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
  26-30.12.2016, No. 653  
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Foreign Policy

China Voice: Diplomatic hat-trick no accident (Xinhua)
In the final two weeks of 2016, Chinese diplomacy has scored an impressive hat-trick: normalization of relations with Norway, Mongolia's commitment not to allow Dalai Lama visits, and restoration of diplomatic ties with Sao Tome and Principe after the country cut relations with Taiwan. This diplomatic treble was no accident. The seemingly unrelated cases share a similarity: recanting perceived challenges to China's core interests. They sent a strong signal to the world that the appeal of good Chinese diplomatic relations is rising and that respecting China's concerns is not empty talk. The one-China principle, which concerns China's core interests and the feelings of its 1.3 billion people, is the unshakable basis for China to develop relations with other countries. After Norway reaffirmed its commitment to the one-China principle and respect for China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, China agreed to resume free trade negotiations and to promote investment in the Nordic country. The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize award to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese criminal convicted of inciting subversion of state power, was an infamous decision by the Norwegian Nobel committee and resulted in China-Norway ties being frozen for six years. Mongolia, learning lessons from the Dalai Lama's visit in November, promised never to allow such visits again, just one month later. Mongolia's move rings alarm bells for any countries that have contact with this political exile who attempts to split Tibet from China under the cloak religion -- such a move will severely jeopardize ties with China. The big strides prove that while China advocates mutual respect and win-win relationships when dealing with foreign countries, any country with a keen interest to develop relations with China needs to do the same. China's international engagement has become increasingly proactive and pioneering. From garnering support of over 90 countries and 230 political parties on the so-called South China Sea arbitration to hosting the Hangzhou G20 Summit that gathered more than 30 world leaders, China is increasingly confident on the world stage and reaped a bumper diplomatic harvest in 2016. Nonetheless, Westerners who cannot get accustomed to China's rising international status find China's diplomatic triumphs hard to swallow. The claim that China uses economic leverage to achieve diplomatic successes makes no sense. Take the case of Sao Tome and Principe: Taiwan poached it from China with a considerable financial package in 1997, before that the African country had established diplomatic relations with China in 1975. However, checkbook diplomacy is not at work in the resumption of China-Sao Tome and Principe ties. China has made it crystal clear that it will never trade on the one-China principle with money. China knows that lavishing money will not lead to the long-term development of the poor island country. As the saying goes, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." After establishing a liaison office in Sao Tome and Principe in November 2013 for trade and cultural exchanges, China started to help improve the country's infrastructure. It now aims to help the country develop its economy through cooperation in tourism, agriculture and fishery. Facts speak louder than words. Anyone who dares challenge China's red lines, especially the one-China principle, will pay the price. Countries with an ambiguous position are better off adopting a sober attitude rather than making a rod for their own backs. ^ top ^

China says U.S. blacklisting irresponsible, not objective (Xinhua)
The United States is irresponsible in putting Chinese companies on a list of "notorious marketplaces," the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Thursday. China hopes the United States will objectively evaluate China's work on IPR protection, said MOC spokesperson Shen Danyang at a press conference. Given that the United States trade representative's office was ambiguous in its descriptions of Chinese companies, its report did not represent the U.S. government's analysis, according to Shen. China has been negotiating with the United States on "notorious marketplaces," Shen said. China hopes the United States will improve its own transparency and evaluation processes in an impartial way. ^ top ^

China's defence ministry confirms probe of leading general Wang Jianping (SCMP)
A top general in the People's Liberation Army has been placed under investigation on suspicion of taking bribes, becoming the first incumbent senior military official to be targeted in the China's anti-graft campaign, the defence ministry confirmed on Thursday. General Wang Jianping, 63, the deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department under the powerful Central Military Commission, is under probe by military prosecutors, Yang Yujun, the spokesman of China's Ministry of National Defence said at a monthly press conference. The announcement confirmed a South China Morning Post report in August that Wang, a former ally of disgraced security tsar Zhou Yongkang, had been arrested for violating Communist Party discipline, a euphemism for corruption. The defence ministry did not give any more details of the investigation. A source told the Post in August that Wang had been taken away in Chengdu, Sichuan province. His wife, secretary and former secretary were also held, the source said. Wang is the first general in active military service to be investigated since President Xi Jinping launched a high-profile crackdown in 2012 on corruption, which he said is a major threat to Communist Party rule and social stability. Wang is the second top general known to be arrested this year after General Tian Xiusi, the former political commissar of the PLA Air Force, who was taken away in early July, according to a report in the Beijing Daily. The confirmation of Wang's arrest came one day after the Communist Party vowed to press forward with its “crushing momentum” against corruption to “purify the political environment within the party” in the year ahead, state-owned Xinhua said in a report on the meeting of the party's Politburo chaired by Xi on Wednesday. Fighting corruption in the military has been a top priority in Xi's anti-graft campaign and last week, the defence ministry said a revised audit regulation would come into effect in the new year, after which all the armed forces' economic activities must be audited. Wang was promoted to lead the some 1.2-million-strong People's Armed Police in late 2009 after serving more than 15 years in the force. During his years in the Armed Police, Wang reported directly to Zhou, the most senior official to be ensnared in a graft probe since the Cultural Revolution. Zhou was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to life in jail last year. Wang was unexpectedly transferred in December 2014 to become the deputy chief of the former General Staff Headquarters, which was disbanded and reconsolidated into the Joint Staff Department earlier this year, with Wang remaining its deputy chief. ^ top ^

China's military voices firm opposition to Japanese DM's war shrine visit (Xinhua)
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun on Thursday voiced the Chinese armed forces' strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. During his recent visit to Hawaii, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not show the slightest remorse, but used the word "brave" to refer to Japanese military officers who died in the Pearl Harbor attack, said Yang at a regular press briefing. Abe even mentioned the Japanese empire in his speech, Yang said, adding that all peace-loving people across the world should be on a high alert against such words and deeds. "The aggression launched by Japanese militarism brought calamities to the people in related regions and countries. History is a mirror. There is no future if one cannot face the past sincerely," he said. The notorious Tokyo war shrine, which honors 14 Class-A convicted war criminals among 2.5 million Japanese war dead from the WWII, is regarded as a symbol of the past Japanese militarism. ^ top ^

China advocates complete elimination of nuclear weapons (Xinhua)
China has always advocated a full ban and complete elimination of nuclear weapons, Defense Ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun said on Thursday. The country that owns the largest nuclear weapon arsenals in the world should take special and primary responsibilities in nuclear disarmament, Yang said. At the Xiangshan Forum in October 2016, armed forces of China and Russia announced they will hold a second anti-missile drill in 2017, aiming to exercise joint operation ability of air defense and anti-missile strength, Yang said. ^ top ^

Tensions increase as China's neighbours build up military capabilities (SCMP)
Tensions between China and the United States have grown beyond the seizure of a US underwater drone in mid-December, as China perceives the US to be meddling in its security environment. China's neighbours are also stepping up their military capabilities, heightening the security risk. Japan Japan, the major ally of the United States in Asia, approved a record $43.6 billion military budget on December 21, increasing spending for the fifth year in a row. The increase is perceived to be a response to potential threats from China and North Korea. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet plans to spend the funds on mobile missile batteries, amphibious vehicles and other equipment suited to a mobile force, Reuters reported. Earlier in December, China expressed “grave concern” when two Japanese F-15 fighter jets “interfered” with Chinese Air Force training in the western Pacific. The jets were scrambled to follow Chinese warplanes that were flying over the Miyako Strait as part of a routine exercise, the Chinese Defence Ministry said. South Korea Another important ally of the United States has quickened its pace to deploy a US missile shield system. South Korean acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system should be deployed as soon as possible for the country's security. Hwang made the remarks on December 21 during a parliamentary session, saying the government cannot wait “even for a moment” to cope with North Korea's nuclear provocations. Seoul plans to install a THAAD battery in Seongju, just under 300km southeast of the capital, by May next year. The acting president called for parliamentary support for the deployment, stating that the North's nuclear provocations this year were “unprecedented”. The deployment of THAAD has drawn much criticism from China, which has stated that the real purpose of the system is to track missiles launched from China, rather than from North Korea. Taiwan US president-elect Donald Trump infuriated Beijing by accepting a congratulatory call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen two weeks after he won the election, ignoring a decades-long protocol of the United States upholding the one-China policy. Ten days later, Trump added fuel to the fire by questioning the one-China approach, which stipulates that the US can have diplomatic relations with mainland China or Taiwan, but not both. President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law the National Defence Authorization Act for Fiscal 2017, which included for the first time a section on senior military exchanges with Taiwan. Section 1284 of the Act states: “It is the sense of Congress that the Secretary of Defence should conduct a programme of senior military exchanges between the United States and Taiwan that have the objective of improving military-to-military relations and defence cooperation between the United States and Taiwan”. Such an exchange programme would be conducted at least once a year in both the United States and Taiwan, according to the act.Trump Vietnam In November, the Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said in a report that Vietnam is building large hangars on the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea and lengthening its runway there to 1,000 meters. Activity visible on Ladd Reef, on the southwestern fringe of the Spratlys, could anger Beijing, which claims sovereignty over the group. Vietnam had fortified several of the islands with mobile rocket artillery launchers capable of striking China's holdings across the vital trade route in August. Beijing's response A group of Chinese warships, led by the Liaoning, the country's sole aircraft carrier, is scheduled to carry out drills in the western Pacific “in accordance with annual exercise plans,” a Chinese navy statement said on Tuesday. Veerle Nouwens, a research analyst for Asia Studies with the Royal United Services Institute in London, says China is showing its growth as a “regional military heavyweight”. ^ top ^

Abe visit to Pearl Harbor a political 'show' (China Daily)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is on a trip to Pearl Harbor but has no plan to apologize for the World War II surprise attack that killed 2,400 Americans, should sincerely reflect on his country's war crimes rather than just "put on a show", a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Tuesday. "Can a so-called victim-consolation trip to Pearl Harbor completely wipe away World War II history? I am afraid it's just wishful thinking on his part," spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regularly scheduled news conference. Abe was scheduled to visit the site of the 1941 attack in Hawaii, which drew the United States into World War II. Abe visited several memorials on Monday. He and US President Barack Obama were to lay a wreath at the USS Arizona Memorial before speaking at a military base on Tuesday. Analysts said that Abe's real purpose is not to reflect on Japan's war crimes, but to enhance its alliance with the US, which could undergo stark changes after Donald Trump becomes president next month. Trump has voiced opposition to the proposed, US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, including Japan as a member. Trump also has threatened to force allied countries to pay more to host US forces. Pointing out that the main Asian battlefield of the World Anti-Fascist War was in China, Hua said that Japan "could not turn the page of history" without reconciliation with Asian victim countries including China. "Just like people in the US will not forget the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Chinese people will not forget the nation's immense sacrifice as well as the compatriots victimized by the Nanjing Massacre," Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said this month. More than 300,000 people were killed by Japanese troops from December 1937 to January 1938 during the massacre. On Sunday, 53 eminent US and Japanese people, including US filmmaker Oliver Stone and University of Tokyo professor Tetsuya Takahashi, sent an open letter to Abe to ask whether he planned to pay tribute to victims of Japan's wartime aggression in other nations. "Will you also be visiting China, Korea, other Asia-Pacific nations, or the other Allied nations for the purpose of 'mourning' war victims in those countries who number in the tens of millions?" the letter said. Gao Hong, a senior researcher in Japan studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Abe's trip is meant to gain political interests rather than "mourning the victims, as he is labeling it". Gao said that through such diplomatic moves, Abe hopes to unload Japan's burden of World War II history and turn the page on Japan's atrocities during the war, he said. Peter Li, a professor at the University of Houston, said that Abe's visit to Pearl Harbor is meaningless unless he recognizes Japan's war crimes. Describing Abe's refusal to apologize for the attack on Pearl Harbor as "not surprising", Li said, "this refusal to admit Japanese crimes against humanity has been shown in Tokyo's policy toward Asian countries that were victims of Japanese aggression." "This refusal to admit crimes was also demonstrated in its denial of the use of Asian women as 'sex slaves' for the Japanese army and its denial of its war crimes in Nanking, China," he said. ^ top ^

China says it opposes space arms race but missions 'must help protect national security' (SCMP)
China's space programme must help protect its national security, but the nation is dedicated to the peaceful use of space and opposes a space arms race, the government said in a policy paper issued on Tuesday. President Xi Jinping has called for China to establish itself as a space power and it has tested anti-satellite missiles, in addition to pursuing its civilian aims. China has repeatedly said its space programme is for peaceful purposes, but the US Defence Department has highlighted its increasing capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities aimed to prevent adversaries from using space-based assets in a crisis. In its policy paper, the government said the space programme was an important part of the country's overall development strategy. “China always adheres to the principle of the use of outer space for peaceful purposes and opposes the weaponisation of or an arms race in outer space,” it said. The programme must also “meet the demands of economic, scientific and technological development, national security and social progress”, the paper added, without elaborating on the security part. However it included past weapons tests as part of the history of its space programme, in which the military has all along been deeply involved with. “Over the past 60 years of remarkable development since its space industry was established in 1956, China has made great achievements in this sphere, including the development of atomic and hydrogen bombs, missiles, man-made satellites, manned space flight and lunar probes,” it said. China completed its longest manned space mission to date last month when two astronauts spent 30 days aboard the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, or “Heavenly Palace 2”, which China is using to carry out experiments ahead of a longer-range plan to have a permanent manned space station around 2022. The white paper also repeated a plan to launch its first Mars probe by 2020 and to land the first probe ever on the dark side of the moon in 2018, but gave no details about a previously mooted goal of landing a Chinese person on the moon by 2036. ^ top ^

China sees PLA playing frontline role in cyberspace (SCMP)
Beijing vowed on Tuesday to use all necessary means, including military ones, to wipe out subversion and attempts to undermine its sovereignty in cyberspace. A strategy document released by top internet regulator the Cyberspace Administration said the use of the internet for treason, secession, revolt, subversion or stealing or leaking of state secrets would be punished. It also warned of penalties for working with “overseas forces” for sabotage, subversion or secession. Foreign hackers in China's sights with proposed changes to cyber law (It identified cyberspace challenges facing China, saying the internet could be used by other nations to topple the political system, incite social disorder or paralyse the financial or telecoms infrastructure. “[China] will regulate internet activities within the country's sovereignty, protect the safety of information facilities and resources and take all means, including economic, administrative, technological, legal, diplomatic and military, to safeguard China's cyberspace sovereignty,” the document said. Tang Lan, an information security expert with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said Beijing saw cyberspace as an extension of its national soil. “Just like [force] will be deployed on the front line for attacks on China's territory, military forces will be used for the same defence purposes in cases such as key informational infrastructure being attacked,” Tang said. Cybersecurity has been given high priority by the administration of President Xi Jinping, who once said “there is not national security without cyberspace security”. Xi has urged the accelerated development of security systems to protect key information infrastructure. The strategy document said the global race to seize strategic cyber resources and take the initiative in cyberspace had become increasingly fierce. Beijing's cyber strategy has triggered a backlash over concerns about the free flow of information, with foreign businesses complaining that internet controls have restricted their access to data. A cybersecurity law passed a month ago angered overseas firms with demands that operators of “critical information infrastructure” store important business data on servers in China, provide source codes and pass national security reviews. The strategy document also comes at a sensitive time, with China critic Donald Trump to take office as US president next month. Beijing and Washington have been pointing fingers at each other for years over cybersecurity, each accusing the other of hacking and stealing trade secrets. Beijing suspended the two nations' only cybersecurity working group in 2014 after Washington charged five People's Liberation Army officers for allegedly stealing trade secrets. Beijing has repeatedly said that China was a “victim” of hacking and that Chinese authorities had always opposed “cyberattacks in any form”. ^ top ^

Artificial food intended for display only, say Chinese manufacturers, after Nigeria confiscates tonnes of fake rice (SCMP)
Artificial food products such as fake rice recently confiscated by Nigerian customs officials are intended for restaurant displays and not to be eaten, according to manufacturers. The fake rice was made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, “and should be labelled “artificial”, they said. Nigerian customs recently confiscated 2.5 tonnes of fake rice but officials couldn't discern what it was made of, according to a BBC report on Wednesday. Customs officials cooked the “rice” and ended up with a sticky mess. They sent samples to laboratories to determine its chemical composition. Lagos customs chief Haruna Mamudu told the BBC the fake rice was smuggled to be sold at markets during the festive season. It was not clear where the seized sacks came from, “Only God knows what would have happened” if people ate the product, he was quoted as saying. China produced nearly all the artificial rice in the world, according to manufacturers. Zhou Tao, a sales manager with an artificial food manufacturer in Yiwu, Zhejiang, said it was only intended for use in restaurant or store displays. The artificial food products are popular with restaurants to display menu choices as they always look fresh and never rot. Artificial rice is made of PVC, a white, brittle plastic. The product is designed to be used at room temperature, so degradation could start from 70 degrees Celsius. “They shouldn't put it on the stove. It isn't food,” Zhou said. He said he was puzzled why anyone would smuggle artificial rice to sell as real in Africa, as the product his company sold cost more than 70 yuan for 1kg, or 10 times the price of real rice in China. In Africa the cost would increase due to shipping and other costs. Xiong Heping, the manager of another manufacturer in Shenzhen, said the rice was labelled “artificial”, when shipping to buyers in China or overseas. He said the Chinese government had no regulation on the trading of artificial food designed to prevent accidents. “But I don't think the risk should be overstated,” he said. “Even a child can tell it is plastic by the weight and feel.” Other artificial food products made in China include noodles, sushi, pizza and cakes. The more authentic they look, the higher their price. The products are exported around the globe including Hong Kong, America and Europe. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

China Focus: China inaugurates another two SPC circuit courts (Xinhua)
China opened its fifth and sixth Circuit Court of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) Thursday in southwestern Chongqing municipality and northwestern city of Xi'an, Shaanxi Province. The fifth circuit court will handle cases in Chongqing, Tibet Autonomous Region and provinces of Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan. The sixth circuit court will cover provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu and Qinghai, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The southwest and northwest China are far away from the capital Beijing, where the SPC is headquartered. The the two circuit courts will provide convenience to local people and help resolve lawsuits in a timely fashion, ensuring local economic and social development, said Xu Jiaxin, head of the SPC political department. The SPC circuit courts are permanent trial organs sent by the SPC and will exercise power on behalf of the SPC. Circuit courts judgements and decisions are equal to those made by the SPC. The decision to establish the circuit courts was made at a key Communist Party of China (CPC) meeting in October 2014, as a major step in advancing judicial reform. As of Thursday, China has had six SPC circuit courts, which together with the SPC cover the whole country. In January 2015, the first two circuit courts opened in southern economic hub Shenzhen, and Shenyang in northeastern Liaoning Province. The third and fourth circuit courts opened in Nanjing of eastern Jiangsu Province and Zhengzhou of central Henan Province Wednesday. SPC IN THE DOORWAY The first two circuit courts in Shenzhen and Shenyang had 4,445 cases in place by the end of November, solving 3,948 of them, an 89 percent settlement rate. They handled 72,000 complaints, resolving problems locally and winning public acclaim, Xu said. Some people call the courts the "SPC in the doorway," he said. The four new SPC circuit courts have narrowed the distance between ordinary people and the supreme judiciary, saving costs and offering convenient access to excellent, efficient judicial services, Xu said. In return, the circuit courts will enable more judges to communicate with local people face to face, and better understand the problems of the people, he said. Chiefs of the four new SPC circuit courts are all vice presidents of the SPC, Xu said. SPC circuit court chiefs and deputy chiefs will try cases themselves. Court staff will be responsible for cases in their lifetime, and they will be held accountable if cases are badly handled, in a bid to prevent corruption in the court. Judges in the circuit courts will be changed after a set term, to avoid vested interests. The number of staff for each circuit court will be limited to below 50. These courts have relieved the SPC's burden, brought benefits to the people and enhanced judicial authority and credibility, Xu said. "They have already become a window to demonstrate the achievements of China's judical reform and socialist rule of law," Xu said. ^ top ^

China experiencing baby boom now that one-child rule is lifted (SCMP)
As soon as China abandoned its one-child policy a year ago, Zheng Xiaoyu and her husband started trying for a sibling for their nine-year-old son. Their efforts bore fruit with another boy – one of a million extra births this year. “The traditional Chinese thinking is that more children bring more blessings,” Zheng said, recovering from the birth at a luxury convalescent home in Beijing. For years the couple dreamed of a second child to keep them company in their twilight years. “Neither me nor my husband are the only child in our families. We grew up in the company of our siblings,” she said. “Before the change, we questioned why we couldn't have a second child, why they had to limit everyone's desire to have children.” Since the late 1970s, strict measures in the world's most populous country restricted most couples to only a single child, with fines for violators and even forced abortions. Zheng and her husband were employees of state-owned enterprises and faced losing their jobs if they violated the ban. Officials say it was a key contributor to China's economic boom. But concerns over an ageing population, gender imbalances and a shrinking workforce pushed authorities to end the restriction and allow all couples a second child from January 1. Now China is undergoing a minor baby boom, with almost one million more newborns expected this year, National Health and Family Planning Commission deputy director Wang Peian said, according to official media reports. More than 17.5 million births were expected in 2016, he told a conference in November – which would reverse a decline last year and be the highest figure since 2000. But while the end of the one-child policy swayed Zheng and her husband, it is unclear how much it contributed to this year's baby boom. Previous statistics show the increase was concentrated in the first half of the year, before the new policy could have an effect. And 2016 was the lunar year of the monkey – considered a particularly auspicious zodiac sign to be born under. In pyjamas and slippers, Zheng was recovering at the gated Xiyuege Centre, or “Lucky Month Home”, in Beijing, where Porsche and Lexus cars line the parking lot. It is a modern take on the 2,000-year-old practice of postpartum confinement or zuoyuezi – literally “sitting the month” – in which new mothers stay in bed, keep warm and avoid certain foods. Traditionally they do not exercise, expose themselves to draughts of any kind, or bathe. There is no evidence for traditional claims that the practice will prevent diseases such as arthritis later in life. But the 75-room Xiyuege Centre offers what nurses, managers and promotional materials all describe as “scientific” accompaniments to confinement: spa facilities where women can lie on a heated bed of jade, consume six specially calibrated meals a day to boost breast milk production while shedding pounds, and enjoy round-the-clock specialist care. Such institutions in recent years have turned the custom into a lucrative industry, now set to boom even further. There were more than 760 such centres across the country, generating revenues of approximately 4.2 billion yuan (HK$4.7 billion) two years ago, according to the website China Industry Information. It projected that sector turnover would more than double to 11 billion yuan by 2019. The Xiyuege Centre has seen clients recovering from their second pregnancies more than double this year, estimated Zheng Hui, the nurse managing infant care for VIP mothers, who pay more than US$1,000 a day for their stays. The oldest woman she had cared for was a 44-year-old, whose first child was already an undergraduate at college. “It's very clear that this year demand has gone up drastically. Customers are booking further and further in advance,” said Hou Yanran, marketing manager of Xiyuege, which plans to open a third branch in the capital. Women were calling to reserve spots a mere month into their pregnancies, she said. The long-term impact of the new family planning rules remains unclear. Officials predicted a surge in births after a 2013 change that allowed couples a second child as long as one parent was without siblings. But it did not materialise. The Global Times newspaper this month cited family planning policy expert Yuan Xin as attributing the current uptick to the 2013 relaxation, with an increase from the two-child policy only coming in the next few years. But around 53 per cent of one-child families have no desire for a second, according to a survey of 10,000 families with kids under 15 by the All-China Women's Federation. Zheng is 38 and said many of her friends had been extremely curious about her pregnancy, asking endless questions to decide if it was worth the risk of having another child at their age. “Due to financial reasons, most people don't want to have a lot of kids anyway,” she said. “They're all very hesitant. From the perspective of an ordinary citizen, I think it would have been better to end this policy earlier.” ^ top ^

Local legislative elections start in 29 provincial regions (Xinhua)
Elections of new lawmakers at county and township levels across China have been completed or are being carried out in 29 provincial-level regions since the first half of this year. More than 900 million voters are expected to directly elect more than 2.5 million such lawmakers, the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee said Thursday. Deputies to township and county people's congresses are directly elected in China. They in turn elect deputies to the congresses of cities who then elect provincial deputies. NPC deputies are elected by the congresses of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. Via the NPC and local congresses Chinese people are involved in managing state affairs and the exercise of state power. ^ top ^

Chinese Catholic conference vows to uphold independence principle (Global Times)
The national conference of Chinese Catholic representatives that ended Thursday vowed to uphold the principle of independence and self-governance, as analysts expressed optimism over the ongoing dialogue between the Chinese government and the Vatican. "Sticking to the principle of independence and self-governance as well as a system of national congresses embodies the self-esteem and confidence of the Catholic Church in China. They are the foundation of the church's existence," said a statement released after the Ninth National Congress of the Chinese Catholic Representatives held from Tuesday to Thursday in Beijing. The Chinese Catholic Church will stick to its sinicization path, adapt to the socialist society and align itself closely with the Communist Party of China with General Secretary Xi Jinping as the core, said Bishop Ma Yinglin in his closing speech. The conference re-elected Bishop Fang Xingyao, chairman of the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), and Bishop Ma Yinglin, head of the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC). Neither of the organizations is recognized by the Vatican, which claims they are inconsistent with Catholic doctrines, but the Holy See stopped short of condemning the conference this time as it had done before. The conference also elected 17 representatives as deputy chairmen of the patriotic association and the BCCCC, including Bishop Zhan Silu of Mindong, East China's Fujian Province, Bishop Lei Shiyin of Leshan, Southwest China's Sichuan Province and Bishop Huang Bingzhang of Shantou, South China's Guangdong Province, who were consecrated without the Vatican's blessing. Officials from the administration and the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee attended the closing ceremony. State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) director Wang Zuoan said during the conference on Tuesday that the Chinese government's position in improving ties with the Vatican has been long-standing and consistent. China hopes the Vatican can adopt a more flexible and pragmatic attitude and create opportunities to improve ties, he said. A total of 365 Catholic representatives from 31 provincial-level regions around China attended the conference, six years after the last congress. ^ top ^

Xinhua selects top 10 domestic news events in 2016 (Xinhua)
Xinhua has selected the top ten news events happened in China in 2016. Following are the events in chronological order.
1. INTRA-PARTY CAMPAIGN TO IMPROVE SELF-DISCIPLINE AND SOCIALIST VALUES On Feb. 28, 2016, the general office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee released a plan to launch an education campaign among all Party members to reinforce their study on the Party rules and values. The campaign, which is "a major political task" according to the plan, focuses on the study of the Party Constitution and rules, as well as remarks made by General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping. The campaign also required the Party members to improve themselves, ensuring themselves to be qualified as members of the CPC, which includes thinking and acting in conformity with the CPC Central Committee's policies and guidelines, and working hard to serve the people and make contribution to social progress and economic development. Following the plan, the campaign has been launched in local Party committees around China, with various study activities being held and a number of outstanding Party members being reported by media.
2. "STAY TRUE TO THE MISSION" CALL AT CPC'S 95TH FOUNDING ANNIVERSARY On July 1, 2016, the 95th founding anniversary of the CPC, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, called on CPC members to "stay true to the mission" taken up by the CPC 95 years ago. In his speech, which was made at a rally marking the anniversary, Xi summarized the major accomplishments of the CPC over, and called on his comrades to "uphold the fighting spirit" of the Party's founding members and their commitment to the people. The phrase "stay true to the mission," which was stressed repeatedly in Xi's speech, soon became a catchphrase in China and has been widely used by media and public.
3. CHINA HOSTING G20 FOR FIRST TIME From Sept. 4 to 5, China held the 11th summit of the Group of 20 (G20) in the eastern city of Hangzhou. It was the first time for China to hold the G20 Summit. The summit is also one with the highest level, largest scale and greatest influence among all summits that China held in recent years. Starting with the theme of "Toward an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy," the summit has reached consensus on a wide range of important topics and ended with a string of outcomes, including the G20 Leaders' Communique of the Hangzhou Summit and the G20 Blueprint on Innovative Growth.
4. PUNISHMENT ON LIAONING ELECTION FRAUD On Sept. 13, a National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee session confirmed to disqualify 45 deputies from northeastern Liaoning Province for electoral fraud. The 45 NPC deputies were elected from the Liaoning Provincial People's Congress with methods of vote buying and bribery during the election in 2013. A total of 523 deputies to the Liaoning Provincial People's Congress, who had either resigned or had their qualification as deputies terminated, were implicated in the case. The case was the first of its kind to take place at provincial level since the People's Republic of China (PRC) was founded. China's top legislator Zhang Dejiang said that zero-tolerance approach would be taken toward any offences in elections.
5. 80TH ANNIVERSARY OF LONG MARCH VICTORY From October 1934 to October 1936, Chinese Red Army soldiers left their bases and marched through raging rivers, frigid mountains and arid grassland to break the siege of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) forces and continue to fight the Japanese aggressors. Some of them marched as far as 12,500 kilometers. After 80 years, in 2016, activities have been held around China to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the victory of the Long March. At a commemorating gathering, President Xi hailed the Long March as an "epic, human miracle," and called for efforts to realize the "two centenary goals" and the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation in "a new Long March."
6. SIXTH PLENARY SESSION OF 18TH CPC CENTRAL COMMITTEE From Oct. 24 to 27, the sixth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee was held in Beijing, approving new efforts to strengthen the Party governance. The session approved two documents, which are the norms of political life within the Party under the new situation and a regulation on intra-Party supervision, aiming at stricter governance inside the Party. Also according to a communique issued after the session, all CPC members are called on to "closely unite around the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core," which confirmed the leading core in the Party.
7. INTERPRETATION TO BASIC LAW OF HONG KONG SAR On Nov. 7, China's top legislature adopted an interpretation to Article 104 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), following some legislators-elect's behavior. While Article 104 requires members of the legislative council to swear to uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR of the PRC when assuming office, a handful of legislators-elect violated the stipulation by publicly advocating "Hong Kong Independence" and insulting the Chinese nation during swearing-in. The interpretation of Article 104 stressed that oath taking is a legal prerequisite and required procedure for public officers elected to office, and that an oath taker must take the oath sincerely and solemnly. The oath, which includes "will uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR of the PRC, bear allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR of the PRC," is required to be accurately, completely and solemnly read out, according to the interpretation. According to a spokesman with the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, the interpretation demonstrates the central government's firm determination and will against "Hong Kong independence," and underscores the authority of the Basic Law and the rule of law in Hong Kong.
8. GUIDELINE ON BETTER PROTECTION OF PROPERTY RIGHTS On Nov. 27, China released a guideline on better protection of property rights, the first time for China to issue a guideline of state level on protection of property rights. Issued by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, the guideline pledges to provide equal, comprehensive and law-based protection to all kinds of property rights. The guideline, which also encourages the participation of the public in the process and requires to solve major problems concerning property rights and to build a long-term mechanism, is regarded as an effort to shore up social confidence and promote social justice.
9. WRONGLY EXECUTED MAN ACQUITTED 21 YEARS AFTER EXECUTION On Dec. 2, Nie Shubin, a man convicted of raping and murdering a woman on the outskirts of Hebei provincial capital, Shijiazhuang, had his conviction overturned by the Supreme People's Court (SPC), 21 years after he was executed. Nie was executed at the age of 21 in 1995, while in 2005 another man Wang Shujin, who was given the death sentence in unconnected rape and murder cases, admitted his guilt and said Nie was innocent. In 2014, the SPC ordered reinvestigation on the case, and based on the investigation, the retrial in 2016 ended with the verdict that the previous conviction was based on insufficient evidence and unclear facts. A number of wrongful convictions have been publicized and revoked in recent years, including the famous case that an 18-year-old man named Huugjilt was executed for rape and murder in 1996 but acquitted in 2014. The overturn of Nie's conviction is regarded to be of "major historical and realistic significance," and also an implementation of rule of law and a demonstration of social progress and judicial justice.
10. SEEKING PROGRESS WHILE MAINTAINING STABILITY From Dec. 14 to 16, the Central Economic Work Conference was held in Beijing, confirming "seeking progress while maintaining stability" as the main theme for China's development in 2017. As China's economy has entered the "new normal," the country has launched a series of new policies with a focus on the supply-side structural reform. While slowed from its previous double-digit growth, the Chinese economy expanded 6.7 percent steadily in the first three quarters and is ending 2016 on a firm footing. ^ top ^

Xinhua Insight: China's new supervisory system to strengthen anti-graft work (Xinhua)
A pilot program reforming China's supervisory system will provide a significantly more powerful system to strengthen the crackdown on graft. Endorsed by China's top legislature, the pilot will set up new supervisory commissions in Beijing, and Shanxi and Zhejiang provinces by integrating their respective governments' supervision departments and corruption prevention bureaus, as well as the divisions for handling bribery, dereliction of duty and prevention of duty-related crimes under their People's Procuratorates. Forming a more centralized, authoritative and efficient supervisory system is a major political reform for the country, the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee said in its decision made Sunday. Such supervision commissions are "anti-corruption agencies by their nature", said Wang Qishan, secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), in November. China has been stepping up its anti-corruption efforts since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012. While cracking down on corrupt officials at both senior and grassroots levels, it sets great store by establishing stricter and complete systems to put powers in a cage of regulations. After the norms of the Party political life under new circumstances and a regulation on intra-Party supervision were released November, the supervisory system reform is another step to restrict power and fight corruption. INTEGRATION FOR EFFICIENCY The integration of various anti-graft powers is a highlight of the reform, said Mo Jihong, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) Institute of Law. "Currently it is relatively difficult for scattered supervisory powers in different departments to perform supervision duties," said Xu Yaotong, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance. The reform has united these scattered powers, helping to build a more authoritative and efficient system, Xu added. The supervisory commissions are authorized to supervise, investigate and impose punishment on all public employees in the three pilot regions, and take up to 12 different measures, including interrogation, detention, and freezing of assets in doing their jobs. RESPONSIBLE TO LEGISLATURE Unlike the government's supervisory agencies in the past, the new supervisory commissions will have their heads elected by the people's congresses. Supervisory commissions will be responsible to legislative bodies on their own level, as well as to supervisory commissions at a superior level. In this way, the commission becomes a supervisory organ in parallel with the government, which is different from the traditional administrative supervision body inside the government, said Ma Huaide, a law professor and vice president of China University of Political Science and Law. This is in accordance with democratic supervision, and will help build a more rigorous legal supervision system, he added. COVERING ALL In his November remarks, Wang Qishan said the new supervisory commissions will work along with existing CPC discipline inspection commissions to supervise "all employees with public powers." The supervision commissions cover areas that are not covered by CPC discipline inspection commissions, which will help build an environment where officials dare not, will not and can not go corrupt, said Ma. ^ top ^

China to build more high-speed railways in five years: white paper (Xinhua)
China will build more high-speed railways as part of its efforts to establish a comprehensive transport system during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), according to a white paper issued Thursday by the State Council Information Office. The white paper, titled Development of China's Transport, said China will increase the length of high-speed railways in service to 30,000 kilometers by 2020, which will link more than 80 percent of its big cities. The country will renovate 30,000 kilometers of expressways and provide tarmac and cement roads and shuttle bus services for administrative villages with the necessary conditions, while all villages will have access to mail service, it said. China will build commuting circles of 1 to 2 hours between the central cities and between central and peripheral cities, and one-hour commuting circles between central cities and key peripheral towns. With priority focused on public transit, China will speed up the development of its urban rail and bus rapid transit, and other means of high-capacity public transport, according to the white paper. By 2020, intercity railway networks will be completed in several urban agglomerations including the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta areas. The white paper said more efforts will be made in cities with 3 million or more residents to form urban rail transport networks, and about 3,000 kilometers of new tracks will be added to the current urban rail transit system. China will also move to build integrated transport hubs, promote the green and intelligent development of transport services and improve safety in the transport industry, it said. The country is aiming to build a comprehensive transport network that spreads from east to west and south to north, construct passageways that extend beyond its borders, and develop sea routes for the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road in the five-year period, said the white paper. ^ top ^

Xinhua Insight: Xi gets to the core of national rejuvenation (Xinhua)
One November afternoon three years ago, Xi Jinping met an elderly woman while visiting a poor mountain village in central China's Hunan Province. A ballad about their brief tete-a-tete, titled "Don't Know How Should I Address You?" after the question the farmer asked Xi when she first saw him, was a hit earlier this year. Since taking the helm of China's ruling party four years ago, Xi has collected a string of new titles. He is head of an array of "leading groups" overseeing areas such as China's economic development and national defense. He is commander-in-chief of a newly installed joint battle command center under the Central Military Commission. He is "Xi Dada" or "Papa Xi" on Chinese social networks. But none carries the weight of his latest title: the "core" of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and its Central Committee. The endorsement of Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, as the core leader at the sixth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in late October was perhaps the most attention-grabbing event of China's political calendar this year. In a communique released after the October meeting that brought together high-ranking CPC officials in Beijing, the Party called on all its members to "closely unite around the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core." Being the core does not confer Xi any extra power. Still, analysts point out that the new position is key for China to keep itself and the Party on the right track of development, and it marks the turning of a new chapter in the long march toward achieving the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation. THE NEED FOR A CORE The CPC, which turned 95 this year, has been the sole ruling party of New China since its founding in 1949. In the nearly seven decades since, the country has managed to turn itself from a nation scarred by foreign aggression and civil war into the world's second-largest economy and a major player on the world stage. The CPC's leadership proved pivotal in this epic transformation. For any country or political party, having a core figure at the center of leadership is of vital importance to both state and party governance. This is especially true for China, which boasts a population of over 1.3 billion, and for the CPC whose membership exceeds 88 million. Without an authoritative, influential and experienced Party chief at its very core, the country and Party could fall flat in uniting the people and pooling wisdom to formulate and implement suitable policies. As China enters the home stretch in building a "moderately prosperous society," identifying a core leader is more relevant than ever. China has committed to the "two centenary goals," pegged to the 100th anniversaries of the CPC and the People's Republic of China. By 2020, China's GDP and per-capita income should double from 2010 levels and the building of a moderately prosperous society should be completed. By the middle of this century, China should become a modern socialist country that is "prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious." By drawing up an overall plan for promoting all-round socialist economic, political, cultural, social and ecological development, Xi is determined to lead his country toward the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation at a time when sustaining a fast rate of growth is becoming increasingly difficult. While at it, he has also proposed the strategic layout of the "Four Comprehensives" and the philosophy of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development as engines of growth. Today, China is one of the world's fastest growing major economies and a top trading body. It boasts a strong military of over 2 million and is the biggest contributor to international peacekeeping personnel among permanent members of the UN Security Council. With inclusive programs such as the Belt and Road Initiative -- proposed by Xi and launched in 2013 -- and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), China has also shown that it is committed to connecting regions and countries while creating development opportunities for all. The Chinese president's vision and ventures toward a fairer global governance system have also helped China create an open, inclusive and responsible image on the international stage. Never before have the Chinese people been so close to realizing their dreams. In an editorial published in late October, the CPC mouthpiece People's Daily hailed Xi's core status as of great importance to China and the CPC. "China and the CPC... need a core for the Party and its Central Committee, to bond the Party, to unite the people, to tide over the challenges and to continue to forge ahead," it read. ^ top ^

Cities urged to prepare better for migrant inflow (China Daily)
Governments need to increase rural migrants' access to social services and improve environmental conditions to cope with challenges amid the nation's urbanization process, a senior official with the nation's top economic planning body said on Tuesday. Xu Lin, director-general of the Department of Developmental Planning of the National Development and Reform Commission, said many cities are not yet well prepared to cope with the challenges brought by rural migrants. With rising urban population density, major challenges include a rising level of air pollution, equal access to educational opportunities and high-quality and comprehensive healthcare for urban and rural residents alike, according to Xu. The nation is aiming for an urbanization rate of 60 percent by 2020. Cities urged to prepare better for migrant inflow The figure was 56.1 percent at the end of last year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Zhou Muzhi, a professor at Tokyo Keizai University, said that in order to cope with challenges, Chinese cities need to improve their performance in many aspects instead of focusing only on economic growth. Zhou cited the example of Beijing, which outstripped its closest economic competitor Shanghai to rank at the top of 295 cities nationwide, according to the China Integrated City Index, which ranks cities according to economic and social development and environmental quality. Despite relatively high economic performance, the city needs to make a lot more efforts to secure its ranking in areas such as the environment and social development, he said. "Urban areas need to take actions before more population comes in," he added. "The trend of more population inflows to developed regions, such as Beijing, is irreversible." Cities in China's three major urban clusters - the Yangtze River Delta, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the Pearl River Delta - currently attract huge population inflows, according to Zhou. Seventeen of the top 30 cities where migrants outnumber permanent residents are located in those three clusters, the index showed. Co-compiled by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Cloud River Urban Research Institute, the China Integrated City Index, released earlier this month, is the first authoritative and comprehensive study of its kind. ^ top ^

Thousands visit Mao's hometown in Hunan Province to mark leader's birthday (Global Times)
Thousands of people swarmed the hometown of Mao Zedong on Monday to celebrate the 123rd birth anniversary of the leader of Chinese revolution and founding father of the People's Republic of China. While the late Chairman is still seen as a controversial figure for the mistakes he made in his political campaigns, his hometown Shaoshan, a small city in Central China's Hunan Province, was packed with his worshippers despite intermittent rain before and during the anniversary. Thousands of visitors from provinces and cities around China reveled until midnight, and more than 10,000 people congregated at the city square, local police in Shaoshan told the Global Times. According to the city's Party committee publicity department, some 40,000 people arrived in Shaoshan on Sunday evening. Songs associated with Mao's era, usually called red songs, were played loudly in the square and people holding umbrellas stood around a giant statue of the leader, as Mao impersonators performed and posed for photographs with visitors. Deng Fei, a visitor from Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province, told the Global Times that he comes here every year, but he was not happy with the security check outside the square intended to prevent terrorist attacks. "We are all Mao's followers and we can defeat any type of terrorist!" he said. The visitors who came to Shaoshan on Sunday were welcomed by a message from the local police reminding them they could have a bowl of "longevity noodles" for free. The noodles are usually prepared for birthday celebrations in China as a symbol of long life. The noodles were donated by Yu Xiang, a local food company in Hunan Province. In Beijng, thousands of people visited the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall in Tiananmen Square on Sunday and Monday to get a glimpse of the late Chairman, whose body is kept inside the facility. Visitor numbers on the two days were 10 times higher than on normal days, the manger of the hall told the Global Times. During the day, a large number of people visited Tiananmen Square, where a giant portrait of Mao was hung on the rostrum overlooking the square. A visitor from the UK who did not want to be named said, "We learnt about Chairman Mao in school and also learnt about the revolution and the society he built here [in China]. If you look around, you can see his legacy everywhere. Obviously people are proud of him. It's fantastic to experience that [the birth anniversary of Mao]." Festival proposal In recent years, a number of leftist organizations in China including one called Hong Ge Hui (Red Song Association) have called on the government to commemorate Mao's birth anniversary more prominently by making it a national festival and giving it a name like "Dong Sheng Jie" (Eastern Holy Festival), "People's Festival" or "Mao-mas" (derived from Christmas). However, Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee, told the Global Times, "This idea is not realistic because at the Second Session of the Seventh Conference of the CPC in 1949, Mao himself stated that the CPC leaders' birthdays should not be celebrated by the people. So if the government makes December 26 a national holiday, it will be against the norms Mao established for the whole Party since 1949." Su added that it is reasonable for the public to commemorate Mao and that they can call December 26 whatever they want to, but the government will only call it "the birthday of Mao Zedong." In Shaoshan, many visitors wore scarves with characters reading "People's Festival" and an image of Mao. "Mao was a great patriot and national hero, and a great man who led the Chinese people to change the destiny of the country," President Xi Jinping said at a seminar on December 26, 2013 to mark the 120th anniversary of Mao's birth. Su said Mao's greatest legacy in modern China is the socialist political, cultural and economic system that he built, with Deng Xiaoping just fixing Mao's mistakes without changing the foundation of the entire system. "Without Mao's exploration and trial and error during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), Deng Xiaoping would not know which road was correct," Su said. ^ top ^

China jails nine over protests in Guangdong “democracy” village (SCMP)
A court in southern China has handed out jail terms of up to 10 years to nine people from a Chinese fishing village once seen as a cradle of grassroots democracy after finding them guilty of illegal protests and other charges. Wukan, in Guangdong province, erupted in renewed protest in September. Unrest had rumbled on since June after the arrest of a popular leader who was finally jailed in October for corruption, charges widely disputed in Wukan. China upholds corruption conviction of Wukan village chief The village received international attention when a 2011 uprising over land grabs forced authorities in Communist Party-ruled China to back down and grant local direct elections. The Haifeng County court said in a statement late on Monday that the nine had been jailed for crimes including illegal demonstrations, disturbing traffic and intentionally spreading false information. The court did not specify sentences for individuals, but said the sentences ranged from two years to 10 years in jail. An indictment from the same court earlier this month said their crimes occurred between June and September this year. Symbol of China's rural democracy: five years of struggle in Wukan land grab protests While low-level democratic experiments have been tried in villages across China, Wukan's took place in the glare of both domestic and international publicity, and marked a rare moment when Communist Party officials backed down in the face of protest. Beijing leaders are fearful of growing calls for democracy and losing their grip on power. Weeks of “umbrella revolution” pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, 170km southwest of Wukan, in 2014 presented Beijing with one of its biggest political challenges in decades. ^ top ^

China's top legislature concludes bimonthly session (Xinhua)
China's top legislature on Sunday concluded its bimonthly session, passing laws on traditional Chinese medicine and environmental tax and approving pilot reform of the supervisory system, among others. Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, presided over the closing meeting. The top legislature decided that the Fifth Session of the 12th NPC will be convened on March 5 next year. Lawmakers decided to submit the draft General Provisions of Civil Law to the Fifth Session of 12th NPC. The general provisions are the first step in establishing a civil code. They adopted a new law to tax polluters, particularly heavy industry, and new legislation on improving cultural services and promoting traditional Chinese medicine. Lawmakers decided on piloting supervisory system reform in Beijing and the provinces of Shanxi and Zhejiang. New supervision committees will be established in the three areas to produce an integrated supervision system that will be more authoritative and efficient. A criminal judicial assistance treaty between China and Malaysia was also ratified. After the session was concluded, the NPC Standing Committee held an oath-taking ceremony for newly-appointed officials to pledge their allegiance to the Constitution. ^ top ^

Chinese police confirm missing rights activist being held in detention (SCMP)
A prominent Chinese rights campaigner is being detained on suspicion of subversion, according to an official notice sent to his family a month after he disappeared. Jiang Tianyong went missing on November 21 in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, his wife Jin Bianling said earlier. This week her father received a notice by registered mail from the city's public security bureau stating Jiang since December 1 had been held under supervision at a residential location in Zhengzhou in Henan province. Typically authorities use this type of detention to muzzle outspoken government critics, holding them for weeks or even months before deciding whether to bring charges. If found guilty of subversion, Jiang could face up to 15 years in jail, according to his lawyer Chen Jinxue. Another lawyer earlier told the South China Morning Post Changsha police said Jiang was being held for trying to use other people's identification to buy train tickets. Jin said she was relieved to learn her husband was still alive but feared what might come. “I'm extremely worried and fearful over his health. He needs to take regular medicine to stabilise his blood pressure. We don't know if his medical needs will be addressed.” Jin, who left China with the couple's daughter to live in California, said authorities had tortured Jiang during previous detentions. On one occasion, eight of his ribs were broken. Jiang was a lawyer before being disbarred in 2009 but continued his activism, most recently helping to publicise the plight of nearly two dozen lawyers arrested in a broad crackdown that began last year in July and which saw hundreds of rights campaigners rounded up. Chen said they were seeking to meet Jiang as soon as possible to ensure his rights were being respected. They were suing Changsha police for violating the criminal law which requires law enforcement authorities to notify the family of the accused within 24 hours of detention, he said. Jin said they also intended to press forward with defamation lawsuits against seven mainland media outlets. “In those reports, they accused him of leaking state secrets, colluding with foreign forces and called him a liar and a fake lawyer. None of this is accurate,” she said. Jiang's disappearance drew concern from United Nations special rapporteur on human rights Philip Alston, who feared the detention was a reprisal over an earlier meeting they had. At least four diplomats paid a visit to the house of Jiang's father in Xinyang in Henan, the family said. Jin said her message to Jiang was to remain strong. “Me and our daughter miss you terribly. You must hold on and stay strong no matter what they do to you and come out alive,” she said. ^ top ^



Family of Beijing man who died in police custody drops appeal, lawyer says (SCMP)
The family of a young man in Beijing who died in police custody have reached a settlement with law enforcement authorities over his death, according to the family's lawyer. They would not seek to appeal a decision by prosecutors that the conduct of the five officers involved in the choking and beating of environmental scientist Lei Yang, 29, did not warrant criminal charges. All the officers have either been sacked or transferred, according to Beijing police. On May 7, Lei left his home in Changping district for the airport to pick up his parents who were visiting after the birth of his son a month earlier. Lei was taken into custody by plain-clothes officers amid circumstances that remain unclear. They later said he was picked up for solicitation. He was taken to hospital less than an hour later where he was declared dead. Many members of the public questioned the police account of the events that led up to his death and accused authorities of staging a cover-up. Lawyer Chen Youxi said on WeChat the family had signed a settlement and agreed not to pursue further action. “The huge pressure and mental and physical effort of long lawsuits is more than what the two elders [Lei's parents] could take,” Chen said. He declined a request for a telephone interview. The value of the settlement was not disclosed. The family said in earlier statements they would “absolutely” not accept the decision by the Fengtai district prosecutors' office and would seek an appeal. The office released a statement on Friday stating the five police officers, including Xing Yongrui, a deputy station director, choked Lei shortly before his death. They also pressed their knees against his neck and face, and stamped on his face. Lei showed signs of suffocating, but the officers failed to send him to hospital in time, it said. They later tried to cover up the case and stall an investigation by lying. Xing said during a television interview Lei died of a heart attack after trying to flee. Lei's death was closely related to his attempt to escape, the office said. The municipal Public Security Bureau said in a statement on Thursday Xing was expelled from the Communist Party and sacked. Another officer was removed from his law enforcement unit and his administrative ranking revoked. Three auxiliary officers and security guards were fired and six senior police officials were given warnings or sacked. ^ top ^

Calls by Chinese lawyers for end to aggressive child custody tactics (SCMP)
Dai Xiaolei last saw her son in 2014 when he was 17 months old and living with her Chinese in-laws outside the capital Beijing. Her marriage was crumbling and as relations with her husband's family worsened, they blocked her from entering the house and taking him back to her home in Beijing, she said. “The last time I saw my son was at the end of this alley. It's almost like a fortress,” Dai, 37, said outside the home of her former in-laws in Baoding, 156 km from Beijing. Dai said the family had prevented her in all her subsequent attempts to see her son. Reuters was unable to independently verify her account. Her husband, Liu Jie, filed for divorce, arguing that their marriage had fallen apart due to “conflicts in character, ideas and living habits”, according to the court ruling seen by Reuters. Dai pushed for custody, but in April a judge dissolved the marriage and ruled that it was best for the boy's “healthy physical and mental growth” to be raised by his father, the court ruling said. Liu, a movie stunt coordinator, and his family declined to comment when contacted by Reuters. As China's divorce rates rise, so too have calls by lawyers for an application of a new domestic violence law that would clamp down on aggressive tactics used by some parents to take and retain possession of children to gain the upper hand in custody battles. Lawyers say judges tend to favour the parent who has physical possession of the child, creating an incentive for a father or mother to take their child to gain an advantage in court. Dai appealed against the April ruling to get custody of her son and lost. In its rejection of the appeal, issued on November 30, the court said the child's living environment was relatively stable and any change to this would not be beneficial to his upbringing. There are currently no laws against one parent taking sole possession of a child against the wishes of the other parent, lawyers say, reflecting a traditional view that conflicts between family members are considered private matters. The Supreme People's Court, China' highest court, declined to comment on specific cases when contacted by Reuters, but it said “maximising benefit to the child is the basic principle by which custody decisions are made”. China's divorce rate since 2002 has more than tripled to 2.8 per 1,000 people last year, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. This is higher than the most recent official estimates for the European Union at 2.1 divorces per 1,000 people in 2011 and catching up to the United States at 3.2 in 2014 as increasingly individualistic aspirations compete with traditional notions of marriage. While official data is not publicly available, Yan Jun, a judge in Beijing's Haidian court, estimated that children were taken from spouses in 60 per cent of cases where both parents were seeking custody. “The data tells us that divorce cases where husbands and wives snatch children from each other are by no means in the minority,” Yan wrote in an article posted on the court's website in March. Under Chinese law, parents are rarely granted joint legal custody, as is the case in some countries where both parents share the responsibility of raising the child after a divorce. Instead judges give one parent “direct custody”, often preferring to maintain the status quo living arrangement for a child aged between two and 10, some lawyers say. A lawyer at a Beijing family law firm, who declined to be identified, said child snatching often took place before divorce proceedings commence, by which point the parent can argue the child has a stable living environment with them. Li Ying, a Beijing-based lawyer and advocate for parental rights, said aggressive snatching tactics should be prosecuted under China's new domestic violence law enacted in March. Under these laws, beatings, frequent verbal abuse, and threatening behaviour are considered forms of domestic violence. Some family law lawyers argue that preventing a child from seeing their parent is restricting the child's physical liberty, while preventing a parent from seeing her child could be considered a form of psychological abuse. Even when judges rule in their favour, some mothers complain about a lack of enforcement and sometimes take matters into their own hands. One mother, who did not want to be named because her dealings with the court were ongoing, said she hired a private detective who found her son living under a fake name with an aunt of her former husband in a northern city in China. The court had awarded her custody but when she complained months later that the order had not been enforced, a court official was blunt. “She told me, 'Don't just depend on the courts. Are you working hard enough yourself or are you just depending on us to get your child back?”. Reuters was unable to independently verify her account. ^ top ^



Former close subordinate of Xi Jinping expected to become Shanghai mayor (SCMP)
Ying Yong, a former close subordinate of President Xi Jinping, is expected to be appointed mayor of Shanghai, replacing Yang Xiong at the helm of the mainland's commercial hub. Ying, 57, worked under Xi during his tenure as Zhejiang Communist Party chief from 2003 to 2007, and becomes the latest trusted subordinate of the president to take a leading position in a key provincial-level region. According to two local government sources who were briefed on the personnel change, the elevation of Ying was decided by the mainland leadership earlier this year and is expected to be announced soon. Ying currently serves as vice-mayor. Between 2003 and 2007, Ying assumed a series of senior party and government roles in Zhejiang, including deputy secretary of the party's commission for discipline inspection, chief of the supervision bureau and head of the higher court. He was appointed chief of the Shanghai Higher People's Court in 2008 before assuming a role in the party's organisation department five years later. In 2014, Ying was promoted to deputy party secretary of Shanghai. “The appointment of Ying as Shanghai mayor wasn't a surprise since he was groomed to take an important job in the city,” said a Shanghai government source who requested anonymity. Ying was named an executive vice-mayor of Shanghai in September, a move seen as paving the way for him to replace Yang, the sources said. He will become the second-highest ranking official in Shanghai, behind Party Secretary Han Zheng who is a member of the central committee's Politburo. Yang became Shanghai mayor in February 2013. During his mayoralty, he led the city to build the mainland's first free-trade zone and oversaw the construction of the Shanghai Disneyland. His appointment as mayor was seen as a departure from Communist Party norms as Yang failed to gain a seat on the Party's central committee and was not a member of the city's party standing committee, although he is now. ^ top ^



'Living Buddhas' take national unity courses (Global Times)
Safeguarding national unity and opposing separatism were the themes of national unification courses 38 Tibetan Buddhist monks, including Living Buddhas, took at the Central Institute of Socialism (CIS) in Beijing, media reported Saturday. The two-week courses, which began on December 13, focused on the enhanced recognition of Chinese culture, building sound religious relations and promoting the sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism. Safeguarding national unity and opposing separatism are the basis of "the great unification," which is not only the viewpoint of ancient Chinese but also the cornerstone of modern Chinese values, Pan Yue, Party Chief and CIS Vice President, said in a speech at the opening ceremony, news site reported. "Tibet has been part of China since ancient times and has been under the central government's administrative governance since the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)," said Wang Xiaobin, a scholar at the Beijing-based China Tibetology Research Center. "The formation of nation-states in the West as well as its theory and standard are different from those of Eastern countries, especially China," Wang was quoted by news site, a website affiliated with the Chinese government, as saying on Saturday. "The Tibet question or Tibet issue were coined to seek independence while seeming to recognize that Tibet is part of China," Wang said, noting that there is no issue with Tibet. One Living Buddha said real Living Buddhas have been approved by the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government and has won the support of believers, considering that there are many fake Living Buddhas in the Chinese mainland, according to a report on the CIS website. "Tibetan Buddhism has been part of Chinese culture, be it in ancient or modern times. Chinese culture is a combination of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism," said a 25-year-old Living Buddha, who was raised in the Han area and speaks perfect Mandarin. A training course for newly reincarnated Living Buddhas, including a visit to late Chinese leader Mao Zedong's Memorial Museum, was completed in late October in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province. The Living Buddhas learnt about national religious policies and socialist core values at the Tibetan Institute of Socialism, the Xinhua News Agency reported. ^ top ^



China's Xinjiang region plagued by violent attacks that Beijing blames on Uygur separatists (SCMP)
China's western region of Xinjiang has been plagued by violent attacks over the years, which Beijing blames on Uygur separatists. It has claimed Uygur separatists have gone to Central Asia and Syria for training as “jihadists” (holy warriors), and sneaked back to Xinjiang to plot attacks. However, some people from the Muslim-dominated region have complained about Beijing's repressive policies, which they claim restrict religious freedom. Here we take a look at some of the violent attacks and riots in the region during past years. 2008 March 7: Uygur woman, 19, tries to blow up passenger plane flying from Urumqi to Beijing, according to Ministry of Public Security August 4: Sixteen police officers killed and 16 others hurt in Kashgar when two Uygurs ram truck into squad of jogging armed policemen, Xinhua reports 2009 July 5: Clashes between Uygurs and Han Chinese leave 197 dead and more than 1,600 injured in Urumqi September 16: Police detain six suspects for making more than 20 bombs, Public Security Ministry says; bombs and materials to make more explosives found at three sites on outskirts of Aksu 2013 March 8: At least four people killed and eight others injured in knife attack in Korla in central Xinjiang, regional officials say. Fight was dispute over money at gaming arcade, The New York Times quotes local hotel manager as saying 2014 July 28: Some 96 people die in Shache in riots that coincide with Eid al-Fitr holiday, according to official accounts, in what is deadliest violence in region in five years. According to officials, 37 civilians killed and 59 assailants shot dead by police. An additional 215 people arrested. Overseas Uygur rights group calls it massacre, saying thousands were killed 2015 September 18: At least 50 people die, including five police officers, in attack on coal mine in central western county of Baicheng in Aksu, Radio Free Asia reports. Local police blame knife-wielding separatists. ^ top ^



Britain, China forged 1987 deal on direct elections for Hong Kong, archives reveal (SCMP)
Britain secured a “private commitment” from Beijing in 1987 that provision for direct elections for the Legislative Council would be included in the Basic Law if they were not introduced until after the mini-constitution was promulgated in 1990. The existence of the mutual understanding came to light in British cabinet files recently declassified from the National Archives in London. The files also revealed that the British government had considered the idea of creating a post of deputy governor in the early 1990s which would be filled by a chief executive-designate who would be selected after consultation with Beijing. The person would then become Hong Kong's first chief executive in 1997. In a minute to then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher on October 2, 1987, then foreign secretary Geoffrey Howe wrote that “during the summer, the Chinese have continued to represent to us their view that we should not introduce direct elections in 1988”. “We proposed [to Beijing] that the white paper in early 1988 should acknowledge public support in principle for an element of direct elections, and state that these would be introduced in 1991 and 1992,” Howe wrote. “For their part the Chinese would make it clear that the Basic Law would permit an element of direct elections to the Legco into the years after 1997. The Chinese replied that if direct elections were not introduced until after the promulgation of the Basic Law [in 1990], the Chinese government would see that there was appropriate provision for them in the Basic Law,” the foreign secretary wrote. In a minute to Thatcher's private secretary Charles Powell on October 29, 1987, Anthony Galsworthy, Howe's principal private secretary, wrote that “we have secured from the Chinese a private commitment that if direct elections are not introduced until after the promulgation of the Basic Law [in 1990], there will be an appropriate provision for them in the Basic Law.” “The Chinese also agreed that the white paper to be published next February [1988] could state with an 'appropriate reference' to the Basic Law that direct elections will be introduced in 1991 or 1992,” Galsworthy wrote. The white paper stated that the Hong Kong government noted that “all the options in the latest draft of the Basic Law concerning the election of the future legislature include an element of direct elections”. Direct elections for the 1988 Legco were ruled out after the colonial government set up an office to gauge public opinion and concluded people were “sharply divided” over its introduction that year. The Hong Kong government was criticised for manipulating the views of some Beijing-friendly groups to ensure that no clear mandate for direct elections in 1988 emerged, although many surveys at the time showed more than 60 per cent supported direct elections. Eventually the Hong Kong government decided to introduce 18 directly elected seats in 1991. Martin Lee Chu-ming, a former member of the Basic Law Drafting Committee and an advocate of direct elections for 1988, said: “Now we know both sides kept Hong Kong people in the dark and that the consultation in 1987 was not genuine.” Meanwhile, from 1986, the British government explored the idea of creating a post for a chief executive-designate in the final years of British rule. In a paper drafted in September 1986, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) proposed the creation of the post as early as 1992, with the office holder becoming deputy governor. “He becomes involved in the processes of government at the highest level, and is closely consulted by the Governor on all important matters. “The chief executive-designate would assume presidency of the Executive Council in 1994 and thereby assumes executive responsibility for all areas of government except defence and foreign affairs reserved to the Governor.” In a minute sent to Thatcher in February 1988, Howe wrote that the chief executive-designate would be selected in 1996 following consultation with Beijing and would occupy the special post until he was formally appointed chief executive on July 1, 1997. “From about 1995, the Chinese might be informed of appointments at the highest levels in the Hong Kong government,” he wrote. “In 1996, the chief executive-designate's nominees would be brought into the posts which they were destined to occupy after July 1, 1997.” The FCO also suggested the establishment of an independent Electoral Affairs Commission, with members from Hong Kong jointly selected by Britain and China, to supervise the conduct of the last Legco elections. Allen Lee Peng-fei, an executive councillor at the time, said Beijing and London reached an agreement around 1990 that a Hongkonger of Chinese descent would be appointed deputy governor in July 1995 and the person would become the chief executive two years later. But he said the idea was shelved after the last governor Chris Patten announced in 1992 a controversial reform package for elections in 1994 and 1995 which angered Beijing. ^ top ^

When the Tiananmen crackdown sparked British fears about 5 million Hong Kong refugees (SCMP)
The 1989 Tiananmen crackdown prompted Margaret Thatcher's cabinet to consider seeking international help in the “worst case situation” of a mass exodus of five million Hong Kong refugees to Britain, according to a declassified record. But as history played out, the British government only granted rights of abode to 50,000 families from certain classes including the business elite. While full deliberations of the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Selection Scheme, which took effect in 1990, are yet to come to light, the public can now catch a glimpse of the discussions in the latest batch of declassified cabinet files from the National Archives in London. The files dated June and July 1989 – right after the military crackdown on the democratic movement in Beijing – reveal the heightened attention the British government gave to the campaign in Hong Kong for the rights of abode of some 3.25 million holders of British Dependent Territories Citizens (BDTC) passports. A file dated June 15, 11 days after the crackdown, saw then foreign and commonwealth secretary Geoffrey Howe telling other cabinet members in the weekly meeting that the incident had “severely shaken the confidence of Hong Kong”. Howe recounted his statements to the House of Commons foreign affairs committee that the government would have to “take its obligations to Hong Kong refugees very seriously indeed, but would need to seek the widest possible help on an international basis”. “In a brief discussion, it was noted that in the worst case situation described by [Howe] the number of refugees was potentially five million, the entire population of the colony,” the cabinet file read. It further stated: “British passport holders could not be denied initial entry to this country since their passports entitled them to make a short visit.” Allen Lee Peng-fei, a former Hong Kong executive councillor who paid several visits to London in 1989 to lobby British officials for rights of abode, told the Post he had not heard of this estimate from officials. “They were just deploying scare tactics,” he said. Two weeks after that meeting, Howe, while embarking on a trip to Hong Kong to “steady nerves”, suggested to the cabinet that further work needed to be done on “contingency planning for mobilising the international community” in the event of a major cataclysm leading to a mass exodus from Hong Kong. But subsequent cabinet files showed no more of such plans. To the disappointment of Hongkongers, the British government eventually granted citizenship to only 50,000 Hong Kong families, a matter of “take it or leave it” as Lee described. Meanwhile, the issue of granting rights of abode to Hongkongers was once “considered in parallel” with another thorny issue in the city – the influx of Vietnamese refugees, according to another cabinet file dated 1988. Some 25,000 Vietnamese boat people had arrived in Hong Kong by that time, causing rising complaints that the asylum seekers were straining the city's financial resources. There were calls for Britain to resettle the refugees as soon as possible. In a letter dated 5 December 1988 to her colleagues, Thatcher, through her private secretary, indicated that Britain would take in 1,000 boat people. “In her view, we should help to alleviate the problem which taking the Vietnamese boat people will create by facilitating the citizenship for Hong Kong business people,” the letter read. The prime minister wanted to reach decisions on both at the same time. It is unclear whether the crackdown six months later affected Thatcher's choices. While Lee said he and his allies did not link the fight for abode to the Vietnamese issue, “it is calculative and smart enough that [the British] would have nothing to lose if they let professionals in Hong Kong, such as doctors, entrepreneurs and accountants, settle in Britain.” ^ top ^

One year on: Hong Kong bookseller saga leaves too many questions unanswered (SCMP)
Even with the apparent return to normality for all but one of the five Hong Kong booksellers “abducted” by mainland agents a year ago, the reality of the hidden threat of repression lingers for many in the city. The forced disappearance of the five from Causeway Bay Books climaxed exactly a year ago when Lee Po, its owner, was seen boarding a van at his Mighty Current publishing office in Chai Wan at around 6pm before he was taken across the border without any official record of his departure. The incident raised fears for the city's autonomy and concerns over the potential loss of freedoms and the effectiveness of the notification mechanism, whereby Hong Kong and the mainland notify each other if a resident of one is detained by the other. After Lee's disappearance, the city slowly woke to the realisation that the Hong Kong-born British national was in fact the last of five bookstore associates to go missing. The first was Gui Minhai, co-founder of Mighty Current and a Swedish national, who disappeared from his home in the Thai resort of Pattaya in October. He is the only one still being detained in the eastern city of Ningbo. “I think the objective of the move is to purposely tighten freedom of speech in Hong Kong, and to a certain extent it has succeeded,” said Lam Wing-kee, the only one of the five Causeway Bay Books associates to speak about his kidnapping. The other four have stayed conspicuously silent. An example of this success may be a newspaper stand that features banned books and magazines near Causeway Bay Books. It has registered a drop of 60 to 70 per cent in the sale of politically sensitive titles since the disappearances. Political scientist Ma Ngok saw Lee Po's disappearance as having wider implications. “It is an important date that signals the deterioration [of 'one country, two systems'] but whether it is an isolated case or a prelude to similar cases that we will get used to has yet to be seen,” the Chinese University professor said. The case, he said, breached the bottom line for freedoms in Hong Kong, and it would take a long time to restore trust in the mainland authorities. “The lesson we learn from the case is whether we should speak out like Lam or shut up like the rest. I think we should make enough noise to defend our core values. Otherwise we'd be heading towards major calamity,” he said. Veteran journalist Ching Cheong lamented that nothing had been done to address the anxieties and fears of Hong Kong people over the case. “The SAR administration has failed to condemn an outright violation of the basic rights enshrined in the 'one country, two systems' principle. That I think in itself is a major mistake,” he said. “The case has challenged two basic elements that concern all of us as we no longer feel safe on Hong Kong soil and with a foreign passport,” he said, referring to the remark by Foreign Minister Wang Yi about Lee Po, a British passport holder, that “you are first and foremost a Chinese national”. Lau Tat-man, a veteran publisher of politically sensitive books through Ha Fai Yi Publication and the former employer of two of the missing booksellers, Lui Por and Cheung Chi-ping, before they joined Mighty Current, was concerned about Hong Kong's core values. “We were already apprehensive during the 1997 handover, and this case only fuelled fears about upholding core values including freedom, the rule of law and safety,” the publisher said. Like Lam Wing-kee, Lau said the objective of clamping down on banned books had succeeded. “We have published less, but it's also more because of the overall shrinking market than what happened to Lee Po as we still believe in freedom of speech here in Hong Kong. Realistically, why should we run the risk of publishing political books for an uncertain profit?” he said. While book publishers and stakeholders generally agreed that the aim of the crackdown on Causeway Bay Books had been met, they differed over why the case had not been closed. “They wanted something more from the bookstore and for that they have paid the rent up front for two years [from 2015 to 2017] That is why you can still see the store, albeit idle, and the large sign on Lockhart Road,” said Lam, who founded Causeway Bay Books in 1994 and sold it to Lee and Gui in 2012. He was then re-employed as store manager. Lam recalled one of the provisions he had to agree to before being set free was to run his old store again and to monitor mainland buyers of banned books and report them to the mainland authorities. “They wanted me to be their snitch and turn the bookstore into some kind of outpost for intelligence gathering,” he said, adding he had no choice but to say yes to all they asked for, including handing over the store's computer hardware containing customer data, so he could return home. Lam said the mainland authorities lacked the wisdom to get the job done properly. “The whole saga could have been avoided if the mainland authorities had talked Lee Po into selling the entire publication network, and I'm quite sure Lee would not have said no. “But they are too accustomed to resorting to their power and doing things the hard way,” he said. As a fugitive on the mainland's wanted list, Lam knew the price to pay by turning against the authorities there. “Under Hong Kong law, I am not a wanted man, but I have got used to living on high alert at all times. Still that's a better deal than being locked up on the mainland,” he said, referring to his detention from October 2015 until June 2016. Lam admitted he had been given an option to settle in Taiwan, but chose to stay in Hong Kong until “the time comes when my dear ones are threatened, then I have no choice but to leave. That would also be the end of 'one country, two systems'.” The future enactment of Article 23 provisions on national security, he added, could be that moment. While Lam could not see how the Causeway Bay Books saga would be settled, Lau looked at the source of the issue. “In the final analysis the stickiest issue at stake are China's cross-border operations, not once but twice, taking Gui from Thailand and Lee from Hong Kong,” Lau said. “The matter got even more complicated when Lee was a British national and Gui Swedish. Now that Lam has run away after behaving well, China will not be fooled a second time, and the whole thing turns into a waiting game, just like the case of [former New Evening Post chief editor]Luo Fu in the 1980s, who ended up staying in Beijing for a decade,” he said. Even as questions surrounding the booksellers remain unanswered, one stark reality is that not much appears to have changed with the notification mechanism involving the arrest of Hong Kong residents and their subsequent treatment. One example of its failure is the case of Cheng Kit-faat and Cheng Kit-shun, who were taken away for attempting to block bulldozers from demolishing the factories run by their family in the Nanshan district of Shenzhen since 1999. Their mother, Wong Lam-ying, said she remained in the dark about their fates. “I have begged the mainland authorities to release my sons. I have begged the Hong Kong government to help. My sons are just in their 20s. Who wouldn't be heartbroken to see them getting beaten up by the mainland police?” Wong said. The pair were arrested on suspicion of disrupting public officers in the execution of their duties. While the mainland authorities have informed their Hong Kong counterparts that the Cheng brothers have been detained, no other information has been provided, according to Sham Shui Po district councillor Yuen Hoi-man, who has been helping the family. “It's a slap in the face of the 'one country, two systems' principle. Both of them were injured and [Wong] has not been allowed to visit them,” the Democratic Party member said. “This case is not as high profile as the case of the booksellers and the mainland authorities still want to keep everyone in the dark.” Shortly after bookseller Lam's explosive claim that he was kidnapped by a mainland central investigation team while on his way to Shenzhen, senior Hong Kong officials visited Beijing to discuss how to improve the notification mechanism. After the first meeting, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced that both sides had agreed to inform each other within 14 days if they detained the other's residents, provide more facts relating to investigations and give notice through additional channels. Leung emphasised his administration would fight for the mechanism to cover all law enforcement agencies instead of just the mainland's public security and customs authorities, the people's procuratorates and the Ministry of State Security. About three weeks later, both sides met again in Shenzhen. Xinhua subsequently reported that the scope of the content, the time requirement and notification channels would be “modified and improved”. No details have yet been revealed. Pressed to state what, if any, changes have been made to the notification mechanism, the government's Security Bureau would only say that both sides had, during the two meetings in July, “exchanged views on revising and perfecting various aspects of the notification mechanism”. One year on, too many questions remain unanswered and the mystery of the booksellers remains unresolved. THE STORY UNFOLDS October 2015 Mighty Current shareholder Gui Minhai disappears in Thailand. Shareholder and general manager Lui Por, assistant general manager Cheung Chi-ping, and Causeway Bay Books manager Lam Wing-kee disappear on the mainland. December 30 Causeway Bay Books co-owner Lee Po last seen leaving Mighty Current's Chai Wan warehouse alone at about 6pm. He calls his wife, Sophie Choi Ka-ping, and tells her in Putonghua he is safe and assisting an investigation. January 1, 2016 Choi finds Lee's home return permit at home. Police find no record of Lee leaving the city. January 17 Gui appears on state television, saying he turned himself in for breaching conditions of a two-year suspended sentence for a drunk-driving death from 2003. January 23 Lee meets his wife at a secret mainland location and gives her a letter urging Hong Kong police to drop their investigation. February 4 Guangdong police confirm Cheung, Lui and Lam are being investigated on the mainland. February 28 Lui, Cheung and Lam appear on Phoenix TV to admit distributing unlicensed books on the mainland. February 29 Hong Kong police meet Lee at a guest house on the mainland. March 25 Lee tells media he wants to start afresh and will never run a bookstore again. He is driven off in a car with cross-border plates, which then crosses the border. June 17 Lam says he was taken away, blindfolded and handcuffed by mainland agents and put through eight months of “mental torture” across the border. July 5 Senior Hong Kong officials meet their counterparts in Beijing and secure a preliminary agreement on the need to overhaul the notification mechanism. July 28 Officials from both sides meet in Shenzhen to resume talks on improving the mechanism. Xinhua reports that the scope of the content, time requirement and notification channels would be “modified and improved”. December 23 Asked to state what changes, if any, have been made to the notification system, the Security Bureau only says Hong Kong and mainland officials have yielded “satisfactory progress”. THE NEXT CHAPTER – WHERE ARE THE FIVE NOW? Lee Po, 65, Causeway Bay Books co-owner Disappeared from Hong Kong in December 2015, returned in March 2016, and since then has lived in North Point with wife Sophie Choi Ka-ping, a columnist at Shanghai's popular Xinmin Evening News, and their autistic son. Lee is now said to commute between Hong Kong and Ningbo, south of Shanghai, where he must report regularly. Gui Minhai, 51, Mighty Current shareholder Disappeared from Pattaya, Thailand, in October 2015 and since then has been under investigation by the public security bureau in Ningbo, his hometown in Zhejiang province. Cheung Chi-ping, 32, Mighty Current assistant general manager Disappeared from the mainland in October 2015, returned to Hong Kong in March 2016 to close the case with police and went back to Dongguan in Guangdong, where he lives with his wife and child. Lam Wing-kee, 61, Causeway Bay Books store manager Disappeared from the mainland in October 2015, returned to Hong Kong in June 2016, where he lives while on the mainland police's wanted list. Lui Por, 47, Mighty Current shareholder and general manager Disappeared from the mainland in October 2015, returned to Hong Kong in March 2016 to close the case with the police, asking them to stop investigating his “missing person” file. Now lives with his wife in Shenzhen. ^ top ^

Former chief of Hong Kong arts hub questions HK$3.5b museum deal (SCMP)
A former chief of West Kowloon Cultural District has questioned the politics of the surprise HK$3.5 billion deal to recreate Beijing's Palace Museum in the arts hub. The criticism came as the dealmaker herself, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, visited the capital on Thursday for another cultural event. Speaking to the Post, Michael Lynch, chief executive of the district's governing authority from 2011 to 2015, said: “It fascinates me that a discussion on a project of this scale would not have gone through the scrutiny of [the Legislative Council].” He took issue with the announcement by Lam in Beijing last week of what seemed to be a hastily arranged plan for Hong Kong to have its own version of the Palace Museum. Lam is widely seen as a potential candidate for the coming chief executive race. “It looks like a very powerful delegation going to Beijing to announce something the people of Hong Kong haven't discussed. It seems to me it is related to politics rather than the overall development plan for West Kowloon,” he said from his home in Sydney. “Clearly something has happened and I guess that reflects some of the intensity of politics in Hong Kong since I left last year.” Officials should remember, Lynch added, that “we were doing West Kowloon not necessarily to win the confidence of Beijing or anywhere else. We were doing it as a project for the people of Hong Kong”. Lam previously dismissed concerns about a lack of transparency over the city's deal with Beijing to build the new museum, saying it would be embarrassing if a public consultation threw up opposition to it. On Lam's remarks, Lynch also told Cable TV: “That would gobsmack someone who is running the authority – it's rather extraordinary. It's a very different way than the way that we were doing. It seems to break all of the rules that apply to the other venues.” Lynch also said the inclusion of the Palace Museum deviated from the district's original plan because “West Kowloon was meant to be focused much more on contemporary arts and then a mix with performing venues”. “They got the other museums in Hong Kong that deal with historical and antiquities... and something has changed without explanation,” he complained. Lam has yet to respond to Lynch's comments. Before concluding a two-day visit to Beijing last night she unveiled a screen, known as the “Jianfu Screen”, at the Palace Museum to acknowledge five individuals and organisations for their donations to the museum's conservation work. They included three groups chaired by Hong Kong tycoons, including the China Heritage Fund, chaired by Ronnie Chan Chichung, a property developer and supporter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, which donated 100 million yuan (HK$111 million). Meanwhile, University of Hong Kong postgraduate student Cary Lo Chun-yu, a co-convenor of activist group “JR Group”, said they would apply for a judicial review against the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority over the decision to build the museum unless it promised a formal public consultation in accordance with the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority Ordinance. ^ top ^

Beijing wanted me to run for Legco presidency, Hong Kong chief executive candidate Regina Ip reveals (SCMP)
Chief executive contender Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee revealed that she was encouraged by Beijing's top man in Hong Kong to run for the Legislative Council's presidency but said this did not mean she had been discouraged from running in the city's leadership race in March. Ip, lawmaker and chairwoman of the pro-establishment New People's Party, made the revelation in an interview with the Chinese-language daily Ming Pao. Asked if she had received Beijing's blessing before announcing her bid on December 15, Ip disclosed that in a meeting with Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, he “only told me to be the Legco president. He did not say, 'you should not run' [for the chief executive]”. Ip did not say when the meeting took place, but she has previously admitted visiting the liaison office on September 5, the day after the Legco elections. Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen was elected Legco president in October. Ip dismissed the suggestion that Zhang was implying Beijing wanted her to stay in Legco rather than seeking to become Hong Kong's first woman leader. “He just thinks I'm capable of becoming the Legco president,” Ip said. “But I don't like handling procedural matters.” The Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution, stipulates that no mainland Chinese authority may interfere in affairs that Hong Kong administers on its own, but Beijing's liaison office has repeatedly been criticised by the pan-democratic camp for meddling in such matters. Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said Ip's revelation further strengthened people's impression that “the liaison office has been interfering with the Legco's polls”. In September, Liberal Party honorary chairman James Tien Pei-chun caused a stir by claiming the liaison office had told him to discourage party colleague Ken Chow Wing-kan from running in the Legco elections. Ip and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing are the only candidates who have announced they will run to succeed Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who will not seek another term. Their potential rivals include the city's No 2 and 3 officials, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, whose resignation has yet to be approved by Beijing. Lam flew to Beijing on Wednesday for official meetings on cultural exchanges, but she said she would not be meeting Beijing officials to discuss the leadership race. Meanwhile, Eddy Li Sau-hung, president of one of the city's biggest business bodies, the Chinese Manufacturers' Association, said local businesses wanted the new government to continue with some of Leung's policies. “We will be very disappointed if some policies from the current administration are abolished or delayed [under the new chief executive]” he said. Li, who nominated Leung four years ago, is one of the association's 18 representatives on the 1,194-strong Election Committee that will pick the city's next leader on March 26. ^ top ^

Hong Kong localists launch final court appeal against Legislative Council disqualification (SCMP)
Two Hong Kong pro-independence activists engulfed in an oath-taking saga, which earlier saw them ousted from the legislature, lodged a last-ditch legal bid on Wednesday to be reinstated. In their final appeal, Youngspiration lawmakers-elect Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang will ask the Court of Final Appeal to decide if Hong Kong courts have the power to determine if Beijing went beyond its powers in issuing an interpretation of the Basic Law, according to court documents their lawyers have filed. The pair, who expressed concern over lodging such an appeal for fear that it would invite further interference with the judiciary by Beijing, asked the top court to clarify whether the Hong Kong courts could rule whether a Basic Law interpretation amounted to either an amendment of the mini-constitution or a disguised interpretation of local legislation. The democratically elected pair were disqualified by the city's courts after the government filed a legal bid over anti-Beijing antics they used during a swearing-in ceremony in the Legislative Council in October. Their case prompted Beijing's National People's Congress Standing Committee to issue a controversial interpretation of the Basic Law ahead of the court ruling, stating that lawmakers should be sworn in properly, and only be given one chance to do so. In the documents the pair filed on Wednesday, the pair also asked whether the city's courts had the power to determine if a Beijing interpretation would have retrospective effect. The pair notified the Court of Appeal on the last day of the 28-day period in which they could file an appeal. They urged it to give them the green light to take their case to the highest court, where they can put forward legal arguments of “great general or public importance”. According to the documents, the appeal could also centre on whether the non-intervention principle, generally applicable for legislative affairs, should extend to cover the administration of oaths by Legco. They also asked the top court to clarify the judiciary's role in oath-taking, compared to that of the Legco oath administrator. The pair lost their cases in the Court of First Instance and then the Court of Appeal. Both courts ruled that the judiciary would be the ultimate administrator of oaths as a constitutional duty enshrined in the “supreme” Basic Law that trumps the legislature's non-intervention principle. The Court of Appeal also ruled that Hong Kong courts had no jurisdiction to determine if an interpretation went beyond Beijing's powers. After their defeat in the Court of Appeal, the pair expressed reservations about taking their case further, fearing that such a move would open the city's judiciary to more interference through further interpretations of the Basic Law. But on December 14, Leung and Yau said they had made up their minds to fight the last legal battle with argument centring on Hong Kong's core values. They said they would question the validity of a Beijing interpretation of the Basic Law, the city's separation of powers from the mainland, Legco's independence and the legitimacy of elections. The government has since launched similar court challenges over the oaths taken by pro- democracy legislators Nathan Law Kwun-chung, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Lau Siu-lai and Edward Yiu Chung-yim. The cases are expected to be heard together in February next year. ^ top ^

Residents identifying as 'Hongkongese' believe city's high degree of autonomy under threat (SCMP)
More people who identify themselves as “Hongkongese” believe the city's high degree of autonomy is under threat compared to those who consider themselves “Chinese” or a mix of the two labels, according to a survey. About two-thirds of the former group also regard the government on the mainland as the biggest threat, followed by the city's government and then the central government's liaison office. Dr Brian Fong Chi-hang, associate director of the academy of Hong Kong studies at the Education University, randomly polled 1,011 people with the help of the public opinion programme at the University of Hong Kong. Asked to rank the importance of a high degree of autonomy from one to 10, respondents scored an average of 8.1, but those who identified themselves as “Hongkongese” scored a slightly higher 8.23. About 81 per cent of “Hongkongese” felt the city's high degree of autonomy was under threat, while only 37 per cent of those who called themselves “Chinese” and 53 per cent of those who chose a mix of the two labels felt the same way. Some 30 per cent of all respondents said they were prepared to join localist social activism. The results, to be published in the academic journal Modern China next month, were partially unveiled at a discussion forum organised by university students on Tuesday entitled “The Way Forward: Hongkongers' Identity, 'Autonomy' and 'Independence'”. Also speaking on the forum panel were pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun and Demosisto member and activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung. Fong said the findings suggested that the rise of localism was a result of an “expression of resistance” to encroachment from the mainland in local politics, rather than an outright demand for independence. “Disappointment with China and in turn, rejection, are the basic foundations of the so-called localist ideology,” he said. Wong said many of the city's youth had lost faith in the “one country, two systems” policy. But Leung said doing things to irk Beijing would only exacerbate problems. Wong, citing the example of Macau, argued however that doing less would not bring about more democracy. ^ top ^

Universal suffrage back in focus for Hong Kong New Year march (SCMP)
Organisers of a January 1 march for universal suffrage are worried about a lower turnout as a result of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announcing that he will not seek a second term. Civil Human Rights Front, the group behind the event, warned that Leung's high-handed style of governance would not necessarily fade with his departure, citing recent controversies surrounding two possible successors. “Many citizens may feel relieved after [Leung's announcement] or even place their hopes on some candidates,” front convenor Au Nok-hin said. But he added that lawmaker and former minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who has officially announced her intention to run for the top job, and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, widely tipped to join the race, have both shown their liking for an iron-fisted, Beijing-first style of governance. Ip has said that she will revive the controversial Article 23 national security legislation if elected. The bill has been widely criticised amid fears it would be used to suppress opposition. In 2003, as security minister, Ip was in charge of pushing the bill through the Legislative Council, but her combative approach made her the most unpopular government official at the time. She stepped down after 500,000 people took to the streets in protest. The bill was shelved. Lam, who has not yet announced her candidacy, is deemed by many as being too close to both Beijing and Leung. She sparked calls for transparency last week after the sudden announcement of a deal with Beijing to build a HK$3.5 billion Hong Kong version of the Palace Museum in the West Kowloon Cultural District. She defended the proposal and said it would be “embarrassing” if public consultation prompted opposition. Au said the march on New Year's Day would call on the public to decry such a style of governance and Beijing's interference in the city's legal system by one-sidedly issuing amendments to laws through “interpretation”. The march would also call on the government to rescind its judicial review seeking to disqualify four elected pro-democratic lawmakers, following the Legco oath row that saw two localist lawmakers-elect removed for their anti-China sentiments. Au said the expected 50,000-strong march was intended to put the focus back on the fight for genuine universal suffrage, and the front had already gained police approval. The march will start at 2pm in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, and end in the pedestrian zone on Chater Road, Central. ^ top ^

Beijing imposes anti-independence rules on Hong Kong deputies to China's top legislature (SCMP)
Candidates running in the election of Hong Kong deputies to China's top legislature in December next year will have to make a declaration to swear allegiance to the nation and uphold its constitution as well as the city's Basic Law. The new requirement was endorsed by the National People's Congress Standing Committee at the closing session of its meetings which ended on Sunday. Ma Fung-kwok, a Hong Kong deputy who attended the session, said candidates running for election to the NPC would be required to swear allegiance to the People's Republic of China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. They would also need to pledge to uphold the city's mini-constitution and the nation's constitution. “I believe the new requirement is related to recent calls for Hong Kong independence and separatism,” Ma said. The requirement for signing an extra confirmation form was introduced in July during the nomination period for September's Legislative Council elections amid a rising tide of calls for Hong Kong independence. Critics condemned the measure as censorship of political thought and some pan-democrats questioned its legality. In October, the Electoral Affairs Commission announced that the Hong Kong government's move to screen out independence advocates from Legco Council polls would be extended to the election of the city's top leader next March. According to guidelines issued on Thursday by the Electoral Affairs Commission, chief executive candidates will have to sign a “confirmation form” to acknowledge their understanding of the Basic Law. This is in addition to the requirement for candidates to sign a declaration that they will uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR. The next five-year term of the NPC will start in 2018. The election of the 36 Hong Kong deputies is scheduled for December next year. ^ top ^

Singapore activist 'questioned by police' over hosting public talk with Hong Kong's Joshua Wong without work permit (SCMP)
A Singaporean activist has said he was questioned by the police there for hosting a forum without obtaining a work permit for Joshua Wong Chi-fung, who participated via Skype. Writing on his Facebook page on Thursday night, Jolovan Wham said Singapore's police “finally got me down to take a statement for organising” the talk on November 26 as the permit was required for a foreign speaker to take part in any public talk. Wham said he did not obtain the work permit as well as a police permit also needed for the event, but added that “my co-organiser Rachel Zeng and I went ahead anyway because it was a harmless and straightforward discussion about social movements”. The human rights activist and social worker affiliated to the Singapore-based Community Action Network told the Post: “The Singapore government should abolish such regulations. It is not befitting a country which claims to be a multicultural and cosmopolitan city.” During the talk on civil disobedience last month, Wong, 20, shared his experience in political and social activism for 19 minutes through Skype, and also took part in a discussion which lasted for about an hour. The talk was broadcast live on Facebook, with the video attracting about 5,400 views so far. Wong, who co-led the Occupy movement in Hong Kong in 2014 and is one of the city's most recognised pro-democracy activists, believes it is “extremely unreasonable” for the Singapore police to require a talk's organiser to apply for a work permit for a speaker like him to speak through Skype. “If even a telephone conference requires a work permit, how many commercial organisations in Singapore would have breached the rule?” Wong asked. “It just shows that the Singapore government is an autocracy which is afraid of its people having contact with activist groups, especially from East Asia.” In May, Wong was denied entry into Malaysia, with the police chief there later saying the country did not want him to jeopardise its ties with China. Then in October, Wong, as secretary general of localist party Demosisto, flew to Bangkok to deliver a speech on democracy to Thai students, but was denied entry and detained at the airport for 12 hours before being sent back to Hong Kong. Wong told the Post that after these two incidents, he had declined Wham's invitation for him to fly to Singapore, and decided to speak through Skype instead. “I will continue to welcome invitations from around the world, but I will explain to them what has happened before... because I don't want anyone to face suppression because of me.” Last month, Wong was criticised by the foreign ministry in Beijing for penning an opinion piece with a fellow activist in The Wall Street Journal which called on Hongkongers to fight for the right to self-determination. Calls for independence and self-determination have become sensitive issues for the governments in Beijing and Hong Kong. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has brought a court case to disqualify four lawmakers, including Demosisto head Nathan Law Kwun-chung, over the way they took their oaths in October. The High Court earlier barred two pro-independence candidates from taking up their seats. The Singapore police would only say that “a report has been lodged and investigations are ongoing”. The Ministry of Communications and Information did not respond to Post inquiries, while the country's Ministry of Home Affairs could not be reached for comment. ^ top ^



Taiwan president Tsai's transit through US expected to anger China (SCMP)
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will pass through the United States when she visits Latin America next month, the foreign ministry said on Thursday, in a move expected to infuriate China which had urged the United States to block a transit stopover. China is deeply suspicious of Tsai, who it thinks wants to push for the formal independence of Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing regards as a renegade province, ineligible for state-to-state relations. Details of the stopovers will be disclosed before the end of this week, the ministry said. The transit details are being closely watched as Taiwan media has speculated Tsai would seek to meet President-elect Donald Trump's transition team ahead of his January 20 inauguration. Trump angered China when he spoke to Tsai this month in a break with decades of precedent and cast doubt on his incoming administration's commitment to Beijing's one-China policy. The United States, which switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, has acknowledged the Chinese position that there is only “one China” and that Taiwan is part of it. Tsai's office earlier this month said she would visit Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador in that order. She will leave Taiwan on January 7 and return on January 15. Taiwan had as many as 30 diplomatic allies in the mid-1990s, but now has formal relations with just 21, mostly smaller and poorer nations in Latin America and the Pacific. The American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto embassy of the United States, had no immediate comment on Tsai's itinerary. ^ top ^

China denounces name change of Japanese body in Taiwan (Xinhua)
Japan's "Interchange Association," responsible for maintaining unofficial relations with Taiwan, is to be named "Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association" as of Jan. 1, drawing criticism from China. "We firmly oppose any attempt to create 'two Chinas' or 'one China, one Taiwan', and express strong dissatisfaction with the Japanese side's negative move," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a regular news briefing Wednesday. Hua urged Japan to adhere to the principles set in the 1972Sino-Japanese Joint Statement and its commitments to China, sticking to the one-China principle and handling the Taiwan-related issues prudently. According to the joint statement, the Japanese government fully understands and respects the Chinese government's position on Taiwan as an inalienable part of the territory of China. "Japan should refrain from sending the wrong messages to the Taiwan authorities and the international community or cause new disturbances to China-Japan relations," Hua added. China has repeatedly said the one-China principle is the foundation of its relations with foreign countries and that no country should maintain official ties with Taiwan. China resumed diplomatic relations with Sao Tome and Principe in Beijing on Monday, after the African nation cut "diplomatic ties" with Taiwan region last week. ^ top ^

CPC, KMT to strengthen exchanges based on 1992 Consensus: spokesperson (Xinhua)
The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Kuomintang (KMT) Party will continue to strengthen exchanges and dialogues and promote the peaceful development of mainland-Taiwan ties on the basis of adhering to the 1992 Consensus and opposing "Taiwan independence," a mainland spokesperson said Wednesday. An Fengshan, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, made the remarks at a press conference. The two parties held a dialogue on Friday in Beijing to discuss ways of strengthening cross-Strait ties, which An said has produced positive outcomes. The two parties agreed at the dialogue to uphold the 1992 Consensus stressing the one-China principle and oppose "Taiwan independence," and to deepen exchanges, including meetings between leaders of the two parties, said An. The two will also help expand cross-Strait exchanges and cooperation in various sectors and increase benefits for people from the mainland and Taiwan, considering better policies for Taiwan's young people to study, live and work on the mainland, according to An. The mainland also supports counties, cities and towns that endorse the 1992 Consensus to conduct exchanges and cooperation activities on the mainland, An said. ^ top ^

Reunification is inevitable, Beijing warns Taiwan (SCMP)
Beijing on Wednesday warned that attempts by Taiwan to resist unification with the mainland would be in vain, as the PLA's aircraft carrier conducted drills off the coast of the self-ruled island. Beijing is facing a host of threats to its status quo as the independence-leaning leadership of Taiwan grows more vocal, protesters in Hong Kong call for complete separation from the mainland, and an incoming Donald Trump presidency in the US threatens to take a more hardline stance in its ties with the world's second-largest economy. “A small group of pro-independence forces in Taiwan are colluding with Hong Kong independence advocates to divide the nation,” An Fengshan, spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office at the State Council, said. “Their attempts will not succeed,” An told a press briefing. “They will end up with their heads broken and bleeding.” Taiwan is the “most sensitive and complicated issue in China-US relations”, An said, adding that Beijing's position on territorial integrity was unswerving, and the US should deal with Taiwan issues cautiously. The PLA's Liaoning aircraft carrier this week sailed 90 nautical miles south of the island in an exercise described by Beijing as routine, but which came after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen spoke by phone with Donald Trump, who questioned whether the US should continue to respect the one-China policy. The carrier was due to arrive at a naval base in Hainan province yesterday, Taiwan's defence ministry said. Taiwanese Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan said the island was facing a growing “threat” from enemies and should remain on alert. Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations and executive director of the China Centre for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea at Nanjing University, said the mainland, Taiwan and the US were seeing how far they could test cross-strait issues. “I think the latest developments give the Tsai Ing-wen administration a warning that a deterioration in Sino-US relations is not going to benefit Taiwan and that she should really think about changing her own attitudes towards the mainland.” The US and other regional powers are watching the military drill. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Barack Obama agreed while visiting Pearl Harbour to closely monitor the movements of the Liaoning “from a mid-term and long-term perspective”, Kyodo reported. Veerle Nouwens, research analyst for Asia Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said the drill could be aimed at conveying the apparent regional operational capabilities of the PLA Navy. “China wants to demonstrate that it has the maritime capabilities that the US traditionally held in the region and is not only intent on having them, but that it knows how to use them,” Nouwens said. ^ top ^

Taiwan warns of rising threat as Chinese warships conduct drill (SCMP)
Taiwan warned on Tuesday that “the threat of our enemies is growing day by day” as mainland Chinese warships led by the country's sole aircraft carrier sailed towards the island province of Hainan through the South China Sea on a routine drill. The drill comes amid renewed tension over Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, following US president-elect Donald Trump's telephone call with the island's president that upset Beijing. “The threat of our enemies is growing day by day. We should always be maintaining our combat alertness,” Taiwan Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan said on Tuesday. “We need to strengthen the training [of our soldiers] so that they can not only survive in battle, but also destroy the enemy and accomplish the mission,” he said. Feng's remarks were given in a speech at a ministry event marking the promotion of senior military officers. The Chinese warships rounded Taiwan, passing between the Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa and through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, said Taiwan's defence ministry. China has given few details of what the Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier is up to, save that it is on a routine exercise. China's air force conducted long-range drills this month above the East and South China Seas that rattled Japan and Taiwan. China said those exercises were also routine. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which about US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims. The Pentagon did not directly comment on the latest drill, but said that the United States recognises lawful use of sea and airspace in accordance to international law. “We continue to closely monitor developments in the region. We do not have specific comments on China's recent naval activities, but we continue to observe a range of ongoing Chinese military activity in the region,” Pentagon spokesman Gary Ross said. In Taipei, a Defence Ministry official said the Liaoning was maintaining a southwest course towards Hainan and not heading deeper into the disputed South China Sea near the Spratly Islands that lie close to the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam. “It is still heading southwest towards Hainan,” a senior Taiwanese military official said, on condition of anonymity. The official said the carrier had not sailed close to Itu Abu, referring to Taiwan's only holding in the Spratly Islands, and that Taipei continues to monitor its movements. The Liaoning has taken part in previous exercises, including in the South China Sea, but China is years away from perfecting carrier operations similar to those the United States has practised for decades. Last December, the defence ministry confirmed China was building a second aircraft carrier but its launch date is unclear. The aircraft carrier programme is a state secret. Beijing could build multiple aircraft carriers over the next 15 years, the Pentagon said in a report last year. ^ top ^

China re-establishes ties with former Taiwan ally Sao Tome (SCMP)
Beijing re-established diplomatic ties with Sao Tome and Principe on Monday, six days after the small West African state broke off relations with self-ruled Taiwan. The move signals the recurrence of a harsh diplomatic war between Beijing and Taipei. It has followed the refusal of the island's independence-leaning government to acknowledge the “1992 consensus” since President Tsai Ing-wen assumed office in May. The 1992 consensus is a tacit understanding reached in 1992 that both the mainland and Taiwan recognise there is only one China, but that each can have its own interpretation of what “China” stands for. Beijing was expected to boost its efforts to bring Taiwan's allies over to its side, to exert pressure on the pro-independence camp on the island, observers said. “The next country to set up diplomatic ties with Beijing will be a very influential country,” said a veteran Taiwan affairs expert at a mainland policy think tank, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Beijing is pressuring Tsai in two ways. One is squeezing Taiwan's international space, such as re-establishing ties with Sao Tome. Another is to enhance communication with the Kuomintang,” the analyst said, referring to the mainland-friendly opposition party in Taiwan. The relationship between Beijing and the Holy See – the only European state that has diplomatic ties with Taiwan – is warming up, with reports suggesting that the two sides are in the final stages of resuming relations after decades of hostility. Taiwan's Foreign Minister David Lee said yesterday that the problem between the Holy See and Beijing was complicated, as the two sides were divided on the appointment of bishops and religious freedom. “There are challenges [facing ties between Taipei and the Vatican], but we are confident,” he said. The mainland and Taiwan came to an unofficial truce after Ma Ying-jeou from the KMT became Taiwan's president in 2008. But the truce ended after Tsai from the Democratic Progressive Party won the election in January. Taiwan had as many as 30 allies in the mid-1990s, but now has formal relations with just 21 nations. It has accused Beijing of using chequebook diplomacy, taking advantage of Sao Tome and Principe's financial woes. Not all observers think Beijing will get good results by playing diplomatic hardball with Taipei. “Restarting a diplomatic war will not help Beijing win the hearts of the common Taiwanese,” said Chieh-cheng Huang, director of the Institute of Strategic Studies at Tamkang University in Taiwan. “Neither do I believe the Tsai government will acknowledge the 1992 consensus, nor do I believe Taiwanese will ask Tsai to step down, even if Beijing takes away several allies in the future.” ^ top ^



Chinese premier vows easier access for foreign investment (Xinhua)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has said that China will create better environment for foreign investment. China will lift restrictions in sectors including rail transportation equipment, motorcycles, fuel ethanol and oil processing, according to a statement released after a State Council executive meeting presided over by Li on Wednesday. The Foreign Investment Industrial Guidance Catalogue will be revised to encourage investment in advanced manufacturing and productive service industries. Accounting, auditing and architectural design are now open to foreign investment, which will also be allowed in energy, water conservation, environmental protection and urban development, by way of franchising. China will push for the full implementation of a foreign investment management system featuring pre-establishment national treatment and a negative list, the statement said. Foreign-funded enterprises (FFE) will be exempt from minimum registered capital requirements and enjoy simplified procedures in formation and modification. Their intellectual property rights will be protected and they are allowed to participate in China's science and technology projects and standardization, according to the statement. FFEs will enjoy equal status to local counterparts in government procurements with products made in China, it added. Moreover, the country's central and west regions will be encouraged to receive foreign industrial transfers and offer favorable conditions to encouraged foreign investment. ^ top ^

China's trade outlook darkens as US under Trump 'looks most hostile since Korean War' (SCMP)
China could expect to see less export momentum and more trade disputes with the United States in 2017 once Donald Trump took over as US President, analysts said. Even though the chance of an all-out trade war between the world's No 1 and No 2 economies remains slim, it is almost certain that trade tensions between Beijing and Washington will escalate significantly after Trump officially enters the White House. Trump's rhetoric of imposing punitive tariffs on Chinese imports and labelling Beijing as a currency manipulator during the election campaign was largely discredited by China's policymakers as a bluff. However, his appointment of Peter Navarro, a harsh China critic, as the head of the White House National Trade Council, meant there was a possibility of hostility, analysts said. “China is facing potentially the most hostile America since the Korean War,” said John Wong, a professorial fellow at the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore. The US has been constantly complaining about cheap Chinese imports and imposed anti-dumping duties as a result. These cases were largely sporadic, but the overall bilateral trade ties between the two nations could be poisoned if Trump put only some of his election rhetoric into action. Wong suggested that “China needs to lie low and watch first”. The attitude of US, the second largest export destination for Beijing, matters more for China's trade than the numbers suggest. It was only after an agreement with the US during the administration of then-president Bill Clinton, that China managed to become a member in the World Trade Organisation in 2001 – creating an export boom and helping the nation's economic rise on the global stage. China's Ministry of Commerce is expecting the gathering storm. The ministry has again dropped setting an annual growth target of its exports for 2017 because of the uncertain trade environment. “It is impractical to make a specific growth target amid growing trade protectionism,” said Yang Liqiang, a professor at Beijing's University of International Business and Economics. “[Any] target is beyond China's control and it may tie Beijing's hands” in fighting trade battles, he said. The Chinese government had set a 6 per cent growth target for the value of trade in 2015, but it actually plunged 7 per cent. After this failure, Beijing set no target at all for 2016. Because of the weak global economy, China's exports are losing momentum even without the uncertainty surrounding Trump's move into the White House. Exports, measured in US dollar terms, fell 7.5 per cent during the first 11 months of this year. “Trade frictions will rise further in 2017, especially in overcapacity industries such as steel,” Wang Hejun, head of the ministry's trade remedy and investigation bureau warned at a press conference on Monday. Twenty seven countries launched a total of 117 investigations into Chinese products worth a total of US$14 billion this year. The number and value of those cases rose by 34.5 per cent and 71.5 per cent, respectively, compared with the year before. To be fair, while exports remain a key engine for the Chinese economy, its significance has been in decline, especially since the global financial crisis. “China still worries about employment stability in some export bases along coastal areas,” said Liu Xuezhi, an analyst at the Bank of Communications in Shanghai. “But in general, China now relies more on domestic consumption, rather than exports, to drive up its economy.” ^ top ^



Mongolia celebrates National Independence Day (Montsame)
Today Mongolians are celebrating the 105th anniversary of declaration of the National Independence. The National Independence Day is marked in Mongolia every year on December 29. Exactly this day of the year of 1911, the Eighth Jebtsundamba Khutugtu (Javzandamba Khutagt) was proclaimed as the Bogdo Khaan, and a historical decision was made to form the government of Mongolia with five ministries. The National Independence Day has been celebrated annually since 2008 under a decree of the third President of Mongolia N.Enkhbayar. ^ top ^

Wreaths laid at Statue of State Seal (Montsame)
On the occasion of the 105th anniversary of the National Independence Day, state leaders laid wreaths at the Statue of State Seal. Present at the ceremony were Ts.Elbegdorj, the President of Mongolia; M.Enkhbold, the Speaker of Parliament; J.Erdenebat, the Prime Minister; and other officials. The statue of the State Seal of Mongolia was erected as a complementing part to the Chingis Khaan's monument and the State Honorary Ceremonial Hall at the garden behind of the State House. The statue of the State Seal of Mongolia images a seal with a tiger-shaped handle and has on its four top sides the four different state seals belonging to the Great Mongol Empire, Bodg Khanate Mongolia, the People's Republic of Mongolia founded under the 1924 constitution, and the present Mongolia declared in the Constitution of 1992. The base of the monument features 168 seals of all Mongolian tribes dating back to early times of the statehood of Mongolia. ^ top ^

State awards granted (Montsame)
On the occasion of the National Independence Day, a ceremony for awarding state titles, orders and medals was held on December 28 at the State House. Among the awardees were D. Baadaijav, a music teacher of the Mongolian State University of Culture and Arts, and J.Lhamsuren, the teacher of Mongolian University of Science and Technology along with many others. President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj handed them awards. D.Baadaijav was awarded the title “People's Artist”, “People's Teacher” titles went to J.Lkhamsuren and Ts.Onorbayar. “State Honored Industrial Worker” title went to M.Jamiyansuren, a senior worker of the Makh Impex company. Sportsman of the Khilchin sport committee of the General Authority for Border Protection D.Otgondalai and sportsman of the Suld sport committee of the General Executive Agency of Court Decision E.Sodnompeljee were awarded “State Honored Athlete” title. ^ top ^

Mongolia and USA discuss cooperation in roads and transport sector (Montsame)
Minister of Road and Transportation D.Ganbat received Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Mongolia Jennifer Zimdahl Galt. At the meeting, they focused on bilateral cooperation in the roads and transport sector. Noting that the sides have been developing equal and mutually beneficial cooperation over 30 years, Mr Ganbat underlined that Mongolia-United States relations have elevated to the level of comprehensive relations. Then he stressed that construction of 176.4 km road linking Choir and Sainshand was done with funding from the Millennium Challenge Fund. Minister D.Ganbat introduced plans for implementing mega infrastructure projects as new railways, new international airport, and transit and road projects. He told the US Ambassador Galt about projects that will be implemented by the Ministry of Road and Transportation in the framework of the Government's program for 2016-2020 and forwarded several proposals. Then Mr.Ganbat inquired about the Millennium Challenge Corporation's (MMC) upcoming Compact II contract to be signed with Mongolia, and whether the road and transport sector would be included; adding that his ministry is interested in cooperating within the framework of the second compact. The proposals raised by the Minister included expanding the Choir-Sainshand road into a three-lane highway, upgrading the service facilities along the 620 km UB-Zamyn-Uud road, and expanding the UB-Darkhan road into a four-lane highway. He also noted that the project on connecting all the province centers to UB has yet to be finished, with 130 km of road between Gobi-Altai and Uvs provinces. Ambassador Galt said that the U.S. Embassy focuses on the economic and social development of Mongolia, and highlighted the possibility of further cooperation in the roads and transport sector. ^ top ^

Cabinet reviews small business taxes and state grants for women, children, and herders (The UB Post)
Cabinet held a meeting on Monday, and its ministers decided not to withdraw a draft of amendments to the taxation of small enterprises engaged in food, textiles, construction, and agriculture with annual revenue under 1.5 billion MNT, requiring them to pay only one percent in revenue tax. Cabinet believes that its small business tax proposal will be important to promoting small business and to help create jobs. If approved, the amendments will be enacted on January 1, 2017. The ministers discussed a proposal to grant quarterly grants to widowed mothers with three or more children, an annual grant to the mothers of twins up to 4 years old, and grants to mothers taking care of children under the age of three. A budget of 72.4 billion MNT has been outlined for the proposed allowances. The Minister of Finance has been instructed to allocate up to 500 million MNT to respond to requests for support from local government offices of soums and provinces facing winter challenges. Cabinet submitted amendments to the laws on roads, conflicts, and companies for Parliament to review. ^ top ^

Mongolian FM pays official visit to Bhutan (Montsame)
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia Ts. Munkh-Orgil paid an official visit to the Kingdom of Bhutan from December 20 to 23, 2016 at the invitation of his Bhutanese counterpart, Mr. Lyonpo Damcho Dorji. During the visit, the Minister paid courtesy calls on Mr Chimi Dorji, the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Bhutan and on Mr Tshering Tobgay, the Prime Minister of Bhutan respectively. Afterwards, Minister Munkh-Orgil had official talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bhuatn, Lyonpo Damcho Dorji. During the talks, Mr Damcho Dorji pointed out that the two countries are actively cooperating in many fields within the framework of bilateral or multilateral cooperation. Then he thanked Mongolia for its active work to launch an International Think Tank for landlocked developing countries in Ulaanbaatar. “Bhutan's government will ratify the multilateral agreement on the establishment of an International Think Tank for LLDCs”, he stressed. At the meeting, the parties discussed bilateral relations and international and regional issues of mutual concern. Also, the sides agreed to develop inter-parliamentary relations, to expand bilateral cooperation in spheres of agriculture and culture, to exchange veterinarians and traditional medicine specialists, journalists and media reporters and to organize exhibitions and film shows. ^ top ^

Mongolia and USA to celebrate 30 years of diplomatic ties (Montsame)
Mongolia and the United States of America will mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2017. In this light, the both sides will co-organize a broad spectrum of events which were officially started with presentation of official logo of the anniversary. The United States of America is a third neighbor, an important partner, a major investor of Mongolia. Currently, the political, defense and economic relations between the two nations have been actively developing and the close people-to-people links are growing and strengthening. This year commemorates the 25th anniversary of the arrival of first Peace Corps volunteers to Mongolia. Since that period, over 1 200 volunteers worked in cities and countryside across Mongolia. Recently, the worldwide renowned Fulbright program celebrated its 70th anniversary. Over 350 Mongolians have received education in the U.S. through this program. Several days ago, Mongolia was re-selected by the Millennium Challenge Corporation as an eligible country to sign the Second Compact Agreement. Recently, the Annual Bilateral Consultations were successfully held, where sides have discussed and agreed upon range of areas of future bilateral cooperation. The bilateral cooperation between Mongolia and the U.S. is expanding in all spheres, therefore with the view to strengthening this achievement and setting priorities of future cooperation both sides will widely celebrate the 30th anniversary of relations in 2017. ^ top ^

Prime Minister gives briefing on air pollution reduction (Montsame)
Last Friday, Prime Minister of Mongolia J.Erdenebat gave a media briefing on air pollution reduction measures. Noting that the previous Governments were worked on implementing a number of projects for reduction of air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, but no tangible results have been seen so far. Then he stressed that developing electric heating system will play a significant role in reducing Ulaanbaatar's smog, and that decision has been taken to provide ger areas with free electricity durin nighttime. The Prime Minister pointed out that the Mongolian Government is working on undertaking the following actions to reduce Ulaanbaatar's smog. 1. Implement projects on developing ger areas into apartment areas and spend financial aid of the Chinese government on ger districts re-planning as discussed during Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China Li Keqiang's visit to Mongolia in July. 2. Introduce electric heating system in Mongolia and provide ger area households with cheap electric heaters made in Mongolia. 3. Support herders who have lost their livestock to dzud and other natural disasters and to create better living conditions in rural areas. 4. Encourage people's initiatives on reducing air pollution. Afterwards, Prime Minister J.Erdenebat noted that a total of MNT 4 billion is budgeted for the projects and programs to be implemented in 2017 for reducing Ulaanbaatar's smog. Thereby, 80% of the budget will be spent on providing free electricity to ger areas at nighttime with an aim to reduce electricity deficits. ^ top ^

New version of Law on Development Bank presented (Montsame)
Draft new wording of the Law on Development Bank of Mongolia was presented to the Vice Speaker Ts.Nyamdorj on Thursday by B.Javkhlan, D.Terbishdagva, Z.Narantuya, M.Oyunchimer and B.Undarmaa MPs. Although the main functions of the Development Bank, since its establishment, have aimed at funding projects for promoting the country's economic growth pursuant to related laws and regulations, the lack of certainty in the related laws and regulations has been pulling back from the performance of the bank, resulting in decline of budgetary and fiscal spheres. The new wording of the law has been prepared based on the successful practices from other countries and in harmony with the development policies of Mongolia. If adopted, the law will facilitate the bank with possibilities to work independently from the politics, and with full transparency. The law initiators have reportedly prepared the draft law in order to regain global investors trust in Mongolia and improve Mongolia's credit rating. ^ top ^

Ms. Annina Burri
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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