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
  8-14.3.2014, No. 515  
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Foreign Policy

Mystery shrouds MH370 (Global Times)
It is now too dark to confirm a possible sighting of wreckage from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane with 239 aboard, Vietnamese officials said late Sunday. "We received information from a Vietnamese plane saying that they found two broken objects, which seem like those of an aircraft, located about 80 kilometers to the southwest of Tho Chu Island," said an official from Vietnam's National Committee for Search and Rescue, who did not want to be named. The island is in a small archipelago off the southwestern tip of Vietnam. Neither Malaysian officials nor the airline have confirmed the sightings. There have been no confirmed traces of the Boeing 777-200ER nearly 48 hours after it disappeared around 50 minutes into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing early Saturday. The airline said it was "fearing for the worst" and that it had sought assistance from an Atlanta-based disaster recovery management specialist. International authorities continued to investigate two men who apparently boarded flight MH370 under assumed identities, adding to the confusion surrounding the fate of the plane. The US has sent an FBI team to aid in the investigation, as well as aviation experts. Malaysian authorities said Sunday that the plane may have turned back from its scheduled route before disappearing. Of the 227 passengers on board, 154 are Chinese, with 13 other nationalities represented. Relatives of the Chinese passengers, who have been staying at a hotel in Beijing, have vented their frustration over the airline company's failure to provide information about their loved ones in a timely manner. On Sunday, the relatives issued a joint statement demanding the truth about the incident from the airline company, intervention from China's foreign ministry and Chinese officials' help in their negotiation with the airliner. Ignatins Ong, Malaysia Airlines spokesman, told a press conference in Beijing Sunday afternoon that family members of the MH370 passengers from China who wish to travel will be flown in stages to Kuala Lumpur on available flights as soon as possible starting from Monday. For each passenger, two relatives will be able to travel initially, with up to five relatives being able to go to Kuala Lumpur. After the aircraft's specific location is confirmed, the company will send the relatives to the scene if they wish. A middle-aged woman, who refused to give her name claiming her mother was on the plane, told media on Saturday afternoon that hundreds of relatives were being kept in a hall in Beijing's Lido Hotel since Saturday morning. There were not enough chairs in the hall and some relatives sat on the ground, she said. "No one told us what happened and no staffers from Malaysia Airlines showed up. We were given water, biscuits and bread to eat," she said, weeping. "We were treated like dogs." A 93-member "Go Team" from the airline has arrived in Beijing to help grieving relatives. General Rodzali Daud, Royal Malaysian Air Force chief, told a press conference that military radar indicated there was a possibility that the missing jet made a turn-back, likely toward Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Malaysian rescue teams have expanded their scope of search. A total of 34 aircraft and 40 ships from nine different nationalities, including China, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines and the US are in the hunt for the commercial airliner. China has sent four warships, a coast guard patrol ship and a civilian ship to the area. "Pilots may choose to turn back when they spot technical obstacles but they will issue signals. The plane suddenly vanishing from the radar means it may have broken apart in the air," said Huang Jun, a professor with the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He noted that the plane was identified as possibly turning back based on the flight path detected by radar, and it's unsure whether the jet really attempted to turn back. Closed-circuit cameras confirm that two passengers with false documents boarded the plane, Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation Director General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman confirmed at the press conference on Sunday, noting that they are conducting investigation into the records. An Austrian and an Italian, both listed on the passenger manifest, were not on board, according to their foreign ministers, and their passports had both been stolen in Phuket, Thailand within the last two years, Reuters reported. The BBC reported that men using their passports had purchased tickets together from China Southern Airlines, the flight's codeshare partner, and were flying on to Europe from Beijing, meaning they did not have to apply for a Chinese visa. International police agency Interpol on Sunday confirmed "at least" two passports recorded as lost or stolen in its database were used by passengers on board the missing flight. The agency said that no checks of its database had been made by any country on an Austrian and an Italian passport between the time that they were stolen and the departure of the flight. Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble expressed frustration that few of Interpol's 190 member countries "systematically" search the database to identify whether passports of passengers on board are registered as lost or stolen. Anti-terrorism expert Li Wei, from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations told the Global Times that there is a possibility, albeit very small, that the problematic passports are involved in a terrorist attack, noting that using stolen or purchased passports to commit cross-border crimes is a deep-rooted problem internationally and mostly used for drug deals, smuggling or illegal immigration. ^ top ^

Xi calls Obama, Merkel to urge diplomatic solution in Ukraine (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping urged a political and diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis in telephone conversations with his US counterpart Barack Obama on Monday and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday. Stressing China's objective and fair stance on Ukraine, Xi said, given the complexity of the Ukrainian situation, it was very important for all parties concerned to remain calm and exercise restraint in order to avoid the escalation of the crisis. Urging a political and diplomatic solution to the crisis, Xi said China hoped that all parties concerned would tackle their differences through communication and coordination. China had adopted an open attitude toward any proposals and suggestions that could help ease the tensions in Ukraine and was willing to keep in touch with the US and other relevant parties on the issue, he added. Meanwhile, Obama briefed Xi on the US stance on the Ukraine situation. President Obama expressed sympathies with the families of those aboard a Malaysian airliner that went missing on Saturday, and he said the US was ready to work with China over search and rescue efforts. Besides, Obama also mourned the deaths of Chinese civilians slain in a terrorist attack in southwest China's Kunming city on March 1. Obama said the US was against all forms of terrorism and stood ready to cooperate with China in the fight against terrorism. On the Ukraine crisis, Merkel said Germany hopes for an appropriate solution through dialogue, adding that her country attaches importance to China's role and is willing to strengthen communication with China on the issue. Xi said that as the current situation in Ukraine is very complicated and highly sensitive, various factors should be taken into consideration in the handling of the crisis. China supports the international community's efforts and mediation, Xi said, voicing the hope that Germany would continue to communicate with other relevant parties and further play a constructive role. China is willing to keep contact with Germany, he said. ^ top ^

China assures nuclear safety on anniversary of Fukushima (Xinhua)
China has never stopped improving nuclear security and the safety of its nuclear power plants can be assured, the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) said Tuesday. Tuesday is the third anniversary of Japan's nuclear meltdown in 2011, when a massive quake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi reactor and left more than 18,000 people dead or missing. Like other countries, China has stepped up nuclear checks since the Fukushima crisis to avoid similar accidents. In the past three years, more than 300 specialists have overhauled nuclear power plants and assessed their security situations. The results of the assessment indicate that China's nuclear power plants are safe, but work still needs to be done in responding to and handling extreme natural events like Fukushima. Despite the satisfactory state of affairs, the NNSA has put forward 24 requirements for improvements to safety, both in operational plants and in the construction of new plants. China has 17 nuclear power stations in operation with 28 units under construction. In 2012, a medium-term nuclear safety plan was passed, curbing nuclear pollution and raising security at facilities. The plan includes better anti-seismic and radioactive substance control designs for new plants. ^ top ^

Chinese president meets Saudi Arabia Crown Prince (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Beijing on Thursday, pledging to strengthen strategic partnership of the two countries. Xi recalled the rapid growth of bilateral ties since China and Saudi Arabia forged diplomatic relations in 1990 and the latter's assistance to the affected areas after an earthquake hit China's southwestern province of Sichuan in 2008. Hailing Saudi Arabia as China's good friend, brother and partner in the Middle East and Gulf region, Xi said developing a bilaterally friendly relationship is China's established and long-term policy, calling on the two countries to strengthen bilateral partnership. Xi said the two sides should maintain high-level exchanges and support each other on issues concerning each other's core interests, expressing China's support to Saudi Arabia for choosing a development path that suits its own conditions. "Both sides should take energy cooperation as a pillar and expand partnership in aerospace and new energy to forge closer ties," Xi said. Xi welcomed Saudi Arabia to join in building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, to promote transportation connectivity and cultural exchanges. "China is willing to work with Saudi Arabia to accelerate the FTA talks between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and enhance cooperation in defense, security and anti-terrorism," Xi told Salman. Salman conveyed the greetings of Saudi Arabia King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to President Xi and said his visit aims to enhance the strategic partnership with China. Saudi Arabia hopes to increase communication and cooperation with China in various fields based on mutual respect and benefit. Saudi Arabia condemns the terrorist attack in Kunming city of southwest China and expressed sympathy with the Chinese people and families of victims, Salman said. Xi stressed that the Gulf region and Middle East situation has a global impact and all region members share responsibility for safeguarding Gulf security and stability. China has always backed the just cause of the Palestine people and will continue to facilitate peace talks. China supports a nuclear-free Gulf and will continue to promote a long-term, comprehensive and proper solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, Xi said. Political settlement is the only realistic way out for the Syria crisis and the Geneva Communique should be fully implemented, said the Chinese president. China is delighted with the initial results in the political transition in Egypt and hopes for stability and development at an early date, Xi said. China backs Saudi Arabia's efforts to maintain the stability of its own and the region, ready to increase coordination with Saudi Arabia for promoting regional peace and stability, Xi said. Saudi Arabia prioritizes China's important influence in the region and appreciates its objective and just stance, Salman said, expecting China to play a constructive role in resolving the Palestine and Syria issues and achieving a nuclear-free Gulf. Saudi Arabia is ready to enhance cooperation with China to protect peace, security and stability in theregion, Salman said.Salman is paying an official visit to China from March 13 to 16 at the invitation of Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao. Li held a welcoming ceremony for him at the Great Hall of the People. ^ top ^

Chinese, Polish PMs discuss bilateral ties, Ukraine issue (Xinhua)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk on Thursday discussed bilateral relations and the Ukraine issue. In a telephone conversation, Li said that China highly values its relations with Poland and would like to develop their strategic partnership based on the principle of equality and mutual respect. China is expecting Poland, which is a member of the European Union (EU) and one of the major players in central-eastern European countries, to make new contributions to advancing cooperation between China and the central-eastern European countries as well as the China-EU cooperation, Li said. Recalling that he and Li achieved much consensus on deepening China-Poland relations and cooperation at the Bucharest meeting last year, Tusk said that Poland is ready to work with China to score more achievements in pushing forward bilateral relations and cooperation between China and the central-eastern European countries. Tusk briefed Li on Poland's position the Ukraine issue. Stressing China's principled stance, Li said, given the sensitivity of the Ukraine issue, it is very important for all parties concerned to remain calm and exercise restraint. China has always adopted an objective and fair stance and worked actively for a negotiated settlement, he noted. China hoped that all parties concerned would resolve their differences through communication and negotiation, Li said, adding that China is ready to work with the international community to facilitate a political solution to the issue. During their talks, the Polish prime minister also extended sympathy over the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines passenger jet with 154 Chinese aboard. Li said that China is cooperating closely with various countries concerned in an increased effort to search for the missing jet and properly hand relevant issues. ^ top ^

China calls for political resolution to Ukraine crisis (Xinhua)
A Chinese envoy stressed here on Thursday that the ongoing Ukraine crisis should be resolved through political and diplomatic means so as to avoid further escalation of the tension. Liu Jieyi, China's permanent representative to the United Nations, made the remarks at a Security Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine. "China has been following closely the development of the situation on the ground," which remains "highly complex and sensitive," said Liu. "What we are seeing today in Ukraine is the result of a complex intertwinement of historical and contemporary factors," he said, adding that China condemns the recent extreme and violent acts there. The envoy stressed China's objective and fair position on the Ukraine issue. It is China's long-standing position not to interfere in others ' internal affairs and respect others' sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said. "It is the first priority for all parties concerned to exercise calm and restraint and prevent further escalation of the tension," Liu said, insisting that a solution be found "through political and diplomatic means", while the legitimate rights and interests of all ethnic groups in Ukraine be fully ensured. "We hope that all parties concerned would appropriately tackle the differences through communication and coordination in the fundamental interests of all ethnic groups in Ukraine and the overall interests of regional peace and stability," he said. China supports the constructive efforts and good offices of the international community to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine, and is open to any proposals and suggestions that could help ease the tension, the envoy added. "We will continue to play a constructive role in bringing about a political settlement of the Ukrainian issue," he said. ^ top ^

China blasts US comments on South China Sea reef (China Daily)
China on Thursday accused the United States of making misleading comments on a disputed South China Sea reef. Chinese coast guard vessels on Sunday drove away two Philippine ships from the Ren'ai Reef of China's Nansha Islands. A US State Department spokesperson said on Wednesday that China's move was "provocative." "The US comments ignored the facts, ran against its status as a non-claimant, and violated its commitment to not taking sides over the dispute," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a press release. A Philippine warship grounded on the shoal's beach in 1999. China has repeatedly demanded the Philippines retrieve the ship as it has pledged. But the latter has cited technical reasons for its failure to do so. The Philippines has continued to supply the personnel living on the outworn ship, but Sunday's vessels were allegedly carrying construction materials, including steel and cement. "The Philippines' actual purpose is to construct buildings on the reef and to maintain its presence on a Chinese reef," Qin said. "They are not carrying supplies but steel and cement. Are they edible?". Qin said the Philippines' move violated China's rights and interests as well as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. "That indeed was provocative," he said. He said the U.S. comments are negative for preserving peace and stability in Southeast Asia, and do not conform with its own interests. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Terrorists to be 'severely punished' (Global Times)
China's chief justice Monday pledged to severely punish terrorists in cases like the recent Kunming railway station attack, in a 2014 outline for the courts. Chinese courts will work to safeguard national security and social stability and help build up people's sense of security, said Zhou Qiang, president of the Supreme People's Court (SPC), when delivering a work report for the SPC to the second session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC). Courts will severely punish offenders who harm national security, especially those who carry out terrorist attacks, pose serious threats to public security and damage military facilities, Zhou told nearly 3,000 national lawmakers, who will deliberate overthe report. On the evening of March 1, a group of knife-wielding assailants indiscriminately attacked civilians at a railway station in Kunming, Yunnan Province, causing at least 29 deaths and injuring another 143. In the past few days, Chinese lawmakers, as well as political advisors, have been proposing improved legislation to counter terrorism following the Kunming attack. Guo Chengzhen, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and vice president of the China Islamic Association, on Saturday urged the country to set up a counter-terrorism law in a bid to fight against such terror attacks effectively. Guo, while slamming the attack in Kunming, said that terror attacks frequently targeted the public, regardless of their age, gender, nationality or religious belief. Dilnar Abdulla, a Uyghur deputy to the NPC said improving anti-terrorism legislation is definitely necessary, adding that she hopes people would realize terrorists' "ulterior secessionist motive and the destructive nature of their acts." The Standing Committee of the NPC passed a decision to improve anti-terrorism work in October 2011, but it was never made into law. Zhu Yilong, a CPPCC member and deputy chairman of the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas, said that China already has a legal framework for efforts to counter terrorism based on the Constitution, the Criminal Code and the Extradition Law, but much more needs to be done when compared to other countries. A senior official with the top legislature on Sunday stated that the country will work on a counter-terrorism law. Zang Tiewei, deputy head of the criminal law division under the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee, said that in order to draft counter-terrorism law, the legislature will have to evaluate the situation, consult related agencies and conduct research. ^ top ^

31 killed as truck collision turns Chinese tunnel into fiery death trap (SCMP)
Investigators revealed a horrific story of a collision between two methanol tanker trucks that triggered an explosion inside a northern Chinese tunnel filled with trucks carrying coal and other flammable materials. Investigators said today that leakage from the two crashed methanol tankers inside the tunnel in China's Shanxi province two weeks ago killed at least 31 people, with nine still missing, according to Xinhua. Initial reports on March 1, when the accident happened, said six people were missing and 12 injured after a fire and explosion inside a highway tunnel near Jincheng, Shanxi province. State media had gradually updated the death toll in their coverage of the accident in the last two weeks, until it reached 16 on Wednesday. After one methanol tanker rear-ended another parked inside the tunnel during a traffic jam, the two drivers failed to alert police or vehicles nearby even though methanol was already leaking from the truck in the front. Instead, they decided to disentangle the two trucks by having the one in the front pull forward, the official Xinhua News Agency quoted investigators as saying. The methanol then caught fire, and the two drivers fled the scene with the two security guards who were travelling with the trucks. ^ top ^

Number of female NPC deputies increasing (China Daily)
A growing number of female deputies are participating in the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, which is a sign of progress in gender equality. Local people's congresses have also been promoting and enhancing women's roles in political as well as economic fields, said Lin Yinmao, deputy secretary-general of the Standing Committee of Shanghai People's Congress, also a NPC deputy. The proportion of women in the Shanghai legislative body reached 31.7 percent this year, higher than the 30 percent of women's political participation promoted by the United Nations, Lin said at a news conference for the second session of the 12th National People's Congress. China, with a vast territory and unbalanced development nationwide, is gradually boosting gender equality in the political as well as economic sphere, said Li Yalan, a NPC deputy from Heilongjiang province. "Of the 16 NPC deputies from the Heilongjiang province this year, six are female," she said. Luo Ning, a female deputy to the NPC from Guizhou province, added that the proportion of female leaders in rural areas has also increased in recent years. ^ top ^

China concludes annual parliamentary session (Global Times)
The National People's Congress (NPC), China's parliamentary body, concluded its annual session Thursday morning. The session was an event where the lawmakers reached consensus, defined major missions and strengthened confidence on the country's development, said Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, in his address at the closing meeting of the session. At the session, the NPC deputies examined and approved a number of important documents, including the government work report, the national economic and social development plan and the central budget. They also endorsed the work reports of the NPC Standing Committee, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate. The lawmakers approved the resignations of two NPC Standing Committee members at the closing meeting. Chen Sixi and Wang Xiao resigned from the Standing Committee in May and June last year after Chen was appointed as deputy director of the central government's liaison office in Macao, and Wang took the post of deputy governor of northwest China's Qinghai Province. According to the NPC rules, NPC Standing Committee members, elected from NPC deputies, are not allowed to take posts in governments, courts and procuratorates. The NPC Standing Committee accepted their resignations in June and submitted them to the full session for final confirmation. ^ top ^

Work report gets high score (Global Times)
Deputies to China's top legislature on Thursday overwhelmingly approved the first government work report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang, as the National People's Congress (NPC) concluded its annual session in Beijing. Of the nearly 3,000 lawmakers, only 15 of them voted against the work report, and five abstained. The approval rating for the report reached more than 99 percent, one of the highest such rating since 2006 when the NPC started publishing the figures. Analysts said the overwhelming approval rating signifies lawmakers' recognition of the performance of President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in their first year in office. In 2013, the government work report had 101 objections, the most since 2006. "Last year's result was more of a rating for the government's performance in the past five years or the past decade," Jiang Yong, a research fellow with the Beijing-based National Strategic Research Center, told the Global Times. "The new government has ushered in some changes in the past year and brought new hopes." Xue Lan, dean of the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University, was among a group of scholars and entrepreneurs consulted by Premier Li on the work report in January. Xue said that the Xi-Li administration has a "more vigorous and resolute" work manner. This year's work report is more frank in acknowledging problems and sheds more light on issues attracting the public's attention. According to the Beijing News, Premier Li was involved throughout the report's drafting. He stressed that promises which couldn't be fulfilled shouldn't be included in the report. In the work report, the premier has vowed to launch a war on pollution, against the backdrop of growing discontent with smog, which frequently blanketed a number of cities this winter. Li told Thursday's press conference, "To declare a war on smog doesn't mean we are declaring a war on nature. Rather, we are going to declare a war on our own inefficient and unsustainable model of growth and way of life." After deliberations at the nine-day session, 16 revisions were made to the work report. Among them, promoting the use of new energy vehicles was added to propel the industry's development in an effort to preserve energy and reduce emissions, as well as to prevent and control air pollution. Other revisions include encouraging a new breed of professional farmer to meet the needs of modern agriculture and building a harmonious doctor-patient relationship in the wake of an increase in attacks on doctors. Xue said the issues which made it to the work report are likely to become the government's priorities in the coming year and see quicker solutions. But Jiang believes inclusion in the report is more symbolic, as the report is only a general outline for this year's work, which tries to cover almost all aspects of society. At the conclusion of the NPC session, lawmakers also endorsed six other important documents, including the national economic and social development plan and the central government budget. Among them, work reports from the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate recorded 378 and 390 objections respectively, the lowest since 2008. Overall, the documents' approval rates were above 80 percent. ^ top ^

Six killed in central China as market dispute escalates into bloody knife attack (SCMP)
Five people were stabbed to death in a grocery market by a street peddler, who himself was shot dead by responding policemen in the central Chinese city of Changsha on Friday morning, said local police. One street peddler killed another with a knife after a heated dispute, and then started hacking at innocent bystanders, killing two people and injuring two others, said the police department of Changsha, capital city of Hunan Province, in a statement posted on its official Weibo social media account on Friday. Policemen who rushed to the scene shot and killed the attacker, it said. The two injured bystanders later died in a hospital. according to the police statement. The police statement came after conflicting initial reports about the cause of the dispute and the number of suspected attackers. Hunan Transport Radio station earlier quoted the police as saying that there were several attackers, who were the owners of a baked naan shop, and the stabbings happened when a dispute between the peddlers and local residents escalated into violence. Unverified eyewitness accounts on Weibo said responding policemen shot dead one attacker and captured another, while several other suspects were still at large. Photos uploaded to Weibo by purported eyewitnesses also showed policemen apprehending at least one man in a street market. The attack happened at a sensitive juncture as security was stepped up across the country following a shocking massacre by what authorities called "Xinjiang separatist terrorists" in the southwestern city of Kunming on March 1, in which 29 people were killed and more than 140 injured by knife-wielding, masked attackers. Police shot dead four attackers and captured one female suspect at the scene, and announced later that they arrested three other suspects related to the attack. ^ top ^



Uygurs in Beijing feel the chill after deadly Kunming knife attack (SCMP)
Reverberations from the Kunming attack nearly two weeks ago are being felt thousands of kilometres away in Beijing, where Uygurs say they face stricter identity checks and worry about their prospects. "I was told by municipal officials I can no longer sell pancakes near the national library after the Kunming attack happened," said a middle-aged Uygur man, who runs a stall outside the Haidian mosque. He moved his small business, and has tried to keep a low profile, he said. "I sell fewer pancakes these days. Friends and family warned me not to go out to avoid police checks." Tensions between Han and the mostly Muslim Uygur minority have intensified since five assailants killed 29 people and injured more than 140 others in an attack in the Yunnan capital. The government has said it was carried out by Xinjiang separatists, although it has not blamed Uygurs specifically. Zhu Weiqun, the chairman of the ethnic and religious affairs panel of the top advisory body to parliament, sought to drive home the distinction, telling the China Daily: "Most Uygurs are with us in the fight against separatism and violent terrorism." But Uygurs say they have fallen under suspicion as a group nevertheless. Uyghur students at the nearby Minzu University of China (MUC) said they must now register their identities when entering the campus of the ethnic minority school. One senior Uygur computer science student at MUC, who declined to be named, said he noticed news and photos of the attack on Sina Weibo not long after it was carried out. "I felt terrified following the posts. I was secretly hoping the attackers were not from Xinjiang," he said. "The next morning when Xinjiang's role was confirmed, I cried. Once again, Uygurs have been labelled and linked to a violent attack." He said he and his Uygur friends wondered how such attacks could be prevented in the future. He believed additional violence was likely in his hometown in southern Xinjiang. "I don't know what's going on. I didn't grow up with so much violence happening around me." Activists have said the central government could ease Uygurs' frustration by giving them better access to education and jobs. The MUC student agreed lack of opportunities led young Uygurs to dream about moving to bigger cities outside the region. "Uygurs feel less safe living in Xinjiang right now. There's more violence and fear. What if Xinjiang becomes the next Chechnya?" he asked. More than 100 people have been killed in violent attacks over the past year, according to tallies from media reports. In October, Beijing blamed separatists for a suicide car attack in Tiananmen Square that killed three of the assailants and two by-standers. "It is unfair to link millions of Xinjiang citizens to the attack in Kunming," one person commented in a weibo discussion following the Kunming rail station attack. "We are from Xinjiang. We are also innocent civilians. Please do not label us as dissidents … May the dead be peaceful and the survivors stay strong," one group post read. Some Uygurs fear more violence will erupt in response to the central government imposing stricter policies in the region. But Xinjiang party chief Zhang Chunxian denied a recent crackdown on separatism had fuelled anger among members of the minority group. Another Uygur MUC student said he had already started planning to study abroad. "I always think we are in a Chinese society and we have to adapt to live with Han Chinese," he said. "Then, we can practice our religion and hold onto our culture. But it's harder and harder to do so."The stall-holder said he only learned how to make the treats in the local style in January and they drew more customers than naan bread did. He expects to stay put. "I have no choice. I have two children to feed." ^ top ^

Tiananmen Square 'citizen journalists' placed in criminal detention (SCMP)
Three citizen journalists have been placed under criminal detention for reporting on two incidents at Tiananmen Square last week - a woman who attempted to set herself on fire, and the defacing of the famous portrait of Mao Zedong - the founder of the human rights website they work for said yesterday. The self-immolation attempt took place on March 5, the opening day of the National People's Congress, while another person tossed what looked like black ink over Mao's portrait above the Tianan gate the next day, said Huang Qi, founder of the rights website 64 Tianwang. Volunteer Wang Jing was taken away by Beijing police on Friday and taken back to her home in Jilin province, where she was detained on Sunday at the Jilin city police detention centre on the criminal charge of "provoking and stirring trouble", Huang said. Xing Jian, 17, and Liu Xuehong, who were both taken away in the early hours of Saturday, have also been put under criminal detention in Beijing, Huang said. On the mainland, people can be held for up to 37 days without being charged with an offence. Wang reported on 64 Tianwang's website on March 5 the attempted self-immolation by a middle-aged woman and took photos showing white smoke in front of the Tianan gate. Xing reported on March 6 that a man aged about 30 soiled the bottom-right corner of Mao's portrait at midday before police whisked him away. The trio reported on other incidents on those days, including several people - purportedly petitioners airing grievances - who threw leaflets in front of Tianan gate. Their photographs remain on the website. Huang said about 10 volunteers for his website were in Beijing to monitor how petitioners were being treated by authorities at the political sensitive time. Meanwhile, petitioner Ge Zhihui was taken away by police on March 1, the weekend before the NPC opening, after she sought to bring her grievances to the attention of NPC deputies staying near her home in Fengtai district in Beijing, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders website reported. The Beijing Public Security Bureau refused to comment on their cases yesterday. Rights lawyers say they have witnessed an increasing number of petitioners and activists being given criminal detention on public order charges in recent months to stop them from protesting. ^ top ^



Shanghai judges quit, citing cost of living (China Daily)
A growing number of judges in Shanghai have quit, citing high costs of living, according to a panel discussion by national legislators from the city. The disproportionately-low income compared to the long working hours prompted 74 judges at local courts to leave their posts in 2013, said Cui Yadong, head of Shanghai High People's Court, who quoted figures from Jiefang Daily. "While they often stay up working into the night, many young judges fail to afford an apartment in Shanghai," Cui told a group of national legislators during the ongoing two sessions. In contrast to their sketchy living conditions, the workload is insurmountable, according to legislator Li Biying, with each judge in Shanghai handling an average of 131 cases in the past year. That translates into one case every two working days. Many deputies have attributed the problem to no-competitive salaries and an outdated management model, and urged more innovation to reinvigorate the system. ^ top ^



Tibetan official slams Obama-Dalai Lama meeting (China Daily)
A senior Tibetan official on Sunday denounced the recent meeting between the US President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama, calling it "a severe interference in China's internal affairs." "People of all ethnic groups in Tibet oppose and condemn the meeting with the Dalai Lama by any people or any organization in any form," Padma Choling, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress, told reporters after a panel discussion at the ongoing annual session of China's top legislature in Beijing. Whatever the Dalai Lama is doing, no matter in what name, is aimed at seeking independence of Tibet, he said. The official said that Tibet needs to develop its economy and improve the livelihood of its people. "Whatever the Dalai Lama does will not affect Tibet's development and stability," Padma Choling said. "As Tibetans who have witnessed, contributed to and benefited from the development of the region, we feel that our happy lives today are not easily won," he added. "We should treasure the ethnic unity in Tibet." […]. ^ top ^

No locals self-immolate in Tibet: official (Xinhua)
No local residents, monks or nuns in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region have self-immolated, a senior Tibetan official said on Sunday. "None of the 46,000 monks and nuns in Tibet's 1,700-plus monasteries, nor any local residents, have self-immolated since similar events were plotted by the Dalai Lama clique," Padma Choling, chairman of the Standing Committee of the regional People's Congress, told reporters after a panel discussion at the ongoing annual session of China's top legislature in Beijing. He was answering a question related to self-immolation in Tibet raised by a Hong Kong journalist. His remarks came after a string of self-immolations were reported in neighboring Tibetan-inhabited regions almost a year ago. Tibetan authorities have insisted that self-immolations were criminal acts premeditated, plotted and manipulated by overseas separatist forces. ^ top ^

Tibet welcomes more visitors, chairman says (China Daily)
The chairman of the Tibet autonomous region's government said the region is trying to create a world-class travel destination and he expects more travelers from around the world to visit the core area of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. Chairman Lobsang Jamcan, in an exclusive interview with China Daily, said the local tourism industry should solve any problems with permits required to enter Tibet. Well-organized planning and designs for tourism facilities are imperative when providing a comfortable environment for travelers, both from China and abroad. Tibet started to cultivate tourism in the 1980s and last year saw 13 million visitors to the autonomous region, an annual increase of 22 percent. The autonomous region's government has made a priority of dealing with high-end demand from the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei hub, the Yangtze River and Pearl River deltas, plus Europe and the United States, Lobsang said. He said Tibet's unique scenery and cultural heritage make it a place many travelers yearn to visit. Destinations such as Mount Qomolangma, known in the West as Mount Everest, and the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon are beyond comparison, the chairman said. Both will be made into national parks, along with Namco Lake and the holy mountain in Ali prefecture. Tibet is one of the places where people feel closest to the sky, given the region's average altitude of more than 4,000 meters. The autonomous region can provide unique plateau experiences such as climbing Mount Qomolangma, getting through uninhabited lands, and even feeling the lack of oxygen and high-altitude sickness, Lobsang said. "I have been to more than 40 countries and haven't seen any architecture more imposing than the Potala Palace in Lhasa", the chairman said. Tibet is also famed for its long history of ethnic culture, including Tibetan songs and dances. The Tibetans and other ethnic groups, known for their hospitality, hard work and bravery, have created marvelous cultures in history. Tibet will continue its efforts to promote its cultural heritage, such as the Yarlung and Shangshung cultures, the ancient trade route with India and Nepal — the Tea Horse Ancient Road — and the Changthang wildlife corridor. During the hot seasons of the year, from July to September in particular, it is hard to buy tickets for flights, trains and the Potala Palace. From now on, Tibet will make Lhasa an international tourism resort, and Tibet's Nyingchi prefecture will be an ecological tourism zone. Transportation is a key to tourism development, said the chairman. The railway connecting Lhasa and Xigaze, the two largest cities in Tibet, is an extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and is expected to formally open in June after more than a month of test runs, he said. With the great support of the central government, Tibet has built an integrated transportation network of highways, railways and airlines. In the near future, a rail connecting Lhasa and Nyingchi prefecture will be under construction. In addition, more airlines will open to connect Lhasa with other cities in the country. Now, direct flights are also connecting Beijing and Lhasa. "Visitors can take a flight to Lhasa as early as 7 am or as late as 10 pm every day," the chairman said. Moreover, Lobsang said the government is pressing for an earlier start on construction of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway and the Yunnan-Tibet Railway. "Tourism will play a crucial role in raising the income of farmers and herdsmen, and we are confident that a tourism industry characterized by Tibetan culture will provide more convenient service to anyone who is willing to see Tibet with their own eyes," Lobsang said. ^ top ^

Annual 2013 income up for Tibetan farmers, herders (Global Times)
The per capita net income of farmers and herdsmen in the Tibet Autonomous Region hit 6,578 yuan ($1,071) in 2013, marking double-digit growth for 11 consecutive years, according to the regional statistics bureau. More than 80 percent of the region's population are farmers and herders, and improving their livelihood is a priority. Statistics show that 16.05 billion yuan was invested to support agriculture last year. The poverty-stricken population in Tibet was reduced by 128,000, and a housing project with an investment of 28 billion yuan was completed last year. Also 2.3 million farmers and herdsmen have moved into modern houses, said regional government chairman Losang Jamcan. Dawa, head of a village in Mainling county under Nyingchi Prefecture, said the farmers and herdsmen there now have more sources of income. "In the past, they mainly relied on logging, while now they raise cattle, run family hotels and develop underground resources," he said. ^ top ^



Uygur Aids activist arrested for 'threatening national security' (SCMP)
A Uygur Aids activist from Xinjiang was detained for allegedly endangering state security on the same day as outspoken Uygur academic Ilham Tohti was taken away by police, a former colleague said. Akebaier Yiming was detained in Urumqi on January 15 when he returned to Xinjiang to attend his father's funeral, the Aids advocacy group Aizhixing Institute said. Yiming's family received a notice from police saying he had been formally arrested on suspicion of "endangering state security", the institute's founder Wan Yanhai said. Yiming's friends and colleagues confirmed his arrest but did not know if his arrest was connected to Tohti's case, Wan said. Tohti, a Beijing-based Uygur academic who has criticised government policy in Xinjiang, was taken into custody in January after police searched his home in Beijing. He was later charged with spreading separatist ideas. Exiled Uygur groups have criticised Tohti's arrest, and accused the authorities of suppressing voices critical of their policies after a series of violent attacks that were have blamed on Muslim separatists from Xinjiang. Yiming, 32, works at a medical research centre in Beijing and he was not noticed missing by friends and colleagues until the end of the Lunar New Year holiday last month, Wan said. "We didn't dare to look for him in a very high-profile way because looking for a Uygur man is pretty sensitive," he said. "We were unsure then if anything had happened to him, and we feared we would bring him trouble." The Aizhixing Institute supports Aids prevention on the mainland and Yiming was closely involved in the group's campaigns to raise awareness in the Uygur community, Wan said. He had worked at the non-governmental medical research centre in Beijing since he left the institute in 2008, tackling drug use and HIV prevention. Wan said Aizhixing staff were sometimes followed by police during their duties. Yiming was known to be in contact with a website founded by Tohti for news and commentaries on Uygur issues, Wan said. ^ top ^



Tougher laws for human trafficking proposal unites Hong Kong's NPC deputies (SCMP)
Hong Kong's deputies to the national legislature have mounted a rare united stance to push for tougher laws against trafficking in women and children. The 36 local deputies to the National People's Congress tabled an amendment that would raise the penalty for buyers of children to 10 years in jail. The amendment, first raised by deputy Wong Ting-chung in 2013, seeks to amend article 241 of the Chinese Criminal Law. That article spells out penalties for sellers but leaves buyers largely immune. "The related departments will have to look into the problem and give us a reply within 90 days," Wong, a first-time NPC deputy, said on Monday. "We want to synchronise the sanctions for sellers and buyers to suppress the market." It was the first time in 20 years that Hong Kong's deputies had stood united on an issue. The last time a motion was successfully tabled by the deputies was in 1994. That was when Cheng Yiu-tong and 31 Hong Kong and Guangdong deputies tabled a proposal touching on Hong Kong's last Legislative Council. Concern about the trafficking of children has grown. It is estimated that about 200,000 children go missing on the mainland every year. Under current law, buyers are immune from criminal sanction if they have not abused the abducted children, barred trafficked women from returning to their homes or hindered rescue efforts. The amendment required "great preciseness of wording", Wong said. It was drafted by an eight-member group. All delegates to the NPC can make suggestions. They do not become formal proposals unless 30 votes are secured in the case of individual motions. Eighteen votes are required for motions raised in the name of Hong Kong deputies as a group. ^ top ^



Taiwan jails 13 military officials over conscript death (SCMP)
A Taiwanese court found 13 officers guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu, but only one of the defendants is likely to serve time in jail. The ruling angered the victim's family and the island's rights groups. Eighteen officers were charged over Hung's death, but the Taoyuan District Court found only 13 were guilty. It sentenced army company leader Hsu Hsin-cheng to eight months in jail; the others received terms of six months or less, but those could be converted to fines, court officials said. Hung died of multiple organ failure on July 4 after being forced by his superiors to undergo solitary confinement and consecutive days of drill exercises at a military detention centre. They claimed he had violated military rules by bringing in a camera-equipped mobile phone. He was three days away from completing his year-long compulsory military service. The death sparked a protest by more than 200,000 people on August 3 and forced President Ma Ying-jeou's government to demand the defence ministry improve human rights and review disciplinary punishment in military compounds. It prompted the replacement of the military trial system with civilian trials in times of peace, and forced defence minister Kao Hua-chu to resign. The court found there was no direct evidence showing that when Hung was ordered to perform the exercises, he was already on the brink of exhaustion from heatstroke. Hung's family and Taiwanese rights groups called the sentences unacceptable. Hung's mother, Hu Su-chen, broke down in tears when the sentences were read out. "Just one was given eight months while the rest can walk free!" she said. "How cheap can a life be and who is responsible for the death of my son?" Family members said they would appeal against the verdict. Activist group Citizen 1985, which staged several protests including a mass rally outside Ma's office in Taipei in August, also described the verdict as unacceptable. ^ top ^

Taiwan lawmakers brawl over China trade agreement (SCMP)
Taiwan's parliament descended into chaos yesterday as a punch-up broke out between lawmakers over a trade agreement with the mainland. Television footage of the fighting - broadcast live nationwide - showed one legislator being pushed to the ground while others grabbed each other by their collars. Once notorious for its mass brawls, debates in the Taiwanese parliament have been relatively peaceful in recent years - with a few exceptions, including fights last year over a tax bill and a new nuclear plant. Yesterday's fresh violence stemmed from a deal between the mainland and Taiwan in June aimed at further opening trade in services between the neighbours. Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has overseen a marked thaw in relations with mainland China since his Kuomintang party came to power in 2008 pledging to strengthen trade and tourism links with the world's second-largest economy. The mainland has emerged as the island's leading trading partner. Dozens of agreements between the two on everything from transport to earthquake monitoring have been signed. But members of Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, and the smaller, but more radical, Taiwan Solidarity Union, have pledged to stop the latest trade agreement being ratified, claiming it will hurt small service companies and damage the Taiwanese economy. The brawl broke out after opposition lawmakers stayed overnight in the chamber in a bid to stop the pact being ratified, a filibustering technique commonly used by Taiwanese politicians. Under the trade pact, the mainland will open 80 of its service sectors to Taiwanese companies, while Taiwan will in turn allow mainland investment in 64 sectors. The pact is one of the follow-up agreements to the sweeping Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement signed in 2010 to reduce trade barriers between the two sides. Taiwan has ruled itself for more than six decades since splitting from the mainland following the 1949 civil war. ^ top ^



IBM sacks staff on strike against severance following Lenovo deal (SCMP)
Nineteen workers at an IBM factory in Shenzhen have been fired after their week-long strike against severance payments, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported yesterday. About 1,000 workers at IBM Systems Technology Company (ISTC), the server-making unit of IBM, had been on strike since March 3 after the management announced the terms of their transfer to Chinese computer maker Lenovo. The 19 workers were fired on Monday for disobeying company orders, absence without leave and gathering together during work hours, according to the Southern Metropolis Daily. Their contracts were terminated immediately and they were ordered to leave the company without compensation. Lenovo announced in January a deal to buy IBM's server factory for US$2.3 billion. The agreement saw Shenzhen-based ISTC become a wholly owned subsidiary of Lenovo. IBM declined to comment on the dismissals yesterday. Last week, a spokesman for the company said: "Employees currently involved in x86 [server] operations in Shenzhen have a personal choice of remaining with ISTC under terms and conditions comparable in aggregate to what they currently are receiving, or they can voluntarily choose what we believe is an equitable severance package and resign from ISTC." Lenovo promised in a statement yesterday that workers' pay and welfare package would be the same as before. But many employees were still protesting at the company premises demanding better severance payments and insisting they did not want to work for Lenovo. The company has about 48,000 staff worldwide. Guangdong province, a major mainland manufacturing hub, has seen frequent strikes that were sparked by the closure, merger or relocation of factories since the global financial crisis. ^ top ^

Business council members to meet Australian PM to discuss trade, investment ties with China (Xinhua)
Members of the Australia China Business Council (ACBC) will meet Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and senior cabinet ministers in Canberra next week to discuss new opportunities and challenges for trade and investment relationship between the two countries, a statement said Thursday. Emerging opportunities in the services sector will be at the center of the discussions, which will be held on next Monday, as Australia's relationship with China diversifies from minerals and energy resources to meeting the needs of a rapidly growing middle class, the statement quoted ACBC National President Duncan Calder as saying. China was already Australia's largest market for services with exports valued at 6.7 billion AU dollars (6 billion US dollars) in 2012-13 and there were growing opportunities in agri-business, financial and legal services, education and tourism, Calder said. But at the same time, he admitted that Australia faced rising competition from other countries. "Australia will need to prepare for the transition and ensure that regulation and red tape does not threaten competitiveness in the services sector. We need to ensure that there is a level playing field."He also said that Australia must increase opportunities for Chinese investment. A recent KPMG report showed that Australia had been overtaken by the United States in 2013 as the preferred destination for China's outward direct investment. He urged the prime minister, who is leading a major trade delegation to China next month, to persist with his commitment to seek a swift conclusion of the free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries. ^ top ^

GDP growth target flexible as jobs take priority, says Premier Li Keqiang (SCMP)
The official economic growth target will be flexible as long as it can ensure stable jobs, Premier Li Keqiang told an international audience in the clearest message to date by a top leader about the nation's willingness to tolerate slower growth. Li said after the closing of the annual National People's Congress session yesterday that the nation must be prepared for more complex challenges. "We need to ensure steady growth and employment, avert inflation and defuse risks," he said. "We also need to raise the quality and efficiency of China's economic development and tackle pollution and save energy. We need to strike a proper balance among all these... This is not going to be easy." Leaders have pledged to shift China's growth model from chasing high growth to improving quality as it tackles overcapacity, pollution, slowing external demand for its exports and social unrest fuelled by a widening wealth gap. Communist Party leaders also decided last year that gross domestic product growth would no longer be the sole gauge for local officials' performance. "We have the capability and conditions to keep economic growth within a proper range this year," Li said. "We set the GDP growth target at about 7.5 per cent. But this "about' shows there is a level of flexibility here." He said leaders were more concerned about employment. "What we care about is people's livelihoods," he said, adding that GDP growth was important for its impact on employment. Leaders hope to add more than 10 million urban jobs each year, as well as work for between six million and seven million rural migrants in the cities. "Therefore, we need appropriate GDP growth," Li said. While he did not specify a bottom line for economic growth, in a speech last year the premier said China would need at least 7.2 per cent growth to create those 10 million new jobs each year. Last year, the mainland's GDP expanded 7.7 per cent, slowing from recent peak rates of above 10 per cent. The official Gini coefficient, a gauge of wealth inequality, widened to 0.473 at the end of last year, a big jump from 0.3 about 25 years ago. A figure above 0.4 is regarded internationally as the danger level above which social unrest is more likely to occur. "The right path is to make employment, rather than GDP growth, the priority," Beijing Institute of Technology professor Hu Xingdou said. The mainland's real jobless rate might be higher than 20 per cent, Hu estimated, although controversial official data showed that the urban jobless rate had for many years stayed between 4 and 5 per cent. The official data excludes migrant workers and some staff laid off from state-owned enterprises. "A too-high jobless rate could cause crime rates to rise and fuel social unrest," the professor said. Li said the country could maintain economic growth while reducing the severe pollution which he acknowledged had become a health risk and a source of public discontent. "The first thing many people do in the morning is check readings for PM2.5 pollution," Li said. Levels of PM 2.5 pollutants - tiny particles smaller than 2.5 microns wide that are regarded as most dangerous to health - were now monitored in 161 of 660 cities and territories, he noted. ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea

North Koreans vote in parliament 'election' that may offer clues to shifts in power (SCMP)
Election of representatives to the Supreme People's Assembly doubles as national head count with the turnout above 90 per cent - North Koreans have voted in a pre-determined election for a rubber-stamp parliament - an exercise that usually doubles as a national head count and may offer clues to any power shifts in Pyongyang. The vote to elect representatives for the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) was taking place as scheduled, the state-run KCNA news agency said, adding that voter turnout was 91 per cent as of 2pm yesterday. Those who are ill or infirm and cannot travel to polling stations are casting votes at special "mobile ballot boxes", it added. "Overjoyed" voters rushed to polling stations across the country from early in the morning, the news agency claimed, adding many danced and played music on the street in praise of the leader, Kim Jong-un. The North's state TV showed hundreds of people across the country clad in brightly coloured traditional dresses dancing in circles on the street. State-run media have in recent weeks stepped up propaganda to promote the election, with a number of poems produced to celebrate voting under titles including The Billows of Emotion and Happiness and We Go To Polling Station. Apart from the physical casting of votes, there is nothing democratic about the ballot. The results are a foregone conclusion, with only one approved candidate standing for each of the 687 districts. It was the first election to the SPA under the leadership of Kim, who took over the reins of power on the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in December 2011. And like his father before him, Kim stood as a candidate - in constituency number 111, Mount Paektu. Koreans have traditionally attributed divine status to Mount Paektu and, according to the North's official propaganda, Kim Jong-il was born on its slopes. Elections are normally held every five years to the SPA, which only meets once or twice a year, mostly for a day-long session, to rubber-stamp budgets or other decisions made by the ruling Workers' Party. The last session in April 2013 adopted a special ordinance formalising the country's position as a nuclear weapons state - a status that both South Korea and the United States have vowed not to recognise. The real interest for outside observers is the final list of candidates or winners - both lists being identical. Many top Korean officials are members of the parliament, and the election is an opportunity to see if any established names are absent. It comes at a time of heightened speculation over the stability of Kim's regime. Kim has already overseen sweeping changes within the North's ruling elite. "It's a chance to see who might be tagged for key roles under Kim Jong-un," said Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University for North Korean Studies. "The list of names can also point to what, if any, generational changes have been made and what policy directions Kim Jong-un might be favouring," Yang said. In the absence of any competing candidates, voters are simply required to mark "yes" next to the name on the ballot sheet. "Let us all cast 'yes' votes," said one of many election banners that state TV showed being put up in the capital Pyongyang. And they do. The official turnout at the last election in 2009 was put at 99.98 per cent of registered voters, with 100 per cent voting for the approved candidate in each seat. For the North Korean authorities, the vote effectively doubles as a census, as election officials visit every home in the country to ensure all registered voters are present and correct. "At any other point in the year, family members of missing persons can get away with lying or bribing surveillance agents, saying that the person they are looking for is trading in another district's market," said New Focus International, a defector-run website dedicated to North Korean news. "But it is during an election period that a North Korean individual's escape to China or South Korea becomes exposed," it said. Ahn Chan-Il, a defector who heads the World Institute for North Korea Studies in Seoul, said the crackdown was undermining the accuracy of the census, with many local officials not daring to report people missing from their neighbourhood. "Otherwise, they would find themselves in trouble as it's their responsibility," Ahn said. ^ top ^

UN accuses North Korea of using embassies, front companies to circumvent its sanctions (SCMP)
North Korea has developed sophisticated techniques to circumvent sanctions, including the suspected use of its embassies in Singapore and Cuba to facilitate an illegal trade in weapons, a UN report said.The United Nations said North Korea was also making use of more complicated financial countermeasures via companies in Hong Kong that made its purchase of prohibited goods more difficult to track.The report, compiled by a panel of eight UN experts, is part of an annual accounting of North Korea's compliance with layers of UN sanctions imposed in response to its banned nuclear and missile programmes. The panel reports to the UN Security Council. "From the incidents analysed in the period under review, the panel has found that [North Korea] makes increasing use of multiple and tiered circumvention techniques," a summary of the 127-page report said. It said North Korean embassies in Cuba and Singapore were suspected of organising an illegal shipment of fighter jets and missile parts that were seized on a North Korean container ship in Panama last July. Panama seized the Chong Chon Gang ship for smuggling Soviet-era arms, including two MiG-21 jet fighters, under thousands of tonnes of sugar. After the discovery, Cuba acknowledged it was sending "obsolete" Soviet-era weapons to be repaired in North Korea and returned to Cuba. The report showed North Korea had gone to great lengths to obfuscate the origin of its merchant shipping fleet, and fostered a complicated corporate network outside the international financial system to purchase both banned and permitted goods. North Korea is banned from shipping and receiving cargo related to its nuclear and missile programmes. The importation of some luxury goods is also banned, along with the illicit transfer of bulk cash. The panel cited an example of an "unusually complex" transaction involving a contract by Air Koryo, the national carrier, to purchase new aircraft in 2012. It said 109 payments were structured through eight Hong Kong-registered companies, which asserted they were trading partners of Air Koryo and were wiring funds they owed it. The purchase of civilian aircraft is not prohibited, but some of the companies appeared to have been recently formed shell entities, the report said. ^ top ^

Japan, DPRK to hold Red Cross talks in Shenyang (Xinhua)
Red Cross officials from Japan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) will hold a two-day meeting from March 19 in the northeastern Chinaese city of Shenyang, Japan's Foreign Ministry said Thursday. The two sides held a similar talks in Shenyang on March 3. Like the previous talks, Japan plans to send officials from Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to the event. According to Japan's Kyodo News agency, foreign ministry officials from the two countries are expected to hold a meeting on the sidelines of the upcoming session. The two countries' Red Cross societies will continue to discuss how to collect and return the remains of Japanese who died during World War II. Ri Ho-rim, secretary general of the DPRK's Red Cross and chief of the Pyongyang delegation, told reporters after last talks that both sides discussed the return of the Japanese citizens' remains and agreed to continue talks to resolve the issue. ^ top ^

S. Korea, DPRK's joint panel hold first talks on dispute arbitration for Kaesong complex (Xinhua)
A joint panel composed of officials from South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Thursday held their first meeting on dispute arbitration in the joint factory park in the border town of Kaesong, South Korea's Unification Ministry said. The meeting, the first of this kind since 2000, was attended by five officials each from Seoul and Pyongyang. The two sides have discussed arbitration regulations and procedures in details during the meeting, according to the ministry. The ministry viewed the meeting as a positive development for introducing international norms to protect investments and rights of companies in the complex, saying both sides agree that the arbitration system is important for solving disputes in the Kaesong complex. South Korea has sent the arbitrator list to the DPRK and are waiting for Pyongyang's list in response. The establishment of the panel followed the agreement made by the two sides in September last year. It works as a court for handling legal disputes with 30 arbitrators from each side. The joint panel also decided to hold the second round of talks in the future for further discussion on the arbitration system. ^ top ^



Mongolia and the Republic of Korea have reached a comprehensive partnership, says speaker of the National Assembly Kang Chang-Hee (Info Mongolia)
Mongolian delegates led by the Speaker of the State Great Khural (Parliament) Zandaakhuu Enkhbold have been conducting an official visit to the Republic of Korea from March 12 and on the first day of the visit Speaker Z. Enkhbold had bilateral talks with the Speaker of the National Assembly of South Korea Kang Chang-hee. During his meeting, Speaker Z.Enkhbold noted, “the bilateral ties between Mongolia and the Republic of Korea have been growing at all potential spheres at the level of “comprehensive partnership”, where high-level mutual visits and inter-governmental talks play an important role to develop the relations. The year of 2015 marks 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Korea is considered closest geographical partner country and we satisfy with emphasis on mutual beneficial collaboration in large projects and programs being carried out such as investing in mining & infrastructure and introducing technology, developing human resources & management issues in Mongolia”. Also, Speaker Z.Enkhbold underlined that Mongolia is willing to join regional multilateral dialogue and integration accession, to become APEC member state and participate East Asia Summit, which is major objectives of Mongolia's policy directed to join regional integration. Compare to other states, the Republic of Korea is the country, where most Mongolians are working under contracts and being employed, where the issue of protecting the rights of our nationals is one of our priorities, added Speaker. Governments of the two countries have been taking significant steps to facilitate mutual travel conditions and in the scope of growing reciprocal visits and partnership, our two countries should take sequential measures on visa free travel between the two citizens, extends Speaker. In turn, Speaker of the National Assembly of South Korea Kang Chang-hee said, “the collaboration between the two countries has been reached comprehensive partnership. The two countries are cooperating on international areal closely. However the Republic of Korea is considered as lack of mineral resources with big population, but Mongolia is contrary. We believe to deepen the further cooperation and study the characteristics and opportunities of bilateral partnership between the two countries. As of visa liberalization issue extended, we will pay particular attention and will collaborate with Mongolian Embassy in Korea to take sequential measures”. ^ top ^


Mrs. Lauranne Peman
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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