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
  17-21.12.2018, No. 747  
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Foreign Policy

Philippine lawmaker wants holiday to honour South China Sea ruling in favour of Manila (SCMP)
A Philippine lawmaker has proposed a bill to honour an international court's ruling in favour of Manila in its maritime dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea, saying the move would boost national pride. Gary C. Alejano, of the Magdalo Party-List, wants a working holiday to commemorate a verdict in The Hague on July 16, 2016, that concluded that China had no legal basis to claim historic rights to much of the South China Sea, known in the Philippines as the West Philippine Sea. "It is my hope that by declaring as a special working holiday the 12th of July … we can inspire Filipinos and promote national pride," Alejano told the South China Morning Post on Thursday. The bill was received by the Philippines' House of Representatives on December 18. "This is also in response to the sentiment of the people dissatisfied with how the government is handling the issue of the West Philippine Sea," he added. Alejano is a former Marine captain and fierce critic of President Rodrigo Duterte. His party, the Magdalo Party-List, represents retired personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and their families. His proposed bill specifically refers to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) rejection of China's "nine-dash line" claims, which demarcates hundreds of miles to the southeast of the Chinese island of Hainan and covers some 90 per cent of the disputed waters. The PCA ruled that the claims had no basis under international law. Beijing boycotted the hearing and has vowed to ignore the UN-backed tribunal's decision, saying it had no jurisdiction over the dispute. "China will never accept any claim or action based on those awards," President Xi Jinping of China said at the time. The 2016 ruling was welcomed by other Southeast Asian nations. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have conflicting claims with China in parts of the South China Sea. The government of Vietnam, which is in a dispute with China over the Paracel and Spratly Islands, came out with strong support of the ruling at the time. If House Bill No. 8809 is signed into law, the Philippines' Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education would be required to include "the history of events leading to the Philippines' historic win against China" in their curriculums. The Department of Foreign Affairs would be mandated to plan and implement activities for "West Philippine Sea Victory Day". The bill must go through three rounds of reading before it is voted on by the House of Representatives. If it receives majority approval, the bill will go through the same process in the Senate. Barring any conflicting provisions, the bill will be sent to the president for approval. "The bill is unlikely to become law, at least in the 17th Congress," Alejano said, referring to the current session of the Philippines' legislature. "The present congress is nearing its end and as such, rallying the bill throughout the Lower House and up to the Senate is a highly insurmountable task," Alejano said. "We also have to take into account that the Duterte administration has sidelined the arbitral ruling, so we can expect him and his allies to have at best, a lukewarm reception to my proposal." Alejano's proposed bill might once set him at odds with Duterte, who critics say has bowed to China in the South China Sea. In November, he said that China was "already in possession" of the South China Sea, and that military drills by the US were derailing maritime talks between Beijing and its neighbours, according to reports. This wouldn't be the first time Alejano has clashed with Duterte. He lodged the first impeachment complaint against Duterte in March 2017, alleging that Duterte committed bribery, murder and other illegal acts both as president and as the former mayor of Davao City. The Justice Committee of the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Duterte allies, voted unanimously on in May 2017 to dismiss the complaint on the basis that Alejano had no "personal knowledge" of his allegations. ^ top ^

Trade war truce: China's Sinograin confirms US soybean purchase (SCMP)
China's Sinograin said it had recently bought a few batches of soybeans from the United States, amid a truce in a trade war between the two nations. The state stockpiler made the purchases "to implement the consensus achieved by China and the United States' heads of state", it said in a statement on Wednesday that was published on its website. Reuters reported a week earlier that Sinograin and fellow state-run Chinese firm Cofco had bought over 1.5 million tonnes of US soybeans, in the first major purchases since China and the United States agreed a temporary ceasefire in their trade row earlier this month. The US Department of Agriculture later confirmed sales to China, but Sinograin's statement, which did not specify the volumes purchased, marks the first official confirmation from the Chinese side. China in July imposed a 25 per cent tariff on imports of soybeans from the United States and this remains in place as the two countries look to resolve their trade row by the end of their 90-day truce on March 1. Benchmark soybean futures on the Chicago Board of Trade spiked to US$9.28 a bushel on December 12, their highest level since June, on news that Chinese purchases had resumed. They have since eased back to US$9 a bushel. ^ top ^

Third detained Canadian Sarah McIver given 'administrative punishment' for working illegally in China (SCMP)
Canadian teacher Sarah McIver has been given an "administrative punishment" for working illegally in China, Beijing said on Thursday. McIver was the third Canadian to be detained in China in recent weeks, and news of her being sentenced removes a thorn in the diplomatic saga between the two countries that started with Ottawa's arrest of Chinese tech executive Sabrina Meng Wanzhou. China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing that a Canadian citizen had been "administratively punished" by local police for illegal employment. "There is unimpeded consular communication between China and Canada, and China will provide necessary assistance for Canada to perform its consular duties normally," she said. Canadian newspaper the National Post reported on Wednesday that arrangements were being made for McIver, originally from Alberta, to return to Canada after she was detained over a visa irregularity. Her detention came during rising tensions between Beijing and Ottawa following the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng in Vancouver on December 1. The executive was later released on bail, but as the daughter of the founder of Huawei, one of China's most high-profile technology firms, the case sparked anger in China for what many saw as a politically motivated move orchestrated by Washington. China's foreign ministry had threatened "serious consequences" if Canadian authorities did not immediately release Meng, instead of extraditing her to the US to face fraud charges relating to breaking sanctions against Iran. In what many saw as a retaliatory measure by Beijing on December 10 detained two Canadian nationals – former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor – for activities it said "endanger China's nationals security". Kovrig worked as an analyst for the International Crisis Group and Spavor was based in the Chinese city of Dandong with business connections to North Korea. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday said he favoured the de-escalation of tensions with China over Meng's case, noting that the McIver case appeared to be routine and unrelated to the detentions of Kovrig and Spavor. "There are tens of thousands of Canadians that live, travel and work in China," he said at a year-end news conference in Ottawa. The McIver case "doesn't seem to fit the pattern of facts on the previous two", he said. McIver had reportedly been teaching in China for several months before her detention, after school officials transferred her to a school in a different city from the one where she was originally hired, according to the National Post. China's ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye wrote last Thursday in an opinion piece for Canada's The Globe and Mail that Meng's detention was "groundless", and that those accusing China of a retaliatory act should "first reflect on the actions of the Canadian side". "It is both ignominious and hypocritical to revile China with double standards," he wrote. Charles Burton, a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing and political science professor at Brock University, said the "heavy-handed" detention of McIver would raise concern among Canadians about visiting China for fear of "largely arbitrary arrest and petty harassment of this nature". "It is connected to the general attempt by the government of China to engage in anti-Canada harassing behaviour at all levels," he said, referencing reported boycotts of winter clothing brand Canada Goose and Canadian business meeting cancellations in China. "The level of lurid criticism of the government of Canada and the slanderous comments about the nature of the Canadian government and the motivations of the Trudeau government... are designed to continue to pressure Canada so that Ms Meng is not transported to the US." Burton said those efforts to pressure Ottawa would continue, "even though it's pretty apparent that the government of Canada is going to go through the full extradition process". "I do expect it to continue, I don't think the rhetoric will be reduced, and I will expect that we will see many more incidents like this," he said. Jane Duckett, professor of Chinese politics at the University of Glasgow, said there had been more scrutiny of minor transgressions committed by foreign nationals in China, so McIver's detention may not be seen as reprisal in the same way as the other two cases. "There's no mention of state security in this particular case," she said. "That doesn't mean that it hasn't been ordered from the top down, or even lower level people might be acting on their own, somehow being a little more... stringent in pursuing transgressions just because it's a Canadian, in the spirit of the general situation." Duckett added that the apparent targeting of Canadian citizens in China appeared in tandem with a more assertive international stance that the Chinese party state had taken under Xi Jinping. "It seems to fit with that mode of being a little more assertive and pushing back internationally, more overtly, even though they're not admitting it," she said. ^ top ^

US congressional panel assails China for 'severe religious freedom violations' for detaining Christians and closing churches (SCMP)
A US congressional panel tasked with monitoring China's human rights record on Wednesday blasted Beijing's recent detention of Christians and blamed President Xi Jinping for actions that have taken a "devastating human toll". The statement by the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which is chaired by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, follows Chinese authorities' closing of three unregistered Protestant churches in the country. The senior Democrat on the panel is Senator Dianne Feinstein. Xi's "efforts to 'sinicise' religion are taking a devastating human toll", said the commission, which was established shortly after the US normalised trade relations with Beijing in 2001 and is charged with producing an annual report monitoring human rights and rule of law in China. "Chinese officials and others complicit in severe religious freedom violations must be held accountable and specific cases of those unjustly harassed, detained and imprisoned must be raised at the highest levels of government," the commission said, alleging violations against followers of other faiths, including Tibetan Buddhists, Uygur Muslims and Falun Gong practitioners. "As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas, China's Christians and other faith communities are under siege and treated as enemies of the state for daring to worship and peacefully live out their faith," the statement said. The Rongguili Church in Guangzhou, which was founded by the late pastor Samuel Lamb Xiangao – one of the leading figures of China's independent house church movement over the past four decades – was raided and closed last weekend. According to a notice issued on Saturday by the Yuexiu district ethnic and religious affairs bureau, all activities at the church have been suspended by local authorities for violations of regulations governing religious affairs. Chengdu's 500-member Early Rain Covenant Church was closed last week. The US commission said its pastor, Wang Yi, his wife, Jiang Rong, and roughly 100 church lay leaders and seminary students were detained in the raid. The 1,500-member Zion Church in Beijing was shut in September. ^ top ^

China, Russia to boost military cooperation (Xinhua)
Chinese State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe met with Deputy Defense Minister of the Russian Federation and Chief of Main Directorate for Political-Military Affairs of the Russian Armed Forces Andrey Kartapolov in Beijing Thursday. Wei spoke highly of recent exchanges and cooperation between the two militaries. "China is willing to work jointly with Russia, taking the opportunity of the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries next year to resolutely implement the consensus reached by the two heads of states and promote the two sides' military cooperation to continuously score new achievements," Wei said. Kartapolov said Russia would strengthen cooperation with China in the military and other fields, and keep pushing the relationship between the two countries and their militaries to a new level. ^ top ^

China's customs seize 91,600 tonnes of smuggled waste (Xinhua)
China's customs authority seized 91,600 tonnes of illegal trash imports Wednesday in its latest round of crackdown against "foreign garbage." The smuggled trash included waste plastics and mineral residue, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) said in a statement. Nearly 857 customs officers in 11 provincial regions including Guangdong and Tianjin detained 129 suspects and broke up 38 smuggling rings during the action. It was the fifth round of crackdown on trash smuggling launched by the GAC this year. So far, 718 suspects from 202 smuggling rings have been detained, with evidence of more than 1.55 million tonnes of illegal solid waste imports found. China began importing solid waste as a source of raw materials in the 1980s and for years has been the world's largest importer, despite its weak capacity in garbage disposal. Some companies illegally bring foreign garbage into the country for profit, posing a threat to the environment and public health. Given rising public awareness and a green development drive, the government decided last year to phase out and completely halt such imports by the end of 2019, except for those containing resources that are not substitutable. ^ top ^

China reveals that high-level trade war dialogue with US goes on as negotiators schedule January meeting (SCMP)
China and the United States held a vice-ministerial dialogue on trade and economic issues as part of efforts to de-escalate their trade war. On Wednesday, the Ministry of Commerce said officials from both sides exchanged views on matters of mutual concern. The ministry's announcement came after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said negotiators charged with hammering out a broader truce in the China-US trade war will meet in January. Both sides were now focused on trying "to document an agreement" by March 1, when the 90-day truce in the trade war ends, he said. Mnuchin said neither he nor US President Donald Trump were aware of the arrest of Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou in Canada when they met Chinese President Xi Jinping on December 1. Mnuchin poured cold water on Trump's declaration last week that he would be willing to intervene on Huawei's behalf if it was required to help reach a trade deal between China and the US. "We've been very clear and China understands that these are separate tracks," he said. Reducing the trade deficit with China remained a priority for Trump, but the administration understood it would take time and was also focused on securing structural changes in the Chinese economy that would help balance trade, Mnuchin said. The US's monthly trade deficit in goods with China hit a record high in October and is on track to have expanded through the first two years of the Trump presidency. "I don't think that we'd expect that overnight,'' Mnuchin said of the prospect of eliminating the trade deficit with China. But the US and China had agreed on the need for more balanced trade and that would set the stage for meaningful change, he said. Washington and Beijing have been locked in a trade war since July 6, when they each applied tariffs to imports of the other's goods. But on December 1, the day after the presidents met at the G20 summit in Argentina, they agreed to a 90-day truce in their dispute. The US Soybean Export Council said Chinese importers returned to the US soy market on Tuesday for their second round of purchases since the two nations agreed to the truce. The deals struck were evidence that Beijing is trying to make good on its pledge to buy more US agricultural goods. China last year imported 31.7 million tonnes of soybeans from the US, nearly 60 per cent of the country's export shipments, in deals valued at US$12.25 billion. Talks between officials from the two sides are necessary to resolve issues such as forced technology transfers and cyber intrusion. If they fail to reach agreement by March, the US could extend its tariffs to all goods it buys from China. Observers said earlier that 90 days was not enough time to tackle all of the issues involved in the trade dispute, but sufficient to create a framework for future talks. ^ top ^

China publishes economic and political wish list for its relationship with the European Union (SCMP)
China has called on the European Union to stick with Beijing to weather trade protectionism and reduce hurdles to Chinese investment, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday. In a policy paper, China said it had no fundamental strategic conflicts with the EU, but demanded the bloc "explicitly oppose Taiwan independence in any form", not interfere in Hong Kong affairs or support separatist movements in Xinjiang. The policy paper was released as China and the US lock horns in a trade war. While they have agreed on a 90-day truce, they face risks from increased tariffs that may follow if negotiations break down. The EU and its member states have voiced opposition to the US approach of higher tariffs to press China. The bloc has its own trade disputes with the US, but it shares the US position on China's market restrictions and state intervention in the economy. The EU, like the US, has also intensified national security scrutiny of China's technology investments. "China and the EU need to stand firmly against unilateralism and protectionism, push for a more open, inclusive and balanced economic globalisation beneficial to all," the paper released by the foreign ministry said. "[China and the US should] handle disagreements and frictions in a constructive manner, avoid politicising economic and trade issues, and ensure the sustained, steady and win-win progress of China-EU economic and trade relations." The paper said China would import more high-quality goods from the EU, but demanded the EU ease its controls on hi-tech exports to China. "China will significantly ease market access," it said. "China hopes that the EU will keep its investment market open, reduce and eliminate investment hurdles and discriminatory barriers, and provide Chinese companies investing in Europe a fair, transparent and predictable policy environment and protect their legitimate rights and interests." China and the EU should expand cooperation in various fields and engage in third-party cooperation. It added that China welcomed the participation of the EU in its "Belt and Road Initiative". Major EU players, including Germany and France, are sceptical that China is using the trade and infrastructure strategy to divide the bloc and lure Central and Eastern European nations to its side. China has attempted to consolidate ties with Europe in the past months, hoping the bloc will not follow the US' harsh approach to addressing trade disputes. Beijing and Brussels are negotiating an investment treaty formally known as the Comprehensive Agreement of Investment. The sides exchanged proposals on market access, a key part of the treaty, this summer. The paper said China hoped Britain's departure from the EU would take place in an orderly manner. Despite Brexit, the EU remained committed to integration and played a major role in global affairs, it said. "China hopes to see Brexit proceed in an orderly fashion and stands ready to advance China-EU and China-UK relations at the same time," the paper said. ^ top ^

This PowerPoint presentation proves Huawei CFO Sabrina Meng Wanzhou is guilty, says US. Preposterous, says her lawyer (SCMP)
In August 2013, Huawei CFO Sabrina Meng Wanzhou faced a HSBC banker and did something countless other executives have done before – she gave a PowerPoint presentation. But according to the United States, the presentation was far from ordinary: it was fraud, designed to help Huawei evade US and EU sanctions against Iran, in a deception involving hundreds of millions of dollars. It lies at the heart of the US case against Meng, and her arrest in Vancouver on December 1. Her detention has sparked fury in Beijing, which summoned the US and Canadian ambassadors and has warned of "grave consequences" unless Meng is released. Two Canadian citizens have since been detained by China, in possible retaliation for Meng's arrest, although Beijing says they are suspected of national security breaches. The contents of Meng's 17-slide PowerPoint presentation, and the US version of events surrounding it, have been revealed in exhibits to the British Columbia Supreme Court, where a Canadian judge last week granted Meng's release on bail of C$10 million (US$7.5 million) pending a hearing on extradition to the US. Both US prosecutors and Meng's lawyers agree that the presentation, initially delivered with the help of an English translator, was intended to allay concerns at HSBC that Huawei may have been breaching US sanctions by doing business in Iran, thereby leading HSBC to do the same. The bank was understandably nervous about running afoul of US prosecutors – in 2012, it had agreed to pay a US$1.9 billion fine to avoid a federal indictment for money laundering. However, the US says the PowerPoint show was effectively a first-person con by Meng, filled with "numerous untrue or misleading representations". That is hotly denied by her lawyers. "The suggestion that this 2013 PowerPoint induced [HSBC] to continue to provide financial services is preposterous," said David J. Martin, Meng's lawyer at the bail hearing, on December 7. "Quite apart from whether or not such a document could induce [HSBC] … there is obviously concern about Ms Meng's mens rea [intent of wrongdoing]: this is a document that is produced by a large department of the Huawei company." The PowerPoint presentation centred on Meng and Huawei's relationship with Skycom Tech Co, a Hong Kong firm that worked with Huawei in Iran. "Unbeknownst to the banks, they were inadvertently conducting business with Skycom in contravention of the sanctions," John Gibb-Carsley, a Canadian government lawyer acting on behalf of the US, said at Meng's bail hearing. When banks became concerned about the relationship between Huawei and Skycom – because of a Reuters article linking Meng to the smaller firm – Meng attempted "damage control", said Gibb-Carsley, and "personally represented [to banks] that Huawei and Skycom were separate". "In fact, they were not separate," he told the bail hearing. "Skycom was Huawei … This is the crux of the alleged misrepresentation." The presentation was conducted by Meng in Chinese with the use of an English interpreter "to be precise with her language", according to the US request for Meng's arrest, which was presented at Meng's bail hearing as part of a sworn affidavit by Constable Winston Yap of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. An English-language translation of the presentation was subsequently sought by HSBC, and Meng arranged for it to be hand-delivered to the bank on September 3, 2013, the US request said. Huawei provided the BC Supreme Court what it said was that English version of the presentation, which it said was prepared by the company's legal affairs department. The presentation said: "Huawei operates in Iran in strict compliance with applicable laws, regulations and sanctions of UN, US and EU. Huawei's engagement with Skycom is normal business cooperation." Outlining the scope of sanctions against Iran, the document went on to describe Skycom as a "business partner" that "works with Huawei in sales and services in Iran". "Huawei was once a shareholder of Skycom, and I was once a member of Skycom's Board of Directors," Meng said at the meeting, according to the PowerPoint's script. This was to "better manage our partner and help Skycom to better comply with relevant managerial requirements." However, such strategies were no longer necessary because "Huawei will do business in Iran through its local subsidiary," the presentation said. "Considering this, Huawei has sold all its shares in Skycom, and I also quit my position on the Skycom Board." But the US request for Meng's arrest said, "Skycom operated as Huawei's Iran-based affiliate in order to continue to obtain banking services," and Meng and other Huawei representatives "repeatedly lied about the nature" of the relationship. This, the US said, was done to allow Huawei to move money out of Iran and other sanctioned countries via various banks, including "Financial Institution 1" – subsequently identified by Meng's legal team as HSBC. These transfers involved hundreds of millions of US dollars, the US request said. While Meng's presentation described the relationship between Huawei and Skycom as "cooperation", the US arrest request said: "Huawei did not 'cooperate' with Skycom; Skycom was entirely controlled by Huawei". "Not only did Meng give this presentation herself, but both the written presentation and her oral statements to the executive of Financial Institution 1 refer to Meng in the first person, using the word 'I', indicating Meng's personal knowledge of the facts surrounding her statements." HSBC then relied in part on Meng's representations to continue acting as Huawei's banker, the request said. Minutes of a HSBC risk committee meeting, cited in the US request, stated that "Huawei advised [that] its shareholding in Skycom was sold in 2009 and that Cathy Meng [sic] resigned her position on the board of Skycom in April 2009 … [the] committee agreed to RETAIN the relationship with Huawei …" Others in HSBC may have been unconvinced, according to the US account. On April 15, 2015, the bank's reputational risk committee met in New York to decide whether to begin banking for Huawei's US subsidiary; Meng's statement about the sale of Huawei was cited, but the committee decided not to act as banker for the subsidiary. The provisional arrest request, which was given to Canada on November 30, went on to claim a "basis for urgency" in apprehending Meng. It said that just one day earlier, on November 29, the US had found out she would be travelling from Hong Kong to Canada, on her way to Mexico, using her Hong Kong passport. "US authorities believe, based on the totality of circumstances, that unless Meng is provisionally arrested in Canada on Saturday, December 1, 2018, while in transit, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to secure her presence in the United States for prosecution," it said. Included with the request were two photos of Meng to aid Canadian police in her identification. The request was duly endorsed by Constable Yap, of the RCMP's Foreign and Domestic Liaison Unit, who formally requested her arrest. And at around 11.30am the next day, Meng touched down in Vancouver on Cathay Pacific Flight CX838. She thought it would be a 12-hour stopover. But instead she remains ensconced in a C$5.6 million (US$4.2 million) house she and her husband own on Vancouver's 28th Avenue, under the 24-hour watch of private security guards and wearing a GPS tracker on her ankle. Her next court appearance is scheduled for February 6, to set a date for her extradition hearing. It will be likely be months before she leaves Canada. As for Skycom, it was dissolved last year, according to filings cited by Bloomberg. ^ top ^

China, Vietnam vow to properly manage maritime issues (Xinhua)
China and Vietnam pledged here Sunday to properly manage maritime issues to create a good atmosphere for the development of bilateral relations. While meeting with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the top leaders of the two countries conducted exchange of historic visits last year and made top-level design for the development of the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries under the new situation. China and Vietnam should fully implement the strategic consensus reached between the leaders of the two countries so as to lay a solid foundation for the development of bilateral ties, the Chinese State councilor said. China and Vietnam have far more common interests than differences. The two sides should continue to promote strategic mutual trust and deepen strategic cooperation which serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and the two peoples, Wang noted. Looking forward to the new year, Wang said the two sides should keep the positive momentum of exchanges at the high-level, fully explore the tremendous potential in economic and trade cooperation between the two sides, speed up the strategic connection between China's Belt and Road Initiative and Vietnam's "Two Corridors and One Economic Circle" plan and push forward the cooperation projects on connectivity and communication so as to achieve substantial progress. China is willing to strengthen communication and coordination as well as mutual support with Vietnam within the framework of the Lancang--Mekong Cooperation Mechanism and further enrich the content of the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries, Wang said. For his part, Pham Binh Minh said development of the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two sides has scored satisfactory achievements in 2018, with close exchanges conducted at all levels, two-way trade expanded rapidly and trade structure tended to become balanced. Vietnam is ready to work together with China to make good preparations for high-level exchanges next year, make good use of the mechanisms of bilateral cooperation and coordination, conduct closer communication and coordination on Lancang-Mekong cooperation so as to further advance the development of the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries, he added. Both Wang Yi and Pham Binh Minh are here for the fourth Lancang-Mekong Cooperation foreign ministers' meeting to be held on Monday. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Chinese city where 'Frankenstein' scientist He Jiankui produced gene-edited twins reviews rules on medical ethics (SCMP)
Authorities in the south China city of Shenzhen are considering drafting local guidelines for the ethical review of biomedical research involving humans after a local scientist shocked the world last month by claiming he had created the first ever gene-edited twins. Representatives of the biomedical ethics committee and health and family planning commission attended a meeting to discuss the issue on Tuesday, according to a social media post by the Shenzhen PKU-HKUST Medical Centre. Chinese scientist He Jiankui, a former researcher at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, was dubbed "China's Frankenstein" after releasing a YouTube video in November, in which he said his team had modified the embryos of twin girls to effectively switch off an HIV-related gene because their father had the virus. The scientist was roundly condemned by China's scientific community and health officials who said they knew nothing of the experiment. The Ministry of Science and Technology launched an investigation into the case and ordered He not to undertake any further research. Shenzhen's ethics committee said that during its investigation into He's work it found that the Harmonicare Women and Children's Hospital, whose own ethics committee the scientist said had approved his research, was not registered with the city's health authorities. The hospital had earlier denied any involvement with the project. China established national measures for the ethical review of biomedical research involving humans in 2016. They stipulate that any organisation that conducts research involving humans must establish an ethics committee and register with the local health authority. The measures also include guidelines for the establishment and duties of ethics committees, such as selecting members from the fields of biomedicine, ethics, law and sociology. Committees are required to be objective, independent and fair throughout the review process, which should include assessments of the project detail, funding, clinical data and informed consent forms. If they fail to comply with any of the measures, the local health authority can issue a warning or fine. Zhou Kai, a lawyer based in the east China city of Nanjing, said in an interview that the Shenzhen government might seek to introduce new guidelines that were specific to its own requirements. "Sometimes local governments release a more specific set of regulations under a general principle, as there are different situations within each region," he said. ^ top ^

China steps up efforts to ensure legitimacy of administrative regulations (Xinhua)
Texte China has strengthened the reviewing of administrative regulations, according to a guideline made public Thursday. To promote law-based government administration and improve capacity for governance, all administrative regulations should be reviewed, according to the guideline issued by the General Office of the State Council. The guideline has made detailed regulations, including who carries out reviews, what to review and how reviews should be done, according to Liu Zhao, vice minister of the Ministry of Justice. More professional reviewers will be deployed to carry out reviews, and the government will also hire legal counsel and experts to conduct reviews. ^ top ^

China Focus: As temperatures rise, so too does China's fight against glacier retreat (Xinhua)
Breathing with oxygen canisters and wrapped in thick down jackets, lines of tourists carefully climb the Yulong (Jade Dragon) Snow Mountain near Lijiang city in southwest China's Yunnan Province. With its highest peak reaching 5,596 meters above sea level, the Yulong mountain range has 19 glaciers. December is the down season. Still, hundreds of excited tourists took selfies in front of glaciers and enjoyed the natural beauty. Li Nilu, 46, lives in Heishuisan Village at the foot of the snow mountain. "In the 1990s, we began to rent coats and horses to tourists from around the world for mountain climbing. A horse ride could earn around 20 yuan (about 3 U.S. dollars) a day at that time, much more than farming," she recalled. "Lured by handsome profits, almost everyone in our village joined in (the tourism sector)," Li said. "But problems followed - trees were felled and garbage were everywhere." Last year, 3.7 million people visited the mountain, compared to only 4,700 in 1994, according to the management of Yulong Snow Mountain park. However, contrasting with the increasing number of visitors are the shrinking glaciers. "We saw much more snow in the 1990s. We have lived our whole life here so we can really feel the shrinking," Li said. "I'm really concerned about Yulong's 'hair loss' issue. Some say it is going bald." Li's worry is not groundless. Human activities and global warming are threatening Yulong's ecosystem. "Especially in the last twenty years, Yulong's snow line has been rising while its glaciers are gradually melting," said Wang Shijin, head of the observation and research station of glacier and environment in Yulong Snow Mountain, under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). "According to the natural law of climate change, the glaciers won't disappear in a short time. However, excessive human activities could worsen the situation of glacier retreat," Wang said. To protect the glaciers, China has taken a variety of counter-measures. Last June, the CAS re-launched a comprehensive survey on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, on whose southeastern edge lies the Yulong. Scientists began to conduct surveys on glaciers and lakes, to achieve systematic solutions to glacier protection. Lijiang has limited the number of the Yulong visitors to 10,000 a day and has implemented a rehabilitation and protection program in the area, constructing large groups of wetlands and lakes at the foot of the Yulong and making artificial snow on a regular basis to increase humidity that decreases temperature and slows melting. Vegetation in the area was gradually increased. To avoid excessive human activities, the administrative committee of the Yulong Snow Mountain launched a reform in 2006, replacing local villagers with a professional tourism agency to provide services in a more scientific, systematic and standardized way. "Local villagers can get a compensation and use the money to develop agriculture as well as other business, and professional operation in the scenic area can greatly reduce harm to the environment. The policy has yielded a win-win result between economic growth and ecological protection," said Liang Guoxiang, deputy director of the committee. According to Liang, more than 166 million yuan (24 million U.S. dollars) of compensation has been given out in the past 13 years. "Activities that may damage the environment such as horse riding have been banned, and we also removed sheds and booths that villagers set up in the past, to restore the ecosystem of Yulong and promote sustainable development of the tourism industry," he said. The four-member family of Li Nilu will be compensated with 9,000 yuan each year in the next five years, plus income from dividends from collectively-operated businesses in the village and house rent. Other parts of China are also taking actions. In northwest China, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has banned glacier tours and prevents any behavior deemed harmful for the ecosystem of local glaciers. Last year, a government plan was issued to enhance research on glacier protection. Yan Weitao, deputy head of the environmental protection bureau of Urumqi County under the jurisdiction of the regional capital, said 65 herdsmen previously living in the core area of the Urumqi Glacier No. 1 have been relocated. The government compensated a total of 37.86 million yuan for grassland expropriation and relocation fees. In Gansu Province, tours to the Laohugou Glacier No. 12 are also off limits to visitors. "Joint efforts are needed to fight against melting glaciers and global warming. It's good to see more people realize that compared with destruction and conquest, restraint and protection are better tributes to mountains and nature," Wang Shijin said. ^ top ^

Chinese schools monitor students activities, targeting truancy with 'intelligent uniforms' (Global Times)
Schools in China are promoting "intelligent uniforms" to better monitor students' attendance and whereabouts. More than 10 schools in Southwest China's Guizhou Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region have adopted the uniforms. If students wear the uniforms, the school authorities receive recorded accurate timing of their entry and exit and automatically send the data to parents and teachers, said Lin Zongwu, principal of No. 11 School of Renhuai in Guizhou Province. More than 800 students in his school have been wearing the intelligent uniforms since the fall of 2016. According to Guizhou Guanyu Technology Company that provides the technology behind the "intelligent uniforms," an automatic voice alarm activates if students wearing intelligent uniforms walk out of school without permission. Through the help of the facial recognition equipment installed on the doors of schools, if students swap their uniforms, the alarm also rings. Two chips are inserted in the shoulders of uniforms and can endure up to 150 C and 500 washes, Yuan Bichang, the company's project manager, told the Global Times. But the uniforms might provoke privacy concerns as the system can locate students even in non-school hours. "We choose not to check the accurate location of students after school, but when the student is missing and skipping classes, the uniforms help locate them," Lin said. He noted that the attendance rate has largely increased since the application of intelligent uniforms. ^ top ^

Second province in China abolishes local halal food identification standard (Global Times)
Northwest China's Shaanxi became the second province in China to abolish its halal food identification standard, after Gansu Province, in a bid to fight what authorities call the "pan-halal tendency" and curb religious extremism. Shaanxi Administration for Market Regulation announced Tuesday that it has removed its halal food identification standard in line with requirements of the country's Standardization Law. Gansu Province abolished four local halal-related identification standards on food, restaurants, dairy and noodle enterprises, which as an official at the Gansu Ethnic Affair Commission told the Global Times it aims to better protect rights of minorities. Other provinces, regions and municipalities including Ningxia, Qinghai, Henan and Tianjin will also abolish their halal identification standards, the official previously told the Global Times. Although the identification standards have been abolished, halal food produced by qualified halal producing companies should still have halal labels, the official said. In 2015, eight provinces, regions and municipalities agreed to promote unified halal food identification standards, aiming to introduce China-made halal food to the market, according to a 2015 Xinhua News Agency report. China is home to more than 22 million Muslims. The halal industry has been increasing at a rate of 20 percent every year, Xinhua said. ^ top ^

Second Chinese underground Catholic bishop steps aside to be succeeded by party-approved clergyman (SCMP)
A second bishop from China's underground Catholic church is stepping down to be replaced by a government-approved cleric, state-run media reported, as relations between Beijing and Rome improve. There are an estimated 10 million Catholics in China, divided between a government-run association whose clergy are chosen by the Communist Party and the unofficial church loyal to the Vatican. An agreement struck in September on the appointment of bishops has paved the way for rapprochement between China and the Vatican, who cut diplomatic ties in 1951. Zhuang Jianjian, bishop of the Shantou diocese in Guangdong province, will retire and be succeeded by Huang Bingzhang, deputy chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the Global Times reported. A Vatican-issued mandate was given to Huang last week by a delegation that met several Chinese bishops, the state-linked paper reported. "The mission now is to unite Catholics in the diocese and reduce divergence so as to achieve the common goal of better serving church members," Huang, 51, told the Global Times. "This doesn't come as a surprise because Zhuang Jianjian is already 88, so he would have wanted to retire more than a decade ago," said Anthony Lam, a Chinese Catholic church expert at Hong Kong's Holy Spirit Study Centre. According to canon law that governs the Catholic Church, bishops "are requested" to submit their resignation at the age of 75. The pope can either approve the resignation or request that they wait for a suitable successor to emerge, Lam said. "The agreement between China and the Vatican has solved this problem because the seven bishops previously excommunicated have been restored to the church, so Huang Bingzhang will be able to take up the position." Huang was excommunicated in 2011 for being ordained as a bishop without papal approval. This is a different situation from that of underground bishop Guo Xijin, who was last week asked to step aside in eastern Fujian province to make way for government-approved clergy, Lam said. Guo instead will serve as auxiliary bishop – who assists and works alongside the diocesan bishop – while both the underground and official churches of the diocese will merge. He was at the centre of last week's negotiations between China and the Vatican, which have been asking him to leave his post since 2017 to allow for talks aimed at settling their differences. Separately, the official church said it is facing a shortage of bishops and called for "politically reliable" clergymen with "good ethics", the Global Times reported on Wednesday. Nearly half of China's 98 dioceses have no leaders, chairman of the China's Bishops Conference Ma Yinglin told a seminar, according to the paper. ^ top ^

What Xi Jinping says can help save China from 'terrifying tidal waves and horrifying storms' (SCMP)
China faced "unimaginable" perils and dangers, but Communist Party rule and its chosen path would help to weather them, President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday as he tried to shore up confidence in a country at a crossroads after four decades of reforms. He was speaking at a high-profile event in Beijing marking the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening that started with a ceremony to honour 100 "reform pioneers". Ten foreigners also received a "China Friendship Medal", including Singapore's late founding father Lee Kuan Yew. In a 1½ hour speech, Xi stressed that the party's leadership was the key to China's rise over the past 40 years. But he shed little light on future reforms, dashing hopes among market pundits of new policy initiatives to further liberalise the Chinese economy. Also missing was any direct mention of the specific challenges China faced, above all a slowing economy and a tit-for-tat trade war with the US. Instead, Xi spent much of his speech lauding accomplishments in China's economic and social development in the past four decades since Deng Xiaoping, the former paramount leader, started the country's embrace of market reforms. The key takeaway from the 40 years of success, Xi said, was that China must stick with the leadership of the party. "Every step in reform and opening up will not be easy, and we will face all kinds of risks and challenges in the future and we may even encounter unimaginable terrifying tidal waves and horrifying storms," Xi told the 3,000 officials and foreign guests at the Great Hall of the People. "Only by improving the party's leadership and governance … can we ensure the ship of reform and opening up will sail forward," he said. The president mentioned the word "party" 128 times in his speech, compared with just 87 times for "reform" and 67 for "opening up". In addition, Xi also stressed that China would stick to its chosen path, declaring that the socialist path, theory, system and culture with Chinese characteristics were "entirely correct". "There are no textbooks containing golden rules or arrogant teachers who can order the Chinese people about on what to do," he said. While Xi called on the Chinese people to "unite closely around the Party Central", he also said China would "carry reform and opening up through to the end". Xi not only praised Deng for his vision but also credited his predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao with setting China's reform and opening in the right direction. However, both Jiang and Hu, and other former leaders, were conspicuously absent from the celebration. Julian Gewirtz, a scholar at the Weatherhead Centre for International Affairs at Harvard University focusing on China's reforms, said the primary goal of Xi's speech was to make a case for the strength of his reform strategy. "For Xi, the most important aspect of the past 40 years of Chinese history is the distinctiveness and 'absolute correctness' of the party's leadership," he said. "Despite all of the intense international pressure and domestic concerns about the economy, it's clear that this celebration was meant to instil 'confidence' and spread what the party might call 'positive energy'." The celebration came as China battles a deepening economic slowdown at home and a looming trade war with the US that threatens to spill over to other areas if escalated. To allay anxieties, Xi needs to convince domestic and foreign audiences that Beijing remains committed to the economic liberalisation which has propelled its growth for four decades. But his message apparently failed to reassure some entrepreneurs in the country who have long complained about unfair competition from state-owned companies, and particularly access to markets and resources. In recent months, Chinese leaders – including Xi – have repeatedly sought to placate their fears by pledging the party's "unwavering support", but many are waiting for concrete policies and actions. "Xi's speech did not reveal any substantial reform measures as expected by many of us – this is what has disappointed me the most," said a senior executive at a hi-tech firm in Dongguan, a manufacturing hub in southern China. "Perhaps that's why many of us in the technology and industrial circles find the speech ringing hollow. He kept mentioning faith, belief and confidence – perhaps he could also sense the lack of confidence in the entire market, both towards his [policy] and the trade war," the executive said. Shanghai and Shenzhen stock indexes rose in early trading in anticipation of possible policy announcements, but both dropped over the course of Xi's address. They rose again in the afternoon and ended slightly lower than the opening. ^ top ^

Santa Claus won't be coming to this town, as Chinese officials ban Christmas (SCMP)
Father Christmas will not be visiting one northern Chinese town this year as officials there have ordered the removal of all festive decorations and banned shops from holding sales to "maintain stability", according to a notice circulated on social media. The statement from the city management office in Langfang, Hebei province, also appealed to the public to report anyone "spreading religion" in parks and squares, though it did not specify which religion. Christmas is not a recognised holiday in mainland China – where the ruling party is officially atheist – and for many years authorities have taken a tough stance on anyone who celebrates it in public. In December last year members of the Communist Party's Youth League at the University of South China in Hunan province were asked to sign a code of conduct which told them not to participate in Christmas-related celebrations, according to social media posts circulating at the time. The statement by Langfang officials said that anyone caught selling Christmas trees, wreaths, stockings or Santa Claus figures in the city would be punished. "Shops are strictly prohibited from holding Christmas performances or promotional sales," it said. A worker at the management office said in an interview, however, that the ban was not specifically aimed at festive products, but rather the sale of goods on the street. "We don't allow shops to place their products out in the street, even if it is fruit or perfumes," said the woman, who asked not to be named. "It's not just during Christmas." While the ban on the sale of Christmas goods might appear to be directed at retailers, it also comes amid a crackdown on Christians practising their religion across the country. On Saturday morning, more than 60 police officers and officials stormed a children's Bible class in Guangzhou, capital of southern China's Guangdong province. The incident came after authorities shut down the 1,500-member Zion Church in Beijing in September and Chengdu's 500-member Early Rain Covenant Church last week. In the case of the latter, about 100 worshippers were snatched from their homes or from the streets in coordinated raids. Patrick Poon, Amnesty International's China researcher, said in an interview that the recent raids on churches reflected the government's attitude towards Christianity and that the move by officials in Hebei was probably intended to impress Beijing. "The authorities in Langfang might want to show how much they are ready to please the central government by banning Christmas decorations and sales. "However, it also shows their ignorance about what Christmas really means for Christians, which is not about shopping or party celebrations but it's the time to manifest their faith." Despite its apparent crackdown on Christmas, China manufactured and exported 60 per cent of the world's artificial Christmas trees in 2017, according to Xinhua. ^ top ^

Anti-corruption campaign to extend beyond govt (Global Times)
China's anti-corruption campaign has won sweeping victories and efforts have to be made to develop new systems and groundbreaking innovations in regular and long-term supervision, a meeting of the top decision-making body of the Communist Party of China (CPC) announced on Thursday, highlighting the effectiveness of China's anti-graft drive and indicating the battle against corruption will extend beyond government sectors to all other areas including the financial sector. Since the 19th CPC National Congress, a sweeping victory has been won in the fight against corruption and major outcomes achieved in exercising full and strict governance over the Party, according to a statement released after the meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. The meeting, presided over by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, stressed that discipline must be strictly adhered to. Action should be taken to do away with the practice of formalities for formalities' sake and bureaucratism, and ensure the implementation of the major decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee, said the statement. Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee, told the Global Times on Friday that the "sweeping victory" means that the frequency of high-level corruption has been contained since the 19th CPC National Congress. A national supervisory system has been built across China. The National Supervisory Commission is systematically carrying out its duty. While there are still officials who have not stopped their corruption practices, the scope of corruption across the country has largely been brought under control since the 19th CPC National Congress, Su added. Since the 19th CPC National Congress, the commission has investigated more than 70 mid-level officials. Between January and September, nationwide disciplinary inspection and supervision organs filed about 464,000 cases in which 400,000 people were punished. Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Research Center for Government Integrity-Building at Peking University told the Global Times that the different phases of the campaign against corruption are defined in accordance with the number of people punished, rank of officials and the entire disciplinary ecology of the Party. Five years ago, the CPC leadership launched a high-profile anti-corruption campaign, which has led to the downfall of a number of high-ranking officials, known as "tigers," and lower-level "flies" who served at the grassroots level. Among the "tigers" felled in the campaign were Zhou Yongkang, Bo Xilai, Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou. A total of 440 officials at or above provincial level have been investigated for corruption over the past five years and China is working with the international community to hunt corruption suspects who had fled overseas, leading to the capture of 3,453 fugitives, Xinhua reported. The CPC will secure a "sweeping victory" in its fight against corruption to avoid the cycle of rise and fall, Xi said at the opening of the 19th CPC National Congress in 2017. Although a sweeping victory has been won, the anti-corruption fight remains grave and complex, and the strict governance over the Party remains a long and arduous task, the statement said. The meeting called for efforts to develop new systems and mechanisms for disciplinary inspection and supervision, to make groundbreaking innovations in regular and long-term supervision, and address the corruption that occurs on the people's doorsteps. The countrywide corruption campaign and the national supervisory system will continue to develop and reach beyond government sectors to include "State-owned companies, financial sectors, universities and other public institutions," Su said. ^ top ^



China's top legislature expresses strong indignation at U.S. act on Tibet (Xinhua)
China's National People's Congress (NPC) expressed strong indignation at and firm opposition to the United States on its signing into law of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018, said a statement issued by the NPC Foreign Affairs Committee Thursday night. The act, which smears the opening-up policy of China's Tibet and fanfares to take a discriminatory visa policy towards related Chinese officials in the so-called "reciprocal principle," is against the basic norms of international relations and a gross interference in China's domestic affairs, said the statement. It has sent a seriously wrong message to "Tibetan independence" forces, the statement said. Stressing that Tibet affairs are purely China's domestic affairs and allow no interference from other countries, the statement said China's Tibet and Tibetan areas in the other four provinces are open to people from around the world. Since 2015, the number of visitors to Tibet and these regions from the United States alone has reached nearly 40,000, including multiple delegations of U.S. Congressmen received by the NPC, it said. Meanwhile, taking into consideration factors such as Tibet's special geographic and climatic conditions, the Chinese government has taken certain administrative measures in accordance with laws and regulations for foreigners to enter Tibet, which are totally necessary and give no ground for blame, the statement said. The act's accusations against China disregard the facts and are full of prejudice, and completely unacceptable by the Chinese side, it said. "If the U.S. side implement the act, it will definitely cause serious damage to bilateral relations including exchanges between legislative bodies of both countries, and China will take forceful measures to resolutely safeguard its own interests," said the statement. China's door to the outside world will open wider and wider, so will Tibet, it said, adding that China welcomes more foreigners to visit, travel and do business in Tibetan areas. The policy will not change. However, the prerequisite is that China's law and related regulations must be strictly abided by and necessary procedures must be carried out, it said. "We urge the United States to fully recognize the high sensitivity of Tibet-related issues, scrupulously honor its promises, stop using Tibet-related issues to interfere in China's domestic affairs," it said. The U.S. side should also take effective measures to eliminate adverse effects brought by the act and not to implement the act in order to avoid severely impairing China-U.S. relations and bilateral cooperation in key areas, the statement said. ^ top ^



US media misclassifies poverty-lifting vocational training facilities as 'reeducation through labor' (Global Times)
China's Foreign Ministry slammed recent US media reports smearing the country's poverty-lifting vocational training activities for people in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region as "reeducation through labor" on Thursday, calling such reports "totally groundless, and an act of deviation from professional ethics of news" Hua Chunying, spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry, made the remarks during a routine press conference on Thursday. Recent reports published by US news outlets such as the Washington Post over the matter have been deliberately distorted from thefrom the fact with malicious intent, and such behavior has completely deviated from news professional ethics, Hua said. "No wonder that even the US leader has criticized such US media behavior before." Hua stressed that China has completely abolished the system of reeducation through labor and salaries for the trainees at the vocational training and education center in Xinjiang is are higher than the local standard of eliminating poverty. The center considers learning skills as one ofan important ways to obtain employment, which and sets offers courses such as clothing and footwear processing, food processing, as well as electronic product assembly to ensure that the trainees students can master one or two vocational skills after graduation. Hua pointed out that there are 22 counties and 1.63 million people in Southern Xinjiang being stricken by poverty. The poverty relief standard in Xinjiang is 3,300 yuan ($479) at disposalin income per person per year, in other words, less than 400 yuan per person per month. But peoplestudents at the education and training center can easily help the whole family reach such goals by voluntarily attending technical training and looking for jobs afterward, Hua noted. "If this is called forced labor, or even a human rights crisis, I would like the Washington Post and other American media to ask of US people who are struggling in poverty and the edge of unemployment, what do they think? Do Would they take such kinds of technical training as a crisis or opportunity?" Hua said. "I also want to ask American media who could dowilling to do anything to demonize China's efforts in anti-terrorism, de-extremalizationextremization and poverty relief, what do would you do when facing 45 million people living in poverty under the and severe problem of racism," Hua stressed. ^ top ^

US sportswear traced to factory in China's internment camps in Xinjiang (SCMP)
Barbed wire and hundreds of cameras ring a massive compound of more than 30 dormitories, schools, warehouses and workshops in China's far west. Dozens of armed officers and a growling doberman stand guard outside. Behind locked gates, men and women are sewing sportswear that may end up on US college campuses or being worn by sports teams. This is one of a growing number of internment camps in the Xinjiang region, where by some estimates 1 million Muslims are detained, forced to give up their language and their religion and subject to political indoctrination. Now, the Chinese government is also forcing some detainees to work in manufacturing and food industries. Some of them are within the internment camps; others are privately owned, state-subsidised factories where detainees are sent once they are released. The Associated Press has tracked recent, ongoing shipments from one such factory inside an internment camp to Badger Sportswear, a leading supplier in Statesville, North Carolina. The shipments show how difficult it is to stop products made with forced labour from getting into the global supply chain, even though such imports are illegal in the US. Badger CEO John Anton said on Sunday that the company would source sportswear elsewhere while it investigates. Chinese authorities say the camps, which they call training centres, offer free vocational training for Uygurs, Kazakhs and others, mostly Muslims, as part of a plan to bring minorities into "a modern civilised" world and eliminate poverty in Xinjiang. They say that people in the centres have signed agreements to receive vocational training. The Xinjiang propaganda department did not respond to a request for comment. On Monday a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman accused the foreign media of making "many untrue reports" about the training centres, but did not specify when asked for details. "Those reports are completely based on hearsay evidence or made out of thin air," the spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, told a daily briefing. However, a dozen people who either had been in a camp or had friends or family in one told the AP that detainees they knew were given no choice but to work at the factories. […] A person with first-hand knowledge of the situation in one county estimated that more than 10,000 detainees – or 10 to 20 per cent of the internment population there – are working in factories, with some earning just a tenth of what they used to earn before. The person declined to be named out of fear of retribution. A former reporter for Xinjiang TV in exile said that during his month-long detention last year, young people in his camp were taken away in the mornings to work without compensation in carpentry and a cement factory. "The camp didn't pay any money, not a single cent," he said, asking to be identified only by his first name, Elyar, because he has relatives still in Xinjiang. "Even for necessities, such as things to shower with or sleep at night, they would call our families outside to get them to pay for it." Rushan Abbas, a Uygur in Washington, said her sister was among those detained. The sister, Dr Gulshan Abbas, was taken to what the government calls a vocational centre, although she has no specific information on whether her sister is being forced to work. "American companies importing from those places should know those products are made by people being treated like slaves," she said. […] At least 10 times this year shipping containers filled with thousands of men's, women's and youth polyester knitted T-shirts and pants were sent to Badger Sportswear, a 47-year-old athletic gear seller. The company mostly manufactures in Nicaragua and the US, and there is no way to tell where the products from Xinjiang specifically end up. But experts say supply chains are considered tainted by forced labour and modern slavery if even one item was produced by someone forced to work. […] The detention camp system is part of China's increasingly stringent state security under President Xi Jinping. Some detainees told AP earlier this year about beating, solitary confinement and other punishments if they do not recite political songs, names and phrases. The AP has not been given access to these facilities despite repeated attempts to get permission to visit. Not all the camps have forced labour. Many former detainees say they were held in facilities that didn't have any manufacturing equipment and focused solely on political indoctrination. "They didn't teach me anything. They were brainwashing me, trying to make us believe how great China is, how powerful it is, how developed its economy is," said Kairat Samarkan, a Kazakh citizen who said he was tortured with a metal contraption that contorts your body before being released in February after he tried to kill himself. Interviewees described a wave of factory openings earlier this year. […] The forced labour programme goes along with a massive government initiative to develop Xinjiang's economy by constructing enormous factory parks. Another internment camp the AP visited was inside a factory compound called Kunshan Industrial Park, opened under the national anti-poverty push. A local propaganda official, Chen Fang, said workers inside made food and clothes. A hospital, a police station, chimneys, dormitories and a building with a sign that read "House of Workers" could be seen from outside the surrounding barbed wire fencing. Another section resembled a prison, with guard towers and high walls. The AP did not track any exports from Kunshan to the US. Many of those with relatives in such camps said their loved ones were well-educated with high-paying jobs before their arrest, and did not need a poverty alleviation programme. […] Farmers, herders and manual labourers with little Mandarin and no higher education say they appreciated Beijing's past initiatives to help the poor, including subsidised housing and the installation of electricity and running water. But the camps, the forced education, and the factories, they say, go too far. "I never asked the government to find work for my husband," said Mainur Medetbek, whose husband did odd repair jobs before vanishing into a camp in February during a visit to China from their home in Kazakhstan. She has been able to glean a sense of his conditions from monitored exchanges with relatives and from the husband of a woman who is in the same camp. He works in an apparel factory and is allowed to leave and spend the night with relatives every other Saturday. Though she is not certain how much her husband makes, the woman in his camp earns 600 yuan (about US$87) a month, less than half the local minimum wage and far less than what Medetbek's husband used to earn. Since her husband was detained, Medetbek and her children have had no reliable source of income and sometimes go hungry. The ordeal has driven her to occasionally contemplate suicide. "They say it's a factory, but it's an excuse for detention. They don't have freedom, there's no time for him to talk with me," she said. "They say they found a job for him. I think it's a concentration camp." ^ top ^



Lawmakers to question Hong Kong's justice secretary on decision not to prosecute former chief executive CY Leung (SCMP)
Hong Kong's Secretary for Justice will be questioned by lawmakers next month on her decision not to charge former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, it emerged on Wednesday. The news came as a former Director of Public Prosecutions criticised Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah and her department for not answering even the most basic of questions about the case. While pro-government camp lawmakers said Cheng should only be asked about prosecution policy when she attends the Legislative Council meeting on January 28, pan-democrats said they would press for more answers on the Leung investigation. Last Wednesday, the Department of Justice cleared the former Hong Kong leader of corruption in relation to receiving HK$50 million from Australian engineering conglomerate UGL between 2012 and 2013, when he was serving as the city's top official. The department issued a brief statement, which did little to explain the legal principle behind its decision, and why UGL's payment to Leung did not constitute a conflict of interest. Nor did the department seek any independent legal advice before reaching its final decision. The anti-corruption body, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, said on Tuesday that it had "left no stone unturned" in its four-year investigation, and concluded the case was investigated in an impartial manner. Despite demands by pan-democrats to summon Cheng to a special Legco meeting to explain the decision, the panel on administration of justice and legal services has decided to question her at next month's regular meeting. The pro-establishment lawmakers said the legislature should not intervene with prosecutorial decisions. "If the justice chief wishes to respond, she could choose an appropriate setting, but not a Legco panel that normally focus on policy," said Starry Lee Wai-king, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. But Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said they would press Cheng on why she chose not to seek independent legal advice, and what else the Independent Commission Against Corruption had uncovered during its investigation. Cheng is on leave until December 26, and in response to questions from the Post, the department said it would not be appropriate to comment given a judicial review had been filed to challenge the decision. Grenville Cross, the city's former top prosecutor, said while it made sense for the department not to comment on the merits of Leung's case given the judicial review, there was no basis for Cheng not to answer basic questions, such as whether she had been personally involved in the decision not to prosecute. Even though the justice secretary is on leave, Cross said Cheng and her department could release the information to "clear the air as soon as possible". "[Director of Public Prosecutions] Mr David Leung can undoubtedly brief her and obtain her agreement to the release of the information, given the high levels of public concern that is being generated," Cross said. He also noted that it took the authorities more than four years to close the Leung investigation, more than the three years and six months taken in the bribery case involving another former chief executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, Given the lengthy process, Cross said: "The public was entitled to a comprehensive statement by the DOJ which clearly set everything out, including the evidence, the legal issues and the conclusions, and not a short and perfunctory statement which raises more questions than it answers." Cross said a comprehensive legal analysis was required in politically sensitive cases such as this to dispel any suggestion of preferential treatment, and to protect the department from unjustified criticism. "However, given its superficiality, the statement issued in this case [of Leung and UGL] may actually do more harm than good," he said. ^ top ^

Chinese President Xi Jinping praises 'courageous' Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam (SCMP)
President Xi Jinping has heaped praise on Hong Kong's leader, singling out her courage in fulfilling her responsibilities and willingness to tackle difficult issues. At a meeting with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in Beijing, Xi lauded her for firmly safeguarding China's "one country, two systems" governing principle for Hong Kong, as well as planning for the future and making efforts to solve livelihood issues faced by residents in the city, especially the young. "In the past year, you have been leading the Hong Kong government in being courageous in taking up its responsibilities, getting things done proactively, and firmly safeguarding one country, two systems and the Basic Law," Xi said, in a reference to the city's mini-constitution. "[You] planned for Hong Kong's long-term development seriously, and participated in the 'Greater Bay Area' project and the 'Belt and Road Initiative'." The bay area plan aims at integrating Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong province cities into a financial and innovation powerhouse rivalling Silicon Valley in the US, while the belt and road strategy is Xi's ambitious international trade and infrastructure investment vision. "This shows that you are not setting easy goals and avoiding difficult tasks," Xi told Lam. "You achieved good results. The central government fully recognises the work by you and the Hong Kong government." While Xi did not specify what the "hard issues" were, pro-Beijing politicians in Hong Kong have praised the local government for banning opposition lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick from a rural committee election. The returning officer questioned Chu's willingness to uphold the Basic Law, and his stance on separatism. In October, British journalist Victor Mallet was denied a work visa and had to leave Hong Kong. That was widely linked to his moderating a talk at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in August by pro-independence activist Andy Chan Ho-tin, convenor of the now-banned Hong Kong National Party. The president also recalled his meeting with Lam in Beijing last month, when the chief executive led a 200-strong delegation of Hong Kong business leaders and politicians to the capital to celebrate the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening up. "Looking forward, we will insist that the one country, two systems principle must not be swayed, and support Hong Kong and Macau in integrating into national development, nurturing new strengths, playing new roles, realising new development and making new contributions," Xi concluded. In an earlier meeting on Monday, Premier Li Keqiang also praised Lam for her leadership, highlighting her promotion of innovation and efforts to tackle livelihood issues. "Under intricate international circumstances, Hong Kong maintained stable economic growth as a free-trade port and a separate customs territory," Li said. "This didn't come easy. The Hong Kong government is highly recognised by the central government, we give it full recognition." In a media briefing later, Lam refused to say whether the state leaders had given her any instructions concerning Hong Kong's role in the US-China trade war, and in safeguarding national security. "In the part open to the media, the premier mentioned that he hoped we could make use of Hong Kong's international position to maintain our status as a free economy," she said. "I've told the premier that we will be prepared to maintain our financial stability, and help small and medium enterprises to face the downward risks." Pro-establishment lawmaker Gary Chan Hak-kan suggested Xi was trying to steel the chief executive to tackle difficult tasks ahead when he praised her courageousness. "Beijing is concerned about Hong Kong's livelihood and political issues. Lam was courageous as she continued to push forward her land reclamation plan [around Lantau Island] as a step to solve the city's housing problem," Chan said. "Lam also did not shirk her responsibility as the government banned the Hong Kong National Party. Xi did not publicly urge her to enact national security legislation, but the message was clear already." Under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city's government must enact local laws against offences such as treason and subversion. The government's last attempt to do this, in 2003, was shelved after half a million people took to the streets in protest, fearing their freedoms would be compromised. Several Beijing officials – including Vice-Premier Han Zheng; Yang Jiechi, the top foreign policy adviser to the president; Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office chief Zhang Xiaoming; and Hong Kong liaison office chief Wang Zhimin – also attended the meeting with Xi on Monday. ^ top ^



Xi meets with Macao SAR chief executive (Xinhua)
President Xi Jinping on Monday met with Chief Executive of the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) Chui Sai On, who is on a duty visit to Beijing. During the meeting, Xi heard a report by Chui on Macao's current situation and the Macao SAR government's work. Xi said that over the past year, the Macao SAR government, under Chui's leadership, had faithfully fulfilled its duties, been prudent and steady in its work style, and implemented the "one country, two systems" policy and the Macao SAR Basic Law. The Macao SAR government had improved the institutions and mechanisms for safeguarding national security, proactively taken part in the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and in the Belt and Road Initiative, promoted the proper diversification of the economy, improved the livelihood of the people, and strengthened the disaster prevention and reduction system, winning the praise of the Macao society, Xi said. "The central government fully endorses the work by Chui and the Macao SAR government," he said. In the process of reform and opening up of the new era, Hong Kong and Macao still have a special status and unique advantages, and can still play an irreplaceable role, Xi said. Xi said he believed the compatriots of Macao would seize the opportunities, expand the space of development and foster new drivers of growth by integrating the SAR's own development into the development of the country, and greet the 20th anniversary of Macao's return to the motherland with new achievements. ^ top ^



In other words: Taipei mayor Ko Wen-jo calls for new way to say 'one China' (SCMP)
Taipei's mayor has called on Beijing to find a more neutral way to describe cross-strait relations that is acceptable to both the self-ruled island and the mainland, in a bid to improve strained ties. Ko Wen-je said the terms frequently used to describe the one-China policy had become highly politicised and he believed a change in language could help to ease tensions. He said he had discussed the proposal with Li Wenhui, head of Shanghai's Taiwan Affairs Office, who is part of a delegation from the mainland city visiting Taipei for a cross-strait forum. "Both the '1992 consensus' [on one China] and 'the two sides are one family on each side of the Taiwan Strait' have become highly sensitive political labels," Ko told reporters after the opening session of the Taipei-Shanghai Forum on Thursday. "It has become necessary to find a new term that's acceptable to both sides" if they are to resume official talks, he said. Cross-strait ties were better when Ma Ying-jeou, of the mainland-friendly Kuomintang, was Taiwan's president from 2008 to 2016. Ma supported the 1992 consensus, an understanding that there is only "one China", though each side could have its own interpretation of what constitutes "China". But when Tsai Ing-wen, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, took office in 2016 and refused to accept that principle, relations soured. And Beijing – which sees Taiwan as a renegade province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary – suspended all official talks and exchanges with the island. Ko has attempted to maintain ties, at least on a city-to-city basis between Taipei and Shanghai, using mainland President Xi Jinping's line about the two sides of the strait belonging to "one family". While that statement is acceptable to Beijing, Ko's use of it has upset the DPP government and the pro-independence camp, who have accused him of kowtowing to Beijing in pursuit of individual interests.Ko said he would continue to use the "one family" idea until the two sides could agree on a more neutral term, because it would mean his city could keep up official exchanges with the mainland. "It continues to be my belief that the two sides should ease tensions and reduce conflict," Ko said, adding that as head of a city government, he had to consider the interests of the majority. But after the opening session of the one-day forum, Shanghai Vice-Mayor Zhou Bo said the 1992 consensus remained the basis for the peaceful development of cross-strait ties and official exchanges. "Shanghai is willing to cooperate with Taipei and any other Taiwanese cities as long as they clearly recognise the 1992 consensus and the 'one family' idea," he said. Zhou signed three agreements with Taipei – on sports, cooperation between the two cities and broadcasting exchanges – during the morning session of the forum, which has been held annually since 2010.Meanwhile, the Taipei mayor dismissed the suggestion that he might run in the island's 2020 presidential election, as some media have reported. Ko has been seen by both US and Taiwanese media as having a good chance to win the top job in the next election given his more pragmatic approach, compared with Tsai, to managing cross-strait ties. Separately, Chen Yunlin, former chairman of the mainland's Association of Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, travelled to Taipei on Thursday to pay his respects to his Taiwanese counterpart Chiang Pin-kung, who died in the city on December 10 aged 85. As head of the Straits Exchange Foundation from 2008 to 2012, Chiang was the island's top negotiator with the mainland. ^ top ^

South China Sea and Taiwan among flashpoints for armed conflict in 2019, survey warns US policymakers (SCMP)
Armed conflict over territorial disputes in the South China Sea could be one of the major crises for US President Donald Trump's administration in 2019, according to an annual survey that identifies top flashpoints for US policymakers to watch in the year to come. Besides the South China Sea pressures, the Council on Foreign Relations' Centre for Preventive Action has for the first time ranked Taiwan as a hotspot to watch in its 2019 Prevention Priorities Survey. The think tank also ranked renewed tensions over the failure of Washington's talks with Pyongyang to get North Korea to remove its nuclear weapons; the potential for a "highly disruptive" cyberattack on critical US infrastructure and networks; and the prospects for hostilities between Iran and the US or its allies as other potential issues that could trigger action by the US government in the new year. But Washington would have to juggle its responses to these potential hotspots amid its clash with Beijing over trade and other issues, according to the report, released on Monday. Beijing and Washington are in the midst of a 90-day ceasefire in their months-old tariffs battle to allow for further talks, called when China's president, Xi Jinping, met Trump in Argentina on December 1. "The Donald J. Trump administration has yet to confront a serious international crisis in which the president has had to wrestle with the agonising decision over whether to commit the United States to a new and potentially costly military intervention," the report said. "With the world growing more disorderly in a variety of ways, it is reasonable to assume that it is only a matter of time before the Trump administration will face its first major crisis." Since 2008, the Centre for Preventive Action annually has asked foreign policy experts to rank 30 ongoing or potential conflicts based on their likelihood of occurring or escalating in the next year and their potential impact on US national interests. The survey's aim is to highlight conflict prevention priorities for US policymakers. For its 11th annual survey, the centre received 500 responses from US officials, foreign policy experts and academics to questions it distributed in November. For the first time, respondents listed a potential US-China clash over the self-ruled island of Taiwan as a hotspot to watch, although they gave it a "tier-two" ranking. They said China's "intensifying political and economic pressure campaign" ahead of the island's 2020 presidential elections was fuelling cross-strait tensions. However, a threat of conflict in the East China Sea between China and Japan is no longer viewed as a top concern, despite the issue's high ranking in previous surveys. The assessment of a lower likelihood for conflict comes amid warming ties between the nations. In October, China's president, Xi Jinping, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sino-Japanese relations had overcome "obstacles" and were moving "from competition to cooperation". The comments came as the leaders signed deals to prevent military clashes at sea and boost financial and economic collaboration. Chang Ching, a military specialist at the Taipei-based Society for Strategic Studies think tank, said in an interview that the regional flashpoints identified by the report so far have been cautiously managed by the parties to avoid potential problems or dangers. "As long as no negligence in political manoeuvres or miscalculation occur, the tensions may exist but no surprises should happen," he said. "Knowing and addressing the risks is far better than ignoring the known risks. Negligence is a fatal factor in strategic calculus." US-China tensions have been on the rise over the South China Sea, leading Washington to increasingly criticise Beijing over its "militarisation" of the energy-rich waters, where China has overlapping claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and other countries. In September, US and China warships nearly collided in the disputed maritime region. For its part, Beijing has consistently protested American "freedom of navigation" exercises in the area. Wei Zongyou, an international relations professor at Shanghai's Fudan University, downplayed the potential for conflict in the South China Sea, citing a draft agreement on a code of conduct between China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as evidence of the parties' progress on a resolution to their differences in the region. He was also optimistic that the US and China could avoid conflict in the area. While the Trump administration has carried out as many as nine rounds of freedom of navigation operations, "China does not want military frictions or conflict with the US in the South China Sea, and neither does the US," Wei said. But the Korean peninsula remains a potential flashpoint for Washington amid a lack of discernible progress on the removal of nuclear weapons from North Korea, according to the report. Prospects for peace have dimmed somewhat despite Trump's high-profile Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un in September, after which the US president claimed that the reclusive state was "no longer a nuclear threat". The report said the potential for a US-North Korea war over the North's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes was a major cause for anxiety in 2018, and tensions could ratchet up again in 2019 if the fragile negotiations were to break down. A rapid diplomatic rapprochement this year that culminated in the Singapore sit-down between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Trump in June suffered a setback after talks stalled on the removal of Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal. In Singapore, Trump and Kim signed a vaguely worded statement on denuclearisation, but no progress has been made from the agreement. Of late, Pyongyang has taken to demanding sanctions relief and condemning Washington's insistence on its nuclear disarmament as "gangster-like". For its part, Washington has continued to push to maintain the punitive measures against the North until it delivers on a demand for "final, fully verified denuclearisation". "How issues on the Korean peninsula will unfold are uncertain," Wei said. "If either the US or North Korea makes an unfriendly move, it may affect the already very fragile denuclearisation process." The report said Taiwan-related tensions are growing ahead of the 2020 presidential election as cross-strait relations between the mainland and Taipei have been frozen under independence-leaning Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen. Beijing lays claim to the self-ruled island, which it views as a wayward province to be brought into line by force if necessary. Washington, however, has a mutual defence treaty with Taiwan and has long provided arms to the island. "The possibility of violent conflict in the Taiwan Strait is not too high, even though the US may engage in arms sales with Taiwan and promote more US-Taiwan official and military exchanges, which will certainly impact cross-strait relations and Sino-US relations," Wei said. The report also highlighted as priorities the continued conflict in Syria, economic and political instability in Venezuela, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and increasing violence and instability in Afghanistan tied to the Taliban insurgency. ^ top ^

Shanghai and Taipei rebuild city-to-city cross-strait ties after Taiwan's local elections (SCMP)
Mainland China is sending its largest delegation in two years to the self-ruled island of Taiwan for a city-to-city forum which has been rejuvenated after a period of rising cross-strait tensions. A record 250 local scholars, industry experts, and municipal officials from Taipei will join 135 delegates from Shanghai at the forum, which in past years has achieved around 30 cooperation agreements on a range of issues, including travel, culture, and environmental protection. The Shanghai delegates will be led by executive vice-mayor Zhou Bo, the highest-ranking official to attend the event in recent years, according to the city government. The 2018 Taipei-Shanghai Forum, which kicks off in the island's capital city on December 19 for three days, is hosted in rotation by the two cities and has been a prominent annual cross-strait event since it was first held in 2010. The forum's profile has been more low key since the election in 2016 of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party's Tsai Ing-wen as president and her refusal to accept the one-China principle. Beijing, which considers Taiwan a wayward province that must revert to Chinese rule by force if necessary, suspended official contact and exchanges with the Tsai administration in a bid to force her to support the 1992 consensus, which says both Taiwan and the mainland belong to one China, but both sides may have their own interpretation of what that China stands for. Analysts said the resumption of the forum's high profile was made possible by the crushing defeat suffered by Tsai's party in last month's local government elections that saw the mainland-friendly opposition Kuomintang (KMT) take control of 15 cities and counties, including Kaohsiung, a special municipality in southern Taiwan and previously a pro-independence stronghold. The shock result – not even the authorities in Beijing were expecting the KMT landslide, analysts said – prompted decision-makers on both sides to adjust their cross-strait approach. "Beijing is expected to increase and even strengthen contacts and exchanges with Taiwanese cities and counties, including central and southern Taiwan, now that 15 of Taiwan's 22 cities and counties are in KMT's control following the elections," said Chang Wu-ueh, a cross-strait research professor and director at the Graduate Institute of China Studies at Tamkang University in Taipei. Chang said this year's forum was expected to usher in a new wave of city-to-city exchanges across the strait, as Beijing hoped to use the influence of the KMT-controlled cities and counties to influence Tsai's cross-strait policy. Lai Yueh-chien, an associate professor at Shih Chien University and a member of Taipei city government's cross-strait committee, said the host city's mayor would be closely watched. "This is the first Taipei-Shanghai Forum after the November 24 local elections and heads of various local city and county governments are watching how Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je would deliver it," he said. According to Lai, while the local government heads of the KMT-controlled cities and counties more or less recognise the 1992 consensus, Ko has a different concept – treating the two sides of the Taiwan Strait as members of a single cross-strait family. By not stressing the consensus or the DPP's pro-independence ideology, Ko's approach might "serve as a reference for DPP local government heads if they want to have active exchanges with the mainland in the future", Lai said. Ko, a former physician and independent politician, succeeded the KMT's Hau Lung-bin as Taipei mayor in 2014. He was initially rejected by Beijing due to his previous claim that he sided with the pro-independence camp. However, he managed to win Beijing's recognition last year by echoing President Xi Jinping's repeated call for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations as the two sides are one family. Ko brushed off harsh attacks last year for echoing Xi's one-family idea and for comparing cross-strait relations to a quarrelsome married couple who would eventually return to peace after their dispute – saying it was the meat and substance that mattered. "It is more important to be able to achieve the substance than setting sights on sheer political labels," Ko said on December 9 when an advance team of Shanghai officials arrived in Taipei to prepare for the meeting. This year's forum will focus on the theme of a circular economy and cooperation between the two cities, according to city government spokesman Liu Yi-ting. Li Zheng-hong, chairman of the Shanghai Association of Taiwan, said that, as a Shanghai-based Taiwanese businessman, he was happy to see more exchanges between Shanghai and other Taiwanese cities in addition to Taipei. "Shanghai is the largest export harbour in the world and Kaohsiung used to be the world's No 3, so they should have more common issues to talk about," Li said. He was referring to a pledge by KMT Kaohsiung-mayor elect Han Kuo-yu to pursue business exchanges with the mainland when he officially assumes his post on December 25 to help improve the economy and standard of living in his city. The prospect of an improved business environment also led Huang Wei-che, the DPP Tainan mayor-elect, to express an interest on December 9 in visiting the mainland to market his city's tourism if the opportunity arises. Meanwhile, the Mainland Affairs Council said there would be no restrictions for Shanghai officials to visit Taipei, a move observers said also signalled a policy adjustment by the Tsai administration to reflect the reality that the KMT victory would lead to a rekindling of cross-strait exchanges. Mainland officials, including those from Shanghai, were barred earlier this year when applying to visit Taiwan. ^ top ^



Beijing vows to reduce meddling in trading after bad year for China stock market (SCMP)
China's heavy handed intervention in stock trading will cease and investment funds will be encouraged to buy into its equity market, as Beijing hopes to boost a stock market that has been among the world's worst performers this year. The Financial Stability and Development Commission, part of the People's Bank of China, announced on Thursday that the world's second largest economy must fully implement "market principles" to "reduce administrative intervention in stock trading". The decision followed a meeting with the country's financial regulators and major banks, brokerage houses and fund managers, chaired by deputy central bank governor Liu Guoqiang. The conference agreed that China must follow "international practices" to cultivate "medium- and long-term investors" as well as allow various new asset managers access to the capital market. It was not enough to boost market sentiment immediately, as the benchmark Shanghai Composite Stock Index closed on Thursday at a two-month low.Beijing's efforts to draw fresh funds into stocks may not work, due to weakening confidence in China's economic growth outlook, according to Hao Hong, managing director and head of research at Bocom International in Hong Kong. "Beijing has eased the intensity of its crackdown on shadow banking, and has pumped ample liquidity into the interbank market. But the money is just circulating between banks [and not reaching the real economy]," he said. "There is no sign of an economic rebound in the near term. "The new approach is in sharp contrast to three years ago when Beijing intensified its intervention in stock trading after a market rout humiliated the government. Then, the Chinese government established a "national team" of financial institutions to directly buy stocks with public funds and also started a campaign to hunt down "financial crocodiles", whose trading practices were blamed for the stock crash, resulting in a slew of arrests and some suicides. Xu Xiang, a star investor who raised money from investors to speculate in stocks, was arrested and convicted of insider trading. Cheng Boming, the former general manager of Citic Securities, was investigated for illegal stock trading and later convicted of taking bribes.Citic Securities, Haitong Securities and Guosen Securities, three big brokerage houses in China, were condemned and fined for providing credit to clients in 2015, but the China Securities Regulatory Commission last month concluded that the three brokerages had committed no wrongdoing. As part of its post-crash response, Beijing restricted margin trading in stocks and stock index futures trading.While Beijing's strong measures "stabilised" the market, they also hurt market dynamism and shattered investor confidence. Since then, China's drive to curb financial risks has discouraged fresh funding for its stock markets. China's benchmark Shanghai stock index has so far lost 25 per cent in 2018. Compared to its peak in the summer of 2015, the index has lost more than 50 per cent, and China's stock market capitalisation has fallen below that of Japan's. The weakness in Chinese stock prices has been cited by US President Donald Trump as a sign that China cannot withstand the pressure of a protracted trade war with the US. China's financial stability commission, which reports to Vice-Premier Liu He, argued that China's stocks now have "long-term investment value" and so are a safe bet for investors, according to its statement on Thursday. China's regulators will enhance their "communications" with the market and "listen to opinions from the market," it added. ^ top ^



North Korea will not denuclearise unless US first removes threat from peninsula, calling Trump-Kim 'deal' into question (SCMP)
North Korea said on Thursday it will never unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons unless the United States removes its "nuclear threat" first, raising further doubts on whether leader Kim Jong-un will ever relinquish an arsenal he may see as his greatest guarantee of survival. The surprisingly blunt statement jars with Seoul's more rosy presentation of the North Korean position and could rattle the already fragile diplomacy between Washington, Seoul and Pyongyang to defuse a nuclear crisis that last year had many fearing war. The latest from North Korea comes as the United States and North Korea struggle over the sequencing of the denuclearisation that Washington wants and the removal of international sanctions desired by Pyongyang. The statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency also raises credibility problems for the liberal South Korean government, which has continuously claimed that Kim is genuinely interested in negotiating away his nuclear weapons as Seoul tries to keep alive a positive atmosphere for dialogue. The North's comments may also be taken up as proof of what many outside sceptics have long said: that Kim will never voluntarily relinquish his arsenal whatever security assurances the United States might provide. The statement suggests that North Korea will demand that the US withdraw or significantly reduce the 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea, which would be a major sticking point to a potential disarmament deal. Kim and President Donald Trump met on June 12 in Singapore where they issued a vague goal for the "complete denuclearisation" of the Korean peninsula without describing when and how it would occur. The leaders are trying to arrange another meeting for early next year. But North Korea for decades has been pushing a concept of denuclearisation that bears no resemblance to the American definition, with Pyongyang vowing to pursue nuclear development until the United States removes its troops and the nuclear umbrella defending South Korea and Japan. In Thursday's statement, the North reiterated its traditional stance on denuclearisation and accused Washington of misstating what had been agreed on in Singapore. "The United States must now recognise the accurate meaning of the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, and especially, must study geography," the statement said. "When we talk about the Korean peninsula, it includes the territory of our republic and also the entire region of [South Korea] where the United States has placed its invasive force, including nuclear weapons. When we talk about the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, it means the removal of all sources of nuclear threat, not only from the South and North but also from areas neighbouring the Korean peninsula." The US removed its tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in the 1990s. Washington and Seoul did not immediately respond to the North Korean statement. North Korea's reiteration of its long-standing position on denuclearisation could prove to be a major setback for diplomacy, which was revived early this year following a series of provocative nuclear and missile tests that left Kim and Trump spending most of 2017 exchanging personal insults and war threats. The statement could jeopardise Trump's plan to hold a second summit with Kim early next year as it could be difficult for the US to push negotiations further if the North ties the future of its nukes to the American military presence in the South, analysts said. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who met Kim three times this year and lobbied hard for the Trump-Kim meeting, has said that the North Korean leader wasn't demanding the withdrawal of US troops from the Korean peninsula as a precondition for abandoning his nuclear weapons. But Kim has never made such comments in public. "The blunt statement could be an indicator that the North has no intentions to return to the negotiation table any time soon," said Shin Beomchul, a senior analyst at Seoul's Asan Institute for Policy Studies. "It's clear that the North intends to keep its nukes and turn the diplomatic process into a bilateral arms reduction negotiation with the United States, rather than a process where it unilaterally surrenders its programme." The nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since the Trump-Kim meeting. The United States wants North Korea to provide a detailed account of nuclear and missile facilities that would be inspected and dismantled under a potential deal, while the North is insisting that sanctions be lifted first. The North Korean statement came a day after Stephen Biegun, the Trump administration's special envoy, told reporters in South Korea that Washington was considering easing travel restrictions on the hermit state to ease humanitarian shipments and help resolve the impasse in nuclear negotiations. ^ top ^

Otto Warmbier's family seeks US$1 billion in damages from North Korea, holding regime liable for torturing and killing him (SCMP)
Greta Warmbier climbed the stairs onto the plane in summer 2017 ecstatic, thinking it was the happiest moment of her life: Her beloved brother Otto had come home, back in Ohio, freed from nearly 18 months of imprisonment in North Korea. She had so many things to tell him: her braces had come off, she'd had her first boyfriend, she was starting to think about where to apply to college. Then, over the roaring engine of the medical transport plane, she heard horrible sounds – screaming, crying, moaning. She saw her brother, strapped down because of his involuntary flailing, a tube in his nose, eyes bulging, and he was howling as though in terrible pain. She ran off the plane screaming. Her mother, Cindy Warmbier, fell onto the tarmac, sobbing and dizzy from the shock. In searing, emotional testimony on Wednesday in federal court, the Warmbier family made their case against North Korea, and asked the judge to find the regime liable for taking 21-year-old Otto Warmbier hostage, torturing and killing him. Fred and Cindy Warmbier and Otto Warmbier's estate seek more than US$1 billion in damages from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The Trump administration placed North Korea on the state-sponsors-of-terrorism list in November 2017, which made the Warmbiers' extraordinary lawsuit possible. After so many months of helplessness and forced silence – with no contact with their son, and with State Department officials warning them that a chance remark could provoke retaliation against the prisoner – Wednesday was a day for them to speak out and demand justice. "We're here because we don't fear North Korea any more," Fred Warmbier said. They have already done the worst they can do, he said. Their testimony told how Otto Warmbier, a charismatic, athletic, hard-working and intellectually curious University of Virginia student, had visited North Korea as a tourist on his way to a study-abroad programme and was not allowed to leave until US officials learned he was in a coma and demanded his release. He died days after his return in June 2017, with severe brain damage and no awareness of his surroundings. Doctors said he had been in a coma for more than a year. In the courtroom, family and friends from Ohio and the University of Virginia sobbed as they listened to the Warmbiers relive the ordeal, from the first moment of uneasiness in January 2016 when they hadn't received an expected phone call from their son after his visit to North Korea, to months of agonising silence amid escalating tensions between the United States and the authoritarian state. The family's lawyers said that Warmbier was used as a pawn in a high-stakes geopolitical fight, and that his seizure, forced confession and sham conviction coincided with provocations such as nuclear testing by North Korea and responses from the United States, including imposition of economic sanctions. Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the US District Court for the District of Columbia did not rule on Wednesday, but asked questions of the Warmbier family and of experts. Those specialists testified about torture in North Korea and how many of the methods leave no lasting trace. The experts said they believe Warmbier was tortured for political ends. Howell asked one scholar whether North Korea paid attention to such court cases, and he responded that they were closely watched – and that without a substantial financial deterrent, in his opinion the country would continue its pattern of seizing hostages. North Korea has not responded to the lawsuit, and was deemed legally in default by the court this year. A North Korean official said at the time of Warmbier's death that claims of torture were baseless slander. The coroner in Hamilton County, Ohio, who examined Warmbier after his family made the decision to discontinue medical interventions that were keeping him alive, said she could not determine what caused the initial lack of oxygen to his brain or a four-inch scar on his foot. A neurologist who examined Warmbier when he returned to the US concluded he died because of a brain injury suffered more than a year before his return, and that blood flow must have stopped to the brain or been significantly reduced for five to 20 minutes. The brain injury was not the result of natural causes, and Warmbier had not had botulism as the North Koreans said. Two dentists submitted declarations that two of Warmbier's lower front teeth, which had been straight and healthy, were significantly pushed in toward the back of his mouth at the time of his death. Fred Warmbier made his son a promise when he died, he said on Wednesday: "I'm here to ask the United States of America and this court to do justice for Otto." Otto Warmbier's parents and siblings shared family photos as they told the court about the sweet, curious little boy who grew into a studious, driven, athletic and often goofy young man who loved to laugh. He was a blessing to his mother, who got pregnant at 35 after battling cancer. He was the impossible-to-live-up-to older brother, but was kindhearted and lots of fun, his siblings said; so magnetic that his younger sister would try to follow him on his five-mile runs, just to be with him, or curl up in the corner of the sofa where he always studied, just to feel that warmth. He was the one who planned a surprise climbing trip, the one who promised to come get Greta from choir camp when she was homesick, and the one who turned to Austin Warmbier on his 15th birthday and suggested, conspiratorially, that his car-obsessed little brother drive them to school that day. He talked to his parents a few times a week from U-Va., always ending calls with, "I love you." He was planning to work on Wall Street after graduation, and wanted to travel while he could in college before launching into 80-hour workweeks. His lawyers showed video released from North Korea in 2016 in which Otto Warmbier "confessed" and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour. Fred Warmbier looked down, and Cindy Warmbier turned her back on the screen as their son's voice filled the courtroom, pleading for his life. Young men – his close friends, now graduated from college, who had driven and flown in from across the country for the hearing – wiped away tears. When the video was released, Cindy Warmbier said, she went to her bedroom and curled up in a ball. She often tried to imagine what he was thinking over those long months, trying to feel closer to him by looking up the weather in North Korea, checking the time, thinking what it would be like to hear only a foreign language all the time. "I tried to do anything to connect myself with Otto," she said. But as time went on, she felt a void rather than closeness: "I didn't feel anything." When a State Department official called Fred Warmbier late one night and told him his son was in a coma, he felt crazy and frightened, he said. But the family, trying to stay positive, thought of Otto as asleep, perhaps in a medically induced coma from which he would awaken in a matter of days. Then, on the plane, Fred Warmbier said, he saw his 6-foot-2-inch, 180-pound, good-looking son on the plane jerking violently, head shaved, howling, unresponsive. That he was wearing a U-Va. T-shirt only made it worse. "Our beautiful boy," Cindy Warmbier said. ^ top ^



ADB grants to transform Ulaanbaatar ger areas into affordable eco-districts (Montsame)
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Mongolia today signed USD53 million in grant agreements to help transform ger areas in Ulaanbaatar into affordable, low-carbon, and climate-resilient eco-districts. Minister of Finance Mr. Khurelbaatar Chimed and ADB Country Director for Mongolia Ms. Yolanda Fernandez Lommen signed the agreement at a ceremony in Ulaanbaatar. Representatives from the Municipality of Ulaanbaatar also attended the event. "A third of Mongolia's population live in urban ger areas and suffer from poor sanitation, inadequate solid waste management, and limited water supply, which pose health and environmental hazards," said Ms. Fernandez Lommen. "The project will provide sustainable and comprehensive solutions to transform the ger areas into affordable, low carbon, and livable eco-districts." The project will build 10,000 homes in 20 new environmentally friendly districts with good services, green spaces, and access to shops and jobs. Out of 10,000 housing units, 1,500 will be social housing, 5,500 will be affordable housing, and the remaining 3,000 will be sold at the prevailing market price. In addition to the signed grants, which consist of USD50 million from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and USD3 million from the High-Level Technology Fund, ADB is also providing a USD80 million loan with GCF providing a USD95 million loan to the project. The project is expected to leverage around USD300 million more in investments from developers, commercial banks, and beneficiaries. A key element of the project is the voluntary land swapping approach for creating the eco-districts. Under this approach, households owning or renting a plot of land within the proposed eco-district perimeter can choose to participate or not in the plan to shift into the new homes from the ger homes. ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totaled USD32.2 billion, including USD11.9 billion in cofinancing. ^ top ^

Foreign Minister pays courtesy call on heads of state and government of Kuwait (Montsame)
During his official visit to the State of Kuwait, Minister D.Tsogtbaatar paid a courtesy call on Emir of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Prime Minister Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah. Delivering greetings of the President of Mongolia Kh.Battulga to Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Minister highlighted friendly relations of Mongolia and Kuwait based on mutual respect and support of the two countries during difficult times. Emir of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said that he considers Mongolia as close friend and expressed readiness to fully support expansion and development of bilateral cooperation. During his meeting with the Prime Minister of Kuwait Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Minister D.Tsogtbaatar expressed his gratitude to the Kuwaiti Government for the grant for the construction of Mongolian National Burn Center and Undurkhaan city airport renovation project. Prime Minister Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah expressed willingness to further expand relations and cooperation with Mongolia. In addition, Foreign Minister handed over the Order of the Polar Star to Kuwaiti citizen Badr Al-Baijan awarded by the Order of the President of Mongolia. ^ top ^

Foreign Minister meets with his Japanese counterpart (Montsame)
Within the Prime Minister's official visit to Japan, Minister of Foreign Affairs D.Tsogtbaatar held bilateral meeting with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono on December 14. At the beginning of the meeting Foreign Ministers of the two countries held press briefing. Minister D.Tsogtbaatar expressed gratitude to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the support in organizing the Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh's visit to Japan. Furthermore, he expressed his confidence in close cooperation with Minister Taro Kono on strengthening the Strategic Partnership between the two countries which share common values such as freedom, democracy and rule of law, and deepening bilateral cooperation at international and regional levels. Minister Taro Kono said "I am delighted that the works discussed during Mongolian Foreign Minister's visit to Japan in February are successfully realizing." Mr. T.Kono also expressed gratitude to the Government of Mongolia for the condolences and humanitarian aid in conjunction with the flooding disaster in Japan, and pledged to focus on implementation of the Midterm Program on Strategic Partnership of Mongolia and Japan. The parties agreed to ensure implementation of the Midterm Program on Strategic Partnership of Mongolia and Japan, and the Economic Partnership Agreement in the future. ^ top ^

Foreign Minister pays visit to Qatar (Montsame)
Minister of Foreign Affairs D.Tsogtbaatar paid an official visit to Qatar on December 15-16. During the visit, he participated in the 18th Doha Forum. On December 15, Prime Minister of Qatar Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani received Minister D.Tsogtbaatar and the parties exchanged views on bilateral relations and cooperation. During the meeting, Foreign Minister introduced the economic state and opportunities of investment in Mongolia and hold discussion on the areas of further development. He also emphasized that the establishment of Qatar Embassy in Ulaanbaatar will be an important step toward expanding bilateral relations and cooperation. The 18th Doha Forum held under the slogan 'Shaping Policy in an Interconnected World' discussed peace, security, international trade and investment issues. In addition to Qatar's government officials, Secretary-General of the UN, President of the UN General Assembly, Foreign Ministers of Qatar, Mongolia, Iran, Turkey, Japan, Romania, Kenya, Mali and the Philippines and other high-level delegation took part in the Doha Forum. ^ top ^


LEW Mei Yi
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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