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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
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  15-19.1.18, No. 705  
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Table of contents

Mongolia

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Switzerland

What is Carrie Lam's game plan as Hong Kong's chief executive makes rare trek to Davos? (SCMP)
2018-01-18
Hong Kong's top official, a rare guest at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is likely on a mission to sell the city as still autonomous and attractive to the world, experts say. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will next week appear at the Davos forum, an annual gathering of global elites which will also be attended by US President Donald Trump this year. The only chief executives who attended the summit in the past were Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in 2012 and Tung Chee-hwa in 1999. "The chief executive has always said she would like to take more opportunities to go overseas to promote Hong Kong," a spokesman for Lam's office said this week. Lam could be sending a message to world leaders that Hong Kong still enjoyed autonomy and the rule of law, which were key to its success in drawing overseas investors and businesses in the past, according to international relations experts. "The Davos meeting is a good networking opportunity, and Carrie Lam will probably make use of it to make the point that China is not interfering in Hong Kong," said David Zweig, chair professor of social sciences at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Critics have accused China of tightening its grip on the city as thorny issues such as renewed calls for national security legislation, the co-location immigration arrangements over a cross-border rail link and festering calls for independence continue to bedevil Hong Kong-mainland China relations. Experts said Lam may also be caught in the power dynamics between the US and China as the world's first and second largest economies, as Trump's appearance will follow that of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who defended globalisation and free trade at the meeting last year. "Hong Kong should present itself as a bridge between China and the US, and make itself attractive to both," said Sean Kenji Starrs, a political science professor at City University of Hong Kong. Lam, who has visited five countries from Singapore to Saudi Arabia since taking office in July, may also intend to increase her standing among millennials through her efforts in promoting the city's global image, Starrs said. Derek Yuen Mi-chang, policy research director for the New People's Party, believed Lam should think about Hong Kong's position with China seeking to export a new world order through schemes such as the "Belt and Road" initiative. "In the past, Hong Kong has been helping the West export its world order to China," Yuen said. "Now, it should think about how to follow China's policies and export China's world order." Instead of touting Hong Kong's traditional badges such as the rule of law and liberties, Lam should consider providing a reinterpretation of the "one country, two systems" model that would win China and other countries' confidence, Yuen said. The four-day summit at Davos will kick off on January 23. This year's theme is "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World". ^ top ^

New Political Bureau member will speak at Davos forum (China Daily)
2018-01-16
Liu He, who was elected a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in October, is expected to shed light on trends established by China's economy and the global implications of the country's policies at the annual meeting next week of the World Economic Forum, the Switzerland-based organization said on Tuesday. David Aikman, the organization's chief representative in China, said Liu will head a Chinese delegation to the gathering from Tuesday through Jan 26 in Davos, Switzerland, a year after President Xi Jinping's "historic" appearance. Among other global political figures this year, US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have confirmed plans to attend the forum, of which the program, initiatives and projects are focused on Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World. Last January, Xi paid a state visit to Switzerland, delivered a keynote speech at the annual meeting and visited Geneva-based international organizations, calling for an open economy, globalization, free trade and a shared future for mankind. "Following President Xi's historic attendance last year, Liu He... will not only share his insights on China's economy... but also explain the global implication of China's economic policies," Aikman said at a briefing on Tuesday in Beijing. He did not elaborate. Liu has worked as the top economic policy adviser for China's leadership by heading the General Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs, which is responsible for mapping the country's economic policies. He will speak at a plenary meeting in Davos, where he is expected to explain the rationale for China's shift to high-quality growth while maintaining a sustainable growth rate, and how it will continue to contribute to global growth this year, which marks the 10th anniversary of start of the latest global financial crisis. Meanwhile, Liu is likely to touch on China's determination to continue opening-up and reform policies as the country celebrates the 40th anniversary of launch of those efforts, which have led the country to become the second-biggest economy in that time. Regarding Trump's attendance, Aikman said the US leader will not only focus on "America First" policies, but also attend meetings and dialogues. However, due to security reasons, Trump's schedule remains unknown. Among other officials, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Xiao Yaqing, head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, will join Liu at the forum. Aikman said Chinese business leaders from areas such as energy, infrastructure, financial service and digital economy will join more than 3,000 participants worldwide in shaping the debates and narratives in Davos. Xu Jinghong, chairman of Beijing-based Tsinghua Holdings Co Ltd, said China's businesses have shown great passion in expanding cooperation worldwide, especially in exploring new growth engines, scientific breakthroughs and innovation development. Xu said China entered a new era following the 19th CPC National Congress in October and "the potential of development will be greatly released" through various policies being put into place. "We have found that the World Economic Forum is an ideal platform to engage such partners and deepen discussions and cooperation in the frontier areas," said Xu, whose company is a forum partner. ^ top ^

 

Foreign Policy

China-EU ties crucial in Trump's era: European experts (Xinhua)
2018-01-19
The relations between China and the European Union (EU) are crucial in the era of Donald Trump, when the U.S. administration is set to pursue America's interest first and distancing itself from global economic leadership, said European experts. From a global perspective, China-EU ties are crucial in the era of Trump, Alicia Garcia-Herrero, a senior research fellow in Brussels-based think tank Bruegel and chief economist for Asia of investment management firm Natixis, said in a recent interview with Xinhua. "The U.S. administration is simply too erratic to be trusted and is set to pursue America's interest first," she said. "EU and China need to take care of global issues and try to keep the world in the multilateral track." "The China-EU relations were one of the most important trade and investment relations in the world, with a significant impact on economic performance," Fredrik Erixon, director of Brussels-based think tank European Center for International Political Economy, told Xinhua. "If the relations sour, everyone will suffer; if they flourish, we will all benefit," Erixon said. "Now that protectionism is increasing and we are seeing a U.S. distancing itself from global economic leadership and openness, the protection of the free trade system is ever more important," he said, "It is up to China and Europe to mount the defense of this system." In 2017, the EU became more protectionist by increasingly enhancing its trade defense tools. It adopted new anti-dumping rules which do not virtually cease the so-called "analogue country" methodology used in anti-dumping investigations against China in violation of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. Looking ahead, the expert said more needs to be done on both sides to improve trade talks. "Hopefully there is a positive scenario where continued reforms in China and more political stability in Europe will bring the two sides close together and enable the start of proper trade negotiations between them," said Erixon. ^ top ^

India can strike anywhere in China with new nuclear-capable missile, government says (SCMP)
2018-01-19
India successfully test-fired a long-range nuclear-capable missile on Thursday from an island in the Bay of Bengal. The test, the fifth of the Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile, was made from a mobile launcher, and "further strengthens our credible deterrence," the defence Ministry said in a statement. India has been developing its nuclear and missile systems in recent years amid increasing strategic competition with China. The test was "a major boost to country's defence capabilities," the ministry said. Beijing's powerful missile arsenal has driven New Delhi to improve its weapons systems in recent years, with the Agni-V believed to be able to strike nearly all of China. Tension flared last year between the two neighbours over a long-disputed section of their border high in the Himalayas. India is also increasingly suspicious of Beijing's efforts to heighten its influence in the Indian Ocean. India is already able to strike anywhere inside neighbouring Pakistan, its arch-rival. The news comes one day after India announced that it was spending US$553 million (HK$4.3 billion) on new weapons for its border guards, including those on the borders of Tibet. ^ top ^

How China's military is girding for battle, and what it means for neighbours (SCMP)
2018-01-18
Wei Shiji "died instantly" while trying to defuse a landmine in a dense forest in China's Fujian province this month, while two comrades, Li Shoushun and Liu Shangdong, "survived the war". The three young men were not playing a computer game, but soldiers with a special People's Liberation Army (PLA) brigade undergoing combat training as China's military ramps up the quantity and quality of its exercises. Li hid in a river to evade a surveillance drone, while Liu hit 24 targets after fixing his broken rifle in a matter of minutes, the army mouthpiece PLA Daily said in a January 11 report on the training, designed to boost the soldiers' fighting skills and spirit. It said commanders of the brigade, part of the PLA's Guangdong-based 74th Group Army, were ordered to rectify seven problems identified during the exercise that would have made it less effective in a real war. The PLA has stepped up its training efforts since President Xi Jinping became Communist Party general secretary and chairman of its Central Military Commission (CMC) in late 2012, in line with his plan to turn it into a modern fighting force capable of conducting long-range power-projection operations. In 2013, the army and paramilitary police planned nearly 40 training exercises, China News Service reported. But in the past two years, the PLA alone conducted at least 45 exercises a year, according to data complied by the South China Morning Post, and it staged them in more complex and harsher conditions on land, at sea and in the air. Alongside his military modernisation drive, which also includes a boost to military research and development efforts designed to close the weapons gap with the United States and Russia, Xi has also demanded absolute loyalty and obedience to the party from the 2.3 million-strong PLA and 1.5 million-strong People's Armed Police, which was placed under the direct control of the CMC this year. Analysts say China's growing economic interests overseas as a result of its Belt and Road Initiative, a trade-development scheme connecting about 80 countries across three continents, mean its military will need to be able to be protect Chinese projects and workers around the globe. Meanwhile, at home, the top leadership has targeted pervasive corruption in the PLA that threatened to undermine China's ability to wage war. In the past five years, 13,000 PLA officers, including more than 100 generals, have been investigated and disciplined. The sweeping reforms can be traced to the Instructions for Political Work in Military Training, issued in early 2013, which called on the armed forces "to vigorously cultivate a combat spirit of, first, not fearing hardship and, second, not fearing death". Chinese military expert Li Jie said the PLA had stepped up its military training under Xi's leadership. "China has not fought in any war for decades, while the US has trained its soldiers in many overseas war zones," he said. "Only through an increased amount of training set in conditions close to real war can the PLA gain effective combat readiness." Another Beijing-based military analyst, Zhou Chenming, said China had begun stepping up its military training under Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao, but was now more confident about letting the world see its combat capabilities. "The reasons outsiders only began to notice the increased frequency and improved quality of PLA training from 2013 were that the US demanded more transparency from the Chinese military and that President Xi Jinping is more confident about giving PLA exercises a higher profile, something that can help Beijing send messages to neighbouring countries and Taiwan," he said. But even though the PLA has increased the number of training exercises in recent years, it still trails the West's Nato alliance. Around 100 Nato exercises were planned last year, along with 149 national exercises by member countries, according to a fact sheet released by Nato in May. Those Western forces, and the Russians, have also been involved in actual conflict much more recently than the PLA, which last fired a shot in anger in the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese war. A veteran of that brief campaign, General Li Zuocheng, was appointed chief of the CMC's Joint Staff Department in August, replacing General Fang Fenghui, who is now facing corruption charges. The PLA's improved training regime has seen the navy and air force conduct exercises further from China's coast. The Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning conducted exercises with J-15 fighters in China's Bohai region in January 2016, while Chinese warplanes flew through the Tsushima Strait, between Japan and Korea, for the first time last month, prompting Japanese and South Korean fighters to scramble in response. Recent state media reports have also revealed how the PLA is now honing the combat abilities of all its forces year round in a variety of locations, enhancing their ability to cope with adverse weather, difficult terrain and battlefield confusion. In January 2016, marines were sent to a desert in Xinjiang to "further enhance their ability to carry out missions in wider space and more complex environmental conditions", PLA Daily reported. In December that year, soldiers in an armoured brigade practised passing live explosives from hand to hand and hiding in a hole as a tank rolled overhead to prepare themselves mentally for war, China Central Television reported. In August last year, air force pilots practised nighttime attacks in fighter jet drills in the South China Sea. In October, a rocket force in southern China discovered during routine training that its orders were too long and unclear for use in wartime. In mid-November, land troops stationed in China's icy north trained on islands in the tropics to improve their ability to cope with climatic extremes. PLA troops have also conducted live-fire drills at China's first overseas military base, which opened in Djibouti in August. They have also enhanced their combat readiness by training with forces from other countries, joining the biennial, US Navy-led Rimpac exercises around the Hawaiian Islands and holding joint drills with Russia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, India and other countries. Close observers of the Chinese military say the PLA's improved and more frequent training in recent years has helped promote inter-services integration and made it more agile in responding to national defence needs. "We saw more air-land-sea mobilisation training, involving strategic lift of massive numbers of troops and materiel across vast distances, at the theatre level, and also more inter-fleet training in the navy, as well as other instances of joint exercises involving multiple armed branches and services," said Collin Koh, a maritime security expert at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. However, Timothy Heath, senior international defence researcher at America's Rand Corporation think tank, cautioned that the intensified training could be viewed as a potential challenge to the strategic security environment or even a threat, especially by China's neighbours. "Powerful countries almost always spur anxiety among their neighbours," he said. "China's focus is mostly on non-war missions and thus it can help ease some anxiety by stepping up efforts to combat non-traditional threats, but there is no escaping the reality that some of China's neighbours will be alarmed and will likely boost their self-defensive capabilities in response." Koh said the higher profile given to PLA exercises was designed for both external and domestic audiences. "It projects Beijing's image and stature overseas, helps defend a country's national interests through the threat and use of armed force, boosts national pride amongst Chinese people," he said. However, Koh said, it was "not fully reflective of the effectiveness of its actual performance in real operations, since political control over the PLA has also tightened". In early November, following the previous month's Communist Party national congress, at which "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era" was written into the party constitution, the CMC ordered the PLA to take Xi Jinping Thought as guidance and follow the absolute leadership of the party, Xinhua reported. Heath agreed that political and geopolitical factors were at play. "First, as the armed wing of the Communist Party, Xi's focus on improving the ruling party's overall effectiveness as a governing party and reducing corruption meant the PLA also needed to improve its overall effectiveness and reduce corruption," he said. "Second, as a great power with global interests, China will likely rely on the military to carry out more missions, some of which are beyond China's borders, than in previous years." China's military modernisation drive and expanded maritime ambition had led South Korea and Japan to consider basing F-35B short take-off and vertical-landing stealth fighters on amphibious assault ships, CNN reported last month. Days earlier, two PLA Air Force H-6K bombers, two Su-30 fighters and a Yun-8 transport aircraft had passed through the Tsushima Strait and entered the Sea of Japan in what air force spokesman Shen Jinke described as "a routine operation". Macau-based military commentator Antony Wong Dong said the intensified training was aimed at deterring pro-independence forces in Taiwan and giving the PLA the wherewithal to retake the island if necessary. Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway Chinese province and has never renounced the use of force as a means of reunification. China has stepped up military exercises focusing on the island, with advanced bombers and fighters conducting "encirclement" patrols recently. "Since half of the training targeted Taiwan implicitly or explicitly, a war, if it's to break out one day, is most probably going to be a war to bring the island back to Beijing," Wong said. Relations between Beijing and Taipei have deteriorated since Tsai Ing-wen from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party became the island's president in 2016. She vowed last month to boost the island's defence budget. ^ top ^

China should enhance presence in Indian Ocean to counter India's missile tests: experts (Global Times)
2018-01-18
India's latest test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), allegedly nuclear capable, poses a direct threat to China's security as well as a big challenge to the global efforts of nuclear-nonproliferation, a Chinese missile expert warned Thursday. "We have successfully launched nuclear capable ballistic missile Agni-V today," the Times of India quoted Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman as saying. There was no further comment on whether the missile had met all the parameters for the test, the report said. After the test, the missile would be finalized and produced in large scale, and will become a fighting force in the coming years, Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday. Though the report said the Agni-V can "reach the northernmost parts of China with its strike range of over 5,000-kilometers," Chinese experts expressed skepticism. "Though the missile could theoretically hit Beijing, India's missile technique is far below the standard," Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday. Nevertheless, China should be on the alert and further upgrade its anti-missile techniques, Hu added. Aside from the missile, India is developing various kinds of weapons to compete with China, and its development of nuclear weapons shows that India is engaging in a nuclear arms race with China, Song said. "It is also a big challenge to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty as India owns such a big nuclear arsenal," he said. The missile test is being dubbed as another step toward its eventual inclusion into the Strategic Forces Command (SFC). A few more tests remain to be conducted before the 50-ton missile is produced in adequate numbers, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday. The tri-service SFC was established in 2003 to manage India's nuclear arsenal, Xinhua reported. Aside from the shorter-range missiles "Prithvi" and "Dhanush," the SFC has already included the "Agni-I," "Agni-II" and "Agni-III" missiles in its arsenal, Xinhua reported. Thursday's test comes a day after India's joint sea drills with Japan in the Indian Ocean. India hopes to enhance cooperation with Japan as a way of restraining China, Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported, citing unnamed experts. "India is trying to build a military system with Australia, Japan and the US in order to keep a closer watch on China, which poses a direct threat to China," Song said. China should keep increasing its economic as well as defense capability, Song added. Song also said that since the Indian Ocean is a "must enter" region for the Belt and Road initiative as well as the national strategy of building China into a maritime power, China should also enhance its military and economic presence in the Indian Ocean. ^ top ^

Trade increases between Lancang-Mekong countries and Yunnan (Xinhua)
2018-01-18
Trade volume between southwest China's Yunnan Province with five countries along the Lancang-Mekong River grew by 13.4 percent year-on-year to reach 81 billion yuan (about 12 billion U.S. dollars) in 2017, customs in the provincial capital Kunming said Thursday. Trade between Yunnan and Myanmar is about 42 billion yuan, 52 percent of the total, it said. The Lancang-Mekong River runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, and serves as a natural bond linking the six countries. In 2016, a regional cooperation mechanism was established among the six countries. Kunming customs said it had carried out cooperation with customs authorities in these countries in exchanging information, fighting against cross-border crime and in customs clearing. ^ top ^

China, Myanmar vow to promote ties, maintain peace, stability in border areas (Xinhua)
2018-01-17
China and Myanmar held a new round of diplomacy and defense consultations here on Wednesday, pledging to further promote bilateral ties, keep close communication on the situation in northern Myanmar and maintain peace and stability in the border areas between the two countries. The talks were co-chaired by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou and Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission Shao Yuanming from the Chinese side, and Minister of International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin and Commander-in-Chief of No.1 Bureau of Special Operations (Army) Tun Tun Naung from the Myanmar side. The two sides noted that the leaders of the two countries have maintained frequent exchanges and reached important consensus on advancing all-round strategic bilateral cooperation in the new era, thus injecting new impetus into the development of bilateral ties. While highlighting that China-Myanmar relations have been maintaining sound momentum of development, the two sides vowed to well implement the important consensus reached by their leaders and lift China-Myanmar comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership to a new high. They also exchanged views on the situation in northern Myanmar, and agreed that properly managing the situation in northern Myanmar and safeguarding peace and stability in the border areas are of great significance to maintaining smooth growth of the bilateral ties and promoting peace process in Myanmar. They pledged to make good use of the current bilateral exchange mechanisms involving sectors of diplomacy, militaries and public security as well as regional governments, and continue their coordination and collaboration on the situation in northern Myanmar. They also agreed to further strengthen cooperation in the management of the border areas and ensure the safety of Chinese institutions and personnel as well as major cooperation projects in northern Myanmar so as to jointly uphold border peace and stability. The Chinese officials reiterated respect for Myanmar's sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as support for the Myanmar peace process, calling on all parties in Myanmar to adhere to the "Panglong Spirit" and reach consensus on ethnic unity under the framework of federal constitution. Myanmar officials appreciated China's help in the peace process, pledging to work with China to safeguard peace and stability in the border areas so as to ensure the smooth and safe implementation of bilateral cooperation projects. Myanmar looks forward to implementing the initiative on building the Myanmar-China economic corridor to promote the development of Myanmar's border areas, the officials said. Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar's Defense Services Min Aung Hlaing also met with the Chinese delegation respectively. The two sides agreed to hold the next round of talks in China. ^ top ^

Chinese FM ends Africa visit, confident in closer China-Africa ties (Xinhua)
2018-01-17
China and African countries will certainly become closer cooperative partners through cooperation in the Belt and Road initiative, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said. The official made the remarks to the media here on Tuesday as he concluded his first New Year visit to four African countries including Rwanda, Angola, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe. Wang said that Africa has always been the first destination for a Chinese foreign minister's visit during each new year for the past 28 years. "It's a good tradition that shows the international community that China always stands together with its African brothers," he said. He said that no matter how China has developed, economically and politically, China always seeks a partnership with Africa built on mutual trust and sincere cooperation. Briefing on his visit to the four African nations, Wang said that leaders of the countries had all sent their congratulations to the success of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. They also hoped to draw on China's development experience because they appreciated the great achievements in China's development, he said. He said that as African countries are trying to diversify their economies and shift from a development mode that relies on raw materials and resources exports, China will have great strength in helping them achieve the economic diversification and industrialization goals. "In response to Africa's strong request, China will later this year host the summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing," Wang said, adding that leaders of the four nations he visited are ready to attend the event and they have also shown great interest in the Belt and Road initiative proposed by China. "African countries shall not be excluded from the initiative, rather they could play a very important role in pushing forward the initiative," he said. China and Africa last held the FOCAC summit in late 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa, which has served as a major force driving China-Africa cooperation in various areas in recent years. "I believe, through efforts by both sides, the Beijing FOCAC summit this year will be another historical event," Wang said. During his visit Tuesday to Sao Tome and Principe, the last leg of his New Year visit in Africa, Wang met the country's President Evaristo Carvalho and Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada. Carvalho said he is convinced the resumption of diplomatic relations with China was the right decision the Sao Tome and Principe government made. He assured that the country will adhere wholeheartedly to the one-China policy, and looked forward to ever deepening bilateral friendly cooperation. Trovoada said the fact that China is ready to develop friendly relations with Sao Tome and Principe shows once again that China treats all countries on an equal footing, regardless of their size, and that China is a sincere friend and reliable partner of Africa. He said that cooperation with China will help his country onto a path of sustainable development. For his part, Wang said that Sao Tome and Principe's decision to resume diplomatic relations with China serves the interests of the country and its people, adding that both countries should beef up friendly cooperation for mutual benefits. ^ top ^

Western media fuels new wave of Sinophobia (Global Times)
2018-01-16
The tone of a slew of recent news reports in the US is symptomatic of oversensitivity toward China, which experts say stems from a new wave of "Sinophobia." Chinese people and businesses in the US have increasingly met with obstruction and criticism, leading experts to suggest that US self confidence has been replaced by xenophobia and an irrational nervousness of China's increasing influence. "The reason for this increasing Sinophobia is China's sustainable, continued development and growth as a national power in contrast to the many difficulties the US is having with social governance. It shows that the West, led by the US, is becoming less self-assured," Diao Daming, an associate professor at Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday. The experts cite a number of examples of this seemingly paranoid thinking: the University of Texas in Austin recently rejected funding from a Hong Kong-based foundation; a US military base removed Chinese-made surveillance cameras because of an unstated "negative perception"; Chinese telecoms giant Huawei has met with US government obstruction, citing "national security" as the company tried to enter the US market. In the latest scenario, US intelligence officials warned Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, that Wendi Deng, a Chinese-American businesswoman, could be using her close relationship with Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, to bring influence on behalf of the Chinese government, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. "Kushner's case might reflect the power struggle within the White House. The pro-establishment force is strengthening and Trump's family members are being weakened," and China is just a pretext for the power struggle, An Gang, a senior research fellow at the Pangoal Institution, a Beijing-based think tank, told the Global Times. US officials have also raised concerns about a counterintelligence assessment that said Deng was lobbying on behalf of a high-profile construction project funded by the Chinese government in Washington DC, the Wall Street Journal reported. "These kinds of stories, without solid evidence, normally appear in tabloid newspapers, but now US mainstream media like the Wall Street Journal are covering them and taking US intelligence reports at face value. It looks like Sinophobia is spreading fast," said a Beijing-based international media researcher who requested anonymity. "Previously, the US wanted to change China's political system by engaging China in the international order led by the US, which has failed. Now the US has to deal with a more confident and powerful China," An said. "Many US elites believe that China has long-term strategies and the US doesn't, causing them to lose their sense of superiority. This has been reflected in many areas of US society, such as the Confucius Institutes being targeted in the US, fear of Chinese students in American universities, normal journalistic activities conducted by Chinese media and investment by Chinese firms," An noticed. "It is clear that China will become more and more influential and will stand at the center of the international arena, but China's efforts are designed to defend and improve the current international order. So there is no need to be oversensitive and nervous," said Diao, from Renmin University of China. "China respects other countries' political systems and will not force others to copy its model," said Diao, adding that China does require the respect and understanding to be reciprocated by others. ^ top ^

High alert for huge oil slick in East China Sea, but how bad will it be? (SCMP)
2018-01-16
A large oil slick and toxic fuel that sank with an Iranian tanker to the bottom of the East China Sea could threaten marine ecology and fishery resources, scientists warned, affecting China, Japan and South Korea. The Panama-registered tanker Sanchi was carrying 136,000 tonnes, or nearly one million barrels, of condensate – an ultra-light, highly flammable crude oil – when it collided with Chinese freighter CF Crystal 160 nautical miles east of Shanghai on January 6. That was twice the amount of fuel that went down with the Prestige oil tanker when it sank off the coast of Spain in November 2002, causing one of Europe's worst environmental catastrophes. The Sanchi caught fire and lost power after the collision and drifted southeast before exploding on Sunday and sinking 150 metres to the seabed midway between China's Zhejiang province and Japan's Ryukyu Islands. The Japan Coast Guard said on Monday oil had spread over an area 13km (8.1 miles) long and 11km (6.8 miles) wide, although it said the slick was shrinking as patrol boats battled to contain it. The Sanchi's crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis are all believed to have perished in the incident, which was the biggest tanker spill since 1991, when 260,000 tonnes of oil leaked off the Angolan coast. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said rescue and clean-up efforts had been a focus for China from the beginning, but that Beijing welcomed "other relevant parties" to participate in both the search and rescue and treatment work. Over winter, dominant winds over the East China Sea blow southward, according to a government researcher with the Key Laboratory of Physical Oceanography run by the Ministry of Education in Qingdao, Shandong. That means Japanese islands such as Okinawa "may see some grease wash ashore" from the incident in the next few months, according to the researcher, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue. An official monitoring the oil spill at the East China Sea Forecast Centre run by the State Oceanic Administration in Shanghai also expected Japan would be affected, but warned China and South Korea to stay on high alert. "The ship has been pushed around in the wind, so there will be oil coming to the surface. The wind direction can change a lot from one period to another, so the chances are, all of these countries will be affected," said the official, who also requested anonymity. It is still unclear how much oil went down with the ship, and officials and scientists are trying to count the remaining barrels after the vessel was ablaze for a week before it sank. Li Zhengyan, a professor with the college of environmental science and engineering at Ocean University of China in Qingdao, said the accident happened in a major fishing area crowded by Chinese, Japanese and Korean ships. "If the oil spill is large, it could wipe out some fish species that are sensitive to the toxicity of the condensate. This is not what has been spilled in the past – it's particularly unnerving because we don't know what it will do to the environment," he said. The East China Sea's ecosystem was already in danger from overfishing and pollution, according to Li. "Sanchi might be one of the last straws before the ecosystem collapses," he added. Oil researcher Li Yinfang, who is based in Yangzhou, Jiangsu, told Thepaper.cn that there was enough fuel on the Sanchi to fill 1,400 petrol stations. Several mainland scientists told the Shanghai-based news website that leaking from the wreckage could contaminate the ocean floor and have a negative impact on the surrounding environment for decades to come. However David Baxter, an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong whose field is coral reef ecology and marine pollution, said the incident was tragic but its impact could be limited. "It is a huge environmental impact for a lot of marine life, but nature is pretty good at cleaning it up," Baxter said. Oil regularly leaked to the sea floor around the world, he said, especially in places where oil extraction was prominent – and many organisms actually used that oil as an energy source. Baxter said a more devastating impact was seen from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, when an explosion on a drilling platform caused a massive oil spill that affected beaches and coastal wetlands. "In the open ocean, the oil will be degraded naturally by microorganisms so the impact would be much less than the coast," Baxter said. He added that trawling and overfishing could have a far greater impact on marine life than the Sanchi spill. The focus should now shift from salvage and recovery to assessment of the impact, said Paul Johnston from Greenpeace International's Science Unit at the University of Exeter in the UK. "Most importantly, this must include an assessment of how much condensate has entered the water and an assessment of the area contaminated," he said in a statement on Monday. "Surveillance and assessment by authorities is critical to understand the extent of the potential environmental impact and for deciding on the appropriate next steps in terms of salvage and recovery of the potential condensate spill," he added. ^ top ^

Macron gets the timing right in China as energetic standard-bearer for Europe (SCMP)
2018-01-13
Once again, timing has been fruitful for Emmanuel Macron, who was unexpectedly elected president of France last year, less than two years after creating his own political party. This week, he became the first European head of state to meet President Xi Jinping since the 19th Communist Party congress was held in October. During his trip, Macron masterfully struck a balance between being charming and sending a message. He played "horse diplomacy" by offering his host a French horse called Vesuvius and delighted Chinese social media with a video of him learning to say "make the planet great again" in Mandarin. It was a double act for Macron, as Europe's newest leader. He visited China primarily as the French president and insisted on the bilateral relationship. He brought along 50 top French executives and oversaw several business deals in sectors such as food, financial services, catering and industry. For example, China agreed to lift a 16-year embargo on French beef within six months. Meanwhile, the biggest deal – construction of a radioactive waste processing plant in China by EDF and Areva – is still under negotiation, while Airbus, headquartered in Toulouse, France, will be producing more planes in China by 2020 through an "enhanced partnership in Tianjin" (arguably quite different from a straight commercial order by China). Diplomatically, Macron addressed the Syrian crisis and the Korean peninsula with Xi, and asked for Chinese support in counterterrorism efforts on the African continent. And China agreed to work with France on a spring conference on fighting terror financing. He also successfully appeared as one of Europe's standard-bearers. In one of his speeches, he declared that "Europe is back". In the eyes of a slightly sceptical Chinese public, it may have been preposterous, although France is perhaps the best-known European country in Chinese public opinion. The visit by its energetic, 40-year-old leader has attracted quite a bit of interest – not just for his charm and Chinese-language attempts. After all, China wants to increase its presence on the world stage, hence the need for more partners at a time when the United States under Donald Trump appears to be pulling back. In the current context, Macron is Europe's most recognisable face: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been in power for 12 years, is struggling to put together a coalition government although she seems to see the end of the tunnel in her negotiations with her potential partner the SPD; Italy is facing uncertain parliamentary elections this spring; Spain has been focusing on the Catalonia crisis; and the United Kingdom is busy sorting out its fate both within Europe and as a stand-alone member of the international community once it will finally be out of the European Union. Prime Minister Theresa May will be the next European leader to visit Beijing in late January, but her message will clearly be of a different nature. While France has been firmly at the core of the EU since Macron's election, Britain is looking for friends and economic partners to go through an uncertain future. One concrete aspect of Macron's European discourse has been the economy. In Xian, he threw his support behind Xi's "Belt and Road Initiative" to revive trade routes connecting Asia and Europe. But he insisted that the new roads "should not be those of a new hegemony, which would transform those that they cross into vassals". In other words, "If they are roads, they cannot be one-way". There is a sense, in Europe, that the trade and infrastructure plan is more about China's ambition than about other countries' economies, hence the lack of a firm EU commitment on the whole concept. As for Chinese investments, they are mostly welcome, Macron said, but there have been increasing calls for reciprocity. The EU Chamber of Commerce in China, for example, made this clear in its annual report. It was a point the French leader wanted to stress, too. "The EU need to have a more coordinated approach to give China more visibility … We want to facilitate Chinese investments in Europe in predefined sectors … just as China want to facilitate European investments in sectors it will have defined," Macron said. Since September, discussions have been under way within the EU to start screening foreign investments – not specifically Chinese – in sensitive technological sectors or infrastructure. During the visit, Macron also called for China and Europe to work together on climate change. As the host of the 2015 climate pact, France is willing to implement the deal and China also wants to make a difference following Trump's decision to pull out of the accord. China and France said they would take "joint leadership" on the issue. As permanent members of the UN Security Council, the two countries certainly had a lot to talk about. Macron has almost five years to deliver, especially on the French economy, and there is no doubt that he wants to make a difference. But China is also searching for a European partner, and France, as one of the most politically stable countries within the EU, fits the bill. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

More than 71,000 punished for frugality violations in 2017 (Xinhua)
2018-01-18
A total of 71,644 people were punished in 2017 for violating the Party's eight-point frugality code, according to the top anti-graft body of the Communist Party of China (CPC). They were involved in 51,008 cases, said a notice on the website of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). A total of 10,672 people were punished for 7,594 violations against the eight-point frugality code in December 2017. Of the 7,594 cases, 2,187 were related to unauthorized issuing of subsidies or welfare, 1,272 were related to sending or accepting gifts or money, 1,229 were related to using public funds for banquets, and 1,144 were related to unauthorized use of official cars. Some 57,700 people in more than 40,000 cases were punished in 2016. Discipline and supervision institutions at all levels will continue to show no tolerance for violations of the eight-point frugality code, and investigations will be intensified, said the notice. ^ top ^

China readying new catapult for 3rd aircraft carrier (Global Times)
2018-01-18
China is likely to use an electromagnetic catapult for fighter jets on its third aircraft carrier, experts said on Thursday. The world's leading electromagnetic catapult technology was developed by a team led by Ma Weiming, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a Beijing-based expert, who asked for anonymity, told the Global Times on Thursday. The technology will likely be used on China's third aircraft carrier - and second domestically made carrier - to revitalize the army through science and technology, he said. The expert also said that the Central Military Commission has sent signals to adopt scientific achievements to enhance the military's combat capabilities and narrow the gap between China and other powers. Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times that security is the main concern for those who prefer steam-driven to electromagnetic catapults. Globally, carriers launch aircraft via three basic methods: steam-driven catapult, electromagnetic catapult or ski jump. China's first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, adopted the ski jump approach. Ten of 11 US aircraft carriers use steam catapults. The USS Gerald R Ford is the only aircraft carrier that uses an electromagnetic catapult, experts said. The new catapult is believed to be more efficient and less damaging to planes. Ma told media his team had conducted successful tests on the technology and are confident about its practical use. As China has overcome the core technological problems of electromagnetic catapults, the technological advantage should be used to enhance combat capability, Li said. ^ top ^

Make China great again: Communist Party seeks to seize 'historic' moment to reshape world order (SCMP)
2018-01-18
The world is in chaos, giving the Communist Party a "historic opportunity" to make China great again and reshape the world order – at least that was the message the party sought to drive home in a high-profile opinion piece in its flagship newspaper this week. "The world has never focused on China so much and needed China so much as it does now," a commentary on Monday's front page of People's Daily asserted. The 5,500-word article is the latest rallying call for the country to unite around President Xi Jinping – its most powerful leader in decades – to rejuvenate China and achieve its global aspirations. Under Xi, Beijing has become more confident than ever in how it sees itself in the world. It has repeatedly vowed to take on more global responsibility and provide a "China solution" to the world's woes, at a time when the United States under President Donald Trump is retreating from its global leadership role and Europe is distracted by Brexit. The commentary cheered China's progress under the party's leadership, and listed the numerous ills facing the world and its Western-centred order, ranging from flaws in democracy and existing global governance to the threats of terrorism and climate change. "The capitalism-led world political and economic system is full of drawbacks; the global governance system is undergoing profound changes; and a new international order is taking shape," it said. China, meanwhile, was at a historic point to restore itself to greatness and return to its rightful position in the world, it said. "[China] is more confident and capable than in any given period in history to seize this opportunity," the piece said, skipping over the challenges the country faces. While the rhetoric is not unusual for China's propaganda outlets, the message in the commentary could have the direct endorsement of the party elite. Jonathan Sullivan, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, said: "This is heady rhetoric, but it is definitely worth noting because something of this nature does not get published in People's Daily without official sanction. "It reflects the Chinese leadership's belief that right now is a huge opportunity for China to stake out a global leadership role." The commentary was published under the byline "Xuanyan", or "Manifesto", which like various prominent pseudonyms in the paper suggests it is the official voice of the party or a party department, rather than the opinion of an individual columnist. The amount of publicity the article has received from the propaganda machine also sets it apart. In addition to dominating headlines on party media outlets and online news portals, it was promoted on social media the night before it went to press – rare treatment for commentaries in the paper. The rallying call came just days before a key gathering of the party's ruling elite in Beijing. It also came as Xi's administration is facing a slew of highly symbolic anniversaries, including this year's 40th anniversary of the start of China's economic reforms.Next year is also the 70th anniversary of the founding of communist China, while 2020 will be the year for the party to deliver on its promise to make China a moderately prosperous society. 2021 will the party's centenary. "The rhetoric is powerful, but the symbolism of the upcoming anniversaries and Xi's elevation to core leader demand something more than rhetoric. Thus the key thing will be the extent to which chest-thumping rhetoric is embodied in fact – and the extent to which Chinese people will demand to see results," Sullivan said. ^ top ^

Party paper swears loyalty to lingxiu Xi (Global Times)
2018-01-16
The People's Daily, the Communist Party of China's (CPC) flagship newspaper, published an article on Monday swearing allegiance to General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping and calling on the nation to grasp a historic opportunity facing China. "We are fully aware of our responsibilities. We should resolutely support the core, faithfully follow the lingxiu, use our courage and morale...and make strides toward a brighter future," read the article under the byline of Xuan Yan. The word lingxiu means "leader" with a positive political connotation and refers to highly revered state leaders. "The word lingxiu means more than just a leader. It is often bestowed to a leader who enjoys the highest prestige, who is the most capable and who is widely recognized by the entire Party," Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee, told the Global Times. Su said the emergence of a lingxiu is the symbol of a mature political party, adding that since the 18th CPC National Congress, Xi's achievements in various fields, especially the anti-graft drive, have been widely acknowledged. It is the first time for People's Daily to refer to Xi as lingxiu. The CPC identified Xi, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, as the core of the Party in 2016. The military's official PLA Daily also referred to Xi as lingxiu on January 5 last year, quoting PLA Navy sailors and military officers from China's aircraft carrier Liaoning as saying that "we are sailing in the sight of lingxiu." The People's Daily article called for efforts to grasp the historic opportunity facing China. It said China was facing a period in which the timeframes of the two centenary goals converged, and both dreams and hard work were needed to achieve the country's goals of creating a moderately prosperous society, modernization and building China into a "great modern socialist country." Noting the problems facing the world, such as a "democratic deficit," "governance deficit," "development trap," wealth gap, terrorism and climate change, the article said "the drawbacks of capitalism-led political and economic systems are emerging; the global governance system is experiencing profound changes and a new international order is taking shape." "There were discussions over whether China's window of strategic opportunity had come to an end as economic globalization faced major setbacks. However, this article has cleared the confusion by pointing out the historic opportunity China now faces," Su said. "It was exactly because China is at the crossroads that the country and the Party demanded a lingxiu at the core to grasp the opportunity and face up to the global challenge," Su said. "The world needs China, as all humans are living in a community with a shared future," the article said. "That creates broad strategic room for our efforts to uphold peace and development and gain an advantage," read the article. ^ top ^

'Witches' are banding together after rural Chinese communities ostracise them (SCMP)
2018-01-16
Belief in witches runs rampant in some rural Chinese communities, a new study shows – and those who are accused of witchcraft are having to band together to survive. In one rural farming community in southwestern China, 13.7 per cent of the population have been labelled "zhu," or "witches," by their neighbours, according to a new paper published on January 8 in Nature Human Behaviour. "Zhu households are believed to raise snakes, and poison people by providing them polluted food or simply by eye contact," said Ting Ji, an anthropologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences who worked on the study. The trait of zhu, also known as zhubo, can be spread or transferred from zhu households to non-zhu households by giving valuables, such as gold, silver or silk, Ting said. "The rumour of one household having 'zhu' will spread quickly in the village and to the neighbouring villages," she said. In the new study, Ting and her colleagues describe the effects of being labelled zhu in the community in southwestern China. The authors found that the label has serious consequences for the accused and their families, but that these consequences are mitigated when the "witches" band together. Belief in witchcraft occurs in cultures throughout the world, although the label means different things to different groups. "Conceptions of witchcraft are very variable, so sometimes it is not helpful to use that word," said Ruth Mace, an anthropologist at University College London who also worked on the study. However, there are some common themes. The label is usually applied to middle-aged women, and it frequently includes an attribution of blame for some misfortune. The women identified as zhu in the Chinese community where Mace and her colleagues did their fieldwork were mostly middle-aged and, generally, the heads of their households. They were not hunted down and burned at the stake by their neighbours, but they were ostracised from their community, the authors found. Specifically, zhu and their families were less likely to receive farming help from their non-zhu neighbours, or to be part of the community's social networks, the authors report. In addition, women who had been designated zhu had fewer children than those who had not been. It is illegal to accuse someone of being a witch in China, so it was difficult for the researchers to learn how the designations were originally made, or by whom. "We think it is rumour or gossip, but don't know why it sticks in some cases," Mace said. "Some also are said to inherit the label from their mother. The topic is taboo, so it is a bit sensitive to discuss." To better understand the interactions between those bearing the zhu tag and those who don't, the authors mapped their relationships in five villages in a few ways. They found that zhu families were more likely to have children with each other than with non-zhu families. And when they played a gift-giving game – allowing villagers to decide how to distribute a small sum of money, non-zhu families were more likely to give the money to other non-zhu families, while zhu families were more likely to give it to other zhu families. Some anthropologists have suggested that cultures may apply the label of witch to those who are more selfish and less cooperative than others. In this case, the fear of being tagged a witch might encourage members of a community to act for the collective good. However, in this study, the authors found no evidence that women labelled zhu were any less cooperative than their neighbours. Therefore, the authors propose another potential reason for why some people get labelled zhu and others don't. "Our finding that the label is more likely to fall on wealthier and female-headed households fits with anecdotal accounts from other populations of accusations arising out of jealousy or spite, directed particularly at women," the authors write. ^ top ^

CPC newspaper says China should "grasp historic opportunity" (Xinhua)
2018-01-15
The People's Daily, the Communist Party of China (CPC) flagship newspaper, published an article Monday calling for efforts to grasp the historic opportunity facing China. The article under the byline of Xuan Yan said China was facing a period in which the timeframes of the two centenary goals converged, and both dreams and hard work were needed to achieve the country's goals of creating a moderately prosperous society, modernization and building China into a "great modern socialist country." The article said socialism with Chinese characteristics had blazed the trail for China's prosperity and the people's happiness, which had allowed scientific socialism to prosper. Noting the problems facing the world, such as a "democratic deficit," "governance deficit," "development trap," wealth gap, terrorism and climate change, the article said "the drawbacks of capitalism-led political and economic systems are emerging; the global governance system is experiencing profound changes and a new international order is taking shape." "The world needs China, as all humans are living in a community with a shared future," the article said. "That creates broad strategic room for our efforts to uphold peace and development and gain an advantage." The article said China was at a historic period for the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics to leap forward, for the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics to mature and for the world pattern to reshape. "It is also a key period for the realizing of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and for the CPC and the Chinese people to carve out their career," it said. "The historic opportunity is an all-round one, which refers to not only economic development but also the speeding up of science, technology and industrial revolution, the growing influence of Chinese culture and the increasing acknowledgement to the Chinese wisdom and Chinese approach," it said. "We are more confident, and more competent, than any time in history to grasp this opportunity." The article noted that the banner of new thought had provided China a guide to take the opportunity, as the 19th CPC National Congress has enshrined Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as a guide for action. It went on and said that China was contributing to the world on economic growth, trade, poverty alleviation, green development as well as development and governance. "China has become an important source and stabilizer for world economic growth, as well as an important protector and advocate of world peace and development and human civilization progress," it said. "The development of China is rarely seen in the world and the explorations of the CPC are unprecedented." It called for "down-to-earth efforts with no hesitation and improved competence to take the opportunity firmly." The article said that now "everyone can live a wonderful life at stage of the times." "We are fully aware of our responsibilities. We should resolutely support the core, faithfully follow the leader, use our courage and morale...and make strides toward a brighter future," it said. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang vows to win ideological battle for stability (Global Times)
2018-01-18
Xinjiang's Party committee has vowed to clean up "malignant ideological influences" in all fields and is "determined to win the ideological battle" in the coming year to maintain stability. At a meeting on Tuesday, Party officials of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region said its publicity work should focus on ideology this year, and should ensure the absolute safety of ideology work, Xinjiang Daily reported Wednesday. The report said that the government vowed to "clean up malignant ideological influences in all fields," and to uncover these "two-faced" people. Those who need to be cleaned up are people who do not firmly believe in socialism and communism, and "two-faced" people refers to those who appear to believe in socialism but secretly sympathize or even support separatism, Xiong Kunxin, a professor at Beijing's Minzu University of China, told the Global Times Thursday. He noted that in order to win the ideological battle, the Party must regulate media, especially websites, which are a hotbed for separatists. In February 2017, the Xinjiang government busted seven instances of individuals spreading extremism and illegal content online after receiving tips, Xinjiang-based news site ts.cn reported. The region's official also said it will use the internet as a tool to help instill the correct ideology. The report said that last year, the government stressed the importance of publicizing the spirit of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC); the activities that help grass-roots Xinjiang villagers bond with the local governments, and supervision over publications. In December 2017, officials and government employees in Xinjiang were required to live and study with a local foster family whom officials were told to consider and treat as "relatives." About a million government officials and employees took part in the unity week campaign, launched in December by the Xinjiang government to enhance ethnic unity and practice the spirit of the 19th CPC National Congress, the Xinjiang Daily reported in early January. ^ top ^

Thought police create climate of fear in China's tense Xinjiang region (SCMP)
2018-01-17
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 ^

Xinjiang, Guangxi prison authorities deny forcing prisoners to speak Putonghua (Global Times)
2018-01-17
Prison authorities in South China provinces and Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region denied they forced prisoners' relatives to use Putonghua on visits. "We never had such an order that prisoners and their relatives must speak Putonghua during meetings," an official in charge of the publicity from the prison administration bureau of Xinjiang told the Global Times on Tuesday. "In some regions, such as southern Xinjiang, many relatives cannot speak Putonghua at all. If there was such an order, they would be unable even to visit the prison," he said. A Guangzhou prison officer in South China's Guangdong Province where Cantonese is the dialect told the Global Times that such reports were "created totally out of nothing." "We do not restrict prisoners and their relatives' language when they meet. Our police officers can understand Cantonese as well," he said. Typically each prisoner can have at most three visitors meet them 30 minutes once a month, Zhang said. "The report is untrue. We strictly follow the Prison Law and related regulations of the Ministry of Justice," Zhang Yang, a police officer from the prison administration bureau in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, told the Global Times on Tuesday. China's Prison Law does not specify any required language for prison visits. Local regulations, such as those in Guangxi, stipulate that ethnic minority dialects are permitted. The Prison Law states that special habits or customs of ethnic minority prisoners should be attended to. Ethnic minority prisoners could use their own language while meeting visitors, but interpreters were required, according to a Guangxi administration rule, Zhang explained. Overseas media reported on Friday that prisons in Guangdong, Guangxi, Tibet and Xinjiang ordered prisoners to use Putonghua when meeting relatives, citing a report from the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation. If they used dialect or their own ethnic languages, the meeting could only be five minutes, the reports said. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Philip Dykes elected new head of Hong Kong Bar Association in upset win (SCMP)
2018-01-19
Leading human rights lawyer Philip Dykes was elected as the new chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association on Thursday night, unseating the incumbent in an upset victory after the most heated and politically charged contest in years. Calls for reform prevailed over incumbency as Dykes, seen as the underdog, beat Paul Lam Ting-kwok by around 100 votes after campaigning for the influential body of barristers to play a more progressive role in protecting the city's rule of law. "I believe the Bar will become stronger because differences have been identified and will be addressed by the forthcoming Bar Council," he said, after four of his allies were also elected to the board of the council which governs the association. They included criminal law expert Lawrence Lok Ying-kam and liberal academic Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun. Describing his high-profile battle with Lam as a contest "well fought by both sides", Dykes also stressed there was no reason for the association's relationship with Beijing to deteriorate under his leadership. He had already built good ties across the border during a previous stint as chairman a decade ago, he said. Lam shared Dykes' positive outlook in his concession statement, saying: "I believe that after the election, we will have a stronger Bar and a united Bar." He would not comment on the politicisation of the election after a year fraught with polarising disputes over constitutionally contentious moves by the government and Beijing. "There is no question of having hard feelings," he said. "I respect the members' choice." More than 400 of Hong Kong's 1,400 practising barristers voted in person at the Bar Association's annual general meeting in Central – an unprecedented turnout – while the rest cast proxy ballots to pick their chairman and five board members for the 20-strong council. Calls for reform prevailed over incumbency as Dykes, seen as the underdog, beat Paul Lam Ting-kwok by around 100 votes after campaigning for the influential body of barristers to play a more progressive role in protecting the city's rule of law. "I believe the Bar will become stronger because differences have been identified and will be addressed by the forthcoming Bar Council," he said, after four of his allies were also elected to the board of the council which governs the association. They included criminal law expert Lawrence Lok Ying-kam and liberal academic Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun. Describing his high-profile battle with Lam as a contest "well fought by both sides", Dykes also stressed there was no reason for the association's relationship with Beijing to deteriorate under his leadership. He had already built good ties across the border during a previous stint as chairman a decade ago, he said. Lam shared Dykes' positive outlook in his concession statement, saying: "I believe that after the election, we will have a stronger Bar and a united Bar." He would not comment on the politicisation of the election after a year fraught with polarising disputes over constitutionally contentious moves by the government and Beijing. "There is no question of having hard feelings," he said. "I respect the members' choice." More than 400 of Hong Kong's 1,400 practising barristers voted in person at the Bar Association's annual general meeting in Central – an unprecedented turnout – while the rest cast proxy ballots to pick their chairman and five board members for the 20-strong council. Ahead of Thursday night's vote, Lam expressed gratitude to his ­supporters in a letter to members. "We have no organisations, no outside backers, no PR professionals but you and your dogged determination to keep a Bar which is run by barristers and ­barristers alone, and which speaks out in the public interest," he wrote. Dykes said he and like-minded barristers would keep working for the Bar and for the rule of law, ­regardless of the election result. The association has been an influential voice in legal affairs. In 2003, led by opposition ­politician Alan Leong Kah-kit it played a key role in opposing legislation on a national security law. The bill was eventually shelved after 500,000 people took to the streets, fearing their rights and freedoms would be curbed. ^ top ^

Communist Party mouthpiece accuses Hong Kong university student unions of 'selling' independence under guise of free speech (SCMP)
2018-01-18
A Communist Party mouthpiece lashed out at university student unions in the city on Thursday, accusing them of touting Hong Kong independence under the guise of free speech and academic research, an act it compared to "selling dog meat but displaying a sheep's head". It took aim in particular at a new club set up under the Chinese University student union earlier this month under the name "Society for the Study of Hong Kong Independence". The group began a recruitment drive on social media last week. "Using the 'sheep's head' of freedom of speech and academic research to sell the 'dog meat' of 'civil disobedience' and 'self-determination' of Hong Kong is not something new," read the commentary published in the overseas edition of the state-run People's Daily, making use of a Chinese saying to describe trickery or false advertising. The phrase "not something new" was referring to the 79-day pro-democracy Occupy movement in 2014. "This time, the parties involved have tried their best to cover up their calls for 'independence' in the name of a 'learned society' … muddling the distinctions between 'academic discussion' and 'political advocacy' merely to endorse their own unlawful activities," the piece said. The newspaper also called out students and academics, saying they had used freedom of speech as a shield and turned university campuses into their own political stage. While Hong Kong had freedom of speech and academic freedom, the writer said, any such freedoms had to be based on compliance with the law. Advocating Hong Kong's independence from the mainland violated the national constitution and the Basic Law – Hong Kong's mini-constitution – and "trampled" on the "one country, two systems" framework under which the city was governed, the piece continued. Last Friday, the Society for the Study of Hong Kong Independence posted a recruitment message on CUHK Secrets, a popular Facebook page on which the institution's students post anonymously. The club, which claimed to have 40 members so far, said its aims were to: study the feasibility of Hong Kong independence; provide a platform for members to discuss it while safeguarding freedom of speech and academic freedom; raise awareness of independence topics; and organise related activities. The university earlier said it would approach the student union's representative council, which manages the society, to understand the matter, adding that activities associated with CUHK should be conducted in accordance with the Basic Law. In a statement released on Wednesday, the university said that "any speech or act that incites or promotes Hong Kong independence is in contravention of the Basic Law", but added that the school would continue to do its utmost to protect freedom of speech and academic autonomy while ensuring the campus was a place for "the engagement of rational intellectual pursuits, instead of political contests". Aside from criticising the CUHK group, the People's Daily commentary cited a recent study conducted by the educational website Education18.com and the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Programme indicating that HKU had dropped from the top spot in terms of institutes of higher learning most favoured by secondary school heads in the city, blaming frequent involvement in political issues and governance problems that may have altered public perception of the school. According to the Times Higher Education's World Universities Ranking for 2018, however, HKU rose in standing and achieved its best position since 2014. ^ top ^

Hong Kong Occupy activist Joshua Wong denied bail after being sentenced to three months' jail for contempt of court (SCMP)
2018-01-18
Dissident Hong Kong student leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung, having barely tasted 2½ months of freedom, was jailed again on Wednesday for three months over the 2014 Occupy protests, this time for contempt of court. Out on bail pending the outcome of his appeal against an earlier prison sentence, Wong was put behind bars for a second time over a separate case for obstructing the court-ordered clearance of an Occupy protest site. Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai of the High Court also jailed another activist, Raphael Wong Ho-ming, vice-chairman of the League of Social Democrats, for four months and 15 days for the same offence. The pair applied for bail pending a new appeal, but were taken immediately into custody after the judge ruled that he had no power to grant them bail. Mr Justice Chan said they had played either a "leading" or "significant" role in blocking the clearance of a major protest site in Mong Kok on November 26, 2014. They had defied a court order, secured by a local drivers' group, requesting occupiers to leave the scene. Another student leader, Lester Shum, was given a suspended sentence, along with 13 others. The suspended sentences ranged from one to two months, while some were also fined HK$10,000 or HK$15,000. Joshua Wong shook Shum's hand before being taken away from the dock. "Let's keep it up," he told supporters in the public gallery. One woman in the crowd sobbed and cried out: "I want universal suffrage." The judge inquired about the grounds of appeal for the pair, given he had already considered the request by Joshua Wong's lawyers not to sentence him to more than three months in jail. Lawrence Lok Ying-kam SC, for Joshua Wong, previously said that any jail term greater than that would affect Wong's chance to stand for election to the legislature. Before he was taken away, Wong threw his support behind Agnes Chow Ting, a fellow member of his political party Demosisto, who was in the public gallery to root for him. "I will vote for you in jail," he told her, referring to Chow's expected candidacy in the coming Legislative Council by-election in March. The poster boy of what is also known as the umbrella movement fired a parting shot at the government: "You can lock up our body, but you can't lock up our mind." A prison van took the pair to Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, from where they were to be sent to their designated prison. While Joshua Wong, 21, will appeal against his sentence, Raphael Wong, 29, will challenge both his conviction and sentence, according to fellow activists. The ruling came just a day after Joshua Wong's lawyers made a last-ditch appeal to Hong Kong's top court over another case, urging it to take into account that protesters were fighting for a cause they considered to be noble. He was jailed for six months in that case for storming the government headquarters compound at Tamar during an illegal protest that effectively launched the Occupy road blockades. Those who were sentenced on Wednesday were among 20 charged with contempt of court after refusing to leave the Mong Kok protest site in 2014. The 16 defendants were aged between 18 and 65 at the time, most of them below 25. Four others were given one-month suspended jail sentences in November last year, along with HK$10,000 fines. A score of supporters, including disqualified lawmakers "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung and Edward Yiu Chung-yim, chanted slogans outside court. Shum said acts of civil disobedience were a right bestowed upon citizens to challenge an authoritarian regime, and jailing protesters went against the concept of democracy. Raphael Wong said the government under the former administration should be held accountable for contempt of court instead, as it had turned the judiciary into a "political tool". The 79-day civil disobedience movement for greater democracy, which brought parts of the city to a standstill, was triggered by Beijing's restrictive framework on political reform in Hong Kong. As activists occupied major roads, taxi and minibus drivers complaining of business losses secured a court order to clear protest sites in Mong Kok. After bailiffs were sent to clear a key site on Nathan Road, the 20 protesters were arrested when they refused to leave. While nine of them, including Joshua Wong and Shum, pleaded guilty to contempt of court, the remaining 11, who denied the offence, were subsequently found guilty in the contempt of court trial. In his ruling on Wednesday, the judge said their continued blockade had affected the lives of other ordinary citizens, who had "parents to support" and "mortgage and rent to pay".
The 16 who attended court on Wednesday (all ages at time of offence):
· Chau Wan-ying, 21, undergraduate, one month's jail suspended for 12 months
· Chu Wai-lun, 21, cook, one month's jail suspended for 12 months, HK$10,000 fine
· Chu Pui-yan, 23, account clerk, six weeks' jail suspended for 12 months, HK$15,000 fine
· Kwok Yeung-yuk, 19, university student, six weeks' jail suspended for 12 months, HK$15,000 fine
· Lester Shum, 19, Legco member's assistant, one month's jail suspended for 12 months, HK$10,000 fine
· Chiu Chi-sum, 65, maintenance worker, two months' jail suspended for 18 months, HK$15,000 fine
· Chan Po-ying, 58, policy researcher, two months' jail suspended for 18 months, HK$15,000 fine
· Cheung Kai-hong, 27, computer technician, one month's jail suspended for 12 months, HK$10,000 fine
· Kwan Siu-wang, 23, freelance photographer and designer, six weeks' jail suspended for 12 months, HK$15,000 fine
· Hung Cheuk-lun, 24, baggage handler, six weeks' jail suspended for 12 months, HK$15,000 fine
· Fung Kai-hei, 30, hotel waiter, six weeks' jail suspended for 12 months, HK$15,000 fine
· Choi Tat-shing, 18, barista, one month's jail suspended for 12 months, HK$10,000 fine
· Jason Szeto Tsz-long, 20, Legco member's assistant, six weeks' jail suspended for 18 months, HK$10,000 fine
· Joshua Wong Chi-fung, 18, university student and Demosisto secretary general, three months' jail
· Mak Ying-sheung, 33, project manager in toy industry, six weeks' jail suspended for 12 months, HK$15,000 fine
· Raphael Wong Ho-ming, 26, community organiser, four months and 15 days' jail ^ top ^

Keep foreign interference out of Hong Kong affairs (SCMP)
2018-01-16
It's bizarre that pan-democrats are always appealing to some mythical entity called the international community to protect Hong Kong and its people. You may be cynical and critical about your own government. But you should also extend your cynicism and scepticism to foreign governments, which care even less about you, whatever their sanctimonious public statements. Remember, Western democratic politicians only really care about votes and donations, and you can't vote for them and I assume you are not a billionaire. If our city ever goes down the proverbial drain, there is nothing to be gained and much to lose for the central and Hong Kong governments. But how would our fate affect London, Washington, Tokyo, Canberra or Brussels? Not an ounce; it might even be "strategically desirable" in containing a rising China. But such naivety is again apparent in the latest cri de coeur from pan-democrat lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung. It is indeed a core belief of the opposition. "I strongly believe it is the perfect time for the international community to look closely into Hong Kong's current situation," he wrote in an op-ed for Hong Kong Watch, a political NGO. "China's meddling in Hong Kong's internal affairs has become increasingly frequent and more obvious in recent years." Let's get some nomenclature right: Hong Kong is part of China, so perhaps he should have written "the mainland". So China is interfering in its own territory. But to counter that, you want foreign entities to meddle in our affairs with the mainland? I recognise that there is such an international doctrine as "responsibility to protect", which legitimises foreign intervention, but only in extreme events such as massacres, genocides and famines. Hui says Beijing is breaching the Basic Law, but which international body has the authority and power to adjudicate on this point other than Beijing and London on the basis of their Joint Declaration? It's crystal-clear that neither government wants to revisit this decades-old treaty. Oh, and Donald Trump's America? Hui once protested against granting HK$250,000 to a district council to promote the Basic Law. So is he for or against our mini-constitution? May I make a suggestion? If you want Beijing to lay off, how about conducting "rapprochement" to reach an understanding? It may or may not work. But appealing to foreign entities, governments or otherwise, will for sure provoke a hardline response from Beijing. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

"Taiwan independence" activities responsible for speculation on "non-peaceful reunification" (Xinhua)
2018-01-17
A Chinese mainland spokesperson has said that rising speculation of "non-peaceful reunification" should be blamed on the increasing "Taiwan independence" separatist activities on the island. Ma Xiaoguang, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, stressed at a press conference Wednesday that the mainland was willing to use its "greatest efforts and utmost good will" in pursuing peaceful reunification of the Chinese nation. "However, it will never tolerate 'Taiwan independence' or allow such forces to split China," he said. Ma made the remarks with regards to increased speculation that "non-peaceful measures" may be used in pursuit of China's reunification, though he said the Taiwan authorities leader believed such a prospect would not occur. "Our policies toward Taiwan have been clear and consistent," Ma said. The spokesperson said "Taiwan independence" was the greatest threat to cross-Strait peace and stability, while the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations was the fundamental guarantee for peace and stability. Ma said the Taiwan authorities's refusal to accept the 1992 Consensus, undermined the political basis for cross-Strait ties, and its actions to unscrupulously develop arms would exacerbate tension across the Taiwan Strait. "Whether the Taiwan authorities will follow the good trend and return to the 1992 Consensus or do the opposite depends on its own decisions," the spokesperson said. In response to a question on the island's activities to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the death of former Taiwan leader Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Chiang Kai-shek, Ma acknowledged Chiang's efforts in upholding the one-China principle, opposing "Taiwan independence" and pursuing national unification. "Based on the common political basis of adhering to the 1992 Consensus and opposing 'Taiwan independence,' we are willing to enhance dialogue and cooperation with all parties, organizations and personages in Taiwan to jointly maintain and promote the interests of people on both sides of the Strait and safeguard the peaceful development of cross-Strait ties," he said. ^ top ^

Beijing doesn't need Taipei's permission to open Taiwan Strait air routes (SCMP)
2018-01-17
China's mainland does not need Taiwan's permission to open new air routes, Beijing said on Wednesday after Taipei complained that a new route over the Taiwan Strait that separates the two was a security and safety risk. Beijing has taken an increasingly hostile stance towards Taipei since the election two years ago of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party. Tsai said earlier this month that the opening of the air route, which runs close to two groups of Taiwan-controlled island groups off the Chinese coast, was an irresponsible act that threatened regional security and affected aviation safety. Taiwan said this month's opening of the northbound M503 route over the Taiwan Strait was done without telling the island, contravening what the democratic government in Taipei said is a 2015 deal to first discuss such flight paths. Speaking at a regular news briefing in Beijing, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office, denied breaking the 2015 agreement and said Taiwan had been informed the route would be opening. "But this does not mean that opening air routes needs Taiwan's agreement," he said. There would be no impact on aviation safety for Taiwan, Ma said, adding that the route was needed to alleviate pressure on busy routes over southeastern China between Hong Kong and Shanghai. The route was approved by the International Civil Aviation Organisation scientifically and professionally, he said. "We should believe in science, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation," Ma said. Taiwan should have a correct view of the matter and stop looking for opportunities to make a fuss, he said. Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province, and broke off official communication with the island's government after Tsai took office in 2016. Beijing suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence, though she said she wanted to maintain the status quo with the mainland and was committed to ensuring peace. China's mainland has in recent months stepped up its military drills around Taiwan, alarming Taipei. It says the exercises are routine, but that it will not tolerate any attempt by the island to declare independence. ^ top ^

Taiwan's local elections to be held in November (Xinhua)
2018-01-16
Taiwan's local elections will be held on Nov. 24, according to the island's election affairs authority. The elections will choose mayors, county chiefs, city councilors, township chiefs and village leaders. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China must lower GDP expectations and push SOE reform, says S&P Global Ratings economist (SCMP)
2018-01-19
The Chinese government should manage downwards the country's expectations for gross domestic product growth and push forward reforms at state-owned enterprises, both key for addressing China's mounting credit and debt problem, according to Paul Gruenwald, the chief economist at S&P Global Ratings. "GDP growth has had a very, very special status in China. It is almost like an expectation anchor for the whole economy," Gruenwald told a forum in Hong Kong on Thursday, the same day China reported a 6.9 per cent expansion in GDP for 2017. The result topped the official target as well as 2016 growth. "But that [GDP] number needs to be managed down," he said, minutes before the announcement. Gruenwald worked as deputy chief of the China division at the International Monetary Fund before joining S&P Global Ratings. The agency cut China's sovereign credit rating by one notch last year for the first time since 1999, citing risks from China's soaring debt levels. A continuation of reforms at state-owned enterprises was also needed, for addressing China's credit problem, said Gruenwald. "Most of the debt is from the corporate sector, especially the SOEs. They are very big and are the ones who are soaking up the credit," he said. Gruenwald said the market should also play an essential role besides the government in containing excessive borrowing. "Markets without defaults are like religions without sin," he said. "China is a US$10 trillion economy, and there was one default last year. If we want credit to be allocated and priced properly, actions are going to be needed on the default front." Debt and credit in China have in recent years – especially after the global financial crisis in 2008 – reached worrisome levels as the government is pursuing faster GDP growth compared with the rest of the world, as well as because of the country's transformation from an external driven economy to an almost exclusively domestic growth story, which needs the support of excessive borrowing. China's credit-to-GDP ratio is now at about 25 times, which is quite high compared with other countries, according to the IMF, which said China's corporate debt has reached 165 per cent of its GDP. Meanwhile, China's household debt, while still low, has risen by 15 percentage points of its GDP over the past five years, and is increasingly linked to asset-price speculation, according to a report issued by the IMF in December. ^ top ^

These nine companies banned from the world's largest sovereign wealth fund for ethical reasons (SCMP)
2018-01-17
Norway's US$1 trillion sovereign wealth fund, the world's largest, has excluded nine groups, including the UK's military equipment maker BAE Systems, from its portfolio based on ethical grounds, the Norwegian central bank said on Tuesday. The British defence group, along with the US firms Aecom, Fluor and Huntington Ingalls Industries have been banned for producing components to build nuclear weapons, the central bank said. The fund has banned BAE Systems in the past but later reintroduced the group and Italy's Finmeccanica, now called Leonardo, after their joint venture, missile maker MBDA, stopped producing ASMP-A nuclear warhead missiles for the French army. This time, BAE Systems is accused of having signed a 2015 agreement with the US authorities for the maintenance and modernisation of the Trident and Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. Honeywell International, which has been blacklisted since 2005, was confirmed to be banned for similar reasons despite the group's recent assurances that it does not produce nuclear missiles or warheads. The fund has also banned Taiwanese Evergreen Marine, South Korea's Korea Line, Polish Atal and Thailand's Precious Shipping and Thoresen Thai Agencies for posing environmental risks or systematic human rights violations. The South Korean shipping company Pan Ocean has also been placed under observation. The fund which has shares in some 9,000 companies around the world, must follow ethical rules which prohibit it from investing in companies that produce nuclear arms, tobacco, risk environmental damage, violate human rights, and groups deriving a large part of their business from coal. Its decisions are all the more important since they are often followed by other investors. Nearly 150 companies, including giants like Airbus, Boeing, British American Tobacco and Wal Mart, Rio Tinto and Philip Morris have been blacklisted. A dozen other groups are under observation. ^ top ^

IMF says China should 'look at its own barriers' to trade if it truly wants globalization (SCMP)
2018-01-15
China should take a good look the restrictions it places on trade and investment if it wants to promote globalisation, a senior executive with the International Monetary Fund said in Hong Kong on Monday. The comments by David Lipton, the IMF's first deputy managing director, come as Beijing tries to paint itself as the victim of the protectionist measures against its products and investment deals, most notably by the United States. "China should be able to look at its own restrictions on trade and investment, which have generated criticism from some trading partners," Lipton told the Asian Financial Forum. "It also means protecting intellectual property rights and reducing distortions of industrial policy over capacity and policies that favour [state-owned enterprises]." Lipton was referring to common complaints about Chinese trade and investment practices, including its lack of reciprocity. US President Donald Trump is expected to take a tougher stand on trade with Beijing this year after China's surplus with the US rose to a record high in 2017. Trump was briefed on the issue over the weekend by trade envoy Robert Lighthizer, as his administration considers whether to impose broad restrictions on steel and aluminium imports from China. The findings of Washington's investigation into alleged intellectual property theft and cyber espionage will ­be delivered on Thursday. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States this month rejected a bid by Ant Financial, Alibaba Group's financial arm, to buy US-based MoneyGram International over national security concerns. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post. Meanwhile, China is imposing new restrictions of its own on foreign businesses. Tech giant Apple announced just a few days ago that it would hand over its iCloud operations in China to a government-controlled big data firm to comply with new regulations from Beijing. Lipton did not mention any specific deals in his speech. "Globalisation will not receive sustainable support unless it is based on free and fair trade and investment [practices]," he said. "Better globalisation is in China's interest." ^ top ^

 

DPRK

China supports DPRK, ROK in fostering trust, building consensus through dialogue (Xinhua)
2018-01-18
China supports the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) in fostering trust, building consensus, and finding solutions through dialogue, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Thursday. Media reported that the DPRK and ROK Wednesday agreed to let their athletes march together under the unified flag of the Korean Peninsula at the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics next month. The agreement was reached at vice ministerial-level talks between the two countries, which were held Wednesday at Peace House, a building on the South Korean side of Panmunjom which straddles the heavily guarded border. Meanwhile, ROK Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said the ROK will push forward dialogue for the peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. Spokesperson Lu Kang said the two countries on the Korean Peninsula had reached important consensus on cooperation at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and improving their relations, reflecting constructive efforts on easing the situation on the peninsula. "We hope the DPRK and the ROK can keep the positive momentum of their interactions and find the greatest common factor, in order to realize denuclearization and achieve permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula," Lu said. He stressed all parties in the Korean Peninsula issue should cherish the current situation, and the international community should seize the opportunity to actively promote peace rather than stir up trouble, as well as making concrete efforts to resolve the issue. ^ top ^

US and allies want harder line on North Korea sanctions but will China and Russia agree to tougher measures? (SCMP)
2018-01-18
The United States and its allies on Tuesday vowed tougher measures to halt North Korean sanctions busting, including naval security operations to prevent maritime smuggling. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Canada's foreign minister Chrystia Freeland, hosts of talks in Vancouver, urged world powers to support "maritime interdiction" measures. Along with Japan, South Korea and the other powers gathered for the high-level meeting, they re-committed to "the complete, verifiable and irreversible de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula." The warning of robust new tactics to intercept illicit shipments of nuclear materials or sanctions-busting imports was the most concrete measure to come out of a two-day meeting to which China and Russia were not invited. Many observers, including Beijing and Moscow themselves, had questioned the value of holding a meeting of former Korea War allies to discuss an issue when China's support remains the key to diplomatic success. Others had noted a stark difference in tone between the hawkish Japanese envoy, Foreign Minister Taro Ono, and South Korea's more cautious Kang Kyung-wha, who said recent inter-Korea talks were a sign sanctions are already working. But after the meeting was done, Tillerson insisted the allies will remain united and continue to work with China and Russia to enforce UN-backed sanctions and force Kim Jong-Un to negotiate his own nuclear disarmament. "Our unity and our common cause with others in the region, most particularly China and Russia, will remain intact despite North Korea's frequent attempts to divide us and sow dissension," he said. "We discussed the importance of working together to counter sanctions evasion and smuggling and we also issued a call to action to strengthen global maritime interdiction operations to foil illicit ship-to-ship transfers." North Korea has been accused of seeking to evade the draconian sanctions imposed on its isolated regime by transferring supplies from foreign vessels to its own on the high seas. Some experts have argued that naval action to intercept merchantmen would be interpreted as an act of war and trigger a potentially devastating North Korean response. And reports in Washington suggest that US forces are at least planning for a potential strike of their own, a limited so-called "bloody nose" strike to convince Kim that his safest option is a negotiated settlement. Tillerson refused to address military planning issues, and would not say whether US President Donald Trump has been in contact with Pyongyang, but he did warn that the crisis is coming to a head. "With respect to whether Americans need to be concerned about a war with North Korea, I think we all need to be very sober and clear eyed about the current situation," he warned, just days after a false warning of a missile strike jolted the US island state of Hawaii. Tillerson said that North Korea's recent tests of a thermonuclear warhead and of an intercontinental missile show their "continued progress" in developing an arsenal that is already a global threat. "I think our approach is in terms of having North Korea choose the correct step is to present to them that talks are the best option, that when they look at the military situation, that's not a good outcome for them," he said. The delegates broadly welcomed North Korea's decision to meet with Seoul's representatives and to send a delegation to the South's upcoming Winter Olympics, which many see as a potential breakthrough in the stand-off. But Tillerson warned that more measures may be needed if North Korea continues its provocations, and Japan's Kono urged the allies not to let their guard down. Without naming South Korea, Kono warned that Kim Jong-Un's regime "must be intending to drive a wedge between those tough countries and those that are not so tough." For her part, Kang welcomed international support for sanctions, but her opening remarks carried a more optimistic message than those of her Japanese neighbour. "I believe that the two tools, tough sanctions and pressure on the one hand and the offer of a different brighter future on the other, have worked hand in hand," she said. "Indeed the concerted effort of the international community has begun to bear fruit." Tillerson insisted after the talks that there is "no daylight" between Seoul and Washington on how to handle the crisis, and that the US-Japan-South Korea tripartite alliance remains "ironclad". Moscow and Beijing were not represented in Vancouver and angrily dismissed the meeting. "The most important relevant parties of the Korean peninsula issue haven't taken part in the meeting so I don't think the meeting is legal or representative," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang. Lu denounced the "cold war mentality" of the United States, which is urging Beijing to cut off fuel oil supplies to Pyongyang – a step too far for Beijing, which fears the collapse of Kim's regime more than its surrender. Trans-Pacific tensions have been running high for months, despite the recent return to direct talks between Kim's regime and Moon Jae-in's South Korea. As the talks got under way, Pyongyang responded to Trump's recent Twitter warning that his nuclear arsenal dwarfs the North's fledgling missile batteries. Official party newspaper Rodong Sinmun dismissed Trump's "swaggering" as the "spasm of a lunatic" frightened by North Korea's power and the "bark of a rabid dog". ^ top ^

Xi, Trump discuss Korean Peninsula over phone (Xinhua)
2018-01-16
The phone call came amid strengthening of efforts to keep China-U.S. trade relations right on track and at a time when tensions on the Korean Peninsula have shown signs of easing. In response to Trump's request for comments on the development of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Xi told him that China was "ready to join the U.S. for proper settlement of the nuclear issue." Xi said that there are some positive changes and related parties should work jointly to keep up the hard-won momentum for the easing of the situation on the Korean Peninsula and create conditions for the resumption of talks. Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and safeguarding peace and stability in the region accord with the common interests of all sides, said Xi, adding that it is vital for the international community to stay united over the issue. China is ready to continue its joint efforts with the United States and other members of the international community to achieve progress that would finally lead to a proper resolution of the issue, said Xi. In response, Trump said the U.S. side values China's significant role in resolving the Korean Peninsula issue and is willing to strengthen communication and coordination with China over the issue. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have shown signs of easing as senior officials from Pyongyang and Seoul met face-to-face on the borders earlier this month in what was their first direct talks in more than two years. During the dialogue held at the South Korean side of the Panmunjom demilitarized zone, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) said it will send athletes to the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, in February. The two Koreas held a working-level meeting Monday and discussed details concerning the arrangement for Pyongyang's state art troupe that will be dispatched to perform at the Olympics. The DPRK also proposed further talks at Panmunjom on Wednesday on logistics for its participating athletes, according to media reports. The international community welcomed the diplomatic thaw between the pair shown in their frequent consultations and is eager to see if the rapprochement will last beyond the sporting event. Pyongyang and Seoul are technically still at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a truce instead of a peace treaty. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Foreign Minister meets EU Ambassadors (Montsame)
2018-01-19
Minister of Foreign Affairs D.Tsogtbaatar has requested support from the European Union member states in pulling Mongolia out of the 'tax haven list' in the near future. The issue was addressed during the Foreign Minister's meeting on January 18 with the EU Ambassadors in Mongolia including Marco Ferri, Chargé d'Affaires of the EU Delegation in Mongolia. Ambassadors of the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria were present at the meeting. Foreign Minister D.Tsogtbaatar confirmed Mongolia's commitment to develop its taxation law and surrounding legal environment to international standards, strengthen good governance, and promote transparency. During the meeting, the sides exchanged views on the current state of Mongolia-EU relations and cooperation in 2018. 2017 saw great developments in bilateral relationship such as the entry into force of the Mongolia-EU Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation in November, opening of the EU Delegation in Ulaanbaatar and beginning of the Human Rights Dialogue. The sides agreed to put concrete efforts into increasing Mongolia's export and the EU investment and take cooperative measures towards eliminating the existing challenges in investment in 2018. ^ top ^

Ministry of Foreign Affairs denies false report (Montsame)
2018-01-18
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied a report concerning the diplomatic relations between Mongolia and Lithuania which recently surfaced on some online media outlets. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on January 18, "An unfounded report has emerged on a website named 'Amazing Reveal' claiming that Lithuania has decided to impose trade sanction against Mongolia. Not only is the report false, the said website is not officially registered in Lithuania. Seeing as publicization of such disinformation could harm the reputation of Mongolia, it is important to verify the credibility of the news source before disseminating it." ^ top ^

Amendments to Law on Banking approved (Montsame)
2018-01-18
Today's Parliamentary plenary meeting has approved amendments on Banking law by 80.4 percent vote on January 18. The changes are expected to contribute significantly to economic development. Head of Economic Standing Committee D.Damba-Ochir stated, "MongolBank is working on decreasing loan rates. The standing committee has also formed a working group on the same matter. The current loan rate is an indicator of economic situation that we are in. Maintenance of stable and sustainable financial system is a medium- to long-term issue. On the other hand, if approved, Law on Investment Banking will create opportunities for foreign banks to invest long term at low cost. The new legislation also bans commercial banks from forming subsidiary companies. The banks will now provide loans and custodian services only." Initially the bill contained a clause that authorizes the Central Bank to set a limit on loan interest rate, which was later removed. Governor of MongolBank N.Bayartsaikhan expressed his stance on interest rate and its regulation. "Law on Banking is a general regulation law. The goal of the law aims to ensure bank's stability and reduce middle and long term risks. Therefore it indirectly influences the loan interest. Interest rate decline will boost citizens' confidence in banking system and maintain reliability." When asked his opinion on possibility of foreign banks entering into domestic market, he said, "I personally think that foreign banks could operate in Mongolia. If the investment banking bill is approved, it will be possible for foreign banks to offer investment banking services in our country" Currently, Golomt, Ulaanbaatar and Trade and Development banks have subsidiaries. "Starting April 1, it will no longer be possible for commercial banks to form subsidiaries, and directions will be given to liquidate the ones they already have", said Deputy Governor of MongolBank B.Lkhagvasuren during Economic Standing Committee's meeting on January 17. ^ top ^

President: Problem of smog should be tackled along with unemployment and poverty (Montsame)
2018-01-17
Last week, President of Mongolia Kh.Battulga gave an interview to the Mongolian National Broadcaster regarding timely matters. - Let's begin Interview Hour of the Mongolian National Broadcaster. This time, we have the President of Mongolia and Head of the National Security Council, Mr. Khaltmaagiin Battulga as our guest. As head of state, You proposed the Parliament that the fight against smog should be taken more seriously, as such, the issue needs to be considered as the reason to declare a state of emergency. You expressed Your position and asked the Parliament to study the possibilities of Your proposal. However, a working group appointed by the Parliament explained the issue of air pollution cannot be considered within the frames of the Law on Emergency. They explained that there is not enough legal motives, making it [declaring state of emergency] impossible. Is it Your view that fight against smog can become more effective, and actions, more tangible, with declaring a state of emergency? - There are many pressing issues at the moment, but smog is the most critical and hazardous problem of all. It's not a phenomenon of only 2017 and 2018. The issue has been on the table for about 20 years now. Explaining the damage caused by smog may require numerous statistics, but the statistics have become a nuisance. I can tell you why we should consider air pollution on the level of emergency. First of all, exactly a year ago, the National Security Council called a meeting on air pollution. As a result, the Government, Ministries and the City Administration have been obligated to fulfill many tasks and quite a number of recommendations have been issued. Unfortunately, the issues we have been discussing are being brought up again and again without any outcome. Air pollution is taken seriously only between November and January of every year. I have submitted my proposal on declaring a state of emergency to the State Great Khural (Parliament) on the motives to reach tangible solutions and take actions in order to stop the destruction. I proposed this in order to address the problem in a different way. I attended the parliamentary session in person to give comments. After meetings of two standing committees, a "so-called" draft resolution has been issued. - As the President, You have raised the question of dissolving the Parliament, if the Parliament should fail to take appropriate measures towards reducing the air pollution in the near future. Following Your statement, a circumstance might occur where the public divide and become vulnerable to political polarity. Do You think dissolving the Parliament can change the situation? - The Mongolian People's Party (MPP) assumed 65 seats of the Parliament after the 2016 elections. Although the elections are rumored to have been rigged, claiming 65 seats in the [76-seated] Parliament comes with great expectations. The Parliament has been exercising its full rights for the past year and a half. Nonetheless, the Parliament neither lived up to expectations nor it had fulfilled its promises. People's trust has been demolished due to the growing stress caused by air pollution and increased tax. As the head of state, I have made proposals to the Parliament on several issues, none of which was considered by the Parliament. The issues involved the distribution of MNT 55.0 billion. This amount of money was distributed as a one-time incentive of MNT 300.0 thousand to each public servant. The incentive overlooked the physicians working in family health centers, who fight like a soldiers on daily basis. The initiative of dissolving the Parliament came from the public. Also, a number of members of Parliament spoke out about it. - What will be your move in the near future? The air pollution agenda is likely to continue on the Parliament and Cabinet levels? -I have given interviews to two TV channels. I forwarded a specific proposal to the Ministers concerning apartments. Then I delivered a presentation on satellite city to the Cabinet. I was the Minister for Road, Transport, Construction and Urban Development in 2008. After its regular meeting, the National Security Council tasked me to draft proper solutions to traffic jam, earthquake and smog. As such, I came up with the policy on dividing the capital city into satellites Nalaikh, Baganuur and Zuunmod. The policy development involved German architects who formulated a complete project. I will continue to address this issue with the Cabinet Secretariat. - In particular, what legal arrangements are required for the establishment of satellite cities? Will you be initiating a bill? -If we reach consensus on the policy, there is no need for me to propose a bill to the Parliament. If we all understand the significance of the policy, the Parliament and the Cabinet could initiate and adopt the bill themselves. All it takes is willingness. Particularly, I have turned to the Prosecutor's Office regarding an investigation on how the air pollution reduction budget was wasted. By doing so, we can prevent the same thing happening again. - Air pollution reduction will require a huge sum of budget. The Cabinet adopted a national program. It has been calculated that about MNT 9 trillion will be needed to realize this program. Seeing as the State Budget doesn't offer much, how should we generate proper financing mechanism and sources? -I expect a little amount of fund can be allocated from the State Budget. The Ministries have their own budgets. If a war broke out, we wouldn't just sit back and say we don't have money. One way or another, we would solve it. If we all realize that air pollution is everyone's problem, there are tons of solutions. We need the courage to announce our big projects. We have seen what happens when people rely on foreign aids without taking courage in the last 27 years. 27 years is a long time. I have always been saying that we must reflect on our mistakes and move forward. - Do you have authentic proposals on moving the big projects forward? -There are projects based on realistic study that were formulated during my two terms as Minister. For instance, I can mention the 100 thousand apartments and the satellite city projects. The New Ulaanbaatar International Airport project was launched when I was Minister of Road, Transport, Construction and Urban Development. It would be a delight if the project wraps up this year. Moreover, there are more than 10 similar projects including a one on wool and cashmere processing factory. All the Cabinet has to do is pick them. ^ top ^

Mongolia and EU cooperate on criminal justice reform (Montsame)
2018-01-17
On January 16, the Government of Mongolia and the European Union jointly hosted a national conference, part of a project financed by the European Union's Partnership Instrument, on the implementation of human rights in the country's criminal justice system. Strengthening the rule of law in Mongolia is one of the priorities of the newly established European Union Delegation under the 2016-2020 EU Human Rights and Democracy Country Strategy for Mongolia. In this context, the EU and its Mongolian partners selected the implementation of the recently adopted criminal code and criminal procedure code in line with human rights standards as an area for further EU cooperation and support. Ts.Davaasuren, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, and G.Bayasgalan, State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs opened the conference which brought together national stakeholders such as representatives from the General Prosecutor' Office, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights Commission of Mongolia. National and European experts presented reflections and recommendations on the furtherance of international human rights standards as the country seeks to reform its criminal justice system. While the entry into force of the criminal and criminal procedure code in July 2017 provides a window of opportunity to protect human rights and strengthen the rule of law, many challenges remain for its implementation. "This conference presents an excellent opportunity to accelerate criminal justice reform through an open debate not only on legislative amendments, but also on the wider policy environment in which these changes need to be implemented," said EU's Chargé d'Affaires a.i., Mr. Marco Ferri. ^ top ^

Victims of political repression to be compensated until 2020 (Montsame)
2018-01-12
At its January 12 plenary meeting, the Parliament made a final discussion and adopted a Bill to amend the Law on Rehabilitation and Granting of Compensation to Victims of Political Repression. During the discussion, members of a working group on the Bill and authorities of the State Commission on Management and Organization Rehabilitation Political Repression (SCMORPR) gave explanations to inquiries of some MPs including S.Byambatsogt. MP L.Munkhbaatar, head of the working group, said: "A total of about 36 thousand people were reportedly repressed politically. Presently, some 31 thousand victims were rehabilitated. Now, dossiers and documents of remaining 5,000 repressed necessitated to be clarified. The main concept of the Law is to open a legal environment to the repressed people and/or their children to apply to related organization. They are eligible to submit their application to the organization within a term of two years since the Law is passed." According to the amendment actions of granting compensation shall be complete before December 31, 2020. Ya.Sanjmyatav, MP and the SCMORPR chairman, explained: "MNT80 million will be compensated to a victim who was sentenced to death and MNT40 million will be granted to a victim who was imprisoned and/or their families and children. First of all, they need to submit application. The related legal organizations will examine the applications and make a final decision after a certain period." MP D.Terbishdagva pointed out that it needs to open a museum and carry out awareness activities to prevent from such darkness to happen in the society, alongside granting compensations and rehabilitation of repressed people. Following the discussions, the Law was passed with major supports. ^ 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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