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
  24-28.8.2015, No. 585  
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Foreign Policy

Over 4.7 million youths apply to the army: MND (Global Times)
More than 4.7 million youths have applied for the People's Liberation Army this year, including over 800,000 university students, the Ministry of National Defense announced Thursday. Senior Colonel Yang Yujun, the ministry's spokesman, said that the number of new recruits is higher than in previous years. "The new recruits are required to arrive at their assigned military camps by the end of September," Yang said. Zheng Bing, an official from the Beijing military recruitment office, told the Global Times Thursday that the number of university graduates joining the PLA is higher than last year. "About 70 percent of new recruits this year are fresh graduates, compared with 61.8 percent last year," said Zheng. The annual salary of a new soldier could reach up to 88,000 yuan ($13,745), higher than the starting salary of many other professions, Zheng said. The average annual salary of this year's graduates is about 32,000 yuan, according to a report published jointly by Peking University and, a job search website, on Monday. Most youths are the only child in the family, and tend to be introverts. Their parents hope military life would discipline them, Zheng said. No official records are accessible on the number of college students who serve in the military every year. Several local military recruitment offices reached by the Global Times said that roughly half of the nation's provincial recruitment offices have witnessed an increase in the number of recruits. Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times that a military career provides a new option to graduates. "Our military need new blood, especially college graduates," Song said. When they are discharged after two years of service, some enjoy benefits like funding for further education, while others can choose to continue military service as officers, according to Song. Reports said 3,075 university students who served as soldiers were promoted and 1,573 of the best soldiers were recommended for postgraduate studies in 2013. ^ top ^

Putin's visit to underscore friendship with Chinese leader (Global Times)
Russian President Vladimir Putin will embark on a visit to China next week to attend China's events to commemorate the end of World War II, and is expected to sign a flurry of agreements to boost strategic cooperation "in all spheres." Cheng Guoping, China's vice-foreign minister, said Beijing will hold a banquet for Putin, and the reception will fully manifest the personal friendship between the two leaders. Putin will visit China on September 2 and 3 to attend events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Russian Ambassador to China Andrey Denisov said at a press conference on Thursday in Beijing. His upcoming visit marks the third meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin this year, following Russia's V-Day parade in May as well as the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization summits in July, Cheng said. More than 20 documents are expected to be signed during Putin's visit, covering aspects such as energy, finance and investment, as well as transport and logistics, Denisov was quoted as saying by Russian news agency TASS on Thursday. He noted that the visit "will give an additional impetus to our strategic cooperation in all spheres." In 2014, Russia's Gazprom agreed to provide $400 billion of natural gas to China over 30 years. The two countries have also been conducting annual joint naval drills in recent years. "Negotiations will continue until the last day and hour on some of them, including those that deal with cooperation in natural gas," he said. Trade between the two countries has increased by some 23 percent year-on-year, reaching around $100 billion in 2014. "The focus of Sino-Russian trade has been shifting from goods to massive investment projects … Now we have 60 projects involving large-scale investment, including the Moscow-Kazan high-speed rail [partly constructed by China Railway Group Limited]," Denisov pointed out. […] As Xi and Putin, close in age, share each other's ambitions and governing strategies, it is easier for them to establish a personal friendship and trust which will be long-standing, he noted. […] Xi and Putin have often met in the past two years. Xi conducted his first official overseas trip as China's president to Moscow in early 2013. The two leaders also met in Beijing during last year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference in November. The frequent exchanges between the two leaders will encourage their peoples to understand each other's cultures and facilitate business negotiations among companies, Feng noted. Nearly half of Chinese respondents look forward to closer diplomatic ties with Russia, followed by ties with the US, according to a survey jointly conducted by the Global Times and Seoul-based MK Business News in early August. Putin and former US President George W. Bush had a personal friendship since June 2001, when they held their first summit in Slovenia, the AP reported. The two leaders in 2001 drove around Bush's Texas ranch in a pickup truck while discussing a missile defense system the US was planning to implement. […] ^ top ^

Chinese military on charm offensive as it announces joint drills with Malaysia, US and Australia (SCMP)
The military will hold joint drills with Malaysian forces in the strategic Strait of Malacca next month, the defence ministry said yesterday, as a training exercise launched featuring Chinese, Australian and American troops. Analysts see the developments as a diplomatic move by Beijing to calm suspicions towards the People's Liberation Army as it extends its reach. Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said the drill with Malaysia would involve 1,160 Chinese personnel and two Chinese warships alongside helicopters and transport aircraft. It would focus on disaster relief, search and rescue, and hijack scenarios. The news came as China, Australia and the United States began a joint field survival exercise yesterday in Darwin, Australia, that will last until September 14. The Chinese and Australian militaries planned to hold another joint event from September 20 to September 28, said Yang, adding that "Panda Kangaroo" would feature survival training, canoeing and mountaineering. In recent years, the Chinese military has extended its reach as far as Africa, while China's assertive stance in territorial disputes in the East and South China seas has been seen by some as a threat to regional security. Yue Gang, a Beijing-based military affairs commentator, said Beijing was aware that suspicions towards the army might hinder projects such as "One Belt, One Road", which is aimed at boosting trade and infrastructure links overseas. "Measures need to be taken to alleviate mistrust towards China as Beijing wants to cooperate with these nations," Yue said. […] Yang said China and the US had made progress in talks over setting a code of conduct for their air forces, aimed at preventing miscalculations and clashes. He also denied that China was rushing reinforcements to its border with North Korea following a rise in tensions between the two Koreas last week. Pictures on mainland websites over the weekend appeared to show the PLA bringing in additional tanks to Yanbian, a Chinese border prefecture. Yang said the claims were "untrue and completely hyped up". "Chinese border defence forces have all along maintained a normal combat readiness and state of training," he said. ^ top ^

Forum stresses people's role in enhancing China-Africa relations (China Daily)
Participants at the 4th China-Africa People's Forum (CAPF) held in-depth discussions about the people-to-people exchanges in strengthening China-Africa cooperation and reaching consensus. The forum, which was jointly hosted by China NGO Network for International Exchanges (CNIE) and the Economics, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) of the African Union, opened in Yiwu, East China's Zhejiang province, on Wednesday. With "Joining Efforts Towards Building China-Africa Community of Shared Destinies and Embracing A New Horizon in People-to-People Friendship" as its theme, the fourth CAPF focused on two topics – "New opportunities for China-Africa cooperation: people's perspective" and "Building China-Africa community of shared destinies: people's contribution." Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao addressed the opening ceremony, elaborating on the considerations behind China's new African cooperation policy initiatives under the current circumstances. "As China and Africa need each other during their development, it is high time for the two sides to consolidate the community of shared destinies," said Li. "We encourage more Chinese companies and individuals to invest or travel in Africa, making contributions to Africa's development, and we welcome more African friends to do business in China and promote the China-Africa exchanges and cooperation," he said. Political leaders, dignitaries and representatives of NGOs, youth organizations, think-tanks and media agencies from nearly 30 African countries, as well as Chinese representatives from government, NGOs, think-tanks, businesses and media communities participated in the forum. Haggag also praised China's efforts in helping Africa fight Ebola as China had sent doctors and nurses to the Ebola-hit nations and vowed to help them with the "post-Ebola" construction. […]The forum passed the Declaration of Proposals on China-Africa People-to-People Exchanges and Cooperation, an outcome document on new initiatives for people-to-people exchanges and cooperation between China and Africa from 2016 to 2018. The declaration will be submitted to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in South Africa at the end of this year. The people's forum is important institutionalized supporting event of the FOCAC. The year 2015, which marks the 15th anniversary of the founding of FOCAC, is an important year amid the transformation and upgrading of cooperation between China and Africa. […] ^ top ^

A Swift proposal: US wants coastguard agreement with China to help keep peace at sea (SCMP)
The US is looking to expand a naval clash-prevention mechanism agreed with China to include the coastguards, the new US Pacific Fleet Commander said. Admiral Scott Swift also sought to reassure US commitment in the regional allies but stressed the importance of having a positive relation with China. Speaking to reporters in a teleconference from Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, Swift said the many regional counterparts had expressed “great angst” over the “scale and scope” of China's reclamation projects in the South China Sea. To reduce tensions at sea, Swift said the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, a regional protocol signed in 2014, “is working quite well”, adding that US is interested in expanding the mechanism to the Chinese coastguard as well. Since taking up the post three months ago, Swift has visited the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia. He has discussed the potential use of the protocol by regional coastguards with the coastguard heads he has met within the region, according to Captain Charlie Brown, Pacific Fleet Public Affairs officer. This idea was also raised during a video conference on Tuesday between Chinese naval head Admiral Wu Shengli and outgoing US chief of naval operations Admiral Jon Greenert. Greenert was quoted by DefenseNews as saying that Wu agreed to support the suggestion, but added “Like the US, 'our coastguard is in a separate department of the government'”. Greenert said US Coastguard commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft has been to China to present a proposal to the Chinese Coast Guard. China has primarily deployed its coast guards to assert its claims in the South and East China Seas since tensions in both waters began to flare up few years ago. Most of the encounters in disputed waters involved coast guards while naval ships are usually “in the horizon so they are ready to respond to escalation”, according to a recent US Department of Defense's recent report. China has the biggest maritime law enforcement fleet in the region, with 95 large and 110 small vessels patrolling in regional waters, dwarfing Japan, which has 53 big and 25 small ships, and other South East Asian countries, according to the Pentagon report.. ^ top ^

Western leaders and N Korea's Kim Jong-un to miss Beijing's military parade (SCMP)
It's one of Beijing's most anticipated diplomatic events of the year but the heads of most major Western countries won't be there – and neither will North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. As Beijing on Tuesday announced a guest list of more than 40 foreign representatives who would attend a military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war on September 3, observers said China's “true friends” had made themselves known. State leaders to attend the event include Russian President Vladimir Putin, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, South African President Jacob Zuma and Pakistan's President Mamnoon Hussain. The only head of state or government from the EU is Czech President Milos Zeman. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan will not be attending, though former Japanese prime minister Tomiichi Murayama will. Pyongyang will send its Politburo member Choe Ryong-hae. The United States, Canada and Germany will send representatives from their diplomatic missions in China, while France and Italy will send foreign ministers. International relations expert Jin Canrong, of Renmin University, said the list reflected strategic suspicions between Beijing and the West. “One of the diplomatic aims behind the military parade is to make clear who will be China's true friends,” Jin said. “Obviously, Russia and South Korea have expressed [their intent] with deeds.” Cui Zhiying, a professor of Korean affairs at Tongji University in Shanghai, said Beijing had not expected Kim to attend, because he had also missed Moscow's Victory Day parade in May. “Park finally decided to attend the military parade in Beijing because of the reality of interdependent economic relations between China and South Korea,” Cui said. “It's a fact that Seoul is an ally of Washington, but this is limited to military security.” The event, seen as a show of might by Beijing as it takes a more assertive approach to diplomacy, will involve 12,000 soldiers and 500 pieces of hardware passing through Tiananmen Square. Analysts have claimed some leaders feared the events would have an overtly nationalistic or anti-Japanese tone, but Beijing has denied this. Beijing-based political analyst Zhang Lifan said the parade was aimed at shifting public attention from domestic dissatisfaction to international issues, and would reinforce negative public sentiment against the US and Japan. “The parade will help increase nationalist sentiment, by showing the public that China has become a real power under the leadership of the Communist Party,” he said. ^ top ^

Chinese oil rig to continue drilling near Vietnamese coast (SCMP)
A Chinese oil rig at the centre of last year's standoff between China and Vietnam will continue drilling not far from Vietnam's coast, China's maritime safety authorities said on Tuesday. The deployment of the US$1 billion deepwater rig last year about 120 nautical miles off Vietnam's coast, in what Vietnam considers its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), led to the worst breakdown in relations since a brief border war in 1979. China said at the time the rig was operating completely within its waters. The rig, called the Haiyang Shiyou 981, was removed last July, but returned to the area in June of this year to explore for oil and gas. A notice from China's Maritime Safety Administration said at the time that the rig would carry out “ocean drilling operations” until August 20. In a new notice posted on its website the Maritime Safety Administration said that the rig would continue drilling at a position slightly to the north until October 20. On Monday, state media said the rig had completed an exploratory well at its earlier placement. The rig's intended coordinates put it roughly 110 nautical miles east of the Vietnam coast and 72 nautical miles south of the resort city of Sanya on China's Hainan Island. China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims. Vietnam's people remain embittered over a perceived history of Chinese bullying and territorial claims in the South China Sea. China has been increasingly assertive in the South China Sea, condemning an arbitration case initiated by the Philippines and reclaiming land on islands and reefs under its control. Last week a new US Pentagon report said China had reclaimed more land in the disputed Spratly Islands than previously known. The Haiyang Shiyou 981 rig is owned by state-run China National Offshore Oil Corporation, China's largest producer of offshore oil and gas. The company was not immediately available for comment. ^ top ^

China reaffirms non-acceptance of arbitration on S. China Sea: FM (Xinhua)
China on Monday reiterated that it will not accept nor participate in the arbitral proceedings unilaterally initiated by the Philippines. China's position stands on a solid international legal base and will not change, said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in a press release. The Philippines filed its arbitration case at the Hague in early 2013. The South China Sea Arbitral Tribunal Established at the request of the Philippines concluded the hearing on Jurisdiction and Admissibility on July 13 and has recently released a transcript of the hearing. The Arbitral Tribunal has decided to provide China with the opportunity to comment in writing, by Monday (August 17, 2015), on anything said during this Hearing on Jurisdiction and Admissibility. Hua said China has made clear its position in the "Position Paper of the Government of the People's Republic of China on the Matter of Jurisdiction in the South China Sea Arbitration Initiated by the Republic of the Philippines" dated December 7, 2014, which also declared that the Arbitral Tribunal does not have jurisdiction over this case. She said there has been a long-standing agreement between China and the Philippines on resolving their disputes in the South China Sea through friendly consultations and negotiations. Under the Joint Statement between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of the Philippines concerning Consultations on the South China Sea and on Other Areas of Cooperation, issued on August 10, 1995, both sides "agreed to abide by" the principles that "disputes shall be settled in a peaceful and friendly manner through consultations on the basis of equality and mutual respect" (Point 1); that "a gradual and progressive process of cooperation shall be adopted with a view to eventually negotiating a settlement of the bilateral disputes" (Point 3); and that "disputes shall be settled by the countries directly concerned without prejudice to the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea" (Point 8). […]The Philippines' unilateral submission of the relevant disputes to compulsory arbitration, in breach of the consensus repeatedly reaffirmed with China as well as its undertaking in the DOC and in disregard of the fact that the core of the disputes between China and the Philippines lies in the disputes over territorial sovereignty and the overlapping of maritime rights and interests, constitutes a violation of international law, an abuse of international legal procedure, and a severe infringement upon the legitimate rights that China enjoys as a sovereign state and a State Party to the UNCLOS, said Hua. The Philippines' unilateral initiation and obstinate pushing forward the arbitral proceeding, in an attempt to negate China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea and to pressure China into making compromises regarding the relevant matters, is not only a pipe dream and will lead to nothing, but will also jeopardize the integrity of the UNCLOS and seriously undermine the order of international maritime law, she said. She urged the Philippines to respect China's right, which is endowed by international law, of choosing means of dispute settlement, and return to the track of resolving relevant disputes in the South China Sea through negotiations and consultations. ^ top ^

China's land reclamation in South China Sea grows, claims Pentagon report (SCMP)
China has reclaimed more land in the disputed Spratly islands of the South China Sea than previously known, according to a new Pentagon report, which says Beijing is also completing construction of a runway on one of its seven man-made outposts. Once the airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef was operational, China could potentially use it as an alternative runway for carrier-based planes, allowing the PLA to conduct "sustained operations" with aircraft carriers in the area, the report said. China's sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, has carried out exercises in the South China Sea but is not yet fully operational. Some experts believe China will deploy domestically built carriers by 2020 as part of plans to develop an ocean-going "blue water" navy. At the reclamation sites in the Spratlys where China was in the building phase, it had excavated deep channels and constructed new berthing areas to allow access for larger ships, said the report, called the "Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy". "The infrastructure China appears to be building would enable it to establish a more robust power projection presence into the South China Sea," it added. Since China's land reclamation efforts began in December 2013, it had reclaimed more than 1,170 hectares of land as of June, the report said. US officials had previously put the total at about 800 hectares. The foreign ministry said China had "completed the relevant island and reef area reclamation project" at the end of June. Construction activities were "completely within the scope of China's sovereignty", it added. In early August, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing had halted land reclamation. China says the outposts will have undefined military purposes, as well as help with maritime search and rescue, disaster relief and navigation. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims. The reclamation campaign significantly outweighed efforts by other claimants in size, pace and nature, said the Pentagon report. China had reclaimed 17 times more land in 20 months than the other claimants combined over the past 40 years, accounting for approximately 95 per cent of all reclaimed land in the Spratlys, it added. "China is unilaterally altering the physical status quo in the region, thereby complicating diplomatic initiatives that could lower tensions," said the report. Earlier this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry accused China of restricting navigation and overflights, an allegation Beijing denied. ^ top ^

China advocates practical cooperation between LatAm, East Asia (Xinhua)
China's Special Representative for Latin American Issues Yin Hengmin voiced China's support to practical cooperation among the 36 member countries of the Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation (FEALAC), said a press release from the Chinese delegation on Saturday. Yin participated in the forum's 7th Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Costa Rica on Friday, which was also attended by the President of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solis. Yin said that the international community is experiencing deep and complex transformations, and that East Asia and Latin America are strengthening their will to collaborate at the mean time. China has always attached great importance to FEALAC, offering its contribution to promote the Forum's development and the beneficial cooperation of both regions, said Yin. He invited the participants to carry forward practical cooperation to increase investment in poverty reduction, improve disaster management, ameliorate treatment of diseases and protect the environment. Yin was hopeful that the reforms would lead to more projects being carried out in two years before next meeting in South Korea, which would set a more solid base for the forum's future. All members should promote practical coordination to create more favorable conditions for trade and investment, said Yin, adding that China supports the institutionalization of the FEALAC's Trade Forum and discussions about creating a special group of experts for trans-regional trade. "Looking to the long term development of the forum, the Chinese side supports the elaboration of a New FEALAC Plan of Action in an effort to contribute to the strategic planning of the Forum's future," Yin said. ^ top ^

China's Silk Road initiative a partnership project, not competitor: Russian PM (Xinhua)
The China-proposed Silk Road Economic Belt initiative is not a competitor, but a partnership project for Russia, the country's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday. "The project of the Silk Road belt is in no way a competitor for us, to some extent, it is a partnership project, which we have agreed with our Chinese counterparts," Medvedev was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti. Both sides have agreed to combine the initiative with the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) project, he added, while expressing hope that the alignment would be beneficial for every member state of the EEU, which grouped Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. Earlier in the day, Medvedev arrived on the disputed Kuril Islands for a working visit. The Silk Road Economic Belt, together with the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, commonly known as the "Belt and Road" initiatives, were proposed by Xi in 2013. The initiatives bring together countries in Asia, Europe and even Africa via overland and maritime networks, with the purpose of boosting infrastructure building, financial cooperation and cultural exchanges in those regions. The network passes through more than 60 countries and regions, with a total population of 4.4 billion. During his visit to Moscow in May, Xi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signed a joint statement on the alignment of each side's development initiatives. During the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Russia's Ufa in July, the two leaders agreed to take the SCO as an important platform to dovetail the two development projects, expand room for their practical cooperation, and facilitate development, cooperation and prosperity of the whole Eurasian continent. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

China's leadership 'infuriated by Tianjin government's attempts to underplay death toll of deadly blasts' (SCMP)
The Communist Party's top leadership was infuriated with the Tianjin government's attempts to underplay the death toll of the twin blasts that rocked the port city more than two weeks ago, and which has now risen to 145, the South China Morning Post has learned. The revelation came as prosecutors yesterday criminally detained 11 senior officials and port executives for alleged negligence in connection with the disaster. Hours after the explosions struck a warehouse storing hazardous chemicals on August 12, authorities put the initial death toll at 14, but the figure was quickly raised to 44, as news of the disaster spread and its scale became apparent. Sources said that less than a week later, the party's propaganda department called a meeting with a handful of selected media to encourage them to look into the company that ran the facility - Ruihai International Logistics. On August 19, Xinhua published an investigative report that quoted company executives who had been detained by the police as saying they had good connections with government officials. The article surprised many since Xinhua is rarely aggressive in its reporting on major accidents on the mainland, given its status as the state-run news agency. […] A Tianjin port police source earlier told the Post officers had been called to help recover bodies from the disaster scene but the bodies were not being added to the official death toll at that time. The latest round of detentions includes officials at the Ministry of Transport, Tianjin's municipal government and its port authority. Among them are city transport chief Wu Dai, Tianjin Port Group president Zheng Qingyue, as well as officials from the Binhai New Area, where the warehouse was located. Officials from the city's transport commission have been accused of illegally issuing business licences and failing to address illegal work carried out by Ruihai. Tianjin Port Group, which is responsible for the port's operations, was accused of poor management and failing to rectify safety risks at Ruihai. Wang Jinwen, a Transport Ministry deputy inspector, was detained for alleged abuse of power, Xinhua reported. Also detained were Gao Huaiyou, Tianjin's deputy work safety administration chief, and Wang Jiapeng, Tianjin's deputy customs chief. Police had earlier detained another 12 people including Ruihai owners Yu Xuewei and Dong Shexuan. Song Tianyi, a family member of a firefighter who died in the explosions, called for the harshest punishment. […] ^ top ^

China, Iran pledge closer cooperation (Xinhua)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Iranian Vice President Ali-Akbar Salehi in Beijing on Thursday and they pledged to boost cooperation between the two countries. Salehi, also Head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, conveyed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's greetings to Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as the message that Iran attaches importance to the ties with China. Salehi said Iran firmly supports Chinese President Xi Jinping's New Silk Road Economic Belt initiative and the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), adding that Iran looks forward to expanding practical cooperation with China in various fields. Salehi thanked the Chinese side for its important role during the Iranian nuclear talks that resulted in a comprehensive accord. He hoped China will continue to exert its influence and work for the smooth implementation of the deal. Asking Salehi to convey President Xi's greetings to President Rouhani, Wang said China always values the China-Iran relationship and stands ready to conjoin the establishment of the New Silk Road Economic Belt with Iran's development strategy, highlighting win-win cooperation in traditional energy, industrial capacity and civil nuclear energy. Wang attributed the comprehensive deal on the Iranian nuclear issue to the concerted efforts of all sides concerned. The accord helps maintain the non-proliferation mechanism and safeguard Iran's rights on civil nuclear energy, Wang said, adding it also "created more favorable conditions for the development of the China-Iran relationship." China will work closely with Iran to ensure the implementation of the deal and continue to play a positive and constructive role in redesigning the Arak heavy-water reactor and other issues, Wang added. ^ top ^

President and vice-president of Chinese Communist Party's news website 'taken away by investigators' (SCMP)
The president and a vice-president of – the website of the People's Daily – have been taken away by prosecutors for investigation, according to mainland media., founded in January 1997, is the digital platform of the Communist Party's newspaper, which describes itself as one of “the world's top ten newspapers”. The president Liao Hong, 52, was a founding member of the website, according to his public profile. He has been working at the newspaper and its digital department for 19 years since graduating from the Beijing University of Technology. The last time he appeared in public was last Thursday in Shenzhen to speak at a media forum about traditional and digital media integration. Liao was also the chief editor of the website. Earlier this year, he supported posting the controversial documentary about air pollution in China, Under the Dome, on the website. Liao was under a lot of pressure following this move and was removed from the position of editor-in-chief in April, said the mainland website NetEase. Liao was promoted to management as president in June 2010. Vice-president Chen Zhixia, 44, was also taken away on Thursday morning, reported Caixin, a mainland business news website. The reason for their detention has not been made clear. But an anonymous source cited by NetEase said the accusation against Liao was similar to that against the former 21st Century Media Group president Shen Hao. Shen was accused of extortion through journalism. Earlier in May, a deputy editor at, Xu Hui, was investigated for allegedly threatening companies that he would run negative stories if they did not take out advertising. ^ top ^

CAC eyes long term online clean up campaign (Global Times)
China will set a long-term mechanism to clean up online blackmail and post deletion for profit following a recent large-scale campaign on these illegal practices, said the nation's top Internet regulator on Thursday. According to a statement from the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), China will continue investigating practices of online blackmail and post deletion for profit. The administration will also set up a system to receive tip-offs and publish information on illegal websites regularly. The CAC has been encouraging the public to report cyber violations. It promised prompt response, personal privacy protection as well as financial rewards. The statement also said that authorities will help and instruct victims suffered from illegal practices to reject online blackmail and post deletion profiteering. A regulation on cracking down on these illegal practices will be released. A database will also be established to record illegal websites and accounts. It will list illegal acts to provide evidence for law enforcement and supervision. China's campaign targeting online information violations, including fake news and blackmail has been ongoing since January. Nearly 300 illegal websites have been shut down while over 1 million social media accounts have been closed. More than 9 million pieces of bad information have been deleted and nearly 50 local news websites were shut down. More than 9,000 search keywords on commercial websites such as Baidu and over 3 million relevant links were also blocked. The CAC released a regulation in April which says that the regulator has the right to summon senior executives of Internet companies when they fail to remove unhealthy materials. The watchdog has met with executives of 136 websites to date. Efforts to combat online blackmail and deleting posts for money will continue, said the CAC. ^ top ^

Mainland China finally considering reclassifying sex with underage prostitutes as rape after pressure from activists (SCMP)
The mainland may abolish the crime of soliciting underage prostitutes, leaving adults who have sex with minors to be charged with the more serious crime of rape. Children's rights activists have long called for the solicitation crime to be repealed, saying it is a notorious loophole that has allowed some connected officials caught having sex with minors to receive lighter punishment. It has also fuelled abuse of young girls, they say. The change is among a package of amendments to the Criminal Law the National People's Congress began considering yesterday at the start of its six-day legislative session, held every two months, in Beijing. Under existing law, anyone who has sex with a prostitute under the age of 14 faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, while sex with a girl under 14 is classified as rape and punishable by death. The solicitation clause was added in 1997 to ensure that a person who hired a prostitute without knowing she was a minor was not charged with rape. Additionally, by becoming a prostitute, the girl had given some indication of consensual sex, legislators believed. But the solicitation charge has become controversial. In 2008, Lu Yumin, an official at the tax bureau in Sichuan province had sex with a girl under 14, but the police decided initially to give him 15 days of administrative detention and fine him 5,000 yuan (HK$6,060). After a public outcry, Lu was charged and sentenced to 10 years in prison. In Yongkang in Zhejiang province in 2012, six people were arrested for soliciting schoolgirls. Kong Weizhao, a lawyer with the Juvenile Protection Committee of the All-China Lawyers Association, said he expected the clause would be abolished but it would be announced as part of amendments to the Criminal Law, possibly by the end of this year or in the first half of next year. "The central government is well aware of the controversy over the law. Rampant cases of child sex abuse in recent years have been reported by the media and aroused the anger of the public, with calls for the [clause] to be abolished," Kong said. The legislature is also considering tougher sentences for assaults on police officers and clarifying the crime of contempt of court. They are also working on a draft law that defines domestic violence as beating, forcefully restraining, mutilating or depriving a person of freedom, among other forms of harm. Health institutions should keep medical records of an abused person and integrate domestic violence intervention into their professional training, the draft says. ^ top ^

China mulls strengthening work of legislatures (Xinhua)
Chinese lawmakers are deliberating draft amendments to three laws regarding the organization, election and staffing of legislatures, or people's congress, at different levels. Chinese citizens running for office as lawmakers are prohibited from receiving campaign support from foreign organizations or individuals, according to a draft amendment to the Election Law. The amendment, submitted to the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee for its first reading on Monday, said those that accept foreign funding will have their candidacy annulled and those already elected will be removed. Also submitted for the first reading was an amendment to the Organization Law for local people's congress and local governments, which defined the responsibilities of the presidium of township-level people's congresses during adjournment. It said the presidium should regularly designate deputies to hear and review government's reports that most concern the public. Moreover, they should inspect law enforcement, collect public suggestions and criticism, and pass them to the relevant agencies, the amendment said. The amendment also increased the county-level people's congress standing committee membership from the previous 15-27 to 15-35. Counties with a population exceeding 1 millon will have up to 45 members, compared with 35 previously. It further authorized county-level people's congress to establish law, financial and economic committees. The amendment to the law on deputies with the NPC and local people's congresses was also submitted for its first reading. ^ top ^

Prisoner-amnesty deal deliberated by lawmakers (Xinhua)
An official pardon is being considered for prisoners who meet a certain criteria, according to a draft decision submitted to China's top legislature on Monday. In the spirit of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, four categories of prisoners who are not deemed a threat to society may become eligible for amnesty, Li Shishi, director of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee's legislative affairs commission, told a bimonthly session that started on Monday. Li made clear that any criminals who have been convicted of bribery or embezzlement will not be covered by the amnesty. The four special cases include: 1) Criminals who fought in China's war of resistance against the Japanese invasion and the civil war against the Kuomintang (KMT) army. 2) Criminals who participated in wars to safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Those found guilty of serious crimes are excluded. 3) Criminals who are 75 or above, and those with physical disabilities that are unable to care for themselves. 4) Those who committed crimes while under the age of 18 and received a maximum sentence of three years in prison, or those whose remaining prison term is less than one year. Again, those who were convicted of serious crimes are excluded. […] Only those who were sentenced before Jan. 1, 2015 qualify in the case of recent convictions. Amnesty is a national system to remove or alleviate criminal penalties. It is a humanitarian system that follows international practice, Li said. China has announced seven amnesties based on the Constitution after New China was established in 1949. The Constitution says the NPC Standing Committee decides to issue amnesty and the President promulgates the order. Granting amnesty at the occasion marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression is "an innovative practice" based on the constitution, Li said, stressing its "great political and legal significance." The act shows the government and country's confidence in its system of governance and creates an "open, democratic, civilized and legal" image for China, Li told lawmakers. It is conducive in promoting rule of law and the historical tradition of "imposing penalties prudently and caring for prisoners," he said. The move can also help create a society that further respects the authority of the Constitution and inspire people's patriotism, promoting social stability, he said. Li stressed strict and prudent selection of criminals fit for the amnesty, noting legal experts and prison management specialists thoroughly researched amnesty in China and aboard. ^ top ^

China charges two senior officials linked to disgraced security tsar Zhou Yongkang (SCMP)
Two senior Chinese officials with close ties to disgraced security tsar Zhou Yongkang have been formally charged with taking bribes, China's top prosecuting body said on Friday. Former deputy national police chief Li Dongsheng took advantage of his positions at state broadcaster CCTV, the Ministry of Public Security and the party's Central Politics and Law Commission to seek benefits for others in exchange for huge profits, the Supreme People's Procuratorate said in a statement on its website on Friday. In a separate statement, the top procuratorate said former Hainan vice-governor Ji Wenlin had committed the same crime during his tenures at the general office of the Sichuan provincial party standing committee, the general office of the Ministry of Public Security and the Haikou government in Hainan province. The statements did not mention the amount of bribes the two senior officials took. Li's and Ji's cases will be heard separately at two intermediate people's courts in Tianjin. No specific dates of their trials were given. The two are close associates of Zhou, who was in June sentenced to life in prison for taking bribes, abusing his power and intentionally leaking state secrets. Zhou, who is the most senior official to receive such a heavy sentence since the Cultural Revolution, was also tried in Tianjin. Li, 59, was appointed vice-minister of public security in 2009 despite lacking any previous law enforcement experience. At the time, Zhou was secretary of the party's Central Politics and Law Commission, which oversees the Ministry of Public Security. Li spent 22 years working at CCTV, eventually rising to deputy chief of the state broadcaster. He served as vice-minister of the party's propaganda department before securing the public security post. Ji, 49, served as Zhou's top aide for a decade during the late 1990s and early 2000s. He has been close to Zhou since the late 1990s, when Zhou led the Ministry of Land and Resources. Ji, a geologist, was Zhou's secretary and a researcher. Zhou took Ji along when he became Sichuan party boss in 1999, making him deputy director of the general office of the provincial party committee. When Zhou ascended to the powerful post of public security minister in 2003, he made Ji his secretary and a deputy director of the ministry's general office. In July 2008, Ji was named deputy director of a ministerial group tasked with maintaining social stability, but moved back to the land ministry five months later. Ji was elevated to become Hainan's deputy governor in 2013, after a stint as deputy party chief of the provincial capital Haikou. ^ top ^

No promotion for slackers on reform agenda, China's state media tells Communist Party cadres (SCMP)
The Communist Party's newspaper warned on Friday that cadres must get behind the leadership's reform push and have results showing they are carrying it forward. Performance reviews and any job promotions would depend on their commitment to President Xi Jinping's agenda, People's Daily said in a commentary, which was unusually direct in its language. "The crucial point to help the reform push succeed is personnel management," it said. Xi's reforms have encountered resistance partly due to the party's bureaucratic structure, where orders from a cadre's immediate supervisors are given greater weight than instructions from the central government or rules written down on paper. The commentary came a day after state media ran a tersely worded piece by "Guoping", a pen name the authorities use to comment on major state and party issues, saying Xi's reform ambitions had encountered "fierce resistance" that was "beyond what could be imagined". Analysts said the resistance could be from powerful groups including retired leaders, serving cadres whose powers had been trimmed, and civil servants who no longer enjoyed extravagant lifestyles. The Daily's commentary pointed to another obstacle in Xi's path - the "shallow" and even "fake" changes that officials implement to deflect pressure from Beijing. "In reality, fake reforms are not rare to see," the commentary said. "As changes should bring solutions to problems in reality, in-depth reforms should attack the problems in the reform itself." Perfunctory shake-ups of local SOEs are especially problematic, since reforming such enterprises is a core element of the mainland's wider economic restructuring. However, the overhauls have not gone well. "Some places only know to look upwards" said the article, referring to fulfilling the requirements of the central leadership. They gave "empty slogans about inviting private investment and cutting executives' salaries". Recently, discussion about SOE reform has increased as many expect to see the principled guidelines released soon. "After this central meeting on in-depth reform, it is expected that there will be a handful of powerful, practical, and realistic reform plans on SOEs released together," the commentary said. It acknowledged, however, that public patience for the reforms was starting to wear thin in the absence of obvious results. But more time was needed during the current transition phase, it said. ^ top ^



China's president vows 'unceasing fight' against separatism in Tibet (SCMP)
China will wage an unceasing fight against separatism in its restive mountainous region of Tibet, President Xi Jinping said, as the government repeated it would never accept exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama's genuine autonomy proposals. This year marks several sensitive anniversaries for the remote region that China has ruled with an iron fist since 1950 when Communist troops marched in and took control in what Beijing calls a peaceful liberation. It is 50 years since China established what it calls the Tibet Autonomous Region and also the 80th birthday of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since fleeing Tibet in 1959 following an abortive uprising. At a two-day conference this week of the senior leadership about Tibet, only the sixth ever held, Xi repeated the government's standard opposition to Tibetan independence, saying he would fight an unswerving anti-separatism battle, state media said. “We should fight against separatist activities by the Dalai group,” Xi was quoted as saying. The Dalai Lama denies seeking independence, saying he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet, something he calls the Middle Way and which Beijing believes is merely a smokescreen for independence, arguing Tibet already has real autonomy. An accompanying commentary published by the United Front Work Department, which has led unsuccessful on-off talks with the Dalai Lama's envoys, said the government had not accepted, and would never accept, the Middle Way. The Middle Way seeks to cleave off one-quarter of China, as it would include historic parts of Tibet in neighbouring Chinese provinces, the commentary, carried on the department's social media account, said. […] Tibet remains under heavy security, with visits by foreign media tightly restricted, making an independent assessment of the situation difficult. ^ top ^

China Voice: Tibet's development common aspiration of Chinese people (Xinhua)
A conference on southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, which ended on Tuesday, is the sixth of its kind, allowing the central leadership to discuss governance of Tibet. It is hard to find a second region garnering more government attention than Tibet. Boasting a population of three million people and an annual GDP of some 90 billion yuan (14 billion U.S. dollars), only a fraction of south China's Guangdong Province, Tibet is hardly an economic engine of China. But its stability and development, as well as people's welfare, matter no less than other provinces. In the words of Chinese President Xi Jinping, "the key to governing a country lies in governing border regions; for that, we need Tibet's stability first." Why is Tibet so important to China? Before the founding of new China in 1949, Tibet was never the Shangri-la described in the 1933 novel "Lost Horizon." A border region without powerful central government support, Tibet was divorced from inland China. China cannot let it happen again. Tibetans born in modern times may not understand the world decades ago: most people lived in extreme poverty in a society of feudal serfdom, their dignity trampled on by slave owners. Only in 1959 did the one million serfs get liberated after the dissolution of the archaic, aristocratic local government of Tibet. Over the past six decades, Tibet has witnessed rapid development, thanks to special financial, tax and investment policies, and a helping hand from other interior regions -- thousands of party cadres volunteer to travel to Tibet every year to help locals build modern infrastructure, open new factories and receive better education. From 1993 to 2014, Tibet's total GDP leaped from 3.7 billion yuan to 92 billion yuan; the average income of farmers and herdsmen registered 7,471 yuan, 10.6 times of that in 1993. But since the 1950s, Tibet has also seen occasional disturbance, including a large-scale riot in 2008. Some separatist groups, not forsaking their intention for "Tibet independence," not only threatened China's national security and unity, but also damaged ethnic unity. Such factors have added to the difficulty to achieve prolonged development in Tibet, whose average income is still below the national standard and which still has a large portion of impoverished people. At the conference, Xi called for more efforts to promote ethnic unity and a sense of belonging to the same Chinese nationality. Without ethnic unity and stability, without the development of Tibet, such sense of belonging is hard to win from Tibetan people. ^ top ^

Xi urges promoting economic, social development in Tibet (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping has asked for more efforts to promote economic growth and all-round social progress in Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas in four other provinces, vowing sustainable measures and continued preferential policies. Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas in four other provinces have entered "a critical stage" toward fulfilling the country's goal of building a moderately prosperous society in a comprehensive way, Xi said at a two-day meeting on Tibet's future development, which ended on Tuesday. Special financial, tax and investment policies should continue to be in place in the future in southwest China's Tibet autonomous region and Tibetan-inhabited areas in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces, he added. Development, which aims to improve living conditions for various ethnic groups and beef up social cohesion, should be advanced in a prudent and steady manner, and all measures taken should be sustainable, Xi said. Xi urged bettering basic public service and adopting targeted measures to alleviate poverty, solve key problems which lead to poverty and improve living conditions for the impoverished as soon as possible. "More active employment policies should be carried out to help residents of all ethnic groups to walk out of their farms and pastors to work in towns and companies and start businesses," he said. Meanwhile, […] The government should give top priority to improving people's livelihood, alleviating poverty and increasing employment among Tibetans, he noted, urging more efforts to boost education, medical care and social security in the region. It is key for Tibet to sharpen its self-development capability through promoting its specialty industries, infrastructure construction, and environmental protection, said the premier. "Efforts should be given to the development of agriculture and animal husbandry and related processing business, making Tibet an important tourism destination in the world, and promoting commerce and trade with South Asia to boost the Tibetan economy," he added. Moreover, the building of local infrastructure should be sped up, including transportation networks, water conservation projects, power grids, among others, Li noted. The Premier also pledged to increase financial aid and preferential policies to the ethnic minority area. Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, asked attendees to learn from the spirit of the meeting and work out effective measures to boost the development of Tibet. Other members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee Zhang Dejiang, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli, also attended the meeting. ^ top ^



China jails 45 in Xinjiang over terrorism activities and illegal border crossings (SCMP)
China sentenced 45 people to prison in its Xinjiang region for cases involving illegal border crossings, state media reported on Thursday, saying they sought out “holy war” and had committed crimes including organising or funding “terrorist groups”. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of mostly Muslim Uygurs, keen to escape unrest in the far-western region, have travelled clandestinely via Southeast Asia to Turkey. Beijing, which blames Islamist militants for violent attacks in Xinjiang and elsewhere on the mainland, says some people are trafficked across the border and end up fighting for groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Authorities had sentenced 43 people in recent days, involved in 10 cases from the Xinjiang cities of Ili, Karamay, Aksu, Kashgar and Hotan, the official Xinjiang Daily said. They received sentences ranging between four and 15 years in jail, with two others given life sentences, it said. Those sentenced were involved in “organising, leading, or participating in terrorist groups, funding terrorist groups, and organising others to illegally cross the border”, it said. “Among the 10 cases, all those who tried to illegally leave the country were poisoned with religious extremist ideology, and were enticed and manipulated by smugglers to take part in holy war,” the newspaper said. China is home to about 20 million Muslims, only a portion of whom are Uygurs, who speak a Turkic language. Officials in Beijing say Xinjiang separatists are trying to set up an independent state called East Turkestan and deny accusations by rights advocates that the central and regional governments restrict Uygurs' religious freedom and culture. “China's policy of suppression is leading to Uygurs seeking security through illegal immigration,” World Uygur Congress spokesman Dilxat Rexit said. “The harsh punishment is shifting political responsibility for the cause of illegal immigration.” In July, Thailand deported 109 Uygurs back to China, feeding concern among rights groups and the United States that they could be mistreated upon their return, and sparking anger in Turkey, home to a large Uygur diaspora. Turkey has vowed to keep its doors open to Uygur migrants fleeing persecution in China, exacerbating a row with Beijing. About 170 Uyghur women and children arrived in Turkey in late June from Thailand, where they had been held for more than a year for illegal entry, the US-based Radio Free Asia has reported. ^ top ^

Xinjiang residents welcome easing of passport policy (Global Times)
Measures to streamline procedures for passport application for residents in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have been welcomed by the local applicants. Xinjiang authorities announced in early August they would simplify the paperwork and speed up procedures for those who apply for a passport under the category of visiting [a family member or friend overseas], business, tourism and education. Getting a passport is often complicated and takes more time in Xinjiang than in other provinces, given the rising threat of terrorism in the region and the government's ongoing anti-terrorism campaign. Turgunjan Tursun, a research fellow at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that legitimate rights of ordinary Xinjiang residents should not be hindered by the presence of a small number of terrorists. More than 2,000 residents in Southern Xinjiang's Hotan prefecture have applied for a passport in two weeks, according to a report published on on Friday. Before the new policy was applied to the whole of Xinjiang, it was piloted in three areas, Shihezi, Karamay and Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture, since May. Residents in these areas who obtain a passport under tourism category can keep the passport in their personal possession, reported Xinjiang-based news website on Saturday. In the past, passports under tourism category were required to be handed to the local tourism bureaus upon return home, while those obtain for business or family visit purposes needed to be kept with the local police, Tursun said. Local departments in the three pilot areas accepted applications from 23,000 residents between May 25 and July 25, five times more than the same period last year. The average processing time in Xinjiang is 15 days after the implementation of the new policy, while in Beijing it is eight to 10 days. Those who exit the country illegally or stay and work abroad illegally and are repatriated consequently are not qualified to obtain a passport for up to three years after repatriation, according to a guideline issued on August 19 on the website of the Public Security Bureau of Xinjiang. Tursun believed that such rules, if implemented properly, might help prevent Xinjiang separatists from participating in terrorist activities overseas. ^ top ^



Signs of a thaw? Hong Kong Democratic Party members hold behind-closed-doors talks with top Beijing official (SCMP)
Beijing appears to be extending an olive branch to the Democratic Party, with a key mainland official in charge of Hong Kong affairs hosting core members on Wednesday to discuss issues including governance. It was the first meeting between the two sides since the Democrats joined fellow pan-democratic lawmakers in blocking a Beijing-dictated model for electoral reform in June - and was held possibly with an eye to the next political battle: crunch district council polls in November. The lunch invitation to the five Democrats came from Feng Wei, deputy director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. On the agenda were problems of governance in a divided city and the vexed question of reform of the 2017 chief executive poll, said party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing, who attended with vice-chairmen Lo Kin-hei and Andrew Wan Siu-kin and two others. Lau said she had turned down Feng's invitation before the reform vote as Beijing had ruled out any concessions back then. But they agreed to see him this week, she said, because the city was steeped in myriad woes and they wanted to raise the problems directly with Beijing officials. […] Lau denied the talks were "secretive", though she said they would not have been held if the party had alerted everyone beforehand. "Beijing does not want us to publicise it. You may not think it's the right thing to do, but that's the way they behave," she told the media after reporting the meeting to the committee last night. "It is very important for us to have a face-to-face meeting with Beijing officials to tell them things that those people they meet frequently will not tell them." In 2010, the Democrats were deeply split and ostracised from parts of the camp after they accepted concessions at closed-door talks with Beijing officials and supported a reform package. Among those in attendance was Feng, then director of legal affairs at Beijing's liaison office. The Democrats lost ground in the district elections of 2011 and legislative polls a year later. But Lau said whether the meeting would affect their poll performance was the least of their concerns. She said it was petty to prioritise election concerns over other matters, adding they did not want to miss such a rare chance to reflect the voices of Hongkongers and to tell Beijing not to meddle in the city's affairs. Feng did not promise to meet the Democrats regularly. Lau said she urged him to talk to parties across the political spectrum. ^ top ^

'Tip of the iceberg': Warning from pan-democratic parties over 400 suspicious Hong Kong voter records (SCMP)
Pan-democratic parties flocked to the election watchdog yesterday to lodge more complaints about the records of over 550 voters with suspicious or false residential addresses, warning they could be "the tip of the iceberg". A flood of cases reported to the Registration and Electoral Office recently included complaints by residents of unknown people registering their home addresses for voting in the district council elections in November. Among new cases yesterday were voters registering addresses that do not exist, and seven or eight voters registering as living together in flats of 200 to 300 sq ft. In one case a voter claimed to be living in a hospital. Mak Tak-ching of the Labour Party, who led colleagues to file 300 cases to the office, said such irregularities were widespread in constituencies including […] The Post has previously reported on voters claiming they live in hotel rooms, the Cultural Centre, Tsim Sha Tsui, and parks. Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching warned that such irregularities could erode confidence in the election system. Yesterday was the last day for voters to check and update their particulars in order to vote in November, and for the public to report suspicious cases. An office spokesman said all complaints would be handled in accordance with the law. A person who gives false or incorrect information in making a voter registration may face up to six months in jail and a HK$5,000 fine. Scores of people were convicted of registering false addresses in 2011. The district council elections will be held on November 22. It will be the first general elections since the Occupy protests and the pan-democrats' rejection of the government's proposed reform for the 2017 chief executive election. The polls are seen as a key test of voters' reaction to the pan-democrats' tactics. Meanwhile, the Privacy Commissioner reminded candidates not to use voters' personal data for electioneering activities without their consent. Since 2012 the office has received 200 complaints about such election-related offences. It said the data should be destroyed after completion of all the electioneering activities. ^ top ^



Beijing signs landmark pact to stem flow of Macau's dirty casino cash (SCMP)
Beijing has cranked up its campaign against the laundering of illicit cash through Macau casinos by signing a landmark pact that will bring unprecedented levels of co-operation between the central bank and the city's financial regulators. The deal - between the People's Bank of China and the Macau Monetary Authority - was announced without fanfare by the central bank late on Friday. A brief statement described it as a "memorandum of understanding to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing". It is the latest in a series of moves by Beijing over the past year to exert more control over the world's biggest gaming destination. The push to clean up the casinos and diversify Macau's gaming-dominated economy is seen by Beijing as a key component in President Xi Jinping's wider anti-graft drive. The central bank said the agreement would "strengthen bilateral exchanges" on anti-money laundering regulations, information exchange mechanisms and on-site inspections, but it did not give any more details. It said the two sides would adopt recommendations from a global anti-money laundering body, the Financial Action Task Force, to strengthen regional supervision against money laundering. The lack of detail in the statement and the fact that there was no parallel announcement by the Macau Monetary Authority or the city's anti-money laundering unit has prompted concern over what the deal could mean for the autonomy of China's only other Special Administrative Region. It has also led to speculation similar moves might be considered for Hong Kong. […] A gaming insider with a knowledge of the recent moves to reign in the excesses of the casino sector - which have hit casino bottom lines and led to the closure of significant number of the infamous VIP junket operators who feed the casinos high-stakes, big money mainland gamblers - suggested the "unclear" mechanisms in the deal should be watched carefully by Hong Kong. […] ^ top ^



Taiwan's former premier Lien Chan stirs controversy by agreeing to attend Beijing's war parade (SCMP)
Former Kuomintang chairman Lien Chan will make a controversial move to attend Beijing's massive military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war next Thursday. Lien would also meet Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping in a personal capacity during the visit, Lien's spokesman Chang Jung-kung said on Wednesday. In response to the news, KMT spokeswoman Lin Yi-hua said that serving senior KMT figures would not attend despite Beijing's invitations. She added it was "undeniable" that it was the Nationalist government that had led the resistance against Japanese aggression. Lien would arrive in Beijing next Tuesday to attend a series of commemorative events at Beijing's invitation, including the parade, Chang said. He said Lien would express his views on the war and cross-strait relations to Xi "in an appropriate way". KMT presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu said she was confident Lien's Beijing visit would not affect the election in January. "Anything that benefits cross-strait exchanges is a good thing. I think the [former] chairman can handle it appropriately," she said. Her rival, James Soong Chu-yu, People First Party candidate, would send the party's secretary general as his special envoy to attend the parade. But a Taiwan opposition lawmaker criticised Lien's trip. "Taiwan's defence ministry sees China as an enemy," said Chou Ni-an, a lawmaker of the Taiwan Solidarity Union party. "By meeting the Chinese leader, Lien has made it clear he sees Taiwan's dignity as nothing and he has given up on Taiwanese people." ^ top ^

China and Taiwan sign tax, aviation deals after 18-month hiatus (SCMP)
China and Taiwan signed two agreements on the safety of civil aviation and avoidance of double taxation in China on Tuesday, 18 months after the two sides held the last high-level talks to seal bilateral deals. Taiwan's semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) announced that SEF head Lin Join-sane and his Chinese counterpart, Chen Deming, head of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (Arats), signed the two agreements during the 11th cross-strait high-level talks in Fuzhou, Fujian province. The meeting was previously held in February last year when both sides signed two agreements in Taipei on sharing weather and earthquake data. The 18-month hiatus was mainly caused by a student-led movement against the agreement on trade in services both sides signed in June 2013. […] The main purpose of the avoidance of double taxation is to improve both sides' investment environment and increase the competitiveness of their businesspeople, although China will suffer short-term losses of tax revenues. The civil aviation safety pact will allow certified aviation maintenance technicians on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to perform scheduled maintenance and inspections on aircraft and use repaired or replacement parts manufactured on either side. Presently, airlines on both sides must bring their own aircraft replacement parts and maintenance crew to provide services on their own aircraft. As for a planned joint statement on allowing Chinese air travellers to transfer in Taiwan en route to and from foreign destinations, Lin said he hoped negotiations would continue and that there would be a positive result by the end of this year. Apart from signing the two agreements, both sides agreed on Tuesday to place four issues on the agenda of the next round of cross-strait level talks. They are cooperation of environmental protection, establishment of representative offices of SEF and Arats and two of the follow-up pacts under the framework of a landmark trade deal signed in June 2010. While the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party stands a better chance of winning the presidential and legislative elections in January next year, Chen emphasised the importance of the so-called “1992 consensus” that Beijing and Taipei consider to form the basis of institutionalised cross-strait negotiations and political foundation of mutual trust. Neither the DPP nor its presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen recognise the “1992 consensus” – a purported agreement between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party that there is only one China, with each retaining its own interpretation of what “one China” means. President Xi Jinping has warned that if the “1992 consensus” is sabotaged, the trust between China and Taiwan will cease to exist and that cross-strait relations will return to a turbulent state. […] ^ top ^


China to step up financial leasing to bolster economy (Xinhua)
The State Council, China's Cabinet, on Wednesday mapped out measures to accelerate development of financial leasing and make it better serve the real economy. Accelerating development of financial leasing could ease financing difficulty and financing cost, spur investment on equipment and promote industrial upgrade, said a statement released after a State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Li Keqiang. The meeting demanded less red tape, including no minimum capital threshold for financial leasing companies to establish subsidiaries and easier procedures for leasing equipment like ships, farming machinery, medical devices and aircraft. Development of leasing businesses involving high-end equipment imports, clean energy and people's livelihood should be sped up. Establishment of leasing businesses for small enterprises and agricultural development should be encouraged, the statement said. Export of equipment and international production capacity cooperation aided by financial leasing are encouraged, it said. The meeting also called for making good use of the Internet, establishing markets for trading of leases and second-hand equipment, and developing leaseback business. The meeting encouraged local governments to provide incentives and risk compensation to guide financial leasing businesses to better serve the real economy. The meeting also decided to lower central government charges and reset local charges in the import and export processes to relieve the burden on businesses and stimulate foreign trade. Detailed charge lists of ports will be made public, according to the statement. The meeting also discussed mass entrepreneurship, innovation, public services and poverty relief, based on appraisal of progress in these areas conducted by third parties commissioned by the State Council. The meeting noted that third party appraisals, as an innovative measure in government administration, will continue to be used to assess the implementation of polices. The meeting also decided to reform the system of technical posts for primary and high school teachers. ^ top ^

China is equipped to handle market volatility, says Premier Li Keqiang (SCMP)
China's State Council has vowed to ease the financial burden on some businesses and lower the capital barrier to entry in the financial leasing sector. After a meeting on Wednesday, the council, the central government's cabinet, said the state would lower some export and import fees for companies, and cut the registered capital financial leasing firms need to set up subsidiaries. A fund will also be created to support public and private investment partnerships, according to the meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang. On Tuesday, Li said global economic conditions were creating volatility in markets, but that the government had room to innovate and deploy the right tools to meet its economic targets. At a meeting with Kazakhstan's Deputy Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev, Li also said there was no basis for continued depreciation in the yuan. "Global economic conditions remain complicated and bewildering, with substantial market fluctuations, which have affected China's economy," he said. Even so, the country's economy remained in a "reasonable range", the premier said. Mizuho Securities chief economist Shen Jianguang said Li's remarks revealed the government's desire to maintain a stable currency amid panic selling on China's stock markets. "It's clear the government hopes to restore investors' confidence in the yuan exchange rate and that will help stem capital outflows," Shen said. Shenwan Hongyuan Securities chief economist Li Huiyong said that cutting interest rates and reserve requirements at banks would put more pressure on the yuan to depreciate. The exchange rate could drop to 6.9 yuan against the US dollar in the next two years, said Li Huiyong. It is now about 6.4 yuan to the dollar. Shen said the moves were aimed at addressing the economic downturn. ANZ Banking senior economist Raymond Yeung Yue-ting said the government was concerned about the uncertainty in the global economy, which would affect the currency market and the country's exports. "The US interest rate hike will put pressure on the renminbi, while weakness in the European economy will likely take a toll on China's exports," he said. ^ top ^

China names and shames banks for not playing by fund transfer rules (SCMP)
China's foreign exchange regulator has taken the rare step of publishing a list of banks and firms it said did not follow procedures when transferring funds in and out of the country. The move came amid Beijing's crackdown on underground banking and after falls in mainland stock markets created concerns of potential massive capital outflows that could further drag down its already slowing economic growth. The State Administration of Foreign Exchange said in a notice dated Tuesday that most financial institutions and companies followed the regulations, but that some were found "not strictly carrying out their obligations to verify the authenticity of the applications" and "not following proper procedures for foreign exchange settlement services and cross-border foreign exchange transfers". Three of the 10 institutions named and shamed for irregularities are Bank of Shanghai, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank and Ping An Bank. The regulator blamed them for "affecting the healthy and stable development of the economy and financial markets, and the balance of international payments". Others on the list include firms and an individual who "resorted to deceptive measures such as using false or invalid documents and fabricating fake trades" to illegally channel foreign exchange funds in and out of the country bit by bit. It is not common for the regulator to publish names of institutions with irregularities. The move came after the Ministry of Public Security launched a nationwide crackdown against underground banking. On Wednesday, mainland police revealed more details on their recent operations targeting illegal capital flows and underground banks. In one case, an 83-year-old Hong Kong businessman who had long been doing business on the mainland, was swindled of 8 million yuan (HK$9.65 million) by a Shenzhen shadow bank that had collaborators in Hong Kong to help it complete the illegal transactions, Xinhua reported. The man, identified by his last name Chan, was told by his friend, surnamed Shen, who chaired a district branch of a Shenzhen bank, that he could get foreign exchange quotas and help Chan transfer 60 million yuan to Hong Kong. But Shen channelled the money through an underground bank instead. An anti-money-laundering official said employees of banks were often involved in promoting services for shadow banks, which usually had business partners outside the mainland. An official with the foreign exchange regulator said underground banks affected the authorities' judgment of the accurate pricing of the yuan exchange rate and the adjustment of China's foreign exchange policies, People's Daily reported. "Because capital transacted through underground banks is not included in the country's normal statistics on the balance of international payments, a huge capital 'black hole' is formed [and] the statistics no longer reflect the real situation of economic life accurately," the official was quoted as saying. ^ top ^

China cuts interest rates in bid to halt stock turmoil and reassure markets after 'Black Monday' (SCMP)
Beijing cut interest rates and eased bank lending limits yesterday in a bid to stop panic selling in mainland stock markets that smashed them to eight-month lows, even as equities elsewhere in the world began to recover from the previous day's rout which investors termed "China's Black Monday". The move came as Premier Li Keqiang said there was no basis for continued depreciation of the yuan. He added that the yuan would "stay at a reasonable and balanced level". China stock index futures traded in Singapore jumped nearly 6 per cent higher in response to twin moves that sliced 25 basis points from borrowing costs and cut the proportion of reserves lenders must hold on deposit with the central bank, injecting an estimated 650 billion yuan (HK$786 billion) of liquidity to help support the economy. US stocks also rebounded last night as investors sought out bargains a day after Wall Street turned in its worst performance in four years. Shortly after opening, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 374.74 points, or 2.36 per cent, at 16,246.09, with all 30 of its components in the black. A global market meltdown on Monday was sparked by investor fears that China's fragile share markets were spiralling beyond the control of policymakers and would hurt economic growth. It triggered a flurry of international political rhetoric with US presidential hopefuls, European officials and others pointing fingers at Beijing and urging the government to act to stabilise the country's markets and economy. "I'm the one that says you better start uncoupling from China because China's got problems," real estate mogul and Republican front-runner Donald Trump said on Fox News, with similar views echoed by fellow Republican hopefuls Scott Walker and Chris Christie. While uncoupling from the world's second-largest economy and source of the single biggest driver of global growth is not possible, investors showed signs yesterday of distinguishing more clearly between the mainland and elsewhere. […] Key Asian stock markets recovered a degree of composure - led by a 3.6 per cent rise on Taiwan's TAIEX index and a 2.6 per cent gain for the Australian All Ordinaries index - despite the 7.6 per cent slide on the Shanghai Composite Index which marked its sharpest four-day fall since 1996. US stock futures and major European share benchmarks also traded firmer at the open, while copper - a key industrial metal used by investors as a gauge of sentiment on China's economic health - largely held its ground, albeit at around six-year lows. All of which suggests that the mainland is not headed for the economic oblivion that glo bal markets were pricing in on Monday. […] ^ top ^



China calls for restraint as tensions rise on Korean Peninsula (Xinhua)
China on Friday asked relevant parties to exercise restraint and prevent escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula. "We urge relevant sides to maintain calm and restraint, properly deal with the current situation through contact and dialogue, and stop any action that could heighten tensions," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. Hua's comments came after the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) reportedly exchanged fire across border over propaganda broadcasts Thursday. Bordering on the Korean Peninsula, China pays close attention to the peninsular situation and is deeply concerned about recent incidents, Hua said. She said China resolutely safeguards regional peace and stability and opposes any action that could raise tensions. "China is willing to work with all parties concerned for peace and stability of the peninsula," she added. ^ top ^

S.Korea, DPRK trade fires in border over propaganda broadcasts (Xinhua)
South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) traded fires across border Thursday over the resumed propaganda broadcasts and landmine blasts in front-line areas. Army Col. Jeon Ha-kyu, spokesman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), told a press briefing that the DPRK conducted firing provocation twice at 3:52 p.m. (6:52 a.m. GMT) and 4:12 p.m. respectively. The first provocation was the firing of a shell from the DPRK's 14.5-mm anti-aircraft artillery, and the second was several rounds launched from the 76.2 mm direct-fire weapons. The South Korean military fired back about 20 warning shots at 5:04 p.m. with its 155-mm self-propelled guns at areas, from which it believed the DPRK had shot the shells. No damage and casualty have been reported. The DPRK shells were believed to have landed in hills near South Korea's front-line army units. South Korea has put its troops on highest alert after the first exchange of fires between the two Koreas in 10 months. In October 2014, South Korea and the DPRK traded fires across border after Pyongyang shot at balloons carrying anti-DPRK leaflets floated by a South Korean civic group. South Korea shot back, in response. After exchanging fires on Thursday, the DPRK's general staff department sent a message to South Korea's defense ministry at about 5 p.m., warning that it would launch military actions unless Seoul stops propaganda broadcasts in border areas within 48 hours from 5 p.m. Tensions escalated over the inter-Korean border after two South Korean soldiers were maimed by the explosion of landmines on Aug. 4, which Seoul claimed had been planted by DPRK forces. Pyongyang denied the allegation. In retaliation for the provocation, the South Korean military resumed the propaganda broadcasts in 11 years with loudspeakers, which the DPRK called "a direct action of declaring war." Over the weekend, Pyongyang also warned of indiscriminate strikes against the speakers. Meanwhile, the DPRK showed a conciliatory gesture by delivering a letter to Kim Kwan-jin, top security advisor to South Korean President Park Geun-hye, at about 4:50 p.m. Thursday in the name of Kim Yang Gon, director of the DPRK's United Front Department in charge of Seoul-Pyongyang relations. The letter warned that the DPRK will conduct military actions against the continued propaganda broadcasts, but it said that Pyongyang had a will to make efforts for opening a path to mending ties with South Korea. South Korea saw the letter as having an intention of twisting the fact that tensions arose from the DPRK landmine provocation. Therefore, the military said it will continue to air the propaganda broadcasts. President Park convened the emergency meeting of the National Security Council for the first time, as the meeting is usually chaired by top presidential security secretary. During the 40-minute meeting, Park instructed officials to deal sternly with any DPRK provocation and maintain a perfect defense readiness while making all-out efforts to ensure safety of the people, the presidential office said. About 2,000 South Korean people living in villages near the west border were evacuated. The exchange of fires came after South Korea and the United States kicked off their joint annual war game, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), on Monday. The DPRK has denounced it as a rehearsal for the northward invasion. The computer-assisted simulation exercise would last until Aug. 28. ^ top ^



President receives Keidanren reps (Montsame)
President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj welcomed August 26 the Chairman of the Japan Business Federation /Keidanren/ Mr. Sadayuki Sakakibara and accompanying delegates. Minister of Foreign Affairs L.Purevsuren, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to Japan S.Khurelbaatar and other officials were present at the meeting. President Elbegdorj noted: “I am delighted to meet with you, Mr. Sakakibara and other representatives of the Keidanren. Keidanren organized the Mongolia-Japan Business Forum in Tokyo, Japan for the second time. It is important that you are visiting Mongolia to meet business people, state officials, and decision makers with such a large group of representatives. The relationship between Mongolia and Japan, in particular, the political cooperation and mutual trust are at the highest level. Now there is a need to bring bilateral economic cooperation into a new stage of development enriching our relations with new content. Therefore, your current trip to Mongolia is timely and is of great importance. His Excellency Mr. Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe proposed “Erch Initiative”. We see this initiative as an intention to establish more intensive, rapid, and more comprehensive relations between the two countries. I would like to recall that we have also signed the Economic Partnership Agreement /EPA/”. Chairman of Keidanren Mr. Sadayuki Sakakibara thanked the President for his warm welcome and said: “Firstly, I would like to congratulate the people of Mongolia on the 25th anniversary of the Democratic Revolution in Mongolia. I extend my congratulations to all Mongolians for successfully developing democracy and market economy. In May 2015, His Excellency, President Elbegdorj visited Japan, where the Mongolian side invited Keidanren to visit Mongolia. We are truly excited to visit Mongolia upon this invitation”. ^ top ^

Appointment of ministers to be discussed in October (Montsame)
On August 24, the Prime Minister's spokesperson Ts.Monkhtor called a press conference and gave some information of the timely matters. Accordingly, the PM Ch.Saikhanbileg has considered it suitable to submit to parliament the issue of appointing six ministers upon the commencing of Autumn Plenary Session of the State Great Khural in October. The PM assigned the responsibilities of the ousted members of cabinet to some ministers, by issuing a resolution on August 7. Thus, the activities of the ministries have been normally undertaken, he said. The political parties are still discussing their nominations to ministers' positions. According to Ts.Monkhtor, the Premier will be working in the land-farming regions next week, and he is to meet with Li Keqiang, the Premier of the State Council of the Republic of China, on September 10. ^ top ^

Turkey pledges support for Mongolia's candidacy to UN Human Rights Council (Montsame)
The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the Republic of Turkey Mr B.Batkhishig met with the head of International Political Organizations Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey Ms Zeynep Kiziltan on and handed over a copy of the letter of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mongolia H.E.Mr. Lundeg Purevsuren addressed to H.E.Mr. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey on his request of support of Mongolia's candidacy to the UN Human Rights Council. Ambassador B.Batkhishig stressed Mongolia's concrete achievement in setting up a legal environment and economic and social conditions for securing human rights and freedom on the steadfast path of democracy and reform after democratic revolution in 1990 and informed that Mongolia on the base of its experiences accumulated during this reform has decided to present its candidature to the UN Human Rights Council. Mrs. Zeynep Kiziltan underlined a successful cooperation between Turkey and Mongolia in international arena and expressed Turkish position on firm support of Mongolia's candidacy to the UN Human Rights Council. ^ top ^

Exploration licenses for 14 million hectares of area to be issued (Infomongolia)
Granting of licenses for mining exploration in 31 million hectares of land or 19.9% of total territory of Mongolia had been approved in 2014 by the Decree No.239 of the Government of Mongolia. In accordance with this, licensing of mining exploration in the territory of 9 million hectares west from 104th meridian has started from January 26, 2015. Therefore, total of 452 licenses were granted to entities so far. From August 24, 2015, the Mineral Resources Authority of Mongolia will grant the licenses for exploration on the area of 11.94 million hectares east from 104th meridian, as well as will granting the licenses for remaining 1.95 million hectares located 104th meridian west. The issuing of licenses for total of 20.94 million hectares of exploration area is basing on applications and for the rest of 10.15 million hectares will be issued under selection. 1,076 entities which have applied for the license are domestic, 50 companies are foreign and 12 are joint entities. The government resumed the exploration licensing in 2014 which had been previously stopped for four years. ^ top ^


Mrs. Mirjam Eggli
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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