer months, or nearly twice the level outdoors. The subway PM2.5 readings rose to 154mgm/m3 in winter, 50 per cent higher than the amount above ground in the same period. That compares with PM2.5 readings in Toronto's subway system of about 100mgm/m3, or 10 times to the level above ground, according to a study released earlier this year. The Spanish city of Barcelona reported PM2.5 levels peaking at about 30mgm/m3 in summer thanks to effective air conditioning systems. Beijing has nearly 20 metro lines with more than 300 subway stations, moving more than nine million people every day. The researchers enlisted volunteers to take the readings between October and April on 10 major subway lines, using portable monitoring devices similar to the ones deployed by US environmental authorities. The highest pollution was recorded on Line 8 in the middle of the city, and the lowest on Line 13 going to the suburbs. The researchers said they also canvassed more than 600 passengers and found they spent roughly two hours a day on the underground system. After 16 years of commuting, such exposure could increase the risk of death from heart disease by 1.83 per cent and lung cancer by 2.42 per cent, the researchers calculated. Peking University public health professor Pan Xiaochuan said the results were "trustworthy". "It maybe the first comprehensive investigation on subway pollution and its public health impact in China. The findings are based on reliable sampling and methodology. The evidence is strong," he said. But Pan said the projected health impact was based on an algorithm developed in the West, which might not be entirely applicable in China. "The public should not take the risk figure [at face value] because the situation can vary significantly from one individual to another," he said. The researchers said the pollution could be caused by carriage wheels grinding along the track and crowds breathing and rubbing up against each other in confined areas. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Tibet receives high-profile environmental inspection (Xinhua)
2017-08-16
China's central authorities dispatched an inspection team to review environmental protection work in Tibet Autonomous Region Tuesday. Another seven inspection teams have been sent to the provinces of Jilin, Zhejiang, Shandong, Hainan, Sichuan and Qinghai, and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, as part of the fourth round of environmental inspections across the country. The inspection will last about one month, and focus on prominent environmental issues that are being closely watched by the central authorities and have aroused strong public concern, and how the local governments have handled them, according to Jiang Jufeng, head of the Tibet inspection team. Public feedback is welcomed during the inspection. Norgyel, director of Tibetan Environment Protection Department, said the inspection will help improve environment protection work in Tibet in a more scientific and standardized way and help strengthen the region's functions as a barrier for the country's ecological security. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang's police hiring binge comes from party boss's Tibet playbook (SCMP)
2017-08-12
It's been almost a year since Communist Party rising star Chen Quanguo took the reins of Xinjiang, China's Uygur heartland, and police jobs have seen an explosive surge. In the past 11 months, more security staff jobs have been advertised than the combined total over the last decade, latest research has revealed. The far western frontier publicly has advertised more than 84,000 security-related positions since September 2016, nearly 50 per cent more than it did in the past 10 years, according to a study by Adrian Zenz, an expert on the region at the European School of Culture and Theology in Germany. The last four months of 2016 saw some 30,000 security jobs advertised, compared with about 1,600 over the year's earlier months, and the number soared past 53,000 in the first seven months of this year, Zenz found. Data gleaned from government postings on the internet drove his study. "The massive peak really came with Chen Quanguo... and is directly related to the establishment of the convenience police stations," Zenz said, referring to the sprawling net of neighbourhood-based police depots that have cropped up across the region. Chen, formerly the party boss of neighbouring Tibet, was transferred to rule Xinjiang late last August and has since ramped up security and surveillance by applying policies he had deployed in Tibet, another politically sensitive region where ethnic tension had flared. In Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uygur ethnic minority, hundreds of people have been killed in the past few years in violence between Uygurs and the ethnic majority Han. The government blames the bloodshed on Islamist extremists and separatists, but Uygur advocates say it is the government's repression of religious freedom and unfair ethnic policies that has fuelled resentment and savagery. Seen as effective in quelling tension in Tibet with his uncompromising policies, Chen was transferred to Xinjiang to replace its former party boss Zhang Chunxian, who adopted a softer approach to the ethnic tension. One of Chen's signature security initiatives is the massive construction of what the authorities called "convenience police stations", which Chen had first introduced in Tibet in 2011. Now in Xinjiang, thousands of one- or two-storey concrete structures are being built across cities and rural areas – often only hundreds of metres apart – to strengthen everyday policing of the local population. Regional capital Urumqi alone is expected to have 949 such stations, according to a website affiliated with the city government. Zenz said most of the advertised security positions in the past year were for these convenience police stations – auxiliary police officers hired mostly through short-term contracts, a cheaper alternative to the regular police force or special police units through the civil or public services. In China, auxiliary police are employed to assist the formal police force to maintain public security and crackdown on crimes, but are not entitled to carry out law enforcement themselves. Although in practice, the boundaries are often murky. "The emphasis is on patrol and prevention, such as checking people's mobile phones and IDs, and you don't need the expensive highly trained special police forces to check people. "The informal police are the eyes on the ground: they check; they search; they see. And if there is anything they call in the special police," Zenz said. In one recruitment notice posted in March on the government website of Kashgar, an oasis town on the ancient Silk Road, 3,000 men aged between 18 and 35 were wanted for the city's convenience police stations, regardless of their ethnicity or household registration. The prefecture of Kashgar has seen a number of deadly attacks in recent years, including a knife and bomb attack at a traffic checkpoint in June 2015 that claimed at least 18 lives. According to the notice, each new recruit would be offered the monthly salary of at least 5,000 yuan (HK$5,869), with an additional monthly allowance of 500 yuan for maintaining stability. The jobs also come with free room and board, and apartments will be provided for couples from outside the city if the husband is recruited. The pay, let alone the free food and housing, is considerably generous. The average monthly salary in the city was about 4,500 yuan in 2016, while the average monthly disposable income was just over 2,000 yuan for urban dwellers and 760 yuan for rural dwellers, according to government data. Zenz said the rapid expansion of security apparatus and measures is interfering with the daily life of both Uygurs and Hans, and is likely to have negative impacts on ethnic relations as well as the economy. "You have constant ID checking, constant suspicion and even hassling as described by some Uygurs. It limits the ability to travel, increases travel time and affects the flow of labour...It is going to worsen the Uygur perception of the government, but the Hans are feeling the pressure too, because of course they are also being impacted," he said. "It has many implications beyond the immediate, and we're only at the very beginning of seeing the full impact." A resident in Kashgar city told the South China Morning Post over the phone that convenience police stations had been built across the city this year, most of them only a few hundred metres apart, and security check points were also set up along the streets. "Sometimes I would run into the police every few dozen metres down the street. I'm seldom stopped but the Uygurs are frequently checked and asked to show their identity cards," said the woman, who is a member of the Han ethnic majority. She said all the shopping malls and gated residential communities also had set up security check points at entrances since last year, requiring everyone to undergo a thorough body check before entering. "Of course it is very inconvenient, but there is nothing we common folks can do," the resident said. "These days security is the only thing the government cares about, nothing else." ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Jailing Hong Kong's three young Occupy leaders 'will deter others from joining protests' (SCMP)
2017-08-18
The Hong Kong Court of Appeal which sent three young Occupy leaders to jail warned against what one judge called the "unhealthy trend" of advocating civil disobedience, while observers feared the ruling would intimidate people into staying away from future pro-democracy drives. While the city's democracy activists pledged to maintain their campaigns even if allies were jailed, a criminal lawyer said the lower courts, which used to value young defendants' ideals, would have to follow the Court of Appeal's "deterrence" principle in handing down future sentences. The ruling – which sees Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Alex Chow Yong-kang and Nathan Law Kwun-chung sent to jail for six to eight months – was the government's second successful attempt in a week to seek tougher sentences for protesting activists. Court of Appeal vice-president Wally Yeung Chun-kuen slammed the "unhealthy trend" in which intellectuals advocated the idea of civil disobedience. "These people openly despise the rule of law. Not only do they refuse to admit their law-breaking behaviour is wrong, they even see their acts as something to be proud of," Yeung wrote. "This arrogant and self-righteous thinking will unfortunately affect some of our young people and result in attempts to disrupt public order... during rallies, marches and protests." Criminal lawyer Stephen Hung Wan-shun said the ruling handed down by the Court of Appeal would have far-reaching implications for similar cases in future. "In the past, the principle was that jail terms should be the final resort for young defendants, especially those under 21 years of age... but now the Court of Appeal's guideline is that they should be jailed," he said. Hung dismissed concerns that people's freedoms had been narrowed by the ruling, but he believed "there would be no room for any use of violence" at future rallies. Chinese University political scientist Dr Ma Ngok said the two rulings would inevitably exert pressure on Hongkongers and prompt them to think twice before joining protests. "Behaviour which they thought would only lead to community service might now end them up behind bars," he said. But the pro-democracy camp, which will hold a march on Sunday to support the jailed activists, was undeterred. Lester Shum, one of the Occupy student leaders, said they had decided to participate in civil disobedience after exhausting different means to achieve universal suffrage in Hong Kong, and it was neither a rash decision nor a result of brainwashing. Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting said he was saddened by the ruling but had no regrets in initiating the civil disobedience movement. Tai, also a legal scholar, added the Court of Appeal judgment stood in contrast to a comment made in 2006 by British judge Lord Hoffmann, who is also a non-permanent judge of the city's Court of Final Appeal. Hoffman argued: "Civil disobedience on conscientious grounds has a long and honourable history.... It is the mark of a civilised community that it can accommodate protests and demonstrations of this kind. I would leave it to the public to judge which [argument] is more civilised." The judgment on Thursday also implied that the young activists would be barred from contesting the 2020 Legislative Council elections as anyone who is jailed for more than three months will not be qualified to run for five years. It also harms young political party Demosisto, as three out of eight of its standing committee members – including Wong and Law – are now in jail. Core member Agnes Chow Ting admitted they had lost their icons, but the party's daily operations would not be greatly affected. ^ top ^

Support and tears for Hong Kong democracy activists jailed over government HQ protest that led to Occupy movement (SCMP)
2017-08-18
The ground-floor lobby of Hong Kong's High Court was for the first time "occupied" by pro-democracy supporters on Thursday as the judges handed down their ruling that three student leaders who spearheaded the city's Occupy movement in 2014 should serve time in prison. More than 100 supporters flocked to the court to show support or bid farewell to Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang, who were sentenced to between six and eight months in jail for their actions in the run-up to the 79-day Occupy sit-ins. The trio greeted their supporters one by one ahead of the court ruling, hugging each other tearfully. The parents of Chow, who had remained low-profile over the years, spoke for the first time before the cameras to voice support for their son, who was to spend his 27th birthday in jail on Friday. "We are very heartbroken but I have told Alex that... we will fully support [him]," the elder Chow said. "We are proud of what he has done, which is for the sake of Hongkongers and the [city's] future." Stopping short of commenting on the sentence, he said the deterrent ruling might have the opposite effect. But his mother, who was initially able to control her emotions, burst into tears after the judge announced that her son would go to jail for seven months. Her husband, along with former lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan, escorted her out of the court. Veteran activist "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung said pan-democrats would set up a group in the near future to support the families of the trio and other recently jailed activists both emotionally and financially. ^ top ^

Joshua Wong and other jailed Hong Kong student leaders see political careers halted (SCMP)
2017-08-17
Three prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy student leaders were jailed for six to eight months on Thursday for storming the government headquarters compound at Tamar during an illegal protest that triggered the 79-day Occupy sit-ins of 2014. The ruling against Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang effectively halted their budding political careers, as they were slapped with a five-year ban from public office because of their criminal records. In a victory for the government which had sought stiffer sentences for the trio, Demosisto leaders Wong and Law, after completing their community service sentences meted out earlier, were jailed for six and eight months respectively, while former student union leader Chow had his initial suspended three-week jail sentence replaced by a seven-month custodial term. The prison sentences disqualify all three from running for a Legislative Council seat for five years. Wong had previously challenged the government to lower the minimum age requirement so he could run for Legco, and Law was stripped of his seat last month after he took his council oath improperly. All three indicated they would take their case to the Court of Final Appeal. In a strongly worded, 64-page ruling, the three Court of Appeal judges took turns to rebuke unlawful acts committed in the name of exercising freedoms. Vice-president Wally Yeung Chun-kuen noted an unhealthy trend in Hong Kong society, with some members of the public, including educated people, recklessly breaking the law in the name of pursuing their ideals and exercising freedoms and encouraging others to follow suit while refusing to admit it was wrong to break the law. "Our society will descend into chaos," he wrote. "If such a situation is not effectively curbed, all talk of freedom and the rule of law will be empty." The court also cited the need to lay down new sentencing guidelines in cases involving violent unlawful assembly to bind the lower courts, which Mr Justice Poon Shiu-chor said had sent confusing messages to the public with inconsistent rulings. When handling their case last August, trial magistrate June Cheung Tin-ngan had said it was atypical, in that it called for a more lenient and understanding attitude, since the three were young pro-democracy student leaders who expressed demands based on genuinely held political ideals. But Poon noted that while community service might help rehabilitate young offenders, the court was inclined to impose immediate custodial sentences for more serious offences, such as in this case – unless there were very special circumstances, which were rare. He said the trial magistrate had made fundamental errors in focusing too much on personal factors and motives behind the offence, as well as neglecting the fact that the case involved a large-scale unlawful assembly with a high risk of violence. The court previously heard Wong and Chow had climbed into the government compound, while Law incited others to follow suit. Wong, 20, and Chow, 27, were later found guilty of unlawful assembly. Law, 24, was convicted of inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly. The three judges said their crime was a serious one that called for a deterrent sentence to prevent a repeat and to set an example for the public. The three youths appeared calm in the dock as they were sentenced. As they were taken away by correctional services officers, Wong raised a fist in the air and chanted: "Hongkongers, do not give up." Chow, still wearing a student union T-shirt, smiled and waved at his parents in the public gallery. His mother initially kept a composed face but she later burst into tears, while his father revealed the family had just celebrated Chow's 27th birthday, which he will mark today in a prison cell. "I don't want to comment on whether the court is right or wrong," he said. "But as parents, we are very proud, we absolutely support them and we do not regret supporting them. What they did was to improve Hong Kong." Supporters waiting outside the court chanted "civil disobedience", while others called out "shame on the judges". The Department of Justice said in a statement that it had noticed some members of the public were complaining that the case amounted to political persecution. "Such accusations are groundless, they overlook the objective evidence available in the present case," the statement said. "Hong Kong's judicial independence cannot be questioned." A prison source said Wong would be kept at the Pik Uk maximum security institution near Sai Kung, while Chow and Law would spend the first night at the Lai Chi Kok reception centre. Speaking outside the court ahead of the ruling, Wong said he wanted to see a "hopeful Hong Kong" when he was released next year, while Law declared he had no regrets about his activism. The harsher sentences for the trio mark the government's second successful application this week to review community service orders for political activists. The same panel of three Court of Appeal judges found such orders inadequate for 13 activists convicted over a separate protest against government development plans. The protesters in that case were subsequently jailed for up to 13 months on Tuesday. Last year, the Department of Justice lodged 16 such sentencing reviews at the magistrates' level and another five in the Court of Appeal. Vice-president Wally Yeung Chun-kuen: "To disrupt public order and public peace in the name of free exercise of powers will cause our society to descend into chaos. It will bring negative impact to societal improvement and development, and prevent others from exercising their powers and freedoms. If such a situation is not effectively curbed, all talk of freedom and the rule of law will be empty." Mr Justice Poon Shiu-chor: "The respondents cannot say that they were convicted and sentenced for exercising their rights to freedoms of assembly, protest and speech. They are convicted and sentenced because they overstepped the boundaries of the law, and used seriously unlawful methods to gain forcible entry or incite other people including youngsters and students... to a place which they had no right by law to enter." Mr Justice Derek Pang Wai-cheong: "To treat long-standing and effective laws as unreasonable restrictions obstructing the freedom of expression, and to feel good about it after breaking the law as one wishes – such conduct does not allow the court for any reason to handle it with excessive leniency. People who hold such views not only break the law in conduct, but despise and transcend the law in spirit." ^ top ^

Hong Kong's mainland affairs chief accused of 'one country, two systems' breach over by-elections (SCMP)
2017-08-17
The Hong Kong government's top man on mainland affairs has been accused of violating the conditions of the city's relationship with Beijing by discussing the local government's plans for upcoming legislative by-elections whilst in the capital. At the end of a trip to Beijing, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen said he had met officials from across the central government, including the deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office Huang Liuquan and deputy secretary general of the National People's Congress Standing Committee Li Fei. He said he had discussed the government's plans for the upcoming by-elections, to contest the seats previously held by six elected lawmakers booted from the Legislative Council chamber for badly taken oaths. "Regarding the work of the constitutional and mainland affairs bureau, including the by-election [arrangements], I have reported and discussed the stance and the plans of the SAR government with the relevant [mainland] ministries," he said. No date has been set for the polls, which would usually take place within six months of a seat being vacated. The government has said it will wait for legal proceedings, including possible appeals, over the disqualifications to be concluded before setting a date. The pro-democracy camp sees the plans for the polls as a political issue, and has demanded the government hold two rounds of by-elections – one for the two seats vacated by Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching last year and another for the seats formerly occupied by "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, Lau Siu-lai, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Edward Yiu Chung-yim this year. That is because the bloc's members claim they would lose two seats under proportional representation, given there are two vacancies each in Kowloon West and New Territories East. The ousted six are all from the pro-democracy camp. Political commentators said Nip had crossed a line by discussing the arrangements with Beijing. "It has violated the principle of 'one country two systems'," Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok said, referring to the city's governing formula, under which it retains semi-autonomy under Chinese rule. "The by-election arrangements are manifestly internal affairs of Hong Kong and I cannot see the necessity to discuss them with the mainland side." But he said the apparent revelation could have been a slip of the tongue as Nip was new in the post. Nip's press secretary clarified that Nip's choice of the word "reported" may have been misleading, saying the meeting had just been a normal exchange with Huang on the bureau's work. She said Nip only briefly talked about the by-elections along with other work, without seeking advice from the central government. Veteran China-watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu agreed with Ma that the by-elections were internal local affairs that Beijing should not interfere with. He believed the gaffe would add to public fears over mainland involvement in Hong Kong business. On Wednesday Nip also said he would help promote understanding and communication between the various political parties and the Beijing government. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor earlier said she would like to invite all legislators to visit the mainland. But she added that could not happen in the near future due to the disqualification saga. ^ top ^

About 20 Indonesian domestic workers on Hong Kong police watch list over Islamic State links (SCMP)
2017-08-13
Hong Kong police are monitoring about 20 Indonesian domestic workers in the city out of a list of 43 that a think tank said were linked to terror group Islamic State, the Post has learned. The rest left Hong Kong earlier, a source with knowledge of the police probe said. Indonesia's top diplomat in the city, Tri Tharyat, said separately that his consulate had intensified efforts to stop Indonesians from becoming radicalised in the city. The source said about 20 of the 43 had already left Hong Kong. The police contacted most of those still in the city for interviews, the source added, and found they were IS sympathisers with no direct connection to the group. They supported certain IS religious ideologies, but had shown no violent intent. "Even though they were only sympathisers, the police will still be keeping an eye on them," the source said. The workers' placement on a watch list came as the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict released a report saying there were at least 50 female workers in East Asia who took part in extremist discussion groups – with 43 of them working in Hong Kong now or in the past. The source said local police had exchanged intelligence with Indonesian law enforcers before launching their own investigations to track down the helpers. The think tank study told the story of three workers in Hong Kong – one of whom was said to still be in the city – who competed to get recognition from IS militants in Indonesia and Syria. They provided money and arranged trips to Syria for Indonesian jihadis, sometimes via Hong Kong. According to the report, out of the 50 domestic workers identified, four joined IS in Syria, 16 returned home and many married jihadis. Eight were deported from their host countries or from Turkey while trying to cross to Syria. Separately, Tri asserted that his work to stop Indonesians from being radicalised was an "everyday priority". He claimed his consulate had established a sound working mechanism with Hong Kong officials to fight terror. "My part is to make the best efforts to minimise and if possible to make sure zero Indonesians are affiliated with and influenced by the [extremist] groups," he said. Tri explained the consulate had long been in close contact with city officials about combating terror, having met Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung last month to discuss the issue. Tri is due to meet Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu this month. The consulate had not received reports from the city that Indonesians were involved in extremist activities, the envoy said. "Long before the report came out, we have been having very good and close cooperation with Hong Kong police, in particular the anti-terrorism unit," he said. Since 2004, the force has sent 91 officers to Indonesia for antiterrorism training. As city officials described the terrorist threat level as "moderate", Tri said it was not for him to offer his assessment but added no countries were "immune" to terrorist attacks. "The fact that many foreign terrorist fighters left their home countries for Syria and Iraq may pose threats to their homelands and to [other] countries, regardless of their locations," he said. Tri also warned of "lone wolfs" – individuals carrying out attacks but not under the orders of organised terrorist groups. The diplomat said that after the think tank report was released he met Indonesian religious preachers and community leaders, non-governmental organisations and employment agencies. He claimed all agreed on a need to raise awareness by reaching out to Indonesians in the city. Tri said he told the agencies to advise employers to notify the consulate immediately if their maids behaved suspiciously. But he urged Hongkongers not to be unduly worried. "I received reports telling me that more Indonesians were wearing burkas," he recalled, referring to the head-to-toe garment worn by many Muslim women. "I said that doesn't mean they're radical. It's a choice." Fighting terrorism in Hong Kong was not without challenges, he added. "In Indonesia, displaying a symbol of IS is against the law, but not here, which means the situation is extremely challenging." While the consulate had a mechanism to monitor who was preaching at the Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai mosques, Tri said it had little oversight over preachers in other venues. The think tank mentioned that some radical preachers had been in the city. A police spokesman said there was no specific intelligence to suggest Hong Kong was a likely target of terrorist attacks. "Police keep a close watch on international trends in terrorist activities and have been liaising closely with mainland and overseas law enforcement agencies for intelligence exchange and threat assessments," he said. A Security Bureau spokesman said the city had "a sound legal framework and strong enforcement capability" to guard against and deal with terrorist activities. When assessing terrorist threats, he added, police "take into account a wide range of intelligence and information from different sources". ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Cambodia arrests nearly 400 mainland Chinese, Taiwanese telecom fraud suspects (SCMP)
2017-08-17
The authorities in Cambodia have arrested nearly 400 mainland Chinese and Taiwanese citizens this month on suspicion of operating a telecoms scam to defraud victims in China, police said on Thursday. China has been battling telecoms fraud that has cost billions of dollars in financial losses, according to the authorities in Beijing who accuse Taiwan of harbouring criminal gangs behind many of the scams. Cambodia is one of China's closest allies in Southeast Asia and does not recognise the government of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway Chinese province. Cambodia, one of China's staunchest allies in Southeast Asia, has deported more than 600 Chinese and Taiwanese citizens in recent years in a crackdown on internet and telecoms scams orchestrated from the Southeast Asian nation. Police in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh on Wednesday arrested 225 Chinese citizens, including 25 women, who are suspected of running an extortion scheme using internet voice call technology, said Thou Saroeun, deputy director of the anti-terrorism police department. "We are processing the case and we don't know yet when this will move to deportation," Thou Saroeun said. Police arrested 151 Chinese and three Taiwanese citizens in the provinces of Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey on August 2, Uk Heisela, the investigations chief of the immigration department, said. The suspects await deportation to mainland China and some will be sent back this week, he said. "I don't know when exactly, that depends on when China sends a plane." Cambodia deported 105 Chinese and Taiwanese suspects to China last month, prompting a protest from the self-ruled island to Phnom Penh. China has defended the deportations of people from Taiwan to China from countries such as Cambodia, saying the victims were all in mainland China and so the criminals should face justice there. ^ top ^

Taiwan on high alert after Chinese air force drills (SCMP)
2017-08-16
Taiwan's military is on high alert after three straight days of drills by the PLA Air Force near the self-ruled island, Taiwan's defence ministry said on Tuesday. The People's Liberation Army aircraft, which have included bombers and advanced fighter jets, have been staging exercises flying through the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines and up to the north of Taiwan by Japan's Miyako Island, according to Taiwan's government. Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-ji said PLA aircraft entered Taiwan's air defence identification zone during their drills. "Our air force and navy will stay on high alert to prevent them from intruding upon our territorial waters or airspace or even engaging in hostility," Chen said. "We're experienced and have been doing this for a long time, and we ask our citizens to rest assured. "We will of course take actions to avoid escalating any conflict throughout this process." Beijing has yet to comment on the exercises, though has in the past described them as routine. The drills are the latest in a series of such exercises conducted by the PLA near Taiwan and Japan in the past several weeks. Beijing has been increasingly asserting itself in territorial disputes in the South and East China seas. It is also worried about Taiwan, run by a government Beijing fears is intent on independence. Beijing has never ruled out the use of force to bring proudly democratic Taiwan under its control, and has warned that any moves towards formal independence could prompt an armed response. The PLA is in the midst of an ambitious military modernisation programme that includes building aircraft carriers and developing stealth fighters to give it the ability to project power far from its shores. Taiwan is well armed with mostly US weaponry, but has been pressing Washington to sell it more hi-tech equipment to better deter the mainland. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China orders ministries to open up more of economy to foreign investors (SCMP)
2017-08-17
China's government has told ministries to open up more sections of the economy to foreign investors amid increasing criticism from the Trump administration about Beijing's allegedly unfair trade practices. The move also comes as foreign firms operating in China have expressed increasing frustration over limited access to markets and government policies which they say discriminate against overseas companies. China's cabinet, the State Council, published a long to-do list to ministries on Wednesday to encourage more foreign investment. In one example, the central bank and foreign exchange regulator were told to ensure that "foreign investors can freely remit their profits, dividends and other forms of investment returns in China overseas". US President Donald Trump authorised an inquiry earlier this week into China's alleged theft of intellectual property rights from US businesses after regularly criticising Beijing's trade policies during his election campaign. Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, also said in an interview with the political magazine The American Prospect on Wednesday that the US was already in an "economic war" with China. China remains a major recipient of foreign direct investment, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is losing its attractiveness to investors, amid rising costs and limited access to markets. Foxconn, the world's biggest electronics processing company, announced last month it would spend US$10 billion building a flat-panel screen plant in Wisconsin in the United States. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has repeatedly pledged to open China's markets wider to foreign investment. President Xi Jinping also told at an economic policy meeting last month that China should create a "stable, fair, transparent and predictable" environment for overseas businesses. The State Council notice said ministries and related government agencies must draft clear timetables on opening up sectors of the economy, including new energy vehicle manufacture, ship design, aircraft repairs, maritime transport, railway passenger transport, petrol stations and call centres, as well as banking, brokerages and insurance. The foreign ministry and the public security ministry were told to make it easier for foreigners to live and work in China. In particular, the cabinet said China must issue more long-term, multiple entry visas lasting five to 10 years to "qualified" visitors. Beijing has talked about some of these measures before, but it is the first time the State Council has put them together in one list and urged ministries to deliver on the promises. Cui Fan, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said the aim was for the wish list to be turned into specific measures and policies in the coming months. In one example, the limit on overseas stakes in Chinese financial institutions may be raised to "send a strong signal to foreign investors about Beijing's resolution to open up [the economy]," said Cui. Foreign stakes in Chinese securities houses and insurance firms, for example, are now capped at 49 per cent. Cui said China's progress in opening up its domestic market was slower than expected and the authorities need to do more to reduce investment barriers for foreign investors. China attracted 485 billion yuan (US$72.6 billion) in foreign direct investment from January to July, down 1.2 per cent on the same period last year, according to data from China's Ministry of Commerce. The State Council document also orders ministries to crackdown on the infringement of foreign firms' intellectual property rights. Wilbur Ross, the US Commerce Secretary, wrote in an opinion piece in the Financial Times this week that American "genius" was under attack due to the theft of intellectual property in China. China's cabinet has also tasked the tax authorities and land ministry to work out tax breaks and preferential land policies to encourage foreign companies to expand investment in China, especially in high-tech sectors and less developed regions of the country. ^ top ^

Bannon says US is being 'crushed' by China in an economic war, as he describes his clashes with Trump's other advisers (SCMP)
2017-08-17
White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has gone public his long-simmering feud with some of President Donald Trump's top economic advisers, saying in an interview that he battles them often, especially over his determination to take a tougher position on China. Bannon said the US and China were already in an "economic war", that the US was losing. "That's a fight I fight every day here," Bannon is quoted as saying in the interview published in with The American Prospect on Wednesday. He pointed to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, both alumni of Goldman Sachs, who are pushing for a softer stance on trade with China. "We're still fighting. There's Treasury and Gary Cohn and Goldman Sachs lobbying." SSTo me, the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that The interview was conducted Tuesday by the magazine's co-editor Robert Kuttner, who said Bannon told him he reached out because he agreed with Kuttner's past writings on China. Bannon rarely speaks with reporters on the record, let alone a liberal-leaning magazine. The interview with Bannon comes as the White House has struggled to respond to Saturday's violent racial protests in Charlottesville, Virginia and as some aides - including Cohn - have objected in private to Trump's restrained denunciations of white supremacists. Bannon approved of the president's approach, officials in the administration who asked not to be named have said. Bannon, who also once worked at Goldman Sachs, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the interview. In the interview Bannon said his rivals in the administration are "wetting themselves" as he works to undermine their influence with the president and he bragged about working to get some of them ousted. There has been speculation in recent days that Bannon could be in danger of losing his job, though Trump spoke in supportive terms about him at Tuesday's press conference. Bannon said he favours pushing back against Chinese economic expansion, arguing only one country will emerge as a leader from what he described as an "economic war." SSEthno-nationalism – it's losers. It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much "To me, the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we're five years away, I think, 10 years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we'll never be able to recover," he said. He advocated for the US to file a complaint under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act - which allows for sanctions against countries that violate trade agreements or engage in unfair trade practices - as well as follow-up complaints against steel and aluminium dumping, Kuttner wrote. "We're going to run the tables on these guys. We've come to the conclusion that they're in an economic war and they're crushing us," Bannon said. Bannon also dismissed speculation that the US might consider using military action against North Korea to get the regime there to abandon its intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear weapon programmes. Trump recently vowed to deliver "fire and fury" onto North Korea. "There's no military solution, forget it," Bannon said. "Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about, there's no military solution here, they got us." Bannon also was dismissive in the interview of the so called far-right that he helped organise and inflame when he led Breitbart News and during Trump's 2016 campaign. "Ethno-nationalism – it's losers. It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more," he said. "These guys are a collection of clowns." Still, Bannon said he's fine with the issue of race taking over the national conversation. "The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got 'em," he is quoted as saying. "I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats." ^ top ^

China announces maritime nuclear power firm (Global Times)
2017-08-13
The floating nuclear power plants could better conserve the environment in areas such as the South China Sea, Chinese experts said after the country recently announced the setting up of a maritime nuclear power company in Shanghai. Five companies, including the China National Nuclear Power (CNNP) and Shanghai Electric Power, formed the company in Shanghai to build maritime nuclear facilities, according to a CNNP statement released on Thursday. The Thursday statement said the company fits into the national strategy of building China into a maritime power and the Belt and Road initiatives, and would help promote the civil-military integration of nuclear-powered vessels. The company will develop, build, operate and manage the maritime nuclear power facilities, and produce and sell electricity, heating and desalination devices. China is expected to build 20 floating nuclear power stations. The floating power station will be able to provide safe and efficient power to remote islands in the South China Sea, and power desalination, the CNNP wrote in an article published on its WeChat social media account in July 2016. "The floating nuclear plants could provide the energy requirements of the islands and reefs in the South China Sea," Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the National Institute for the South China Sea, told the Global Times on Sunday. Chen noted that there is no need to read too much into China's program of floating nuclear plants. "The plants will provide environment protection, weather observation, navigation and oil and gas development," Chen said. "Also, nuclear power is just one option for the islands and reefs. Wind power and solar energy are also being considered," Chen said. Wang Yiren, deputy director of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense and vice chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority, announced in February that China would develop floating nuclear power stations during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), and has assembled experts to study how this would be accomplished. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

US and Japan bolster alliance and vow to pressure North Korea (SCMP)
2017-08-18
Japan and the United States on Thursday pledged to continue applying pressure on North Korea while ensuring a firmer bilateral alliance to better respond to the increased threat posed by Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes. The two countries' foreign and defence ministers called on the international community to "comprehensively and thoroughly implement" UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea so as to compel it to change course, they said in a joint statement issued after a meeting in Washington. The ministers singled out China as needing to take "decisive measures" in regards North Korea, prodding Beijing to tighten the economic screws on Pyongyang. China accounts for about 90 per cent of the North's trade and is a major supplier of oil to the country. Referring to trilateral security cooperation with South Korea, they stressed the need to enhance information-sharing and expand three-way exercises including missile warning, anti-submarine warfare and maritime interdiction operations, the statement said. Bringing together Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, it marked the first meeting of the Japan-US Security Consultative Committee, known as the "two-plus-two," since US President Donald Trump took office in January. Faced with progress in North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology, the ministers reaffirmed the alliance's commitment to the security of Japan through the full range of capabilities, including US nuclear forces. North Korea test-launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month and the US Defence Intelligence Agency reportedly assessed that Pyongyang could ready a reliable nuclear-capable ICBM as early as next year, two years earlier than previously estimated. Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un threatened to simultaneously fire four ballistic missiles into waters off the US Pacific territory of Guam. The flight path suggested by the North would take the missiles over Shimane, Hiroshima, Ehime and Kochi prefectures in western Japan. "The ministers committed to bolster the capabilities of the alliance to deter and respond to these threats," the statement said. "They also concurred on continuing to pressure North Korea, in cooperation with other countries, to compel it to take concrete actions to end its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, and to achieve the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula," it said. Referring to China's attempts to challenge Japan's administration of the Senkaku Islands, the ministers reconfirmed Article 5 of the Japan-US security treaty applies to the East China Sea islets, meaning that Washington will defend Tokyo in the event of conflict over the islands. "The United States and Japan oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan's administration of these islands," the statement said, alluding to repeated intrusion by Chinese government vessels into surrounding Japanese waters. The ministers expressed veiled criticism of China's militarisation of outposts in disputed areas of the South China Sea, saying they "reaffirmed their opposition to unilateral coercive actions by claimants... that alter the status quo and increase tensions." China has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan in the South China Sea. Beijing has refused to comply with last year's international tribunal ruling that invalidated the country's claims across almost the entire sea. The ministers affirmed the two countries' intention to further promote defence equipment and technology transfers to Southeast Asian nations such as the Philippines and Vietnam in maritime security and other areas. They vowed to advance trilateral and multilateral security cooperation with other partners in the Asia-Pacific region, notably South Korea, Australia, India and Southeast Asian countries, with the US committing to maintain a strong presence in the region. On the Japan-US plan to move US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa Prefecture, southern Japan, the ministers underscored that the current plan is "the only solution" for removing the dangers posed by the air station without undermining the deterrence provided by the Japan-US alliance. "The ministers reaffirmed the two governments' unwavering commitment to the plan and underscored their strong determination to achieve its completion as soon as possible and the long-desired return of MCAS Futenma to Japan," the statement said. Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga has demanded that the Futenma base be moved outside the prefecture. Many Okinawa residents said they want to reduce the burden on the prefecture from hosting the bulk of US forces in Japan. ^ top ^

US vows 'immediate and specific action' to intercept missiles if North Korean fires at allies (SCMP)
2017-08-18
The US will take immediate and specific actions to intercept any North Korean missile fired at US allies, US Defence Secretary James Mattis said on Thursday. "We would take immediate, specific actions to take it down," Mattis said in response to a question asked during a press conference in Washington following an annual high-level meeting of the US's and Japan's foreign and defence ministers, according to South Korean Yonhap News agency. Mattis' comments came as Washington and Pyongyang appeared to begin to de-escalate their military threats against each other. US President Donald Trump praised North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for making a "very wise and well-reasoned" decision to back down from a plan to mount a missile strike near the US Pacific island territory of Guam, two days after Kim reportedly said he would take "a little more" time before giving any order. Colonel Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, told the South China Morning Post earlier this week at a press briefing that deploying the US's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD anti-ballistic missile defence system on the Korean Peninsula, was "one of the options" being considered to shoot down a North Korean missile. Manning said that THAAD "got initial intercept capability and they continue to build on that capability" in early May. THAAD can intercept short, medium, and intermediate-range missiles. Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman for the US Pacific Command, told the Post on Monday that he would not "speculate in regard to what [US's] response would be" if North Korea executed its Guam strike plan. At the so-called "2+2" meeting in Washington, Mattis, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and their Japanese counterparts – Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera and Foreign Minister Taro Kono – also agreed to step up their defence cooperation in the North Korean threat. The two sides reaffirmed their "mutual commitment to confronting threats to regional peace and security", according to Tillerson. They agreed that North Korea's missile launches, including two tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles in July, are "unacceptable provocations" that "must stop immediately". "In light of the threat of North Korea, the four of us confirmed the importance of the unwavering US commitment to extended deterrence," Onodera said. Tillerson has not ruled out the possibility of holding talks with Pyongyang. "So that is our effort, to cause them to want to engage in talks, but engage in talks with an understanding that these talks will lead to a different conclusion than talks of the past," he said. In an interview with The American Prospect published online on Wednesday, Trump's White House adviser Steven Bannon also said: "There's no military solution [to North Korea's nuclear threats], forget it. "Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons," Bannon continued, "I don't know what you're talking about, there's no military solution here, they got us." Fan Changlong, a vice-chairman of China's Central Military Commission, told the visiting US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joe Dunford this week in Beijing that China believed the only effective way to resolve the North Korean issue was through talks. "China believes that dialogue and consultations are the only effective avenue to resolve the peninsula issue, and that military means cannot become an option," Fan said, according to China's Defence Ministry. ^ top ^

It's time to accept nuclear-armed North Korea, policy experts say (SCMP)
2017-08-17
Former officials and policy experts from China and the United States say it's time to find a new way of dealing with Pyongyang's threats – by accepting the reality of a nuclear-armed North Korea. Their long-term push for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula is now being seen as unrealistic in some quarters given Pyongyang's rapid progress in developing nuclear capabilities. Instead, there are growing calls for Beijing and Washington to work towards ensuring that the North will not use the weapons – seen by leader Kim Jong-un as essential to his regime's survival. "A nuclear-armed North Korea is not the end of the world," said Jie Dalei, from Peking University's School of International Studies. "In fact, China and the US have been facing a North Korea with nuclear capabilities for some time. "China has long stated that denuclearisation, and peace and stability, are its two major policy goals for North Korea," he said. "But when the two goals cannot coexist, it's time to reconsider the strategy." Jie added that while China and the US should not recognise North Korea as a legitimate nuclear state, it was time for a shift in focus towards deterrence. Former US national security adviser Susan Rice meanwhile argued in an op-ed in The New York Times last week that the US could tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea the same way it tolerated nuclear weapons in the Soviet Union during the cold war. Rice's suggestion was rebuffed by her successor, the current National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. "No, she's not right," he said when asked of Rice's comments. "And I think the reason she's not right is that the classical deterrence theory, how does that apply to a regime like the regime in North Korea?" He went on to argue that the same tolerance cannot be applied to a regime that "engages in unspeakable brutality against its own people" and that "poses a continuous threat to its neighbours in the region and now may pose a threat – direct threat – to the United States with weapons of mass destruction". North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, and since then has steadily advanced its technology and conducted four other tests over the years. The recent escalation in tensions saw US president Donald Trump threatening North Korea with "fire and fury" over its plan to send missiles into waters near the US Pacific territory of Guam – a threat it has since put on hold. Both US and Chinese experts said it was time Washington and Pyongyang ended their war of words and returned to the negotiating table. "After what was done to Ukraine in 2014, no country having nuclear weapons is ever going to renounce them," said Arthur Waldron, a professor of international relations with the University of Pennsylvania. "There's no such thing as a surgical strike that will take out all of North Korea's missiles. North Korea is 48,000 square miles – the size of England or Pennsylvania – and everything is underground," he said, adding that it was also impossible to verify denuclearisation. Instead, the US must diplomatically recognise North Korea, he said. Wu Xinbo, director of the Centre for American Studies at Shanghai-based Fudan University, agreed. He said the US should acquiesce to a nuclear North Korea and focus on pushing for Pyongyang to freeze development of its programme. "The US should engage North Korea based on this new reality and give up their policy goal of toppling the North Korean regime," he said, adding that while the new approach was high-risk, it was also the most practical option. Wu said the perception that Washington's ultimate goal was to topple the regime was a source of unease for China that had made it reluctant to put too much pressure on the North. But Beijing has already quietly shifted its policy goals for Pyongyang, according to Yue Gang, a retired colonel in the PLA's General Staff Department. "There has been a subtle shift in China's policy towards North Korea," said Yue. "Diplomatically, it has maintained the stated goal of denuclearisation, but on the operational level it is slowly accepting and adjusting to this new reality. It is no longer so forceful in pushing for a nuclear-free North Korea." Yue said that instead of pushing Pyongyang to the brink, Washington should sign a peace treaty to replace the armistice agreement that ended the Korean war in 1953. He said Pyongyang's belligerence stemmed from a lack of security, which a peace treaty would bring. Wu, from Fudan University, said Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi's "double suspension" proposal showed a shift in Beijing's goal of forcing the North to give up its nuclear weapons. The proposal calls for North Korea to suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for the suspension of large-scale US-South Korea military exercises. ^ top ^

UN chief urges DPRK to fully implement international obligations (Xinhua)
2017-08-17
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) should "fully comply with international obligations" and "engage in a credible and meaningful dialogue" in order to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Speaking to reporters at the UN headquarters in New York, Guterres said "the Security Council was united in adopting Resolution 2371 on August 5," adding "this resolution sends an unambiguous message regarding the peace and security obligations of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea." "In particular, tensions related to the Korean Peninsula are at levels not seen in decades. We remember the enormous suffering caused by the Korean War that began 67 years ago," the UN chief noted. The secretary-general stressed that over three million people were killed in the Korean War. Many nations were directly engaged and experienced heavy losses. "We need to heed the lessons of history, not to repeat the mistakes," he stressed. Guterres said that "it is obviously my role as UN Secretary-General to support the comprehensive implementation of Security Council resolutions, namely this last one." He urged all member states to fully fulfill their related obligations. "All concerned parties should also recognize that the unified adoption of Resolution 2371 represents an opportunity for diplomatic engagement and renewed dialogue to solve this crisis." "I welcome the continued critical engagement by Member States and support the call of the Republic of Korea to the DPRK to engage in a credible and meaningful dialogue," he noted. There are many possible avenues for this dialogue, from various bilateral formations to the Six-Party Talks, he said. The Secretary-General disclosed that he conveyed this message Tuesday to the representatives of the Six-Party Talks, adding that "for my part, I want to repeat that my good offices are always available." He also called on the international community to send a clear, coherent message to the leadership of the DPRK: "fully comply with international obligations, work towards reopening communication channels and support efforts to deescalate the situation." "The solution to this crisis must be political," he stressed, noting that the potential consequences of military action are "too horrific to even contemplate." ^ top ^

China to start enforcing new UN sanctions on N.Korea, hopes to get Pyongyang back to talks (Global Times)
2017-08-15
China will begin enforcing the latest UN sanctions against North Korea on Tuesday, a move which shows Beijing's firm commitment to getting Pyongyang back to constructive talks and peacefully addressing the regional crisis, Chinese experts said. China's Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs on Monday jointly released a notice, declaring that China would impose an import ban on coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood from North Korea as stated in UN Resolution 2371 which was unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council on August 5. The notice said the import ban does not apply to foreign goods not originally from North Korea but transferred through Pyongyang's Rason Port. Those source countries shall notify such shipments in advance to the committee as stated in Resolution 1718 in 2006. UN Resolution 2371 is expected to reduce North Korean revenue by approximately $1 billion, the UN website said. The notice, which comes amid escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, again shows China's determination to use the sanctions as a tool to bring Pyongyang back to constructive talks and to avoid accidents which could jeopardize regional stability, Zhang Huizhi, a professor at the Northeast Asian Studies College of Jilin University, told the Global Times on Monday. The chance of a military clash has also risen on the Korean Peninsula amid a threat of a North Korean missile strike on Guam, Zhang said, adding that unlike his predecessor, US President Donald Trump could be rather aggressive in his decisions. The new sanctions are considered to be the toughest in history as it covers not only the traditional items like coal and iron but also seafood, Lü Chao, a Korea expert at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday. Zhang also highlighted the seafood ban, explaining that since most of the seafood businesses in China are privately-run, the ban will force them to turn to other sources of seafood. However, China will fully enforce the ban, showcasing its determination and responsibilities. Zhang denied this is a direct result of US trade pressure on China, as the trade friction between the two countries involves more than the Korean Peninsula, but is the result of the two countries' different economic structures. Even if China pushes for the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it would not be realized unless Washington and Pyongyang restrain their anger toward each other, Lü said. Reuters reported on Friday that joint US-South Korean military exercises would begin on August 21 as planned. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Russia hopes to further strengthen military cooperation with Mongolia (Gogo Mongolia)
2017-08-17
Russia hopes to further strengthen military and military-technical cooperation with Mongolia, said the Russian defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at the meeting with Mongolian counterpart Padmanabhapuram bat-Erdene. "Mongolia regularly participates in the Military games, and it certainly contributes to further strengthening of friendly and good-neighborly relations between our military. And it can not but rejoice," — said Shoigu. The Minister recalled the adoption of a programme of long-term cooperation between the two countries in military and military-technical spheres, as well as the continued implementation of previous plans. "This programme of preparation and training of Mongolian specialists in our schools. This program of joint exercises and, of course, programs of military— tehnicheskogo cooperation," Shoigu listed. He noted that the intensity of interaction between Moscow and Ulan Bator is the fact that the heads of departments meet for the second time in two months. The Mongolian Minister expressed gratitude for the invitation of the military of the Asian country at the international Military games. "Our government attaches great importance to the relations with Russia, and pursuing a consistent development policy established with Russia strategic partnership", — said bat-Erdene. International military games that started on July 29, ends August 12. In total in competitions on the territory of the five countries involved teams from 28 States. ^ top ^

China and Mongolia work to expand route development (Gogo Mongolia)
2017-08-16
The Mongolian Civil Aviation Authority (MCAA) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Civil Aviation Administration of China on increasing cross-border air routes during the International Civil Aviation Organization's August 7 to 11 Conference of Asia-Pacific DGCAs in Ulaanbaatar. Speaking at the conference, Mongolia's CAA chairman, Byambasuren Luvsansambuu, noted that increasing the number of airways would help lift the traffic burden on an underdeveloped route structure. Chinese carriers now account for 27 percent of all flights through Mongolia. Mongolia and China share six border points, and direct regular flights operate from Mongolia to four Chinese cities. Airline officials from the two countries continue to work on finding a seventh viable route. Chinese tourists account for the largest share of the inbound tourism market of Mongolia. During a recent conference on development of the western region of Mongolia and the country's Khovd Province, local government promoted the potential for a route between Khovd city and Urumqi, the capital city of China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Meanwhile, a so-called Chinese silk road in the air could pass over Mongolia's territory, as Mongolia considers opening its airspace for domestic flights from China's northwest Xinjiang Uyghur region to northeast provinces such as Jilin and Liaoning. Separately, Mongolia's flag carrier, MIAT Mongolian Airlines, plans to expand its own network in the region under its 2018-2020 business plan. The carrier recently launched Busan-Ulaanbaatar and plans to start regular flights to Bangkok in November. To support the expansion, MIAT has agreed to lease two Boeing 737 Max 8 narrowbodies starting in January and May of 2019. At the same time, MIAT has started negotiation with its partners to launch flights to cities in North America. Most recently, it signed a contract with Amadeus to upgrade its information technology system. On the third day of the IATA conference, the Civil Aviation Authority of North Korea expressed interest in launching direct flights between Pyongyang and Ulaanbaatar, while the Mongolian CAA consulted with its Russian counterpart over joint use of a trans-Siberian air route. ^ top ^

President advises not to rush amending Constitution (Montsame)
2017-08-15
President of Mongolia Kh.Battulga welcomed in his office the members of working group on amending the Constitution, including D.Lundeejantsan, G.Zandanshatar and J.Batzandan MPs on August 14. Present were, N.Altankhuyag, President's political advisor, and Z.Enkhbold, Chief of Staff of the Office of the President. D.Lundeejantsan MP briefed: "Motivation for the initiative to amend the Constitution came from the newly established mechanism of public referendum, upon adoption of the Law on Public Referendum". "The most common opinions are, at first, "the Constitution must not be meddled with", second, "the Constitution must be upgraded", and third, which has come from few members of the Mongolian People's Party (MPP) and the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) and E.Bat-Uul from the Democratic Party (DP), "the Parliament can be divided into two houses: Upper and Lower", he introduced. "60 percent of the referendum participants backed the motion to keep the parliamentary system and amend the Constitution", said D.Lundeejantsan and handed over a draft outlining five packages of 22 issues. President Kh.Battulga said: "There are advantages in the seven changes made to the Constitution back in 2000, as well as disadvantages. It is common understanding that this time the Constitution needs amending because the distribution of power among the three highest-ranking state officials must be re-considered". Chief of Staff of the President's Office Z.Enkhbold responded that the issue of amending the Constitution should be considered after settling the case of MNT 60 billion [bargaining of positions in public offices]. A parliament which has been formed on the grounds of such unsolved case must not be authorized to change the Constitution of the country. President Kh.Battulga reminded the working group that they should also consider that 65 out of the total 76 members of the State Great Khural (Parliament) are from one party and 41 members are all newly-elected. "Amending the Constitution is not very urgent matter at this moment compared to the expected loss of harvest and other timely problems facing the country", he said. ^ top ^

 

Mr. Valentin Jeanneret
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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