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
  18-22.12.17, No. 701  
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Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

The world pays witness to historic display of US arrogance (Global Times)
2017-12-22
An emergency UN General Assembly meeting passed a resolution calling for the US to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital as well as its decision to move the US embassy there. A total of 128 countries backed the resolution, nine voted against and 35 abstained. Twenty-one countries did not cast a vote. Washington had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that wished to vote in favor of the resolution. US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley repeated that threat just before the Thursday vote. Washington's threat appeared to have a certain impact, with more countries rejecting and abstaining the resolution than usual. However, if we take a closer look at the vote, we will find that the nine countries which voted against the resolution, other than the US and Israel, are mostly Central American and Southern Pacific countries (five of which have "diplomatic ties" with Taiwan) that are highly dependent on foreign aid with limited influence on international affairs. The most influential countries that did not cast a vote or abstained are Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and Australia. The first two are neighbors of the US and members of North American Free Trade Agreement. The latter two are allies of the US. Romania, Hungary and several other Central and Eastern European countries also abstained in the vote. The most influential countries in the world other than the US including Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, major members of the EU, Japan and South Korea all voted in favor of the resolution. All Islamic countries voted in favor including Egypt, a major recipient of US aid. The 128 countries voted in favor account for roughly two-thirds of the UN's 193 members. From the perspective of population, these countries account for roughly 90 percent of the world's population. The vote has gained such global attention largely thanks to repeated threats from the US. The vote has tested the US capability to bend other countries with its hegemony to unwillingly support or not object to a wrongful US decision. The result must have disappointed Washington. A majority of the world's countries and their population ignored the US threat or refused to obey a US command such as this one. Some were due to religious beliefs but there were also pragmatic considerations weighing gains and losses. To some countries, not offending a wide range of Muslim countries is more important than pleasing the Trump administration. When Trump announced US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, he said he believed that decision will eventually be understood and it would serve as a new starting point for the Israel-Palestine peace process. However, the UN vote showed great divergence between the US and the rest of the world on this issue. The US has further isolated itself morally when it forced the world to cater to its wrongdoing. Washington should know by now that the US is not almighty nor a representative of universal values. The US has important shortfalls and limits, and its arrogance is not sustained by matching prowess and moral high ground. The world has seen this point whether or not Washington itself is able to recognize it. ^ top ^

German ambassador Michael Clauss on relations with China, the challenges and potential (SCMP)
2017-12-22
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, German ambassador to China Michael Clauss expressed concerns over allegations that Chinese intelligence officials are using fake social media accounts to gather personal information about German politicians, as well as tighter controls over VPNs (virtual private networks) in China. Here is a transcript of the interview.
1. Germany's intelligence service has released details of Chinese social media profiles they say were faked by Chinese intelligence to gather personal information about German officials and politicians. Meanwhile there was an incident involving the Chinese U20 soccer team in Mainz some weeks ago – over Tibet – and the Chinese team's tour of Germany has been suspended. What's your view on the two issues? Actually there were three cases recently which caused some unwanted irritations in our bilateral relations and caught extensive media coverage. As to the findings of the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), I would like to point out that in June 2016, Germany and China agreed to establish a consultation mechanism on cyber issues during the last Sino-German government consultations. Up to now this consultation mechanism, where these findings could have been discussed, has not yet seen the light of day. I expect the Chinese side to join us in setting up the agreed upon cyber consultation mechanism by early 2018. Football has great potential to bring our people closer together on an emotional level. I think this is definitely worthwhile. I am therefore confident that the ongoing contact between the German Football Association and their Chinese counterparts will soon lead to a solution that takes into consideration both Chinese political sensitivities and our constitutional right to free expression of opinion. In addition to those issues let me just add the recent controversy on the role of the Communist Party in foreign equity joint ventures. We learned about several cases where foreign partners in joint ventures have been asked to amend the articles of association with the purpose of giving party cells a role on the management board. Recently we were pleased to receive encouraging signals from the State Council and higher levels of the party that party cells shall not have a role in management boards of foreign equity joint ventures. Therefore, I hope that party and state authorities at all levels, national and regional, will act accordingly.
2. Will these issues cast a cloud over bilateral relations between China and Germany?
Today relations between Germany and China are close and intense as never before in history. So it is only natural that occasionally there are disagreements. However, all these more or less minor irritations should not distract us from seeing the overall picture of our relations. In particular our economic exchanges, which constitute the principal pillar of our bilateral relations, are tremendously successful. Bilateral trade volume has risen to €170 billion (US$201.54 billion) in 2016 and further increased by 11 per cent in the first eight months of this year. China is Germany's top trading partner in the world. German investment in China has risen by €3 billion in 2016, constituting more than 50 per cent of EU foreign direct investment and Chinese investment in Germany soared by almost 3,000 per cent. This year again the upward trend in bilateral investment exchanges is unbroken. With their investments our companies play a major role for China's economy by supplying cutting-edge technology and creating millions of jobs. While there are no geopolitical rivalries standing between us, Germany and China increasingly team up on the international scene to address global challenges together. We both support deepening and strengthening globalisation; we jointly defend the Paris climate accord and share an interest in promoting a rule-based global free trade system with a strong WTO at its centre.
3. Have small and medium-sized German companies operating in China complained about difficulties with internet access given Beijing's tightening control over VPNs?
Foreign companies were already worried by the new cybersecurity law, which entered into force on June 1. Now the impending ban on unlicensed VPNs has further increased concerns. Secure and undisturbed end-to-end communication is essential for foreign companies and a prerequisite for advanced manufacturing. What especially gives rise to concerns are the uncertainties caused by the opacity of the procedures of regulation and standard setting, and the lack of communication with those concerned. Economists have already warned against the possible negative impact on the investment climate. Our repeated requests to have a meaningful dialogue on VPNs and cyber-related questions with the relevant Chinese authorities have regrettably not yet received a positive response.
4. Have German companies continued to complain about forced technology transfers in exchange for business operations in China? Is there any sign the Chinese government is making efforts to address the issue?
As I mentioned earlier, economic relations between Germany and China are currently developing extremely advantageously for both sides. I am also confident when we talk about the outlook over the medium-term of about four or five years. However, we cannot deny the various indications looming on the horizon that conditions for foreign businesses in China are changing and apparently not in a positive direction. China's economic success story will obviously lead to more competition in our economic relations. However, it has to be noted that the increased competition is not always based on fair and equitable conditions for all market players. More and more German companies approach the embassy and express their grievances about increasing discrimination and obstruction as a result of state intervention and administrative measures. Notorious complaints about forced technology transfers, compulsory joint ventures in some sectors or the inadequate legal protection of intellectual property have still not been remedied. Also it must be stated that when it comes to improvements with regard to market access for foreign companies and a level playing field with Chinese competitors, not much progress has been made. Recent surveys by the EU and German chambers of commerce show that a vast majority of companies do not believe that the numerous political announcements will be followed by real moves to market opening. Instead we witness that regulatory interventions like production quotas for electric vehicles or capital controls have increased. The concept of "Made in China 2025" – with its ambitious targets for vast market shares reserved for Chinese companies in various strategic industries and a focus on indigenous innovation – has given rise to concerns that China might be steering towards a self-centred economic system which will eventually leave little room for foreign businesses. I am afraid such an approach will not only harm the interests of foreign companies but ultimately be to the detriment of China itself. I am convinced that these issues, much more than differences over football cooperation or faked social media accounts, are the real challenges we will have to grasp in order to ensure that our bilateral relations will remain smooth and advantageous for many more years to come.
5. Will China's relations with Germany be affected by uncertainty over Angela Merkel's coalition talks?
However the next German government will look, we can expect that based on the broad consensus in foreign policy matters among all relevant political parties our future policy vis-à-vis China will be characterised by continuity and therefore also reliability. I am sure that the new German government immediately after taking office will reach out to the Chinese leadership in order to jointly work on lasting solutions to the challenges that lie ahead of us. Relations between Germany and China have an enormous potential for further mutual benefits if we purposefully address the key problems in our economic relationship. ^ top ^

Cyberspace, soccer and the real business of strong ties between China and Germany (SCMP)
2017-12-22
Beijing and Berlin may have their disagreements on political issues but these "minor irritations" should not distract the two countries from their strong economic ties, according to a top German diplomat. Renewing calls for Beijing to improve access for foreign companies to the Chinese market, German ambassador to China Michael Clauss told the South China Morning Post that economic exchanges were a mainstay of bilateral relations. The comments come after Germany's intelligence services released details last week of alleged covert Chinese social media accounts used to gather personal information on German officials and politicians, claims Beijing said were groundless. Clauss said the findings could have been aired in a cyber issues forum both countries agreed in June last year to set up. "Up till now this consultation mechanism, where these findings could have been discussed, has not seen the light of the day," Clauss said. "I expect the Chinese side to join us in setting up the agreed upon cyber consultation mechanism by early 2018." Tensions also rose between the two countries last month when a tour of Germany by China's under-20 men's soccer team was suspended after spectators at the first match unfurled Tibetan flags in protest at Beijing's policies over the autonomous region. "[But] all these more or less minor irritations should not distract us from seeing the overall picture of our relations. In particular our economic exchanges, which constitute the principal pillar of our bilateral relations, are tremendously successful," Clauss said. He said Sino-German relations were "as close and intensive as never before in history", extending from trade to addressing global challenges such as climate change. China is Germany's biggest trade partner while China has a strong appetite for German know-how in advanced manufacturing but there have been strong concerns about the growing difficulties for foreign companies operating in China. Among the main fears is interference by Communist Party cells in the business decisions of joint ventures, with Beijing requiring the party to have firm leadership in every aspect of the political, military, economic and social activities. Clauss said there were cases of foreign partners being required to amend the charter of joint ventures to give party cells roles on management boards. "Recently we were pleased to receive encouraging signals from the State Council and higher levels of the party that party cells shall not have a role in the management boards of foreign equity joint ventures. Therefore I hope that the party and state authorities at all levels, national and regional, will act accordingly," he said. Other concerns included forced technology transfer in exchange for market access, Beijing's tightening grip on internet access and the long lag between pledges and action on market access. "[At the same time] we have witnessed that regulatory interventions like production quotas for electric vehicles or capital controls have increased," Clauss said. "Our repeated requests to have a meaningful dialogue on [virtual private networks] and cyber-related questions with the relevant Chinese authorities did regrettably not yet receive a positive response."The German ambassador said he was also concerned that with industry strategies such as "Made in China 2025", China might be "steering towards a self-centered economic system which will eventually leave little room for foreign businesses", a move that would be "detrimental" to China itself. "I am convinced that these issues, much more than differences on football cooperation or faked social media accounts, are the real challenges we will have to grasp in order to secure that our bilateral relations will remain smooth and advantageous for many more years to come," he said. ^ top ^

China, Pakistan, Afghanistan foreign ministers to meet on development, security (Xinhua)
2017-12-21
Foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan will meet in Beijing next Tuesday for discussions on development and security, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Thursday. "It will be the first meeting of its kind since the three countries agreed to establish a trilateral dialogue mechanism in June," Hua said at a news briefing. "Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts will have an in-depth exchange on political mutual trust and reconciliation, development and connectivity, security cooperation and counterterrorism." "China hopes this meeting will help improve Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, promote trilateral cooperation and contribute to regional peace, stability and development," she added. ^ top ^

Palestinian, Israeli delegates meet in Beijing for peace solution (Global Times)
2017-12-21
The symposium of Israeli and Palestinian peace advocates held in Beijing shows China's will to promote peaceful solutions to Palestine-Israel issues, but experts say the complexity of Middle East politics leaves limited space for China. The symposium, the third such event since 2006, is being held on Thursday and Friday in Beijing, and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi is set to meet with the Palestinian and Israeli attendees, according to the ministry. Ahmed Majdalani, Member of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and Yehiel Bar, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and head of the lobby for the two-state solution, are said to head the delegations attending the symposium. China has attached great importance to the symposium, which shows that it is willing to contribute to a peaceful solution for the Palestine-Israel issue, even though the most practical and widely acknowledged two-state solution has been undermined by the US, Hua Liming, a Middle East studies expert and a former Chinese Ambassador to Iran, told the Global Times. After US President Donald Trump's announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital in early December sparked outrage from the Arab world and concern from international society, Trump threatened Wednesday to cut off financial aid to countries favoring a UN draft resolution calling for the decision to be withdrawn. "Following the irresponsible moves from the US, Arab countries are expecting China to play a more active role in the Middle East," Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times. "China is willing to play a constructive role in the Middle East and is doing what it can to help with the peace process, such as hosting such symposiums. However, the complexity of the Palestine-Israel issue and the current challenges facing global governance since Trump's inauguration has left limited space for China to make groundbreaking moves," said Liu. A vote is expected on the draft resolution at a rare emergency session on Thursday in the UN General Assembly, after the US vetoed the resolution on Monday which was supported by the other 14 members of the UN Security Council, Reuters reported. This is the 10th such emergency special session of the UN General Assembly since 1956. The last session was held in 1982 and it too concerned the Middle East. "The US is destroying its own image with these threat, which have also put its credibility in jeopardy," Li Haidong, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University's Institute of International Relations, told the Global Times, adding that the international community will no longer trust the US to be fair and impartial on significant issues. The US has conflicts with other countries, including its allies, and is no longer able to coerce other countries to tow the line, said Li. "US' power, international influence and capability to manage global issues have dwindled," He added. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Trump's move means the US can no longer be a mediator in Middle East, effectively ending expectations the US still had an important role to play. Meanwhile, Abbas has sent delegations to China and Russia, and was expected to ask the two countries to take a greater role in the peace process with Israel, AFP reported Wednesday. Both Israelis and Palestinians see Jerusalem as their capital. So far, the international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, believing its status should be resolved through negotiations. ^ top ^

PLA Naval Air Force conducts drills in West Pacific Ocean (Xinhua)
2017-12-21
Dozens of warplanes and an fleet of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy recently conducted drills in the West Pacific Ocean, navy officials here said. Bombers, fighters and airborne early warning aircraft belonging to the naval air force of the South China Sea Fleet took off from an disclosed airport for the drills, which also involved the Navy's 28th escort fleet that was passing by the site of the drills, said the officials from the South China Sea Fleet. The naval air force has been conducting far-sea training on a regular basis in order to examine its combat capabilities, said the officials. As part of the annual training program of the naval air force of the South China Sea Fleet, the drills are in line with international laws and practices and do not target any particular country, region or object, the officials added. ^ top ^

Border disputes placed top on the agenda as China and India meet to discuss ties (Global Times)
2017-12-21
China and India are scheduled to have a new round of talks on border issues and other key bilateral topics on Friday, with Chinese experts saying that the two sides need to enhance mutual trust as well as better control disputes after the military stand-off in Doklam. At the invitation of National Security Adviser Ajit Doval of India, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and State Councilor Yang Jiechi is scheduled to travel to India to attend the Special Representatives' (SR) Meeting on the China-India Boundary Questions on Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a daily briefing on Wednesday. "This is the 20th SR-level meeting. The complicated border issues that emerged out of the Doklam stand-off will top the agenda, particularly as India is trying to pick new disputes related to the Doklam area," Zhao Gancheng, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times. "Friday's meeting will also center on how to better control border related disputes. However, in the meeting China and India may not define and demarcate the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as the two sides have many divergences on verifying the LAC and have been exchanging maps over the past 10 years," said Sun Shihai, deputy director of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. On June 18, Indian troops illegally crossed the border and trespassed into Chinese territory in Doklam, an act firmly opposed by the Chinese side. Sun told the Global Times that "both China and India will strengthen infrastructure construction along the border to make it easier for regular area patrols" and that senior officials from the two sides need to better communicate to avoid misunderstandings. China and India will also exchange ideas on other bilateral issues, including future cooperation in an effort to enhance their damaged state of mutual trust, experts said. "India wants to pressure China by way of border disputes and it always thinks of China as an imaginary enemy. But the two sides should not demonize each other or make it into a zero-sum game," Sun said, adding that China and India could have greater cooperation on matters of new global governance and climate change. Instead of treating China as an offender in the Indian Ocean, India should take an active part in China's Belt and Road initiative and make joint efforts with China on protecting sea routes, Sun said. Some voices in India have remarked that the country should cooperate more with the US, Japan and Australia to contain China, but India should think twice before inciting a direct confrontation with China, Zhao said. ^ top ^

Misheard question gets a laugh from Chinese diplomat (Global Times)
2017-12-21
Panda diplomacy took on new meaning after a Chinese diplomat who misheard a question lightened things up at an otherwise serious press briefing in Beijing. Things got lost in translation when Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, fielded a question from a Japanese reporter about "Xiangxiang" - a panda China had recently gifted to Tokyo's Ueno Zoo, video shows. "Giant Panda Xiangxiang made public debut today… do you have any comment?" the reporter asked in English, a second language for both of them. Hua instead misheard "Xiangxiang" for "Shan Shan," the Chinese pronunciation of fellow diplomat Shinsuke Sugiyama, Japan's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, as revealed by her very amorphous, diplomatic answer. "We hope that Japan will work with China to settle the issues properly based on the current principles and consensus," Hua said. She only realized the gaffe when a Chinese reporter stepped in to translate. "Oh that Xiangxiang," she said with a chuckle. "I thought you said [Shan Shan]." Once again, a panda put smiles on everyone's faces. However, why Hua thought a reporter would be talking about a Japanese official making his debut at a zoo is perhaps a question for the next press conference. ^ top ^

Donald Trump 'ignores facts': Chinese military hits back at claim it is trying to challenge US interests (SCMP)
2017-12-21
The Chinese military has rejected US President Donald Trump's accusation that it is a challenge to American's national security, according to a statement released late on Wednesday night. The Chinese Defence Ministry said Trump's speech on Monday "ignored facts, played up China's defence modernisation progress, questioned the intention of Chinese military development, and gone against a peaceful developments of these times and of Sino-US relations". This was in response to Trump's new national security strategy that said China was developing "advanced weapons and capabilities" that could threaten America's "critical infrastructure and our command and control architecture". Trump's strategy accused China of seeking to "displace the US in the Indo-Pacific region, expand the reach of its state-driven economic model and reorder the region in its favour". The president's tone was a stark deviation from that of his predecessor Barack Obama, who named China as a "strategic partner" despite tensions between the two sides. The Chinese Foreign Ministry and the embassy in Washington DC both rejected the claims. The Defence Ministry said the People's Liberation Army was not set up to threaten any country as it was designed for defensive purposes, and its development would signal the growing power of peace. "Yet, looking at some other countries, [they] easily prioritise their own benefits over the mutual benefits of the international community, [their] minds filled with the old zero-sum game mentality. "[They] label one country and define another, [they] show obvious self-interest only- the international community would judge for themselves," the statement said. ^ top ^

China seeks to take its business to Syria in post-war rebuilding effort (SCMP)
2017-12-21
With Western powers reluctant to help rebuild Syria after its civil war, and Russia and Iran balking at the estimated quarter-trillion dollars it will cost, China is stepping in. China-Arab Exchange Association vice-president Qin Yong, who is about to make his fourth trip to Syria this year, sees growing interest among Chinese companies. "We get phone queries every day. They see huge business potential there, because the entire country needs to be rebuilt," said Qin, adding that the enthusiasm is reciprocated on the Syrian side. "They're like, don't come tomorrow, come tonight." As the six-and-a-half-year war winds down, with Bashar al-Assad still in power, the battle for influence in Syria has shifted to the diplomatic arena. Reconstruction, which the United Nations says could cost US$250 billion, is a key part of it. Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared victory in his two-year military operation to shore up Assad, and is now appealing for international funds. At his annual press conference on December 14, Putin said Syria, whose conflict sparked the worst refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War, will remain a breeding ground for extremist groups such as Islamic State without improved living standards. "All people of goodwill around the world should understand that if we do not resolve this together, it will be their problem as well," he said. The US and its European and Gulf Arab allies, which backed the Syrian rebels, say the problem is largely of Putin and Assad's making. They've eased up on calls for the Syrian leader's immediate departure, but continue to insist that he can't stabilise the country and has no long-term future. Withholding money for reconstruction is one of the few cards they have left at peace talks. Unlike Iraq, which was pumping out about two million barrels of oil a day even in the traumatic years right after the 2003 US invasion, Syria has little ability to generate cash internally to pay for its own rebuilding. Diplomats in Moscow say that Russia has repeatedly pressed European Union governments to help foot the bill. At the same time, Russia has rebuffed calls for Assad to step down eventually, and his government has shown few signs of willingness to share power. The EU, Arab nations and the US put aside US$9.7 billion in April for humanitarian aid and rebuilding Syria. But in September, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the anti-Assad coalition would not support reconstruction without a political transition. "Things have hit a dead end," said Alexander Shumilin, head of the Centre for the Analysis of Middle East Conflicts in Moscow. "Russia's military victory in Syria hasn't brought a political settlement any closer." That is keeping European companies away. German business, for example, has "the know-how, the products and the motivation to reconstruct Syrian infrastructure and industry", said Philipp Andree, director for the Middle East and North Africa at the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry. It can't happen without "an internationally recognised peace agreement", he said. Steelmaker Thyssenkrupp will only "re-enter the market" once Syria stabilises, spokesman Tim Proll-Gerwe said. Turkey, whose construction industry is active throughout the region, has been angling for business. "Turkey and Saudi Arabia will be the reconstructors of Syria," the chairman of the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce, Abdulrahman Abdullah Al Zamil, told Turkish newspaper Sabah in February. But both countries supported the opposition in Syria, and Assad insists such nations won't get a role in reconstruction, even if they want one. Abd al-Kader Azouz, a consultant to Assad's government, says money can be found from wealthy Syrians, the BRICS group of emerging economies, and multilateral lenders not controlled by the West. Last year, Syria said it had agreed on contracts worth 850 million euros for Russia to rebuild infrastructure. Iran signed accords worth "several hundred million euros" to repair power grids, Press TV reported in September. Russia says it has been promised further contracts to rebuild Syria's energy facilities. Western involvement isn't essential, Putin's top envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, said in an interview in Ankara: "There are Russia, Iran, China, India and many other countries." Still, he acknowledged that Syria's post-war financial needs are "colossal". China, an increasingly close Russian ally, won't meet them all. Qin's association estimates there could be about US$2 billion of investment at this stage. Qin says the companies he is been escorting to Damascus, Homs and Tartus – including China National Heavy Duty Truck Company, whose Hong Kong-listed arm is Sinotruk – are eyeing projects to build roads, bridges, airports and hospitals and restore electricity and communications. That may just be the beginning, because Syria fits into Chinese strategy. The country was a key link on the ancient Silk Road – and President Xi Jinping's most ambitious plan involves building a new one: the multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to weave a Chinese web of trade and transport links across Eurasia and Africa. Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who met his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem in New York in September, said that will be "an important opportunity for bilateral cooperation in future". For all those grand visions, there's an immediate obstacle for Chinese business in Syria, according to Qin. Settlements in dollars and euros are banned, because of US and EU sanctions aimed at cutting Assad's regime off from the world economy. This is an indicator that, without a compromise on Assad's future, Syria is likely to remain partially destroyed for years to come. Robert Ford, who was US ambassador to Damascus during the early years of the war and is now a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington and a Yale professor, said the deals mooted so far are a drop in the ocean. "We're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars," Ford said. "Syria needs billions. It's going to fall well short of what's needed to rebuild the country – which means that the country won't be rebuilt very quickly." ^ top ^

Sri Lanka-China maritime silk road exhibition kicks off in Colombo (Xinhua)
2017-12-20
A Sri Lanka-China exhibition portraying the history and culture of the Maritime Silk Road kicks off at the Colombo National Museum on Wednesday to celebrate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Sri Lanka. Titled "Gone with the Wind and Waves Maritime Silk Road Chinese Cultural Relics Exhibition", the event is organized by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Wayamba Development and Cultural Affairs, the Art Exhibition China and the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka, in a bid to inform the Sri Lankan public of the strong cultural ties shared between the two countries since ancient times. Speaking at the launch of the exhibition, Director of Art Exhibition China Zhou Ming said that the 27 sets exhibited were extremely valuable objects from the collection of two Chinese Maritime Museums. He said the exhibits bear testimony to the glorious history of the China-Sri Lanka maritime silk road and illustrate prominent historical figures including that the Ceylon Prince and Princess. "The year 2017 marks the 60th anniversary of China-Sri Lanka diplomatic relations. This exhibition presented on this memorable occasion will surely play an important role in cementing the bilateral friendship and strengthening the people to people connectivity among countries along the silk road," Zhou said. "We hope this exhibition will continue to honour the China-Sri Lanka friendship and write a new and glorious chapter for our relations," he added. Colombo National Museum Superintendent Ranjith Hewage thanked the Chinese delegation for organizing the event, saying that relations between China and Sri Lanka had only been strengthened since ancient times. ^ top ^

China's flagship TV network has not registered as a foreign agent in US (SCMP)
2017-12-20
Ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in last year's US presidential election have led to increased scrutiny of foreign outlets operating in the United States. RT, the Russian state-backed English-language news organisation, was recently ordered by the US Justice Department to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), but one of China's biggest government-controlled news outlets has not registered its Washington operation. In 2012, China Central Television (CCTV), the Chinese state broadcaster, launched an English-language affiliate headquartered in Washington. CCTV America – recently rebranded as CGTN America – has been described as an attempt by China to spread its soft power globally. Its coverage of US domestic issues is professional and not clearly slanted in one direction or another. But any China-related reports strictly follow Communist Party media guidelines, presenting China as a positive, peaceful force whose geopolitical interests are righteous. While CGTN America has not registered as a foreign agent, a public relations company that worked on behalf of the network's US division did. In late 2011, just ahead of the channel's American launch, CCTV signed a US$15,000-a-month contract with Ogilvy Public Relations to "communicate to the American public that CCTV America will provide compelling, comprehensive, and balanced news programming from an Asian perspective that is relevant to a global audience". In forms filed with the Justice Department in 2012, Ogilvy said CCTV America was supervised, owned, directed, controlled, financed, and subsidised by a foreign principal. For its work on behalf of CCTV, Ogilvy Public Relations declared itself a foreign agent. FARA was first passed in 1938 to counter Nazi propaganda in the US, and it is meant to provide some basic disclosure about an outlet's operations. The law was intended "not to stymie that speech, but to make it so that people could know that it was a foreign government behind that speech", said Ben Freeman, director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the non-profit Centre for International Policy. FARA registration could be onerous to media outlets, Freeman said: "It is a lot of information you have to file. It's a lot of record-keeping." Registration may also interfere with a media outlet's operations. In RT's case, the congressional press office stripped the outlet of its media credentials, which reduces its access to American lawmakers. FARA includes an exception for government-affiliated media outlets that are editorially independent. That is why the British Broadcasting Corporation, which is funded by a foreign government but is not under state editorial control, does not have to register under FARA, but RT America does; the US government says Moscow directs the channel to broadcast anti-American content. An RT spokesman said: "We do not agree with RT America being forced to register under FARA. We have done so because the alternative posed a serious risk to our team and operations." Press freedom organisations have decried the registration requirement, arguing that it gives an excuse for authoritarian regimes to crack down on speech. "We're uncomfortable with governments deciding what constitutes journalism or propaganda," Alexandra Ellerbeck, the North America programme coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said last month. This month, in retaliation for RT's FARA registration, Russia labelled nine US-backed media outlets, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, as foreign agents under a newly amended law. CGTN America is open about its connection to China's state-controlled broadcaster, which carefully follows party guidance for its coverage. When asked about its FARA status, CGTN America declined to comment. Some Chinese government-controlled outlets in the US have already registered. China Daily, a state-run English-language newspaper that is widely available on street corners across the US, first filed under FARA in 1983. A November report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission called for employees of Chinese state-run media outlets to register as foreign agents, citing instances of illegal information-gathering and foreign government influence on public opinion. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman denounced the report as "sheer fiction". It is not clear why the Department of Justice has not yet directed CGTN America to register. "The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act vigorously, to ensure that Americans understand who is acting to influence the US government or public on behalf of a foreign principal," department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said. "When we learn any person or organisation – including a media organisation and regardless of any particular nationality – is engaged in activities within the scope of the statute, the department will take necessary and appropriate measures to ensure compliance with the law." ^ top ^

Donald Trump's national strategy targets China, Russia 'attempting to erode American security and prosperity' (SCMP)
2017-12-19
US President Donald Trump has accused China and Russia of seeking to challenge American power and attempting to erode US security interests, even as the president presses the two countries to contain North Korea's nuclear ambitions. China and Russia challenge American power, influence and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity," Trump said, according to a document of his first national security strategy speech released by the White House about an hour before he delivered it. Trump said the two countries "are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence". The US president also claimed China and Russia are developing "advanced weapons and capabilities" which could threaten the US's "critical infrastructure and our command and control architecture". Trump continued to criticise China's moves in the South China Sea, saying: "[China's] efforts to build and militarise outposts in the South China Sea endanger the free flow of trade, threaten the sovereignty of other nations, and undermine regional stability." Adding to the text that was distributed to the media in advance, Trump said in his speech that the US's security strategy recognises that "we are engaged in a new era of competition". The US "accepted that vigorous military, economic and political contest are now playing out all around the world", the president said. "We also face rival powers, such as Russia and China, that seek to challenge American influence, values and wealth." Trump was quoted in the document as saying: "Our adversaries will not fight us on our terms," although the "adversaries" were not identified. "We will raise our competitive game to meet that challenge, to protect American interests, and to advance our values," he said. He did not give any specifics about those weapons. The president said that although the US seeks to continue to cooperate with China, the Asian nation is using economic inducements and penalties, influence operations and implied military threats to persuade other states to heed its political and security agenda. He vowed to protect US intellectual property rights. US competitors such as China can unfairly tap into the US's innovation pool by stealing its proprietary technology and early-stage ideas, he was quoted in the document. Trump also promised to "go after malicious cyber actors". He accused Russia of using information operations as part of its offensive cyber efforts to influence public opinion across the globe. The president also said the US must compete with China and Russia in infrastructure investment in developing countries where the two nations are expanding their influence, gaining competitive advantages against America. "Competition does not always mean hostility, nor does it inevitably lead to conflict," Trump said, "although none should doubt our commitment to defend our interests". Trump said North Korea seeks the capability to kill millions of Americans with nuclear weapons. "As missiles grow in numbers, types and effectiveness, to include those with greater ranges, they are the most likely means for states like North Korea to use a nuclear weapon against the United States," he was quoted in the document. The longer we ignore threats from countries determined to proliferate and develop weapons of mass destruction, Trump said, the worse such threats become, and the fewer defensive options we have. ^ top ^

Japan's Abe vows to raise Sino-Japanese relationship to "new stage" (Xinhua)
2017-12-19
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday that he wanted to raise the Sino-Japanese relationship to a "new stage," local media reported. According to Japan's Kyodo News, Abe said during a speech in Tokyo that as 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship, he wanted to take this opportunity to deepen high-level exchanges with China and elevate bilateral relations to a "new stage." The Japanese premier has signaled his willingness to improve the Sino-Japanese relationship on a number of occasions recently. Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Abe on Nov. 11 on the sidelines of the 25th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting in Vietnam's central city of Da Nang. During the meeting, Xi said that China and Japan should, while bearing in mind the fundamental interests of the two peoples, correctly grasp the general direction of peace, friendship and cooperation, and work to enable the bilateral relations to keep improving and developing for the better through unremitting efforts and accumulating positive factors. Abe, for his part, said the Japanese side is willing to work with China to push for the development of the strategic mutually-beneficial relationship between the two countries by marking the 40th anniversary of the signing of the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship next year. Japan hopes to increase high-level exchanges with China, carry out reciprocal economic and trade cooperation, and explore cooperation in connectivity and under the Belt and Road Initiative, Abe said. Abe mentioned the Belt and Road Initiative once again at a press conference in Nov. 14 in Manila, the Philippines, on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, saying he hoped the China-proposed initiative will make contribution to world peace and prosperity, and Japan is willing to cooperate with China in this aspect. ^ top ^

Attacks on Chinese students in Australia a reflection of politicians' anti-China attitude (Global Times)
2017-12-20
Chinese consulate-general in Melbourne warned Chinese students in Australia of potential threats to them on Tuesday due to a recent series of attacks against Chinese people across Australia. The incidents have already dampened Australia's image as a safe study destination for Chinese students. "Recently, there have been several cases of assaults and attacks against Chinese students in different parts of Australia," the consulate-general said in a notice posted on its website on Tuesday. "We remind all Chinese overseas students in Australia to be wary of possible safety risks in Australia," the statement said. "Insults on Chinese people are becoming more normal here, not only by those with a lower level of education, but also by various well-educated politicians who are using political prejudice to spread racism, and we can do nothing to stop them. Australia is not as attractive to me now, not the same as before," an anonymous Chinese student studying at the University of Sydney told the Global Times on Tuesday. In announcing new espionage legislation on December 12, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he was concerned about China's influence on Australia's domestic affairs, ABC news reported. "We are just ordinary students who are studying for a degree, and now we are suffering from the consequence caused by their political lies," the anonymous Chinese student said. On October 23, two Chinese students were attacked and injured in Canberra. The two were allegedly attacked after they declined to give cigarettes to at least two local teenagers at a bus interchange. Several Chinese students in Canberra then spoke out that it was one of a series of recent incidents of harassment in the south of the city, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. Chinese students need to keep in mind that Australia is not China, and they should not overestimate the public security of other countries, said Yu Lei, a research fellow at the Oceania Research Center of Sun Yat-sen University. "In China, many teenagers love to eat, drink and have fun outside after midnight and go home at 3am or later, but in Australia, the common knowledge is that you shouldn't stay out too late." "The living standards of Chinese students' are better than some local people, which could also bring about problems. Chinese living in middle or wealthy neighborhoods are probably safer than those Chinese who live in lower class areas" Yu said. In the past, attacks targeted toward Chinese students were quite rare in Australia, but in recent years, with an increase in Chinese students and immigrants in general, attacks have become more common, Yu said. "But we should not conclude that Australian people are anti-Chinese, as it is normal that when the population of a foreign community increases rapidly, there will be some friction with the local community. Indian students and immigrants also experienced a similar situation in Australia before." Unfortunately, the situation has caused some Chinese students to lose confidence in Australia. "If we haven't done anything wrong and we get insulted and attacked only because of our skin color and race, then this society is too unjust, unfair and inhuman," said a Chinese student at the University of Melbourne. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Franco-Chinese couple's fate still unknown a week after Liu Xiaobo tribute unveiled (SCMP)
2017-12-22
A French citizen and her husband have been incommunicado for a week after the couple travelled to southern China to paint a tribute to the late democracy activist and dissident Liu Xiaobo, friends and witnesses said on Friday. Marine Brossard and Hu Jiamin painted a mural at the entrance of a public exhibition in Shenzhen on December 15, but city authorities covered the wall with a banner the same evening, as the South China Morning Post reported on Saturday. Tributes to Liu are censored in China. Brossard is a French national, but Hu's nationality is unclear, a friend who has known them for over five years said. AFP tried to call Hu several times this week, but an automated message said his phone was switched off. The couple had travelled from their home in the French city of Lyon to participate in the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Biennale of Urbanism Architecture. "We have been trying to reach them but we haven't been able to confirm anything," said the friend of the couple, who asked for anonymity due to safety concerns. Their painting depicted an empty blue chair inside a room with red bars, an apparent reference to Liu, who was in prison when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. An empty chair stood symbolically in his place at the ceremony, which infuriated the Communist Party. Liu died from liver cancer in July, making China the first country since Nazi Germany to allow a Nobel Peace Prize laureate to die in state custody. Chinese poet Ye Du, who went to Shenzhen to see the exhibition, said he spoke briefly with Hu after seeing the tribute. "I was shocked to see it. I never imagined that I would see a public commemoration of Liu in China," Ye told AFP. The Shenzhen Public Security Bureau said it did not have information on the couple. The French embassy in Beijing declined to make a statement. ^ top ^

China mulls law on protecting reputation of heroes, martyrs (Xinhua)
2017-12-22
China's top legislature Friday heard a report on the draft law protecting the reputation and honor of heroes and martyrs. Departments including public security, culture, press and cyberspace have a responsibility to protect the reputation and honor of heroes and martyrs in their supervision, according to the draft law. It is a duty of Internet operators to handle in a timely manner online information that infringes on heroes and martyrs, the draft law reads. The draft also features a public litigation system against cases of infringement. The report was submitted for first review to the bi-monthly legislative session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, which opened Friday. ^ top ^

Corruption suspects in China to be given better protection under revised detention system (SCMP)
2017-12-22
China's graft-busters will be required to do more to protect detained suspects, such as informing families and employers within a day of their detention, state media said on Friday, as part of efforts to revise a secret interrogation system. President Xi Jinping has vowed that his war against graft in the ruling Communist Party will not ease until officials at all levels dare not, cannot and do not want to be corrupt. Xi told top party leaders in October that revision of the anti-graft architecture would include the scrapping of a controversial shuanggui system of secret interrogations, and the introduction of a new detention system. Protection for detained suspects has been added to a draft national supervision law under review by the National People's Congress, China's legislature, Xinhua reported. The latest version of the legislation says both families and employers of suspects must by notified within 24 hours of their detention, unless that might result in witness interference or evidence tampering, the report said. Previously, either families or employers needed to be contacted and inspectors could keep a detention a secret if they feared any kind of interference, such as with witnesses or evidence. Physical checks of female suspects would be carried out by female workers under the new rules. Rights groups have welcomed the proposed changes saying the old system allowed abuses and torture, but urged that the new system not simply repackage old ways. The legislation is expected to be passed in March. It will also legally empower a State Supervision Commission to oversee various anti-graft agencies and all civil servants. Under the proposed new rules, assets frozen or seized from suspects and later found to be unrelated to the investigation should be unfrozen or returned within three days, the Xinhua report said. Cases should be thrown out if no evidence of a crime is found, it said. ^ top ^

Man jailed 5½ years, fined US$76,000 for selling VPN in southern China (SCMP)
2017-12-21
A man in southern China was sentenced to 5½ years in prison for selling a virtual private network to bypass internet censorship, amid Beijing's crackdown to enforce its infamous "Great Firewall". Wu Xiangyang, from the Guangxi autonomous region, was also fined 500,000 yuan (US$76,000) in Pingnan county for not holding the proper licence for his VPN business, according to a report on Wednesday in the Procuratorate Daily, the gazette for China's highest prosecution and inspection agency. He was suspected of running the VPN service – which reroutes internet traffic to other locations – from 2013 to June this year, providing software and modified routers to help people access foreign websites restricted in China, the report said. In that time, Wu's business brought in 792,638 yuan in revenue and around 500,000 yuan in "illegal" profits, it said. His VPN was marketed on its own website, popular shopping site Taobao and on social media sites as a service that could access sites restricted on the mainland such as Facebook, Google and Gmail. The website has since been taken down. Taobao is owned by Alibaba, which also owns the South China Morning Post. The company claimed on Twitter in March last year to have 8,000 foreigners and 5,000 businesses using its VPN services to browse websites blocked in China. Wu's sentencing comes after Beijing announced a 14-month "clean-up" campaign in January to clamp down on unauthorised tools used to circumvent internet censorship. VPNs are a popular way of accessing sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and foreign news websites which might carry content that is critical of the ruling Communist Party and cannot be accessed on the mainland. Another man, Deng Jiewei, was sentenced to nine months in jail in March for selling unauthorised VPNs on his website. It is not illegal to sell VPN software in China, but such businesses are required to register with the authorities. Users of these circumvention tools may also be targeted, with Chongqing's government issuing regulations earlier this year that would see individuals fined up to 15,000 yuan for using "illegal channels" to bypass the Great Firewall. China's internet clampdown has had a chilling effect on VPN users, and led domestic providers such as GreenVPN and Haibei VPN to suspend operations earlier this year. ^ top ^

Chinese KMT Revolutionary Committee holds national congress (Xinhua)
2017-12-21
The Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang (RCCK), one of the eight non-Communist political parties on the Chinese mainland, began its 13th national congress Wednesday. Wang Huning, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, delivered a congratulatory letter to the RCCK on behalf of the CPC Central Committee. Wang expressed warm congratulations and greetings to the RCCK and all its members to celebrate the opening of the congress and the RCCK's 70th anniversary since its founding in January 1948. Echoing the spirit of patriotism, revolution and progress of Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Kuomintang Party, the RCCK has always committed to national prosperity and rejuvenation, people's happiness and promoting peaceful reunification of the motherland, said the letter. Wang commended the RCCK for conducting research into and offering important suggestions on peaceful reunification, urbanization, the Belt and Road Initiative, poverty reduction and other issues. "It is a long-term policy of the CPC to give full play to the advantages of the united front, and to strengthen its unity and cooperation with the non-Communist political parties," the letter said. It said the CPC will uphold and improve the system of CPC-led multiparty cooperation and political consultation in accordance with the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress, and will adhere to the principles of long-term coexistence, mutual supervision, sincere treatment of each other, and sharing both the rough times and the smooth. The letter urges RCCK to further promote exchanges across the Taiwan Strait and make greater contribution to the peaceful reunification of the motherland. Wan Exiang delivered a work report on behalf of the 12th central committee of the RCCK. The congress is expected to review and approve an amendment to the RCCK Constitution and elect a new central committee. ^ top ^

Development of human rights takes center stage (China Daily)
2017-12-20
A senior publicity official urged appropriate departments and research institutes to increase their studies into the development of China's human rights under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. Those departments and organizations were urged to further explore China's human rights development patterns and characteristics while summarizing its successful experiences and achievements, Cui Yuying, vice-minister of the State Council Information Office, said on Tuesday. "The central government supports and encourages such studies and research," Cui said at the opening ceremony of a seminar on China's development of human rights in the new era. To this end, a series of symposiums, lectures and related events will be organized and white papers will be published to let the world know more about China's development of human rights in 2018, when the country celebrates the 40th anniversary of its reform and opening-up to the outside world, Cui said. China has made remarkable progress in the development of human rights over the decades, Cui added. Lu Zhi'an, executive vice-director of the National Base for Human Rights Education and Training, said the country has laws and regulations to protect the human rights of the Chinese people. "Functional departments, including police, courts and procuratorates, will function when the human rights of residents have been infringed upon," Lu told China Daily. "Human rights and democracy do not mean only general elections or introduction of multiparty systems, as Western countries are contending," he said. "The best way to protect human rights and popularize democracy is to seek a more suitable path for the country's development and ensure its residents have happy lives," Lu said. Chang Jian, director of the Research Institute of Human Rights and professor at the Zhou Enlai School of Government at Nankai University, said China has made remarkable human rights progress together with the rapid growth of its economy "In addition to improved laws protecting their rights, Chinese people now have compulsory education, social security and medical care systems," he said. Li Xiao, a senior Supreme People's Court judge, said courts at all levels had broadcast more than 404,000 court hearings live online by Nov 3, attracting more than 3 billion viewers. Courts across the mainland had handled 20,027 cases involving requests for State compensation between 2013 and June, she said. ^ top ^

Court jails resident for attacking Muslims (Global Times)
2017-12-19
A court in Shenyang, Northeast China's Liaoning Province sentenced a resident to two years and six months in jail for attacking Islam and Muslims online, a move that experts say is a way to "combat extreme ethnic emotions" amid a rise in anti-Muslims sentiments. The verdict, which was announced in late November by the city's Heping District People's Court, charged Li Zhidong, a Han, with inciting ethnic hatred after he set up a website and online chat groups and posted attacks on Muslims from April 2009 to June 2016. The verdict cited pictures and articles that were said to insult Muslims, Islam, and the prophet Muhammad. The verdict also said that Li's behavior violated the principle of ethnic equality and had a negative impact on society. Li was first detained in September 2009 for inciting ethnic hatred, but was later released on bail, and was arrested again in June 2016, on the same charge, according to the verdict. Li's behavior caused some Hui people in Lanzhou, Gansu Province to lodge a petition to the government and made negative social influence. China's Criminal Law states that anyone found guilty of inciting national enmity or discrimination, in serious circumstances, can be sentenced to serve time up to three years in prison. Resentment and fears of Muslims have been on the rise on China's Internet in recent years. While most recent terrorist attacks have mostly taken place in Europe and the US, and been mostly linked with Muslims or people who were greatly influenced by Islamic religion, these attacks made them stand out more, Xiong Kunxin, a Minzu University of China professor in Beijing, told the Global Times. There are also complaints in China which also target the country's partial policies toward ethnic minorities, especially Muslim groups for the sake of social stability. "This is completely in accordance with the law and will provide a lesson for others on not mouthing abusive comments on people of any ethnic group," Shen Guiping, a religious expert at the Central Institute of Socialism in Beijing told the Global Times on Monday. "Most Muslims in China are strongly against terrorism and support China's unity and stability," said a Chinese expert on religion who requested anonymity, stressing Islamophobia should be by no means tolerated in China. Although officially atheist, China also protects its residents' rights to practice their religion. The government has done a great deal in promoting ethnic unity and preventing the spread of anti-Muslim sentiments in recent years. It assisted 12,800 Muslims in making the pilgrimage to Mecca this year and closed streets for Muslims to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. China's top legislature adopted a Cybersecurity Law in 2016, stating that any online activity that undermines national unity is against the law, which also forbids acts that incite ethnic hatred or discrimination or spread violent and obscene content. China has 20 million Muslims, according to the 2013 population census, the Xinhua News Agency said. ^ top ^

Chinese artist who documented migrant evictions in Beijing released on bail (SCMP)
2017-12-18
Beijing-based artist Hua Yong has been released on bail after being detained for his work documenting the mass eviction of migrant workers from the Chinese capital, his friends said on Twitter on Monday. The artist had been "criminally detained on suspicion of 'gathering a crowd to disrupt traffic'", according to a tweet from his friend Li Huaping that included a photo of the artist with his three-year-old daughter and friends. Hua arrived in Chengdu, capital of southwestern Sichuan province, from Beijing on Monday evening, it said, adding that he had been released on bail and was about to celebrate his daughter's birthday. In the weeks before his detention, Hua had uploaded dozens of videos on YouTube and Chinese social media platform WeChat documenting the destruction of migrant neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Beijing. He set up the YouTube account only two weeks ago, but his videos have since been viewed tens of thousands of times and some have been translated by others into English. Hua was taken from a friend's home in the northern city of Tianjin in the early hours of Saturday after fleeing Beijing to evade police, friends said earlier. Lawyer Wang Wanqiong said Hua would have to regularly report back to police while on bail, for up to a year, until they decided whether to press ahead with the charge. In his videos, usually shot with a selfie stick, Hua took viewers into recently demolished migrant neighbourhoods and recorded his conversations with displaced low-income workers. In one he walks between heaps of rubble, gesturing around him and saying: "The sky is very blue today. But look at what's behind me – all ruined in an instant." On Friday night, Hua posted several videos on his Twitter account titled "They're here". In the films he said police were at the door and he would soon have to leave with them. "Daddy is using these last minutes to sing you a song, 'Happy birthday to you' … Daddy wants our country to be better. It should be just, fair, free and democratic with free speech," Hua said, addressing his daughter. Hundreds of millions of migrants who moved from the countryside to the cities fuelled China's dramatic economic boom of recent decades. But some are no longer welcome in overcrowded Beijing, which is seeking to cap its population at 23 million by 2020 and demolish 40 million square metres of illegal structures – mostly shops and homes for migrants – by the end of the year. Authorities argue that they need to clear dangerous buildings after a fire killed 19 people last month. A blaze in another migrant area killed five people last week. Fire safety is a major problem in the city's cheap migrant housing, which often has poor electrical wiring and an absence of emergency exits. But the brutal efficiency of the demolitions and mass evictions has provoked an unusual public outcry that has put officials on edge. ^ top ^

Ten drug dealers, murders executed following open-air stadium trial (Global Times)
2017-12-17
Ten criminals were tried at a local sports stadium, sentenced to death and immediately taken away and executed in South China's Guangdong Province on Saturday. Twelve people stood trial in the open-air court in front of thousands of spectators by two courts - the Shanwei Intermediate People's Court and Lufeng People's Court in Guangdong Province, The Beijing News reported on Saturday. The 12 suspects who were charged with drug dealing and murder had their trials heard at a local sports stadium in the city of Lufeng, which has a reputation of being China's major drug workshop. Video clips posted by The Beijing News on its official Weibo account showed each accused being paraded into the stadium in Donghai Township in Lufeng in the back of a modified police pickup truck, surrounded by four armed police officers. The stadium was filled with thousands of local residents who came to watch the open trial. One by one the suspects stood handcuffed on a prisoner's dais on the running track. The ten who were sentenced to death were taken away and immediately executed, according to The Beijing News. Guangdong is China's largest producer of methamphetamine. Xinhua News Agency reported that more than a third of the methamphetamine consumed in China was made in villages around Lufeng. Several such open trials have been held in Lufeng in recent years. In June 2015, 13 suspects were sentenced to death for drug trafficking in a public trial that was watched by more 10,000 local residents in Lufeng. Xinhua reported that local authorities hope the public sentencing will showcase the government's hard line on drugs. ^ top ^

Facts and Figures on China's military reform (Xinhua)
2017-12-19
This winter marks the second anniversary of the launch of China's reform of its armed forces. Here's a list of facts and figures on the historic breakthroughs. -- Four general departments at military headquarters were reorganized into 15 agencies within the Central Military Commission (CMC). One-third of the personnel were cut. -- Five theater commands were established to replace the previous seven military area commands. -- A new military structure has been established with the CMC exercising overall leadership, while the theater commands are responsible for military operations and the services focus on developing capabilities. -- After remarkable downsizing of the ground forces, the army now accounts for less than 50 percent of the armed forces. -- Over 1,000 units at the regiment level or above and 30 percent of commissioned officers were cut during the reform. -- Seventy-seven military education institutions were regrouped to 43, including a strengthened National University of Defense Technology. -- New laws and regulations on military issues have been introduced or amended, including a revised regulation on civilian personnel in the military released on Nov. 10, 2017. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Tibet to build more funeral homes (Global Times)
2017-12-18
Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region will build five funeral homes and renovate two by 2020, as cremation is increasingly accepted by Tibetan people. The projects are expected to cost 370 million yuan (56 million US dollars), including four new funeral homes planned in Nyingchi, Shannan cities and Nagqu, Ali prefectures, according to the regional civil affairs department. Each new facility will cost 60 million yuan. In addition, a funeral parlour in Xigaze City, with investment of 50 million yuan, is under construction. Two existing parlors in the regional capital of Lhasa and Qamdo will be expanded, due to growing local demand for cremation. The facility in Lhasa opened in 2000 and had cremated nearly 10,000 bodies by the end of last year, with a quarter being ethnic Tibetans. The lobby of the funeral home will be refurbished in the Tibetan style. "It will help locals accept cremation," said deputy head of the parlor, Purbu Zhaxi. Sky burials, in which bodies are fed to vultures and other predatory birds, are practiced in about 80 percent of Tibetan funerals. They are regarded as an act of generosity and a ritual that allows the soul to ascend to heaven. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang authorities bust online terrorism cases (Global Times)
2017-12-20
The authorities in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region busted 10 cases and detained 14 men for spreading extremist and illegal content online in October and November. Among the 10 cases, five suspects were found to have spread violent terrorism videos. Three of them were found to have spread images and audios promoting religious extremism. Four were found to have incited racial hatred, according to the report issued by the Xinjiang cyberspace administration office released via its official WeChat account on Tuesday. One man spread fake reports of terrorism and the other spread fake political speeches. Two Uyghur men were detained for saving violent terrorism-related videos on their phones and were accused of showing the videos to others. These people spread information online relating to terrorism, violence, religious extremism and separatism as well as rumors, fake news, insults and defamatory statements, according to the administration. Nine men were in criminal detention and five others were under administrative detention, the report said. Six were Uyghur people, three Han and five Kazak. Suspects involved were aged from 22 to 52. Releasing information about cases will help ordinary people know about and thus protect them from online illegal content, Li Wei, a counter-terrorism expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times. The authorities have encouraged the public to report illegal online content to the police. People who report illegal behavior online will be rewarded, the office said. Xinjiang is a region that faces a severe threat from terrorism and extremism via foreign forces, Li said, adding that Xinjiang authorities, however, have managed to keep Xinjiang stable and safe in 2017 through exposing illegal cases and other measures. This was the ninth report of illegal online cases that Xinjiang authorities released in 2017. Authorities in Xinjiang issued a notice in March 2014 that forbids using cellphones, computers and mobile storage devices to make, send, play, copy, transfer or save audio and video clips that are explicit in promoting terror. Xinjiang adopted its own regulation based on China's Anti-Terrorism Law in 2016, giving detailed instructions on how to deal with terrorist activities. ^ top ^

Thought police create climate of fear in China's tense Xinjiang region (SCMP)
2017-12-17
Nobody knows what happened to the Uygur student after he returned to China from Egypt and was taken away by police. Not his village neighbours in China's far west, who haven't seen him in months. Not his former classmates, who fear Chinese authorities beat him to death. Not his mother, who lives in a two-storey house at the far end of a country road, alone behind walls bleached by the desert sun. She opened the door one afternoon for an unexpected visit by Associated Press reporters, who showed her a picture of a handsome young man posing in a park, one arm in the wind. "Yes, that's him," she said as tears began streaming down her face. "This is the first time I've heard anything of him in seven months. What happened? "Is he dead or alive?" The student's friends think he joined the thousands – possibly tens of thousands – of people, rights groups and academics estimate, who have been spirited without trial into secretive detention camps for alleged political crimes that range from having extremist thoughts to merely travelling or studying abroad. The mass disappearances, beginning the past year, are part of a sweeping effort by Chinese authorities to use detentions and data-driven surveillance to impose a digital police state in the region of Xinjiang and over its Uygurs – a 10-million strong, Turkic-speaking Muslim minority that Beijing says has been influenced by Islamic extremism. Along with the detention camps, unprecedented levels of police blanket Xinjiang's streets. Cutting-edge digital surveillance systems track where Uygurs go, what they read, who they talk to and what they say. And under an opaque system that treats practically all Uygurs as potential terror suspects, Uygurs who contact family abroad risk questioning or detention. The campaign has been led by Chen Quanguo, a Communist Party official, who was promoted in 2016 to head Xinjiang after subduing another restive region – Tibet. Chen vowed to hunt down Uygur separatists blamed for attacks that have left hundreds dead, saying authorities would "bury terrorists in the ocean of the people's war and make them tremble". Through rare interviews with Uygurs who recently left China, a review of government procurement contracts and unreported documents, and a trip through southern Xinjiang, the AP pieced together a picture of Chen's war that's ostensibly rooting out terror – but instead instilling fear. Most of the more than a dozen Uygurs interviewed for this story spoke on condition of anonymity for fear that Chinese authorities would punish them or their family members. The AP is withholding the student's name and other personal information to protect people who fear government retribution. Chen and the Xinjiang regional government did not respond to repeated requests for comment. But China's government describes its Xinjiang security policy as a "strike hard" campaign that's necessary following a series of attacks in 2013 and 2014, including a mass knifing in a train station that killed 33. A Hotan city propaganda official, Bao Changhui, told the AP: "If we don't do this, it will be like several years ago – hundreds will die." China also says the crackdown is only half the picture. It points to decades of heavy economic investment and cultural assimilation programmes and measures like preferential college admissions for Uygurs. Officials say the security is needed now more than ever because Uygur militants have been fighting alongside Islamic extremists in Syria. But Uygur activists and international human rights groups argue that repressive measures are playing into the hands of the likes of al-Qaeda, which has put out Uygur-language recruiting videos condemning Chinese oppression. "So much hate and desire for revenge are building up," said Rukiye Turdush, a Uygur activist in Canada. "How does terrorism spread? When people have nowhere to run." Thought police: The government has referred to its detention programme as "vocational training", but its main purpose appears to be indoctrination. A memo published online by the Xinjiang human resources office described cities, including Korla, beginning "free, completely closed-off, militarised" training sessions in March that last anywhere from three months to two years. Uygurs study "Mandarin, law, ethnic unity, deradicalisation, patriotism" and abide by the "five togethers" – live, do drills, study, eat and sleep together. In a rare state media report about the centres, a provincial newspaper quoted a farmer who said after weeks of studying inside he could spot the telltale signs of religious extremism by how a person dressed or behaved and also profess the Communist Party's good deeds. An instructor touted their "gentle, attentive" teaching methods and likened the centres to a boarding school dorm. But in Korla, the institutions appeared more daunting, at least from the outside. The city had three or four well-known centres with several thousand students combined, said a 48-year-old local resident from the Han ethnic majority. One centre the AP visited was, in fact, labelled a jail. Another was downtown on a street sealed off by rifle-toting police. A third centre, the local Han resident said, was situated on a nearby military base. While forced indoctrination has been reported throughout Xinjiang, its reach has been felt far beyond China's borders. In April, calls began trickling into a Uygur teacher's academy in Egypt, vague but insistent. Uygur parents from a few towns were pleading with their sons and daughters to return to China, but they wouldn't say why. "The parents kept calling, crying on the phone," the teacher said. Chinese authorities had extended the scope of the programme to Uygur students abroad. And Egypt, once a sanctuary for Uygurs to study Islam, began deporting scores of Uygurs to China. Sitting in a restaurant outside Istanbul where many students had fled, four recounted days of panic as they hid from Egyptian and Chinese authorities. One jumped out a window running from police. Another slept in a car for a week. Many hid with Egyptian friends. "We were mice, and the police were cats," said a student from Urumqi, Xinjiang's regional capital. All who returned were intensely grilled about what they did in Egypt and viewed as potential terror suspects, the students said. Many were believed held in the new indoctrination camps, while some were sentenced to longer prison sentences. The young man from Korla rarely went out in the two years he spent studying Islam in Egypt. He played some soccer – a beloved sport among Uygurs – but wasn't particularly athletic or popular. Instead, he kept to himself in an apartment that he kept fastidiously clean, steeped in his studies at the revered Al-Azhar University, the 1,000-year-old seat of learning in Sunni Islam. He freely discussed Koranic verses with his Uygur friends but mostly avoided politics, one friend said. He spoke of one day pursuing a PhD in comparative religion. "He had big dreams," said the friend who is now hiding in Turkey to avoid being sent to China. "He wanted to be a religious scholar, which he knew was impossible in China, but he also wanted to stay close to his mother in Korla." He was fluent in Arabic and also in Chinese. When they huddled around a smartphone to watch a Taiwanese tear-jerker about a boy separated from his mother, he would be the one weeping first. When homesickness got to him, he would tell his friends about how his mother doted on him, and about Korla and the big house he grew up in. And when he gets married, God willing, he would say, he would start a family in that house, too. "If my wife doesn't agree, then we don't marry," he declared. He returned to China when he was called back in 2016 and taken away in February, according to three students and a teacher from Cairo. They say they heard from reliable sources in China – but cannot prove – that he died in detention. Show of force: Southern Xinjiang, the vast desert basin from where many of the students came, is one of the most heavily policed places on earth. Deep in the desert's southern rim, the oasis town of Hotan is a microcosm of how Chen, the Xinjiang party boss, has combined fearsome optics with invisible policing. He has ordered police depots with flashing lights and foot patrols be built every 500 metres – a total of 1,130, according to the Hotan government. The AP saw cavalcades of more than 40 armoured vehicles including full personnel carriers rumble down city boulevards. Police checkpoints on every other block stop cars to check identification and smartphones for religious content. Shopkeepers in the thronging bazaar don mandatory armoured vests and helmets to sell hand-pulled noodles, tailored suits and baby clothes. Xinjiang's published budget data from January to August shows public security spending this year is on track to increase 50 per cent from 2016 to roughly 45 billion yuan (US$6.8 billion) after rising 40 per cent a year ago. It has quadrupled since 2009, a watershed year when a Uygur riot broke out in Xinjiang, leaving nearly 200 members of China's Han ethnic majority dead, and security began to ratchet up. Adrian Zenz, a researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology who tracks Chinese public security staffing levels based on its recruiting ads, says Xinjiang is now hiring 40 times more police per capita than populous Guangdong province. "Xinjiang has very likely exceeded the level of police density seen in East Germany just before its collapse," Zenz said. "What we've seen in the last 12 to 14 months is unprecedented." But much of the policing goes unseen. To enter the Hotan bazaar, shoppers first pass through metal detectors and then place their national identification cards on a reader while having their face scanned. The facial scanner is made by China Electronics Technology Group (CETC), a state-owned defence contractor that has spearheaded China's fast-growing field of predictive policing with Xinjiang as its test bed. The AP found 27 CETC bids for Xinjiang government contracts, including one soliciting a facial recognition system for facilities and centres in Hotan prefecture. Hours after visiting the Hotan bazaar, AP reporters were stopped outside a hotel by a police officer who said the Public Security Bureau had been remotely tracking the reporters' movements. "There are tens of thousands of cameras here," said the officer, who gave his name as Tushan. "The moment you took your first step in this city, we knew." The government's tracking efforts have extended to vehicles, genes and even voices. In February, authorities in Xinjiang's Bayingol prefecture, which includes Korla, required every car to install GPS trackers for real-time monitoring. And since late last year, Xinjiang authorities have required health checks to collect the population's DNA samples. In May, a regional police official told the AP that Xinjiang had purchased US$8.7 million in DNA scanners – enough to analyse several million samples a year. In one year, Kashgar prefecture, which has a population of 4 million, has carried out mandatory checks for practically its entire population, said Yang Yanfeng, deputy director of Kashgar's propaganda department. She characterised the check-ups as a public health success story, not a security measure. "We take comprehensive blood tests for the good of the people, not just record somebody's height and weight," Yang said. "We find out health issues in citizens even they didn't know about." A biometric data collection programme appears to have been formalised last year under "Document No 44", a regional public security directive to "comprehensively collect three-dimensional portraits, voiceprints, DNA and fingerprints." The document's full text remains secret, but the AP found at least three contracts referring to the 2016 directive in recent purchase orders for equipment such as microphones and voice analysers. Meiya Pico, a security and surveillance company, has won 11 bids in the last six months alone from local Xinjiang jurisdictions. It won a joint bid with a DNA analysis company for 4 million yuan in Kargilik and has sold software that automatically scans smartphones for "terror-related pictures and videos" to Yarkent. Meiya and CETC declined to comment. Prying eyes: To monitor Xinjiang's population, China has also turned to a familiar low-tech tactic: recruiting the masses. When a Uygur businessman from Kashgar completed a six-month journey to flee China and landed in the United States with his family in January, he was initially ecstatic. He tried calling home, something he had not done in months to spare his family unwanted police questioning. His mother told him his four brothers and his father were in prison because he fled China. She was spared only because she was frail. Since 2016, local authorities had assigned 10 families including theirs to spy on one another in a new system of collective monitoring, and those families had also been punished because he escaped. Members from each were sent to re-education centres for three months, he told the AP. "It's worse than prison," he said. "At least in prison you know what's happening to you. But there you never know when you get accused. It could be any time." A document obtained by US-based activists and reviewed by the AP shows Uygur residents in the Hebei Road West neighbourhood in Urumqi being graded on a 100-point scale. Those of Uygur ethnicity are automatically docked 10 points. Being aged between 15 and 55, praying daily, or having a religious education, all result in 10 point deductions. In the final columns, each Uygur resident's score is tabulated and checked "trusted", "ordinary" or "not trusted". Activists say they anecdotally hear about Uygurs with low scores being sent to indoctrination. At the neighbourhood police office, a woman who gave her surname as Tao confirmed that every community committee in Urumqi, not just Hebei Road West, needed to conduct similar assessments. She said there were no statistics on how many residents had been deemed "not trusted" nor were there official procedures to deal with them. "What is happening is every single Uygur is being considered a suspect of not just terrorism but also political disloyalty," said Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch who is studying how Chinese police are using technology to track political dissidents as well as Uygurs. This month, Xinjiang announced it would require every government employee in the region to move into a Uygur home for a week to teach families about ideology and avoiding extremism. What pains most, Uygurs abroad say, is the self-imposed barrier of silence that separates them from loved ones – making efforts to say happy birthday or find out whether a relative is detained risky. When Salih Hudayar, an American Uygur graduate student, last called his 70-something grandfather this summer, he spoke in cryptic but reassuring tones. "Our phones will not work any more," his grandfather said. "So, don't try calling and don't worry about us. We'll be fine as long as you're all fine." He later heard from a cousin in Kyrgyzstan that his grandfather had been sent to re-education. A Uygur student who moved to Washington following the crackdown this summer said that after his move, his wife, a government worker still in Urumqi, messaged to say the police would show up at her home in 20 minutes. She had to say goodbye: after that she would delete him permanently from her contacts list. A month later he received calls on WhatsApp from a man who introduced himself as Ekber, a Uygur official from the international cooperation office of the Xinjiang regional Public Security Bureau, who wanted him to work for them in the US – and warned him against saying no. "If you're not working for us then you're working for someone else. That's not a road you want to take," he snapped. A week after that, he couldn't help himself placing one last call home. His daughter picked up. "Mum is sick but she doesn't want me to speak to you. Goodbye," she said. Unanswered questions: For the past year, Chen's war has meant mass detentions, splintered families, lives consumed by uncertainty. It has meant that a mother sometimes can't get an answer a simple question about her son – is he dead or alive? A short drive from Korla, beyond peach plantations that stretch for miles, the al-Azhar student's mother still lives in the big house that he loved. When the AP arrived unannounced, she said she had not received any court notices or reasons about why her son and his father were suddenly taken months earlier. She declined an interview. "I want to talk, I want to know," she said through a translator. "But I'm too afraid." AP reporters were later detained by police, interrogated for 11 hours, and accused of "illegal reporting" in the area without seeking prior permission from the Korla government. "The subjects you're writing about do not promote positive energy," a local propaganda official explained. Five villagers said they knew authorities had taken away the young student; one said he was definitely alive, the others weren't sure. When asked, local police denied he existed at all. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Young people still divided on Hong Kong government's push to increase youth participation in policy advice (SCMP)
2017-12-21
Young people in Hong Kong remained divided on the government's new initiative to increase youth representation in advisory committees, with less than half of them saying it would boost their trust in the administration, according to survey findings released on Thursday by a local NGO. The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, which oversees more than 70 service units in the city, polled 525 young people in a survey based on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's new policy to recruit more young committee members. The federation found that 46.3 per cent of respondents said their trust in the government would be raised from such measures, while 40 per said there would be no impact. In her maiden policy address on October 11, Lam pledged to raise to 15 per cent the proportion of young members, aged between 18 and 35 years, in government committees and policy research units. The recruitment exercise for 11 young members for five groups – Action Committee Against Narcotics; Committee on Innovation, Technology and Re-industrialisation; Committee on the Promotion of Civic Education; Environmental Campaign Committee; and Youth Development Commission – closed last month. The group's third annual study also revealed that 63.4 per cent of young people aged between 15 and 35 years did not trust the government, compared with 66.4 per cent in 2016 and 63.4 in 2015. Questions in face-to-face interviews conducted at MTR stations and bus terminals in early November included: "Overall, how much do you trust the Hong Kong government?" Respondents were also asked how much they felt the government trusted young people. Some 70.8 per cent of respondents gave a negative answer. Up to 80 per cent said the lack of mutual trust between the administration and the public was a major obstacle to governance. When asked what they did not trust about the administration, most respondents – 31.4 per cent – pointed to "ability to grasp public opinion", followed by "ability to communicate with the public" at 28.2 per cent. Some 29.3 per cent said they trusted the government's "ability in managing public finance". Ansel Lam Chi-ho, convenor of Youth I.D.E.A, the group's internal think tank, which conducted the study, said there was no obvious trend in the level of trust young people had for the government over the past three years. Lam urged authorities to be more creative in communicating with the public. "The government should consider using infographics to explain their new policies and have each bureau hold annual presentations to explain to the public the outcome of their work," Lam said. He also suggested that authorities establish a centralised platform to put together information from all public consultations, as opposed to the current arrangement where details are posted on the websites of individual departments or bureaus. "Trust is a perception … It takes a long time to build but a short while to break," he said. ^ top ^

Pressure increases on Hong Kong leader to enact controversial national security law (SCMP)
2017-12-20
The pressure to enact national security legislation in Hong Kong is piling as the man tipped to be the next sole local delegate to the mainland's top legislative body called on the chief executive to work on Article 23 of the city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, within her term. His comments came after Beijing last month signalled its impatience with Hong Kong for making no progress in rolling out the law, suggesting the city is already paying the price with independence advocates exploiting the lack of such legislation. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also said during her three-day maiden duty visit to Beijing that she would do her best to create a favourable environment to enact the highly contentious national security legislation, adding that Beijing knew her stance on the matter. Speaking on a radio programme on Wednesday, Tam Yiu-chung, a newly elected member to the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's legislature, said that with the current government having more than four years left in office, it should work on the controversial law and not just pass it on to the next administration. But he said that was no need for an exact timeline at the moment. The article states that Hong Kong "shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion" against the central government. Tam, a former chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the city's largest pro-establishment political party, is tipped to replace Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, who is retiring as a member of the NPC standing committee, which holds the power to interpret the Basic Law. He said the independence movement, which has been growing in popularity over the past few years, also made it necessary to enact the law. "A lot of people have been openly advocating independence these few years, this will harm Hong Kong," Tam said. "So we need some laws to prevent this from happening, as the laws we have now are not comprehensive." He added that the legislation is not to limit the freedoms and rights of the public, but rather to target those who want to use Hong Kong to overthrow China or split the country. Last month, Li Fei, a senior mainland official who specialises in the Basic Law, made clear that "the duty is unavoidable". But critics have said that the law would be a threat to civil liberties. While Lam said she had not discussed enacting Article 23 with President Xi Jinping when they met last week, she stressed that it is Hong Kong's constitutional responsibility to enact Article 23 through local legislation. In 2003, the government was forced to scrap a plan to enact the national security law after half a million people took to the streets. During the programme, Tam also said that he would be willing to serve as a member of the NPC standing committee, a position he has been widely tipped for. He said that after stepping down from Hong Kong's Legislative Council, he has more time on hand and would be willing to contribute more to the country and the city. He noted that he would need to get the support of most of the other 35 local members to the NPC, adding that they have not discussed the issue yet. On recent amendments made to Legco's rules of procedure proposed by the pro-establishment bloc, Tam said the standing committee might not interpret the law even if there is a judicial review filed. Changes to the rule book include one requiring fewer lawmakers to be present for certain types of Legco meetings to go ahead. ^ top ^

 

Macau

Macao marks 18th anniversary of returning to China (Xinhua)
2017-12-20
Tens of thousands of Macao people participated in a series of activities and events to celebrate Macao's 18th anniversary of returning to China and the establishment of Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) on Wednesday. The SAR government started a flag-raising ceremony at 8:00 a.m. local time at the Golden Lotus Square, with Macao's leading officials, discipline forces and local residents participating in the event. Two formations of Public Security Forces of Macao took the national flag and the Macao SAR flag to the two flag poles. Then the two flags were hoisted to the national anthem in front of the audience of over 1,000 people and honor guards from Macao's police officers, firefighters and custom officers. People's Liberation Army Macao Garrison at region also held a flag-raising ceremony in the morning. Following the ceremonies was a reception event held at Macao Tower Convention and Entertainment Center which was decorated by ribbons of red and yellow, the colors of China's national flag. About 700 representatives from all sectors of society in Macao attended the reception to celebrate the 18th anniversary of establishment of Macao SAR. SAR Chief Executive Chui Sai On said in his speech that the government was cautiously optimistic about Macao's economic outlook, highlighting that the SAR has a stable economy, healthy public finances and a low unemployment rate. He also stressed the importance of adhering to the "one country" principle while taking advantage of the benefits offered by the "two systems" model and by the integration of Macao's development with that of the country as a whole. During the day, Macao also held a special flower show organized by the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau at Taipa Houses. It features more than 50,000 winter and festive blooms which will on display until Jan. 7, 2018. The Macao Post and Telecommunications Bureau offered a commemorative postmarking service to the public to celebrate the 18th anniversary. At 9:00 p.m. local time, a fantastic firework show was put up by the tourism office on the waterfront near Macao Tower. Thousands of tourists and local residents went to the beach to watch the show. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Beijing jails 44 Taiwanese deported from Kenya for telecoms fraud (SCMP)
2017-12-21
A Beijing court on Thursday handed down jail sentences of up to 15 years for telecoms fraud to 50 people who were deported from Kenya, including 44 from self-ruled Taiwan. Taiwan's government criticised the case, saying Beijing had ignored vital evidence. Over the past two years countries including Kenya, Spain, Vietnam and Cambodia have deported hundreds of people from Taiwan to mainland China for telecoms fraud, sparking accusations from Taipei that Beijing was effectively kidnapping its citizens. Beijing has defended the deportations, saying the crimes were committed against people on the mainland and that as Taiwan is a part of China it was natural that foreign governments should send these people to the mainland rather than Taiwan. In a brief statement, the Beijing court said that the 50 were given jail terms ranging from one year and nine months to 15 years and had also been given unspecified fines. It did not give specific details of the sentences for the 44 people from Taiwan. The cases were tried in two separate batches. Taiwan's China policymaking Mainland Affairs Council said Taiwan and the mainland had initially agreed to cooperate in investigating the Kenya case, but Beijing had gone back on its word. The outside world could only believe justice had been done if the case had fully considered all the evidence and gone through proper legal procedure, the council added. "In this case, we obtained intelligence on the criminal suspects behind the scenes," it said. "We again call on the mainland China side to cooperate with our public security organs, investigate the origins and not allow the masterminds behind the scenes to get away with it." On at least two occasions last year Kenya deported groups of Taiwanese to mainland China. In one case, a Kenyan magistrate said the Taiwanese should be repatriated to their place of origin, Taiwan, but the Kenyan government sent them to the mainland. Kenya, like most countries, only has diplomatic relations with Beijing. Beijing considers democratic Taiwan a wayward province, ineligible for formal ties with other nations. Mainland authorities have sought to contain an explosion of telecoms crime it says has led to huge financial losses, with callers often impersonating officials or authority figures and preying on the elderly, students or the unemployed. The fraud has spread overseas, with Chinese speakers recruited in neighbouring Taiwan increasingly setting up operations in East Africa or Southeast Asia. The deportations have come as relations between Beijing and Taipei have deteriorated, with Beijing suspecting Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen of pushing for the island's formal independence. She says she wants to maintain peace with mainland China but will defend Taiwan's security and democracy. ^ top ^

Beijing accuses Taipei of persecuting political opponents, conniving with separatists (SCMP)
2017-12-20
Beijing has expressed its strong opposition and concern after the Taiwanese government began a probe into a tiny but passionately pro-mainland opposition party for national security reasons, the latest flashpoint between China's mainland and the self-ruled island. Taiwanese investigators on Tuesday searched the homes of four officials from the New Party, which has no members of parliament, on suspicion they had violated the National Security Act. A New Party delegation, including at least one of those whose homes were raided, party spokesman Wang Ping-chung, visited the mainland last week as part of a scheduled trip to meet China's policymaking Taiwan Affairs Office. The New Party has denounced the raids as politically motivated, although Taiwanese prosecutors and the government have not given details of what they are suspected of. Party chairman Yok Mu-ming said he wondered how such a small party with no legislators could be considered to have any secrets, and said that they had nothing to fear from the investigation, Taiwanese media reported. In a short statement released late on Tuesday, the Taiwan Affairs Office praised the New Party for its stance in opposing Taiwan's independence and upholding the one-China principle, which states that Taiwan is part of China. "Recently, the Taiwanese authorities have shielded and connived with independent splittists, and taken various moves to wantonly crack down on and persecute forces and people who uphold peaceful reunification," it said. "We strongly condemn this and are paying close attention to developments." The New Party broke off from the Kuomintang, who once ruled all of China, in 1993. Defeated Kuomintang forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists. Relations between Beijing and Taipei have soured since Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won presidential elections last year. Beijing suspects she wants to push for Taiwan's formal independence. Tsai says she wants to maintain peace with the mainland but will defend Taiwan's security. The People's Liberation Army has stepped up air force patrols around Taiwan in recent weeks. Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring what it considers a wayward province under Chinese control. ^ top ^

Increased military drills suggest mainland China is preparing to strike against Taiwan, experts say (SCMP)
2017-12-18
The recent increase in military exercises focused on Taiwan suggests mainland China is gearing up to take over the self-ruled island by force, a military expert said on Monday. On Sunday, the People's Liberation Army released a video of an H-6K bomber accompanied by two Su-30 fighter jets conducting "encirclement" patrols close to the island. The film's publication came less than a week after the mainland's air force released footage of a team of warplanes conducting similar exercises near to Taiwan. "The recent 'island encirclement' patrols are very unusual," Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said. "The air force is conducting very practical and well-planned patrols near Taiwan to collect up-to-date military intelligence." While naval and air patrols in the region are nothing new, in the past they were mostly symbolic, Wang said. "But now, the mainland is deploying old and new generations of surveillance planes, fighter jets and other aircraft … indicating the PLA is stepping up its preparations for war against Taiwan." Besides the patrols by the bomber and fighters, Taiwan's defence ministry said on Monday that it spotted two PLA Yun-8 transport planes conducting long-haul flights near Taiwan between Sunday and Monday. Despite being classed as transport planes, several Yun-8s in the mainland's air force are equipped for intelligence gathering. In a more overt move, the PLA last month flew its largest reconnaissance aircraft, the Tu-154, close to Taiwan. The Tu-154, which is equipped with a synthetic-aperture radar, is able to survey and map Taiwan's military bases, which will be very useful if Beijing launches a military strike against Taipei," Wong said. Ever since Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist troops fled to Taiwan in 1949, after losing the civil war to Mao Zedong's Communist forces, Beijing has considered the self-ruling island to be a wayward province. As such, it has never renounced the use of force to bring it back under its control. Moreover, the island has a huge strategic importance for mainland China as it lies in the middle of its route to the Pacific Ocean. It is therefore of little wonder that the Taiwan Strait has become the PLA's primary exercise ground, another military expert said. "Taiwan is the key obstacle for the PLA to reaching the Western Pacific because it's part of the 'first island chain', which contains the [Chinese] mainland," Beijing-based military commentator Zhou Chenming said. The chain is a series of archipelagos lying between China and the world's largest ocean that Beijing says has been used by the United States as a natural barrier to contain it since the cold war. During the military exercises held on December 11, PLA aircraft flew through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, and the Miyako Strait near the Japanese island of Okinawa. A spokesperson said the following day that the flights were proof of mainland China's ability to break the first island chain. While the scale and range of the PLA's latest drills are undoubted evidence of its growing capabilities and confidence, Andrew Yang Nien-dzu, secretary general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies in Taipei, said that the mainland's air force still had some way to go before it could consider itself capable of engaging in "real battles", as would be the case if it launched a strike against Taiwan. "The intensive encirclement patrols show the PLA is on its way to becoming a combat-ready fighting force," he said. "[But] Taiwan still has the air defence capability to counter any air strike from the mainland." Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said that the increased focus on Taiwan had probably been triggered by the unstable political situation on the island. There had also been growing signals that both the United States and Japan would support the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party's attempts at secession, he said. "The PLA's ultimate rivals are the US and Japan, with the US playing a key role behind the scenes on cross-strait issues," Li said. On December 11, the Taipei-based Central News Agency reported that Taiwan had asked Japan for its support as it seeks to join the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership – the regional trade agreement that succeeded the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the departure of the US. "The mainland needs to update all of its military intelligence on Taiwan, including how many stealth fighter jets and strategic bombers it has, as well as any US and Japanese military deployments in the Western Pacific region," Li said. "Conducting intensive patrols around Taiwan is an essential part of the PLA's preparations for any possible warlike operations in the future." ^ top ^

Is Taiwan trying to erase links to mainland China, or forget a bloody past? (SCMP)
2017-12-16
In ancient Chinese dynasties it was standard practice for new rulers to destroy all symbols of their predecessors to ensure their legacies did not endure. A recent Taiwanese legislative motion to remove all tributes to Chiang Kai-shek, the former Kuomintang leader and dictator, is not merely a continuation of this practice – it is a significant advancement in the philosophy of rule. The transitional justice bill, passed by the island's legislature on December 5, requires the removal of all symbols related to the former strongman leader, as well as the renaming of streets and schools named in his honour. It also calls for a full investigation into Chiang's rule and the political purges of his opponents between 1947 and his death in 1975 – a period known as the "White Terror", when at least 140,000 people were imprisoned or executed. Some observers see the move as politically motivated, saying it might be part of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's effort to undermine the Kuomintang (KMT), which is now the main opposition party, by erasing the political legacy of its former leader. The Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, is staunchly pro-independence while the KMT favours stronger ties with the mainland. Beijing might see the moves as another effort by the DPP to remove any historical links between the self-ruled island and mainland China. Beijing believes the ultimate motivation of this "anti-Chiang" movement is to push for the island's eventual independence. Indeed, the DPP has also long condemned Chiang for imposing an "alien" government on the island, referring to the KMT which was formed on the mainland. Still, from Taiwan's perspective, Chiang's legacy has been highly controversial. Succeeding Sun Yat-sen as the KMT leader, Chiang helped overthrow China's last imperial dynasty and establish the Republic of China. He has also long been heralded as a national hero for leading China's war against Japanese aggression during the second world war and fighting the communists. Chiang was also praised for land reform in the 1950s that liberated Taiwanese tenant farmers. Some say Taiwan would not be what it is today had he not brought his tattered KMT to the island and paved the way to modernisation. Under his stewardship from 1950s to 1970s, the island joined South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong as one of the Four Asian Dragons economies. But the deep resentment among native Taiwanese towards the former leader has also been widespread since the island embraced democracy in the late 1980s. Today, many view Chiang as a despot who repressed Taiwan's natives and carried out purges against dissent. Historians say he is responsible for the massacre on February 28, 1947, when an estimated 28,000 people were killed in an anti-government uprising. They estimate as many as 30,000 were killed under a campaign to suppress political dissent between 1947 and 1987, which included 38 years of martial law. Official records show that up to 8,000 were executed while about 140,000 were tried in military courts. The legislation is not to compare Chiang's achievements with his wrongdoings, but to realise justice for victims and their families. It will also help promote reconciliation between the two main groups – immigrants from the mainland and natives of Taiwan. The two groups have long been differentiated as the privileged and the underdog under Chiang's rein. As Taiwan seeks a fresh start, it needs to wash away the bloodstains left by authoritarian rule. In a modern society, authoritarian rule cannot be legitimate as it infringes rights while violating freedom and democracy. While history should give Chiang a fair, objective and balanced assessment, Taiwan does not need a reminder of his bloody legacy. ^ top ^

 

 

Economy

'Xiconomics': the one word set to define China's long-term agenda (SCMP)
2017-12-22
"Xiconomics" is set to become the long-term guiding principles of the world's second-biggest economy, with Beijing branding a national blueprint with the Chinese president's name. The Communist Party and the State Council wrapped up their most important economic meeting of the year – the central economic work conference – on Wednesday, defining a set of economic and social policies as "Xi Jinping Economic Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era". The branding of the policies institutionalises so-called Xiconomics, formally recognising the president's leading role in setting the country's economic agenda, a responsibility he took over from Premier Li Keqiang. Christopher Balding, an associate professor at the HSBC Business School in Shenzhen, said the inclusion of the president's name in the document could be seen as a step to entrench Xi's decision-making role in China's economic affairs. "It's quite clear for a while that Xi has been the driving force of economic policies, a role typically reserved for the premier," Balding said. "This is formalising what's been apparent for quite some time." The move comes just two months after Xi's political philosophy was enshrined with his name in the party's constitution, making him the most powerful Chinese leader since late chairman Mao Zedong. Industrial Bank chief economist Lu Zhengwei said the work conference's backing for Xiconomics meant the president's governing principles would remain in place until China made a major shift in development focus – something that was unlikely to happen in the next five to 10 years. "Xiconomics is the economic branch of 'Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era'," Lu said, referring to the formal name for the president's political theory. "Following it in the long term does not mean pursuing actual growth targets, but to follow its principles and governing ideals. I believe these ideals and principles will be followed until we change the main 'social contradiction' in our country." In party dogma, the "social contradiction" is the main barrier to development for Chinese society. For more than three decades, it had been the tension between the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people and backward social productivity. But in October at the party's five-yearly national congress, it was redefined as the "unbalanced and inadequate development" preventing people from building better lives for themselves. In another major shift on Wednesday, officials touched on a range of specific, everyday issues that do not usually rate a mention at central economic work conferences. These included too much homework for children, the struggle to get a doctor's appointment, nursing shortages and online scams. Balding said that by including such details, Beijing was trying to ensure that local officials executed central government orders. The work conference was attended by hundreds of senior party cadres as well as the heads of the country's most important ministries, financial regulators, provinces and even military units. ^ top ^

Beijing hits back at European Union criticism of China's 'distorted state-run' economy (SCMP)
2017-12-21
China's foreign ministry on Thursday criticised what it called the "thoughtless remarks" of the European Union, after the bloc introduced new rules to guard against excessively cheap imports and singled out China as a distorted state-run economy. In a 465-page report, the European Commission said Beijing exerted a decisive influence over the allocation of resources, such as land or capital, and influenced prices of factors of production "in a very significant manner". The report is important because the EU has changed the way it handles anti-dumping cases. After two years of debate, the EU has agreed that dumping means selling for export at prices below domestic levels for all members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), of which China is one. In Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the EU had made "thoughtless remarks" about China's economic development, had "fabricated excuses" and been hypocritical. "We urge the EU to strictly respect WTO rules", and avoid abusing trade measures, Hua said. "At the same time, China will take necessary steps to protect its legitimate rights," she added, without elaborating. China and the EU have long sparred over trade. On Thursday, the European Commission also launched an investigation into whether Chinese exporters of electric bicycles benefited from excessive state subsidies, adding to trade tension with Beijing. In recent years, China's economic development had helped boost global economic stability and development, Hua said. "The facts prove that the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics accords with China's reality," she added. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

US gives China draft proposal for tougher UN sanctions on North Korea (SCMP)
2017-12-20
The United States has given China a draft resolution for tougher United Nations sanctions on North Korea and is hoping for a quick vote on it by the UN Security Council, a Western diplomat said on Tuesday. A senior official of the administration of US President Donald Trump confirmed efforts were under way to negotiate the new resolution, but said that there had been no agreement. "We're trying to get another one," the official, who did not want to be identified, said. "They're not there yet." Details of the draft given to China last week were not immediately available, but the US is keen to step up global sanctions to pressure Pyongyang to give up a weapons programme aimed at developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States. Among the steps it wants is a tightening of restrictions on North Korea's supply of refined petroleum, which is capped by previous UN sanctions at 2 million barrels a year. China, which supplies most of North Korea's oil, has backed successive rounds of UN sanctions but has resisted past US calls to cut off supplies to its neighbour. Its embassy in Washington and foreign ministry in Beijing did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Any move to curb exports of Chinese fuel to North Korea may have limited impact after China National Petroleum Corp suspended diesel and petrol sales to its northern neighbour in June over concerns the state-owned company would not get paid. Business has slowed steadily since then, with zero shipments of diesel, petrol and other fuel in October. November data will be released on Monday. The US has also called on the UN Security Council to blacklist 10 ships for circumventing sanctions on North Korea, according to documents seen by Reuters. The documents said vessels had been conducting ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products to North Korean vessels or transporting North Korean coal in violation of existing UN sanctions. Earlier on Tuesday, China responded to the announcement of a new US national security strategy this week that branded Beijing a competitor seeking to challenge US power by saying that cooperation between it and Washington would lead to a win-win outcome for both sides, but confrontation would bring mutual losses. ^ top ^

US navy planning to boost presence in western Pacific over North Korean nuclear crisis (SCMP)
2017-12-19
The United States is planning to increase its military presence in the western Pacific to cope with increased threats in the region, the navy's most senior commander announced on Tuesday. Chinese miliary experts believe the US is using the ongoing tensions over the North Korea nuclear crisis as an opportunity to reinforce its presence in the region, but its ultimate goal is to restrain a rising China. Chief of US Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson told a briefing aboard the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier in Japan on Tuesday that vessels from the Third Fleet in the eastern Pacific could be brought forward to reinforce their naval colleagues in the western Pacific. "We will continue to assure that we meet all of our missions here in the Asia-Pacific area. It could be something coming forward from Third Fleet or something like that to meet those requirements," Richardson said, but declined to say when or how many ships could be transferred. He also reiterated America's concerns about Beijing's artificial islands in the South China Sea, where China has territorial disputes with many neighbouring countries. "One can only draw certain conclusion about what are the intentions of the Chinese with respect to those islands. We will respond as we have always done, which is that we are going to continue to be present down there," Richardson said. For now, he said, North Korea was the "most urgent" task for the US navy in Asia as it became "more and more capable" with every new missile test. Pyongyang conducted its latest intercontinental ballistic missile test on November 29. Analysts said the missile was the regime's most powerful to date, with an estimated reach of up to 13,000km – putting the entire US mainland within reach of Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal. Song Zhongping, a military commentator for Hong Kong's Phoenix Television, said the US was trying to use the North Korea nuclear problem to reinforce its Seventh Fleet in the western Pacific by shifting more aircraft carrier battle groups from the Third Fleet, which would be turned into a support force in the region. "The Chinese navy and air force will face unprecedented challenges if the US reinforces its military deployment in the western Pacific, because it's likely the Pentagon would deploy four to six aircraft carrier battle groups to the region," Song said, adding that the ongoing nuclear crisis had provided Washington good reasons to do that. "If the US wants to solve the North Korea nuclear problem by military means, its current three carrier battle groups in the region are not enough to create absolute combat superiority … it needs four to six carrier battle groups to support its possible military actions." Richardson was speaking after US President Donald Trump unveiled a new national security strategy based on his "America first" vision that singled out China and Russia as "revisionist powers". Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie agreed that Washington's latest deployment in the region was aimed at the People's Liberation Army. "The US feels under pressure watching the PLA navy and air force growing so rapidly," he said. Normally there would be only one carrier group stationed in the area, he said, but "Trump's administration realised that its current military deployment … is far from enough to cope with the increased security challenges in the region". Li also referred to a series of accidents involving US naval vessels this year, including two collusions involving destroyers and merchant ships that killed 17 US sailors. Given the fact that China would soon have two carrier battle groups – the Liaoning and its sister vessel, the home-grown Type 001A aircraft carrier – Song said that Beijing had expected Washington to increase its naval capacity in the region. ^ top ^

Chinese politics, North Korea: the economic dark clouds to watch for in 2018 (SCMP)
2017-12-18
The global economy will grow at its fastest rate in a decade in 2018 – signalling its return to full health after the deepest world recession in a generation – but it might be foolhardy to grin too widely just yet. With risks ranging from the tinderbox security situation on the Korean peninsula, to jitters over Beijing's push for greater influence in China-based foreign firms, the "blue skies and sunshine" of brisk economic expansion could easily turn to "dark clouds and destructive storms", the global risk consultancy Control Risks has said in its outlook report for the new year. Like in the past 12 months, the combination of strong GDP growth and low interest rates would "fuel corporate profits and stock market highs" even as signs of imminent turmoil simmer in the background, the London-based firm said. The report released on Monday did not provide a forecast for global growth but the International Monetary Fund in October said the world economy would grow 3.6 per cent this year and 3.7 per cent in 2018 – marking the fastest growth since 2010. "Nevertheless, 2018 presents a series of complex issues that will test the mettle of leaders of all persuasions and the optimism of investors," said Richard Fenning, the Singapore-based chief executive of Control Risks. In Asia, the top risk emanates from North Korea's nuclear ambitions. "War on the Korean peninsula is extremely unlikely, at least intentionally," the firm's Northeast Asia expert Julia Coym wrote in the report. "But if the risk of a calculated first strike has dropped, the risks of miscalculation and accidental escalation are the highest they've been since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un assumed power in December 2011 after his father's death," Coym said. One exit from the current stand off is a so-called "double freeze option", in which the US and South Korea cease annual joint military drills in exchange for North Korea halting missile and nuclear tests. But Coym said US President Donald Trump's administration – which has voiced its vehement opposition to such a compromise – is unlikely to change that stance any time soon. There is a possibility however that progress may be made if Pyongyang officials are convinced to sit down for talks. "Multilateral negotiations are rarely about achieving a desirable outcome. More often they are about the dark arts of securing the least bad option," Coym said. "In the case of North Korea, it is not yet clear what that least worst option might be." Elsewhere in Asia: Across the Yalu river on the Chinese mainland, all eyes will be on growing pressure on foreign companies to "install 'active' Communist Party of China organisations within their ranks", Control Risks said. The mainland's company laws already require organisations with three or more members to have a resident Communist Party group. Communist Party representation in China based multinational firms stands at around three per cent of the work force – compared to about six per cent in the wider population. But while the rules have thus far been "mostly symbolic and lightly enforced", the mood has changed following this year's 19th Party Congress, according to the consultancy's China expert Shawlin Chaw. "There is sudden enthusiasm and motivation in the Communist Party to have such groups, with the tone being set from the top by President Xi Jinping himself," said Chaw. She added: "Going into 2018, there will be noticeably more politics in the Chinese operations of foreign businesses, whether via the influence of Communist Party workplace committees transmitting Beijing mood music – or potentially something more onerous – or new regulations capriciously enforced." Meanwhile India, Asia's third largest economy, will need to grapple with modernising its economy without "being constrained by a swing to the conservative identity politics of Hindu nationalism and the politics of division," Control Risks said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has been accused of not doing enough to curb discrimination against the country's large Muslim minority. As for Japan – sandwiched between India and China as Asia's number two economy – the key challenge "remains in the implementation of structural reforms, opening up protected sectors and revitalising the ageing workforce," the report said. Malaysia, which will go to the polls next year, "will almost certainly" return Prime Minister Najib Razak and his ruling United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) to power, Control Risks said. "Nevertheless, behind this apparent predictability, maintaining this political machine is becoming ever more difficult for Najib amid persistent scandals, weakening institutions and increasing divisions within UMNO." ^ top ^

Chinese, Russian FMs hold phone talks over ties, Korean Peninsula (Xinhua)
2017-12-19
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday held a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to discuss bilateral relations and tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The two foreign ministers agreed that their countries have enjoyed a strong relationship, achieving positive results in the past year. The two sides exchanged views on international issues of common concern, including the current situation on the Korean Peninsula. The foreign ministers agreed to continue to maintain strategic communications with each other regarding major issues. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Constitutional Court rules out provision concerning PM's immunity (Montsame)
2017-12-22
On December 20, the Constitutional Court ruled to scrap a provision in Law of Mongolia on the State Great Khural concerning the immunity of Parliament members. The Parliament adopted revised Law on the State Great Khural in 2013, which includes the provision 6.9.1 which says that the State General Prosecutor's Office can file a proposal on stripping the immunity of a MP only in case the latter was caught in the act and with evidences. The Constitution of Mongolia provides a parliamentary privilege to MPs. According to the provision 29.3 of the Constitution, the Parliament will decide if the immunity of a MP, accused to illicit activities, should be stripped, and dismiss a MP if he or she is convicted by court. "With the nullification of the provision 6.9.1, the Constitutional provision 29.3 will be effective. As such, the State General Prosecutor's Office can propose to remove parliamentary privilege of an MP with sufficient foundations for the accusation," said lawyer E.Khashchuluun, regarding the decision of the Constitutional Court. ^ top ^

Cabinet meeting in brief (Montsame)
2017-12-21
During its regular meeting on December 20, the Cabinet discussed following issues. The Cabinet adopted a revision to Guidelines on Quarterly Monetary Incentive for Teachers and Staff of Government-run Schools, Kindergartens and Educational Institutes. The Guidelines will take effect on January 1, 2018. The teachers and staff will receive monetary incentive every season. The Cabinet discussed and approved proposals to establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Djibouti, the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis and Belize. The proposal is up for Parliamentary discussion. Mongolia has diplomatic relations with 186 nations around the world. The Cabinet resolved to withdraw M.Batsaikhan, Permanent Representative of Mongolia to UNESCO, and appoint Mongolia's Ambassador to France A.Battur to the post. Holders of diplomatic, official and ordinary passports of Mongolia and Argentina will enjoy mutual visa-free visits for up to 90 days. The Cabinet approved a revision to Law on Air and Water Pollution Fees and other relevant bills and decided to submit to Parliament. ^ top ^

Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons signed (Montsame)
2017-12-20
On December 15, Agreement between Mongolia and the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) of the People Republic of China on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons was signed by S.Erdene, Mongolia's Consul General to Macao and Chan Hoi Fan, Secretary for Administration and Justice of the MSAR. The signing ceremony was attended by Ambassador of Mongolia to China D.Gankhuyag, Yuan Hong, Deputy Representative of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the MSAR and other officials of the two sides. The agreement allows Mongolian citizen who sentenced in Macao to be transfered and imprisoned at home country. Also it will give stimulus to boost cooperation between the Ministries of Law Affairs of Mongolia and Macao and other fields.  ^ top ^

Over 300 thousand citizens submit opinions on Constitutional amendments (Montsame)
2017-12-19
Today, December 18, a scientific conference titled 'Theory-practical issues to amend the Constitution of Mongolia' is taking place at State House. At the scientific conference, participants were heard a report of the Working Group on a Bill to amend the Constitution of Mongolia and the results of public opinion poll. Also the participants discussed about the Constitution adopted in 1992, consequences of its implementation, theory-methodological issues to amend the Constitution, some issues of the amendment, the distribution of state power in the Constitution and the control-balance of powers, administrative units and their authority as well as improvement of state service system. During the conference, G. Zandanshatar, Head of the Cabinet Secretariat and member of the Working Group in the Parliament, reported about public opinion on the amendments. According to the report, over 327 thousand people in total attended the public discussions and a number of proposals reached 5.6 million in repeated counting. According to their age groups, 32.2 percent were aged 18-35, 19.8 percent-- aged 36-45, 16.1 percent -- aged 46-55. Citizens back to establish an electoral system by law, to ban a formation of new kind of expenditures in the Bill on State Budget of that particular year and an increase of expenditure, make the law provision about President's right to issue a resolution to dismiss Parliament clear, take out President's right to initiate law, allow just one third of Cabinet members to be a Member of Parliament as well as others. They consider that civil service must be professional, stable and based on a step-by-step career promotion principle. Moreover, independence and legal basis of civil service activity have to be formed by law, along with banning discriminations and dismissal of public servants by political reasons, election results and/or other grounds except stated in laws. Mongolia adopted its first Constitution in 1924, becoming a pioneer in Asia. It adopted it second time in 1940 and amended it in 1960. It adopted the new Constitution in 1992. ^ 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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