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
  25-29.1.2016, No. 607  
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“Mongolia and Switzerland can boost their cooperation in many spheres” (Montsame)
Expressing a satisfaction with a successful development of the relations and between Mongolia and Switzerland, the President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj and his Switzerland counterpart Mr Johann Schneider-Ammann said the countries could boost this collaboration in many spheres. Their meeting took place last weekend on the fields of the 46th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. The two dignitaries also emphasized huge achievements of Mongolia in strengthening the democracy. While touching upon a statement of the Mongolian leader made at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly about the permanent neutrality status, Mr Schneider-Ammann highlighted his country's experiences and lessons on this status. “Switzerland is a classic example of the permanent neutrality, it was declared in 1815,” he added. Mongolia and Switzerland established the diplomatic relations in 1964, the 50th anniversary of this relationship was celebrated in 2014. As of present, some 10 Swiss people in Mongolia run constant active works in health, culture, humanity and environment spheres. According to its latest Swiss Cooperation Strategy, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation /SDC/ has prioritized Mongolia's agricultural development, ensuring food security and better livelihoods for the most vulnerable of the population; greater involvement in vocational education and skills training for unskilled youth and adults in order to improve their employability; and Strengthening good governance and civil society development, in particular through support for reforms related to decentralization, direct democracy and civic participation. Between 2013 and 2016, Switzerland rendered developmental aid of 80.1 million Swiss francs to Mongolia. ^ top ^


Foreign Policy

Canadian activist Kevin Garratt charged with spying and stealing China's state secrets (SCMP)
A Canadian Christian activist who helped provide humanitarian aid to North Koreans has been indicted of spying and stealing China's state secrets. Kevin Garratt had been indicted by prosecutors in Dandong city, China's main border town with North Korea in northeast Liaoning province, Xinhua reported. Chinese authorities had found evidence of Garratt accepting tasks from Canadian espionage agencies to gather intelligence in China, the news agency said, without elaborating. Garratt is the latest foreign citizen working for an international NGO to be targeted by Beijing. Swedish citizen Peter Dahlin was detained in China three weeks ago and deported after making a confession on state-run CCTV. Dahlin, 35, co-founded the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, which provided legal assistance. Xinhua said Dahlin's detention was part of a police operation to “smash” an “illegal organisation that sponsored activities jeopardising China's national security”. Dahlin's organisation had gathered and fabricated information about China, it said. Garratt and his wife, originally from Vancouver, had lived in China for 30 years before being taken away in August 2014. The couple was suspected of stealing secrets of China's military research, according to Xinhua. They were under investigation by local branch of the state security authorities, it added. Julia Dawn Garratt, the wife, was released on bail in February 2015, after being held for six months. She was barred from leaving mainland China for a year, according to a statement by the couple's lawyer. Her husband had been relocated to “a more formal detention centre at an unknown location”, the statement said. ^ top ^

Canadian PM: Canada, China seeking stronger ties (Xinhua)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised here Wednesday to engage very positively with China to enhance a strong and growing relationship with China in the coming years. Trudeau made the remarks at a special reception and photo exhibition to celebrate the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Canada, which is co-hosted by the Chinese Embassy in Canada and Canada's Department of Global Affairs. The event was attended by some 400 guests from political, business and academic circles as well as Chinese communities from Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal. Trudeau also praised China for "playing a strong role in environmental protection." Canadian Minister of Global Affairs Stephane Dion praised the 45 years of Canadian-Chinese bilateral relations from the days of Dr. Norman Bethune, to Canada's first wheat sale to China, to the present Liberal government's efforts to work with China on climate change, sustainable development and "an inclusive and constructive cooperation." Chinese Ambassador Luo Zhaohui hailed the arrival of a "new era of cooperation" between China and Canada which he said will further strengthen the major pillars of the bilateral relationship, including closer leadership ties, economic cooperation, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Luo also called for an early realization of a China-Canada free trade agreement. The event featured an exhibition of 40 photos of historic significance portraying key milestones in the development of China-Canada ties, including two-way visits by various national leaders of the two countries over the past 45 years. The photo show is scheduled to be staged in Toronto in February. ^ top ^

New agency to track down fugitives hiding overseas (China Daily)
A new agency has been set up by the Ministry of Public Security to handle fugitives who have fled overseas. The Department of Overseas Fugitives Affairs will help China to bring fugitives hiding overseas to justice and to retrieve stolen funds, the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. It added that the "Fox Hunt" campaign, launched last year to hunt such fugitives, will continue this year. The ministry said 857 fugitives were brought to China from 66 countries and regions between April and the end of December. Law enforcement authorities launched the "Fox Hunt" campaign in April as part of the "Skynet" operation targeting suspected economic criminals. Of the 857 suspects, 366 turned themselves in to Chinese police, 477 were caught by local law enforcement officers and 14 were prosecuted in local courts. A total of 212 suspects allegedly embezzled or took bribes of up to 10 million yuan, according to the statement. Fifty-eight of these suspects were allegedly linked with cases involving more than 100 million yuan ($15.2 million). The statement said 39 of the suspects had been living overseas for more than 10 years, with one of them being at large for 21 years. The ministry said 122 fugitives were linked with vocational crimes, a term usually used by Chinese authorities to refer to corruption. The ministry and regional police sent more than 50 teams to overseas countries and regions to work with local law enforcement bodies and Chinese diplomatic missions to track and seize the fugitives. Two suspects were sent back from the United States and a total of six were returned from Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Spain and Hungary. Another 283 fugitives were captured in Southeast Asian countries including Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia. ^ top ^

Campaign returns 857 fugitives to China (Global Times)
China seized 857 fugitives hiding overseas in a campaign to net suspects implicated in economic crimes, the Ministry of Public Security said Wednesday. The ministry said it had established the Overseas Arresting Work Bureau to support the work, and "Fox Hunt 2016" would be launched. The fugitives, scattered across 66 countries and regions, include 366 who turned themselves in to police as part of Fox Hunt 2015, the ministry said. A total of 212 were implicated in cases involving over 10 million yuan (1.52 million US dollars), and 39 have been on the run for over a decade, one having evaded the law for 21 years. Fox Hunt 2015 was launched in April and ended in December. Police cooperation led to the capture of 114 fugitives hiding overseas with the aid of new identities. Over 50 working groups collaborated with foreign law enforcement agencies and Chinese embassies. A total of 283 suspects were captured in Southeast Asia. Two were repatriated from the United States. One case involved a suspect, surnamed Ding, from Zhejiang province, who was accused of illegal fund-raising, money laundering and fraud among other offenses, involving assets worth 200 million yuan. Ding fled overseas in September 2008 with his family. In May 2010, the local procuratorate issued a warrant for his arrest and in October 2011 Interpol issued a red warrant. In December 2014 it was found that Ding was planning on traveling to Spain. With cooperation between Chinese and Spanish police, Ding was arrested in Madrid in December 2014, and sent back to China in September 2015. Fox Hunt 2015 is part of the "Sky net" overseas anti-corruption campaign. The police helped the disciplinary body captured 122 fugitives suspected of duty-related crimes. ^ top ^

Swedish man expelled from China, not released: FM (Global Times)
China's foreign ministry confirmed on Tuesday that a Swedish national suspected of funding activities threatening China's national security had been expelled from the country, correcting the original wording that he was "released." Swede Peter Dahlin, who is suspected of supporting criminal activities that endanger China's State security, was deported on Monday by China in accordance with the relevant law, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a daily briefing on Tuesday. "I need to correct that he was not released but deported," Hua stressed, in response to a journalist's question. "In accordance with the Criminal Procedure Law, Beijing State Security Bureau placed Peter under compulsory measures of residential surveillance at a designated residence. After inquiries, Peter owned up to the crime," she said. "Prior to that, following the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, China informed the Swedish side about the relevant situation and arranged for the Swedish side to visit him," Hua added. Dahlin was detained on January 3. He had co-founded the China Urgent Action Working Group which was involved in legal affairs. Confirming with the Global Times on Tuesday, the Embassy of Sweden in China quoted Margot Wallström, the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, as saying that "I welcome that Peter Dahlin has been released and can be reunited with his family in Sweden. This has come about following frequent contact between the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Chinese representatives." The embassy declined to provide more details on contact with the Chinese government. Dahlin and some other people have been operating an unregistered legal aid group in the Chinese mainland, and had received undeclared money from overseas and carried out unregulated activities, the Xinhua News Agency reported on January 19. Police said the organization hired and trained others to gather, fabricate and distort information about China, providing "China's human rights report" to overseas organizations. It also organized others to interfere in sensitive cases, deliberately aggravate disputes and instigate public-government confrontations to create mass incidents, police said. […] The Swedish foreign minister added that he was very concerned about another detained Swedish citizen, Gui Minhai. Gui, a Hong Kong bookseller hyped as "missing" by overseas media, had turned himself in to police in the Chinese mainland in October 2015, after fleeing in 2004 while still on probation. Gui had been convicted of drunk driving after an accident that left a college girl dead in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province in December 2003. He expressed his regret on CCTV on January 17, adding that he hoped the Swedish government could respect his personal choice, "let me deal with my own problem by myself." Karin Nylund, Press Officer for the Communication Department of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, told the Global Times on Tuesday via e-mail that Sweden is continuing to seek clarification from the Chinese authorities about what had happened to Gui. Sweden is also seeking to pay a visit to Gui. ^ top ^

Families of expats can stay longer (China Daily)
Foreign family members of Chinese citizens will be eligible for a two-year residency permit in Beijing based on a family visit visa, according to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. The bureau announced a new policy on Tuesday that extends by one year the time allowed under the previous policy. The two-year permits are renewable. Family members of a Chinese citizen-including spouses, parents, spouse's parents or children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and spouses of the children-are now allowed to live in Beijing for two years. Formerly they had to go to the Department of Entry and Exit for an annual renewal. The policy affects only people whose residency permits are based on a family visit visa. It does not change the time for foreigners living and working in Beijing under a work visa. Under the new policy, anyone applying for renewal of a residency permit will not be required to hand in certain papers, such as a marriage certificate, to prove a relationship with a Chinese citizen. The policy is one of a dozen newly adopted measures to streamline procedures relating to foreigners living in Beijing. Foreign applicants for a residence permit under a work visa are exempt from submitting a copy of a business license of the place they work. Lin Song, a police officer at the Department of Entry and Exit in Beijing, said foreign applicants need to apply for renewal of their residency in China no more than 30 days before the residency permit expires. He underscored that foreigners who live somewhere other than a hotel have 24 hours after arrival to register with the local police. The person who accommodates them can also handle the registration. To assist Chinese nationals traveling outside the mainland, an additional 25 police stations in the city were authorized to receive applications for passports and other certificates for Chinese citizens to enter and exit the country, bringing the number to 47 in its nine districts. In 2015, the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau answered more than 510,000 phone inquiries about issues related to entry-and-exit services, according to statistics. The bureau said that this year it will work with major Internet companies to publish policies regarding entry and exit. ^ top ^

[Afghan] Foreign Minister's China trip is a chance for peace talks (SCMP)
Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani is in Beijing on a four-day trip as China steps up efforts to use its limited influence to broker peace talks in Kabul. Rabbani's arrival in the Chinese capital on Sunday follows a trip last week to Kabul by Deng Xijun, Beijing's special envoy on Afghan affairs, to take part in a Quadrilateral Coordination Group meeting. The group, which also includes representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States, is urging Taliban militants to negotiate an end to Afghanistan's 15-year civil war. Rabbani will hold talks with Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) today on economic, security and cultural affairs. Du Youkang, a professor of South Asia studies at Fudan University, said the talks with Rabbani would be a chance for China and the Afghan government to work out ways to get the Taliban to the negotiating table. China has strengthened political and economic ties with Afghanistan since 2014, the pre-set deadline for US troops to pull out of the country. Beijing has also had contact with Taliban representatives. But without a direct military presence, China's focus on an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” approach to the peace process relies more on mediation through multilateral meetings, particularly with Pakistan. “China can only try to convince both sides that a negotiated peace would be good for everyone, but has no way to force them to do anything,” Du said. Wang attended the Heart of Asia ministerial conference in Islamabad in December, when the “relevant countries in the process” – including the QCG, the European Union, Iran, India and Russia – met to find a way forward for Afghanistan. The next round of QCG talks will be on February 6 in Islamabad. Raffaello Pantucci, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said Beijing's greater willingness to lead on the Afghan issue was partly in recognition of a reduced Western role. Pantucci said instability in Afghanistan would pose a major threat to President Xi Jinping's (習近平) “One Belt, One Road” initiative even though the route had diverted around Afghanistan. He said the biggest challenge was that either the Afghan government or the Taliban was not “coherent enough” to bring everyone in. “China has a fairly limited track record in such negotiations and to assume they will be able to learn and resolve the problems in Afghanistan that have stumped most, seems optimistic,” he said. Du said China had to try to do something because a divided and warring Afghanistan was not in Beijing's interests, especially in Xinjiang (新疆). “If Afghanistan continued to be a messy battlefield, it could become a hotbed of terrorism, a source of illegal drugs and a source of weapons proliferation, which directly threatens China,” Du said. ^ top ^

China to help Iran build high-speed rail as part of 'One Belt, One Road' strategy (SCMP)
China has agreed to give Iran financial aid to help build the Middle East nation's high-speed train system as part of Beijing's “One Belt, One Road” initiative. The agreement, reached as President Xi Jinping wrapped up his tour in Tehran on Saturday, is Beijing's latest effort to expand its diplomatic presence overseas. Xi said at a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rowhani that China would cooperate in building a rapid train system between Tehran and Mashhad, and help finance the projects. The two leaders also saw the signing of 17 bilateral agreement documents for cooperation in fields including infrastructure, investment and the environment. The two nations vowed to boost bilateral trade to US$600 billion in the coming decade. Trade between the two countries stood at US$52 billion in 2014, but dropped last year due to plunging oil prices. China is Iran's biggest trade partner, and continued buying oil from Iran after nuclear-related sanctions were tightened in 2012, despite US pressure. China has always stood by the side of the Iranian nation during hard days Iranian President Hassan Rowhani “China has always stood by the side of the Iranian nation during hard days,” Rowhani said. Xi is the first foreign leader to visit Iran since international sanctions were lifted about a week ago under a nuclear deal reached last summer. China is one of six world powers – alongside the United States, Germany, France, Britain and Russia – that reached a landmark agreement with Iran last summer to lift international sanctions in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear programme. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Xi that Iran would continue bolstering ties with the East. He praised China's “independent” stance in global issues, saying it helped deepen strategic ties with Tehran. “Westerners have never obtained the trust of the Iranian nation,” he said. “The government and nation of Iran have always sought expanding relations with independent and trustful countries like China.” State TV quoted Khamenei as saying: “The Islamic Republic will never forget China's cooperation during the sanctions era.” Xi said China would always be a “reliable cooperative partner” of Iran and that it was ready to deepen bilateral cooperation on “all fronts”, Xinhua reported. China and Iran were “natural partners” in implementing the “One Belt, One Road”, Xi said, adding that Beijing supported a constructive role of Iran in regional affairs and was willing to work closely to facilitate long-term peace and stability in the region. Xi concluded his five-day visit Saturday night, which also took him to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. ^ top ^

United States voices concern over apparent forced confessions in China (SCMP)
The United States has expressed “concern” about the growing number of people in China who appear to “have been coerced to confess” to crimes on state media recently. Meanwhile an international press freedom concern group has urged the European Union to impose sanctions on Beijing's state-owned media agencies over the reports. Washington and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) were understood to be referring to Swedish NGO worker Peter Dahlin and Swedish national Gui Minhai. On Tuesday, state news agency Xinhua accused Dahlin of setting up the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group to carry out activities that “endanger state security”, including helping the teenage son of detained lawyer Wang Yu flee abroad. “I violated Chinese law through my activities here,” Dahlin said on state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). The report came two days after Gui Minhai, a mainland-born Swedish national and Hong Kong bookseller, appeared in a recorded interview on CCTV, claiming he had surrendered to the mainland authorities over a crash in which he killed a woman. Gui was one of the five booksellers who went missing since October. It was believed that they were detained for selling books in Hong Kong that are banned on the mainland. Under the Basic Law, Hongkongers enjoy the freedom of publication, and mainland agencies must not enforce their laws in Hong Kong. Speaking in a daily press briefing on Thursday, US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said: “The United States is concerned about the growing number of people in China recently – also including European citizens – who appear to have been coerced to confess to alleged crimes on state media.” Toner added that these confessions came “often before the commencement of any trial or the announcement of any charges” and that “some of these people have not been afforded legal or consular representation”. “These actions undermine China's claim to be a rule of law society and run contrary to China's human rights commitments,” Toner said. The actions also “hinder [China's] attempts to build a more transparent and effective justice system,” he added. RSF is calling for European Union sanctions against CCTV and Xinhua, saying that it is “appalled by the growth of this practice by China's state media, which poses an alarming threat to freely reported news and information”. Describing Gui and Dahlin as “victims”, head of RSF's Asia-Pacific desk, Benjamin Ismaïl, said: “We are outraged by the dissemination of forced 'confessions' that have no informational value... By knowingly peddling lies and statements presumably obtained under duress, CCTV and Xinhua become mass propaganda weapons and cease de facto to be news media.” He said the two agencies “represent a threat to freely produced news” and should be sanctioned. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Outspoken Chinese state tabloid editor censured for misusing travel funds (SCMP)
The chief editor of the state-run tabloid the Global Times has been reprimanded for breaching Communist Party rules in China by using the newspaper's funds for personal travel. Hu Xijin, known for his controversial editorials and bellicose remarks on social media, used official funds to go to Poland without approval, according to a statement from the People's Daily, which administers the Global Times. Hu and his deputy, who were both only referred to by their job titles in the statement, were ordered to pay back 6,417.90 (HK$7,600) yuan and write a self-criticism for the party disciplinary team at the People's Daily, the statement said. It confirmed a rumour that circulated online in September that Hu had been punished for changing the schedule of a China-Germany media forum in June 2013, organising guests to travel to Poland for three days, with his newspaper covering the expenses. The rumours led some internet users to mock Hu, saying he was quick to criticise others but failed to practice what he preached. The public punishment of Hu formed part of a self-inspection campaign at the People's Daily which began after it was placed under the scrutiny of an inspection team from the Communist Party's anti-corruption agency from June to August last year. The Global Times is well-known for its bellicose and patriotic tone and its news coverage often creates controversy. It covered the case of the five missing Hong Kong booksellers earlier this month, whose supporters say have been seized by the mainland authorities for stocking works critical of China's government. The newspaper said one store in Causeway Bay “is as a matter of fact surviving by creating trouble for the mainland”. Chief editor Hu said in a speech at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2014 that the Global Times was not a state media outlet, but a market-based newspaper. Chow Po-chung, a professor of public administration at the university, took off his shoes and left the site barefooted in protest after Hu's remarks. The People's Daily, which administers dozens of affiliated publications including the Securities Times, said in the statement that five people in total had been punished for disciplinary offences. The punishments included sackings and official warnings, the statement said. Thirteen staff members who occupied state-owned housing were ordered to move out. The Shanghai bureau chief of the People's Daily was sacked and his deputy given a formal warning for occupying oversized offices, the statement said. The Hubei bureau chief was given a formal warning for buying excessive numbers of company cars and registering four car number plates. The Securities Times and the Gansu province bureau of the People's Daily were ordered to take corrective action after they were found to have thrown luxurious banquets at public functions. ^ top ^

Long journey home for migrant workers in wage battles (Xinhua)
Lyu Qingfa is making his 16th trip to Tonghua in two years in order to demand wages held in arrears for him and his employees. He boarded a full coach on Tuesday and departed from Changchun, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province, to travel 400 km to Tonghua. During the trip he was surrounded by migrants on their annual exodus home. The Chinese Lunar New Year holiday is 10 days away and festivity is in the air: all other passengers were hauling huge trunks and gift boxes. Lyu, 60, was the only one traveling empty-handed. He misses his family desperately. But he cannot go home knowing 20 of his employees are still waiting for a total of 3.25 million yuan (494,000 US dollars) in wages that have been withheld for three years. Lyu, a subcontractor, employed about 100 construction workers for a civil construction project in Tonghua in October 2011. "The project was to be completed in two years and three months, and the contractor would pay me 7.85 million yuan in wages according to our contract." But the contractor, a subsidiary of the state-owned Beijing Shougang Construction Group Co. Ltd., paid only 4.6 million yuan after the project was completed, and told him to "wait a while" for the rest of the money. The "while" has dragged into two years. Lyu paid most of the workers out of his own pocket so that they could either go back home or find a new job. Soon enough, he ran out of cash himself. His latest trip to Tonghua was prompted by news that the head of the contractor's headquarters in Beijing was traveling to Tonghua. "The big boss might help settle the payment in arrears," said Lyu. He spent the whole day Wednesday in the contractor's office waiting for news, only to be told the contractor needed to collect its own money in arrears before paying him. China's construction sector has formed a hierarchy, with migrant workers at the bottom. Each level of contractor gets paid by the upper level, pockets some profit and pays those beneath them. When the cash flow is stopped by one shady contractor in the hierarchy, everyone at the lower level has to suffer. Chen Sheng, a carpenter from southwest China's Sichuan Province, was luckier than Lyu: he waited less than six months for wages at a construction site 621 miles from home and was finally paid on Jan. 25. But before he got paid, Chen and his 10-member family could only afford two meals a day, consisting of rice and deserted, half-rotten vegetables collected at a grocery market. He was paid 1,000 yuan when the construction project was completed in August and no job was available for months. Two weeks ago the family celebrated his mother's 70th birthday in their temporary shelter, a prefabricated hut at the construction site. The elderly woman longed to go home, but Chen had no money to buy even the cheapest train ticket. Chen's eldest son complained Chen was to blame for granny's suffering, and the birthday dinner ended with a fight between the two men. Feng Qiang, the contractor who owes Chen his wages, claimed to be a victim himself. "The development company was supposed to pay me 17 million yuan by August, but until the end of last year, only 1.5 million yuan was paid," Feng said. He eventually put his apartment in Zhengzhou and a car on mortgage and got 3 million yuan in loans to cover the migrants' wages. Phone calls to Zhang Zhipeng, the chief executive of the development company, were unanswered. For nearly two years, Wang Guihai, a native of east China's Anhui Province, has been demanding his and 110 fellow workers' unpaid wages at a furniture plant in Shanghai. Their boss fled in April 2014, still owing 1.1 million yuan in total. Towards the end of 2014, the workers reported the case to local authorities in Shanghai's Qingpu district, where the plant was located. The boss was detained by police last August on suspicion of intentionally eluding debts. The boss, surnamed Wang, insisted he was innocent. "I ran away because I had no money," he said in an interview with Xinhua Tuesday while in detention in Shanghai. […] ^ top ^

Nuclear energy goal 'within reach' (China Daily)
China can meet its target of achieving 58 gigawatts of installed nuclear power capacity by 2020, despite slower approval for new nuclear power generators after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, a senior official said on Wednesday. The government took a series of measures to ensure the safety of nuclear facilities between 2011 and 2014, including security inspections of all facilities in operation and under construction, adopting the most stringent safety standards and improving the overall system for nuclear emergency response, said Xu Dazhe, director of the China Atomic Energy Authority, at a news conference. The Chinese mainland now has 30 nuclear power generating units in operation and a total installed capacity of 28.31 GW. In addition, it has 24 units with a total installed capacity of 26.72 GW under construction, the largest number in the world, Xu said. The government approved the construction of eight nuclear power generating units last year. "At this rate, we can reach the goal of raising the installed nuclear power capacity to 58 GW with an additional 30 GW under construction by 2020 as planned," Xu said. China's 54 units currently in operation and under construction are located in eight provincial-level areas including Liaoning, Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan. "China's nuclear power generating units are mainly along the eastern coastal areas because the development of nuclear power should meet demand first," Xu said, adding that the country's eastern region is more economically developed. However, Xu said the government is looking into the feasibility of building inland nuclear power plants, noting that the decision should be based on the demand for energy and ensured safety. Under its medium- and long-term development objectives, China aims to become a strong nuclear power country by 2030, according to a white paper on China's nuclear emergency preparedness issued by the State Council Information Office on Wednesday. ^ top ^

'Absolute loyalty': Top Xi Jinping aide demands Communist Party units toe the line (SCMP)
China's top presidential aide issued a sweeping call on Wednesday for all Communist Party agencies of ministerial level and above to have “absolutely loyalty” to the party, and for that allegiance to be their fundamental political requirement. Analysts said the call was a demand for loyalty to President Xi Jinping, the party's general secretary. It also comes as party chiefs of several provinces and cities have referred to Xi as the “core” of the party's leadership, a term that has only been widely used in the past to refer to former leaders Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin. Li Zhanshu, 65, director of the General Office of the party's Central Committee and Xi's top aide, made the call during a meeting of units directly under the Central Committee. There are around two dozen such party organs, ranging from the vice-ministerial to vice-state level, including the central propaganda department, the Central Organisation Department, the party's anti-graft watchdog and People's Daily. “Party organisations of all levels and all party members should be aligned with the central leadership of the party led by Xi Jinping in actions and thoughts,” Li said. It is the latest call for “absolute loyalty” to the party among top cadres. A Politburo meeting in November decided that “absolute loyalty to the party” was the most important political requirement, Xinhua reported. Analysts said Li's call meant personal loyalty to Xi. “The emphasis on loyalty to the party's central leadership is indeed a call for submission to the top leader,” said Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan. “A regime of highly concentrated power has formed, but the danger is, once wrong decisions are made, there could be thorny consequences.” Zhang said the comments might signal a crisis of trust over the party's decision makers after a series of failed economic policies, such as the officially endorsed “policy bull market”. Meanwhile, the party chiefs of several provinces and cities have started referring to Xi as the “core” of the party's leadership, a term rarely used in the last decade. The party chiefs of Hubei, Sichuan, Tianjin, Anhui, Guangxi, Xi'an and the Bank of China are all on record as saying the party members under their jurisdiction should “voluntarily safeguard the core of the party's leadership, General Secretary Xi”. The comments were made in meetings this month to study a speech by Xi in December at a Politburo meeting. The term “core” was often used to describe late leader Deng and former president Jiang. In official coverage, the leadership was described as “the central leadership of the party with Deng Xiaoping as the core”, and later “the central leadership of the party with Jiang Zemin as the core”. However, when Hu Jintao rose to the top, the leadership was referred to as “the central leadership of the party with Hu Jintao as the general secretary”. The phrasing had remained for Xi in official media since he rose to the top in 2012. Chen Daoyin, from the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said the subtle change in wording could carry significant weight. “Deng and Jiang were called the core because they both had final approval and veto power. Hu was mostly a coordinator of the leadership,” Chen said. “It means Xi has been very successful in consolidating his power, and that local cadres are showing their loyalty for better chances in the next power reshuffle in 2017.” ^ top ^

China issues first white paper on nuclear emergency preparedness (SCMP)
The Chinese government published its first nuclear white paper on Wednesday, detailing policies and measures to boost nuclear emergency preparedness and highlighting "a rational, coordinated and balanced" nuclear security approach. "China has consistently given top priority to nuclear safety in its peaceful use of nuclear energy," said the white paper, China's Nuclear Emergency Preparedness, published by the State Council Information Office. Elaborating the country's approach to promoting nuclear security, the white paper said China has placed "equal emphasis" on development and safety. The document boasted "a sound safety record" since China embarked on its nuclear industry in mid 1950s, saying the country's nuclear facilities and activities have "all along been in safe and stable state" and the safety level of nuclear power stations has witnessed constant improvement. "None of the nuclear power generating units in the Chinese mainland has suffered events or accidents rated above Level 2 under the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) with the release of gaseous and liquid effluents kept far below the national regulatory limits," it said. The white paper attributed the sound record to efforts to improve nuclear safety techniques, enforce rigorous nuclear safety supervision, and strengthen nuclear emergency management in the past six decades or so. China has adopted "the most advanced technology and most stringent standards" to ensure safe and efficient development of nuclear power, which is an important component of China's nuclear energy sector, it said. As of the end of October 2015, the Chinese mainland had 27 nuclear power generating units in operation, with a total installed capacity of 25.5 gigawatts (GW), while another 25 units with a total installed capacity of 27.51 GW had been under construction. China plans to raise its installed nuclear power capacity to 58 GW with an additional 30 GW under construction by 2020 and build itself into a strong nuclear power country by 2030. "Nuclear accidents know no national boundaries, and everything related to nuclear emergency management is too important to be taken lightly," the white paper said. Drawing on the lessons learned from the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear accidents, China has progressed in a full range of nuclear emergency-related activities, such as the enactment of laws and standards, the establishment of institutional and regulatory regimes, the building-up of basic capabilities, and international cooperation and exchanges. The country's nuclear emergency rescue network is "of a proper scale, well-coordinated and of a rational layout", the report said, adding that there is also a plan to establish a new top-level national nuclear emergency rescue team of about 300 members to respond to serious nuclear accidents and international rescue operations. China will also speed up drafting the nuclear safety law and atomic energy law, according to the report. The government vowed to upgrade its nuclear emergency work to "a new level" in order to provide a robust bulwark in support of the safe, efficient, sustainable and healthy development of the nuclear energy sector. ^ top ^

China plays mediator, urges Pakistan to join Afghan peace talks to end 15-year civil war (SCMP)
China will play mediator in Afghanistan's peace talks and urges Pakistan to take part in the process too, the foreign minister says. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a joint press conference with his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani on Tuesday that the peace talks were the “right way towards enduring peace and tranquility” in Afghanistan. China, which is part of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, will join the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan at a meeting of the group in Islamabad on February 6. The four nations will confirm a roadmap to restart peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban militants to try to end civil war in the country that has already dragged on for 15 years. Given that peace in Afghanistan was crucial to the security and stability of the region, China hoped to strengthen communication with Russia, India, Iran and other countries for “synergy” in contributing towards the process of reconciliation, Wang said. “China will continue to be the promoter, mediator and facilitator of the peace talks,” he said. Rabbani said the coordination group was more likely to work than previous peace attempts because it involved both China and the US. “At the same time, we also call on all members of the Taliban groups to come to the negotiating table,” he said. “We see that the Afghan problem can be solved only through peace and negotiation. There is no military solution.” Wang said Pakistan had a “unique role” in the peace talks, and that the US is also a stakeholder in the region. China's long-standing ties with Pakistan meant Beijing had considerable leverage with the country, which played a hugely influential role in Afghanistan, and in particular Afghan Taliban, according to Raffaello Pantucci, researcher at the Royal United Services Institute in London. But the close relationship also meant China had to maintain a subtle balance, he said. “China's biggest challenge would be to not step on Pakistani toes while supporting Afghanistan's take on the matter,” said Richard Ghiasy, researcher at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. “Afghanistan doesn't have much... to offer Pakistan in the [talks]. Rather, Pakistan could be 'cornered' if China stands with the US and Afghanistan on Pakistan's role in fostering the Afghan Taliban.” Meanwhile, China also promised to provide Afghanistan with more economic aid in areas including low-cost housing, human talent development, and infrastructure planning. The two ministers also discussed the construction of a railway connecting China to Iran via Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, which would cut shorten transport distance between the countries by 900km. ^ top ^

Chinese oil rig's return in South China Sea, off coast of Vietnam, touches nerve in Hanoi (SCMP)
China's gigantic oil rig, Haiyangshihou 981, is no stranger to the Vietnamese. Its latest appearance near the Southeast Asian nation's coast renewed focus on crucial question: how should Vietnam deal with its aggressive yet economically important neighbour without angering it? Analysts said the recent deployment of the oil rig, together with test flights of civilian planes over the disputed Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea, were part of China's vigorous efforts to further establish its presence in the area. However, the timing of the deployment – coinciding with the Vietnamese Communist Party's meeting to pick new leaders – has touched a nerve in the country. “Beijing is trying to give a warning to the next leadership,” said a Vietnamese diplomat, referring to the recent sighting of the oil rig at the mouth of the Gulf of Tonkin and civilian flights to a newly completed airfield at Fiery Cross Reef. The reef is controlled by China, but also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan. The deep-water rig, which in 2014 caused the worst diplomatic crisis between the two neighbours in decades, occupies a disputed area that is yet to be delimited, according to the Vietnamese foreign ministry. Hanoi has called on Beijing to stop drilling and withdraw the rig, but the Chinese foreign ministry has insisted it was operating in China's “undisputed” waters. According to China's Maritime Safety Administration, the gigantic structure will remain in the area until March 10. The rig was now located about 66 nautical miles from Hainan Island and 110 nautical miles from the coast of Danang, according to Taylor Fravel, a political science professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Vietnamese diplomat said the deployment violated an agreement between the two leaderships' that no unilateral actions should be taken in the area before both sides could resolve the border dispute in the area outside the Gulf of Tonkin. Decades of negotiations between the two neighbours have resulted in only a small delineation of the disputed areas in the Gulf. Analysts said Beijing had been pushing for joint development, but Hanoi preferred to resolve the territorial dispute first. “Perhaps by deploying the oil rig to the area, Vietnam would be forced to be more forthcoming on joint development,” said Xu Liping, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Fravel said the deployment most likely reflected China's plans to develop offshore oil and gas, rather than sending a message aimed at the congress, which this week will decide a new leadership that will govern for the next five years. “Likewise, the test flights are a natural progression of the land reclamation and development projects that China has undertaken on the features it occupies in the Spratly Islands,” Fravel said. The reclamations have drawn protests from Vietnam and other countries. Relations between the two ideological allies nosedived in 2014 after the same oil rig was parked at an area much closer to Vietnam coast than its current location. Although the two sides have patched things up, mutual distrust lingers. As Vietnam's Communist elites gather in Hanoi this week to discuss the country's future, analysts said Beijing's ill-timed behaviour highlighted the dilemma of living with an aggressive neighbour. “It will highlight the South China Sea disputes as a major security concern for Vietnam and it will heighten the Vietnamese perception of China as threat,” said Le Hong Hiep, a visiting fellow at Singapore's ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. However, unlike the 2014 crisis, which saw an unprecedented scale of violent protests in Vietnam, Hanoi has also put a leash on Vietnamese media coverage of the oil rig deployment this time, allowing only reports based on information released by the foreign ministry, said Carl Thayer, an Emeritus Professor at the University of New South Wales. “I don't think the [Vietnamese] leadership wants to confront China, they want to work with China,” Thayer said. ^ top ^

Top anti-graft body investigates economic data chief (Global Times)
The head of China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) is being investigated for "severe disciplinary violations," according to the Communist Party of China's top anti-graft body. Wang Bao'an, 52, was appointed in April 2015 after serving as vice minister of finance for three years, according to his resume on the NBS' website. Wang was seen at an NBS press conference on Tuesday afternoon shortly before the announcement of his investigation was made, the Central China Television reported. Wang expressed his confidence toward China's economy at the press briefing, saying the yuan's depreciation in recent months would not have a significant impact on the Chinese economy. He also brushed off billionaire investor George Soros' earlier comments about a hard landing for China, adding that the opinion was inconsistent with the economic reality in China, Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao reported. Wang had worked for the State Administration of Taxation from 1994 to 1997, and at Ministry of Finance from 1998 to 2015. As an agency under the State Council, the NBS is in charge of monitoring and releasing the country's economic performance. The agency is also responsible for organizing and coordinating statistical and national economic accounting work, the NBS website said. ^ top ^

China grants early release to 31,527 prisoners (Xinhua)
A total of 31,527 prisoners, most of whom were juveniles when they committed their crimes, have been released thanks to an amnesty deal, according to an official statement on Monday. The measure was adopted by China's top legislature and signed by President Xi Jinping on August 29, 2015, before a national commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The pardoned prisoners, including war veterans, and the very old, young or infirm prisoners, had been released by the end of 2015 as scheduled. According to the deal, four categories of prisoners were eligible for consideration: -- Criminals who fought in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the civil war against the Kuomintang (KMT). -- Criminals who participated in wars to safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity after 1949, with the exception of those found guilty of serious crimes including graft, terrorism and organized crime, as well as repeat offenders. -- Criminals who are 75 or above, and those with physical disabilities who are unable to care for themselves. -- Those who committed crimes while under the age of 18 and received a maximum sentence of three years in prison, or have less than a year left to serve, with the exception of those convicted of homicide, rape, terrorism or narcotics offences. Of the pardoned prisoners, 50 belong to the first category, 1,428 belong to the second, 122 to the third and 29,927 to the fourth. With such a huge number scheduled for release, in order to avoid releasing the wrong convicts, all prisoners across the country, over 2.35 million in total, were screened for eligibility. The people's procuratorate, in charge of the entire process, did not find any abuse of power. The official statement said the amnesty symbolized "the spirit of the rule of law and humanity," and was a successful example of governance according to law. Basic living allowances will be provided for those released without a job, with no ability to work, source of income or anyone to provide for them. ^ top ^

Cyberspace watchdog tightens regulation of commercial websites (Global Times)
China's cyberspace administrator issued a notice on Monday on regulation of the provincial-level branches of commercial websites, aiming to restore an orderly cyberspace disturbed by the branches' malpractices like blackmailing and publishing false information. Only the commercial websites that have obtained licenses for reporting news are allowed to create a local section on their websites, after gaining approval from the provincial-level cyberspace administration office and registering with the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). The branches can only reprint the news, said a notice on CAC's website on Monday. Commercial sites include news portals such as and or producers of so-called "individual media," which refer to subscription-based accounts that have become popular on mobile messaging service WeChat. Commercial websites are not entitled to report or edit news, according to CAC. The branches of websites failing to gain approval from the provincial-level cyberspace administrators within a month of the issuance of the notice will be shut down. Qualified local branches of commercial websites need to have a sound mechanism, including a 24-hour work system, the report said. The two-month campaign to revamp such Web pages was launched in mid-January. The campaign would help regulate the Internet since some websites have contracted their local branches to other companies which had posted fake information or blackmailed other companies for money with negative reports, Zhang Zhian, vice president of the School of Communication and Design at Sun Yat-sen University, told the Global Times. State media should also be regulated in such campaigns, Zhang suggested. The notice also specified the key focus of the campaign which includes ineligible news reporting and editing, contracting the local branches to a third party, and improperly using the right to publish news to gain illegitimate benefits. A total of 387 local branches of commercial websites were shut down in 2015, including the Guangdong branch of State news site and, a site for consultations between medical professionals and those seeking medical advice, said ^ top ^

No sand in eyes: China's top graft-buster vows strengthened discipline (Xinhua)
China's top graft-buster Wang Qishan has vowed to further tighten the screw of regulations in the fight against corruption in 2016. Wang's remarks, part of his speech at the sixth plenary session of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) on Jan. 12, was made public on Sunday. As the new rules on clean governance and the disciplinary regulation have taken effect, party organizations must defend and implement them in a manner like "the eyes tolerate no sand", said Wang, head of CCDI. He said an intra-party supervision regulation, which was formulated in 2003, should be revised to summarize the experience of the CPC governing itself since the 18th National Congress of the CPC. The relevant administrative supervision law, which monitors government officials, will also be revised, he added. Further underlining the significance of CPC's responsibility, Wang said an intra-party accountability regulation will be formulated to hold accountable those who have poorly implemented party policies, who have neglected their duty in managing the party, who have selected and promoted the wrong officials and who have failed to detect problems in the party. Chinese leaders often highlight the role of regulations in the sweeping anti-corruption drive. President Xi Jinping has vowed to "fasten the cage of regulations" to curb corruption. The new disciplinary regulation, which even lists playing golf as an violation, is deemed to be the strictest in party history. Wang vowed to continue high pressure on corruption, with its intensity and pace unchanged in 2016. Inspection work will be deepened, with the aim of covering all central Party and government organs, said Wang, adding inspection tours should be carried out in more innovative ways. The eight-point anti-extravagance rules should be continuously upheld as extravagant activities have gone underground and become more difficult to uncover, said Wang. Citing a zero-tolerance approach, Wang said those who try to avoid investigation, who frequent private clubs and organize covert parties must be punished heavily. Three kinds of people, he said, should be the priority targets of anti-graft efforts to prevent corrupt officials from being promoted, which includes those who have not restrained themselves after the 18th National Congress of the CPC, those who have serious problems and caused strong opposition among the public and leading officials who may be promoted to important positions. Wang also called for greater efforts to pursue corrupt fugitive and recover stolen assets as part of upgraded international cooperation against corruption. Underlining an anti-corruption sideline meeting of the Group of 20 summit, Wang said China must strengthen its law enforcement cooperation in fighting corruption with the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia. He also urged efforts to get rid of malpractices and corruption at grass-roots levels, where public have more direct feelings about corruption. In line with a communique released after the sixth plenary session, Wang vowed to build a "loyal, clean and responsible team of discipline and inspection staff" who are loyal to the Party and trusted by the people. Wang also elaborated on anti-corruption achievements in 2015, saying more than 54,000 officials were investigated by prosecutors for bribery, dereliction of duty and other duty-related crimes in the past year. In addition, more than 20,000 cases were concluded by courts nationwide, including 16,000 cases involving bribery and embezzlement, and 4,300 cases of dereliction of duty, said Wang. Tallying up anti-corruption efforts in the past year, Wang said disciplinary authorities received more than 2.8 million tip-offs, and punished about 336,000 discipline violators in 2015. Investigations into 90 centrally-administered officials for discipline violations were launched or finished in 2015, said the report, adding 42 of them have been transferred to judicial organs for criminal investigation. Graft busters also probed 49,000 officials for suspected violation of the eight point anti-extravagance rules, 3,400 of them were punished according to the disciplinary rules. The discipline inspection agencies have been firm in dealing with its own corrupt elements. A total of 2,479 discipline inspectors nationwide were punished in 2015, according to Wang. An initiative called "Sky Net" unveiled by Chinese government saw 1,023 fugitives being returned from overseas in 2015, recovering 3 billion yuan (461.5 million U.S. dollars) in criminal proceeds. ^ top ^

SPC website to track defiant defendants (China Daily)
The Supreme People's Court is to build an online platform for people involved in civil trials to track the implementation of punishments handed out by courts, a top official said on Sunday. The system, scheduled to launch in June, will record the outcome of every case heard nationwide and is aimed at improving transparency and ensuring defendants adhere with court orders, said Liu Guixiang, director of law enforcement for the SPC. "It will help litigants monitor the implementation of a verdict, such as seeing that a defendent's property will be sold at auction or whether their savings have been frozen," he said. "It's also good for keeping judges in line, to avoid improper behavior." He said the platform will be coupled with another financial system, also to be launched in June, that will allow authorities to lock the bank accounts of defendants who fail to comply with court orders more quickly. The system will work with financial institutions nationwide, including 4,000 banks. "Finding these people and their savings is difficult in a country as large as China, so connecting the online platform with financial institutions is necessary to improve enforcement," Liu said, adding that the system will eventually be extended to authorities and companies related to real estate and vehicle registration. Since launching a campaign to tackle the issue in December, the SPC has dealt with about 60,000 cases in which defendants have failed to comply with a court order, including several bosses who refused to pay their employees, said Wu Shaojun, deputy director of law enforcement for the top court. So far, courts have managed to seize as much as 2 billion yuan ($304 million) for migrant workers whose salaries had been illegally withheld, he said. The SPC has been releasing information to the public about defendants who fail to comply with court orders since 2013. To date, it has named and shamed more than 3.08 million people. That year, the court also introduced restrictions on such offenders, such as placing a ban on them purchasing first-class tickets on high-speed trains as well as applying for a bank loan. Such moves have led to about 20 percent of those blacklisted carrying out a court judgment, Liu said. Zhou Qiang, president of SPC, said on Saturday that a major task for Chinese courts this year is to solve the difficulty of implementing verdicts. "We'll strictly fight those unwilling to enforce verdicts and put more restrictions on offenders," he said. ^ top ^



Beijing to tighten security for holiday events (Global Times)
Beijing Police on Thursday announced heightened security measures for major events scheduled over the upcoming Spring Festival holiday and Lantern Festival. A public security bureau spokesperson said all event attendees would undergo safety checks. In addition, to ensure public safety the police will manage crowds and remove unlicensed peddlers and taxies from around venues. A total of 124 major events will be staged in Beijing between Feb. 7 and 14 to celebrate Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, which falls on Feb. 8 this year. The events are expected to attract 2.64 million visitors. Another nine events expect 116,000 visitors for Lantern Festival on Feb. 22. Among the popular events are "miaohui", temple fairs. These colorfully decorated fairs usually feature performances, such as stilt-walkers and dragon and lion dances, and snacks. The police predict that well-known temple fairs could each attract more than 100,000 visitors a day. ^ top ^



Shanghai caps population at 25 million to rein in booming housing market amid limited land supply (SCMP)
Shanghai has vowed to keep a tight grip on the city's population to ensure public security and to more effectively control its booming property market. But administrative power alone may not be enough to stop people from flocking to the mainland's most developed city, ­ observers say. “A mixture of stringent measures will be taken to rein in population increase,” Shanghai mayor Yang Xiong said on Sunday as he presented the government work report to the local legislature. “The total population will be controlled within 25 million.” Yang did not elaborate on the policies that would be adopted. In the draft version of Shanghai's 13th five-year plan until 2020, the municipal government said population control would be aimed at providing better urban planning, reasonable distribution of public resources and efficient management of the society. Government researchers said Shanghai would tighten the ­approval process for mainlanders applying for a residential permit, allowing only those with skills that could help the city grow, to move to Shanghai. Those who met the requirements to secure a Shanghai hukou, or household registration, would join a queue to receive their permanent resident status. It would be a long wait, two government officials said. Shanghai's population – those with either hukou or temporary residential permits – numbers more than 24 million. But the government sources said the real number was about 30 million, with many migrant workers not registered with the local police. A hukou holder is granted access to public services including education, medical treatment and a pension. Non-locals are not allowed to buy property. Shanghai's rapid population growth has become a problem for its government as millions of people flock to the commercial hub, leaving land and public resources in short supply. Its population has nearly doubled from 16 million in 2000. “It's a big issue as an increasing number of outsiders actively seek to settle in Shanghai while the local government has to keep a lid on the new arrivals,” said Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences professor Yang Xiong, who shares the mayor's name. “The grim reality is that Shanghai has only limited space for migrants.” The local government has stressed the importance of controlling the city's population since a deadly stampede on the Bund killed 36 people on New Year's Eve in 2014. Officials now see urgency in shutting out the less educated to ensure public security and to develop the city into a world-class hub, government sources say. Professor Yang said Shanghai spent 20 billion yuan (HK$23.7 billion) building new schools for migrant workers' children, a huge bill covered by local taxpayers. The city had only 100 sq km of space for development, he said. Millions of farmers are either preparing or have already moved to urban areas amid the leadership's urbanisation campaign. But super cities like Shanghai and Beijing appear unable to accommodate the new migrants. Shanghai's party boss Han Zheng last year said the city would rein in soaring home prices as it pursued healthy, sustainable economic growth. […] ^ top ^



73 bodies recovered from rubble of Shenzhen landslide (Global Times)
As of 11 a.m. on Thursday, a total of 73 bodies have been recovered from the Shenzhen landslide, with another four people remaining unaccounted for, the rescue headquarters said. Rescuers are still searching for the missing. Of the 17 people hospitalized after the landslide, eleven have been discharged. All 42 criminal suspects responsible for the landslide have been arrested so far. No epidemics have been reported at the rescue area. As of Thursday, 4,630 employees from the affected enterprises in the landslide have been properly resettled while local vegetable farmers whose fields were buried received compensation. All the families of the victims have reached compensation agreements. The landslide occurred on Dec. 20, 2015 when a mountain of construction waste collapsed and hit an industrial park in the southern Chinese city. The incident was the result of work safety mismanagement rather than geological causes, according to a State Council investigation. ^ top ^



Dalai Lama clique's criticism of Living Buddha registration system is just 'nitpicking': senior official (Global Times)
An official in charge of Tibetan question on Wednesday denied the Dalai Lama clique's claim that the Living Buddha registration system is aimed at controlling the reincarnation of Tibetan monks, pointing out that this is just another attempt by the clique to defame the Chinese government. Xu Zhitao, an official at the United Front Work Department under the Communist Party of China Central Committee, told the Global Times that remarks made by Lobsang Sangay, the "prime minister" of the "Tibetan government in exile," were aimed at merely finding fault. He believed the clique's purpose is to stress their absolute authority in religious affairs and defame the Chinese government, while at the same time garnering more international support as the Dalai Lama ages. The Living Buddha registration system, released by the Buddhist Association of China (BAC) on January 18, allows people to view the profiles of 870 verified Living Buddhas in China through an online government database. Lobsang Sangay condemned the system in an interview with the India-based Asian News International news agency, calling it "an attempt to control the reincarnation system of monks in Tibetan Buddhism." Xu explained that it was the BAC, instead of the United Front Work Department or the State Administration for Religious Affairs, that launched the system with a view to help the public differentiate between real Living Buddhas and fakes. He said the government has always been managing, not controlling the religious affairs. "Whether a monk can be recognized as a Living Buddha has always been decided by people from the religious field." The system, which only provides information inquiry service, is entirely unrelated to the recognition and approval of Living Buddhas, Xu added. Members of Students for a Free Tibet (SFT), a New York-based organization of exiled Tibetans advocating "Tibet's independence," staged a protest at a market place in Dharamsala on Thursday, the Asian News International reported. SFT Director Dorjee Tsetan said "they do not accept the list as it does not feature the name of the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama." Dismissing the accusation as "nitpicking," Xu said the system only includes Living Buddhas currently living in China. Although the registration database does not include the Dalai Lama, his identity has not been negated, Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told the Global Times, adding that the Dalai Lama should treasure the recognition by the then central government. The introduction of the system may jeopardize the economic, political and religious interests of the Dalai Lama clique, a Tibet-based expert told the Global Times on the condition of anonymity. The Dalai Lama clique has been disrupting the stability of the ethnic Tibetan regions by dispatching Dalai Lama-appointed "Living Buddhas" to the Chinese mainland, Zhu said, adding that with the launch of the registration system such attempts are more likely to fail. ^ top ^



Xinjiang officials backed and took part in terror acts but security crackdown to go on: discipline official (SCMP)
Some officials in China's far western Xinjiang have been found supporting terrorist activities in the region but the authorities' anti-terror crackdown is still going strong, a government official says. “Most of the party members in Xinjiang are determined and clear minded,” Xu Hairong, secretary of Xinjiang's Commission for Discipline Inspection, said. “However, there are party members who are being 'double-faced' on issues of anti-separation, anti-infiltration and anti-terrorism. Some officials have even supported, participated in and organised terror acts.” Xu's comments were published on Sunday in a newspaper affiliated with the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. He did not elaborate but said only that the battle against terrorism was a long-term mission, adding that measures would be taken against officials who were not serious about fighting the threat. Xinjiang last year tackled 672 cases of political discipline violations, Xu said. On Friday, security authorities warned of rising risks of terrorist attacks on the mainland. Although serious violent crime had dropped 12.5 per cent nationwide last year, the risks of terror attacks should still be highlighted, stated a document released at the central conference on political and legal work. According to the document, to better counter terrorism, police will promote the use of contactless detection devices for explosives as well as dynamic face and voice recognition systems. China's anti-terrorism law took effect on January 1. The law requires the setting up of a state-level leading group on counterterrorism. Hundreds of Han Chinese and Uygurs have died in Xinjiang in recent years in unrest that the government has blamed on Islamist militants in the region. Rights groups and exiles say controls on the religion and culture of the Turkic-speaking Muslim minority are to blame for the violence. Beijing denies any repression in the region. ^ top ^



Hong Kong rated only 'partly free' in US study on rights and freedoms, behind Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines (SCMP)
Hong Kong lagged behind its neighbours such as Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines in terms of rights and freedoms enjoyed by individuals, an annual study by a US-based organisation said. The city is listed as a “partly free” territory, with an aggregate score of 63 out of 100 points in the Freedom in the World 2016 report by Freedom House. The report evaluated the state of freedom in 195 countries and 15 territories in 2015 by assessing political rights and civil liberties enjoyed by individuals. Each country or territory is awarded points for various political rights and civil liberties indicators. In addition to being used to calculate the aggregate score, these points also help determine the country or territory's political rights and civil liberties ratings. Hong Kong was given a rating of five out of seven for political rights, with one being the freest and seven being the least free. However, it scored a two for civil liberties. China was listed as “not free”, with an aggregate score of 16. It received the lowest rating of seven for political rights and six for civil liberties. Japan received 96 points in aggregate, the highest score in the Asia-Pacific region. Taiwan and Mongolia scored 89 and 86 respectively, followed by South Korea with a score of 83. All these are listed as “free” countries. The Philippines scored 65, and Singapore scored 51. The study's authors said the world was battered in 2015 by overlapping crises that fueled xenophobic sentiment in democratic countries, undermined the economies of states dependent on the sale of natural resources, and led authoritarian regimes to crack down harder on dissent. They said these unsettling developments contributed to a continual decline in global freedom. ^ top ^

Surrounded: University of Hong Kong students besiege governing council meeting, demand talks with Arthur Li (SCMP)
Chaos erupted on the University of Hong Kong campus again last night as angry students besieged a governing council meeting, although members agreed to start a review of the institution's governance structure in the wake of a stormy political year. By 10pm, about 200 student protesters remained at the Sassoon Road campus in Pok Fu Lam, refusing to let new council chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung and HKU vice chancellor Peter Mathieson leave. “Conversation!” they yelled, demanding talks with them. The students stormed the venue upon an apparent misunderstanding that there would be no immediate review, but they were kept well away from the meeting room. Police Tactical Unit officers were deployed to help council members leave. One female employee was injured and sent to hospital. The council agreed to appoint Terry Au Kit-fong, chair professor of psychology, as the interim pro-vice-chancellor for academic staffing and resources, a post that the council controversially refused to let pro-democracy law professor Johannes Chan Man-mun take up last year. That triggered a storm, with critics complaining of political interference. Although the university announced after the council meeting that it would set up a committee to review HKU's governance structure, Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok, an organiser of the protest, said her group remained unconvinced. […] HKU students had held a week-long class boycott before yesterday's council meeting, urging members to set up a committee to review how the university is governed and prevent any further political interference. They demanded that the chief executive should no longer be the default chancellor of HKU and be stripped of the right to appoint members to the council. In a press release, HKU said the council had “unanimously agreed” to set up a review panel to study the governance and effectiveness of the institution and to receive views from the public. […] HKU was the centre of a divisive and emotional dispute throughout last year. Former education secretary Li, nicknamed “the Tsar”, was appointed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in December despite strong opposition from many students and alumni. The education leader's critics saw him as high-handed and unfit for the chairman's role. Li's appointment came after the council's widely criticised decision to reject the candidacy of Johannes Chan, who was recommended by a search committee for the pro-vice-chancellorship. Li was one of the council members who spoke strongly against Chan's promotion. At the meeting yesterday, Li dismissed one of the agenda items, which asked the council to receive a letter from the HKU Convocation noting that more than 4,000 alumni had voted against him filling the chairman's post. Li was understood to have told members the vote was not representative because it only reflected a small percentage of the whole alumni body. […] As of 12.30am, Li and Mathieson had not been seen and were believed to be still stuck inside the building with all exits surrounded by the students. At 12.45am, about four hours into the standoff, a chaotic scene erupted after hours of quiet standoff, when a dozen of officers approached the car park of the building, where they were confronted by students. But the police move-in was immediately realized as a tactical distraction by students, with some seeing Li leaving the building and driven away in a black car after exiting through an alternate door of the car park. His departure was later confirmed by the university communication department. At 1.30am, Mathieson appeared outside the building and started a 30-minute dialogue with students. Angry students said they were disappointed that Li had promised there would be a dialogue after the meeting but he ended up leaving in haste without notifying them. Mathieson said he and Li had agreed to meet the student representatives in ten days, and said he supported the council decision to set up the review committee after the release of the University Grants Committee's consultancy report on governance. About 200 students stayed on after Mathieson left the site. ^ top ^

Wife of 'missing' Hong Kong bookseller Lee Po reunited with husband in 'secret' meeting in mainland China (SCMP)
Missing bookseller Lee Po – as the police now refer to Lee Bo – met his wife at a secret location on the mainland over the weekend, almost a month after he vanished mysteriously from Hong Kong. The unexpected meeting on Saturday afternoon and reported early yesterday morning sparked another controversy as mainland authorities were accused of sidelining the Hong Kong government, which was allegedly kept in the dark until Lee's wife, Sophie Choi Ka-ping, made a report to the police hours after their reunion. The unexplained disappearance of Lee Po and four others associated with Causeway Bay Books over the past three months made headlines around the world as many feared they had been abducted by mainland agents, thereby compromising the principle of “one country, two systems” for Hong Kong. […] It is understood she told police that Lee was in good health and his spirits were fine. The unexpected meeting on Saturday afternoon and reported early yesterday morning sparked another controversy as mainland authorities were accused of sidelining the Hong Kong government, which was allegedly kept in the dark until Lee's wife, Sophie Choi Ka-ping, made a report to the police hours after their reunion. The unexplained disappearance of Lee Po and four others associated with Causeway Bay Books over the past three months made headlines around the world as many feared they had been abducted by mainland agents, thereby compromising the principle of “one country, two systems” for Hong Kong. Almost a week after the Hong Kong police wrote to the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department requesting a meeting with Lee, Choi alerted the police on Saturday night that she had met her husband, who was “assisting in an investigating as a witness” at a mainland guest house. “According to Mrs Lee, Lee Po was healthy and in good spirits, and said that he was assisting in an investigation in the capacity of a witness,” a police statement released at 2.07am yesterday morning said, adding that the wife did not reveal details of the venue. Both police and the Security Bureau did not respond to media inquiries yesterday, saying they had nothing to add. Lee also passed on a letter to police via his wife, in which he said he was “safe and free” and urged law enforcers to stop investigating his case. “I have not been kidnapped and definitely have not been arrested on the mainland for [paying] prostitutes,” the statement read. “I hope the Hong Kong police will not continue to waste police resources on my case.” Lee said his wife, who earlier withdrew her police report on his disappearance, had been incited by others to file the report and “felt used”. Lee, 65, and four of his associates – who specialise in selling books banned by Beijing which are often critical of the Communist Party and sometimes salacious – have gone missing from Hong Kong in mysterious circumstances over the past three months. The police statement, issued at 2:07am Sunday morning, said: “The Hong Kong Police yesterday night (January 23) were informed by the wife of Mr. Lee Bo that she had met with Lee Bo in the afternoon of January 23 at a guesthouse on the Mainland. “According to Mrs. Lee, Lee Bo was healthy and in good spirits, and said that he was assisting in an investigation in the capacity of a witness. After the meeting, Lee Bo asked her to pass on a letter addressed to the Hong Kong Police. The letter's content was similar to previous letters penned by Lee Bo. “Mrs Lee did not disclose any further details regarding the location of the meeting or the nature of the investigation Lee Bo was involved in.'' […] ^ top ^



Taiwan's president visits island in disputed area of South China Sea amid tensions over rival territorial claims in region (SCMP)
Taiwan's outgoing president, defying criticism from key ally the United States, visited to an island holding in the disputed South China Sea on Thursday and called for peaceful development in the increasingly tense region. Ma Ying-jeou and about 30 members of his staff left the capital Taipei early in the morning aboard an air force C-130 cargo plane bound for Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba. It lies in the Spratly island group, an area where Taiwan shares overlapping claims with mainland China, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. The city state of Brunei also claims a part of the South China Sea. Taiping is the largest naturally occurring island in the area, but has recently been eclipsed in size by man-made islands created by Beijing out of reefs and shoals. The mainland has built housing, ports, airstrips and other infrastructure on the newly created islands, drawing accusations from the US and others that it is exacerbating tensions in the strategically vital region. Taiwan stations about 200 coast guard personnel, scientists and medical workers on Taiping. It occupies a number of other islets in the South China Sea, including the Pratas island group to the north. Ma spoke at a national monument on the small island and reiterated his call made last year for peaceful use of the sea. He also cited developments on the island, including a 10-bed hospital and a lighthouse, saying they reinforced Taiwan's claim of sovereignty and granted it rights over the surrounding waters. In Beijing, the foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said yesterday that “Chinese compatriots across the Taiwan Strait share the common responsibility to safeguard Chinese properties inherited from our ancestors,” reiterating China's claim over its historical sovereign in the region and its commitment to the peace and freedom of navigation in South China Sea. The Philippines, which occupies a string of islands and reefs near the island Ma will visit, expressed its concern over the trip. […] Hemmed in diplomatically by Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, Ma's government also wishes to be seen as a legitimate actor in the struggle for influence in the area, where tensions have been sharpened by the mainland's increasingly robust assertions of ownership. Ma, who has been criticised at home as weak on foreign policy, must step down in May due to term limits and analysts said he considers the island visit a capstone to his time in office. Opposition party president-elect Tsai Ing-wen declined an invitation to go on the trip. “President Ma views advancing [Taiwan's] maritime interests as part of his legacy,” said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington. “His visit to Taiping will further incite nationalistic fervour in the claimant countries and increase tensions.” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Wednesday that the United States was disappointed by Ma's trip, saying it could exacerbate tensions. During a visit to Beijing on Wednesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry encouraged all parties in the South China Sea to clarify their territorial claims, exercise restraint and engage in negotiations on the basis of international law. “I stressed the importance of finding common ground among the claimants and avoiding the destabilising cycle of mistrust or escalation,” Kerry said after meeting Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The US takes no position on who owns the islands, but says developments in the South China Sea are a matter of national security. The sea is home to key shipping lanes as well as important fisheries and a possible wealth of oil and natural gas reserves. Tensions have been especially high since Beijing transformed seven disputed reefs into islands. The US says the new islands don't enjoy the status of sovereign territory and in October sent a guided-missile destroyer close to one of them, called Subi Reef, in a challenge to Beijing's territorial claims. ^ top ^

US Secretary of State reaffirms one-China policy (Global Times)
US Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed the three Sino-US joint communiques and one-China policy during his talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Wednesday in Beijing. The US reaffirms the three communiques as foundation of our policy, maintains the one-China policy, and encourages cross-strait dialogue, Kerry said when meeting with the press after the talks. The three communiques, signed in 1972, 1978 and 1982, laid the basic principles for the two countries' relations. In them, the US government promises to support the one-China principle and not to support "Taiwan independence". The Taiwan issue is the core issue of China-US relations and the US should abide by the one-China policy, Wang Yi said after the talks. "No matter what changes occur in Taiwan, the basic fact that both the mainland and Taiwan belong to one China is unchanged and will not change," Wang said. Sticking to the 1992 Consensus and opposing "Taiwan independence" is an important prerequisite and political basis for peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, Wang said. He urged the US to support the peaceful development of cross-Strait ties with concrete actions. Kerry is paying a two-day visit to Beijing from Tuesday to Wednesday at Wang's invitation. ^ top ^

Taiwan stages military drills off coast of mainland China amid war of words after independence-leaning party's election victory (SCMP)
Taiwan held small-scale military drills on an island it controls just off the coast of mainland China on Tuesday in a renewed signal of its determination to defend itself from Chinese threats. The head of Kinmen's defence command said the beach landing exercise and simulated attack by the navy's elite “frogman” commandos were to show the ability of the armed forces to provide security in the Taiwan Strait ahead of next month's Lunar New Year holiday. The drills follow Beijing's revelation of live-fire exercises in the area just days after Taiwanese voters elected independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen as president on January 16. The unit involved, the 31st Group Army, is charged with responding to contingencies involving Taiwan and is based in the city of Xiamen, directly across a narrow waterway from Kinmen. Beijing claims Taiwan as its own territory and threatens to use force to bring the island under its control. The Kinmen commander, Hau Yi-he, said no unusual Chinese military movements had been detected since the election and Taiwan's forces would continue with routine drills. “We have been monitoring their military movements. So far, it has remained normal,” Hau said during a press visit to the island organised by Taiwan's Defence Ministry. Taiwan retained Kinmen and the Matsu island group to the north as frontline defence outposts for Nationalist forces that retreated to Taiwan following the communist's 1949 sweep to power in mainland China's civil war.B Beijing has promoted the concept of peaceful unification rather than outright invasion in recent years, but it has refused to drop its military threat and passed a law in 2005 laying out the conditions under which it would attack. President Xi Jinping has said he does not wish the issue of independence to be put off for future generations. The commentator and retired general Luo Yan wrote in the state-run Global Times this week that mainland China would never bend in its determination to realise unification, regardless of developments on Taiwan. “As long as 'peace' has not died, we will give 100 per cent,” wrote Luo, whose views reflect a popular strain of thinking among nationalist Chinese. “But if the 'Taiwan independence' elements force us into a corner, then we have no other choice but 'unification by force'.” ^ top ^

Taiwan's KMT faces further woe as incoming DPP president Tsai Ing-wen targets its assets (SCMP)
Taiwan's Kuomintang party, smarting from its landslide election defeat last weekend, faces another severe blow as its victorious competitor seeks to pass legislation that would strip it of many of its multi-million dollar assets. The newly-elected Democratic Progressive Party is hoping to steer new legislation on political parties and funding through parliament when it convenes next month. A key element of the legislation would ban parties from owning properties and assets, other than those used directly for party business. The restrictions would make it significantly harder for the KMT, to make a political comeback, analysts say. The election defeat prompted the KMT's failed presidential candidate and chairman, Eric Chu, to resign, sparking a new round of infighting as to who should lead the party. The KMT has forged more friendly ties with the mainland since President Ma Ying-jeou first took office in 2008. The draft legislation on political parties has been around for more than a decade, but has been repeatedly shelved. If passed, it would ban political parties from running businesses for profit and require them to rely solely on political donations, membership fees and bank interest on the cash to fund their operations. Analysts say the bill specifically targets the KMT, which the DPP alleges has assets of at least NT$104.3 billion (HK$24.2 billion). The DPP also claims many of the KMT's assets were illegally acquired after KMT forces fled to the island in 1949 after losing the civil war against the communists. The KMT says it has already returned all properties or assets seized illegally to relatives of the former owners or local governments where the buildings were located. Critics of the KMT say it continues to use these assets to finance its candidates in elections, giving it an unfair advantage over rivals. “The issue of the KMT's assets does not only concern Taiwan's transitional justice, it also damages democracy in Taiwan, as it creates unfair competition,” president-elect Tsai Ing-wen said at a meeting on Wednesday. The DPP should cooperate with all parties to pass the bill after the new parliament begins its session on February 23 and this would be one of the top priorities of the new government, said Tsai. Taiwan's interior ministry says the total assets reported by the KMT last year stood at NT$23.3 billion, still enough to finance candidates in future elections, if it is not forced to give them up. “The KMT will face a tough challenge if it does away with its assets,” said Justice Chen, vice-president of the Cross-Strait Policy Association. “But it's about time the party got to the bottom of how it should resolve this problem so that it won't become the target of attacks each election.” Lee Cheng-hao, executive director of the KMT Youth League, said the party's assets had become a liability. “The KMT must deal with this problem in line with public expectations in order not to be denounced by voters,” he said. Lee said the KMT needed to become more democratic in the way it is run and allow any member – not only those from the central standing committee – to run for chairman. It also needed to encourage more young people to participate in politics, or it would find it difficult to make a comeback in the 2020 election, he said. ^ top ^

War with China 'likely' if Taiwan continues to seek independence, says ex-PLA general (SCMP)
A retired Chinese People's Liberation Army major general has warned that war is likely if self-ruled Taiwan continues to seek independence. “We have promised that Chinese people never fight against Chinese people, but if the pro-independence forces continue to press us, we will have no other chance but [to seek] reunification through use of force,” says Luo Yuan, a hawkish retired People's Liberation Army major general. Luo's strong words appeared in a commentary published by Global Times, a nationalist tabloid,on Monday, more than a week after a landslide victory by the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan's presidential and legislative elections. “We have long been proposing peaceful development across the strait, but it doesn't mean that we have weakened our will for reunification,” Luo said. “The final goal is reunification rather than a 'peaceful divide'. “Unification means peace and independence means war,” Luo warned. “Independence would never be equal with peace.” The election result is widely regarded as a defeat for the incumbent Kuomintang (KMT) party's Beijing-friendly policies, although Luo did not refer directly to the “independence forces”. State-run CCTV reported last week that the People's Liberation Army, based in the coastal city of Xiamen, in Fujian province, carried out live-fire exercises and landing drills. Taiwan expressed concern about the report, but the mainland's defence ministry later said that the drill was conducted last year, adding that people should not read too much into the CCTV report. Many analysts believe the report was aimed at sending a “political warning” to Taiwan's president-elect Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the DPP, that Beijing would never give up using “non-peaceful means” to solve cross-strait issues. Beijing has long viewed Taiwan as an integral part of its territory after the island was separated from mainland in 1949 following the Communist victory on the mainland in the civil war. The sides have agreed since 1992 on a “one China” policy, in which both governments claim sovereignty over mainland and Taiwan– but crucially neither recognises the other's legitimacy. Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing said in a statement one day after the election that it resolutely opposed “any form of secessionist activities seeking 'Taiwan independence'”. ^ top ^

Don't read too much into military drills, Beijing says, after alarm in Taiwan over post-election exercises (SCMP)
China's Defence Ministry said on Friday people shouldn't read too much into a state media broadcast of live-fire military and landing drills just days after a landslide election win by an independence-leaning opposition party in Taiwan. The self-ruled island expressed serious concern on Thursday over the mainland's broadcast. Its defence ministry confirmed mainland China recently carried out “winter exercises”, but said that the pictures in the video were archive clips spliced together of drills conducted in 2015. China considers Taiwan a wayward province, to be brought under its control by force if necessary. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after the Chinese civil war. “The relevant media report is a summary of training manoeuvres organised last year by troops. There is no need to over-interpret them,” China's Defence Ministry said in a two sentence statement. Chinese state television said late on Wednesday the 31st Group Army, based in China's southeastern city of Xiamen, opposite Taiwan, had carried out the drills in “recent days”, but it did not give an exact location. The channel broadcast images of amphibious armoured vehicles ploughing through the sea towards a landing site, helicopters firing missiles at shore locations and soldiers parachuting down from helicopters. The report made no direct mention of the Taiwan election, but a Taiwanese military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the broadcast may be “psychological warfare” warning the new Taiwan government to tread carefully. Since Saturday's landslide win by Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan's presidential and parliamentary elections, Beijing has warned against any moves towards independence and said it would defend the country's sovereignty. The United States has expressed concerns about the danger of worsening mainland China-Taiwan ties at a time when Beijing's navy is increasingly flexing its muscles in the South China and East China Seas and expanding territorial claims. US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken met the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office Minister, Zhang Zhijun, in Beijing on Thursday and “reiterated the United States' abiding interest in continued cross-Strait peace and stability”, the State Department said in an email. Taiwan's military has warned that mainland China has practised attacks on targets modelled on places in Taiwan. Taiwan also estimates Beijing aims hundreds of missiles at the island. ^ top ^



China has 'no plan' to devalue yuan to help exports – or start a trade war, Premier Li Keqiang tells IMF (SCMP)
The Chinese government has no intention of devaluing its currency to help the export sector and has no plan to start a “trade war”, Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) told the International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde yesterday. Li reiterated the official stance that the yuan had no basis to depreciate continuously, according to a statement on the Chinese government website summarising the call. The phone conversation between Li and Lagarde was requested by the IMF and it came days after the IMF chief said publicly at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that China should improve communication with the market over its currency policy. While China has said the long-term goal of the yuan regime is to follow a basket of currencies instead of the dollar, the central bank has also intervened heavily in the market to stabilise the yuan rate against the dollar, keeping investors around the world guessing at Beijing's true intentions. In the onshore yuan market, the central bank set the midpoint rate slightly firmer for the fifth consecutive day yesterday. Li now finds himself at the forefront of a public relations war to shore up confidence in the yuan and the Chinese economy as a whole, as the country's state media engages in a war of words with billionaire investor George Soros following his comments that a hard-landing in the world's second biggest economy was “unavoidable”. “In fact, the yuan exchange rate has maintained basic stability against a basket of currencies, and there's no basis for any continuous depreciation,” Li said. At the same time, China would “enhance communication with the market” to “keep the yuan exchange rate basically stable at a reasonable and balanced level” – a line Beijing has used to describe its currency policy for a decade. Li also told Lagarde that China was willing to talk more to international agencies like the IMF about its economic policies and to work with other governments to “release positive signals about world economic recovery and growth to boost market confidence”. Li listed China economic achievements to Lagarde, including “relatively full employment, stronger-than-GDP income and savings growth, and an improved environment”. “We are capable of keeping sustained and steady growth in the Chinese economy,” Li said. The call came hours after the IMF's long-awaited quota reform came into effective, giving emerging markets like China and India a bigger say in the international agency. China will have the third largest IMF quota and voting share, after the United States and Japan, IMF data showed. It is another mark of China's growing influence at the IMF after the agency's decision to include the yuan in its Special Drawing Rights basket last year, giving the yuan a nominal international reserve currency status. ^ top ^

China's Premier Li Keqiang signals taxation shake-up to boost ailing businesses (SCMP)
Premier Li Keqiang has indicated there will be large-scale tax cuts to boost struggling enterprises under a taxation reform programme to be expanded nationwide this year. The government would replace business tax with value-added tax (VAT) across the country this year, Li said on Friday. His remarks followed pledges by Chinese leaders to cut taxes and expand the government budget deficit this year to support growth amid an economic slowdown. China's economic growth slowed to 6.9 per cent last year, the lowest since 1990. A trial programme replacing business tax with VAT was introduced in Shanghai in 2012 as part of an effort to reform China's state-centric fiscal system. Since 2013, the programme has been expanded to several other municipalities and provinces. It has been applied to various sectors including railways, postal services, telecommunications and some areas of the service sector. “We will fully expand the tax reforms to help substantially reduce corporate tax burdens,” state news agency Xinhua quoted Li as saying. Large-scale tax cuts would boost growth by reducing companies' costs and help to modernise the country's economic structure, the premier said. The government hopes this will invigorate small- and medium-sized enterprises, most of which are privately owned. The SME sector is a key part of China's economy, contributing 60 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), 50 per cent of fiscal and tax revenue, and 75 per cent of urban employment. Li said the tax measures were part of the government's plan for “supply-side” reform. The government hopes such reform can take the place of state-led stimulus in boosting economic growth. He admitted the move would significantly reduce the government's fiscal income, but added, “the short-term reduction in fiscal income will be compensated for by sustainable growth in the longer term”. He also promised to adjust the share of fiscal income and expenditure between the central and local governments as an incentive for officials to push tax reforms. Since coming to office, Li has focused on reducing SMEs' tax burden and other costs to promote investment. Since last year, the State Council, headed by Li, has announced a series of preferential tax policies for SMEs. Li wants an economy focused on entrepreneurship and innovation, which he believes can tackle the structural problems China faces with slowing growth in an economy long dominated by state-owned enterprises. Meanwhile, to encourage private sector support of entrepreneurs, Shanghai's municipal government said it would partially compensate angel investors who lost money in funding start-ups. ^ top ^

Bank survey shows bankers worried about credit risks (China Daily)
Eighty percent of Chinese bankers polled in a survey said the greatest pressure the Chinese banking sector faced last year was the prevention and control of credit risks and the containment of non-performing assets. According to a survey jointly released on Sunday by the China Banking Association and PwC, 82.1 percent of bankers said the primary credit risk of their banks remained in the industries with excess capacity, including the industries of iron, steel, cement, and shipping, while 57.6 percent considered the risk of loans to small and micro enterprises as the primary credit risk. Ba Shusong, chief economist of the association and project leader of the survey, said more than 40 percent of the bankers expect that the non-performing loan ratio will stand between one percent and three percent in the next three years, signifying that risk management has become the top priority of the banking sector. Statistics from the China Banking Regulatory Commission show that the NPL ratio for commercial lenders jumped 43 basis points year-on-year to 1.59 percent at the end of September. The outstanding NPLs were 1.19 trillion yuan ($181 billion), up 55 percent from a year earlier. Wu Weijun, chief partner of PwC Beijing, advised commercial banks to draw as much loan loss provisions as possible to fend off future risks. Polling 1,328 bankers from 116 financial institutions nationwide, the survey found that 82.3 percent of the bankers said China's liberalization of interest rates was the primary market risk they faced in 2015, which was followed by the increase of capital market volatility (55.6 percent), the uncertainty of timing and range of adjustments to China's monetary policy (51.6 percent), and the widening of two-way fluctuations of renminbi exchange rates (50.1 percent). The majority of bankers expect the growth of operating revenues and profit after tax will drop to single digits for Chinese banks in the next three years. About 30 percent of those who participated in the survey listed the growth of banks' intermediary business and the increase of interest-bearing assets respectively as the factor that will make the largest contribution to the banks' profit growth. According to the survey, banks will keep pushing forward strategic transitions to deal with increasingly intensified competitions. Nearly 80 percent of the bankers care most about how to deepen the features of their banks and differentiate their business from others. ^ top ^



China backs UN resolution (Global Times)
China agrees that the UN Security Council should take further action and pass a new resolution on North Korea, following its nuclear test earlier this month, but the new resolution should not stir up tensions or cause chaos in the peninsula, Chinese foreign minister said. Addressing a press briefing Wednesday after a meeting with visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the two countries reached a consensus that the Security Council could respond to the North Korea nuclear test by passing a new resolution, adding that his country is willing to maintain all-round and profound consultations with all the parties in a responsible way, including the US. "We agreed that sanctions are not an end in themselves and it is vital to restart dialogue and negotiations," Wang said. "China refuses all groundless speculations and misinterpretations on its stance." "The new resolution should aim to bring the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue back to the negotiating table, rather than stir up tension or cause chaos on the peninsula," Wang said, adding that China has voiced opposition to the latest nuclear test of North Korea, which has violated the UN Security Council resolution and threatened the international nuclear non-proliferation system. China has been making unremitting efforts and playing an important role in realizing denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and safeguarding its peace and stability, but it calls for the concerted efforts of all parties to work toward the same direction, Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokesperson, told reporters. "Some party's failure to do so is one major reason why the denuclearization process on the peninsula has run into difficulties, and the Six-Party Talks stalled. We hope that the relevant party would earnestly fulfill its due responsibilities, play a constructive role, work with China, and make constructive and positive efforts to bring the Korean nuclear issue back to the right track," Hua noted. A Xinhua commentary on Wednesday said that it is unrealistic to rely merely on China to press North Korea, as long as the US continues an antagonistic approach wrought by a Cold War mentality, while refusing some of North Korea's rare goodwill gestures. "Bear in mind that Sino-North Korean ties should not be understood as a top-down relationship, where the latter follows every bit of advice offered by the former," it said, adding that the fundamental solution is for the West to drop its animosity toward North Korea. ^ top ^

US call for tougher sanctions against North Korea over nuclear bomb test (SCMP)
United States Secretary of State John Kerry has failed to secure China's support for tougher sanctions against North Korea in the wake of its fourth nuclear bomb test earlier this month. Our position will not be swayed by specific events or the temporary mood of the moment Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi The two sides, which held talks in Beijing on Wednesday, have agreed only to pursue a new UN Security Council resolution on the matter. Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced their joint support for the resolution after holding talks in Beijing to discuss a stronger response to reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had carried out a nuclear bomb test on January 6. While the US was reportedly seeking punitive sanctions, including bans on oil exports to China's neighbour and imports of North Korean mineral resources, Beijing emphasised the importance of returning to the negotiating table. “Our position will not be swayed by specific events or the temporary mood of the moment,” Wang told reporters, adding that a “new resolution should not provoke new tension in the situation or destabilise the Korean Peninsula”. He added that sanctions were not “an end to themselves”. Kerry's visit came three weeks after North Korea detonated what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb. “It's not enough to agree on the goal,” Kerry said. “We believe we need to agree on the meaningful steps necessary to get to the achievement of the goal, to the negotiations that result in denuclearisation.” The North Korea issue dominated the talks between the two, Kerry said. The discussions were “long and intensive” and the reason for the almost three-hour delay in the start of the joint news conference, he said. Analysts said that although it was hard for Beijing to agree to Washington's terms, there might be some Chinese compromises. “Regarding Kerry's request, I think China will be accommodating where sanctions can be effective in curbing North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes,” said Jingdong Yuan, a professor at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney. Yuan said Beijing could be open to discussions on proposed new sanctions that included more stringent inspections on cargo or transportation that used Chinese ports, with regard to agreed and UN Security Council-sanctioned lists of items. “However, China probably won't agree to the kind of sweeping sanctions that the US is proposing, such as stopping Chinese oil exports to North Korea, banning imports of North Korean minerals, or banning North Korean air travel in and out of China,” Yuan said. Tong Zhao, an associate at Carnegie's Nuclear Policy Programme at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, said China did not see the US proposal as a viable solution. Zhao said Beijing believed that efforts to engage North Korea could have a great potential for making Pyongyang rejoin the international community. “That is the policy China has been pursuing, and smothering economic sanctions will only undermine that effort,” Zhao said. During the talks Kerry had also pressed Wang for the two countries had to make progress on “concerns and activities in the South China Sea”. Wang said China would honour its commitment not to militarise the disputed South China Sea, but rejected any allegations that its words were not matched by its actions. China's recent move to build up facilities on disputed islands in South China Sea has exacerbated tension in the region as other nations, including Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, also claim sovereignty over the whole or part of the territory. Kerry had earlier visited Cambodia and Laos to urge unity among leaders of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), before a summit with President Barack Obama in California next month. China insists that any disputes should be handled bilaterally. ^ top ^

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Beijing on mission to pressure China on North Korea's nuclear tests (SCMP)
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Beijing on Tuesday night on his mission to press China to address North Korea's nuclear testing programme. Kerry's trip to Beijing came after he visited Laos and Cambodia, where he said the military build-up in the South China Sea should be avoided, but failed to secure the two nations' commitment to take a more robust stance against China's territorial claims over the disputed waters. Kerry will meet President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Kerry's priority was to get Beijing to step up pressure on Pyongyang as world powers discussed a new set of international sanctions in response to North Korea's nuclear test this month, the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday quoted a senior State Department official travelling with Kerry as saying. In a phone conversation with Wang this month, Kerry said the nuclear test showed that Beijing's approach towards Pyongyang had not worked. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Tuesday it was “irresponsible” for the United States to urge Bejing to do more to curb Pyongyang's nuclear programme. Tong Zhao, an associate with Carnegie's Nuclear Policy Programme at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, said Kerry would certainly press China to impose economic sanctions against North Korea, for instance, by stopping the export of fuel and food to Pyongyang and ending the reclusive state's imports of minerals. Despite significant pressure on Beijing, Zhao did not think it would agree to the such measures as part of a new UN Security Council resolution. For one, Beijing did not believe that tougher sanctions would work. Second, Beijing risked damaging bilateral ties with Pyongyang and gaining a new enemy if it cut off the country's economic lifeline, he said. “China has kept telling the Americans that imposing military pressure on North Korea would only increase its threat perception and reinforce its commitment to nuclear capability,” Zhao said. Benjamin Herscovitch, a research manager at Beijing-based consultancy China Policy, said Kerry's effort was unlikely to persuade China to change its North Korea policy. While North Korea's nuclear weapons tests were strategically damaging for China, the fact that the programme was helping to safeguard Kim Jong-un's regime might actually be a net strategic benefit for China, he said. “If North Korea's nuclear weapons programme chastens South Korean moves to reunify the Koreas and dissuades the US from seeking regime change in Pyongyang, a nuclear-armed North Korea may play into China's strategic interests,” Herscovitch said. “In short, the stability of the status quo may be preferable for China than the instability of North Korean denuclearisation.” Jingdong Yuan, of the University of Sydney's Centre for International Security Studies, said that even so, Beijing might be open to discussion on the proposed new sanctions, such as more stringent inspections of cargo through Chinese ports with regard to a list of sanctioned items. Analysts said Kerry would also bring up Taiwan in light of Tsai Ing-wen's win in the island's presidential election on January 16. ^ top ^



Mongolbank says credit interest can be reduced threefold (Montsame)
At the meeting of parliamentary Standing committee on Economy, Bank of Mongolia (Central Bank) presented information about reduction of interests of pension and salary loans, and credits for herdsmen, small and medium enterprises, in connection with the decreased inflation rate. President of the Bank of Mongolia N.Zoljargal said that 2015 saw its first positive performance of inflation rate improvement inline with GDP growth since 2006. GDP showed 2.5% growth by the end of the third quarter of 2015. Between 2009 and 2012, GDP raised by 40.2%, and the consumption of low and medium income households increased by 7.7-10.1%, he informed. One third of inflation was formed solely by meat and petroleum price increase in 2010-2012. Supply-push inflation pressure was eliminated in 2013-2015. The pressure of foreign exchange rate has not been contributing to inflation since August of 2014. Most importantly, portion of households with average monthly income of 500 thousand – 2.3 million MNT was 39% in 2011, and the portion advanced to 67% in 2015, he said. Total of 240 billion MNT of credit was distributed by State Bank and Khan Bank to herders, with 2.5% monthly interest, which rate is very high. This is burden on agri-businesses and livelihoods of herdsmen. The current annual interest 30% can be reduced to 10%, given the decreased inflation rate. ^ top ^

Mongolia ranked 3rd by freedom index in Asia-Pacific region (Montsame)
Headquarted in Washington DC, the Freedom House NGO Wednesday released the 2015 rankings of freedom index of countries. Accordingly, Mongolia has been ranked the 3rd with 86 points by freedom index in Asia-Pacific region after Japan (93 points) and Chinese Taipei (89 points) and before by South Korea (83 points). Freedom in the World is Freedom House's flagship annual report, assessing the condition of political rights and civil liberties around the world. It is composed of numerical ratings and supporting descriptive texts for 195 countries and 15 territories. For each country and territory, Freedom in the World analyzes the electoral process, political pluralism and participation, the functioning of the government, freedom of expression and of belief, associational and organizational rights, the rule of law, and personal autonomy and individual rights. ^ top ^

Cabinet meeting in brief (Montsame)
In accordance with the cabinet decision made on Monday, S.Erdene was appointed the General Consul of Mongolia to San Francisco, the USA. - The cabinet discussed a financing for a mobile complex of construction materials production, and then decided to issue a related resolution. - The cabinet decided to promptly submit to parliament a draft amendment to the law on legal documents and other relevant bills. - The cabinet discussed a draft new version of the law on citizenship, initiated by the President, and decided to convey some proposals to the draft initiator. - Initiated by Ts.Oyunbaatar MP a draft resolution of parliament on measures for preventing earthquake disaster and reducing its risks was backed in principle. - The cabinet decided to convey some proposals to initiators of a draft amendment to the law on regime of parliamentary session as well as a draft resolution of parliament on approving a rule of running public hearing. - An appendix of the resolution was amended on compositions of the Mongolian side of intergovernmental commissions. - The Investment Authority was authorized to establish a concession contract for a project on erecting a public transportation station in Dornogobi aimag's Zamyn-Uud soum. Minister of Industry D.Erdenebat was ordered to manage the contract's establishment. - As decided, a concession contract's type for a project on establishment of a new maternal house was amended. The concession contract's type has become construct-transfer.  ^ top ^

Z.Enkhbold receives ABU Secretary-General (Montsame)
The Speaker of parliament Z.Enkhbold Monday received visiting Dr Javad Mottaghi, Secretary-General of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU). The guest thanked the Speaker for receiving him and spoke about the ABU which has 220 members of 58 countries. Founded in 1964, the ABU aims to develop broadcasting industry in its region and to run joint measures among the members. Twelve organizations of Mongolia have joined the ABU, Dr Javad added. Then, the sides shared views on participation and role of Mongolian TV channels in the ABU and their collaboration with the union. Present at the meeting were Ts.Buyantsogoo, advisor to the Speaker of social policy; Ts.Oyundari, director-general of the Mongolian National Public Radio and Television; and Ts.Narantungalag, head of the external relations section of the Parliamentary Office. ^ top ^

Mongolia Night takes over Davos (Montsame)
On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Mongolian delegates organized the “Mongolia night” event to introduce the country's economic environment, investment opportunities and development goals, on January 22. The President Elbegdorj and Mr Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, were present at the event. The “Mongolia night” showcases the unique culture and traditional heritages of the country and opens new cooperation opportunities for both domestic and international companies. The event attracted representatives of possible investors and world giants, namely, Mitsubishi Corporation, Saudi Aramco, Thomson Reuters, Bahrain Petroleum Company BSC, The Financial Times, Carnegie Mellom University and many others. ^ top ^

“Mongolia has been maintaining a policy on active participant in WEF actions” (Montsame)
The President of Mongolia Mr Ts.Elbegdorj is taking part in the 46th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) which is continuing on its fourth day under a theme “Fourth progress in industry” in Davos, Switzerland. During the annual meeting, the President has exchanged views on bilateral and multilateral cooperation with Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General; Helen Clark, the Administrator of the UNDP; Jose Angel Gurria, the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); Irina Bokova, the Secretary-General of the UNESCO; Jim Yong Kim, the President of the World Bank Group; and Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Mr Elbegdorj also has held bilateral meetings with Peter Maurer, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); Takehiko Nakao, the President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB); Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Kofi Annan, a former Secretary-General of the UN; his counterparts of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Germany and Switzerland; the Prime Ministers of Belgium, Israel, Norway, Pakistan, the Netherlands, Greece, France and the Great Britain; and John Kerry, the United States Secretary of State. ^ 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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