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
  11-15.12.17, No. 700  
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Table of contents

Mongolia

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Switzerland

Swiss enterprises settle in Guiyang (China Daily)
2017-12-15
A registration and certification ceremony for the first enterprises to enter Switzerland-Guizhou Industrial Demonstration Park was held in Guiyang, capital city of Guizhou province on Dec 7. Four Swiss enterprises including a cross-border equity fund company, a chocolate company and a bio-technology company have settled in the demonstration park. The registered capital of the four enterprises is about $30 million, and is expected to grow to $90 million. Guizhou and Switzerland signed an agreement to build an industrial demonstration park in March this year, the first foreign invested park in Guizhou. The park plans to cluster industries such as high-end precision manufacturing, electronic information based on big data, medical testing and biological pharmaceuticals. The park received investment funds of $5 billion, from which an annual output of $15 billion is anticipated. Since the agreement was signed, the Federation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises of Switzerland has organized visits to Guizhou by more than 20 companies, reaching a consensus on many aspects with the Guizhou Commercial Department. Data show that the growth rate of absorption of foreign investment in Guizhou will reach 20 percent, well above the national average. Guizhou will put forward preferential policies to decrease operating costs and increase convenience for Swiss enterprises. ^ top ^

China-Switzerland Year of Tourism helps boost mutual visits: Chinese official (Xinhua)
2017-12-09
A Chinese tourism official said Thursday that during the first three quarters of this year, there were over 1.2 million two-way visits between China and Switzerland, increased by 12 percent comparing with the same period last year. Speaking at the closing ceremony of the China-Switzerland Year of Tourism held Thursday evening in Lausanne of Switzerland, Li Jinzao, head of China's Tourism Administration, said that over the past year, both sides successfully held the China-Switzerland forum on the hotel industry and other activities of tourism exchanges. According to the official, now there are about 40 flights linking China and Switzerland every week, and China has become the fourth largest source market of tourists for Switzerland and "the number is still increasing". On Jan. 17, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Swiss counterpart Doris Leuthard launched the China-Switzerland Year of Tourism at the foot of the snow mountains in Davos. "Lausanne will host the 2020 Youth Olympic Games and China will host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, it is the right time for us to strengthen our cooperation in winter sports," he said. Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message to the Thursday evening's closing ceremony, stressing that people's involvement and support have been important foundation for the development of China-Switzerland relations. "Taking this opportunity, China and Switzerland held exchange activities and expanded personnel exchanges during the year, which enhanced mutual understanding between the two peoples and promoted bilateral communication and cooperation in such areas as culture, economy and trade, injecting fresh impetus to the development of China-Switzerland relations," Xi said. ^ top ^

Swiss School Beijing is officially recognized by federal government (Xinhua)
2017-12-09
Switzerland's federal government said Friday that it has officially recognized the Swiss School in Beijing, the first of its kind in China. The government said it is the first Swiss school abroad in more than three decades. "The school sees itself as a meeting point for Swiss and Chinese cultures," a Swiss government statement said. Recognition will initially run until the end of 2020, which is the end of the school's development phase, the statement noted. The approval stamp means that the school will officially be the 18th Swiss school abroad. Swiss schools abroad are international schools promoting Swiss values and the schools will carry the official logo of the country's schools abroad and the statement said the schools are "bicultural and at least bilingual." The recognized schools are eligible for government subsidies for operating costs, such as hiring Swiss teachers to work in Beijing, Fiona Wigger, in charge of schools abroad at the Federal Office of Culture, told swissinfo.ch, the website of the national broadcaster. Swiss staff are more expensive than local staff, so the government helps cover the extra costs. Swiss schools abroad also need to follow a Swiss curriculum and hold classes in a Swiss national language. In Beijing, this will be German. The official opening ceremony took place in October 2017. The institution is the first fully independent Swiss school abroad to open since 1981, since more recent openings have involved expanding existing schools. The school is housed in the existing Western Academy Beijing and the school is first offering kindergarten as well as Primary 1 and 2 classes for children aged six to eight. The idea is to expand the institution to other age groups and reach 150 pupils. ^ top ^

 

Foreign Policy

As tensions ease, China keeps building on disputed islands (SCMP)
2017-12-15
Tensions over China's island building in the South China Sea may have eased in the past year, but Beijing has kept busy. New satellite imagery shows China has built infrastructure covering 28 hectares in the Spratly and Paracel Islands during 2017 to equip its larger outposts to be air and naval bases. The Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative closely tracks developments in the South China Sea where China and several Asian governments have conflicting territorial claims. It said on Thursday there has been construction of hangars, underground storage, missile shelters, radar arrays and other facilities. The activity comes as China joins what are likely to be protracted negotiations with Southeast Asian nations on a "code of conduct" for the South China Sea. Tensions with the US on the issue have also eased, despite Washington's criticism of Beijing's conduct. The construction is the follow-up phase to a campaign of land reclamation that was completed by early 2016 in the Spratlys, an island chain where Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei also have claims. According to the Pentagon, China has added more than 1,248 hectares of land to the seven land features it occupies in the area. China also seems to have halted smaller-scale operations to expand islands in the Paracels that lie farther north, the initiative said. The US and others have accused Beijing of further militarising the region and altering geography to bolster its sweeping claims across the South China Sea. China says the man-made islands in the Spratlys, which are equipped with airstrips and military installations, are mainly for civilian purposes and to boost safety for fishing and maritime trade. Greg Poling, the initiative's director, said China had seized a diplomatic opening after the election of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who adopted a conciliatory stance toward Beijing over their territorial dispute. It has also been less of a focus for President Donald Trump's administration, preoccupied by North Korea's nuclear threat and trade disputes with China. "It's got off the front pages, but we shouldn't confuse that with a softening in China's pursuit of its goals. They are continuing all the construction they want," Poling said. The most construction has been on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys, including hangars alongside its 3,000-metre airstrip, underground structures probably intended to house munitions or other materiel, hardened shelters for missile platforms and communication and radar facilities, the initiative said. It also noted that China has deployed new military aircraft at Woody Island in the Paracels. At the end of October, the Chinese military released images of J-11B fighter planes there for drills. In mid-November, Y-8 transport aircraft were spotted on the same island that may be capable of electronic intelligence gathering. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, said on Thursday that he could not comment in detail on US assessments of the region but that "further militarisation of outposts will only serve to raise tensions and create greater distrust among claimants". The United States does not claim territory in the South China Sea, but has declared it has a national interest in ensuring that the territorial disputes there are resolved peacefully in accordance with international law and that freedom of navigation and overflight are guaranteed. China has opposed what it calls US meddling in an Asian dispute. ^ top ^

Top Chinese commander says Australia is disturbing the peace in South China Sea (SCMP)
2017-12-15
China's top commander has blamed Australia for compromising peace and stability in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, amid rising tension between the two nations. The comments were made during a meeting between navy commander Shen Jinlong and visiting Australian counterpart Tim Barrett on Thursday, the Ministry of National Defence said. "The situation in the South China Sea is positive, but a series of moves by the Australian army this year have compromised the overall trend of peace and stability in the area," Shen was quoted as saying. "This goes against the consensus agreed by leaders of both countries, as well as the goodwill they are trying to develop. It is also not beneficial to the safety and stability of the region." Australia joined Japan, Canada and the US in early June for two days of military exercises in the South China Sea. The island country has traditionally called for restraint in power and respect of international laws in the disputed waters, over which China lays claim to "indisputable sovereignty". Other countries in the region, such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, also claim territorial sovereignty. Canberra has expressed increasing concern about China's dominance and influence in the Indo-Pacific region. In November, the Australian government released a foreign policy white bill criticising China's creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea, which were built by dredging 13 kilometres of the sea floor. Shen warned Australia to take into consideration the rights and concerns of the countries involved, and to "add positive elements" to the relationship. The meeting was held in the midst of what is seen as a growing diplomatic row between Australia and China. Last week, Australia's ambassador to China, Jan Adams, was summoned by the Chinese Foreign Ministry after Australia introduced a new law that bans foreign political donations. The law was prompted by a political controversy in Australia, where Labor Party lawmaker Sam Dastyari was revealed to have links with a wealthy Chinese Australian businessman, Huang Xiangmo, a political donor with close ties to Beijing. Dastyari resigned from the senate a few days ago. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also expressed concerns about reports of Chinese interference in Australian universities and politics. Beijing has denied the allegations and criticised Turnbull for negatively affecting bilateral relations. ^ top ^

Australian ambassador summoned to China's foreign ministry as row over political interference intensifies (SCMP)
2017-12-14
Australia's ambassador to China was summoned to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as tensions rise over Canberra's complaints about alleged political interference, officials in Beijing said on Thursday. Jan Adams was summoned to the ministry on December 8, a source said. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang confirmed the ministry had an "important discussion" with the Australian ambassador. "The Australian side should be very clear about China's position on the relevant issue," Lu said on Thursday. Earlier this month Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull voiced his concerns about reports that China was trying to interfere in the country's university campuses and politics. He also announced new laws to ban foreign donations to political parties. Beijing hit back last week, denying that it had tried to buy political interference. It said the reports were irresponsible and criticised Turnbull for poisoning bilateral relations. This week Sam Dastyari, a member of the opposition Australian Labor Party, announced that he would quit the Senate after his links to Huang Xiangmo, a political donor with close ties to Beijing, came under intense scrutiny. Canberra has expressed increasing concern about China's rising influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The Australian government released a foreign policy white paper last month that criticised Beijing's island-building in disputed areas of the South China Sea. It recommended that Canberra take a tougher stance against Beijing's territorial claims and called for stronger engagement with Washington in the region. Beijing, meanwhile, is wary about the prospect of a security coalition between the United States, Australia, Japan and India. The four countries held a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue in November in an apparent effort to counter Beijing's rising geopolitical influence in the region. Wang Hanling, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said it was understandable that Australia was concerned about Beijing's growing influence in the region, nudging Canberra closer to Washington. "Economically, Australia is highly reliant on China, but ideologically it holds a hostile view on it," Wang said. Liu Qing, a specialist with China Institute of International Studies, said the "China panic" from Australia's ruling Liberal Party would dissipate after a federal by-election this weekend. Australia's unease over China also reflected concerns about the US' retreat from the region under US President Donald Trump's "America first" strategy. ^ top ^

Summoning of Aussie ambassador serves as warning to anti-China trend (Global Times)
2017-12-14
The summoning of Australia's ambassador to China over Australian politicians' claim of alleged Chinese interference serves as a warning to the anti-China trend in some countries, Chinese experts said. The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday that ministry officials held an important dialogue with Jan Adams, Australia's Ambassador to China. "The Australian side is very clear on our position on bilateral relations and the relevant issue," China's foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told a daily briefing on Thursday. The summoning of the ambassador is the latest episode in friction between China and Australia after Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accused China of interfering in Australia's domestic policy. In announcing new espionage legislation on Tuesday, Turnbull said he was concerned about China's influence on Australia's domestic affairs, adding that the laws were not focused on any one country, ABC news reported. Accusations made by some Australian politicians against China are part of the recent anti-China trend in Western countries, since they are more concerned about China's increasing influence not only economically but also in terms of politics and security, and even ideology, Yu Lei, a research fellow at the Oceania Research Center of Sun Yat-sen University, told the Global Times. Yu noted that the shifting attitude toward China is reflected in recent news on Chinese spies in the US, Germany and New Zealand, and on the joint move of the European Union and Japan on China's "market-distorting subsidies" at the WTO conference in Argentina Tuesday. "More foreigners, especially the young ones, began to pay attention and have praised China's development on social media, which have worried the elites in the West," Yu said, adding that Chinese Foreign Ministry's Friday dialogue with the Australian ambassador was a warning. "Australia stood out amid the trend as Turnbull wants to shift domestic pressure on the mediocre performance of his government and criticism from the right-wing on his previous involvement with China before becoming prime minister," Yu said. Yu said that pressure from the US is another reason. Australia is trying to have it both ways with China and the US - it deepens economic ties with China to support its economy while strengthening military cooperation with the US for fear of China's increasing influence. "Some Australian politicians are especially uncomfortable with and anxious about China's increasing global influence. China has become a force in exploring the markets of developed countries, and Sino-Australian trade and economic ties have deepened in recent years, which have exacerbated Australia's sense of insecurity," Wang Yiwei, director of the Renmin University of China's Institute of International Affairs, told the Global Times. Instead of confronting China and picking sides between China and the US, Australia should focus on serving as the bridge between the West and Asia, Wang said. Australia is the second-largest recipient of Chinese outbound direct investment after the US, according to a report released in May by international auditing firm KPMG and the University of Sydney. China was Australia's largest trade partner as of September this year. Trade between China and Australia reached $92.07 billion from January to September, up 25.4 percent from the same period last year, according to data from China's Ministry of Commerce. ^ top ^

China builds up troop numbers close to Indian border flashpoint as soldiers prepare for first winter near Doklam (SCMP)
2017-12-14
China has started building up its military forces near the Doklam plateau – the site of a protracted stand-off early this year, Indian media has reported. Analysts suggested the development would allow China to tighten its control of its borders and prepare for any future problems in the region. It is also improving its military infrastructure, including new mortar and gun positions, at a site between five and 10km from the site of this summer's two-month stand-off, Indian media reported, citing satellite imagery acquired on December 3. The images also show the presence of at least nine three-storey buildings and almost 300 large vehicles, suggesting that almost a whole troop division had been stationed in Yadong county in Tibet. China has also deployed troops 50km further away in the Chumbi valley, where the borders of India, China and Bhutan meet, according to the report by Indian news portal ThePrint. The build-up follows reports in early October that about 1,000 Chinese soldiers had remained in the Himalayan region, and were likely to stay in the area throughout winter for the first time. The Indian Army already has several units in Sikkim province facing the Chinese in Doklam – which is claimed by both China and India's ally Bhutan. China's defence and foreign affairs ministries did not respond to requests for comment. Analysts said China could strengthen its control of the area if it learned the lessons from the Doklam stand-off, which ended in early September when Indian troops retreated and China stopped the road building that had triggered the dispute. Long Xingchun, a South Asian affairs expert from China West Normal University, said that with the new facilities, Beijing could upgrade from seasonal patrols to year-round ones in the region. "This is a signal that China will enhance border controls in the future when Beijing has a larger budget and better infrastructure building techniques," Long said. Rohan Mukherjee, an Asian affairs expert at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, said Beijing wanted to be prepared for any contingencies on the Doklam plateau. "India is locally dominant in the region in terms of military deployments and can defend the so-called chicken's neck [a narrow, strategically vulnerable strip of territory that links its northeastern provinces with the rest of the country]," Mukherjee said. "Therefore reinforcements are necessary from the Chinese perspective for the sake of a more favourable balance of capabilities in the region." Although the build-up has not spilt over to other territories, another stand-off in Doklam could not be ruled out, observers said. "One would hope that both sides have learned the importance of diplomacy as a first resort since the last incident, but one cannot rule out a response from India similar to the previous one," Mukherjee said. Li Li, a South Asian affairs specialist from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the impact on other parties depended on how China mobilised its forces there. In a meeting with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj on Monday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the stand-off had put bilateral ties under severe strain, and both China and India should learn a lesson to prevent similar crises from happening again. Last week China protested that its territorial sovereignty had been infringed after an Indian drone that entered its airspace crashed in Tibet. ^ top ^

Lancang-Mekong cooperation on fast track (Xinhua)
2017-12-14
The international shipping route on a key river running through China and southeast Asia is busy as usual, with boatmen wasting no time in loading and unloading cargo from ships. Lancang River originates in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau in the southwest of China. It is called Mekong River once it flows through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea. Over 326 million people live along the 4,880-km-long waterway, which flows through an area of more than 795,000 square kilometers. Chinese Captain Ran Mujiang sails his boat between Guanlei Port in Yunnan Province and Chiang Saen Port in Thailand. A single trip takes him nine hours. He has fertilizer, tea and pomegranates loaded on his ship when he departs from China, and takes back rubber and dried fruits on the return trip. "I've been sailing on the river for over 20 years. Trade along the river is developing very fast," he says. In 2016, about 97,000 tonnes of cargo were transported through Guanlei Port, a year-on-year increase of 45.9 percent. Now the river can accommodate ships weighing up to 420 tonnes, while in the past it could only allow boats weighing less than 50 tonnes. "With growing inter-government cooperation, sailing along the river has become much safer," Ran says. On Friday, the third Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) foreign ministers' meeting will be held in Dali, Yunnan. The six countries along the river officially started the LMC in March 2016. "With the joint efforts of the six sides, Lancang-Mekong Cooperation has become one of the most lively sub-regional mechanisms, and its potential is great," says Huang Xilian, deputy head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Department of Asian Affairs, Thursday. "It is evident that the Lancang-Mekong cooperation is developing very fast, and the six countries need to review the development in the last two years to lay solid foundation for future cooperation." "The three pillars of the LMC -- political and safety, economic and sustainable development, social and cultural -- fit with the foundation of ASEAN community building," says Lu Guangsheng, professor with Yunnan University. "The LMC will help deepen regional cooperation and can become a good example of China building a community with shared future with Lancang-Mekong countries." ^ top ^

China calls for early resumption of Palestinian-Israeli talks (Xinhua)
2017-12-14
China on Thursday called for resuming dialogue between Israel and Palestine at an early date so as to give a chance for a comprehensive and fair resolution to the Palestinian issue, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. It was reported that a summit of Islamic countries held in Istanbul on Wednesday declared East Jerusalem the capital of the State of Palestine. China understands the Islamic countries' concern about the status of Jerusalem, spokesperson Lu Kang said, calling for a resolution to the issue in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions and international consensus. Lu said China supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with full sovereignty on the basis of the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. ^ top ^

Macron meets Xi's special envoy at Paris climate summit (Xinhua)
2017-12-13
French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday met with Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai, who was in Paris to attend the One Planet Summit as the special envoy of President Xi Jinping. Ma conveyed greetings to Macron from the Chinese president, who wished a great success for the one-day summit focusing on mobilizing public funds to achieve climate goals. Ma said that President Xi attaches great importance to China-France relations and their cooperation on climate change. China is determined to honor its commitments made under the framework of the Paris Agreement, and is willing to work with relevant parties, including France, to push forward the multilateral process of combating climate change, he said. China appreciates Macron's support for the Belt and Road Initiative, and expects to continue high-level dialogues with France on mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields such as nuclear energy, aerospace, green finance and advanced manufacturing, said Ma This will inject new momentum into the China-France comprehensive strategic partnership, he added. Macron said that developing relations with China is of great importance for France. France hopes to maintain high-level exchanges with China, be actively engaged in the Belt and Road Initiative, and work with China to contribute more to global multilateral governance processes including the fight against climate change, the president said. In a speech at the summit, Ma stressed that China will continue to support the Paris Agreement and contribute to the global efforts to curb climate change through concrete actions. The One Planet Summit was convened by Macron on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement, a landmark climate deal reached at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. The summit brought together leaders and high-ranking officials from some 50 countries and nearly 4,000 representatives from non-government actors including international organizations, enterprises and research institutions. ^ top ^

China, Russia conclude joint drills on counter-terror (Global Times)
2017-12-14
Chinese and Russian forces concluded their joint counter-terror exercises on Wednesday at a training base near Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in Northwest China. Troops from the Chinese People's Armed Police Force and the Russian National Guard conducted drills on jointly cleaning up terrorist groups in simulated situations, such as a bus hijacking. Wang Ning, commander of the Chinese People's Armed Police Force, said the participating officers and soldiers closely cooperated with each other and exchanged counter-terror expertise and combat and command. "This is the latest achievement in promoting exchanges and cooperation in security between the two forces, and concrete action in improving their counter-terror capabilities," Wang said. The exercises were a move to implement the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination that is endorsed by leaders of both countries. China and Russia also conducted joint drills in 2016, 2013 and 2007. ^ top ^

Construction of China-Russia natural gas pipeline gains steam (Xinhua)
2017-12-13
China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) said Wednesday that it had sped up laying natural gas pipelines connecting China and Russia, a major energy cooperation between the two countries. Welding of the northern part of the 3,371-kilometer east-route natural gas pipeline has begun, the company announced. The pipeline originates in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province and terminates in Shanghai in the east. Construction began in June 2015 and will be completed in 2020. Upon completion, the pipeline will provide China with 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia annually. It will have far-reaching significance for optimizing China's energy structure, cutting emissions and improving air quality. The Russian part of the pipeline began construction in eastern Siberia in 2014. The rise of natural gas use is the result of the government promoting it as a cleaner alternative to coal. China aims to raise the use of natural gas to 10 percent of the country's energy mix by 2020 and 15 percent by 2030, according to the National Development and Reform Commission. China's demand for natural gas will continue to soar toward 2040, outstripping domestic output by around 43 percent, according to an International Energy Agency report published Tuesday. On Dec. 9, CNPC announced that the Yamal liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, jointly launched by China and Russia, has begun operation. The Yamal LNG plant is expected to have three production lines by 2019 with a total capacity of 16.5 million tonnes of LNG per year. ^ top ^

Bigger Chinese role in global affairs welcome: UN General Assembly president (Xinhua)
2017-12-12
President of the 72nd Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak said here Monday he welcomed the fact that China is now playing a leading role in the multilateral system and global affairs. Lajcak said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua that China has already occupied a significant position as one of the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council and has emerged as one of the main contributors to the UN budget and financing for development. China's commitment to establish a ten-year-long, 1-billion-U.S.-dollar China-UN peace and development fund is particularly helpful, Lajcak said. "I am also heartened by China's pledge to join the new UN Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System (PCRS) and take the lead in setting up a permanent peacekeeping police squad and building a peacekeeping standby force of 8,000 troops," he said. The UN PCRS aims to liaise between UN headquarters and its member states to ensure "readiness and timely deployment of quality peacekeeping capabilities," said the system's overview. Lajcak, who released a "Roadmap for Sustaining Peace" last month, said the purpose of the roadmap is to focus efforts and build momentum ahead of the high-level meeting on peace-building and sustaining peace. The concept of sustaining peace is groundbreaking as it redefines the UN's approach to peace by adopting a long-term perspective and focuses on conflict prevention, he said. He also said that the notion of sustaining peace stems from a growing understanding that the UN efforts should go beyond addressing the immediate needs of conflict-affected countries, he said, adding that to make peace last, each country like China should have its role to play. China's involvement in the adoption of the universal and transformational 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was key, he said, praising China's job in establishing an assistance fund for South-South cooperation in support of developing countries' efforts to implement the agenda. China was among the first countries to ratify the Paris Agreement and pledged 3.1 billion dollars to the South-South Cooperation Fund on Climate Change, which was an important move for developing countries. Lajcak said that although multilateralism is being challenged, it remains the best approach to confront shared challenges and achieve joint success. In this modern era, countries cannot face challenges alone, he said. "The United Nations should serve as a forum to address our common challenges. And it must also be a space to generate solutions for mutual benefit. This is the very essence of what the United Nations is about. We must position the multilateral system to better serve our people and deliver on their aspirations," Lajcak said. People are not involved in the negotiation of resolutions, nor do they take the floor at high-level events, so it is one of the tasks of the General Assembly to make sure that their voices can still be heard, he said. ^ top ^

West suspicion of China infiltration absurd (Global Times)
2017-12-12
Following suit with Australia, New Zealand security agencies expressed concerns about China's political activities in the country, alleging attempts to access sensitive government and private sector information and also influence the overseas Chinese community, the Financial Times reported Tuesday. This came after the German intelligence agency BfV Sunday accused China of establishing contact with German officials and politicians through fake profiles on social networks like LinkedIn. And the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China is set to hold a hearing on China's operations inside the country. It's disgraceful that in an era of globalization, some countries exhibit all the symptoms of McCarthyism: suspecting Chinese businesspeople and students, framing China and harassing Chinese visitors on exchanges. China has come under massive pressure from Western values and ideology since it introduced reform and opening nearly 40 years ago, but it has never warned of guarding against foreigners in China as potential spies. If China adopted the same attitude as Western countries, then communities of foreign expats in Beijing would fall under suspicion: They could be controlled by their governments. Bars and cafés in Beijing and Shanghai, frequented mostly by Westerners, would be regarded as information stations. Chinese with close ties to Westerners would be treated like informants to Western spy agencies and be accused of treason, like Australian lawmaker Sam Dastyari. In such scenarios, all contributors to China's exchanges with the West would be too frightened to do anything and calling for mutual respect and understanding would be a taboo on both sides. The safest and most useful choice would be to lead bilateral ties toward confrontation. It's natural that frictions occur between China and the West given their sizable cooperation and exchanges. But widespread and ill-meant questioning of Chinese involved in these exchanges is logically absurd and takes the moral low ground. Such allegations will disturb Chinese communities in the West and confuse people about the future of China-West relations. Western elites shouldn't believe that they have taken the upper hand in relations with China and Beijing and Chinese expats will bear whatever insults come their way. Otherwise, the esteem with which Chinese regard certain Western countries will be downsized as it becomes necessary for Beijing to retaliate. China needs to figure out tactics that can silently make Western institutions and individuals truly feel the pain. China has effectively punished some individuals in Western show business that have tried to find fault with China. We can apply this to provocative Western politicians as a form of deterrence. China is ridiculously blamed for interfering with Western society even before it is able to do so. If this is left unhandled, the West may continue its dirty tricks, always throwing mud at China. English is taught in many kindergartens in the country: Is China training spies from childhood? This question is ludicrous in the same way as the West upping vigilance against Chinese influence. ^ top ^

'Double agent' Australian lawmaker Sam Dastyari quits over Chinese political links (SCMP)
2017-12-12
An influential Australian opposition lawmaker under fire over his close links to wealthy Chinese political donors announced on Tuesday that he was quitting the Senate for the good of his party as the government moves against foreign interference in politics. Sam Dastyari announced that he would quit as a senator for the centre-left Labour Party before Parliament next sits in February. The move comes after Cabinet Minister Peter Dutton on Monday described him as a "double agent" of China. "I've been guided by my Labor values, which tell me that I should leave if my ongoing presence detracts from the pursuit of Labor's mission," Dastyari told reporters. "It is evident to me we are at that point, so I will spare the party any further distraction," he added. Dastyari refused to take questions from reporters. The 34-year-old senator widely known as Shanghai Sam resigned from his leadership roles in Labor last month over scandals involving the wealthy Sydney-based Chinese businessman and political donor Huang Xiangmo that have raised accusations of China buying influence. Australian security chiefs have advised against accepting political donations from Huang because of his suspected links to the Chinese Community Party. Labor has accused the conservative government of tapping into community "Chinaphobia" to attack Dastyari. A week ago, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that Australia will ban foreign interference in its politics – either through espionage or financial donations – in a move motivated largely by Russia's alleged involvement in last year's US election and China's growing influence on the global political landscape. On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Turnbull's remarks were prejudiced against China and had poisoned the atmosphere of China-Australia relations. China is Australia's largest trading partner and its biggest source of foreign political funds. Australian law has never distinguished between donors from Australia and overseas. The government said Dastyari's has not broken current laws, but the reformed laws would not allow a repeat of Dastyari asking Huang to pay a $1,250 travel bill that Dastyari owed. Dutton, who will head Australia's security and intelligence agencies as the government's first minister for home affairs next year, accused Dastyari of being a "double agent" who should be dumped by Labor. "Sam Dastyari can't be beholden to a foreign power and pretend to be acting in the Australian public's interest by being a senator in the Australian Parliament," Dutton said. Fairfax Media reported that Dastyari gave Huang counter-surveillance advice when they met at the businessman's Sydney mansion in October last year. Dastyari suggested the pair leave their phones inside the house and go outside to speak in case Australian intelligence services were listening, Fairfax reported. Dastyari has not denied the reports but said he had no knowledge about whether Huang was under Australian surveillance at the time. Media later broadcast audio of the senator misleading Chinese journalists last year on Labor's policy on the South China Sea territorial disputes. Australia maintains that China should respect international law, and an arbitration ruling last year found China's broad claims to the sea were legally baseless. But Dastyari told Chinese reporters at a news conference in Sydney attended by Huang that Australia should observe "several thousand years of history" by respecting Chinese claims over most of the South China Sea. The phrasing mirrors China's stance. Accusations of Dastyari representing Chinese interests have continued to mount. Fairfax reported on Monday that Dastyari attempted to pressure deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek to abandon a meeting with a pro-democracy activist in Hong Kong in 2015 because of Beijing's sensitivities. The meeting went ahead. Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Dastyari made the correct decision by resigning. "Sam Dastyari is a good, decent and loyal Australian, and an effective parliamentarian, but his judgment has let him down and now he has paid the heaviest price," Shorten said in a statement. ^ top ^

Red Cross expects more cooperation with China in African humanitarian affairs (Xinhua)
2017-12-11
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and China should improve their working relationship and cooperate more on African humanitarian issues, Patricia Danzi, ICRC regional director for Africa, said in Beijing Monday. Danzi said China and the ICRC have begun to interact with each other more closely in the past couple of years. Representatives from the ICRC met with Chinese peacekeepers in South Sudan in September this year and the organization is considering providing training for the peacekeepers. "We trained a Chinese peacekeeping medical detachment to Mali in August 2016. During the training we reminded the troops of their obligations under humanitarian law and what humanitarian assistance and protection should be provided. The next step is probably South Sudan," said Danzi. The ICRC is increasing interaction with Chinese businesses. Its purchases from China rose from 7 million U.S. dollars in 2013 to 20 million U.S. dollars in 2016, an ICRC official said at the Canton Fair in October. Chinese companies are also providing jobs and skills training for young Africans, said Danzi. She said she sees China as a big actor on the world stage and expects more cooperation between the ICRC and China in the future. "Many Chinese companies have good knowledge about many countries in Africa from a business perspective; while the ICRC has good knowledge from a humanitarian perspective. So we can benefit from each other and have a better understanding of the overall context," she said. ^ top ^

Sri Lanka hands over running of Hambantota port to Chinese company (SCMP)
2017-12-10
Sri Lanka formally handed over commercial activities in its main southern port to a Chinese company on Saturday and received US$292 million out of a US$1.12 billion deal, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said. The deal, signed in July, will see China Merchants Port Holdings, handling the Chinese-built Hambantota port on a 99-year lease. The port is near the main shipping route from Asia to Europe and likely to play a major role in China's "Belt and Road Initiative". "Today we received US$292 million as the first tranche of the Hambantota Port joint venture. This is but the first step in realising the true commercial value of the port after seven long years," Samaraweera said. The US$1.5 billion port opened in 2010, but was incurring losses due to lack of commercial activity. Ports Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said the government would receive a further 10 per cent, or about US$100 million, in a month and another US$585 million in six months. An initial plan to give the Chinese firm an 80 per cent stake triggered protests by trade unions and opposition groups, forcing ministers to make some revisions that limit China's role to running commercial operations while the government retains oversight of broader security issues. Both sides then agreed to redraw the deal and the Chinese firm will now hold a 70 per cent stake in a joint venture with the state-run Sri Lanka Ports Authority, part of a plan to convert US$6 billion of loans that Sri Lanka owes China into equity. Sri Lanka said the Chinese firm would invest an additional US$600 million to make Hambantota port operational and US$1.12 billion from the deal would be used for debt repayment. Government and diplomatic sources told Reuters that the United States, India and Japan had also raised concerns that China might use the port as a naval base. India is in advanced talks with Sri Lanka to operate an airport near Hambantota port. ^ top ^

China unhappy as Philippines signs investment deal with Taiwan (SCMP)
2017-12-08
China said on Friday it was seriously concerned about the Philippines signing a bilateral investment agreement with self-ruled Taiwan, claimed by China as its own with no right to any official foreign ties. Taiwan's de facto ambassador to the Philippines signed the agreement in Manila on Thursday with his Philippine counterpart, according to Taiwan's government. Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China had no problem with "normal" trade relations other countries had with Taiwan, but opposed any kind of official exchanges. "We are extremely concerned that the relevant Philippine department signed with Taiwan investment protection agreements or other cooperation documents that are obviously official in character," Geng told a daily news briefing. "China has already lodged representations with the Philippines," he said. China hopes that the Philippines sticks to the "one China" principle and avoids having the Taiwan issue damage relations between Beijing and Manila, Geng added. Officials from both the Philippines' foreign affairs and trade and industry offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Beijing says Taiwan has no right to diplomatic recognition because it is part of China. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan at the end of China's civil war in 1949. China is deeply suspicious of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who took office last year and who Beijing thinks wants to push for the island's formal independence, though she says she wants to maintain peace with China. China and the Philippines have largely mended relations that were strained over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea following the election of Rodrigo Duterte as president last year. However, Taiwan and the Philippines have also traditionally had close business and cultural ties, despite Manila severing its formal diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1975. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

White paper hails "remarkable progress" in human rights protection (Xinhua)
2017-12-15
A white paper issued by China's State Council Information Office on Friday lauded "remarkable progress" in the law-based protection of human rights over the past five years. According to the white paper, titled "New Progress in the Legal Protection of Human Rights in China," the country has opened a new era of human rights protection. The white paper expounded on the progress in human rights protection in six parts -- improving the legal framework to ensure human rights, promoting law-based administration, enhancing judicial protection of human rights, consolidating social mechanisms, strengthening the Party leadership over legal protection of human rights and promoting the development of global human rights. The undertaking of human rights protection in China has made much headway and China is contributing to the diversity of human civilization and providing Chinese wisdom and solutions to promote social progress, it said. ^ top ^

China corrects 37 wrongful convictions for 61 people: white paper (Xinhua)
2017-12-15
China has been effectively enhancing judicial protection of human rights over the last five years, said a white paper issued by China's State Council Information Office on Friday. Efforts to prevent and correct wrongful convictions had seen the correction of 37 major cases of miscarriage of justice involving 61 people, and the acquittal of 4,032 defendants as per the law from 2013 to 2017, it said. According to the white paper, titled "New Progress in the Legal Protection of Human Rights in China," the country has put people first in its judicial system, integrated criminal punishment with human rights protection and pressed ahead with judicial system reform. China has endeavored to embody fairness and justice in each and every legal case, it said. To that end, China has worked to guarantee independent and impartial enforcement of judicial and procuratorial authorities as per the law, press forward with reform of the criminal litigation system centering on trials and abide by the rules concerning excluding illegally-obtained evidence. Since 2013, procuratorates have withheld their approval in the cases of 2,624 arrests and declined to prosecute 870 on the basis of exclusion of illegally-obtained evidence, the white paper said. It said China is also working vigorously to protect lawyers' right to practice, guarantee the rights and interests of criminal suspects, defendants and prisoners and strengthen judicial protection of juveniles. ^ top ^

Communist Party, military among latest to promote Xi Jinping's political ideology in 'thought' centres (SCMP)
2017-12-15
At first it was universities across China. Now the top training schools of China's Communist Party, military, education ministry and major cities have joined the nationwide craze for setting up research centres devoted to "Xi Jinping Thought". The Central Committee, the party's governing body, has approved the founding of 10 research institutes on "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era", the state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday. The approval comes less than two months after the president's crowning political theory was enshrined in the party's constitution during its 19th congress. "These 10 research centres all have solid research capability and strong research teams, and will surely play an important role in the studying, promotion and elucidation of Xi's thought," the Xinhua report said. As enthusiasm for "Xi Jinping Thought" reaches a pitch unseen in decades for a Chinese political leader, new research institutes have been set up in: the Central Party School (the party's top training ground for up-and-coming cadres); the Ministry of Education; the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (the country's top think tank); the National Defence University (the People's Liberation Army training school for senior officers); the cities of Beijing and Shanghai; the province of Guangdong; and the prestigious Peking, Tsinghua and Renmin universities. These centres have popped up after at least 20 universities across China raced to set up research facilities on Xi's thoughts following the congress's conclusion in late October. Renmin University was first among Chinese universities to set up a research hub on Xi's eponymous philosophy. That occurred on October 25 – a day after the congress ended.Centre executive director Liu Wei told the party-run Guangming Daily at the time that the facility's "unique duty" was to "push forward Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era into the textbooks, the classrooms and the brains [of pupils]". But the Renmin's centre's listing here, along with the inclusion of its nine counterparts, suggested a higher prominence: these 10 institutes all have the party central leadership's blessing, having received the thumbs-up from the Central Committee. In the Communist Party's system, treating a top leader's political theory as a guiding ideology symbolically recognises both his philosophical stature and his political standing within the party. Xi is the first leader since Communist China founder Mao Zedong to see his name and dogma enshrined in the party's charter while still in power. But the move transcends even that symbolic significance. With Xi's name now preserved in the party charter, a challenge against the president will be seen not just as a challenge to his leadership but to the whole party, analysts said. While some universities and colleges in China have operated research centres specialising in the political theories of Xi's predecessors, usually under the discipline of Marxism Studies, none was founded with the speed and scale of the centres devoted to Xi's theory. ^ top ^

Xi stresses army restructuring to enhance PLA combat readiness (Global Times)
2017-12-14
Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged the army to restructure and enhance its combat readiness. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), made the remarks Wednesday while inspecting the 71st Group Army. Xi told officers of the group army that they should grasp the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress and incorporate the spirit into military practice. The army was urged to strengthen Party organizations at all levels and ensure that servicemen and servicewomen follow the command of the CPC Central Committee and CMC. Xi stressed political discipline and rules in the military, efforts to fight corruption, and improving work styles. He also instructed the army to enhance its capability to win wars, implement restructuring plans, and improve army management and combat mobility. "The army should innovate its training theories and methods, conduct more combat drills and build soldiers' morale," he said, urging commanding officers to take responsibility and demonstrate leadership. ^ top ^

Freedom, traffic jams and homesickness: Chinese exile Qiao Mu's not-so-shattered American dream (SCMP)
2017-12-14
A self-exiled Chinese academic has hit back at a nationalist Beijing tabloid's attempts to mock his move to the United States, saying he was homesick but the US gave him the freedom to criticise the authorities. Qiao Mu, a former Beijing Foreign Studies University professor and a fierce critic of censorship, began tweeting about his difficulties in adjusting to his new life soon after moving to Washington with his wife and daughter in September. Qiao is one of several high-profile liberals who have left China as Beijing has tightened its grip on society and the media. In the past three months, he has tweeted about his everyday life and experience as a newcomer, including comments about expensive parking and traffic jams. "I've been in the US for three months and it's quite different to my previous impressions and popular stereotypes in China. There is social aid but a general level of welfare for the public is lacking. Highways with toll charges are everywhere. Living standards are higher than in China but they come with greater pressure too," Qiao tweeted. "Many people can't afford medical care, a house and a car. Main roads linking the city and suburbs are often congested during peak hours and on holidays." Nationalist tabloid Global Times took aim at Qiao on Thursday, suggesting his "American dream" had been shattered by living there. "Isn't the US the dreamland for all intellectuals active in public debates?" the newspaper said in an article. "He is not singing praises for the United States now that he has seen its defects and problems." Qiao responded on Thursday, saying his criticism of the United States should not be equated to praise for China or the Chinese government. "I'm documenting the inconvenience of living in the US rather that commenting on US politics and freedom. I came to the United States mainly for the freedom it offers... especially the freedom to criticise [the government]," he tweeted. "My income, car, housing and life in the US is so much better than in Beijing but my recent arrival has triggered some homesickness." Chinese authorities have tightened controls over civil society since Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power five years ago. Among those targeted have been labour rights activists, human rights lawyers, feminists and outspoken intellectuals. Before he moved to the US, Qiao said he had been sidelined at Beijing Foreign Studies University for his criticism of censorship, Chinese media and propaganda on foreign media. ^ top ^

80 years on, China tempers Nanking massacre anniversary in nod to Japan (SCMP)
2017-12-14
Chinese President Xi Jinping was on hand in the eastern city of Nanjing on Wednesday to mark the 80th anniversary of a wartime massacre by Japanese troops, but commemorations were low key in an apparent gesture to Tokyo. In a rare move, Xi attended the event but did not make a speech – a sharp contrast to three years ago when the president addressed the crowd. The host at Wednesday's event was also lower ranking than his counterpart in 2014, when China made the anniversary a national day of remembrance. China says about 300,000 civilians and soldiers were killed in a frenzy of murder, torture, rape, arson and looting in the six weeks after the invading Japanese military entered Nanjing, then the Chinese capital, on December 13, 1937. Japan's Jiji news agency said it was rare for Xi to attend a national event without speaking publicly but the move could be a signal to Japan of improving ties between the two countries. Chinese international relations analysts said Xi's presence lent weight to the occasion but both sides were working to improve Sino-Japanese relations. "China does not play history as a card," Jiang Yuechun, a Japanese affairs specialist at the China Institute of International Studies, said. "But it is true that the China-Japan relationship is at an important turning point, and we see efforts from both sides." Officials from both countries are discussing possible state visits by Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as part of a push to improve ties but observers say there are still many barriers, including Japan's wartime past, in the way. Liu Junhong, a Japanese specialist at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said good faith and mutual trust were two preconditions for the visits. The anniversary of the 1937 massacre remains one of the most fraught issues for the two powerful neighbours, who dispute the toll. Some Japanese archconservatives also deny the episode took place at all. On Wednesday, Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told the Nanjing gathering that China was on a stronger economic, scientific and military footing than it was in the 1930s and 1940s, but would always work for world peace and defend the international order. "China will always adhere to the path of peaceful development. However developed we may become, China will never seek hegemony and never go in for expansion and never impose our tragic experiences on other nations," Yu said. He also referred to Japanese wartime atrocities in other countries, including the 1942 Bataan Death March and the Thai-Burma railway, adding that memories of the war should be retained to ensure peace. Yu said China and Japan should "learn from history and face the future, continue to be friends for generations, and jointly contribute to world peace". "China will … deepen its relationships with neighbouring countries, including Japan," Yu said. ^ top ^

Chinese prosecutors back leniency for entrepreneurs tangled up in graft cases (SCMP)
2017-12-13
The Chinese justice system should show some leniency to businesspeople forced to give bribes to officials, the top prosecutor's office has said in new guidelines to fortify the country's entrepreneurs. But the Supreme People's Procuratorate also warned there would be severe consequences for businesspeople who went out of their way to offer bribes to corrupt officials to cultivate political influence. The guidelines follow Chinese President Xi Jinping's push to encourage and protect entrepreneurship, and his repeated warnings to officials against the dangers of corrupt business interests. Under the guidelines, all prosecutor's offices had to foster an environment for entrepreneurs and their businesses, "strengthening their sense of personal and wealth security, and boosting confidence and providing incentives for businesspeople to innovate and start businesses", the official Procuratorate Daily quoted a spokesman for the top prosecutor's office as saying on Wednesday. Prosecutors should consider whether a businessperson sought out an illegal benefit and whether he or she actively cooperated with graft investigations, according to the guidelines. Prosecutors are also advised to avoid impinging on commercial operations while the owner of the business is under investigation. In addition, prosectors should prevent law enforcement from allowing ordinary civil or contractual disputes to turn into criminal proceedings. Veteran criminal lawyer Zhou Ze said the guidelines were partly aimed at minimising the damage caused in the nationwide anticorruption campaign. "Every time a corrupt official falls, a handful of entrepreneurs around him are usually rounded up," Zhou said. "It's no help to the economy if each of these investigations is followed by a wave of bankruptcies." He said there was also a high level of insecurity among China's businesspeople because of harsh law enforcement, particularly in the last five years during the sweeping anticorruption campaign. "Entrepreneurs are often under huge pressure to testify against officials, or they could be sentenced for bribery themselves," Zhou said. Under Chinese criminal law, giving money to a civil servant does not amount to bribery if the payer is being blackmailed or has not actively sought illegal benefits. That condition was underscored in the top procuratorate's directive, which Zhou said could be an official signal that the law was not always followed. Crimes committed by individuals would be treated differently from those by companies, to avoid "unnecessary" corporate losses or bankruptcies caused by "overly simplistic enforcement of the law", it said. The Supreme People's Procuratorate did not refer to a specific case but Zhou said it had been common for businesses to go bankrupt after their owners were imprisoned. "It's common in so-called crackdowns on organised crime for a business owner to be caught and his whole company to be paralysed as authorities confiscate property," he said. In one high-profile case, operations at Hanlong Group, once Sichuan province's biggest private enterprise, ground to a standstill after a court found company chairman Liu Han guilty on 13 charges, including murder, running casinos and selling firearms. Liu was executed in 2015. Before Liu's formal arrest, the authorities seized all of his assets, despite police claims that less than one-fifth was linked to crime. The group eventually collapsed. Liu was a close associate of disgraced security tsar Zhou Yongkang, who is still the most senior official to be jailed for corruption. ^ top ^

Experts call for official leniency toward parents of illegal second child (Global Times)
2017-12-12
The looming punishment of a government official for having a second child has prompted calls for leniency toward parents who violated China's previous family planning policy that stipulated one child only for most Chinese until December 31, 2015. The middle-aged government official faces being fired for having a second child on November 15, 2015. His US-born son violated local family planning regulations, a staff member from the Baiyun district health and family planning bureau in South China's Guangdong Province told the Global Times on Tuesday. As an official, the father "should have been a role model for abiding by the law," said the staff member. Guangdong is not the only province with family planning regulations saying government or State-owned company employees should be fired for such a second child, thepaper.cn reported. The punishment for a second child has attracted rising criticism as China increasingly backs childbirth against the backdrop of an aging society and a future labor shortage. The Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of National People's Congress sent letters to five provinces including Guangdong in September suggesting changes be made to the relevant regulations as they no longer fit the current situation. "China's birthrate is among the lowest in the world, which is not good for sustained development of the country," demographic expert Huang Wenzheng told the Global Times on Tuesday. "Employers and government departments should encourage their employees to have an additional child in line with the national trend rather than punish them," he said. ^ top ^

Lawyers and criminals get right to meet privately (Global Times)
2017-12-10
Lawyers in China will be allowed to meet privately with clients who are convicted criminals and serving time in prison, according to a recently revised regulation. The regulation will improve human rights protection and better safeguard lawyers' rights, lawyers said. According to the new regulation, which was released by All China Lawyers' Association (ACLA) on Friday, guardians and immediate family members will now be allowed to appoint lawyers who are entitled to meet convicted criminals privately. In the past such meetings were normally attended by two lawyers and law enforcement officials, according to a temporary regulation enacted 13 years ago. Convicted criminals, who are being investigated for additional crimes will now be allowed to meet attorneys privately, Xu Xin, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology's School of Law, told the Global Times on Sunday. "The regulation is an improvement in terms of protecting the rights of the convicted. It is inspiring to see the news released on Human Rights Day," said Xu. This year the UN Human Rights Day was celebrated on Sunday. China's Criminal Procedural Law allows lawyers to meet privately with clients who have not been convicted, said Xu, pointing out that the new regulation safeguards the rights of convicted criminals. The regulation also broadens the circumstances under which lawyers are allowed to meet convicted criminals in custody, Xu added. There are many new and positive changes, said Mao Lixin, a Beijing-based lawyer, adding that the new regulation gives lawyers more rights to meet with their clients. "The revision relieves pressure on criminals and lawyers, because there is no requirement to have a letter of authorization from criminals and the meeting doesn't need to have two lawyers' present," Liu Changsong, another lawyer, told the Global Times. "Criminals in custody can entrust either one or two lawyers. The lawyers can meet together with the criminal or separately," the regulation said. The prison can decide whether a police officer could be present during the meeting when the convicted criminal is being held in custody, reads Article 11 of the new regulation. Xu believes the clause is only designed to ensure security at the meeting, not for monitoring the conversation, and the regulation should state this more clearly. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Migrant workers take to streets of Beijing to protest against forced evictions (SCMP)
2017-12-10
Dozens of people took to the streets of northeastern Beijing on Sunday morning to protest against being evicted from their homes, according to witnesses and social media posts. The incident, in the village of Feijia in Chaoyang district, close to Beijing's Capital International Airport, followed the capital government's controversial handling of a safety campaign in Daxing district last month that left tens of thousands of migrant workers homeless. Protesters shouted, "forced eviction violates human rights", while others held up home-made banners repeating the message. Authorities in Feijia are in the process of evicting people living in unauthorised dwellings following a deadly fire in Daxing on November 18 that left 19 people dead. A 40-day campaign was launched in the wake of the blaze, supposedly to eliminate safety hazards in warehouses and apartment compounds, where migrant workers had created makeshift homes. A resident surnamed Wang who runs a shop with his wife in Feijia, said the protest started on the village's main street at 9am. All those without Beijing residents' permits, including the couple, had been told to vacate their homes, he said. The village government issued a notice on November 26 saying that the power and water supplies to all temporary structures would be switched off on December 15, and that all businesses and residential tenants must leave before that date. The Post could not immediately confirm if the protest was directly related to the safety campaign. Calls to the local police station were referred to the district police, and those calls went unanswered. A similar rally was reported to have taken place in the Nanxiaojie area of Daxing on Sunday morning, though details of the incident were difficult to verify. A woman working in the area said there had been a protest, but declined to give any details. Photographs circulated on social media showed a heavy security presence in the area. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Reincarnation of Tibetan living Buddhas well managed (Global Times)
2017-12-11
A ten-year-old regulation governing the appointment of Tibetan living Buddhas has named more than 60 incarnates and minimized struggles and cheating between different Buddhist sects and the families of young candidates for the position, say experts and recent reports. The State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) issued the regulation a decade ago on standardizing governance of living Buddhas' reincarnation. It has helped protect people's religious freedom, maintained the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism and helped to build a harmonious society, according to the SARA's official website. According to the regulation the succession of a living Buddha should be carried out under the guidance of Buddhist associations and religious groups and conform to religious ritual and historical convention. If there is conflict or controversy in the naming of an incarnate, China's Buddhist Association should report it to the SARA. The succession must be approved by departments of religious affairs or governments above municipal level. There were 1,300 approved living Buddhas in China, news site tibet.cn, reported in 2016. More than 60 living Buddhas were approved under the regulation and the Tibet government has completed the training and education of seven living Buddhas who are under the age of 16, the China News Service reported late last month. "During the past ten years, every living Buddha's incarnate was found and approved according to the regulation, and is completely in accordance with the status quo of Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhists' wishes," said Dawa Tsering, a monk and president of the Buddhism Association of Shannan City of Tibet. The regulation has ensured the healthy development of Tibetan Buddhism and fulfilled Tibetan Buddhists' basic religious requirements, he added. China also launched the Living Buddha inquiry system in 2016, in an effort to promote transparency and regulate reincarnation issues for Living Buddhas. The system, which can be found on SARA's official website, the Buddhist Association of China, and the news site tibet.cn, gives detailed information on Living Buddhas, including their photos, legal names, monastic titles, and links to religious schools, the Xinhua News Agency reported. As the first regulation on the reincarnation of living Buddhas since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the regulation has institutionalized the central government's management of the reincarnation of living Buddhas, and gives the government decisive rights on the matter, said Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference's Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee. The reincarnation of living Buddhas is a religious and politic issue as Buddhism impacts Tibet's society and politics and the central government must have a determining say in the matter, said Zhu. Traditionally, when a Living Buddha passes away, his underlings scout for his "incarnation" using wills, predictions or other clues such as dreams, divination, omens and celestial observations. Sometimes, there can be scores of candidates for a vacant living Buddha position which has led to disputes and cheating between families. "The rule has successfully prevented the Dalai Lama from using the reincarnation of living Buddha to conduct activities that threaten Tibetan Buddhism and national unity. Some Buddhist temples from some random area often appoint so-called 'living Buddhas' to serve their own purposes, and some people have been found to be using the guise of living Buddha to swindle followers," said Zhu. ^ top ^

 

 

Xinjiang

China accused of collecting population of restive Xinjiang's DNA under guise of health programme (SCMP)
2017-12-14
Chinese authorities have collected DNA and other biometric data from the whole population of the volatile western region of Xinjiang, Human Right Watch said on Wednesday, denouncing the campaign as a gross violation of international norms. Hundreds of people have been killed in Xinjiang in the past few years in violence between Uygurs, a mostly Muslim people, and ethnic majority Han Chinese, which Beijing blames on Islamist militants. The unrest has fuelled a sweeping security crackdown, including mass rallies by armed police and widespread surveillance, tough measures that rights advocates say restrict religious and cultural expression. Police are responsible for collecting pictures, fingerprints, iris scans and household registration information, while health authorities should collect DNA samples and blood type information as part of a "Physicals for All" programme, the New York-based group said in a statement, citing government a document. The mandatory databanking of a whole population's biodata, including DNA, is a gross violation of international human rights norms and it's even more disturbing if it is done surreptitiously, under the guise of a free health care programme," Human Rights Watch's China director Sophie Richardson said. According to the Xinjiang wide plan posted online by the Aksu city government in July, main goals for the campaign include collecting the biometric data for all people between the age of 12 and 65, and verifying the region's population for a database. "Blood type information should be sent to the county-level police bureaus and DNA blood cards should be sent to the county police bureaus for inspection," the plan said. Data for "priority individuals" should be collected regardless of age, it said, using a term the government has adopted to refer to people deemed a security risk. Government workers must "earnestly safeguard the peoples' legal rights", the plan said, but it made no mention of a need to inform people fully about the campaign or of any option for people to decline to take part. Xinjiang officials could not be reached for comment. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, accused Human Rights Watch of making "untrue" statements after he was asked about the report. He told a regular news briefing in Beijing the general situation in the region was good. Human Rights Watch cited an unidentified Xinjiang resident saying he feared being labelled with "political disloyalty" if he did not take part and that he had not received any results from the health checks. State media, reporting on the campaign checks, have said participation was voluntary. The state-run Xinhua news agency in November cited health authorities as saying 18.8 million people in the region had received such physicals in 2017 for a 100 per cent coverage rate. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam gets pat on back from premier Li Keqiang for 'proactive' governance and pushing bay area plan (SCMP)
2017-12-15
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang hailed Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Friday, saying that she had a "proactive" approach to governance and had pushed ahead with the "Greater Bay Area" plan aimed at fostering cooperation among cities in the region. The No 2 official's the remarks came on the last day of Lam's three-day maiden duty visit to Beijing. She is expected to meet President Xi Jinping on Friday afternoon to brief him on the city's social, economic and political developments. "You are leading the Hong Kong government in fulfilling promises made, and have taken a proactive approach to governance. Particularly in solving some people's livelihood problems, you have taken new steps," Li told Hong Kong's chief executive in his opening remarks. Only the first few minutes of the meeting were open to journalists. Li also said he was happy to see that Lam had been "actively" and "effectively" pressing ahead with the bay area initiative. The premier praised Lam's government for working closely with mainland authorities on the project. He said there were several competitive bay areas overseas, but he hoped that China's version could become an "important engine" for global economic competition. The Greater Bay Area encompasses a total area of 56,000 sq km and more than 66 million people. Aimed at boosting cooperation between mainland cities and Hong Kong, it was first proposed by Guangdong officials several years ago, but grew into a national strategic project after Li endorsed it in his work report. Lam told Li: "As I was writing this duty visit report, I felt that something concrete and pragmatic had been done in the last five months in developing the economy and [improving] people's livelihoods. "This could be achieved because we have the central government's continued support." Also at the meeting were State Councillor Yang Jiechi, the country's top-ranking diplomat; Zhang Xiaoming, director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office; Wang Zhimin, head of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong; and Eric Chan Kwok-ki, director of Lam's office. Lam's visit to Beijing comes at a time when her public approval ratings in Hong Kong have dropped to 55.7 points out of 100, the lowest since she took the top post in July, according to the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme. When Lam's predecessor, Leung Chun-ying, met Li last year for his final duty visit, Li praised Leung for being "proactive and pragmatic", saying that the city's economy was in good shape amid global instability. At the time, Li promised to roll out favourable initiatives for the city in policies formulated under the nation's 13th five-year plan. Hong Kong's GDP growth this year is expected to be 3.7 per cent, the highest in six years, the city's financial secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said earlier. ^ top ^

Beijing and Hong Kong sign deal on notification procedures when residents are detained (SCMP)
2017-12-14
Hong Kong and mainland China have secured a breakthrough deal to set up a faster notification system with a clear timetable for when residents are criminally detained by the other side. Both committed to informing each other within seven working days when someone is being held for minor crimes, offering greater transparency on an issue that caused uproar two years ago when five booksellers mysteriously disappeared. The agreement was signed on Thursday during the second day of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's three-day maiden duty visit to Beijing. Lam and China's minister of public security, Zhao Kezhi, witnessed the signing by Hong Kong Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu and Sun Lijun, director of the office of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan affairs at China's Ministry of Public Security. "The existing mechanism has been in place since 2001," Lee said after the ceremony. "After 16 years, we feel it is time to revise it." Under the new deal, either side must notify the other within seven working days of imposing "criminal compulsory measures" on a suspect such as arrests, detention or prosecution. The time limit also applies to notifications about unnatural deaths after confirmation of the person's identity. However, for "serious and complicated criminal cases", a notification period of 14 working days has been specified. For cases involving terrorist activities or those endangering national security, the time limit is even longer, at 30 working days – an arrangement which drew criticism in Hong Kong. But the old mechanism did not specify notifications be made at all for cases in these two categories. Asked why these two types had now been included, Lee said: "The present arrangement already covers all criminal cases. This time, we are just laying out clearly how long notifications of different types should take." The deal also says notifications should disclose the suspected offence, the legal basis and location of the detention as well as the officer in charge of the case. All mainland agencies authorised to impose criminal measures on Hong Kong residents are required to abide by the agreement, including public security authorities, state security authorities, customs and anti-smuggling departments and prosecutors. But the Chinese military is not covered. The previous rules governing notifications only stated that mainland public security authorities were responsible for notifying Hong Kong police. There was no mention of the role of the state security apparatus, regional authorities or prosecutors. No notification time frame was previously specified either, though reports had suggested 14 days was an unwritten rule. In future Shanghai and Guangdong public security authorities will be allowed to notify Hong Kong police directly rather than through the ministry in Beijing. And Hong Kong graft-busting authority the Independent Commission Against Corruption has also been included in the mechanism, which specifies the organisation must issue notifications on any mainlanders it is holding. The new arrangements will take effect on February 1. All eyes fell on the reciprocal notification mechanism in 2015 when five booksellers based in Hong Kong who were linked to Mighty Current publishing company, which specialised in political gossip books about Beijing leaders, began to go missing. They eventually turned up in the custody of mainland authorities, and appeared on state media claiming they had gone there voluntarily. Mighty Current's co-founder, Gui Minhai, a mainland-born, naturalised Swedish citizen, vanished from Pattaya in Thailand before turning up on the mainland. In October this year, a long-time friend said he had finally been released and reunited with his family in the Chinese city of Ningbo. His publishing associates – Hong Kong residents Cheung Chi-ping, Lam Wing-kee and Lui Por – later went missing while on the mainland. Another associate, Lee Po, disappeared from Hong Kong under similar circumstances. His case sparked fears he had been kidnapped by mainland agents operating in Hong Kong and that the "one country, two systems" principle, under which Hong Kong is granted a high degree of autonomy, had been eroded. The saga led to calls for the original notification mechanism, in place since 2001, to be reviewed. That was because mainland authorities only notified Hong Kong police about three weeks after Lee disappeared, as anxiety in the city intensified over the whereabouts of the booksellers. Lam Wing-kee on Thursday said the new deal would not help alleviate the fear held by many Hongkongers that their personal safety and freedoms could be threatened by mainland law enforcement officers operating in Hong Kong. "It's good for them to provide more information... and a notification might come 10 or 20 days earlier, but by then the person has already been nabbed," he said. Mainland law enforcement officers are not permitted to operate in Hong Kong under the city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law. Activist Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, who campaigned for a mechanism before the initial one was established in 2001, said the effect of the new arrangements would be limited as they were still "problematic". "For serious criminal cases and those related to national security, the notification time frame should also be three to seven days. With the technology nowadays, 30 days is really too long for families of the suspects," he said. "They should also specify that the Hong Kong police need to be notified if any Hong Kong person is put under 'administrative detention', not just 'criminal compulsory measures'." Tsoi urged the Hong Kong government to do more to protect residents' rights on the mainland. "It's not just about being notified – the administration should be allowed to visit the detained suspect or even offer legal aid," he said. It was disappointing it had taken more than a year for the two governments to come up with a deal after the bookseller disappearances, he said. Hong Kong lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting of the Democratic Party, the city's largest opposition party, demanded a clearer definition be set out of "national security", saying he was worried mainland authorities would twist its meaning arbitrarily and target social activists or human rights lawyers. He also said the 30-day time frame for offences endangering national security was too long. "This is worrying as a lot of things could happen in 30 days. Detainees might be forced to plead guilty or confess to the crime on media shows," Lam said. "The detainees must enjoy their basic human rights." Bookseller Gui appeared on state broadcaster CCTV while in custody, admitting he had voluntarily surrendered to Chinese authorities over a hit-and-run traffic incident which took place back in 2003. Lam Cheuk-ting, a former investigator with the ICAC, said it was good the agency had been included in the notifications, as it had been investigating a lot of bribery cases involving mainland citizens. Legislator Gary Chan Hak-kan, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the city's biggest pro-establishment party, welcomed the new mechanism and said it boosted transparency. Chan also chairs the Hong Kong legislature's security panel. While he had hoped the seven-day time frame would be shorter, particularly regarding arrests in the Guangdong area, Chan said the longer period was "understandable" for cases concerning national security as those tended to be more complicated. Hong Kong's Security Bureau told the Post earlier that mainland authorities sent 1,560 notifications to the Hong Kong government last year, 653 more than in 2015. In the first six months of this year, 858 notifications were made. ^ top ^

NDRC signs Belt and Road agreement with HKSAR (Xinhua)
2017-12-14
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) Thursday inked an agreement with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to strengthen Hong Kong's role in the Belt and Road construction. Signed by NDRC Chairman He Lifeng and HKSAR Chief Executive Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the deal is designed to let Hong Kong play a bigger part in providing diverse financing channels for the Belt and Road projects. Six areas were highlighted: finance and investment, infrastructure and shipping, economic and trade cooperation, people-to-people bonds, development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and project interfacing and dispute settlement. Hong Kong will also make full use of its position as the offshore trading center of the Chinese yuan to step up the internationalization of the currency and push forward the green bond market. The NDRC said the move will help ensure the financing of the Belt and Road and accelerate Hong Kong's development as well. ^ top ^

Nine Hong Kong democracy activists banned from contesting seats in China's legislature (SCMP)
2017-12-13
Nine Hong Kong democracy activists have been banned from the race to elect 36 deputies to China's National People's Congress, the country's top legislative body. The move is in line with an unprecedented new rule that says candidates aspiring to represent the city in the NPC must swear to uphold the Chinese constitution and the "one country, two systems" principle under which Hong Kong is governed. Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, pro-independence activist Yeung Ke-cheong and seven supporters of Hong Kong's Occupy democracy protests of 2014 had their candidacies invalidated. A 10th candidate was disqualified because he did not hand in any nomination forms. The decisions were made on Wednesday morning by the 19-member presidium that oversees the poll, which will be held on Tuesday next week. The body is chaired by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and its members include two of her predecessors, Leung Chun-ying and Tung Chee-hwa. In total, 49 candidates will run for the 36 seats. They include two pro-democracy figures, Roger Wong Hoi-fung and Henry Lam, who in March joined Hong Kong's pan-democratic camp in nominating John Tsang Chun-wah and Woo Kwok-hing to contest Carrie Lam in the city's leadership poll. In the NPC elections five years ago, two pan-democrats, Paul Zimmerman and Fong King-lok, were allowed to run but they both failed to get elected. In March, the national legislature endorsed new rules for the election of Hong Kong and Macau deputies, making it mandatory for candidates to sign a declaration that they would uphold the Chinese constitution and Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law. Among the nine activists who had their candidacies invalidated, Kwok was the only one who refused to sign the declaration. Asked why Yeung and the seven Occupy supporters were not allowed to run, the presidium's spokesman, Ambrose Lau Hon-chuen, said the ruling was made according to recommendations by the NPC Standing Committee. "In accordance with the regulations, authorities related to the Standing Committee collected material on some aspirants' public remarks and acts. They were widely reported by the media and contravened the content of the declaration," Lau said, declining to disclose details. Last month Lau warned that candidates who failed to make their declarations "genuinely" would be disqualified. Kwok said the disqualifications demonstrated the "ridiculousness and falseness" of the election, which he called "just a show". "Why do they have to set so many bars to screen candidates? It doesn't help integration between the mainland and Hong Kong," he said. A panel of 1,989 Hong Kong voters, including about 300 pan-democrats, will choose the 36 deputies by block vote on December 19. Among the 49 candidates, 26 are seeking re-election, while 23 are currently not NPC deputies. The 23 include lawyer and opponent of the 2014 Occupy movement Maggie Chan Man-ki, former constitutional and mainland affairs minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, and Tam Yiu-chung, a former chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the city's largest pro-establishment political party. Tam Yiu-chung is tipped to replace the retiring Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai as the sole local delegate to the NPC Standing Committee. Incumbent deputy and businessman Wong Ting-chung, with 1,073 endorsements, is the member with the highest number of nominations. ^ top ^

 

Macau

Macao to inaugurate Confucius Institute at University of Macao (Xinhua)
2017-12-14
Macao will inaugurate its first Confucius Institute to develop Macao into an international platform for Chinese language education for overseas countries, especially Portuguese-speaking countries, the University of Macau (UM) said on Thursday. UM said it has received approval from the Office of Chinese Language Council International to establish a Confucius Institute, as a response to the Macao Special Administrative Region's effort to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative. UM's Confucius Institute, which will be operational in early 2018 under the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, is in the design and construction process. Faculty of Arts and Humanities Dean Hong Gang Jin and Associate Dean Shi Jianguo will serve as the director and deputy director of the institute respectively, UM added. The university said the institute will make good use of Macao's unique status as a special administrative region, its advantageous geographic location, as well as its cultural and linguistic diversity to develop into an international platform for Chinese language teaching, training, and exchange for students from Portuguese-speaking countries and countries with relations with Macao. The Confucius Institute is an important platform for the world to learn more about China and study the Chinese language. Some 525 branches have been established in 146 countries and regions since 2004 when the first Confucius Institute was founded. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan denounces Chinese air force patrols encircling the island (SCMP)
2017-12-15
Taiwan is confident of its defences and responded quickly to Chinese air force "island encirclement" drills this week, the self-ruled island's government said, denouncing the rise in the mainland's military deployments as irresponsible. Beijing considers self-ruled and democratic Taiwan to be its sacred territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring what it views as a wayward province under Chinese control. Tensions have risen in recent days after a senior Chinese diplomat threatened that Beijing would invade Taiwan if any US warships made port visits there. Chinese jets carried out "island encirclement patrols" around Taiwan on Monday, with state media showing pictures of bombers with cruise missiles slung under their wings. And on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump signed into law the National Defence Authorisation Act for the 2018 financial year, which authorises the possibility of mutual visits by navy vessels between Taiwan and the United States. Such visits would be the first since the United States ended formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979 and established ties with Beijing. Taiwan presidential spokesman Alex Huang, speaking to Taiwan media in comments reported late on Wednesday, said the defence ministry had kept a close watch on the patrols and responded immediately and properly. Taiwan "can ensure there are no concerns at all about national security, and people can rest assured", Huang said. Both sides of the narrow Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from its giant neighbour, have a responsibility to protect peace and stability, he added. "Such a raised military posture that may impact upon and harm regional peace and stability and cross-strait ties does not give a feeling of responsibility and the international community does not look favourably upon this," Huang was quoted as saying. Relations have soured considerably since Tsai Ing-wen, who leads Taiwan's independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, won presidential elections last year. Beijing suspects Tsai wants to declare the island's formal independence, a red line for Beijing. Tsai says she wants to maintain peace with the mainland, but will defend Taiwan's security. Taiwan is well equipped with mostly US weapons, but has been pressing for more advanced equipment to deal with what it sees as rising threat from the mainland. The United States is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself. ^ top ^

Beijing protests over potential US warship visits to Taiwan (SCMP)
2017-12-14
Beijing said on Thursday that it lodged an official protest with Washington after US President Donald Trump signed a defence budget that opens the possibility for US warships to visit self-ruled Taiwan. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the legislation, while non-binding, violated the one-China policy and "constitutes an interference in China's domestic affairs". "We firmly oppose any form of official exchanges or military links between Taiwan and the US, as well as US arms sales to Taiwan," Lu said. We hope that the US can fully grasp the damaging nature" of the legislation's Taiwan clause, he said. Trump signed the budget on Tuesday, including a clause saying the United States should "consider the advisability and feasibility of re-establishing port of call exchanges between the United States Navy and the Taiwan navy". Chinese media reported last week that a diplomat from the Chinese embassy in the United States had warned that Beijing would take Taiwan back by force the day that a US warship entered a Taiwanese port. The island has been a thorny issue in China-US relations, with Trump starting his transition into office by taking a precedent-breaking phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Trump eased tensions with Beijing by vowing to uphold the one-China policy shortly before Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Florida in April, but infuriated Beijing again this summer by approving a US$1.3 billion arms sale to Taiwan. China and Taiwan split after a civil war in 1949, and while Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign nation, it has never formally declared independence. Beijing says Taiwan is a part of Chinese territory and will be brought back into the fold at some point. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Britain hoping to sign deals worth US$1.3bn with China as officials head to Beijing (SCMP)
2017-12-15
Britain hopes to seal a billion pounds (US$1.34 billion) worth of trade and investment agreements with China during a weekend visit by finance minister Philip Hammond, the Bank of England chief Mark Carney and senior executives. The Beijing visit is the latest instalment in long-running economic talks between the two states, but it has taken on new importance for Britain as it looks to reinvent itself as a global trading nation after leaving the European Union in 2019. "We are committed to working with our partners to build a truly global Britain and our relationship with China is strong, growing and delivering benefits for both countries," Hammond said in a statement released by his office ahead of the trip. The focus on a "Golden Era" of relations, touted loudly by both sides in 2015 when former prime minister David Cameron hosted a state visit by President Xi Jinping, has cooled under Cameron's successor Theresa May. She caused a diplomatic spat last year by unexpectedly deciding to delay approval of a partly-Chinese funded nuclear power project. She later granted it, but not before drawing criticism from Beijing. Nevertheless, the government said on Friday it wanted to begin a new phase. Hammond will meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Vice-Premier Ma Kai and other officials. Business Minister Greg Clarke will also travel to Beijing along with a delegation of executives including London Stock Exchange chief executive Nikhil Rathi and representatives from major financial firms such as BlackRock, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank. Talks are expected to focus on a more integrated approach to financial services, new industrial partnerships and economic reform. Previous rounds of discussions have looked at how to develop London as an offshore hub for trading China's currency and closer integration of the two countries' stock markets. Clark will hold energy-specific talks focused on clean and renewable power generation. ^ top ^

US tipped to take direct aim at China as Trump team loses patience on trade (SCMP)
2017-12-15
China can expect more unilateral trade action from the administration of US President Donald Trump as the world's two biggest economies tussle over trade next year, according to a former White House senior economic adviser. Daniel Rosen, a White House international economic policy adviser from 2000 to 2001, said Sino-US trade disputes were manageable but the trend was towards more confrontation, with the US expected to wrap up investigations into Chinese aluminium imports and allegations of Chinese theft of intellectual property next year. Rosen, a partner with US consultancy Rhodium, said the fallout from the investigations could affect other industries, including the car industry. "The administration has also signalled quite clearly that these cases can be applied to other products as well. I would expect other industries are likely to come forward and explore similar remedies for Chinese trade," he said on the sidelines of a Hong Kong seminar on China's economic reform organised by the Trade Development Council on Thursday. "The automobile sector trade … is one area where trade policies have traditionally been used in the US on economies for not having reciprocal opening in their economies." Rosen's outlook for more unilateral action comes after a top US trade envoy took aim at the World Trade Organisation, a multilateral platform of which China and the US are members. At a WTO ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires on Monday, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the organisation was losing its focus on trade negotiations in favour of litigation, and was going too easy in wealthier developing countries such as China. Rosen said Trump and his team "do not believe that China is willing to work with a multilateral trade system, and that only unilateral measures will be effective". He said the Trump administration's decision to suspend an annual economic dialogue with Beijing was a significant "symbolic move" suggesting more trade frictions ahead. The decision was made after US and Chinese representatives failed at a July dialogue and a summit in Beijing last month to make headway on cutting the US trade deficit with China. "I hope the Chinese side understands how pessimistic many in the Trump administration have become [on trade with China]," he said. ^ top ^

China should come clean on local government debt, International Monetary Fund report says (SCMP)
2017-12-11
China should broaden its accounting methods to include off-budget quasi-fiscal spending to provide a clearer picture of its debt mountain, according to a report by economists from the International Monetary Fund. "China's official government accounts do not capture a large amount of fiscal spending delivered through off-budget units," the report said. "Although progress has been made to legally separate off-budget units from the government, such units appear to not have been de facto separated from the government." The pair's comments touched on the controversial issue of transparency with regards to China's accounting and reporting of its debt situation. While Beijing insists that debts incurred by local government financing vehicles and other channels are not "governmental", international rating agencies such as Moody's and Standard & Poor's have sent warnings about such contingent liabilities. The IMF researchers urged China to publish detailed and easily accessible budget accounts and overall debt levels by province – including contingent liabilities by type – at least once a year. It does not do so at present. The report was published just days before the start of China's annual Central Economic Work Conference. At a Politburo meeting on Friday, President Xi Jinping said the country would continue to try to control debt levels and prevent financial risks. Beijing has made some efforts in recent years to prevent contamination from off-budget financing by local governments. After the new budget law took effect in 2015, it declared that the units were independent of the government and that any debts they accrued were no longer a government problem. After the country's credit rating was downgraded by Moody's in May, Beijing said the ratings agency had overestimated its economic difficulties. A similar move by S&P in September was described as the "wrong decision". Official figures put China's local government debt at 16 trillion yuan (US$2.41 trillion) at the end of 2015, or about 37 per cent of gross domestic product. Beijing described the situation as "controllable". The IMF paper, however, said that "the back door remains open". "Available evidence suggests local government financing vehicles continue to operate as quasi-fiscal units … The [leveraged government] funds do not appear to make market-based decisions in pursuit of commercial returns and openly serve a social function." On the subject of public-private partnerships – a tool frequently used by local governments to finance construction projects and prop up their economies – the report said that some should in principle be recorded on the balance sheet and that the regulatory framework needed to be improved. "There is insufficient weight given to value for money considerations either before contracts are awarded or during the contract period, and both accounting and reporting of PPP contracts could be improved," it said. China's finance ministry earlier this year named and shamed several local governments for their illegal fundraising. The national auditor also found in its third-quarter inspection that five city or county governments in Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Gansu, Hunan and Hainan provinces had shouldered a combined 6.4 billion yuan of debt through financial guarantees – a practice that has long been banned. When the Washington-based IMF published its twice-a-decade assessment of China's economic and banking system last Thursday, the People's Bank of China hit back, saying that "there are some views and statements that we find it difficult to agree upon". "We believe [the IMF's] description of the stress testing of China's banking system failed to comprehensively reflect the actual testing results," it said. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

Chinese navy starts live-fire drill off North Korean waters as tensions over nuclear programme escalate (SCMP)
2017-12-14
China is conducting a live-fire exercise off the North Korean peninsula as concerns over the security situation on the peninsula rise. The drill in the Bohai Sea was due to start on Thursday afternoon and will last until 4pm next Monday, according to a notice issued by the Liaoning Maritime Safety Administration. The administration marked out a rectangular prohibited area in the waters west of Lushun in Liaoning province, an important naval base for the People's Liberation Army's North Sea Fleet, which is responsible for defending the Bohai and Yellow Seas off the Korean peninsula. In response to North Korea's rapidly increasing missile threat, the United States, South Korea and Japan are also currently holding a joint exercise in the East China Sea. Amid the growing military tensions, the PLA Navy's guided-missile destroyers have carried out a series of live-fire drills in the Yellow Sea while the Air Force has stepped up its patrol and surveillance over the region. On Monday, China and Russia started a simulated anti-missile exercise in Beijing. China's defence ministry on Monday said the Sino-Russia drills were aimed at boosting cooperation against threats from ballistic and cruise missiles in the region. During the drills, the two sides practised how to work together to repel such threats from third countries. The exercise coincided with two days of ballistic missile tracking drills and information-sharing between the United States, Japan and South Korea – their sixth such exercise. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping says war must never be allowed on Korean peninsula as South's president tries to mend relations on visit to China (SCMP)
2017-12-14
Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that wars on the Korean peninsula are never acceptable, adding that China would continue to support dialogue between Seoul and Pyongyang. Meeting his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in in Beijing on Thursday afternoon, Xi also warned that South Korea should "appropriately handle" its deployment of a US-backed anti-missile system, which Beijing saw as a strategic threat and triggered its worst diplomatic crisis with Seoul in recent times. The meeting at the Great Hall of the People came on the second day of Moon's four-day trip to China – his first since taking office in May. "For reasons known to all, China-South Korea relations have experienced some setbacks," Xi said before the meeting in an apparent reference to the Terminal High Area Altitude Defence (THAAD) system. Xi said such setbacks provided "inspiration for the two countries on how to better explore future relations", according to state broadcaster CCTV. "I hope and believe that [Moon's] visit will be an important opportunity to improve relations as we seek to find ways to carve a better path based on mutual respect and trust," Xi said. Moon acknowledged the "temporary difficulties" between the two countries, but said he wanted to build "the foundation for a new era", without mentioning THAAD. Moon, who advocates dialogue with the North, also called on Beijing to help to chart a peaceful solution to the North Korea nuclear crisis. "I hope we will reaffirm our countries' joint stance to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear problem that threatens peace and security – not only in Northeast Asia but the entire world – and discuss specific ways to cooperate," Moon was quoted by South Korean news agency Yonhap as saying. Xi said that Beijing would work with Seoul as the two countries shared "key and common interests" on the nuclear question. "The goal of denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula is unshakeable and chaos and wars will never be allowed on the peninsula," Xi said. "We are willing to strengthen communication and coordination with the South Korean side … and China will be pushing forward reconciliation efforts for the two [Koreas] to talk and contact to improve their relations." Moon, who is accompanied by what South Korean media described as the largest-ever business delegation – made up of the executives of more than 260 companies – as well as popular entertainers, also hopes to revive economic ties with his country's biggest trading partner. China and South Korea are preparing for talks to extend a two-year old bilateral free-trade agreement to more services and investments, Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said. Beijing imposed a series of punitive measures last year after Seoul agreed to deploy THAAD, although it never officially acknowledged that it was doing so. The measures included a ban on group tours to the South while South Korean pop stars, usually popular among young Chinese, were not allowed on Chinese TV shows. After his summit with Xi, Moon joined a state dinner hosted by Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan, and top South Korean entertainers, including Song Hye-kyo, the star of hit drama Descendants of the Sun, also joined the dinner. However, diplomatic observers said reconciliation efforts between Beijing and Seoul could be hampered by unresolved disputes over THAAD. A potential further cause of contention emerged on Thursday morning when two South Korean journalists were reportedly beaten up and injured by Chinese security guards during a trade fair attended by Moon. A South Korean official told Yonhap that Seoul had filed a protest with the Chinese government and demanded a formal apology, though a preliminary investigation suggested the guards may have been hired by the South Korean organisers of the event. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang voiced concern over what he said he hoped was "just a minor incident". ^ top ^

US ready for N.Korea talks (Global Times)
2017-12-13
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday offered direct talks with North Korea without preconditions, a positive and pragmatic move that could help ease rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, according to Chinese experts. "We've said from the diplomatic side, we're ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk," Tillerson said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on Tuesday, while suggesting North Korea have to ensure a period of quiet during talks, CNN reported. "We are ready to have the first meeting without preconditions," Tillerson was quoted by the report as saying. And the US top diplomat hopes to "begin to lay out a map, a road map of what we might be willing to work towards" through the "face-to-face" talks. China's stance of peacefully addressing the Korean Peninsula crisis has been consistent and China welcomes all efforts to ease tensions on the peninsula, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a daily briefing on Wendesday. "It is safe to take this as an official White House signal to Pyongyang that it plans to shift its previous hardline direction, to embrace the idea of beginning to talk about talks rather than Tillerson's personal comments," Lü Chao, a research fellow on North Korea at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. "The period of quiet" also echoed Beijing's pragmatic proposal of "double suspension" to defuse the peninsula crisis and get all parties back to the negotiating table, Lü said, adding that if such engagement comes true, China will provide full support to both sides. Tillerson said that the previous US position that North Korea would have to give up its weapons before talks begin wasn't workable, and that President Donald Trump agrees, according to CNN. However, the White House later issued a statement that left unclear whether Trump had given his approval to Tillerson's speech, Reuters reported on Wednesday. "The president's views on North Korea have not changed," the White House said. "North Korea is acting in an unsafe way." "The secretary of state is the official interpreter of US foreign policy by definition, but Trump and Tillerson hardly see eye to eye on the issue," said Li Haidong, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University's Institute of International Relations. Trump disparaged his secretary of state in October, saying his support for a diplomatic solution with North Korea was a "waste of his time." "It still depends on Trump, who has the final say on whether to engage with North Korea diplomatically and give up Washinton's previous stance," Li added. ^ top ^

THAAD tensions impede China passage for North Korean defectors: ex-US special envoy (SCMP)
2017-12-13
Strained relations between Beijing and Seoul over the deployment of a US missile defence system have made it "more difficult" for North Korean refugees or defectors to pass through China before reaching South Korea, a former US special envoy said. Robert King, former US special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, told a US House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday that Beijing at times has allowed North Korean refugees to travel into the South via China when the Chinese capital has maintained good relations with Seoul.
But after South Korea decided to install an American-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, or THAAD, system on the Korean Peninsula earlier this year, triggering a year-long diplomatic stand-off between Seoul and Beijing, North Korean refugees could hardly pass through China, King said.
Beijing, viewing the deployment as a threat to its own security, reacted furiously, hitting South Korean businesses with a host of punitive measures and banning group tours to the South, in moves seen as economic retaliation. King's comments coincide with the beginning of South Korean President Moon Jae-in's official visit to China on Wednesday and his third meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the following day. The two neighbouring countries agreed to resume relations last month after tensions flared over THAAD. "I am hopeful that the recent indications of better ties between Beijing and Seoul will lead to easier conditions for defectors to pass through China," King said in his testimony to the foreign affairs panel.
"Virtually all" North Korean refugees flee the North through China, the ex-special envoy said. Most choose to settle in South Korea because of the familiar language and culture and family members already living there, he said. The number of refugees leaving the North annually has declined recently owing to tighter border control by Pyongyang, King said. After peaking at nearly 3,000 in 2011, the number fell to fewer than 1,500 in 2016. "Numbers thus far this year look to be even lower," he said.
The past two decades have seen about 30,000 North Koreans flee the reclusive country and resettle in the South, according to King's testimony. ^ top ^

China urges parties to consider "suspension for suspension" proposal in Korean Peninsula (Xinhua)
2017-12-11
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated on Saturday the call for all parties to the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue to seriously consider the "suspension for suspension" proposal put forward by China. He made the remarks at a seminar on international relations and China's diplomacy in 2017. Wang said that the hope of peace has not yet been destroyed, and the prospect of negotiations to solve the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue still exists. He noted that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is still deep in a vicious circle of demonstrating strength and confrontation, and the outlook is not optimistic. He said that all parties need to make efforts to take steps to ease the situation and bring the situation out of the "black hole" of confrontation. He called on parties to create the necessary conditions and atmosphere for the resumption of dialogue and negotiations. China's suspension-for-suspension initiative calls for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for the suspension of large-scale U.S.-ROK (Republic of Korea) military exercises. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

President Kh. Battulga gives information on national security issues to the Parliament (Gogo Mongolia)
2017-12-15
President Kh.Battulga will give information on national security issues to the members of the Parliament at 15 p.m. today and plenary session will be held closed. President of Mongolia and Head of the National Security Council Kh.Battulga received the leaders of special-function agencies in charge of national security, and exchanged views on current situation in national security on 1st December. The meeting aimed at giving evaluation to some circumstances occurring nowadays. Present at the meeting were, Secretary of the National Security Council A.Gansukh, Minister of Defense N.Enkhbold MP, Chairman of the General Intelligence Agency D.Gerel, leaders of Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, General Police Department, National Emergency Management Agency, General Taxation Authority, General Customs Authority, General Authority for Enforcement of Court Decisions and other special-function government bodies in charge of national security. They arrived at a decision that air pollution problem can be solved when poverty and unemployment reduced. In every December President gives information on national security issues to the Parliament and according to this tradition, closed session will be held. ^ top ^

Cabinet meeting in brief (Montesame)
2017-12-14
The Cabinet discussing following issues at its regular meeting on December 13. The Cabinet adopted Guideline on rewarding individuals and organizations that played an active role in preservation of a cultural heritage. The Cabinet authorized special hunting permits for 60 male wild sheep (Argali), 75 male wild goats (Ibex), 32 Stags, 10 Bucks, 10 Boars, 100 Mongolian gazelles, up to 500 game birds, up to 450 Taimen with the condition of release and up to 10 thousand other fishes. Deputy Prime Minister U.Enkhtuvshin reported on his participation at the 16th Meeting of the SCO Heads of Government Council that took place in Sochi, Russia from November 30 to December 1. The Cabinet assigned Minister of Foreign Affairs to take follow-up actions. The Cabinet approved an Intergovernmental Agreement on Military Financial Cooperation between Mongolia and Turkey and a Protocol on Financial Assistance, which will be signed within the Agreement. A Prime Ministerial ordinance will be issued to authorize signing of the document. The Cabinet discharged L.Bayartulga, State Secretary at the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry from his post at his own request as the latter decided to pursue studies. ^ top ^

Countering Fake News and Corruption in Mongolia (Gogo Mongolia)
2017-12-12
Fake news and corruption are two significant issues testing the fabric of Mongolian democracy today. Although these challenges have been widely covered global trends, with fake news becoming somewhat of a buzz word in the realms of politics and international development, neither issues are new but will continue to test the integrity of developing democratic systems around the globe. As a result, democracies such as Mongolia will require strong investigative journalism to counter their toxic and disruptive effects. The role of a free, open and credible press is now more critical than ever to help inform citizens and inject transparency and accountability into anti-corruption efforts. According to the latest report by Mongolia's Independent Authority Against Corruption—an independent government body tasked with raising public awareness and supporting corruption prevention activities, a wide range of inappropriate practices and illegal budget spending practices have recently been uncovered. The investigation, which assessed the activities of local government activities across all 21 provinces, including state institutions from 98 soums (counties) revealed a host of corrupt practices being carried out by local governments. These corruption violations purportedly include government officials concurrently taking charge over multiple political positions; unreasonable dismissal of local government employees; the dissemination of salaries during periods of unemployment; obtaining illegal donations and financial assistance; and hiring unqualified candidates for government positions. Admittedly, addressing corruption and abuse of public resources and the authority of local officials remains a formidable challenge; however, an invaluable first-step is for such abuses to be uncovered and revealed to citizens. As a democratic country with an open media environment and free press, Mongolian journalists can play a key role in Mongolia's fight against corruption by bringing transparency and accountability to violations and patterns of corruption. Since 2014, IRI has supported transparency and accountability in local democratic governance through a dual-track approach that targets both the supply side (government) and demand side (civil society) of the democratic governance equation. IRI works directly with the Capital City Governor's Office and Mayor of Ulaanbaatar to counter corruption and increase transparent governing practices while also bringing together municipal civil servants, civil society organizations and ordinary citizens to fight corruption. Through its partnership with the Ulaanbaatar Mayor, IRI has facilitated a jointly implemented Transparent UB Academy where government officials, civil servants and civil society organizations collaborate and create a citizen-focused information campaign. With technical support from IRI, these groups have worked on initiatives that improve transparency and accountability—from budget analysis and citizen budget seminars to workshops for public servants in decision-making positions focused on legal knowledge of anti-corruption statues and international ethics standards. For instance, this year alone, IRI has trained nearly 300 civil servants throughout Ulaanbaatar. More recently, in cooperation with the Public Affairs Section of U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar, IRI trained journalists from Ulaanbaatar and Darkhan. The participating press learned how to identify opportunities for investigative stories and contribute to the propagation of accurate news in Mongolia, which can go a long way in helping journalists and citizens uncover both cases of fake news and corruption abuses. The case is clear that there is a role for investigative journalism to supplement anti-corruption efforts; however, more work needs to be done to enable and empower Mongolia's press to call out corruption and serve as a check on abuses of local public office. Due to a weak institutional framework for the growth of a vibrant media whereby underpaid and undertrained media outlets are susceptible to corruption in addition to an overall lack of a universal code of conduct among Mongolian journalists, media outlets still struggle to report factual, citizen-centered information. Despite highly publicized exposés highlighting corruption and misuse of government funds spearheaded by many prominent Mongolian journalists, most journalists and news agencies are susceptible to political pressures and remain disempowered. Within this context, IRI works to build the capacities of Mongolian journalists to maintain ethical standards and to develop high-quality, unbiased and accurate content relevant to Mongolian citizenry to address the problem of fake news in the digital age. Despite robust buy-in on the part of Mongolian journalists and media outlets to partner with IRI and past support from the Public Affairs Sector of the U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar for empowering journalists, IRI's current analysis has revealed a clear need for continued support and capacity building for journalists to counter the toxic and disruptive effects that fake news and corruption have on Mongolia's democracy. ^ top ^

President supports initiative to mark 2018 as year against corruption (Montsame)
2017-12-11
On December 8, President Kh.Battulga delivered a speech at a discussion titled 'Corruption is not force-majeure' held in the State House. Present were, representatives of the Parliamentary Standing committee on Justice, State Great Khural (Parliament)'s Special Control Commission, the Cabinet, the Judicial General Council, the Supreme Court, Independent Agency Against Corruption, National institute of Forensic Studies, General Authority for Execution of Court Decisions, General Police Department, Municipal Administration, as well as civil societies, corruption witnesses and informants. The President stressed in his speech, according to a report from the Independent Agency Against Corruption (IAAC), MNT 65.3 billion worth damage was done due to corruption and other white-collar crimes within this year, as of November 2017. "This is a data collected only until November. In under a period of just one year or less, corruption resulted in such damage. The amount has been calculated based only on the uncovered cases. Actual damage, caused by the unrevealed cases of corruption, might be a lot more critical than this," he said. An initiative to announce 2018 'A Year of Exposing Corruption and Protecting Witnesses, Informants and Whistleblowers' was approved at the end of the discussion. President Kh.Battulga pledged his full support for the initiative. ^ top ^

 

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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