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
  21-25.8.2017, No. 684  
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Foreign Policy

China assails India over reported road project in disputed territory amid rising border tension (SCMP)
China slammed India on Thursday over a report that it plans to build a road in territory disputed between the two countries, after weeks of tension elsewhere along the border. India's newly approved road project will run through the disputed Ladakh region close to Pangong Lake, the country's Hindustan Times reported Tuesday. A separate Chinese attempt to build a road in the Doklam area – which is disputed between China and Bhutan – has prompted a stand-off between hundreds of Indian and Chinese soldiers which has lasted for more than two months. "The Indian side is closely following China's road building recently, but the Indians' actions themselves have proven that the Indian side says one thing and does another," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing. She said the reported decision to build a road in Ladakh is "in complete contradiction to its deeds in terms of the border issues". "The current road construction in that area by the Indian side is not conducive to peace and stability in that area." A video surfaced last week of a brawl between Chinese and Indian soldiers near the Ladakh area, which is over 4,000 metres above sea level on the Tibetan plateau and is a popular tourist attraction. China and India have a number of border disputes and went to war in 1962 over the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. In 2014 hundreds of Indian and Chinese troops faced off across the de facto border known as the Line of Actual Control that runs along the northwest Indian region of Ladakh. The latest stand-off began in mid-June after Chinese troops started building a road on Doklam plateau. India has an army base nearby and moved soldiers into the flashpoint zone to halt the work, prompting Beijing to accuse it of trespassing on Chinese soil. China has repeatedly said India must withdraw its troops before any proper negotiation on the dispute takes place. India said the two sides should withdraw their forces simultaneously. ^ top ^

Sudan-China ties progress towards new horizons (Xinhua)
The relationship between Sudan and China is making continuous progress towards new horizons after the two countries agreed to promote their ties to a strategic level, Sudanese analysts have said. "The two countries are heading towards consolidating their standing ties on mutual benefits and sharing of balanced development," Mohamed Hassan Saeed, a Sudanese political analyst, told Xinhua. "Since the visit of the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to Beijing in 2015, where he agreed with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to promote bilateral ties to a strategic level, the two countries have achieved remarkable progress in the development of relations in all fields," said Saeed. "The two countries can utilize their potentialities and enter into new economic partnerships, particularly in the field of agriculture, where Sudan enjoys huge fertile lands, water resources and labor force, and China, in turn, maintains advanced agricultural technologies," he said. Saeed regarded China's Belt and Road Initiative as another opportunity which Sudan can benefit from. The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013, aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trade routes to seek common development and prosperity. "Sudan is one of the first countries which welcomes the Belt and Road Initiative. Sudan regards the initiative as it would achieve prosperity for the friendly countries, actively contribute to the development of the areas along the initiative and promote the level of relationship among these countries," he said. He added that the initiative would bring about great economic gains for the concerned developing countries as it consists of development and trade projects, pointing to how Sudan can benefit from the initiative. "The initiative is likely to reactivate Sudan's internal and external trade activities and avails great investment opportunities for Sudan under the huge projects that China would establish in countries covered by the initiative," he said. "Sudan needs Chinese funding to develop its infrastructure with reasonable interests and longer periods of repayment of the loans. Sudan needs basic infrastructure such as railway lines and free trade zones," he said. In the meantime, Balla Ali Omer, also a Sudanese political analyst, told Xinhua that "Sudan and China, throughout the years, have maintained model ties that embody profound significance and represent a model for the South-South cooperation." He added that Sudan-China ties are deeply-rooted, saying: "This was evident in the Chinese pottery works found in the ancient (Sudanese) Meriotic Kingdom thousands of years ago." "China has greatly supported Sudan, both in the past and present, where during the 1970s, China gifted Sudan the Abu Usher Hospital, Hantoub Bridge and Medani-Geddarif Road," said Omer. ^ top ^

China and Saudi Arabia to team up on US$20 billion investment fund (SCMP)
China and Saudi Arabia will set up a joint US$20 billion investment fund, a top Saudi official said on Thursday, as Beijing takes another step to expand its economic footprint in the oil-rich Gulf region. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said the two countries would evenly share the costs and profits of the fund, which would invest in infrastructure, energy, mining and materials. "It is preliminary at this stage, but the commitment from the top is there," he said on the sidelines of a Saudi-Chinese economic conference in Jeddah. Al-Falih also said 11 business deals worth around US$20 billion would be signed with China this week. The Saudi minister also met Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli in Jeddah to discuss cooperation. During the conference, Saudi vice-minister of economy and planning Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri said Riyadh would be willing to consider making some of its contributions to the new fund in yuan. "One of our main objectives is to diversify the funding basis of Saudi Arabia," Al-Tuwaijri said. "We will be very willing to consider funding in renminbi and other Chinese products, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and other divisions have shown interest for us to do that." The two countries signed US$65 billion worth of deals in March in areas ranging from energy to space technology. The emergence of the fund comes as Saudi Arabia is eager to regain its former top spot as China's biggest oil supplier – it was overtaken by Russia last year. China is also the Arab nation's biggest trading partner, with bilateral trade reaching US$42.36 billion last year. Robert Mason, director of the Middle East Studies Centre at The American University in Cairo, said Saudi Arabia's willingness to consider funding in yuan reflected the rise of the currency in some markets. "In Riyadh, with growing prospects for bilateral trade and investment with Beijing, there is a clear incentive to use it, albeit on a limited basis at present," Mason said. "China's energy markets are a springboard for which to launch these new activities, as there is a complementary energy-based economic relationship." China's expanded economic interests in the region could also make it a bigger player in Gulf security. "The $20 billion [joint investment fund] is relatively small... but it could signal much greater cooperation in the future, favouring the oil-rich Gulf states eager to cooperate with China," Mason said. "What will be interesting to see is how China continues to balance its relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia, both of which are engaged in a bitter sectarian and political battle for influence across the region." China has sought to expand its influence in the Middle East, including lobbying for support of its "Belt and Road Initiative" of infrastructure projects across Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Timo Kivimäki, professor of international relations at the University of Bath, said China had tried to convince neighbours and energy-producing nations that economic cooperation would be useful. "Oil producers and many neighbouring countries see cooperation with China in a very positive light, and partly this is related to the failure of US soft power in the countries that China sees as a priority," Kivimäki said. "China has power within [the] sphere of economic influence, and to some extent Saudi Arabia is now entering this sphere." ^ top ^

China criticizes India's building roads near undemarcated boundary (Xinhua)
India's road building near an undemarcated boundary reveals a contradiction between what India says and what it does, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Thursday. Spokesperson Hua Chunying made the remarks when asked to comment on India's plan to build a military road near the western section of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). According to the Hindustan Times, days after Indian and Chinese troops engaged in stone-pelting at Ladakh's Pangong Lake, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) approved the construction of a standalone road project from Marsimik La to Hot Spring. Marsimik La in Ladakh is about 20 km from the northwest tip of Pangong Lake. The Indian Express reported that the MHA had asked the Border Roads Organization to construct the road to ensure access to vantage points for security forces. Hua said the reports sounded like a slap in face to India, and once again proved that India had been inconsistent and self-contradictory in resolving the Sino-Indian border issue. She said that India used the excuse of security concerns to obstruct China building roads on its own territory, but India's road building plan proved that it was saying one thing while doing another. Hua said the western part of China-India border had not been delimited,and the two countries had agreed to maintain peace in border areas before the issue was finally resolved. She said that India's construction of military infrastructure near the western section of the LAC did not help to maintain peace and stability in the western part of the border, nor did it help to ease the current tension between the two sides. ^ top ^

China ready to make fresh efforts toward promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace (Xinhua)
The four-point proposal made recently by Chinese President Xi Jinping for resolving the Palestinian issue indicates that China stands ready to make fresh efforts toward promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace, Chinese Ambassador to Israel Zhan Yongxin has said. The proposal "highlights the unique advantage of Chinese wisdom in resolving international disputes and attests that China increasingly takes initiative to live up to its responsibilities as a major power under the new circumstances," Zhan told Xinhua in a recent interview. At a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Beijing in July, President Xi put forward the four-point proposal for promoting the settlement of the Palestinian issue. Xi proposed firmly advancing a political settlement based on the two-state solution, adopting the concept of common, integrated, cooperative and sustainable security, further coordinating the efforts of the international community and enhancing synergy of peace efforts, and taking integrated measures in order to promote peace via development. Zhan noted that Xi's proposal is not only a continuation of China's consistent policies of playing a constructive role in promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace, but also a bid to contribute China's wisdom and solution to promoting peace under the current situation. "As a staunch supporter of Israeli-Palestinian peace and a sincere mediator, China has over the years been concerned with and attached great importance to the Israeli-Palestinian issue," the Chinese ambassador said. Even though this issue has been on the edge of being marginalized during recent years, China has repeatedly emphasized that it "can't be overlooked at any time and its resolution must be a top priority," he added. In recent years, China has intensified its engagement in the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Zhan said, citing China's active participation in various peace efforts by the international community and its proposal for facilitating cooperation and development between Israel and Palestine while pushing for peace between the two sides politically. Recent years have witnessed the China-Israel relations starting to enter the track of healthy and steady development, with fruitful achievements made in practical bilateral cooperation in various fields and an innovative comprehensive partnership established between the two sides, Zhan said. "Given the long-term far-reaching impact of the Israeli-Palestinian issue on the situation in the Middle East, realizing the vision of the two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side and co-existing in peace at an early date is not only relevant to the wellbeing of the two parties and the international community, but also conducive to further development of the China-Israel relations in the future," Zhan said. The Chinese envoy said he has extensively promoted President Xi's four-point peace proposal recently and has received a positive response from the Israeli side. In the next phase, Zhan said, China will continue to work with the international community for the cessation of violence and resumption of the peace talks between Israel and Palestine as soon as possible. This will make contribution to the early comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, as well as peace, stability and development in the Middle East, he added. ^ top ^

We are human too, India and China have to start talking and stop using us soldiers as cannon fodder (SCMP)
In autumn 1986, as a young army captain deployed in India's northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as its own territory, I readied to go to war with China. The provocation: a People's Liberation Army (PLA) company, about a hundred men, had entered territory that India claimed and established camp on a yak grazing ground called Wangdung, across a rivulet called the Sumdorong Chu, north of the hotly disputed Tawang township. The local Indian corps commander, a gung ho paratrooper, Lt-Gen N.S. Narahari, took this as a personal insult. Pooh-poohing China's rationale that Indian intelligence patrols too had occupied Wangdung the preceding summer, Narahari mobilised his corps to the border, determined to wipe away the shame of 1962 when China had humiliatingly defeated India in this very sector. India's massive troop mobilisation evoked a Chinese build-up and shots were exchanged more than once over the succeeding months. But while we teetered on the brink of war, cooler heads in New Delhi and Beijing negotiated a mutual withdrawal. Three decades later, Chinese and Indian soldiers find themselves in a similar situation in Doklam today, locked eyeball-to-eyeball in a potentially combustible situation. The crucial difference this time is that India is reacting in a third country's territory – Doklam is disputed between China and Bhutan – which only makes India's intervention even more provocative to Beijing. Relations are vitiated all across the 3,500km Line of Actual Control (LAC) between China and India as a result. Just how badly, was on display in a recently surfaced video of a violent patrol clash in Ladakh, 1,300km from Doklam. In the video, which Indian military sources confirm was filmed on August 15, some 30 Chinese border guards and an equal number of Indian soldiers can be seen hurling stones at each other, clearly causing injuries on both sides. This violated mutually agreed standard operating procedures, which require patrols encountering each other in disputed territory to maintain a physical distance and unfurl cloth banners (that every patrol carries) emblazoned with a dual-language message: "This is our territory; kindly return to your side". After doing so, patrols are required to disengage and return to their camps. But as tensions have escalated unchecked, this useful procedure with banners that has ensured peace since the Wangdung incident has degenerated into jostling and pushing and now stone-pelting. Both patrols were armed but, fortunately, neither opened fire. Such restraint cannot be counted upon to continue forever. Sooner or later some soldier, perhaps injured by a stone or a body tackle, will fire his weapon, killing or wounding an adversary and unleashing an escalatory spiral, fuelled by a storm of nationalism in both countries. After the fire-breathing confrontation at Wangdung blew over in 1987, both sides drew lessons from that near miss and painstakingly constructed the path to peace. After the political deadlock was broken by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's landmark visit to China in 1988, Beijing and New Delhi incrementally negotiated a series of agreements and confidence-building measures to manage the border. China and India upgraded their dialogue framework during the then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's visit to Beijing in 2003. A new mechanism involved discussions between Special Representatives of both countries' leaders, to work out a political bargain to solve the territorial dispute. This dialogue track appeared to have made a breakthrough in 2005, when the Special Representatives signed an agreement on "Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the China-India Boundary Question". While the next step remains elusive – a "framework agreement" for a final solution to the vexed border – the Special Representatives continue their efforts, having met for the 19th time in April in Beijing. The current tensions along the LAC, including precursor incidents at Depsang in 2013 and Chumar in 2014, indicate that the border management framework that grew out of Wangdung is no longer sufficient to keep the peace. The Doklam confrontation, like Wangdung three decades ago, must spur Beijing and New Delhi to establish new mechanisms that recognise new realities – like military-technical advances in border surveillance and communications, an aggressive new nationalism in both countries and an activist media that is fuelled by jingoism and xenophobia. The first obvious step towards a new strategic paradigm would be to demilitarise the LAC. It is quite obviously unwise for both sides to deploy large numbers of troops in bitter environments, throw them regularly into confrontation with their adversaries and then rely on their restraint to keep the peace. Demilitarisation would require the two sides – which have already agreed to respect the status quo without prejudice to their territorial claims – to substitute physical patrolling and ground holding with electronic surveillance and verification measures. A prerequisite for demilitarisation is for both sides to exchange maps marked with claim lines and the current LAC. India says China refuses to exchange maps, while China says the complicated boundary dispute should be left to a future generation. The result is all too evident as the world's two biggest armies face off in high Himalayas. Maturity demands that India and China do what is needed to bring their troops home – rather than put soldiers in a situation that can easily spin out of control. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping must meet at the BRICS summit in Xiamen next month and begin that process. ^ top ^

India should not have illusions of border talk at BRICS summit (Global Times)
China will not allow border tensions with India to impact the upcoming BRICS summit in September, and the issue might not even be mentioned as India has not met China's preconditions for dialogue, Chinese experts noted. India's Home Minister Rajnath Singh said Monday, "There is a deadlock going on at Doklam between India and China. I believe there will be a solution soon. I hope China will undertake a positive initiative," the Times of India reported. Chinese observers said that China would not make concessions to India while it is sabotaging Chinese sovereignty. "If India hopes to discuss this issue during the summit, they'll have to think again," Chen Fengying, former Director of the Institute of World Economy, under the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times. He added that there will not be any discussion of the standoff at any multilateral occasion, or even during bilateral occasions. "We won't allow any other country to negotiate with us about our territory," Chen said. Some foreign media, such as the Hindustan Times and Reuters, published reports recently claiming that the China-India border conflict is casting a shadow ahead of the ninth BRICS summit, which will be held in Xiamen, Southeast China's Fujian Province from September 3-5. The Reuters report said China has been briefing foreign diplomats on the standoff, quoting an anonymous "Asian diplomat," who allegedly attended the briefing, as saying that "China really wants to resolve this ahead of the BRICS summit. It doesn't want anything to affect the atmosphere." "The BRICS summit is a multilateral meeting for cooperation between rising economies rather than an emergency meeting for conflict mediation between two countries. There are many other issues, such as economies, trade, global governance, cyberspace and development that need to be discussed, so the China-India border issue won't dominate the summit," said Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. "China has made it very clear that the withdrawal of the trespassing Indian troops is the precondition for negotiations, so unless India meets this precondition, China won't mention the border issue on any occasion at the summit, not even in bilateral meetings with India," said Ye Hailin, director of the National Institute of International Strategy under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The BRICS summit aims to provide development opportunities to all members, and it would be unwise for India to use the platform to vent its disagreement on the border issue with China, Zhao Gancheng, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday. India will not abandon this platform since it also needs to gain international support and achieve cooperation with other BRICS countries, Qian Feng, an expert at the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, told the Global Times. Indian online news site the Financial Express reported that India gained some meaningful achievements from the summit last year. India and Russia signed a $5 billion deal for an S-400 air defense system on the sidelines of the 2016 BRICS Summit in Goa, India, during which India also gained counter-terrorism support from other BRICS members in last year's summit, including China. China is busy readying for the upcoming BRICS summit, so that countries can make full use of the occasion to enhance cooperation and seek development, Chen said. State Councilor Yang Jiechi said in February that China put forward four objectives that it believes can be achieved at the BRICS leaders' summit, which include promoting members' solidarity and collaboration, improving global governance, deepening pragmatic cooperation to achieve mutual benefit, increasing people-to-people exchanges, and enhancing public support and strengthening institutional mechanisms and improving cooperation platforms. "The issue of BRICS development has since gone beyond its member states. As an open platform, BRICS Plus puts concern on Africa and Latin America, so the influence of BRICS will become more comprehensive," Chen said. She added that in order to broaden the scope of their activities and be sustainable in the long-run, the New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will extend their services to Africa and Latin America to finance development projects. Kenya and Thailand have both been invited to next month's BRICS summit. ^ top ^

U.S., Japan military cooperation should not harm third party's interests: Chinese Foreign Ministry (Xinhua)
Military cooperation between the United States and Japan must not harm any third party's interests or regional peace and stability, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Monday. Media reported that Japan wants to introduce a land-based missile defense system, and in response the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said the United States will help Japan in this regard, noting that it is important to integrate their ballistic missile defence capabilities. In response, spokesperson Hua Chunying said the Chinese government holds that the missile defense issue is related to global strategic stability and mutual trust between major countries, thus it should be handled with caution. She said all countries should not only consider their own security interests, but also respect other countries', follow the rules that protect global strategic stability and security of all countries, and safeguard peace, stability, equality, mutual trust and win-win cooperation. Due to historical factors, Hua said the world pays much attention to Japan's military and security areas. "We hope both the United States and Japan will act with caution and make contributions to peace, stability and development in the region," Hua said. ^ top ^

S.China Sea should not be Bermuda for US (Global Times)
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant vessel east of Singapore early Monday, resulting in 10 US Navy sailors missing and five injured. On June 17, the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan, leaving seven US sailors dead. The two severe collisions within two months show that the US Navy's combat readiness level and military management level have both declined. The USS John S. McCain passed close to the Meiji Reef of the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea earlier this month. The USS Fitzgerald often conducted "freedom of navigation" operations in the South China Sea. On China's Internet sphere, there is applause from Chinese netizens about the latest accident. This reflects the sentiment of Chinese society toward the activities of the US Navy in the South China Sea. The missing and injured US sailors deserve sympathy. The humanitarian care between the Chinese and American people is often affected by frictions between the two navies in China's peripheral areas, which is worth attention from the strategic elites of the two sides. The US Navy and US destroyers which patrol in the South China Sea are not China's enemy. China and the US are engaged in a rivalry in the South China Sea. There is a possibility that the two navies will come to a showdown, but it is more likely that the two countries can avoid such a scenario. Both should work on avoiding clashes, while obviously the US Pacific Command did not do that. Its activities only aim at putting China in check. US warships are constantly involved in accidents around the South China Sea. On the one hand, the US Navy has behaved arrogantly in the Asia-Pacific region. It lacks respect for huge merchant ships and fails to take evasive action in time, thus resulting in serious accidents. On the other hand, US warships patrol too frequently in the Asia-Pacific. A large number of merchant vessels, of many types and flagged from many nations, use Asian sea lanes. If the US Navy wants to keep its frequent presence in the waters, it needs to get familiar and interact with these merchant ships, which requires huge expenditure. But still the US Navy conducts many risky military activities without full preparation. The frequent collisions of US warships with merchant vessels offer a warning to the Americans that they should restrain themselves. The South China Sea is not the US Navy's Bermuda Triangle, but the inability of the US Navy to adapt to this region requires research by Washington. The geopolitical pattern in the South China Sea keeps changing, and the US should be aware of it. The South China Sea should become a sea of peace. Its sea lanes should be the safest. All the countries should contribute to peace rather than being an agent of destabilization. It is hoped that the US Navy can play a constructive role. We would like to see all the US warships and their sailors remain safe. ^ top ^

China to continue efforts to implement UN 2030 Agenda: President Xi (Xinhua)
President Xi Jinping said China will continue its efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and promote national development in a more efficient, fair, and sustainable way. He made the remarks in a congratulatory letter Monday for the launch ceremony of China's international development knowledge center, which aims to facilitate study and exchanges on development theory and practice. Noting that he is glad to see the launch of the center, which he proposed at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, Xi said he expects the center to contribute to research and exchanges on development among different countries and to promote global implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Xi said implementing the 2030 Agenda is the common responsibility of the international community. The Chinese government highly values implementation of the agenda and has released its national plan for the implementation. He said China has made early progress in implementing the work in a balanced way in economic, social and environmental fields. A progress report on China's implementation of the agenda was also released at the launch ceremony. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

South China recovering from Hato, likely to face new typhoon (Xinhua)
On Thursday, parts of south China were recovering from the country's strongest typhoon of the year, which has left at least 16 people dead and three missing. Typhoon Hato blew past Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and weakened into Yunnan Province Thursday, nearly 20 hours after it made landfall with full force in Guangdong Province and wreaked havoc in Macao. In Guangdong, traffic and power supply are resuming. Train and ferry services were starting to be restored late Wednesday and efforts continued on Thursday. The provincial government said 6,425 houses collapsed and 50,000 hectares of farmland sustained damage. More than 2.7 million households had their electricity supply disrupted, but three quarters had power back by Thursday, according to China Southern Power Grid. Three coastal nuclear power stations remain unharmed. In neighboring Guangxi, three quarters of the 611,000 households who experienced blackouts now have power back. However, the region might face another onslaught soon. According to Guangdong provincial meteorological bureau, a new typhoon has formed and was spotted in the Pacific some 620 km east of the Philippines capital Manila as of 8 p.m. Thursday. The typhoon is forecast to move northwest at 20 km per hour towards the coast of Guangdong. Though slightly weaker than Hato, it is likely to make landfall near Guangdong on August 27. ^ top ^

China targets 15 pct decrease in PM 2.5 this winter (Xinhua)
China's environmental protection authority announced Thursday that 28 northern cities are aiming to lower a major air pollution indicator by at least 15 percent this coming winter. Between October 2017 and March 2018, China will reduce the level of PM 2.5 pollution by at least 15 percent in the cities around the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, according to a plan released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. During that period, the number of heavily-polluted days will also be cut by more than 15 percent compared with one year earlier, the ministry said. The ministry will intensify air quality monitoring, deal with companies operating unauthorized locations, lacking relevant certificates, or failing to meet emission standards, and control coal consumption in the region. According to the plan, an organization will be set up to coordinate efforts to combat air pollution in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and surrounding areas. It is expected to start trial operation before the end of September. Winter typically brings higher air pollution to northern China because of a combination of weather conditions and an increase in the burning of coal for heating systems. ^ top ^

122 Chinese telecom fraud suspects repatriated from Cambodia (Xinhua)
Chinese police Thursday repatriated 122 telecom fraud suspects from Cambodia. Two planes carrying the suspects touched down at Chengdu Shuangliu International airport in Sichuan Province Thursday night. Handcuffed and masked, each suspect was led by two police officers as they disembarked the aircraft. The suspects were captured by Cambodian immigration officers in Poipet, Banteay Meanchey Province, on August 2. Mobile phones, bank cards, computers, and illegally collected personal information data of Chinese citizens were confiscated. The Cambodian authorities acted on a tip-off from a team of Sichuan police, who went to Cambodia in June to investigate telecom fraud and had repatriated the first 17 suspects. Sichuan police said they have repatriated 197 telecom fraud suspects from Cambodia and Indonesia so far this year. ^ top ^

Chinese army launches massive drills in training bases (Xinhua)
Two separate military drills were launched Tuesday and Thursday in different training bases in north China. The drills will both feature long-distance delivery of troops and experiments on new combat models for the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) army. They will also highlight the use of new combat forces and joint operations, said Zhao Yu, deputy commander of the 80th Army Group, which is participating in one of the drills. The PLA army will hold nine special large-scale drills in different training bases during 2017, according to its annual training plan. A major structural reform of the army took place earlier this year, with 18 army groups reorganized into 13. ^ top ^

Fewer Chinese citizens filing petitions against authorities as Beijing tries to curb use (SCMP)
Petitions lodged against the government dropped across mainland China by a quarter last year compared with 2013, state media reported, after a drive to encourage citizens to settle disputes through the courts and a crackdown targeting rights lawyers. Their use is a politically sensitive topic for many officials. The figure was released amid a major propaganda campaign to review the country's achievements in the first five-year term of President Xi Jinping's administration, ahead of a leadership reshuffle this autumn. Xinhua reported that the State Office of Letters and Calls, the highest office for dealing with petitions, had announced the percentage fall. However, it did not release the actual number of petition cases, which is still considered a sensitive topic on the mainland. The number was brought down in several ways. For instance, Shanghai, Shandong, and Guangdong did so by diverting petitions relating to court cases back to the judicial system, said the report. Many petitions are filed as a result of deep distrust of China's courts. Jilin, Yunnan and Shaanxi brought down the number by sending out inspection teams to the grass roots, so disputes could be solved before petitions are sent to higher offices, it said. Petitions are considered a great threat to social stability by the Chinese government. However, the reported fall may not be an accurate description of petitions nationwide, according to former rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan. "This number only indicates the drop in petitions received by the letters and calls bureaus in the country, but not petitions in a whole," he said. "Many major departments have their own petition receiving offices, and people often turn to those offices after they lose hope in the letters and calls bureaus." Besides the departments that receive petitions, the major offices of party organs and ministries are also frequented by petitioners with all kinds of complaints. However, the Chinese government does not publish the combined numbers of petitions received by all departments. The Central Committee for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party's anti-graft force, for example, said it had received 1.9 million petitions and complaints in 2013. Thousands of army veterans gathered outside of the CCDI's headquarter in Beijing last October, to demand unpaid pensions and benefits. Hundreds of them staged another protest this February. It can greatly compromise local officials' appraisals if petitioners from their localities take their complaints and travel to Beijing, especially during important political events. The desire to limit petitions has seen illegal centres being set up on the outskirts of Beijing which are used to detain petitioners and stop them raising their grievances with central government. The Chinese government has been trying to scale down the number of petitioners travelling to Beijing and other main cities by making online petitioning more convenient. State media reported last year that online petitions made up 40 per cent of the number filed. Online petitions were also the single most common way of appealing to the authorities, ahead of letters and complaints made in person. The Ministry of Justice and the State Office of Letters and Calls have also encouraged lawyers as the third party to mediate in petition cases, said the Tuesday report. But there is a clear red line for lawyers. In what became known as the 709 crackdown against rights lawyers and activists in 2015, the authorities detained, arrested and questioned around 300 people. Among the small number to have subsequently been convicted – all on subversion charges – all had helped with petition cases and have been accused of instigating petitioners to protest. ^ top ^

Global Times begins cooperation with Sputnik (Global Times)
Sputnik news agency and radio has signed a cooperation agreement with one of China's major media outlets, Global Times. The parties will exchange news and analytics in Chinese and English to provide their readers with a fuller picture of the Russian and Chinese domestic and international agenda. This will be Sputnik's eighth contract in the Chinese media market. Earlier, the agency established information exchanges with several other large media outlets, including Xinhua and China Radio International. The signing ceremony took place in Beijing. The agreement was signed by Global Times Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Meng Yuhong, and Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Russian media organization, Yelena Chepurnykh. Yelena Chepurnykh said, "The Chinese audience is already familiar with Sputnik. The Sputnik China website was launched in 2014 and it also broadcasts radio programs. Sputnik is gaining popularity on Weibo, with some 9 million subscribers. Global Times will help Sputnik expand the Chinese component of the global news scene which we now cover internationally in over 30 languages." Global Times Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Meng Yuhong, added, "The Global Times newspaper and portal and Sputnik agreed to cooperate and exchange news content. The partnership will have a positive impact on enhancing the affinity between the two nations and on the development of the major Russian and Chinese media. Thanks to cooperation with Sputnik, Global Times will be able to more promptly and accurately provide its readers with diverse information about events around the world. At the same time, we will promote China's and Russia's interests and perspectives on the major international events among the global community." Sputnik ( is a news agency and radio network with multimedia news hubs in dozens of countries. Sputnik broadcasts through its websites in over 30 languages, as well as on analogue and digital radio, mobile apps, and social media. Sputnik newswires, available by subscription, 24/7 in English, Arabic, Spanish and Chinese. Global Times newspaper and website ( was launched on April 20, 2009. It is a leading force of the media revolution that is taking place across the world. The paper, its website, its app and social media accounts target different spectra of the readership. However technology changes, the Global Times has always stayed true to its mission of presenting the reports that urge people to think and take action. ^ top ^



Chinese delegation introduces Tibet's development in three countries (Xinhua)
A Chinese Tibetan cultural exchange delegation visited Mongolia, Russia and Japan in succession recently, during which it briefed the local people about the latest development of China's Tibet Autonomous Region. The delegation, dispatched by China's State Council Information Office, consisted of Tibetologists, traditional Tibetan medicine specialists, Tibetan officials, and a living Buddha. During the visits, the delegation was warmly received by local lawmakers, experts and scholars, reporters from major media organizations, university professors and students, overseas Chinese, local residents as well as religious groups. While exchanging views with local people, the delegation introduced the great achievements that Tibet has witnessed in recent years and demonstrated the vitality of traditional Tibetan culture which is an important part of Chinese culture, through seminars, interviews, visits to local temples and free medical service, among others. The delegation also answered questions concerning various aspects of Tibet, including economic and social development, improvement of people's livelihood, Tibet's role in the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, protection of traditional Tibetan culture, the reincarnation system of living Buddhas, as well as environmental protection and tourism in Tibet. Toshiko Takeya, a Japanese lawmaker, said that she felt closer to China's Tibet after interactions with the delegation. Zhou Wei, head of the delegation and chief of the Institute for Religious Studies of China Tibetology Research Center, said that there are many Buddhists, especially Tibetan Buddhism believers in Mongolia, Russia and Japan. He said that the people whom the delegation met with in the three countries all showed great interests in Tibet and Tibetan culture. Many of them expressed the wish to come to China to have exchanges on Tibetology and Tibetan medicine as well as to visit Tibet for learning Tibetan Buddhism, going on a pilgrimage or travelling, said Zhou, adding they also welcomed more Chinese delegations to visit and exchange views on Tibet and Tibetan culture. The delegation visited Mongolia from Aug. 14 to 15, Russia from Aug. 16 to 19, and concluded its visit to Japan on Aug. 23. ^ top ^



UK official stresses importance of upholding Sino-British Joint Declaration for Hong Kong (SCMP)
A British official overseeing Asian affairs has said there is a growing tendency for concerns over Beijing's role in Hong Kong affairs to "become much more cause célèbre", and said London must reassert the importance of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Yet, Mark Field, the UK minister of state for Asia and the Pacific, also said the "one country, two systems" framework was in good shape, and declined to take a strong stance on the recent jailings of prominent political activists by a Hong Kong court. Field also said he disagreed with former British governor Chris Patten's assessments in June that the mysterious disappearances of five Hong Kong booksellers in 2015 showed that Beijing has broken its promises under the Joint Declaration, which enshrined Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy. "I don't agree with Lord Patten's analysis on this, nor do I think it's helpful for there to be, as he puts it, 'squeals' of concern about it," he said. Field was in Hong Kong as part of his Asian tour, after visiting Beijing on Tuesday. The minister separately met the city's chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, and seven Hong Kong lawmakers from both sides of the political divide on Thursday. Last week, activists Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang were imprisoned for an illegal protest ahead of the Occupy protests in 2014. The trio were originally given community service orders or a suspended prison term, but the justice department applied for a review and succeeded in securing stiffer punishments. The UK Foreign Office's spokesman had said: "We hope the [court's] decision on this case will not discourage legitimate protest in the future." Asked if the UK government was concerned about the jailings, Field said: "Now that this matter is under appeal, it would also be wrong for me to politicise it." The trio has expressed their intention to appeal. "We... feel that those freedoms [of expression and assembly] are protected under the terms of the Joint Declaration. Therefore we were concerned," he said. Field added that under British law, authorities were allowed to apply for a review of a lenient sentence, and he "takes on board" the Hong Kong Bar Association and Law Society's stance that there was "no question of political interference involved" in the ruling. In recent years, there have been growing concerns among some Hong Kong people about Beijing's influence on the city's political issues. Asked to comment on concerns over Beijing's "encroachment into" the city's affairs, Field said: "One is worried that there seems to be a greater tendency in recent years for this sort of concern... to become much more cause célèbre, and that I think clearly we need to consistently reassert the importance of the Joint Declaration." In June, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang caused a row by describing the 1984 treaty as "a historical document that no longer has any realistic meaning". Field said he had "utterly refuted" that notion. "We are signatories, we are guarantors of the Hong Kong exceptional and special arrangements that applies for 'one country, two systems'," he said, adding that the British foreign secretary's six-monthly report to parliament on Hong Kong affairs should not be seen as an act of "interference". But Field added: "The concept of 'one country, two systems', entrenched [in] the Joint Declaration 20 years ago, is still in very good shape." In a statement, Lam's office said the chief executive told Field that Hong Kong's rule of law and the independence of the judiciary "are as robust as ever". Lam also said she had pledged to give young people in Hong Kong greater opportunities to participate in public affairs. ^ top ^

Judiciary in the dock: jailing of student activists opens door to debate (SCMP)
On the night of September 26, 2014, amid the glare of television cameras and floodlights, student leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung leapt onto a fence around government headquarters in Admiralty. As he curled his spindly legs around the metal bars, the sight of the bespectacled teenager with his floppy mop of hair valiantly trying to scale the three-metre-high barrier, along with fellow student leader Alex Chow Yong-kang, galvanised others into action. Another youth leader, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, then on stage at the demonstration, called on the others to join in the storming of the forecourt that they had dubbed "Civic Square". They wanted to "reclaim" the space that had been the site of previous protests, they declared. Security moved in and clashes ensued. The scrum was a prelude to the 79-day Occupy protests that began two days later. Their actions that night might have been consigned to a footnote of history were it not for a twist in a recent court judgment. The court's decision has stirred emotions, fuelled a fiery debate and stoked the prospect of more protests after last Sunday's turnout. At the heart of the controversy is whether the city – with its proud tradition of independent judges – now has to reckon with politics creeping into its courts. Last week, student activists Wong, then 17, Law, then 21, and Chow, then 24, were slapped with jail sentences of six, seven and eight months respectively by an appeal court, after being spared prison by a lower court last year, for their acts that fateful evening. The higher sentences sparked a torrent of criticism in the city and abroad that Hong Kong's independent judiciary was now succumbing to a government-led bid to hand out harsher punishments to its young critics. It did not help matters that one of the presiding judges, Wally Yeung Chun-kuen, weighed in on the increasingly polarised political scene by proferring what a leading lawyer called "emotional" comments. "Hong Kong has recently been clouded with an unhealthy trend, in which some individuals carried out unlawful acts as they wish in the name of the ideal and freedom they pursue with power enshrined in the laws," Yeung wrote in the judgment. These people, he said, not only refused to admit they were wrong, but even felt a sense of pride. These "arrogant" and "selfish" thoughts, he added, had caused youngsters to breach public order during their demonstrations. Some legal scholars questioned whether the judges had applied law correctly in deciding on the custodial sentences. But both the legal community and the government have sprung to the judiciary's defence, firm in their conviction that the courts acted independently and without bias. The courts' only "crime" was that it was caught up in a politically charged event, University of Hong Kong legal scholar Simon Young Ngai-man said. "This is natural. You see it in other societies," he said. A sentencing decision in August last year by a magistrate's court, the lowest level in the judiciary, was the catalyst for the controversy. Then Eastern Court magistrate June Cheung Tin-ngai found Wong and Chow guilty of unlawful assembly. Law was convicted of inciting others. Unlawful assembly – an offence taken off the books in Britain in the 1980s – warrants a three-year maximum jail sentence in Hong Kong if tried at a magistrate's court. But the magistrate gave Wong and Law 80 and 120 hours of community service, respectively, and Chow a suspended sentence, believing a lenient and understanding approach was appropriate. She said the trio were "innocent" and "impulsive" youth, who genuinely believed their political cause and cared about society. She also accepted their act was a far cry from "extreme violence", with no direct evidence showing they had caused injuries to the security guards that night. The only thing they wanted, she said, was to enter "Civic Square" to chant slogans. But the Department of Justice disagreed. According to the prosecution code, the department can ask the court to review sentences in "exceptional cases", where the ruling errs on a point of law or principle that is "manifestly inadequate or unjust". A sentence review must be signed off by either the justice secretary or the director of public prosecutions, former prosecution head Grenville Cross said. It is a rare move. Only 136 sentence decisions were reviewed in the past five years from more than 30,000 people arrested each year, a check by the Post found. The case of the trio was one of those and so prosecutors went back to the magistrate for a stiffer sentence. After Cheung refused, they took the case to the Court of Appeal, which decided last week to jail the trio. Citing past English cases, Justice of Appeal Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor wrote that when an unlawful assembly involved violence, "the prime consideration for sentence is to punish those offenders, so as to warn others". In these cases, the offender's personal background and whether they had a noble motive and reason were no longer powerful mitigating factors, he said. A deterrent sentence was needed instead and the offender should also be sentenced not only for his role but also based on the scale and seriousness of the unlawful assembly. The magistrate had erred because she had failed to consider the need for a deterrent sentence, as well as the risk of violence involved in this large-scale protest, Poon wrote. The appeal judge also wrote in the ruling – endorsed by Yeung, who is also the appeal court vice-president, and Justice of Appeal Derek Pang Wai-cheong – that the trio should have foreseen clashes between protesters and security and police officers would lead to injuries, despite not taking the initiative to harm others. But University of Hong Kong law scholar Eric Cheung Tat-ming questioned whether the Court of Appeal had gone beyond its scope. Under common law, Cheung said, the norm was not for the appellate court to meddle in the factual findings in appeal hearings and "re-cast" the facts. Cheung quoted former Court of Final Appeal judge Henry Litton's ruling in a case in which he chastised an appeal court judge for "shedding his appellate gown" to take on a fact-finding role. He said in the present case, the appeal court had made fresh findings different from what the magistrate had arrived at, based on the same evidence. The judges concluded that the protest was violent, contrary to what the magistrate found, he said. His colleague, associate professor Peter Chau, who specialises in criminal law, also argued the sentences were excessive, as the appeal court had taken reference from past English cases when petrol bombs or rocks were hurled, sometimes targeting law enforcement officers. Two days before the trio were put behind bars, the same three appeal court judges also jailed 13 other protesters for between eight and 13 months for storming the city's legislature in 2014 over a controversial government development plan that saw people losing homes. The sentencing was also at the request of the prosecutors, who said bamboo sticks and metal objects were used to pry open the Legislative Council's doors on June 13 that year. The criticism of political interference in the courts after the sentencing review and the jail terms led to a street protest last Sunday, when tens of thousands marched to the Court of Final Appeal building in Central. Well before that, there had already been murmurings in some quarters that the judiciary was facing heat amid Beijing's apparent attempt to exercise a tighter grip on the city. In June 2014, Beijing's State Council released a "white paper" spelling out how judges should be "administrators" and patriots. Legal professionals showed their displeasure by protesting against the proposals. In a speech at the London School of Economics months later, the city's chief justice, Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, acknowledged that the white paper – as well as the Occupy protests – posed challenges to the courts. "When you have incidents like that, people then start worrying about whether the rule of law exists in Hong Kong," he told law students. Last year, eyebrows were again raised when National People's Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang said during a visit to Hong Kong that the city's judiciary should strictly enforce laws and ensure the fair administration of justice, and not "make concessions to law-violating behaviour". His warning was read as a signal to be firm with protesters, especially those involved in the Occupy demonstrations that paralysed parts of the city for two and a half months. Concerns surfaced again when Beijing waded into the saga of two lawmakers who had insulted China in their oaths – and issued an "interpretation" that effectively expelled them from the legislature. It marked the fifth time the National People's Congress Standing Committee had "interpreted" Hong Kong's mini-constitution since the city returned to China in 1997. Another four pro-democracy lawmakers were later disqualified. But accusations of bias in the courts have also surfaced from the pro-government side. Earlier this year, when a British-born judge sentenced seven Hong Kong policemen for assault, pro-Beijing supporters attacked the judge for being biased, due to his ethnicity. After the sentence last week, Joshua Wong's political party, Demosisto, accused the government of "abusing judicial procedures" to "put peaceful protesters behind bars to mute all dissidents". Amnesty International said the cases were a "relentless and vindictive pursuit of student leaders", smacking of "political payback by the authorities". But Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor hit back at accusations that the judges were politically motivated. "Our courts are exercising judicial powers independently, free from any interference," she said. Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung also denied politics was at play in a commentary published in the Post yesterday, saying public criticism stemmed from a lack of understanding. "The defendants were convicted and sentenced not because they exercised their right of assembly, demonstration or freedom of speech; but because they had overstepped the line allowed by the law and that they had committed serious unlawful acts," he said, as he sought to draw a distinction. The city's two professional legal bodies, the Bar Association and Law Society – not always known to echo or be supportive of each other or the government – published a rare joint statement, saying the judges ruled solely according to the law, while expressing "great concerns" over press commentaries questioning the city's judicial independence. Meanwhile, a Reuters report suggested that justice secretary Yuen overruled his top prosecutors' advice to insist on reviewing the protesters' sentence, fuelling suspicion it was a political act. Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a politics lecturer at Chinese University, said the lack of trust in the judiciary was a "tragedy" that stemmed from a general suspicion of the government in recent years, causing people to look for targets to blame. The judiciary's reputation was collateral damage in such a toxic atmosphere. "The Hong Kong people have a widespread mistrust of the government. It is also a result of the polarisation after the umbrella movement," he said. Prominent solicitor Kevin Yam Kin-fung from the Progressive Lawyers Alliance said Beijing's pressure in the past had not had an effect on the judges, but took a toll on people's perception of the judiciary. "I feel a bit sorry for the judiciary, they get caught up in all this," he said. Chinese University political commentator Ma Ngok said the issue went beyond the courts and involved the secretary for justice. Hong Kong could help restore people's confidence by looking to justice departments overseas, which were more transparent, law professor Simon Young said. In Canada, for instance, the decision to review a sentence had to be gazetted when the attorney general wanted to "assume control" over a public prosecution. "If there is a proper account of this, it would help to restore people's confidence," he said. Former director of public prosecutions Cross agreed with the appeal court that the case needed to be reviewed, saying "undue leniency could not possibly be justified". "There cannot, after all, be one type of sentence for those who commit serious crime for political reasons and another type for those who do so for other reasons, as everyone must be treated as equal before the law, and must face the same consequences for their crimes," he said. Yuen has yet to comment on his involvement in reviewing the trio's sentence. But perception ought not to be confused with reality, said legal experts who maintained Hong Kong's judiciary remained independent from outside influences. During the same speech at the London School of Economics, Chief Justice Ma urged the students not to jump to the conclusion that the rule of law of a place was compromised just by looking at the case result, which sometimes could be politicised. "People who look at results will say the court decides that way only because the court might be biased towards the government or against the government," he said. But instead, he advised the law students they should turn to the actual arguments in the judgments, so they could make up their own minds whether judges had ruled strictly by the book. Young said in countries such as Pakistan, where the judiciary had become compromised, there were clear signs the government had been meddling in court decision-making processes, including by removing judges. The latest sentencing controversy was an unfortunate case of the court being caught in the political battles of the city rather than the judiciary being compromised, he said. Barrister Lawrence Ma Yan-kwok agreed, pointing to the apolitical appointments of judges, the lack of bribery and corruption, security of tenure and how judges could not be dismissed by politicians if they disagreed with a decision. Academic Ivan Choy said there was no strong evidence to conclude that judges were biased. But he cautioned that the public perception of judges bringing their own political views to the table could end up hurting the courts – rhetoric deployed recently by Carrie Lam. In his Post commentary, Yuen cautioned that while the public had a right to discuss judicial decisions, discussions should not seek to undermine the integrity or impartiality of the judiciary. But Young said criticism should be tolerated, noting that if freedom of expression was curtailed, the city might become a "Singapore-style" judiciary, where people were easily prosecuted for contempt of court. However, he drew the line at criticism of the courts by central government officials as that would hurt rather than help the judiciary. The Hong Kong government should hold firm on this front to protect the two systems aspect of "one country, two systems". Many – even the trio – are unlikely to disagree. ^ top ^

Hong Kong lawmakers dismayed as MTR Corp fined HK$2m, not HK$20m, for delay
The MTR Corporation will be fined HK$2 million for a signal glitch early this month that caused a 10-hour service disruption on the Kwun Tong Line. That is significantly lower than the HK$20 million speculated in media reports under a "service performance" clause of the fare agreement that penalises the railway operator for delays. The government explained that services still ran on the line during the incident – albeit at reduced intervals – so commuters were able to complete their journeys. Trains had to slow down from around 11am on August 5 after a signalling fault was detected. But there were reports that passengers were stranded inside carriages stuck between stations for over an hour. Thousands more had to switch to shuttle bus services, creating severe traffic congestion in parts of Kowloon East. Normal services resumed at 9.30pm after emergency repairs were completed – nearly 11 hours after the glitch was detected. According to the service performance arrangement introduced in 2013 following the review of the fare adjustment mechanism and updated this year, such a delay would trigger a penalty of HK$20 million. But responding to lawmakers' inquiries on Thursday, the Transport and Housing Bureau said the actual delay was 83 minutes, meaning it only warranted a HK$2 million fine. It explained that the time was determined by looking at the longest possible delay experienced by commuters from start to finish, rather than the length of the service disruption. The MTR Corp also claimed that the signalling system on the Kwun Tong Line was "more complicated" than other lines, citing the presence of track branches and the proximity of the power and transmission systems. It emphasised that over HK$8 billion of investment went into maintenance each year, while stringent procedures were in place to upgrade its system. A full report compiled by independent experts was expected to ready in October and submitted to the government, the operator added. Lawmakers were dissatisfied with the lenient punishment. Ben Chan Han-pan, who chairs the Legislative Council's transport panel, described the clause as "trickery" and said it failed public expectations. Lam Cheuk-ting of the Democratic Party said the penalty rules had no deterrent effect and he would write to the bureau to demand a review. ^ top ^

Law scholar urges Hong Kong justice minister to come clean on process that led to jail time for pro-democracy activists (SCMP)
A pro-democracy law scholar has echoed calls for Hong Kong's justice minister to disclose more details on discussions with his top prosecutors which led to the decision to seek tougher sentences for three former student activists jailed last week. Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun of the University of Hong Kong said Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung owed the public a complete explanation, saying it was not enough for him to merely reject speculation of "political considerations" in his decision to push for a sentencing review. Demosisto chairman Nathan Law Kwun-chung, the political party's secretary general Joshua Wong Chi-fung and non-affiliated activist Alex Chow Yong-kang were jailed by the Court of Appeal last week for their part in the storming of the Hong Kong government headquarters complex in 2014 in an illegal protest that triggered the 79-day pro-democracy Occupy sit-ins. They were originally given community service orders or a suspended jail term last August, but the Department of Justice applied for a review and succeeded in obtaining stiffer penalties. Professor Chan, speaking on Commercial Radio on Thursday, questioned the severity of the sentences imposed on the trio. "They are not hardcore criminals," he said. "I am not saying I support their acts … but considering their age, I think we need to be more considerate of our young people." But Chan conceded that Yuen had followed the proper legal procedures in filing his application for a sentencing review, and said he was satisfied there had been no "political considerations" involved in the Court of Appeal ruling. It was "going too far" to suggest the judges had not been neutral and was merely groundless speculation, he said. He noted media reports had claimed Yuen overruled recommendations by his top prosecutors not to seek stiffer sentences, and said he believed Hong Kong's director of public prosecutions had been involved in discussions over the "politically sensitive" case. "The director of public prosecutions is responsible for criminal prosecution and he is the expert in criminal law. If he advised against a review but the secretary for justice did not hear him, then that would be a very different story," Chan said. "It is very rare that the secretary for justice would reject the advice of his top prosecutor. It seems, from media reports, that the last time such a case took place was in the Sally Aw Sian case." Aw, then chairwoman of media firm Sing Tao Holdings, was named as a co-conspirator in charges brought against three executives of the group in 1998. In a 2013 interview with the Post, former director of public prosecutions Grenville Cross revealed he had advised that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Aw, but was overruled by then secretary for justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie. The decision not to prosecute Aw sparked a major legal controversy. Leung said among her considerations was that it might cause the collapse of Aw's company and the loss of many jobs. On Sunday, an estimated 22,000 demonstrators took to the streets in protest against the jailing of the three pro-democracy activists last week, with many condemning it as "political persecution". In an article published in the Post on Thursday, Yuen rejected "groundless" accusations that the government had an ulterior motive in pushing for harsher sentences. But he did not touch on the reports of him overruling his prosecutors. ^ top ^

Hong Kong itself is undermining judicial independence (SCMP)
As thousands turned out to protest the latest jailing of young political activists on Sunday, it may be a good time for all of us to recall the prophetic words of Kemal Bokhary. Five years ago, the retired Court of Final Appeal judge warned that "a storm of unprecedented ferocity" was gathering over the rule of law in Hong Kong. Sadly, his warning has come to pass. In a deeply divided society such as ours, judges and prosecutors find it increasingly difficult to make decisions and deliver rulings without being accused of political biases or hidden motives. Many of those who marched in Sunday's rally and others who took part in anti-government internet forums have been quick to paint the latest court judgments as "political persecution" at the behest of the Hong Kong and central governments. Whether they genuinely believe it or not, many are now shouting, "The rule of law is dead". The claim is that our courts have turned "red" or are being "mainlandised". People have personal preferences and different political stances. They may agree or disagree with particular court rulings, especially those of a highly political nature involving anti-government activists. But to conclude from your own disagreements that the impartiality of our courts or the rule of law no longer exists is a dangerous leap. Of course, all political sides have been guilty of making this unfounded claim. But the more it is repeated, the easier it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, it was the pro-government camp and its allies who first started to accuse judges of being closet "yellow ribbon" sympathisers when they committed protesters to community service rather than jailing them. Now that the Court of Appeal has toughened the sentences of 16 activists in two different cases to jail time, it's the turn of the anti-government forces to round on the judges. In February, thousands of police officers rallied in anger when seven of their colleagues were each jailed for two years after being found guilty of beating up Occupy protester Ken Tsang Kin-chiu. Practically every group that has a stake in political struggle has been upset at the courts for one decision or another. But that, fortunately, shows that our judicial officers are soldiering on valiantly in the face of unprecedented challenges and so are displeasing all sides. People have long worried that Beijing will undermine judicial independence and the rule of law. Actually, we ourselves now pose the greatest threat. ^ top ^

Thousands decry jailing of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists in 'biggest protest since Occupy' (SCMP)
A march held in the blazing afternoon heat on Sunday to oppose the recent jailing of Hong Kong political activists was "the biggest protest since the 2014 Occupy movement", according to organisers. They said the turnout was higher than expected, but they were unable to come up with an estimate. Police put the figure at 22,000. Led by pro-democracy groups including the Civil Human Rights Front, League of Social Democrats and Demosisto, crowds marched from Southorn Playground in Wan Chai to the Court of Final Appeal in Central, where a rally was held. Many brandished yellow umbrellas – a symbol of the Occupy pro-democracy movement – while others donned mock prisoners' outfits and makeshift cages over their heads. They held placards branding the imprisonment of Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang last week as acts of "political persecution". The activist trio were given jail sentences of between six and eight months by the Court of Appeal for storming the Hong Kong government headquarters compound at Tamar during an illegal protest that triggered the 79-day Occupy sit-ins. Procession leaders, which included pan-democratic lawmakers and activists, held a long banner that read "no crime for fighting against a totalitarian government" as they shouted slogans calling for the release of the "political prisoners". Occupy student leader Lester Shum, one of the spokesmen for the organisers, said he believed the march was "certainly the biggest protest since Occupy in 2014". "The big turnout tells those in prison that they're not alone. There are many Hong Kong people supporting them outside," he added. One participant, retiree Chan Cho-tak, said it was a shame the government had utilised legal means to suppress young activists. "The judges were wrong to send them to jail. What the young people did was for the good of Hong Kong." Another marcher, office worker Chu Ming-tak, 24, said the ruling had made him lose confidence in the city's judiciary. "I hope the higher court can rectify the mistake," he added. Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said the guilty verdict for the activists was expected but that public fury was caused by what some felt was a harsh punishment, prompting more people to take to the streets in protest. The Court of Appeal's decision to jail Wong, Law and Chow marked a victory for the government, which had appealed to have tougher punishments imposed after a lower court last year gave the trio community service or suspended jail terms. Separately, public prosecutors also succeeded in revising the punishments for 13 activists involved in a protest at the city's legislature against a development project in Hong Kong's northeastern New Territories in June 2014. Joining Sunday's march was former Civic Party legislator Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee. She said criticism of the sentences was not a personal attack on judges. The criticism was aimed at Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung and the Department of Justice, she said. She rejected claims that there had been no political considerations in the court rulings. "You can't prove there were none, either," Ng said. A government spokesman said any allegations of political interference in the courts were unsubstantiated and groundless and that the court's judgment had sufficient legal justification. ^ top ^



Macau leader apologises, weather chief resigns after worst storm in half century leaves eight dead (SCMP)
Macau's leader on Thursday made a public apology and announced the resignation of the casino hub's weather chief after the worst storm to hit the former Portuguese enclave in more than half a century left eight people dead, more than 200 injured, and tens of thousands without power or water. Eight more were reported killed in the mainland province of Guangdong, taking the death toll to 16, a day after Hong Kong managed to escape the onslaught of Typhoon Hato without fatalities. Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on admitted that his administration had been ill prepared for the "catastrophic" impact of the storm. "Typhoon Hato is the strongest storm in 53 years and has caused massive damage," he said. "What is more distressing is that eight residents are dead, and more than 200 residents were injured... I offer my deepest condolences to the victims and their families. "In the face of the disaster, we have to recognise that what has been done was not enough, and there is room to improve. I apologise sincerely on behalf of the government." Chui announced that Fong Soi-kun, director of Macau's Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau, had stepped down. Hato, Japanese for pigeon, was the first storm in five years to trigger the No 10 warning signal – the highest alert level – in Hong Kong. There were no fatalities in Hong Kong, but at least 129 were injured during the passage of the typhoon, and authorities received reports of 1,057 fallen trees and extensive flooding in low-lying areas. The Hong Kong Observatory recorded Hato's highest intensity at 175km/h, making it the most powerful storm to hit the city since 1979. The government said it was monitoring an oil spill off Guishan Island in the Pearl River Estuary after several vessels ran into trouble during the typhoon. Police and labour officials were investigating possible negligence in the case of a suspended working platform that was seen swaying dangerously and smashing into the windows of a residential tower at Chatham Gate in Hung Hom. Footage of the scene at the height of the storm went viral on Wednesday. "Our colleagues and other relevant departments have been following up on the incident," Commissioner for Labour Carlson Chan Ka-shun said. "We will see whether the suspended working platform was securely fixed at the time." Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said government departments would review their typhoon prevention and response procedures to see what improvements could be made. The big clean-up that began on Wednesday evening after the storm swept past the city continued on Thursday, with residents of flood-hit neighbourhoods clearing debris. In Heng Fa Chuen, three service vehicles were working overnight to pump out water from a submerged car park, in which more than 20 cars were stuck. Residents also chipped in to clear trash dumped in public spaces after floodwaters receded. Across the harbour in Lei Yue Mun, water levels were down in flooded villages, and residents were busy bailing out their waterlogged homes. Residents in the fishing village of Tai O, on Lantau Island, were also busy clearing out the debris left by flooding. While dozens of evacuated residents had already returned to their homes and were busy cleaning up, a concern group said food and water supplies could be a problem as many shops could not open for business on Thursday after fridges were damaged. Professor Ng Mee-kam of Chinese University said city planning should take into account the natural ecosystem in the long run to reduce the impact of adverse weather. "The city should be able to absorb water and return to nature in an ecologically friendly way," she said, citing the concept of a "sponge city" to absorb, clean and reuse rainfall. ^ top ^



China says US probe 'sabotages' global trade system (SCMP)
China ratcheted up its opposition to the US investigation into its intellectual property practices, accusing the Trump administration of sabotaging the international trading system, and again pledging to defend its interests if necessary. At the same time, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said at a briefing on Thursday in Beijing that the two nations had more shared interests than disputes and stressed that cooperation was the best way to address any differences. "The US investigation of China based on domestic laws sabotages the existing international trading system, and has poured cold water on all parties that have been working to promote bilateral economic ties," Gao said. He added that China was strongly displeased by what it called "unilateral and protectionist" action. The remarks took a sharper tone than the ministry's statement following an announcement on Friday of the investigation by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. The US is probing China's practices on intellectual property, technology transfer and innovation to determine if the behaviour is "unreasonable or discriminatory", or restricts US commerce. President Donald Trump asked Lighthizer earlier this month to consider such a move. Gao said China hopes to work with the US to consolidate achievements from previous negotiations and to reach further positive outcomes. Trade tensions between the world's two biggest economies have showed signs of heating up after a short honeymoon period. Earlier this week, the US asked the World Trade Organisation to set up a dispute settlement panel to examine China's administration of tariff rate quotas on agricultural products including wheat, rice and corn, which could force the Asian nation to change its policies or face retaliation in the scenario of a US victory. China expressed regret at the US decision to move forward with the case, and will properly address the issue under the WTO rules, said Gao. The US asked China for consultations in December, and China has provided clarification and offered resolution, the spokesman said. He added that the recent anti-dumping reviews China launched on two types of optical fibre products made in the US were not retaliatory action against the US probe. "The two cases are conducted completely in accordance with the law," Gao said. The ministry announced on Tuesday that it will review anti-dumping measures against dispersion unshifted single-mode optical fibre made in the US and European Union, a potential step towards higher tariffs on those imports. It marked the second investigation in a week after another probe on August 18 to decide whether to extend anti-dumping duties on US and Japanese optical fibre preform, a glass product used in fibre-optic cables. ^ top ^

Growth outlook up but don't be too optimistic about China, IMF says (SCMP)
China's growth prospects may be higher but it's a bit too optimistic to suggest the world's second-biggest economy is entering a new cycle of expansion, the International Monetary Fund's chief in China said on Thursday. The caution over the country's economic prospects came a week after the Washington-based fund revised up China's average annual growth forecast from 6.0 per cent to 6.4 per cent for 2018-2020. "We would be a little bit more cautious on the [new cycle] statement because some of the tightening coming from the financial sector should have a decelerating impact on economy," Alfred Schipke, IMF senior resident representative in China, said in Beijing on Thursday. "When the real estate sector does not perform as strongly as it did in the past, that would probably have impact on the growth outlook." China's stronger-than-expected economic growth in the first half and the steady appreciation of the yuan against the US dollar has dispelled bearish views among various banks and institutions, including the IMF, prompting them to revise up their forecasts for China. At the same time, the market is divided over the economy's real strength and just how much industrial profitability can improve. One of the biggest debates among Chinese economists is whether China has bid farewell to overcapacity and entered a new phase of growth. Schipke said China's economic resilience was underpinned by a booming property sector and greater demand for Chinese products abroad, but both could lose steam down the road. "I am careful to say that we are at the beginning of an upside [in growth]," he said. Earlier this month, the IMF warned that growth might lead to more debt, forecasting non-financial sector debt to amount to over 290 per cent of GDP by 2020, up from 235 per cent last year. It said China needed to address deeper challenges, such as excessive savings, a bloated state sector, persistent overcapacity, elevated corporate debt, financial sector fragility and the hesitation to liberalise the exchange rate and capital account. The economy is already showing signs of softness, with all major economic gauges falling below expectations in July. There are also concerns that the government's reliance on administrative orders to push supply-side reform such as capacity cuts will backfire on the overall economy, such as squeezing out the private sector and exacerbating price volatility. Citing its second-quarter survey of more than 2,000 industrial firms, the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business said the industrial economy had not yet bottomed out because investment remained sluggish, and production and power consumption was flat. "The biggest challenge facing the industrial economy is still overcapacity. Both its prevalence and severity remain at close to historically high level," the report said. "The structural problems of China's industrial economy remained still a significant concerns." ^ top ^

China central bank to give more credit support to poor areas (Xinhua)
China's central bank has called for the country's financial institutions to give more credit support to poor areas to help lift people out of poverty. At a meeting Monday, Pan Gongsheng, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, urged China's policy and commercial banks to step up financing support for relocation projects and infrastructure building in poor regions. Securities and insurance companies should expand their business network in these areas, Pan said, stressing China's poverty relief target needs coordinated efforts from various financial organs. The central bank also pledged to effectively use monetary policies and finance tools to guide more institutions to contribute to poverty alleviation. China has set 2020 as the target to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society, which requires the eradication of poverty. As of the end of 2016, there were still 43.35 million Chinese living below the country's poverty line. ^ top ^



US should weigh using fines to punish Chinese banks that support Pyongyang, former US official says (SCMP)
The US could impose billions of dollars in regulatory fines against large Chinese banks that fail to limit alleged financial ties with North Korea and its nuclear and missile programmes, a former US Treasury official said on Thursday. The US would use the fines as a bargaining chip to press Beijing to do more on its own to halt Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, instead of enacting economic sanctions to freeze the banks' assets or cut them off from the American market – moves that would certainly harm US-China investment and trade relations. Anthony Ruggiero, a former director at the US Treasury's Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, told a think tank event in Washington on Thursday that the US government could declare Chinese banks' compliance procedures are "not appropriate", causing them to be hit by "significant" billions of dollars in fines. "The [US's] next logical step would be going after Chinese banks if they are not cooperating now," said Ruggiero, now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, a non-profit, non-partisan organisation focusing on US foreign policy and national security. Ordering the banks to forfeit large amounts of money in regulatory "can work... and get people's attention," he said. Ruggiero's comment came after the US Treasury on Tuesday sanctioned 16 Chinese and Russian companies and nationals for their alleged support of North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, energy trade, labour exports and sanctions evasion. "Treasury will continue to increase pressure on North Korea by targeting those who support the advancement of nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, and isolating them from the American financial system," said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement. No Chinese banks were designated in Tuesday's sanction list. "These are sanctions closely linked to UN Security Council resolutions that China supported," said Adam Mount, a nuclear security expert at the Washington-based Centre for American Progress, in an exchange with the South China Morning Post. "Not broad secondary sanctions against Chinese banks. Beijing would resist the latter," Mount added. "They [the US government] are not jumping to the most extreme measures [to sanction large Chinese banks]. They are stepping along the way, moving up the ladder," Ruggiero told the Post at the think tank event. So far, the US has sanctioned only one Chinese bank – Bank of Dandong – for its alleged money laundering for Pyongyang in late June, one week after the first Diplomatic and Security Dialogue between China and the US in Washington. Ruggiero called Bank of Dandong, which has been in the process of being cut off from the US, "a small" one. "There is more [banks] to come, probably," he said. There is precedent for using regulatory fines in place of sanctions. In May 2015, the US Justice Department imposed a record penalty of US$8.9 billion against BNP Paribas, a global French bank, after it violated US economic sanctions against Iran, Cuba and Sudan. Using such an approach against banks is "the most efficient," Ruggiero argued. He said it would state clearly that the banks are not doing enough to stop North Korean transactions, without harming the bilateral relationship through freezing assets or cutting the banks off from the US financial system. Some large Chinese banks have been identified by the US government as conducting transactions with North Korea. Knowing the banks' identities and that they fear losing their market share in the US could give the US leverage in its effort to put pressure on Beijing. In late September 2016, the US Department of Justice filed a criminal complaint accusing a Chinese national, Ma Xiaohong, and her company, Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Co, and three executives of conspiring to violate US sanctions law and carry out money laundering, according to various US media reports. In a separate civil suit, the US Justice Department also sought to seize funds in 25 Chinese bank accounts that it said were used by Dandong Hongxiang and its "front" companies. Those bank accounts were at several big Chinese banks, including China Merchants Bank, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the Financial Times reported. However, Jonathan Pollack, the chair in Korea studies at the Brookings Institute, questioned the validity of Ruggiero's claims. There are "a lot of controversies" associated with the effort to sanction or fine Chinese banks with alleged ties to North Korea's nuclear weapon programme, Pollack said in an interview at the event following Ruggiero's remarks. Although "there is an implication that China should be able to control all of these activities", the question is "how much this has been going on without even the central authority in Beijing being fully mindful of" it, Pollack said. "We tend to think Beijing is all-knowing." Pollack she he would "argue that North Korea has much incentive to diversify [their business to other countries]. They do already – rather than focus so much of their interest on just dealing with China," he said. China has strongly and consistently opposed the US's unilateral actions against Chinese companies and nationals, criticising Washington for operating outside the UN Security Council framework. In a response to the US Treasury's sanctions on Tuesday, China's embassy in Washington said: "We strongly urge the US to immediately correct its mistake, so as not to impact bilateral cooperation on relevant issues. "China faithfully implements UN Security Council resolutions on the DPRK in their entirety, and fully observes its international obligations." If any Chinese companies or individuals are suspected of violating Security Council resolutions, the embassy said, "they will be investigated and treated in accordance with China's domestic laws and regulations". ^ top ^

Trump urged to abandon China strategy and start formal talks with North Korea (SCMP)
Top US experts on North Korea have urged President Donald Trump to start formal talks with Pyongyang, saying the strategy of heaping pressure on China to solve the situation won't work. Joseph DeTrani, former special envoy for the six-party talks with North Korea, said it was time to consider formal negotiations with Pyongyang to "get North Korea to halt all nuclear tests and missile launches and return to unconditional nuclear discussions and negotiations". "I'm not supportive of putting so-called pressure on China," he said. "Economic and trade relations should not be commingled with national security issues related to North Korea." On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hinted that talks were possible, and acknowledged that Pyongyang had shown some signs of restraint since the United Nations imposed tougher sanctions on the North on August 5. "We hope that this is the beginning of this signal that we've been looking for – that they are ready to restrain their level of tensions, they're ready to restrain their provocative acts, and that perhaps we are seeing our pathway to sometime in the near future having some dialogue," Tillerson said. Backchannel talks have reportedly been held for several months between Joseph Yun, the US envoy for North Korea policy, and Pak Song-il, a senior North Korean diplomat at its UN mission in New York, Associated Press reported earlier this month. But DeTrani, former director of the National Counterproliferation Centre and special adviser to the director of National Intelligence, said backchannel diplomacy between the Trump administration and Pyongyang was not enough. "Track 1.5 talks between North Korean officials and former US officials are better than no talks, but our goal should be formal talks," DeTrani said. "The 'New York Channel', with North Korea's UN mission and the State Department, was established with the creation of the six-party talks in 2003." Other experts agreed that Trump should elevate the level of dialogue. "A higher level of communication and more reliable communication is necessary to avoid small conflicts from escalating to larger conflicts – either military or diplomatic ones," said James L. Schoff, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Asia Programme. "So unconditional dialogue would be a good thing to pursue right now, separate from efforts to promote denuclearisation." Tillerson's signal on talks came the same day the US slapped new punitive sanctions on China, but analysts believe tightening the screws on Beijing will do little to ease the situation. The US Treasury on Tuesday announced sanctions against 16 Chinese and Russian entities and six individuals, but it stopped short of an anticipated move targeting Chinese banks. It was met with an angry response from the Chinese embassy in Washington, which said it opposed the sanctions, "especially the 'long-arm jurisdiction' over Chinese entities and individuals exercised by any country in accordance with its domestic laws", according to a statement carried by China Daily. "I don't believe there is much of a 'China card' to play. The US and China are too mutually interdependent for US pressure to force China's hand," said Charles Armstrong, an expert on Korean affairs from Columbia University. "China cannot 'solve' the North Korea problem; the US must deal directly with North Korea as well." He said that for years the US had overestimated both China's leverage over North Korea and potential US leverage over China. Balbina Hwang, a former US State Department senior adviser, agreed that the approach of piling pressure on China was not working. "If there is one lesson we should have learned in the last 20 years – especially since the six-party talks [on North Korea] under the George W. Bush administration – it is that the road to Pyongyang does not go through Beijing," she said. Hwang, a visiting professor at Georgetown University, noted that since 2001, the US had been trying to "persuade, cajole, pressure, beg China to solve the nuclear issue with North Korea" with little success. "China will not change or dramatically alter its approach to North Korea because it simply is not in China's national interest – which is to prevent conflict and major instability in all of its bordering regions. It is not a wise strategy to take a discrete, short-term transactional approach with China," she said. Frederick Carriere, a professor with the Korean Peninsula Affairs Centre at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, said all forms of communication between the two sides should be encouraged. "However, I imagine these two experienced diplomats would be among the first to acknowledge that their exchanges will not solve the problem, unless they pave the way for serious, tough negotiations at a much higher level," Carriere said. Armstrong agreed. "Ultimately, the situation can only improve through higher-level dialogue, and ultimately at the level of the top leadership – as Bill Clinton and Kim Jong-il came close to doing in late 2000," he said. ^ top ^

U.S. welcomes DPRK's "restraint" on nuclear program (Xinhua)
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday welcomed "some level of restraint" showed by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea with its nuclear program, seeing a possible pathway to a future talk between Washington and Pyongyang. "We have had no missile launches or provocative acts from the part of North Korea (DPRK) since the unanimous adoption of the UN Security Council resolution," said Tillerson in a press briefing in the State Department. The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution imposing new sanctions on DPRK for its continued intercontinental ballistic missile testing on Aug. 5. Tillerson said he was pleased to see Pyongyang "has certainly demonstrated some level of restraint that we have not seen in the past." "We hope that it is the beginning of the signal that we are looking for -- that they are ready to restrain their level of tensions, they're ready to restrain their provocative acts," said the U.S. top diplomat. "Perhaps we are seeing our pathway to some time in the near future having some dialogue," but "need to see more on their part," Tillerson added. Tillerson's remarks came amid an ongoing joint military drill held by the United States and South Korea. The two-week-long war games mobilized about 17,500 U.S. soldiers and some 50,000 South Korean troops. Pyongyang said on Monday the U.S.-South Korean joint military drill had plunged the Korean Peninsula into a critical phase. ^ top ^

DPRK says U.S.-South Korea joint drill plunges Peninsula situation into critical phase (Xinhua)
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Monday said the U.S.-South Korean joint military drill has plunged the Korean Peninsula into a critical phase. The DPRK's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the scale of the U.S. military involvement in the exercise known as Ulchi-Freedom Guardian "far outnumbers the one in the last year." "What is more serious is the fact that brass hats of the U.S. military, including the commanders of the U.S. forces in the Pacific and the Strategic Forces, visited South Korea on the eve of the rehearsal," the KCNA said. "Even mercenaries from seven vassal countries, including Australia and Britain, have joined them," it added. The United States and South Korea Monday kicked off their annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian joint military drill amid high tension on the Korean Peninsula and repeated appeals for restraint on both sides by many countries. Ulchi-Freedom Guardian is referred to a combined military exercise between the United States and South Korea, which is considered the world's largest computerized command and control implementation. The exercise was initiated in 1976 and is held annually during August or September. ^ top ^



Some MPs submit petition to dismiss PM (Montsame)
Today on August 23, some members of the Mongolian People's Party group in the Parliament submitted a petition to dismiss Prime Minister of Mongolia J.Erdenebat. As Speaker of the Parliament M.Enkhbold is absent currently, Deputy Speaker Ya.Sanjmyatav received the petition, signed by 30 MPs. The Mongolian People's Party has 65 seats in Parliament. MP T.Ayursaikhan underlined "- J.Erdenebat has repeatedly violated Mongolian legislation with his decisions and actions since his appointment. Those actions and decisions were to serve the interests of few groups, but not for the interests of Mongolia. Moreover, with the 2017 presidential election, the people of Mongolia gave passed their evaluation to activities of the Cabinet. Therefore certain MPs are putting their proposal to dismiss the PM". According to the Constitution, this issue should be discussed and resolved within 15 days. The MPs also demanded to call irregular Parliamentary session, attaching their request to the petition. Irregular session should be called, when more than one third of the MPs or 26 MPs require it. ^ top ^

President Kh. Battulga: We hope to bolster ties with the Russian Federation (Gogo Mongolia)
A month after the victory in the election and assuming office as the head of state, the fifth President of Mongolia Khaltmaagiin Battulga conversed with Aleksei Selishev, a reporter of TASS Agency of Russia. This is the first-ever interview of Khaltmaagiin Battulga as the President of Mongolia to press from another country. The head of state talked about the country's development plans and promising areas for strengthening cooperation with Russia. -Mongolia is taking important steps towards close integration with the international community, striving to play a more active role in Asia. How do you assess this movement of the country and what, in your opinion, still needs to be done by Mongolia in this direction? -A little more than a month has passed since the presidential election of Mongolia. I have many ideas and plans for the country's foreign policy. Geographically, Mongolia is in Asia. Therefore, we have established diplomatic relations with all Asian countries. A special feature of Mongolia is that it is located between two great countries, Russia and China. With the People's Republic of China, we have a comprehensive strategic partnership, and with Japan and India, strategic relationship. We are also developing a comprehensive partnership with the Republic of Korea. The peculiarity of Mongolia lies in the fact that through Russia we border with the EU countries, and through China - with the countries of Asia. In view of this, I plan to make a visit to Russia and China as my first destinations, to implement concrete steps to develop economic cooperation. The main topics of cooperation are the regulation of customs tariffs, implementation of large-scale reforms. We also plan to use the natural resources of our country, increase the degree of processing using the latest technologies and innovations. Since my inauguration, 35 days have passed. After a while, I think, concrete results will be achieved and my plans realized. -Everyone has inevitable concerns about the future of one's own country. How do you imagine Mongolia in the new decade? -Any head of state will think about the long-term development of his country. The latest presidential election of Mongolia was special. Now our country faces a difficult situation, and the people elected me in the hope that it will be possible to reduce the rate of poverty and unemployment. Prior to my election to the presidency, I served as head of two major ministries, and I have concrete plans for the next four years in the economic sphere that will serve as the initial basis for the country's sustainable development. After that, after the expiry of my term in office, it will be possible to take stock. -What are your personal priorities as a president and how, in your opinion, will it be possible to combine the necessary reforms for Mongolia with the ancient traditions of the country? -Any country prepares a development policy based on the traditions and centuries-old customs of its people. Mongols are nomads. Blood of nomads, too, runs through my own veins. The peculiarity of Mongolia lies in the fact that we are drafting development programs based on the traditions of nomads. Mongolians are a people who constantly seek to live independently and can thrive so, as well. Today, many jobs in Mongolia are occupied by foreign laborers and they are playing a big part in the development of our country. But we will change this. In contrast to the current situation, in the future, we will achieve development where people receive a fair share from mining, in other words, all receive that share on an equal basis. Over the past 20 years, a small number of individuals have obtained licenses to develop minerals and made a profit from them. At the same time, personal incomes of political and business groups have been increasing. As a result, on one hand, there are many poor and unemployed in this country, and on the other, political groups have become wealthy. This topic is one of the key issues for me to tackle. Another important area for us is the infrastructure. The field should be created by our people and is a priority direction of cooperation in the field of infrastructure with our neighbors - Russia and China. Given the fact that Mongolia has access to the seas, we need to work closely with our neighbors. -Russia and Mongolia are good and close neighbors. What importance do you attach to developing relations with the Russian Federation? -Our states are friendly neighbors with centuries-old history. We have a rich historical path, and on its great stretch we can see how we supported each other. The latest example was the battle on the Khalkhiin-Gol River, which should not be forgotten. I think it is important for us to remember this. The development of relations and cooperation between Mongolia and the federal subjects of the Russian Federation, which share a border, play an important role in expanding the interaction between our two countries. Relations and cooperation on the regional level should be raised to new heights. In this regard, we can mention the study of the possibilities for creating free trade zones, the issue related to Lake Baikal: we are working on a project to build a hydropower plant on River Eg. The lack of mutual understanding between our regions can lead to disagreements. I hope that our relations will develop very intensively, including in the defense sector, since 95% of our military equipment and weapons are of Russian origin. -What, in your opinion, are the most promising areas for cooperation between Mongolia and Russia? -As I have already mentioned, the defense sphere is the most prioritized area of cooperation. The Minister of Defense of Mongolia, Mr. Badmaanyambuugiin Bat-Erdene, recently held a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. On my behalf, the President of Mongolia, a message was sent to the Russian minister. Mongolians perceive Sergei Shoigu as a native Tyvan and regard him as a close relative. The second priority is agriculture. In Soviet times, we used a large number of Soviet-made agricultural machinery. Now it's number has decreased, so we need to strengthen cooperation in the field of agriculture. And this is possible because the climatic conditions of our two countries are similar. We have also been discussing the issue of Mongolian meat exports to Irkutsk for many years, but the solution to this question is somewhat stagnant at this moment. Another priority area of cooperation is the development of infrastructure and the sphere of transport in general. "Ulaanbaatar Railway" is the only project that stood after the change in joint programs of Russia and Mongolia. We will pay special attention to the expansion of this project with Russia in the proportion of 50 to 50 percent. In 2016, before the parliamentary elections, Russian share in 49% of Erdenet was sold. It is a very weighty problem. We are trying to ensure that a similar situation does not occur with the Ulaanbaatar Railway. Still, there is a company called "Mongolrostsvetmet", which has several licenses for mining operations. We need to work to improve the management efficiency of this company since it now is in a great debt. -Mongolia is a unique country with the outstanding natural landscape. What would you recommend in order to bring more Russian tourists to Mongolia? -Tourism is a special industry, which requires good management and quality services, as well as proper regulation. Next year we will open a new airport, which will give impetus to the development of the tourism industry, including attraction of Russian tourists. So far, not so many tourists come from Russia to Mongolia - mostly vacationers from the Siberian regions who come to us by bus. Travelers from Moscow and the European part of Russia are mostly going to Turkey or European countries. Therefore, we exchanged ideas with travel agencies of Buryatia about the creation of a tourist ring, in which tourists from Japan and the Republic of Korea will visit the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia (North China), Mongolia and Buryatia, that is, "three Mongolia". We will also have the opportunity to receive tourists from Moscow and St. Petersburg after the launch of a new airport in the valley of Hushigt. We are also working to improve the service sector. -You have planned to attend the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF). What tasks have you set for yourself in this forum? -This will be my first official visit abroad. Within its framework, meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the heads of states of Northeast Asia are planned. The program and agenda are now being developed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia. ^ top ^


Mr. Valentin Jeanneret
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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