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
  10-14.7.2017, No. 678  
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Table of contents


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Daily Quote

Daily Quote (Global Times)
“Liu Xiaobo lived in an era when China witnessed the most rapid growth in recent history, but he attempted to confront Chinese mainstream society under Western support. This has determined his tragic life. Even if he could live longer, he would never have achieved his political goals that are in opposition to the path of history.“ ^ top ^


Foreign Policy

Tillerson urges Beijing to let Liu Xiaobo's wife leave the country, setting up confrontation (SCMP)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Beijing to allow Liu Xia, the wife of deceased Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, to leave the country. Tillerson made the request in a statement issued hours after news of Liu Xiaobo's death, setting up a confrontation that will extend beyond the dissident's funeral. “I join those in China and around the world in mourning the tragic passing of 2010 Nobel Peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died while serving a lengthy prison sentence in China for promoting peaceful democratic reform,” the statement cited Tillerson as saying. “I call on the Chinese government to release Liu Xia from house arrest and allow her to depart China, according to her wishes.” Liu Xiaobo died in a northern Chinese hospital of multiple organ failure on Thursday, Shenyang justice authorities announced in a statement. The Nobel laureate, 61, was granted medical parole last month after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in late May following a “routine check-up”, according to the Shenyang Justice Bureau. News of his illness did not become public until the end of June. China's response to Tillerson's request will be a key test for the relationship between the two countries ahead of President Donald Trump's expected visit with President Xi Jinping in China in November. The importance of a successful summit and the need for stability ahead of the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party might convince the government to release Liu Xia. “While they're very obdurate about individuals who have put fingers in their eyes, the Party might have more flexibility when it comes to a spouse or a relative,” Orville Schell, director of the Asia Society's Centre on US-China Relations in New York, said in an interview. “If they don't release [Liu Xia], it's a sign that things are more in a state of retrograde motion than we had imagined in terms of state control.” Schell was referring to moves such as Beijing's crackdown on virtual private networks – connections that bypass the country's notorious “Great Firewall” – in an effort to block content not approved by government censors. “One of the things [the Chinese government doesn't] adequately appreciate, but are coming to appreciate more, is the degree to which American public opinion is being alienated,” Schell added. “Xi Jinping does recognise that the United States is an important player in China's rise and that for better or worse it has to be managed well.” Others say the timing of the 19th Party Congress will stiffen Xi's resolve to defy any entreaties from Washington. “I think that there is zero likelihood that Liu Xia will be allowed to leave the People's Republic of China before the 19th Party Congress in the fall,” Carl Minzner, a Fordham University law professor specialising in Chinese law and governance, told the South China Morning Post. “Even in the best of times, the elite political atmosphere in China during such leadership transitions is intensely sensitive, rendering Chinese leaders hesitant to take any risks exposing them to criticism from domestic political rivals.” The White House released a statement in support of Liu Xia a few hours after Tillerson's. “The President's heartfelt condolences go out to Liu Xiaobo's wife, Liu Xia, and his family and friends”, according to the White House Press Office announcement. “A poet, scholar, and courageous advocate, Liu Xiaobo dedicated his life to the pursuit of democracy and liberty.” US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley added to Washington's effort to draw attention to Liu Xia. “Liu Xiaobo used the power of his voice, knowing he would face retribution, so future generations would have, as he said in his 2010 Nobel lecture, 'a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme',” Haley said in a statement. “My thoughts and prayers go out to his beloved wife Liu Xia, herself under house arrest, his family and countrymen, and citizens of the world.” ^ top ^

Merkel appeals to China for 'humanity' for ailing Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo (SCMP)
Germany stepped up its public support for ailing Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo on Monday, with Berlin saying Chancellor Angela Merkel hoped Beijing would show “a signal of humanity” towards the dissident. The appeal came as the Chinese hospital treating Liu said it had ordered its medical staff to be ready to resuscitate Liu, saying for the first time that his condition was critical. The German embassy in Beijing also complained about leaked surveillance video of a German doctor's visit to Liu at a hospital in Shenyang, Liaoning province, saying the footage was released without permission. In Berlin, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said the latest report of Liu's worsening health “is depressing”. “This tragic case of Liu Xiaobo is a great concern for the chancellor, and she would like a signal of humanity for Liu Xiaobo and his family,” Seibert said. Asked whether the chancellor spoke to President Xi Jinping about Liu's family's wish for the dissident to be treated overseas, Seibert said he would not comment on confidential conversations, the Associated Press reported. A German foreign ministry source said Germany “had several high-level discussions with the Chinese side on Liu's wish to exit China for medical treatment”. “We continue to stand ready to accept Liu Xiaobo for medical treatment in Germany,” the source said. Berlin-based Chinese dissident and writer Liao Yiwu said that according to a mutual friend, Merkel had “tried her best to raise the issue of Liu Xiaobo every day” with the Chinese president during his stay in Germany for a state visit and the G20 summit last week. Meanwhile, the German embassy criticised the release of footage apparently showing German and US specialists visiting Liu in his ward with their Chinese counterparts. In the clips, the foreign doctors appeared to praise the quality of care Liu received at the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang. The embassy said the recordings “were made against the expressed wishes of the German side”. “It seems that security organs are steering the process, not medical experts. This behaviour undermines trust in the authorities dealing with Mr Liu's case, which is vital to ensure maximum success of his medical treatment,” the embassy said in a statement. The hospital also issued a statement saying Liu suffered from multiple kidney, abdominal, intestine and internal bleeding problems. His blood pressure was low and an MRI scan indicated that his liver cancer had grown. The hospital ruled him out as a candidate for radiotherapy and other interventional treatment. “The team of [Chinese] specialists assessed the patient's condition as critical ,” the hospital's statement said. The Chinese medical team's assessment countered the foreign doctors' opinion that other options such as intervention and radiotherapy could be pursued if Liu's liver function improved. The US and German specialists who saw Liu on Saturday said Liu could be moved overseas safely but quick action was needed. Asked on Monday if Liu would be allowed to go overseas for treatment, Reuters reported that Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: “China hopes relevant countries will respect China's sovereignty and will not use individual cases to interfere with China's internal affairs.” Liu was released to the hospital on medical parole last month after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. He was serving an 11-year sentence on a subversion charge. ^ top ^

Sino-Russia oil pipeline expands (Global Times)
Joint energy projects between Russia and China are in full swing as Russia has reached out to tackle the gigantic Chinese market amid economic woes. On Wednesday, the main part of the second oil pipeline of the China-Russia crude oil pipeline project in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province was completed, reported. The pipeline is expected to carry its first oil this year. Built by the two biggest oil producers in China and Russia, China National Petroleum Corp and Rosneft, respectively, the 940-kilometer pipeline from Mohe to Daqing, both in Heilongjiang, will have an annual capacity of 15 million tons. The first oil pipeline of the China-Russia crude oil pipeline project, from Skovorodino to Mohe, moved 100 million tons of oil from Russia to China between 2011 and May 19 this year, according to the TASS news agency. "The around-the-clock pipeline will be the fastest and most convenient method for oil transportation from Russia to China," Zhang Hong, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday. "The China-Russia crude oil pipeline project will make Sino-Russia oil trade more stable and regular," Lin Boqiang, dean of the China Institute for Studies in Energy Policy at Xiamen University, told the Global Time on Thursday. The rapid progress of the two oil pipelines is an example of how Russia, a good user of energy leverage, has been more active in seeking energy business operation with China. Lin said that in the past, Russia was a hard nut to crack in business cooperation based on his own experience and what he learned from other industry insiders. "It was hard to strike a bargain with them. But in the past few years they have grown more amicable businesswise," he noted, adding that the country's economic downturn had prompted Russia to be more active in exporting oil. "Besides, currently many countries are studying new energy to replace hydrocarbons, so actually the world's reliance upon oil is decreasing. That's why Russia is speeding up selling oil - because it has sensed the market pressure," Zhang noted. According to Zhang, importing oil from Russia also has great benefits for China because first, diversifying oil import sources can reduce the risks of regional politics on domestic economic security. Second, in terms of geography, importing oil from Russia is more convenient than getting it from distant sources like Saudi Arabia. "It's unlikely that China can build an oil pipeline with Saudi Arabia like the one it has developed with Russia," Lin noted. But he stressed that so far Saudi Arabia is still China's biggest oil importer and this position is unlikely to be replaced by Russia in the short term. "Overall, China needs to import oil as our oil reserves are becoming a little depleted, and it costs much less to import oil than producing our own," Zhang said. According to Lin, China imports about 65 percent of its oil. "I think the proportion is going to rise to 80 percent very soon," he said. Apart from oil, cooperation between China and Russia in other types of energy is also surging. A statement sent by Rosneft to the Global Times earlier stressed that the company's cooperation in energy with Chinese partners "covers all business domains, from upstream to refining and petrochemical production." The statement also listed several of those projects, including a refinery project in North China's Tianjin Municipality and a joint venture it established with the China Petrochemical Corp for the production of hydrocarbons. ^ top ^

China sends troops to military base in Djibouti, widening reach across Indian Ocean (SCMP)
China has taken a decisive step towards establishing a maritime force that can reach across the Indian Ocean with its first deployment of troops to its military facility in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. China has presented the facility as a support base to run anti-piracy operations in waters along Africa's east coast as well as peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in the region. But given it sits at the shipping choke point of the Gulf of Aden which opens to the Suez Canal and beyond, China's regional neighbours including Japan, India and Vietnam were likely to view the deployment with alarm, mainland experts said. Additional facilities throughout the Indian Ocean are possible as China seeks to create a “string of pearls” running from Hong Kong past Sri Lanka and Pakistan to Africa, where it has been funnelling investment and building infrastructure, as part of the maritime component of its belt and road strategy. Beijing announced on Monday that ships carrying military personnel departed from Zhanjiang in the southern province of Guangdong on Tuesday heading for the support base in Djibouti. Xinhua did not disclose how many military personnel would be stationed at the facility or when it would become fully operational. But previous mainland reports have put the size of the deployment at 10,000. The lease runs for a decade with China paying US$20 million a year. Djibouti already hosts several foreign military bases, including one each from the US and Japan, two strategic rivals to Beijing. A base by Saudi Arabia is also under construction in Djibouti. “China's presence in Africa has become systematic, in terms of the economy, diplomacy and – most importantly – military,” said Ni Lexiong, director of the Sea Power and Defence Policy Research Institute at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. “But this would, of course, raise the eyebrows of many because the location is of deep strategic importance and it's China's first one. “Countries that see China as a rival, such as Japan, India and Vietnam, would be cautious as they might fear their trade via the route could be affected in the event of war.” Xinhua said the base would facilitate military cooperation and joint exercises, part of China's efforts to “jointly safeguard the safety of international strategic channels with relevant parties”. But according to Chinese experts, the main purpose of the base was safeguarding the nation's economic interests overseas rather than force projection. An estimated 60 per cent of the nation's oil imports come from the Middle East, most of which passes through the gulf, along with huge shipments of raw materials out of Africa. Tens of thousands of Chinese nationals are also employed on the continent, working as labourers and engineers on infrastructure projects – another reason Beijing wanted stable access, said Liu Naiya, an expert in West Asian and African affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “The location is important and strategic as it connects three continents and five seas,” Liu said. “So far, China's anti-piracy missions are mainly carried out in the Gulf of Aden and the missions need a place to dock. That's the main reason why we want to build a base there.” The United States has an estimated 4,000 soldiers operating out of its Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. A US Department of Defence report in 2105 said Chinese attack and ballistic missile submarines were on regular patrol in the Indian Ocean, and could veer further westward when the Djibouti facility was completed. ^ top ^

Withdrawal of Indian troops the precondition for dialogue: FM (Global Times)
The border tension between China and India will remain if India continues to ignore a precondition for dialogue repeatedly put forward by China—to withdraw its troops who trespassed, experts said. China urged India on Wednesday to unconditionally withdraw its troops to the Indian side of the boundary. It also said on Monday that the withdrawal is the precondition to restarting dialogue. Indian troops crossed into China's Doklam region in June and obstructed work on a road construction project on a plateau borders to the Indian state of Sikkim, media reported. Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said on Tuesday that "India and China can manage differences that are likely to arise from time to time over their contested border," Reuters reported on Wednesday. Jaishankar said that the two countries can handle the disputes like they have done so many times before, as "no part of the border has been agreed upon." Compared with Indian military officials' hawkish tone, Jaishankar's is friendlier and could be a sign that the Indian government wishes to settle the issue, Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. However, "Jaishankar made a mistake. What he said is the solution to previous border frictions in the disputed areas," Lin Minwang, a professor at the Center for South Asian Studies of Fudan University, told the Global Times. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at Wednesday's daily press briefing that "the Sikkim section is the only defined boundary between India and China. And this is totally different from the undefined boundaries in the eastern, middle and western parts." "China has pointed out many times that the illegal trespass of Indian border troops on the mutually recognized border line is different from the frictions in the undefined sections of the boundary," Geng said. "Meanwhile, India is unlikely to accept China's precondition, so the restarting of a dialogue between the two countries remains up in the air. In Doklam, there are no signs of an easing of tensions," Lin said. The Times of India reported on Tuesday that India has "moved another 2,500 soldiers from their peace-time deployment in Sikkim to further reinforce their forces on the Doklam plateau." ^ top ^

Philippines hails new rapport with China as key to economic growth amid 'realistic and practical' approach to South China Sea (SCMP)
The Philippines' trade minister is predicting economic ties with China will grow faster than ever as the island nation sets aside their maritime border disputes, signalling a sea change from Manila's confrontational approach to diplomacy initially under a tough-talking new president. A year after an international tribunal dealt a blow to Beijing's assertiveness in the South China Sea, Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez told the Post in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that his country was taking a “realistic and practical” approach to their territorial disputes. ' As the Philippines' target for GDP growth was an ambitious 7 to 8 per cent in the coming five years, Lopez said, China would be the key force to help his country achieve that. He pointed to the 34 per cent year-on-year growth of exports from the Philippines to the mainland and Hong Kong from January to May. “I credit it to the wisdom of our president [Rodrigo Duterte] to really be more realistic and practical, to consider the positive points of having a relationship with China renewed,” Lopez said. “He has mentioned in many of his statements that why fight China when we can set aside the differences and focus on areas of cooperation, focus on how China and the Philippines can help in mutual growth?” Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of when the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague rejected Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea, saying they lacked legal basis. The legal challenge was initiated by Manila in 2013 under then-president Benigno Aquino. When Duterte ran for president last year, he was belligerent about taking on Beijing, even declaring he would take a jet ski to the disputed Spratly Islands and plant his country's flag there. He did not carry out the threat. Relations between Beijing and Manila have improved significantly after Duterte's initial blunt talk, and both sides have agreed to enhance communication and establish a mechanism for cooperation between their coastguards. Lopez also noted China's lifting of a ban on the import of bananas and mangos from the Philippines had boosted his country's exports. While total global exports in the first five months of this year grew 14 per cent year on year, the figure hit 34 per cent for the mainland and Hong Kong. “It will only grow faster because it is only now we are getting to see a fuller impact of this relationship, the fuller impacts of the benefits of having a revived and renewed relationship,” he said. “It is only now that Chinese investors are taking a second look at the Philippines, when we have improved the relationship. In the past five years, nothing much was really happening.” To make it easier for Chinese citizens to do business in the Philippines, Lopez said, he was open to the idea of waiving their required visas for up to a week. He said he could raise the suggestion to the relevant department “if there is a likelihood of that being raised by Chinese investors”. “If you want to explore business opportunities and therefore you want to visit the Philippines and meet the people, that is something we can look at,” he said. The trade minister reassured investors that it was now “much safer” to do business in his country since Duterte launched his controversial war on drugs. The Philippines' crime rate had dropped 53 per cent since Duterte took office, he noted. Xu Liping, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, said Duterte made the “right decision” to seek closer ties with China for economic benefit. “If the Philippines does not make friends with China, its GDP will not be growing this fast. China plays an important role,” he said. “The Aquino administration really hurt trade relations between the countries.” The Philippines' ties with Hong Kong also hit rock bottom with Aquino as president in 2010 when a disgruntled policeman in Manila took a bus full of tourists hostage. Eight Hongkongers were killed in a bungled rescue. ^ top ^

Thailand approves long-delayed US$5.2b rail link to China (SCMP)
Thailand on Tuesday approved US$5.2 billion for the construction of the first stretch of a long-delayed high-speed railway that will ultimately connect to China, part of its belt and road infrastructure plan. Although China was only providing technology for the project, the progress gave Beijing a boost at a time when its blueprint for a network of high-speed rail links throughout Southeast Asia faced hurdles, experts said. The grand plan would see trains travelling south from Kunming in Yunnan province through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia to Singapore. Construction in Laos began late last year. A groundbreaking ceremony for the Thai section was held in 2015, with the deputy prime ministers from both China and Thailand attending. But the project has been held up by disputes over financing, loan terms and labour protection regulations. “The cabinet has approved phase one of the high speed railway ... from Bangkok to Korat with 179 billion baht [HK$41 billion] budget for a four-year plan,” Kobsak Pootrakool, a vice-minister from the prime minister's office, told reporters. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who heads the Thai military government, made use of an executive order last month to clear the way for the project. Thailand would cover the construction costs, the government said. The first phase of the project is 250km, less than a third of the planned 850km track within Thailand and remains far from the extension to Nong Khai on the border with Laos. Chinese experts heralded the decision by the Thai cabinet as significant progress. “The Chinese railway could actually be used by the Thais and be displayed to other Southeast Asian countries, which is the most important thing,” Xu Liping, a Southeast Asian studies expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said. “The 'Belt and Road Initiative' is supposed to be open to all and take into consideration all parties' interests. China should be patient.” Xu said Beijing's push for high-speed rail projects was not very popular among the Thai media and some parts of the public despite interest shown by the previous government of Yingluck Shinawatra. Thailand has also agreed to build a 700km high-speed rail connection between Bangkok and Chiang Mai using Japanese technology. China lost the bid to Japan in 2016, and construction is scheduled to begin next year. Thai Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith has said local firms would be responsible for construction, while China would handle the design, technology, signalling systems and technical training. “The project will use Thai materials but Chinese technology will be used in the construction,” Prayuth said. “We will send people to learn this so that we can operate the rail system ourselves in the future.” Xu said there would likely be further challenges for the project, including legal issues over work permits for Chinese engineers and technical difficulties in training local workers He also pointed to possible political uncertainty should the military government step down and decide to hold an election next year. ^ top ^

Xi's attendance of G20 summit advances cooperation: Chinese FM (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping's attendance of the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Hamburg on July 7-8 contributed to maintaining and advancing the group's cooperation, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said here on Saturday. Working together with the other participants, Xi made efforts to promote positive progress at the Hamburg summit on the basis of the G20's summit held last year in Hangzhou, China, and made new contributions to strengthening cooperation within the G20, promoting global economic growth and improving global economic governance, Wang said. Xi made it clear that the G20 should adhere to taking the path of open development and mutual benefit leading to all-win results, support a multilateral trade mechanism, and promote international trade and investment, Wang said. Facing such problems as unbalanced development of the world economy, Xi proposed proper handling of contradictions between fairness and efficiency, between capital and labor and between technology and employment, and also exchange and cooperation in terms of education and training, employment and business startups, distribution mechanisms, etc, in line with an idea of inclusive growth, Wang said. In order to strengthen global economic governance toward achievement of a sound performance of the world economy, Xi proposed continued reenforcement of macro policy coordination, restructuring of international financial institutions and improvement of global financial supervision, etc. To maintain sound development of the G20, Xi emphasized the importance of upholding the spirit of partnership among G20 members, and called for seeking common ground while reserving differences in order to step up cooperation, which prompted the Hamburg summit to reach consensus, and which maintained the international community's confidence in the group. At the Hamburg summit, Xi participated in various discussions on the world economic situation, trade, finance, digital economy, energy, climate change, development, Africa, public health, refugee and migration issues, the fight against terrorism and others, elaborating China's concepts and solutions and vigorously pushing forward international cooperation. Xi reiterated that the concepts such as openness, cooperation, all-win results, joint consultation, joint construction and sharing advocated in the Belt and Road Initiative are compatible with the G20's partnership spirit, and that they are complementary to one another and can jointly boost world economic development, Wang said. On the sidelines of the Hamburg summit, Xi also launched a series of activities of summit diplomacy, Wang said. Xi hosted an informal meeting of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) leaders to prepare for the BRICS summit to be held in September in southeast China's Xiamen city. Xi met with U.S. President Donald Trump to deepen cooperation based on mutual benefit between China and the United States, and the two sides agreed to well manage their differences. They also exchanged views on major hot-spot issues such as the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, affirming a peaceful solution to it. During his first meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Xi stressed South Korea should value and properly handle China's justifiable concerns. The two leaders agreed to work together to improve bilateral relations and maintain regional stability. Xi urged Japan to make efforts to improve bilateral ties during his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Xi also reached new consensuses on building political mutual trust and deepening bilateral and multilateral cooperation with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May at separate meetings on the sidelines of the summit. ^ top ^

Xi meets Abe, urges Japan to honor words, remove distractions of ties with actions (Global Times)
Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Saturday that Japan shall honor its words on issues related to history and Taiwan, and remove the distractions in bilateral relations with strategies and concrete actions. While meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the ongoing Group of 20 (G20) summit, Xi also urged Japan to learn from history so as to have a better future of its relations with China. Noting that the China-Japan ties have been distracted by complicated factors despite some positive exchanges between the two sides, the Chinese leader said there is no room for compromise on the issues related to history and Taiwan, and Japan shall honor its words in these respects. Bilateral trust have been marred from time to time over Tokyo's reluctance on admitting its past war crimes, the attempt to annex China's Diaoyu Islands and adjacent islets in the East China Sea, and the initiative to abolish its post-war pacifist constitution that forbids the deployment of troops overseas for fight. Tokyo was also a vigorous advocate of the so-called "China threat," frequently participating in military drills in Asia-Pacific with the United States, and selling weapons to the former Philippine administration when the Manila-manipulated South China Sea farce peaked to a failed arbitration last year. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

'Live on well': fury, farewells and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo's last words to his wife (SCMP)
Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who spent more than a decade in prison for promoting democracy, freedom and human rights, lost his battle with liver cancer on Thursday. Justice authorities in Shenyang, Liaoning province, announced in a statement that Liu, 61, died in hospital of multiple organ failure. Addressing overseas media in Shenyang late on Thursday, Liu's doctors said Liu died at 5.35pm and was surrounded by wife Liu Xia, his elder brother Liu Xiaoguang and younger brother Liu Xiaoxuan. The hospital said Liu's final words to his wife were: “Live on well.” The doctors also said the activist's cancer was a “special” type that expanded “very quickly within a week”. News of Liu's death prompted an outpouring of grief and tributes from Liu's friends as well as supporters around the world, including the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the peace prize. The US, German and French governments also pressed Beijing to lift travel restrictions on his wife and family. Shenyang authorities announced the news of Liu's death shortly after 9pm. State news agency Xinhua also issued a report of Liu's death at about 10.37pm, adding the authorities had invited prominent Chinese doctors and experts from the United States and Germany to treat the dissident. In Hong Kong, more than 100 people gathered outside Beijing's liaison office turned a protest for Liu's release into a vigil. ' “Liu's case shows that Beijing will hold its grip very tight despite international pressure. And we can foresee that Hong Kong's road to democracy will get more difficult,” Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said. Despite appeals from family, friends and the international community, Liu died before realising his wish to receive treatment in Germany with his wife. Liu is the second Nobel laureate to die in custody – the other was German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who died in a hospital under the Nazis in 1938. Liu was arrested in late December 2008 for his part in drafting “Charter 08”, a pro-democracy manifesto advocating political reform on the mainland. He was sentenced to 11 years' jail in 2009, and a year later,was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer in late May after a “routine check-up”, according to the Shenyang Justice Bureau. But news of his illness did not become public until the end of June. Beijing has since brushed aside international appeals to allow Liu to seek treatment abroad, saying he was getting the best possible care. According to two friends in direct contact with Liu's family, the activist fell into a coma early on Thursday but regained consciousness before lapsing into a coma again at about 11am. Exiled Tiananmen student leader Wang Dan described Liu as “a great man who left us, a light extinguished”. “This is the second June 4. This is a naked political murder,” Wang said, referring to the crackdown in 1989. “I hope the whole world will forever remember Xiaobo's contribution to China's progress.” Wang said that in order to best remember the Nobel laureate, he and his friends would “bear the heavy burden left by Liu Xiaobo to continue the lifelong struggle for China's democratisation” . A group of 10 of Liu's close friends issued a joint statement on Thursday night, saying the activist was “one of the most important voices of the contemporary freedom and human rights movement in China”. “[He] symbolised the Chinese people's relentless struggle for freedom,” the friends said. Bao Tong, a former top aide to late ousted state leader Zhao Ziyang, said Liu defined patriotism. “The state may have convicted him of subversion, but it must be pointed out that he was a great patriot,” Bao said on Twitter. Berit Reiss-Andersen, head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said the Chinese government bore a heavy responsibility for the laureate's “premature death”. “We find it deeply disturbing that Liu Xiaobo was not transferred to a facility where he could receive adequate medical treatment before he became terminally ill,” Reiss-Andersen said. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply saddened” by Liu's death. Through a spokesman, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said: “I mourn Liu Xiaobo, the courageous fighter for human rights and freedom of expression.” Berlin and Washington also urged the Chinese authorities to let Liu's relatives leave the country. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said China should allow Liu Xia and her brother to go to Germany or any other country they wished. “China now has the responsibility to quickly, transparently and plausibly answer the question of whether [Liu Xiaobo's] cancer could not have been identified much earlier,” Gabriel said. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he joined “those in China and around the world in mourning the tragic passing of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died while serving a lengthy prison sentence in China for promoting peaceful democratic reform”. “I call on the Chinese government to release Liu Xia from house arrest and allow her to depart China, according to her wishes,” Tillerson said. Wang and fellow dissident Hu Jia added their voices to calls to lift travel restrictions on Liu Xia, who was under virtual house arrest from 2010 until she was reunited with her husband at the Shengyang hospital last month. “We [also] need to continue to push for Liu Xia's freedom, and the unfulfilled dreams in Charter 08, in order to sustain the spirit of Liu Xiaobo,” Hu said. ^ top ^

Liu Xiaobo a victim led astray by West (Global Times)
The bureau of justice of Shenyang announced Thursday night that cancer patient Liu Xiaobo has died from organ failure, despite emergency efforts. Liu was given an 11-year sentence in 2009 for instigating subversion of State power. He was granted medical parole last month. The First Hospital of China Medical University where Liu was hospitalized invited top Chinese cancer experts to treat him, with doctors from the US and Germany participating in medical consultations. But his condition deteriorated quickly and he had been in a critical condition since Monday. The rapid deterioration of his illness is Liu's huge misfortune. The hospital and doctors are believed to have tried their best to save and prolong Liu's life. China has no motive not to provide Liu the best treatment, and the Chinese doctors' efforts are highly regarded by foreign experts. Despite disputes over whether Liu should be sent abroad for treatment, German doctor Markus Buchler admitted "I don't think we can do better medically than you do." Since Liu's medical parole was made public, the Chinese side has been focusing on Liu's treatment, but some Western forces are always attempting to steer the issue in a political direction, hyping the treatment as a "human rights" issue. US and German authorities have also chimed in. Obviously, outside disturbances were of no help to Liu's treatment. It is common sense that a critically ill patient should not be informed of disputes surrounding him that may arouse emotional upheaval, but the West was unwilling to care about Liu's condition. Liu's last days were politicized by the forces overseas. They used Liu's illness as a tool to boost their image and demonize China. They aren't really interested in prolonging Liu's life. While Chinese doctors were doing their best to save Liu, they clamored and asked the critically ill patient to be transferred abroad only to show their so-called "sympathy." Liu's jail sentence is a solemn ruling of the Chinese law. Liu was diagnosed with cancer in jail, and the prison authorities granted him medical parole and provided him with humanitarian treatment. These are all facts. The various speculations from the West will vanish soon. The West has bestowed upon Liu a halo, which will not linger. By granting him the Nobel Prize, the West has "kidnapped" Liu. However, the West only puts a halo on those useful to them. Another example is Wei Jingsheng, living in the US now. Once an electrician at Beijing Zoo, the Western media called him the "father of China's democracy." He has been forgotten by Chinese society, and even in the US, few remember him. In Chinese history, none of China's heroes were conferred by the West. One's position and value in history will be decided by whether one's endeavors and persistence have value to the country's development and historical trends. One can create some waves against the current, but history will eventually wash away these traces. Liu lived in an era when China witnessed the most rapid growth in recent history, but he attempted to confront Chinese mainstream society under Western support. This has determined his tragic life. Even if he could live longer, he would never have achieved his political goals that are in opposition to the path of history. ^ top ^

Dying Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo still pleading to leave China (SCMP)
Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo is still pressing to leave the country for treatment of terminal liver cancer, and his wife to go with him, even though he may not have long to live, his friends say. The hospital in northeast China's Shenyang where Liu, 61, is receiving care said in a statement on Tuesday staff continued to do all they could but his condition was complicated by organ failure and septic shock. Liu's friends said part of the reason he continued to seek permission to go abroad was in the hope his wife, Liu Xia, could accompany him and live in a “free nation”. “Even though he only has one day left or even might die on the plane leaving China, we should still honour his wish,” said rights activist Hu Jia, a family friend. “This is his way of saving and expressing his love for Liu Xia.” She has been living under house arrest since October 2010, a year after her husband was jailed for 11 years on subversion charges. Liu Xiaobo was released on medical parole after being diagnosed with liver cancer in May, and the couple have been seen together in video taken at the hospital that has surfaced online. Friends were also concerned about Liu Xia's mental state, saying she admitted she was suffering from depression and a heart condition. Bao Tong, a former top aide to late Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang who was ousted in the 1980s, said Liu had expressed the wish to leave China on Sunday, even though he was severely ill. Bao told the South China Morning Post that a friend had spoken to Liu over the weekend and the rights activist said he would “rather die in a free nation and that Liu Xia should live in a free nation”. “Born as a free person, [one should] die as a free spirit. This has been Liu Xiaobo's lifetime pursuit. China is big, but is it big enough to contain freedom and those who pursue it?” Bao said later on Twitter. Germany, the United States, and Britain have appealed for Liu to be treated at a location of his choice, but so far the Chinese authorities have resisted the entreaties. Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing hoped “relevant countries can respect the judicial sovereignty of China and not interfere in China's internal affairs under the pretext of an individual case”. Liu's Chinese doctors have said he is unfit for travel but the German and American specialists said over the weekend he could be moved abroad, however quick action was needed. An editorial by the state-run Global Times tabloid published on Monday was more blunt, saying that Liu should not be given special status and blamed Western nations for “politicising” the case. Liu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. The jailed dissident was represented by an empty chair at the ceremony in Norway. ^ top ^

Chinese evade censors to express sorrow, anger over plight of Liu Xiaobo (SCMP)
Chinese social media users have circumvented government censors to express grief and anger over the plight of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who has terminal cancer amid dimming hopes that he may be allowed out of China to receive treatment abroad. The political activist was serving an 11-year jail sentence for inciting subversion, but was given medical parole after he was diagnosed with liver cancer. He is now receiving treatment at a hospital in Shenyang in Liaoning province. Direct mentions of Liu – a long-time political activist and writer – and to his wife, Liu Xia, appear to have been mainly erased from China's social media sites, but some posts have managed to slip past the censors. “Although hope is slim, seeing that he has not been abandoned or forgotten by the world – this is also a form of comfort,” one person wrote on Monday. Another said: “Want his wife to enjoy a stable old age and to live to the end of her days with dignity. Really want to support them, but can't do anything.” Liu was diagnosed in May with late-stage liver cancer. He was jailed in 2009 as one of the authors of “Charter 08”, a manifesto calling for democracy and sweeping political reform in China. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the following year, but was represented by an empty chair at the ceremony. His family, other activists and Nobel laureates want him to be allowed out of China for treatment, but their pleas have so far fallen on deaf ears. Two foreign doctors who were allowed to see Liu in hospital said he was well enough to be transported out of China, despite previous objections from his Chinese doctors. Only indirect mentions of Liu and his wife have been visible on Chinese social media. A handful of the posts referred to the final statement he penned for his December 2009 trial. “I have no enemies and no hatred,” part of his statement said. “I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love.” One internet user wrote: “History will remember this person, 'I have no enemies'.” He Xinbu, a Beijing-based author and poet, posted a photograph of Liu and his wife last Thursday with a poem. “Someone was in a coma before the coming of the night. When he said he had no enemies, he was still wearing the gentleness of the night, but what he found waiting for him was the violence of daylight.” Some posts referred to Liu without using his name or any information that easily identified him. One update on his condition referred to Liu as “empty stool”, one of the code words used to describe him online, according to Jason Ng, an author and researcher on internet censorship. Another internet user lamented that Liu was so ill that it was only right to allow him treatment overseas. “Not to mention that his own relatives said they want him to receive foreign medical treatment,” they said. One commenter from Tianjin said looking at a photograph of Liu in hospital created pain in their heart. “He is a gift given to our nation from heaven, but we don't know how to cherish him and now heaven is going to take him back,” they wrote. “With his passing, the last hope for peaceful change in this country is slim and essentially shattered.” Other messages were simpler, with one expressing a single wish: “For his wife to be free”. ^ top ^

Tsinghua cancels history course on Cultural Revolution (Global Times)
A history course on China's Cultural Revolution (1966-76) at Tsinghua University has been canceled during the school's course selection for the fall semester, a professor from the university confirmed on Thursday. The course, Chinese Cultural History of 1966-76, was run by Tang Shaojie, a professor from the university's Department of Philosophy. Tang focuses on the study of history of Marxist philosophy and the issue of the Cultural Revolution in China. He has taught two courses featuring the Cultural Revolution in Tsinghua University. The other was The History of Cultural Revolution, according to the website of the university. "I was informed on July 1 that the course would be canceled, and then the news was released on July 3," Tang told the Global Times via an email. A staff member from the education administration office of the School of Humanities of Tsinghua University told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that the course is not available for selection in the next semester, but the staff member did not know whether it will be reopened in the future. Tang said that the course was first started in 1995 as The History of the Cultural Revolution, and his application for running the course in 2006 did not get any response. Tang then changed the name to Chinese Cultural History of 1966-76 and restarted the course in 2008. Tang used a large quantity of materials including videos and audios, and combine it with his personal experience to reconstruct the history, Niu Xingzhi, a computer engineering student at Tsinghua University who attended the course in 2015, told the Global Times. Tang played songs of the Cultural Revolution period including The East is Red, and he presented film pieces and documentaries, such as NHK's documentaries on the Cultural Revolution and movie 1984, a British dystopian film, according to students who attended the course. These films and other literature Tang presented in the class created an immersive experience of life some 40 years ago, Niu said. Cultural Revolution-themed topics have been discussed in universities before. In 2015, Yu Youjun, former deputy minister of culture, delivered a lecture on the theme at Sun Yat-sen University in South China's Guangdong Province. Books on Cultural Revolution are widely available in China's bookstores. The Communist Party of China said it was "10 years of catastrophe" and has vowed to keep reforming and opening up. ^ top ^

China's top health authority urges stronger maternal safety measures (Xinhua)
The state health authority Thursday urged the strengthening of maternal safety to reduce maternal and infant mortality. At present, and for the foreseeable future, the number of older women becoming pregnant and higher risk pregnancies will continue to increase, according the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC). According to the commission, 18.46 million babies were born in China last year, an increase of 11.5 percent from 2015. More than 7.4 million babies were born from January to May, up 7.8 percent year on year. In response to China's rapidly aging population, the country allowed married couples to have two children from 2016, ending the one-child policy implemented decades ago to rein in a surging population. The commission said 60 percent of women eligible to have a second child are 35 years old or above. The number of older women becoming pregnant will exceed three million each year from 2017 to 2020. This will result in an increased risk of complications in pregnancy and pose more challenges to obstetric and paediatric services. "It is an arduous task to guarantee maternal and infant safety," said Ma Xiaowei, deputy head of the NHFPC. The commission called for stronger measures to guarantee maternal and infant safety, urged comprehensive screening and assessment of gestation period risks, and enhanced management and treatment of higher risk pregnancies. The next step for the commission is to release a notice to improve maternal safety and launch an action plan. "We will do whatever we can to guarantee the birth of healthy babies," said Ma. ^ top ^

Senior official stresses use of big data, AI in policing (Xinhua)
A senior Communist Party of China (CPC) official has called on the country's police force to make full use of big data technology and artificial intelligence (AI). Meng Jianzhu, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and head of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks during a two-day inspection in southwest China's Guizhou Province, which concluded Wednesday. Guizhou has been a pioneer of the application of big data technology in various sectors including police work. Meng asked public security authorities nationwide to improve coordination and innovate case investigations and command system to curb new types of crimes and trans-regional crimes. He also urged increased efforts on social management and judicial reforms to create a sound social environment for the 19th CPC National Congress scheduled for later this year. In a separate occasion, Chief Justice Zhou Qiang also called for development of big data applications in the country's court system. ^ top ^

Beijing tries to pull the plug on VPNs in internet 'clean-up' (SCMP)
Beijing is clamping down on internet access as it moves to further rein in virtual private networks – a popular method of bypassing the “Great Firewall” – that remain in a defiant cat-and-mouse game with authorities. But some foreign VPN service providers said their business was thriving after mainland rivals were shut down, and that they were confident they could work around new technical barriers. State-run telecoms firms China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom were ordered to stop allowing the use of VPNs by February 1, sources told Bloomberg. China Telecom declined to comment, while the other two did not reply to requests for comment. It is the latest move in a 14-month campaign to crack down on unauthorised internet connections, such as VPNs, in order to strengthen the country's “cyberspace sovereignty”, that will run until March 31, according to a Ministry of Industry and Information Technology notice. VPNs are a popular way to skirt restrictions by rerouting internet traffic to other locations, allowing users on the mainland to access blocked sites with information that could be critical of the Communist Party such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and foreign news sites. Providers of VPN services have long faced difficulties on the mainland, and recent moves had targeted China-based providers, Sunday Yokubaitis, president of internet company Golden Frog, said. Those located outside China, such as Yokubaitis' Switzerland-based VyprVPN, have seen more sign-ups in recent weeks. When popular mainland firm GreenVPN shut down on July 1, citing a “notice from regulatory departments” – the latest in a string of mainland closures – New York-based KeepSolid VPN saw its downloads from China double. Both KeepSolid and VyprVPN said they had technology to make rerouted internet traffic look normal to avoid detection by telecoms providers. Other foreign VPNs, such as ExpressVPN – based in the British Virgin Islands – and Hong Kong-based PureVPN said they did not expect the new rules to significantly affect them. Analysts said the move was unsurprising given Beijing's internet “clean-up” campaign. But it made it harder for the average person to access VPNs and had a “chilling effect” on those considering using them, the co-founder of online censorship monitor GreatFire, who uses the pseudonym Charlie Smith, said. “The authorities are serious about cracking down on free access to information,” he said. “These measures are being rolled out non-stop now.” It was the “next logical step” for the authorities after a series of measures including crackdowns on live-streaming, Paul Triolo, practice head for geotechnology at Eurasia Group, said. “This has been sort of ratcheting up for a long time,” he said, noting that it did represent a “more systemic and robust effort to crack down”. While most people in China did not use VPNs, those who did were more likely to be educated and Beijing would not want them to have access to information that cast its leadership in a negative light, Triolo said. One Guangdong resident said he often used VPNs to access Instagram and Facebook, but had recently used them to watch videos alleging corruption in China posted by fugitive tycoon Guo Wengui. “If VPNs are banned then I won't be able to watch them any more,” he said. “Cruel government ... not democratic at all.” In Sichuan, another VPN user said the latest restriction made his “heart ache”. But the government would find it hard to control or censor everything on the internet, and VPNs were vital tools for many businesses and researchers, Lotus Ruan, a researcher at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, said. People could also get around the system by setting up their own VPNs with overseas servers, or using “information brokers” – people based overseas who translate news and information for Chinese audiences, she said. ^ top ^

Xi: Judicial reform key to rule of law (China Daily)
President Xi Jinping has urged efforts to unswervingly advance reform of the country's judicial system as it is crucial to the country's rule of law and the entire governance system. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, made the remark in a written instruction conveyed to a national conference on judicial system reform, held Monday in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou province. In the instruction, Xi said authorities have made great efforts in the past five years in cracking difficult issues and have managed to achieve some reforms that were long planned and talked about a great deal in the past. Xi also stressed that China should follow the path of the socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics, and urged that modern technology be better introduced as part of judicial reform. He called for further efforts to advance the trial-centered reform of criminal procedure as well as reforms in public security, state security and judicial administration. Meng Jianzhu, head of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the CPC Central Committee, conveyed Xi's instructions and made a speech at the conference. Participants agreed to make use of big data and artificial intelligence technology in advancing reform. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in late 2012, a number of judicial reforms have been conducted. Cheng Lei, an associate law professor at Renmin University of China, said that a notable reform is to limit the quota of judges and increase their responsibilities to improve the quality of case hearings. In the past few years, courts nationwide have introduced a quota for top judges to ensure they receive assistance that frees them from administrative and research work, and helps them to produce impartial, well-considered judgments. Before the reform, the country had 210,000 judges, but now it has dropped to 120,000, according to the top court. The rest have become legal assistants and court clerks. On the adoption of new technologies, Cheng said reform should deal with how to integrate data from different courts and improve data accuracy. "How to use the technology to better store and protect judicial information is also important," he said. ^ top ^

China calls for health education courses at colleges (China Daily)
Institutions of higher education in China should set up public courses on health education, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said in a guideline on the issue released Monday. The courses will teach students about healthy lifestyles, disease prevention, mental health, sex and reproductive health, safety and handling of emergencies, according to the guideline. Schools should select high-quality content for the courses based on the health issues that students are particularly concerned about, in order to attract them to take the courses, the guideline said. Health education must become a part of the education system with in-class education playing a major role, while schools should integrate their educational resources to draw out health education plans that fit their own situations, the guideline continued. According to the MOE, despite schools' efforts in bettering health education and students' health in recent years, some of the students are yet to be fully aware of their health, often illustrated by their lack of sleep and exercise, irregular daily routine, unhealthy diet and others. ^ top ^

China's human rights lawyers continue to fight for victims of the '709 crackdown' (SCMP)
Exactly two years ago, in the dead of night, the quiet of Wang Yu's Beijing home was shattered by the roar of an electric drill boring into her door. Moments earlier, the internet connection to the apartment had been cut and the lights had gone out, plunging the prominent human rights lawyer – who was home alone after dropping off her husband and son at the airport earlier in the day – into an unsettling darkness. The drilling stopped. A gang of men burst into the flat, shoved Wang onto the bed and handcuffed her. She was hauled out to a waiting vehicle, had a hood pulled over her head, and was driven to a secret facility whose location is unknown to this day. There, the 45-year-old was forced to sit cross-legged for weeks inside a circle drawn on her bed. Any time she complained she was scolded or beaten. A leading figure in China's burgeoning human rights movement, Wang last month recounted the events of the night she was taken, and her subsequent detention and torture, to her defence lawyer Wen Donghai. It was their first meeting since she'd been released on bail last August following a televised “confession”. Wang's detention on July 9, 2015 marked the start of a national roundup – later to become known as the “709 crackdown” – of about 300 rights lawyers, legal assistants and activists from across China. Most were interrogated and released, but about 40 were taken into custody. Two years on, the majority of the cases have been closed. Two people remain in prison – rights lawyer Zhou Shifeng is serving seven years and activist Hu Shigen seven-and-a-half years for subverting state power – while others were given suspended sentences. Three more lawyers – Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong and Wu Gan – and possibly others are in custody after being formally arrested, but not sentenced, while about a dozen, including Wang Yu, have been released on bail though remain under strict surveillance. Wang, who was also charged with subverting state power, has been under effective house arrest in her hometown in Inner Mongolia since her release. Surveillance equipment installed inside and outside the property monitors everything she says and does. According to her lawyer, Wen, she is not permitted to contact the outside world or return to her home in Beijing. Wherever she goes she is followed by two security agents. “Her memory has deteriorated severely, and she wants to see a psychologist, as she frequently suffers from fear and anxiety,” he said. Wang told Wen that she was forced to take pills while in detention, but has no idea if they are to blame for the problems she has with her memory, he said. Several others who were detained during the crackdown have told friends and family how they were tortured while in custody. Some said they were beaten, shackled and given electric shocks, while others said they were deprived of sleep, forced to take medication, and held in painful stress positions. Rights lawyer Li Chunfu was diagnosed with schizophrenia after 500 days of detention; the wife of Li Heping, Li Chunfu's brother and a fellow rights lawyer, hardly recognised her husband when he came home emaciated and grey-haired; lawyer Xie Yang's detailed and harrowing account of torture grabbed international headlines, leading the European Union to urge China to investigate reports of torture. Xie later withdrew his allegations of being tortured and pleaded guilty in court, though his family and rights groups have said they believe he was forced into discrediting himself. The claims of torture have upset the families of those still held in custody, especially as they have been denied visiting rights. Jin Bianling, wife of Jiang Tianyong, a rights lawyer who went missing in November and was later confirmed to be detained, said she was extremely worried as to whether her husband, who had been tortured during previous detentions, would be able to pull through this time. Xie was transferred to the No. 1 Detention Centre in Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan province, after being formally arrested with subversion last month. “That was where Xie Yang was held while being tortured,” Jin said. “They must treat him [Jiang Tianyong] the same if he does not cave in. “I don't even know if he's dead or still alive,” she said, adding that police had not allowed her husband any visitors since being detained. Jiang's defence lawyer Chen Jinxue said he had applied to visit Jiang about 10 times, but that every application had been turned down. Speaking of another of the detained lawyers, Wang Quanzhang, Chen said there had been no word for more than 700 days. “There has been no news, no photos and no confession videos. Nothing,” he said. “It's like he evaporated into thin air. We're all very worried.” Wang's wife Li Wenzu has tried several times to complain to China's top prosecuters' office about the silence surrounding her husband, but has been repeatedly turned away. The 709 crackdown came as Beijing was pushing for legal reforms to improve its “rule of law” – a phrase that is frequently used by the state media and President Xi Jinping himself. Critics, however, have said that the government's treatment of the rights lawyers shows the country is heading in the opposite direction. “Jailing the very people who fight for the rule of law undermines progress towards the stable society the Communist Party claims to want,” said Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch. “As long as the Chinese government treats legal defence work as anti-state activity, confidence in the country's legal system will remain low.” William Nee, a China researcher at Amnesty International, said the crackdown has severely damaged China's reputation as a country that is dedicated to the “rule of law” by drawing lines in the sand and arbitrarily defining “sensitive cases” that lawyers are not allowed to get involved with. “This is a sort of knock-off rule of law that should alarm everybody in the international community,” he said. Nonetheless, two years on from the crackdown, legal activists and rights lawyers remain optimistic, saying that the government's efforts to dismantle the country's human rights sector through the clampdown had been a “complete failure”. Dr Feng Chongyi, a China watcher from the University of Technology, Sydney, who was recently prevented from leaving China after conducting research on the crackdown, said “709 failed miserably”. “Not only has Beijing severely damaged its international reputation with this campaign, but the resistance of 709 family members has drawn keen media coverage that has shed light on China's human rights situation,” he said, adding that many lawyers who used to focus on commercial litigation have now joined the plight. Teng Biao, a legal activist in exile in the United States, agreed. “Although human rights lawyers have suffered a harsh setback, the community has not been destroyed and will continue to grow ... we are seeing more young and brave lawyers joining the force,” he said. Jiang Tianyong's lawyer, Chen, who is based in the southern city of Guangzhou, said he would not be cowed. “The authorities did not achieve their goal to intimidate us, but instead has strengthened our faith. I'll continue to do what I think is the right thing to do: to defend China's human rights and to achieve China's democratic transition one day,” he said. ^ top ^



Xiongan off to good start after 100 days (Global Times)
Beijing plans to set up a new version of its Zhongguancun technology zone in Xiongan New Area, North China's Hebei Province, aiming to bring technological innovative resources to the area, media reports said Wednesday. The Beijing Municipal government will give full support to the construction of Xiongan, seeking to forge the area into an open and innovative specialized zone that will have global influence, Beijing Business Today said, citing Cai Qi, secretary of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China. Also, final tests and installation of smart car parking points, smart well lids and smart streetlight systems have been completed in the new area, domestic financial news portal reported. Shares related to Xiongan rose Wednesday in Shenzhen bourse . Guangdong Redwall New Materials Co and Beijing Creative Distribution Automation Co closed up to 10 percent daily limit. The Xiongan New Area, which was announced on April 1, reached the 100-day mark on Sunday. The new area is about 100 kilometers southeast of Beijing, and spans three counties - Xiongxian, Rongcheng and Anxin - that sit at the center of the triangular area formed by Beijing, Tianjin and Shijiazhuang, Hebei's capital. The first 100 days have gone well, as many basic designs have been drawn up as part of the area's growth plan, which will guarantee its further advancement, Wang Danqing, a partner at the Beijing-based ACME consultancy, told the Global Times Wednesday. The Xiongan New Area is "a strategy crucial for the next millennium," according to the Xinhua News Agency. "The prominent position of the new area has made the Xiongan brand well-known across the country," Wang noted. In the first 100 days, the management institutions and personnel for the new area were ready and the industrial base of Xiongan received strong support as many Chinese enterprises vowed to move there, Wang said. More than 30 central State-owned enterprises announced intentions to support the development of Xiongan within one week after the area was announced in early April. Many companies in sectors including real estate and infrastructure have already entered Xiongan. Listed arms or subsidiaries of some domestic enterprises have rented offices in the Xiongan New Area, such as China Railway Construction Engineering Group, China Southwest Architectural Design and Research Institute Corp and Power Construction Corp of China, The Beijing News reported Monday. Their offices can be found near the temporary office of the Xiongan New Area Administration Committee, which is located in Rongcheng, the report said. The administration committee of the new area was officially approved by the central government on June 21, media reports said. Specific plans for the Xiongan New Area have not yet been unveiled, an employee surnamed He who is with China Railway Construction Engineering Group, told The Beijing News. "The planning will be announced ... and we will participate in construction through project bidding," He was quoted as saying in the report. Not only State-owned enterprises, but also private ones, are encouraged to contribute to the development of the new economic zone, Ma Wenfeng, an analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultancy, told the Global Times on Wednesday. Ma said that "private capital is expected to be introduced to the high-tech and information technology sectors in Xiongan, which could serve as a role model for the development of other places across the country in the future." Ma warned that environmental protection should be a focus during the construction of the new area. The growth of Xiongan will play a key role in promoting regional economic development, and transportation upgrades will bring those areas closer, experts said. On July 6, two high-speed passenger trains connecting Beijing to the Xiongan New Area were put into use. On June 26, about 75 central and local enterprises announced 68,000 job openings at a labor training and employment meeting held in the new economic area. The new area has not started any construction projects and the previous overheated property market in the region has been effectively curbed, Director of the Xiongan New Area Administration Committee Chen Gang told the meeting. ^ top ^



Tibet 'govt-in-exile' takes advantage of border standoff (Global Times)
India should properly manage "Tibet independence" forces on its soil, and avoid using them as a bargaining chip with China, Chinese experts said. Taking advantage of the military standoff between China and India over Indian troops' trespass across the border to China, the head of the Tibetan "government in exile," Lobsang Sangay, hoisted a "Tibetan flag," a symbol of "Tibet independence" beside Pangong Lake, which sits astride India and China. India has previously discouraged such "political activities" by Tibetan separatists, said Indian news website The Wire. However, this time, the Indian government has not commented on it. "Chinese and Indian military forces control the two sides of Pangong Lake, and residents are rarely seen in the area, so Sangay's behavior is likely to have the Indian government's permission or blessings," Qian Feng, an expert at the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday. Sonam Norbu Dagpo, "spokesperson" of the self-styled "Central Tibetan Administration" (CTA), had earlier confirmed the hoisting of the flag to The Wire on Sunday. "This is the first visit by the CTA president to Ladakh and, therefore, the first time that he has offered prayers, hoisted the prayer flag and hoisted the 'national flag' by himself at the lake," he said. "This activity made by a 'Tibet independence' group in India might worsen the situation and further damage Sino-Indian relations. It might also affect the Chinese government's future solution for the 'Tibet independence' problem," Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. The Chinese government is seeking opportunities to solve the problem of "Tibet independence" in the future, which will be an opportunity for Tibetans in exile to rebuild relations with the government. But the "Tibet independence" group makes such a move attract attention in the midst of the Sino-Indian stand-off in the border area, which will damage its image, Hu said. "The CTA spokesperson" stressed that this was Sangay's first visit, and that other leaders of the community who headed earlier avatars of the CTA had visited Pangong Lake. "But at that time, there was no media coverage," he said. However, on Sunday night, "CTA information secretary Dhardon Sharling" reached out to The Wire to insist Sangay had not hoisted the flag. "The connection between the 'Tibet independence' group and Indian government is not a secret. In the past, the Indian government restrained the 'Tibet independence' activity within its territory to some extent. So we hope India will not ease its restraints on 'Tibet independence' groups and not use 'Tibet independence' as a bargaining chip to China to further worsen the situation," said Chu Yin, an associate professor at the University of International Relations. Border frictions or even conflicts may be politically manageable. However, the sovereignty over Tibet is not something negotiable, and China has made it very clear. So, India should not push China to a point where a peaceful solution becomes impossible, because this will seriously damage India and regional stability, Chu said. Additionally, the "Tibet independence" group might also want to use the Indian government and the current tensions to strengthen its influence and create trouble, Hu said. "The Indian government should not let the 'Tibet independence' group worsen the situation and further damage bilateral ties with China," Chu said. China continues to search for a peaceful solution, but it stressed that the withdrawal of the Indian soldiers who trespassed is the precondition for dialogue. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang reaffirmed this point during a press conference on Monday. When asked if China would stop the road construction in the region once India withdraws its forces from Doklam, he said China's road construction in Doklam is legal and inside Chinese territory, and India's claim of "national security" as an excuse to trespass into China has violated international law. ^ top ^



Sweeping counter-terrorism measures in China's Xinjiang 'creating huge police state' (SCMP)
Worshippers quietly passed through metal detectors as they entered the central mosque in China's far western city of Kashgar under the stern gaze of stone-faced police officers. The increasingly strict curbs imposed on the mostly Muslim Uygur population have stifled life in the tense Xinjiang region where beards are partially banned and no one is allowed to pray in public. For years, the square outside the mosque in Kashgar was packed with teeming crowds as worshippers jostled for space to unroll their prayer rugs and celebrate the end of Ramadan. But no longer. This year, an eerie silence hung over the plaza outside the imposing prayer hall as devotees gathered to mark the end of a month of fasting – the lowest turnout in a generation according to residents. The authorities declined to comment on the numbers, but local businessmen said the government had used the multiple checkpoints encircling the city to prevent travellers to Kashgar from joining Eid prayers. “This is not a good place for religion,” said one trader. Beijing says the restrictions and heavy police presence seek to control the spread of Islamic extremism and separatist movements, but analysts warn that Xinjiang is becoming an open air prison. China is “essentially creating a police state of unprecedented scale”, said James Leibold, an expert on Chinese security at Australia's La Trobe University. The government began ramping up security and religious restrictions in Xinjiang in 2009 following a series of riots in the regional capital Urumqi that left about 200 dead. President Xi Jinping ordered security forces in March to build a “great wall of steel” around the region after Uygurs claiming to belong to a division of the Islamic State group in Iraq threatened to return home and “shed blood like rivers”. Over the last year, Beijing has flooded Xinjiang with tens of thousands of security personnel, placed police stations on nearly every block and rolled out tough regulations aimed at “eliminating extremism”. Public signs say no one is permitted to pray in public or grow a beard before the age of 50, while government employees are forbidden from fasting during Ramadan. In Tashkurgan, near the Pakistan border, the authorities shut a halal restaurant as “punishment” for refusing to serve food during the holiday, according to a shopkeeper working next door. A teacher and a government official said schools discourage students from using the traditional Arabic Muslim greeting As-Salaam Alaikum [“peace be upon you”]. “The government thinks this Islamic word is equal to separatism,” the official said. The region's ubiquitous surveillance cameras are particularly abundant in places of worship. An empty mosque in the southern city of Yarkand had three of them pointing directly at the spot where the imam leads prayers. Even more hung from the wooden rafters like bats. At police stations, officers monitor screens with direct feeds from mosques as well as other buildings and nearby streets. In the run-up to Eid in the southwestern desert oasis town of Hotan, police manned checkpoints with rifles and crude spears made from metal pipes. At one intersection, men in bulletproof vests stopped traffic for a fleet of dozens of heavily armoured trucks, personnel carriers with mounted guns and black vans. The caravans patrolled the city every day during the month of Ramadan, a police officer said. At a mosque in the heart of Hotan, Muslims gathering for Friday prayers passed through a police barricade and showed identity documents at two checkpoints before entering. Inside, plainclothes men with Communist Party lapel pins and sunglasses kept a close eye on hundreds of worshippers. At the front of the mosque, an LED signboard reminded people that “the greatest task for Xinjiang's masses is harmonising ethnic unity and religion”. Such signs are a common sight throughout Xinjiang, where tensions between Uygurs and the majority Han ethnic group have led to violent clashes. Chinese authorities have long linked their crackdown on Uygur Muslims to international counter-terrorism efforts, arguing that separatists are bent on joining foreign extremists like al-Qaeda. Uygurs have been tied to mass stabbings and bombings that left dozens dead in recent years across the country. Riots and clashes with the government killed hundreds more. Worries about extremism notwithstanding, many Xinjiang residents fear the loss of their cultural identity and question whether the government has gone too far. “We don't want it to become another Pakistan or Afghanistan,” a shopkeeper in Tashkurgan said, fearing violence could spill into China from the nearby countries. But, he added, “only a small minority of Muslims are extremists. The Chinese government can't differentiate”. ^ top ^



Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong seeks HK$45,000 police payout for July 1 protest handcuffing (SCMP)
Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung is seeking compensation of HK$45,000 from the police chief, claiming it was unreasonable for officers to handcuff him as he headed to a protest on July 1. Wong, secretary general of the Demosisto party, said he was on his way to protest at the flag-raising ceremony in Wan Chai on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China, when he was attacked by alleged “gangsters”. “There were about 100 people outside the Wan Chai MTR station. They surrounded us and some punched and kicked us,” he said. “But instead of asking the crowd to leave, some officers took us into a police vehicle and handcuffed me ... Later a policeman told me they were not arresting me, and I could leave the police station.” Wong said he asked why he was handcuffed, but the officer did not answer. He said his lawyers told him that in 2002 and 2009, there were court rulings stating that it was unlawful for police to “restrain the freedom of a person not officially arrested”. Wong was speaking before filing legal documents at the Small Claims Tribunal in the West Kowloon Law Courts Building yesterday morning. After filing the claim against Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung, Wong said the tribunal would hear the case on August 9. A police spokeswoman said the force would look into the matter In a separate development, Demosisto member Agnes Chow Ting filed a complaint yesterday against the police with the Equal Opportunities Commission. Chow said she and five other female activists were arrested on June 28 for occupying the Golden Bauhinia Statue in Wan Chai. While being detained at the female detention cell in North Point Police Station, they saw male police officers patrolling the cells, she claimed. Chow said the toilets in each cell could be seen from the corridor where officers patrolled, offering little privacy for inmates. Policewomen also patrolled the male detainees' cells, she added. “It's disrespectful to different genders and we hope the commission can do something about it to improve the situation,” Chow said. After filing the complaint with three of the women arrested, Chow said commission staff promised to give them a response in 14 working days. The police spokeswoman said it was force policy to ensure the patrolling officer was of the same sex as detainees. “If the officer on duty has to inspect cells with detainees of a different sex, he or she has to be accompanied by another officer of the same sex as the detainees, who will inspect the detainees first to make sure they are ready to be inspected by the duty officer,” the spokeswoman told the Post. ^ top ^



Taiwan casts nervous eye as mainland Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning sails near (SCMP)
Taiwan's military is closely watching as a convoy accompanying mainland China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailed into the Taiwan Strait after leaving Hong Kong where it took part in the handover celebrations. The carrier, which left Hong Kong at about noon on Tuesday, entered Taiwan's air defence identification zone at 2.40 am Wednesday, the island's military said. The apparent display of force after the carrier made its first port call in Hong Kong comes amid strained cross straits relations since President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took power last year. Taiwan's defence ministry said in a statement that the Liaoning strike group was moving northwest along the median line of the Taiwan Strait. Jets were scrambled and navy ships shadowed the movement of the carrier, the statement added. The Liaoning also entered the Taiwan Strait earlier this month en route to Hong Kong for its five-day port call. “We have conducted overall surveillance and made necessary preparations for [the Liaoning's passage] in line with the emergency regulations.” the statement said. It added that the military would continue to keep a close watch on the strike group. “So far, no unusual move of the carrier was reported,” it said without specifying when it expected the convoy to leave Taiwan's air defence zone. The convoy, which includes the destroyers Jinan and Yinchuan, the frigate Yantai, a squadron of J-15 fighters plus several helicopters, left its base in Qingdao in Shandong province on June 25. It entered “first combat readiness” and launched a series of drills when it sailed into “certain sea area” on July 1, the military newspaper the PLA Daily reported, without specifying the exact location. Taiwan's defence ministry said on July 1 the Liaoning had entered the island's air defence zone then left the following day. More than 100 combat units took part in the PLA drills, including J-15 fighter jets, which took off from the flight deck and carried out air manoeuvres, according to the newspaper. Taiwan's defence ministry has been on alert after the carrier was reported to be on another “training mission” following similar exercises between late December and early January. Lin Chong-pin, Taiwan's former deputy defence minister, said he expected such voyages to continue. “There is no doubt it will become routine for the Liaoning to continue sailing into the Taiwan Strait or near Taiwan in future. “In fact, its repeated passages into the Taiwan Strait can be interpreted as silent intimidation of Taiwan and a silent protest against the United States.” Lo Chih-cheng, a legislator with the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party who sits on Taiwan's Foreign and National Defence Committee, believed the military manoeuvres were politically significant ahead of the Communist Party's leadership reshuffle this autumn. “Any military movements by China, including the Liaoning's Hong Kong port call and exercises, have their political meaning, especially ahead of the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. In addition to isolating Taiwan internationally, the Liaoning's passage into the Taiwan Strait obviously serves to step up military intimidation against the Tsai Ing-wen government in the hope that it would succumb to the pressure and accept the 1992 consensus.” During the January drills, the Liaoning carried out an exercise that took them through the Miyako Strait northeast of Taiwan then south to Taiwan's east coast and towards the South China Sea. On its way back to the mainland after the exercises, the Liaoning sailed through the Taiwan Strait, in what Taiwanese lawmakers and military experts described as “completing a voyage circling Taiwan”. Taiwanese officials later said the voyage was a “menace” and “intimidation” of the island. Beijing considers Taiwan to be a breakaway Chinese province subject to eventual unification, if necessary by force. ^ top ^



Belt and Road shipping indices officially released (Xinhua)
The Shanghai Shipping Exchange (SSE) Tuesday officially launched the Belt and Road shipping indices to track freight trade data among countries involved after a two-year trial. The indices include a Belt and Road trade index, a Belt and Road freight volume index, and a Maritime Silk Road freight index. The Belt and Road Initiative -- or the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road -- was proposed by Chinese leadership in 2013 to build trade and infrastructure links along ancient overland and maritime Silk Road routes, connecting countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Oceania. SSE president Zhang Ye said the Belt and Road will lead China's opening-up efforts and the shipping industry keeps tabs on trade volume and freight rates. The indices will boost market transparency.^ top ^

Chinese firms need professional help with B&R (Global Times)
It's well known that abundant opportunities await Chinese businesses along the route of the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative, but it could be highly risky if companies fail to avoid the pitfalls associated with infrastructure investment, particularly with regard to securing land rights. For there to be more secure investment, Chinese companies seeking a foothold along the route should become adept at using project finance arrangements and hiring fundraising consultants to keep their B&R investments financially viable. Chinese-made products have grown in popularity worldwide, laying the groundwork for the upcoming Chinese wave to spread across a lot of markets along the route, particularly in the sphere of infrastructure construction. But it's often the case with Chinese companies that they hope to win contracts quickly but are not then ready for the project financing. As a consequence, they are normally more fast-paced than their international counterparts when it comes to signing project contracts. That's not to say they sign the contracts in a casual way, but they might sometimes be overly confident that what's proven effective in the domestic market would be equally feasible in foreign markets. It's often the case that technology isn't a problem for Chinese companies while a lack of understanding of local market conditions does pose an impediment for their plans to secure the local market. A common concern for Chinese companies building infrastructure projects beyond their home territory is the securing of land rights, which in many developing countries requires repeated communications and cannot solely rely on lawyers to minimize potential losses. As such, collateral loans, the conventional method of fundraising, are no longer the best choice for Chinese companies expanding their footprint in more than 60 countries and regions along the B&R route, as the variety of political and economic risks involved in B&R investment could put pressure on their balance sheets. That said, the use of project financing, which allows shareholders to book debt in an off-balance sheet manner and allows for various risks including the potential risks arising from land rights to be managed financially, is of undoubted importance for Chinese companies looking to capitalize on opportunities in B&R markets. Particularly worth pointing out is that policy banks will likely become increasingly picky about B&R projects that are eligible for their funding, which means projects falling under B&R investments, especially those undertaken by privately run businesses, will primarily be commercially funded. If that is the case, project finance arrangements that do a good job of risk distribution and management could maximize the potential of securing funds for the project, which means the source of financing could be commercial loans or project bonds, among others. In doing so, the losses could also be minimized in the event of a default. Having said all this, Chinese companies still need the help of fundraising professionals to devise competitive yet commercially viable project finance agreements. It's already a common practice for their international rivals to hire fundraising advisors, as it takes too much time and energy to figure out the best financing arrangement, not to mention the many complicated aspects of the project that need to be evaluated in financial terms and that should be considered when negotiating the terms of the contract. This might initially add to the cost of winning the project, but that's only a small amount of money given that infrastructure projects usually involve hundreds of millions of dollars. It would probably be money well spent.^ top ^

AI to create over 100,000 jobs in one Chinese province alone (Xinhua)
In one Chinese province, artificial intelligence (AI) appears to be creating abundant jobs for humans, instead of stealing them, but only for those in the know. A senior official in Zhejiang Province, home to Alibaba, said Monday that the province aims to hire more than 110,000 AI professionals in the next five years. Among them will be 50 world-leading AI experts, 500 scientific entrepreneurs, and 1,000 development and research talent, said Yao Zhiwen, deputy head of the organization department of the Communist Party of China, Zhejiang provincial committee. He said the provincial government would provide financial support to entrepreneurs in AI and encourage universities to enroll more graduate students on the subjects. Zhejiang will set up a 1-billion-yuan (147 million U.S. dollars) development fund and a 50-million-yuan investment fund to support AI professionals and startups, Yao said. China is in the midst of an AI boom with governments, research institutes, tech firms, and entrepreneurs racing to be involved, betting on the discipline to take the lead in economic growth and social development. Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu -- the top three Chinese tech firms -- are all investing heavily in AI research. AI professionals are sought after across the country, but no other local government has set such ambitious goals and offered such lucrative incentives. The province plans to build an AI industry worth 50 billion yuan in three years. The industry clusters will be based in the provincial capital of Hangzhou and economic powerhouse of Ningbo. The official was speaking at a global AI forum, themed "the future is now," in Hangzhou Monday. The conference was attended by both Chinese and foreign participants including Turing Award Winner Cornell University Computer Science Professor John Hopcroft and Yuval Noah Harari, author of the 2015 book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Harari told the forum audience that robots would outperform humans in many jobs and that we might no longer need taxis drivers or truck drivers, among others, in the future. Many jobs will be lost that we have to keep learning new things to adapt to a changing world, he said. After 2040, the thing that remains unchanged is change itself.^ top ^



North Korea weighing a return to talks as missile launch boosts its bargaining power, US nuclear expert says (SCMP)
Pyongyang's latest successful intercontinental ballistic missile test has given it confidence in its negotiating power and it is seriously considering a return to talks, a top US nuclear expert who helped organise informal talks between Washington and Pyongyang said. Suzanne DiMaggio, senior fellow at the Washington-based New America Foundation, also told the South China Morning Post in an exclusive interview that the US should seize the moment with a dual strategy of “maximum pressure and engagement” to hold talks with Pyongyang, while backing up its move with pressure such as sanctions. “The best bet would be to focus on preventing the further development of Pyongyang's ICBM capabilities through an agreement that would suspend their nuclear and missile testing,” DiMaggio said. “My sense is that the North Koreans recognise they have to make some consequential decisions in the near term and they are exploring possible options,” she said. “They seem to understand they are going to have to re-engage at some point to reduce tensions because we are fast approaching a point of crisis.” DiMaggio said that while the goal of denuclearising the Korean peninsula shouldn't be abandoned, “there is a need to be realistic and set it aside, at least in the near term”. Instead, DiMaggio continued that “placing an immediate focus on reducing tensions and deterring North Korea from using and proliferating its nuclear weapons makes greater sense”. “The US must decide on its highest priority with North Korea at this time and set it as an interim goal,” she said. DiMaggio helped establish the unofficial channel with the North Koreans early last year. Deeply involved in the regional security and nuclear non-proliferation fields for over 15 years, she has a special interest in holding policy dialogue with countries with which the US has had limited official relations, especially Iran, Myanmar and North Korea, according to the think tank's website. After informal talks in Oslo, Norway, in early May, Choe Son-hui, the head of the North Korean foreign ministry's North America bureau, said Pyongyang was open to dialogue with the US under the “right conditions”. “If conditions are met, we will hold dialogue [with Washington],” Choe said. US President Donald Trump made similar statements in May, telling Bloomberg he would be “honoured” to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “under the right circumstances”. “The task at hand is to find out what the 'right conditions' might be. We need to test whether the North Koreans are serious about dialogue, and the only way to do so is to talk to them,” DiMaggio said, adding that contact made in an unofficial dialogue such as the Oslo meeting could play a role in starting “talks about talks”. At the official level, DiMaggio stated that “aggressive diplomacy”, including direct engagement, should be backed up in dealing with Pyongyang by the leverage of “maximum pressure”, such as through United Nations Security Council sanctions. North Korea's self-claimed test-launch on July 4 of an ICBM capable of striking Alaska is widely viewed as crossing the red line. DiMaggio said: “What cannot be denied is that North Korea is clearly focused on developing nuclear weapon delivery systems that can reach the continental United States.” “The rationale behind their single-minded focus is clear – the North Korean leadership sees their nuclear programme as the only source of security against regime change. This position has hardened over the past few years. They have concluded that the United States will not attack a country that has nuclear weapons, plus the means to deliver them,” DiMaggio said. “So now, North Korea has the capability of nuclear weapons and an ICBM, they have a strengthened position to go back to negotiation.” In response, two US supersonic bombers carried out live-fire drills in South Korea in a demonstration of military muscle, two days after Trump said in Poland ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg that he was considering a “very severe” response to Pyongyang's unprecedented launch of a missile capable of reaching the US. Nikki Haley, Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, also said on July 5 at an emergency UN Security Council meeting that the US “is prepared to use the full range of our capabilities”, including “our considerable military forces”. “We will use them, if we must, but we prefer not to have to go in that direction,” Haley said. DiMaggio said that “in some circles, the possibility of kinetic actions is being discussed, including potential pre-emptive strikes to destroy nuclear capabilities in North Korea”. But she played down the military option. “The reality is that military action is not a viable option,” DiMaggio said. “We cannot dismiss the possibility that they would respond in a way that could inflict mass civilian casualties and severe damage to South Korea, as well as to Japan and potentially American forces based in the region. “And how would Beijing react? It could lead to a regional war or even a wider war that could include the use of nuclear weapons,” she said. “The risks are just too great, especially when we haven't even begun to exhaust diplomatic options.” DiMaggio added that relying on China to solve the North Korea problem is “a misguided approach” mainly because American interests in North Korea do not necessarily align with China's interests. The Trump administration has been pushing China to use its economic ties with North Korea as leverage to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, from its provision of energy and food supplies to its alleged financial support through certain Chinese banks with links to the reclusive country. “The Chinese leadership won't bring crippling sanctions against North Korea because they won't risk increasing the possibility of the North Korean regime's collapse, which could lead to a mass refugee influx into China and bring US troops to the Chinese border,” DiMaggio said. Trump calls North Korea 'a problem and a menace'( DiMaggio said the US needed to change the way it looked at China in this equation. “One way to do so would be to work with China, along with South Korea and Japan, to put together a diplomatic package of both incentives and disincentives that would be jointly carried out. “Russia would need to be involved and perhaps the Europeans could be brought in,” she said. “The US would need to take on a leadership role to get all of these players on the same page and follow a coordinated strategy.” ^ top ^

China, North Korea trade rises amid tensions over missile tests (SCMP)
China's trade with North Korea rose 10.5 per cent in the first six months of the year according to customs figures, as the United States is urging Beijing to put more pressure on Pyongyang to rein in its nuclear weapons programme. Customs administration spokesman Huang Songping said exports to the hermit nation rose 29.1 per cent in the same period, while imports were down 13.2 per cent. Huang said, however, that imports from North Korea have sharply decreased every month since March and insisted that Beijing was upholding United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear programme. “Simple accumulated data cannot be used as evidence to question China's severe attitude in carrying out UN Security Council resolutions,” Huang told a regular press briefing. “UN Security Council sanctions are not a total ban on shipments. Trade related to DPRK people's livelihood, especially those that reflect humanitarianism should not be influenced by the sanctions.” Regional tensions have escalated after North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile last week. US President Donald Trump later complained that trade had risen between China and North Korea after he had called on Beijing to use its diplomatic and economic clout over its neighbour to convince Pyongyang to drop its nuclear programme. “Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40 per cent in the first quarter. So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!” Trump tweeted on July 5. ' The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said on Sunday that Washington would crank up pressure on China to ensure it enforces sanctions against North Korea. She has also told the UN Security Council the US planned a new resolution that would also ensure existing sanctions are properly implemented. “We're going to push hard against China because 90 per cent of the trade that happens with North Korea is from China and so while they have been helpful, they need to do more,” she told CBS television. China suspended all coal imports from North Korea in February as part of its efforts to implement sanctions. But Beijing excludes goods and services intended for “the people's well-being” and exports unconnected to the nuclear or missile programmes so as not to push North Korea's economy to the brink of collapse. Hwang Jae-ho, an expert on Northeast Asian regional security at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, said the increase in trade was likely to attract more criticism from the US. “The US has always been pushing China to impose stricter sanction on North Korea to end Pyongyang's unclear ambition, but the increase in trade data in the first half of this year will invite more US suspicion on how seriously Beijing will punish its ally,” said Hwang. “But six months is a long period. We should examine and compare the data before and after Beijing imposed sanction to conclude whether the sanctions are successful or not,” he added. Sun Xingjie, a North Korean expert at Jilin University in northeast China, said the existing sanctions would do little to rein in North Korea. “The statistics themselves are really confusing, but the increase might be a result of the emerging black market in North Korea that welcomes Chinese products, since there are still many items that can be traded from China to North Korea,” said Sun. Some places in North Korea had also loosened their planned economy policies and encouraged some degree of free market trading, Sun added. ^ top ^

China's coal imports from North Korea drop by 75% (Global Times)
Chinese imports of coal from North Korea dropped by 74.5 percent in the first half of 2017 from the same period last year after China announced a ban on coal imports from that country on February 19 to implement UN sanctions, a customs official said. The 2.68 million tons of coal China imported from North Korea arrived before February 18, Huang Songping, a spokesperson of the General Administration of Customs, told a press conference on Thursday. He said China is strictly implementing UN sanctions. China imported $880 million worth of goods from North Korea in the first half of 2017, a drop of 13.2 percent from the same period last year, Huang said. Imports from North Korea to China slid by 36.5 percent in March, 41.6 percent in April, 31.6 percent in May and 28.9 percent in June, Huang elaborated. Huang noted that the monthly data shows that China had been strictly implementing UN sanctions, saying suspicions to the contrary were groundless. "The ban on coal imports is China's toughest sanctions against North Korea," Lü Chao, an expert on Korean studies at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. In the first half of the year, China exported $1.67 billion in goods to North Korea, a 29.1 percent increase from the previous year, and reflected products not covered by the sanctions, like textiles, he said. As neighbors, China maintains normal economic and trade activity with North Korea because sanctions should not damage trade in the name of humanitarianism, Huang said. Lü explained that North Korea suffered from heavy flooding last year and a drought early this year. "Almost all of the materials the country needed for reconstruction were imported from China, including building materials and steel," said Lü. Last week, the Rodong Sinmun, the North's biggest newspaper, reported that the country was struck by an "abysmal" drought, reported. The severe flood in the North Korea border region in September 2016 lead to 133 deaths, 395 missing and tens of thousands homeless, Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. Lü added that it is unreasonable for the US and the UK to accuse China of not being strongly committed to UN sanctions, because their claims are inconsistent with the facts. ^ top ^

Face to face again, Xi and Trump paper over differences on North Korea (SCMP)
US President Donald Trump maintained his rapport with his Chinese counterpart at their second face-to-face meeting on the weekend, despite glaring differences on how to keep North Korea on a leash, analysts said. Meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, Trump and President Xi Jinping tried hard to avoid a showdown by papering over bilateral tensions from a raft of geopolitical challenges, from Pyongyang's provocations to Taiwan and maritime disputes. Both governments spoke highly of the two leaders' second encounter on Saturday, which at less than an hour was much shorter than their first meeting in Florida in April or Trump's two-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin a day before. Trump described Xi as “a friend” and tweeted on his way back to Washington early Sunday morning about his “excellent meeting” with the Chinese leader on trade and North Korea. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said both leaders agreed to maintain healthy and stable bilateral ties, “deepen mutually beneficial cooperation and properly manage their differences and sensitive issues”. Analysts said that despite the symbolic significance of the meeting, it failed to yield real solutions to risks from their divergent and often conflicting interests. Huang Jing, from the National University of Singapore, said the embattled Trump seemed eager to score some diplomatic points at the G20 summit. “Trump has yet to be able to work out an effective strategy to confront and contain China and that's why he took such a conciliatory tone when he met Xi,” Huang said. Trump has made little effort to conceal his growing frustration over Beijing's perceived unwillingness to get tougher on Pyongyang, which Trump described in his meeting with Xi as “the very substantial problem”. Senior US officials have threatened to use trade and other measures to ratchet up the pressure on China and, on the eve of the summit, Trump joined Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in urging Beijing to step up efforts on North Korea. “Since the full spectrum of actions available to Trump ranges from getting Xi to deliver on his implicit promise over North Korea [in Florida in April] to using force to take out North Korea's nuclear capabilities, and the US is not ready for the latter, Trump falls back on the easiest option,” Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China institute in London, said. Gal Luft, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a US think tank, said Trump would want to see China on his side, especially with Russia appearing to be in the North Korean camp. Luft also said Trump was aware that it might not be wise to stake US-China relations on North Korea. Analysts also warned Beijing must get ready for Trump's more confrontational approach in dealing with China. “The summit may have gone well, but have we actually seen any substantial results? Top leaders in Beijing should give up any illusions about Trump,” Huang said. Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia with the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said that any understanding between the leaders may not hold for long as Trump was losing patience and appeared willing to use trade and other levers to influence China. ^ top ^



Mongolia's new nationalist president won't harm China ties (Global Times)
Khaltmaa Battulga of the Democratic Party was sworn in as Mongolian new president on July 10 after winning the presidential elections with 50.6 percent of the votes. He is not only known as a business tycoon and judo expert, but also as a strong nationalist who used the slogan "I Win, Mongolia Wins" for his presidential campaign. His supporters expressed their concern over a "Chinese threat," accusing his opponent, Miyeegombyn Enkhbold of the Mongolian People's Party, of being of "mixed Chinese blood." So, why did this happen in Mongolia? Mongolia is concerned that it is stuck in China' economic orbit, and as a result too dependent. There are many pros and cons with resource-rich Mongolia cooperating with resource-hungry China. China has been Mongolia's largest investment and trading partner for over a decade. Mongolia mainly exports natural resources, animal fur and finished products to China, and imports gasoline, diesel, food, machinery and equipment. China is the biggest buyer of Mongolia's mineral resources. More than 88 percent of Mongolia's total exports went to China. More than 6,500 Chinese firms operate in Mongolia, with a combined investment of about $3.5 billion, and investment from China continues to increase. Therefore, some people in Mongolia are concerned that Mongolia is ever more vulnerable to Chinese economic domination. As for resource exploration, worried Mongolians also blame some of their political leaders, who were bribed by foreign companies, for seeking their own economic interests regardless of the impact on the country's traditional way of life, environment and even sovereignty. Therefore, in response to his voters, Battulga said that "it is time to fix the problem." The nationalistic slogan of his presidential campaign was a good way of defeating his opponent. But what does this mean to China? At his inauguration ceremony, Battulga vowed to revive Mongolia's flagging economy and pursue equal relationships with the two neighboring giants, Russia and China. Democracy has brought free elections to Mongolia. However, with changes of government, Mongolian economic policy changes easily, affecting foreign investors. In order to secure its national economy, the Mongolian government might appeal to nationalism in order to seize control over domestic natural resources, the most important pillar of its economy. Therefore, Chinese investors should prepare for risks brought about by nationalistic resource policies. In the end, the Sino-Mongolian relationship will not get worse because the two nations' all-round cooperation is a win-win situation for both countries, and Mongolia will enjoy great benefits from participating in China's Belt and Road initiative. Moreover, China is the most important neighboring country for Mongolia from the geopolitical perspective. On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Battulga as the new president of Mongolia. Meanwhile, Battulga met with Chinese ambassador Xing Haiming and exchanged views on Sino-Mongolian relations and cooperation. In the meeting, Battulga affirmed that China's Belt and Road initiative and Mongolia's Steppe Road strategy have common concepts and content in many ways, indicating that the two countries will have a bright cooperative future. ^ top ^

Xi congratulates new Mongolian president on inauguration (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday sent a congratulatory message to Khaltmaa Battulga on his inauguration as Mongolia's new president. Xi congratulated Battulga on his inauguration and also on the 96th National Day of Mongolia. Xi pointed out in the message that China and Mongolia are close neighbors, and that sound and steady development of China-Mongolia relations meets the fundamental interests of the two countries and the two peoples. China is willing to work with Mongolia to promote continued development of the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries, in accordance with the series of important political consensus reached by the two sides, and on the basis of respecting each other's core interests and major concerns, Xi said in the message. Battulga of the Mongolian Democratic Party was officially inaugurated as president of the country on Monday. The inauguration came three days after the General Election Commission announced that Battulga won the election Friday against Miyegombo Enkhbold of the Mongolian People's Party, with 50.6 percent of the vote in the runoff. The Mongolian president serves a four-year term and can be re-elected only once. ^ top ^

Fifth President inaugurated, vows to strive for integrity of Mongolian people (Montsame)
In his speech, the president-elect Kh.Battulga vowed to treasure Mongolia's independency, freedom and national unity, honor the constitution, fulfill the duty of the President and received the blessing from the national flag of Mongolia. Thus, the President Kh.Battulga officially received the State Seal from the outgoing President Ts.Elbegdorj. “Assuring the faith of Mongolian people, I have pledged my oath as the President of Mongolia. This is the highest hope and responsibility entrusted to me from the people and voters. Inheriting the noble chain of our ancestor's tradition, I accept the call to strive for integrity for my people” addressed President Kh.Battulga. “I express my gratitude for Mongolian people for having faith and trust in me. Also, I wish the other candidates of Presidential election and outgoing incumbent President Ts.Elbegdorj success in their further actions dedicated for the prosperity of Mongolia” said the President Kh.Battulga. ^ top ^

Voter turnout is low nationwide (gogo Mongolia)
Today the second round of Presidential Election 2017 is taking place nationwide through 1983 polling stations from 7 a.m to 10 p.m. This year, voting age population in Mongolia is counted 1 million 978 thousand 298 hundred nationwide. The voter turnout was 67.6 percent at the first polling day which was held on Jun 26th. General Election Committee (GEC) made a statement on the voter turnout rate as of 5 p.m. The voter turnout in all 21 aimags stands at 38.1 percent while Ulaanbaatar city voter turnout was measured at 38.85 percent. The total voter turnout rate of nationwide is 38.44 percent as of 5 p.m. Compared to the first polling day, the country is seeing low voter turnout rate. GEC will report the voter participation rate at 11 p.m. Even the participation rate was enough, none of the candidates win absolute majority votes on the first polling day. Thus, according to the Law on Election, the two most voted candidates; namely Kh.Battulga, opposite Democratic Party nominee and M.Enkhbold, the ruling Mongolian People`s Party nominee are running for the second round of voting. S.Ganbaatar, a nominee of Mongolian People`s Revolutionary Party disqualified from the presidential race.
The result of the first polling days was as follows;
• Kh.Battulga, a nominee of Democratic Party won 38.61 percent (517,478 votes),
• M.Enkhbold, a nominee of Mongolian People`s Party won 30.72 percent (411,748 votes),
• S.Ganbaatar, a nominee of Mongolian People`s Revolutionary Party won 30.66 percent (410,899) of total votes respectively.
If the participation rate will not reach 50 percent, re-polling will be conducted at polling stations that have lower participation rate. The re-polling must take place on weekend within seven days from the since the second round of voting. Eligible voters who have not attended the first polling day must cast their votes on the re-polling day. ^ top ^


Ms. Corinne Estermann
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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