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
No. 749
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Xi congratulates Maurer on taking office as president of Swiss Confederation (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday congratulated Ueli Maurer on his assumption of the Swiss presidency. In his congratulatory message to Maurer, Xi said that China-Switzerland relations have maintained good momentum with their mutual political trust continuously enhanced, practical cooperation in economy and trade as well as finance strengthened, and the content of their innovative strategic partnership enriched. Xi added that he attaches great importance to the development of China-Switzerland relations and is willing to work with Maurer to promote bilateral ties and bring more benefits to the two nations and the two peoples. ^ top ^


Foreign Policy

US issues China travel warning about 'arbitrary' law enforcement, amid tensions over arrest of Huawei's Meng Wanzhou (SCMP)
The US State Department issued a warning on Thursday that officials in China "have asserted broad authority" to prevent US citizens from leaving the country and to beware of "arbitrary enforcement of local laws." The travel advisory follows the detention last month of two Canadians in China, which has accused them of harming China's security. Those detentions occurred days after Canadian police arrested Huawei Technologies' chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver at the request of the United States. The new State Department warning also follows the arrest of several Chinese nationals in the US on charges of espionage. They include Hongjin Tan, who was arrested on December 20 and charged with stealing trade secrets from the American petroleum company that employed him. The US Justice Department announced on the same day criminal indictments against two accused hackers associated with the Chinese government. Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong, who the US say acted on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS), were charged with conspiracy to hack into a dozen companies and government agencies in the US and around the world. Detentions of individuals on both sides, based on allegations of espionage and national security, have become the newest front among many confrontations in the US-China relationship. The downturn in relations started with a tariff war that has now dragged on for half a year and threatens to worsen if US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are not able to settle their dispute in the next two months. The US government has also strengthened oversight of foreign investments in the country following a push by national security policymakers and lawmakers to more closely scrutinise acquisitions by Chinese entities. "China uses exit bans coercively: to compel US citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations, to lure individuals back to China from abroad, and to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favour of Chinese parties," the announcement said. The State Department warning suggested that US citizens of Chinese descent face higher risks. A son and a daughter of Liu Changming, a former Chinese bank executive wanted by the Chinese government for financial crimes, remain in China after being refused permission to leave the country, one person familiar with the case told South China Morning Post. Victor and Cynthia Liu have been unable to leave China since June, according to earlier reports by CNN and The New York Times. US National Security Adviser John Bolton spoke out about the case just two days before he met with senior Chinese officials in Buenos Aires following the G-20 leader's summit. Trump and Xi agreed at that post-G-20 meeting to a 90-day truce in the bilateral tariff war that started when the US leader starting putting punitive import taxes on Chinese goods in July. "These Americans need to be allowed to return home," Bolton said on Twitter on November 27. "Out of concern for the security of these young Americans, we will refrain from public comment as we continue our efforts to constructively and directly engage the Chinese government to allow them to return home," David Pressman, a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, who is representing the Liu family, said in an emailed comment. Pressman also acts as US ambassador to the United Nations for special political affairs, appointed to the post in 2014, under former US President Barack Obama. "China does not recognise dual nationality. US-Chinese citizens and US citizens of Chinese heritage may be subject to additional scrutiny and harassment, and China may prevent the US Embassy from providing consular services," the State Department's updated travel advisory said. The warning did not mention Meng or the Chinese nationals arrested in the US on espionage allegations. Nor did the State Department say what triggered the updated travel advisory. China maintains its "level 2" travel advisory category it was assigned when the State Department revised its travel warning system a year ago despite the updated warning. That classification warns travelers to "be aware of heightened risks to safety and security". Other "level 2" countries and regions include Algeria, Antarctica, Italy, Jamaica and the UK. Level 3 advises Americans to "avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security", and level 4 is a blanket "do not travel" advisory "due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks". Level 3 countries include Turkey, Russia and Pakistan, while North Korea, Syria and Libya are level 4. Hong Kong is level 1, which advises travelers to "exercise normal precautions". ^ top ^

LinkedIn reverses course after censoring Chinese profile page of US-based human rights activist Zhou Fengsuo (SCMP)
LinkedIn has restored access to the profile page of a prominent Chinese human rights activist, a day after the career networking site told him his page in China had been censored in accordance with the company's commitment to adhering to the "requirements of the Chinese government". LinkedIn informed New York-based activist Zhou Fengsuo on Wednesday evening that, because of "specific content" in his profile, his page could no longer be viewed by users in China, according to correspondence that Zhou posted to Twitter. "While we strongly support freedom of expression, we recognized when we launched that we would need to adhere to the requirements of the Chinese government in order to operate in China," LinkedIn's message to Zhou said. As part of its launch in China in early 2014, LinkedIn, which was bought by Microsoft in 2016, agreed to demands from Chinese authorities to block access to accounts deemed to be in violation of local laws regulating content. The agreement was roundly criticised by the human rights community, and there have been notable spikes in censorship around the annual anniversaries of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on protesters calling for democratic reform. LinkedIn spokeswoman Nicole Leverich told the South China Morning Post on Thursday afternoon that an internal review had found that Zhou's profile "was blocked in error", and said the visibility of his profile in China had been restored. She declined to comment on how the "error" came about, or when exactly the action had been taken. Responding to LinkedIn's claim that the block was the result of an error, Zhou said in an email that he believed media attention had "escalated the level of attention such that they couldn't handle it any more". Zhou, a leader of those protests who was once No 5 on Beijing's most-wanted list, suspects the censorship has nothing to do with the content of his LinkedIn profile. Instead, he attributes it to his activity on other online platforms such as Chinese messaging app WeChat, where he recently shared a video calling for the end of Chinese President Xi Jinping's rule. His attempts to contact LinkedIn and ask what "specific content" had caused the censorship had been unsuccessful, he said. "I feel anger and outrage," Zhou, who runs a human rights organisation that advocates for and supports political prisoners in China, said before LinkedIn changed course. "It's just not something you would expect from Silicon Valley, where they always profess their love for liberties and, in particular, expression." When accessed from within China on Thursday, the web address for Zhou's account returned a page asking users to verify their phone number before continuing. An SMS verification code was never received. Other LinkedIn accounts could be viewed on Thursday without the need for phone verification. Zhou, who said he posted content such as articles and photos on LinkedIn only "sporadically", had most recently posted a message ahead of the New Year on behalf of his organisation, Humanitarian China, that mentioned the Tiananmen Square crackdown. "Next year is the 30th anniversary of June 4th," he wrote in a post sent to his 975 followers. "The democratic movement of 1989 is the driving force of Humanitarian China." In early December, Zhou shared photos showing his attendance at a Lantos Foundation gala at which the Hong Kong pro-democratic activist Joshua Wong was honoured in absentia. Zhou's LinkedIn newsfeed also features a photo of him and Liu Xia, widow of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, during her trip to New York in September. But Zhou, who is a member of numerous activist chat groups on WeChat, believes that his censorship by LinkedIn is the result of orders by authorities who are monitoring his activity on other online platforms. "Just yesterday, I realised that whatever I post [on WeChat], other people in China can't see it," he said on Thursday. Zhou said the change came after he circulated a video among several chat groups that showed people tearing and burning the pages of Chinese President Xi Jinping's "Governance of China", accompanied by text saying that China would be "entirely free" if Xi was deposed. US tech firms' practice of censoring or curating content at the behest of foreign authoritarian governments has garnered additional scrutiny after several recent instances. In August 2018, an investigation by The Intercept found that Google had been working covertly to develop a sanitised version of its search engine service for deployment in China. The project was halted after internal complaints, The Intercept reported in December. Last week, the streaming platform Netflix pulled an episode from US comedian Hasan Minhaj's series Patriot Act in Saudi Arabia because it criticised the country's ruling royal family. ^ top ^

Actions show Africa is put at an important place in China's diplomacy: Chinese State Councilor (Xinhua)
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Thursday that China's practical actions prove that Africa is placed at an important place in China's diplomacy. Wang said strengthening the cooperation with Africa and developing countries is always a top priority for China's diplomacy. Wang made the remarks while speaking to reporters, following his meeting with Ethiopian Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu on Thursday in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. Chinese foreign minister has chosen Africa for the first overseas visit each year for 29 years consecutively, Wang said, stressing that the action has become a fine tradition in China's diplomacy. Wang said that the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in last September was a great success, stressing that the eight major initiatives outlined by China point the direction for the future of China-Africa cooperation with a blueprint. The main purpose of this visit is to communicate with African countries in adherence to the principles of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith, and the approach of upholding justice and pursuing shared interests, put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping, so as to boost the implementation of the consensus reached at the Beijing summit of the FOCAC, said Wang. Wang added that the visit is made to strengthen bilateral ties and further advance China-Africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership. In his trip which is scheduled to end on Jan. 6, Wang will also pay an official visit to the African Union (AU) Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Burkina Faso, Gambia and Senegal. ^ top ^

Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan to lead Davos delegation (SCMP)
China's Vice-President Wang Qishan will lead the Chinese delegation at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting from January 22-25 in Davos, Switzerland, according to two separate sources familiar with the arrangements. It is not known if Wang will have an official meeting with US President Donald Trump, who will be making his second appearance at the annual gathering of global elites. Wang, who has a reputation as China's "firefighter" for his track record of handling Beijing's most difficult tasks, has been cautiously stepping up on the diplomatic front. He attended a new economic forum organised by US billionaire Michael Bloomberg in Singapore last November and criticised "unilateralism", although he did not directly name Trump. And, at a forum in Guangzhou last month, Wang made another veiled attack on Trump's trade policies when he criticised the adoption of a "zero-sum" mindset. In previous years Beijing has used Davos to present China as a business-friendly place to global political leaders, executives and opinion leaders. Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the gathering in January 2017 and voiced support for "globalisation", while his chief economic aide Vice-Premier Liu He, gave a speech at last year's event which promised that China would open its market wider to foreign investors. This year's Davos forum will take place as officials from China and the US negotiate an end to the escalating trade war, during the 90-day truce which ends on March 1. The truce was agreed after a meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on December 1, 2018, in which both sides agreed to suspend additional tariffs while entering into negotiations to settle other long-term disputes, such as the forced transfer of technology to Chinese firms. Deputy US trade representative Jeffrey Gerrish will lead a delegation to China on January 7 to hold talks with Chinese officials. The delegation will include David Malpass, Treasury undersecretary for international affairs. Wang Yong, director of the centre for international political economy at Peking University, said that the vice-president was "effective at communicating with the outside world", adding that the occasion would allow him to "use his charm". He said that while Wang's presence at the forum was likely to be at attempt at boosting external confidence in China's economy and its support for reform and multilateralism, there was a limit to what he could deliver. "The international community should lower their expectations about China's reform and opening up," he said. "China will speed up its reforms, but the changes will not happen overnight." He Weiwen, senior fellow at the Centre for China and Globalisation, said while Beijing hoped to use the platform of Davos to influence global business leaders' opinion, Wang was no more than a messenger for Xi. "The decision to send him to Davos is that of the top leader," said He. "So ultimately it depends on what President Xi Jinping has to say." ^ top ^

Beijing to restore coral reefs 'damaged by island building' in South China Sea (Global Times)
The year of 2019 will be a crucial time for China and ASEAN members to work out a foundation to deliver tangible results for negotiations on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea so that the hard-won tranquility will stay for good in the region and there will be more ecological and economic cooperation. As of Monday, a total of 16 senior officials' meetings and 26 joint working group meetings have been held for COC negotiations, covering prevention marine risks and a list of "important and complicated issues," read a Monday article published by Haikou-based National Institute for South China Sea Studies (NISCSS). As intensity in the South China Sea dims, the focus is now driven by COC negotiations instead of confrontations and a war of words, Chinese military and international relation observers said Wednesday. Negotiations are the only way to solve problems as countries involved will surely have different and conflicting demands, they said. The latest demands come from Vietnam, which said it wants to prohibit China from building artificial islands and deploying weapons, among other demands, Reuters reported on Monday, citing an alleged negotiating draft of the COC. However, such issues, as well as those of missile deployment and air defense identification zone are unlikely to be included in negotiations in the first quarter of 2019, Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the Hainan-based National Institute for the South China Sea, told the Global Times on Wednesday. Experts also predict that other countries that have disputes with China, such as the Philippines and Malaysia, will also voice their demands in the negotiations and 2019 will be a chance for those countries to maximize their consensus and promote cooperation. "Conflicts are bound to happen revolving around these different demands, but that is why we need negotiations to find compromises," Chen said, noting that China will remain firm to its position of safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity. China expects to finish negotiations on the COC in three years, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at the ASEAN Summit held in November in Singapore. Liu Feng, director of a research center on the Philippines under Hainan Normal University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that 2019 will define the tone and direction of the three-year negotiations, and how far the COC could reach to maintain the peace in the South China Sea. The negotiations on key issues will take place in 2020 and be finalized in 2021, said Liu. Echoing Liu, Chen noted that the negotiations will focus on fundamental issues like the COC's geographical scope of application and whether the document is political or legal in nature. Besides efforts to maximize consensus, another crucial mission for countries in the waters is to eliminate interference from countries outside of the region, said Liu. Analysts also noted that some countries might borrow strengths from the US to intensify its own demands, warning that bilateral military actions with the US should be avoided in the South China Sea. The Pentagon's top Asia official has urged Australia and other US allies to boost their military presence in the South China Sea to send a signal to China, The Australian newspaper reported on Wednesday. In late February, Australia's then defense minister Marise Payne said the country had made a "quite significant increase" in its military presence in the South China Sea and elsewhere in the region during the previous 18 months, including exercises and port visits with Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and The Philippines. The COC should include articles to restrict military actions in the region from countries outside of the region, said Chen. China and ASEAN members have been interacting frequently and are in a far less tense situation compared to the past, experts noted. Naval forces from China and ASEAN members, including over 1,200 officers and soldiers, concluded a weeklong joint maritime drill in the city of Zhanjiang, South China's Guangdong Province in October. The drill marked the first time ASEAN members conducted a joint military drill with a single country and also the first time the People's Liberation Army conducted a maritime drill with the bloc. Chinese President Xi Jinping went on a seven-day Asia-Pacific trip in November, during which China lifted its relationship with Brunei to a strategic cooperative partnership and its ties with the Philippines to a relationship of comprehensive strategic cooperation, Xinhua reported in November. In the China-Brunei joint statement released during Xi's visit, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining peace, stability and security, and the importance of continuing exercising self-restraint by all parties concerned and the promotion of mutual trust and confidence in the South China Sea. In the China-Philippines joint statement, both sides agreed to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability. Chen said these have set up an excellent atmosphere for the COC negotiations, and are good counters to outside interference. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the China-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting held in August 2018 that facts will prove that China and ASEAN members are capable of maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea and reaching regional rules adhered to by all through negotiations. China and ASEAN members arrived at a single negotiating text draft for the COC in August, which will serve as the basis of future COC negotiations. ^ top ^

China's military priorities for 2019: boost training and prepare for war (SCMP)
Strengthening training and preparation for war are among the top priorities for China's military in 2019, its official newspaper said on Tuesday. "Drilling soldiers and war preparations are the fundamental jobs and work focus of our military, and at no time should we allow any slack in these areas," the PLA Daily said in its New Year's Day editorial. "We should be well prepared for all directions of military struggle and comprehensively improve troops' combat response in emergencies … to ensure we can meet the challenge and win when there is a situation." Other priorities outlined in the editorial included thorough planning and implementation to develop the military, fostering reform and innovation, and party building within the People's Liberation Army (PLA). President Xi Jinping, who also heads the military, has been pushing the PLA to boost its combat readiness since he took the top job in late 2012. Observers said stepping up drills could be about flexing the PLA's military muscle, but spelling it out at the start of the year also suggested it was a more important part of the plan for 2019. "During the 20 years I spent in the PLA before I left in 2004, military training to boost combat readiness was always one of our top tasks," said Zeng Zhiping, a retired lieutenant colonel and military analyst based in Nanchang, Jiangxi province. "But this is something different. When training and preparation for war is highlighted at the beginning of a year it means this is a plan for the whole year, although we don't know what the real intention behind the rhetoric is at this stage." Taiwan's former deputy defence minister Lin Chong-Pin said it was about showing the PLA's military strength. "Prioritising military training and preparation for war is nothing more than a move to boost its diplomatic strength, which the PLA has been emphasising over the past four decades – though it has never gone into battle with any other country during that time," Lin said. "This comes at a time when the US has increased pressure on China with a series of military operations. But listen, I'm 100 per cent sure that the PLA will not be waging any war, no matter whether it's in the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait. It will only become more cautious when it starts rising more rapidly." Meanwhile, at least 38 senior colonels were promoted to the rank of major general in late December, according to local media and Chinese military watchers. Lin said they were carefully selected by the president himself. "These new major generals were definitely hand-picked by Xi – he intends to build his own army, or the so-called Xi force," Lin said. Of those promoted to major general, nine were from the PLA's ground forces, four were from the air force, three were from the rocket force and 22 from the People's Armed Police Force. The military has undergone major upheaval and reform during the past six years, with dozens of generals brought down amid an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign. They include top generals Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, both former Central Military Commission vice-chairmen, Fang Fenghui, who was the PLA chief of staff, and Zhang Yang, former head of the PLA's General Political Department. ^ top ^

Chinese embassy refutes misleading reports that Pakistan owes $40 b to China (Global Times)
The Chinese Embassy in Pakistan has refuted misleading media reports that Pakistan has to pay $40 billion to China in the next 20 years, stating that Islamabad only needs to pay $6.017 billion to Beijing for relevant projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The embassy pointed out that 22 projects under CPEC have been preliminarily finished or are under construction with a gross investment of $18.9 billion. Pakistan newspaper The Express Tribune reported last week that Pakistan will need to pay $40 billion of debt and dividends to China over 20 years for infrastructure and development projects under CPEC. The embassy disputed the wrong and misleading information in a statement published on Saturday, emphasizing that CPEC is the significant economic cooperative project between the two countries and all projects are based on consensus and relevant laws. According to the statement, the $6.017 debt includes concessional loans of $5.874 billion which China offered to Pakistan for major transportation infrastructure projects, at a composite interest rate of about 2 percent on 20 to 25 years loans. China also provided $143 million interest-free loans for the construction of the Expressway East Bay in Gwadar and free aid for some livelihood projects. Chinese companies have invested $12.8 billion in energy projects in Pakistan, including $9.8 billion from commercial banks with an interest rate of about 5 percent. These are purely business activities between companies and do not involve the Pakistani government, said the embassy's statement. The statement said the 8th Joint Cooperation Committee meeting of the CPEC was successfully held in Beijing on December 20. China and Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding at the meeting on industrial cooperation, and agreed to jointly promote the construction of special economic zones. The CPEC is a corridor that links Pakistan's Karachi and northwestern Peshawar and runs through the populated provinces of Punjab and Sindh, which highlights energy, transport, industrial cooperation and Gwadar port construction, and seeks to expand cooperation between China and Pakistan, the Xinhua News Agency reported. ^ top ^

China and Japan plan trade and investment talks in Beijing in spring (SCMP)
A high-level delegation from Japan could be in Beijing as early as the spring for talks on trade and investment issues. Sources said on Sunday that the Japanese and Chinese governments were considering the high-level economic dialogue to improve ties based on a "new era" of relations, agreed to by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping during their October meeting in Beijing. In October, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told Abe that he hoped to achieve "win-win outcomes" by developing ties in a stable manner, especially through economic and trade cooperation. Tokyo and Beijing are expected to discuss ways to promote free trade and maintain the multilateral trading system, at a time when US President Donald Trump is pursuing "America first" policies. The two countries will also discuss cooperation on advanced technologies. Other agenda items would include cooperation on infrastructure development in third countries while taking into account their fiscal health. Japan could potentially ask China to correct unfair trade practices such as subsidies to state-owned companies and violations of intellectual property rights. According to sources, China sounded out Japan about holding the dialogue at an early date. The meeting is expected to be held after China's National People's Congress, which starts on March 5, and following Japan's Diet deliberations on the budget for the year from April. The dialogue would be chaired by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Economic revitalisation minister Toshimitsu Motegi and industry minister Hiroshige Seko would be among the Japanese delegation. It would be the fifth such dialogue between Japan and China, with the last one taking place in Tokyo in April. Regarding a visit to Japan next year, Xi told Abe during their October talks in Beijing that he would "seriously" consider his first trip to the country since taking office. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping steers clear of US trade war and slowing economy in glowing review of China's 'extraordinary' 2018 (SCMP)
Chinese President Xi Jinping tried to talk up the country's achievements over the past 12 months in a year-end speech that ignored or downplayed some of the major challenges, including the trade war with the US, that has put the Communist Party's leadership to the test. In Saturday's address to members of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the party's advisory body, Xi said 2018 had been "extraordinary" for the party and government and flagged up a number of achievements, Xinhua the state news agency reported. While the Belt and Road Initiative has faced an increasing international pushback amid fears it is saddling poorer countries with unsustainable debts, Xi's speech steered clear of this and other sensitive topics. Instead he praised the initiative for helping to improve international ties, adding: "Our circle of friends is expanding." The Chinese leader also highlighted a number of international forums and events the country had organised and pointed to the Greater Bay Area plan, a project to integrate Hong Kong and Macau more closely with neighbouring parts of the mainland, as proof of how the "one country, two systems" policy was developing. But despite the president's warm words, the Great Bay Area project remains stuck at the planning stage and there is still no clear timetable for the release of the plans. Xi only made terse references to the country's economy development, which is facing its biggest challenges in a decade as growth slows and concerns grow that the country will not be able to achieve its growth target of 6.5 per cent for this year. Xi did not highlight any particular economic achievements over the past year and said only that next year the party would continue to promote stable economic development. In contrast, Ning Jizhe, head of China's National Bureau of Statistics, struck a more upbeat tone at an economic forum earlier this month, saying the country would have little problem in meeting its main macroeconomic goals for the year. He told the event that in the first 11 months of the year GDP had grown by 6.7 per cent, inflation stood at 2.1 per cent – well below the target of 3 per cent, unemployment stood at 4.8 per cent and foreign exchanges reserves remained above the psychologically important US$3 trillion level. Xi said the central government had implemented 171 reforms this year and consistently increased market access for foreign investors, but did not address the growing criticism of Chinese trade practices from the US, Europe and Japan and doubts about whether all the changes promised will take shape. In particular, there was no reference in his speech to the trade war with the US nor to the other flashpoints in relations between the world's two biggest economies. Instead, Xi stressed that China was playing an active role in international multilateral diplomacy – a stance it has previously highlighted as a contrast to the "America first" policy of the Trump administration. Looking ahead to the coming year, Xi reminded delegates of his three key policy priorities – fighting pollution, corruption and poverty – and said the year offered challenges and opportunities to build a "well-off society in an all-round way". 2019 will mark the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China and Xi told his audience they should make the strengthening of ideological and political guidance a priority. "Winning people's hearts is the biggest political battle," he said. "Consensus is the power for forging ahead." ^ top ^

Xi, Trump have telephone conversation, agree to implement consensus in Argentina meeting (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday held a telephone conversation, expressing their willingness to push for implementation of their agreements reached during the G-20 summit in Argentina. Trump wished Xi and the Chinese people a happy new year, saying that the U.S.-China relations are very important and closely followed by the whole world. He said he values the great relations with Xi, adding that he is pleased to see the teams of both countries are working hard to implement the important consensus reached between him and Xi during their meeting in Argentina. Trump said relevant talks and coordination are producing positive progress. He hopes results will be reached to the benefit of both U.S. and Chinese peoples as well as people of all nations. Xi, for his part, extended best wishes to Trump and the U.S. people upon the arrival of the new year. Xi said both he and Trump hope to push for a stable progress of the China-U.S. relations, adding that the bilateral ties are now in a vital stage. The Chinese president said he and Trump had a very successful meeting early this month and reached important consensus in Argentina. The teams from both countries have since been actively working to implement such consensus, he said, expressing hopes that both teams can meet each other halfway and reach an agreement beneficial to both countries and the world as early as possible. Xi said next year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and China, adding that China attaches great importance to the development of bilateral relations and appreciates the willingness of the U.S. side to develop cooperative and constructive bilateral relations. China is willing to work with the United States to summarize the experience of 40 years of the development of China-U.S. relations, and strengthen exchanges and cooperation in fields of economy and trade, military, law enforcement, anti-drug operations, local issues and culture, Xi said. Xi added that China is also willing to work with the United States to maintain communication and coordination on major international and regional issues, respect each other's important interests, promote China-U.S. relations based on coordination, cooperation and stability, and let the development of bilateral relations better benefit the two peoples and people around the world. The two heads of state also exchanged views on international and regional issues of common concern such as the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Xi reiterated that China encourages and supports further talks between the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and hopes for positive results. ^ top ^

China releases Canadian teacher Sarah McIver, arrested amid furore over detention of Huawei's Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver (SCMP)
Canada's government said a Canadian teacher detained in China over a problem with her work permit had been released and was back in Canada. Albertan Sarah McIver was arrested earlier this month for issues related to her teaching job, but Global Affairs Canada spokesman Richard Walker said Friday that she has returned home. The Globe and Mail reported that Mclver had assured her family in mid-December that she was fine and would be deported from China within days. "She's sweet, she's kind, she's happy, she's so smart – and she just loves different cultures," the report quoted Jenn Smith, who has known McIver for about a decade, as saying. "Before she is going on trips, she makes sure everything is in order." McIver's detention followed the arrests of two other Canadians on allegations they were harming China's national security. China detained Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor separately after Canada arrested Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, CFO for the Chinese technology company Huawei, in Vancouver on December 1, for possible extradition to the US. Meng is sought by the US for allegedly lying to banks as part of an effort to evade sanctions on Iran. Both China and Canada had said McIver's case differed from those of Kovrig and Spavor. Meng was released on bail in Vancouver, where she is under private guard at one of the two homes she owns there. On Saturday, a Chinese court will hear an appeal in the case of a Canadian citizen held on drugs charges, that could further test the tense relations between the two countries. The high court in the city of Dalian in the northeastern province of Liaoning will hear the appeal of Robert Lloyd Schellenberg at 2pm local time, it said in a statement this week. A Dalian government news portal said Schellenberg was a Canadian and that this was an appeal hearing after he was found by an earlier ruling to have smuggled "an enormous amount of drugs" into China. Canada's government said this week it had been following the case for several years and providing consular assistance, but could provide no other details, citing privacy concerns. Drugs offences are usually punished severely in China. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

China to push transparency in administrative law enforcement (Xinhua)
The General Office of the State Council has issued a guideline urging authorities to better inform the public and put the entire process of administrative law enforcement on record to increase transparency, justice and standardized practices. Administrative law enforcement agencies nationwide should specify the responsible party for the release of information and ensure related information is made public via government websites, social networks or bulletin boards in a timely manner, according to the guideline. The entire process of law enforcement should be recorded in the forms of text, audio or video, in order to keep track of the initiation, investigation, review decision-making and execution of cases. For cases involving asset forfeiture and mandatory demolition, audio and video files should be kept of the whole procedure, it said. In the guideline, the General Office also called on administrative law enforcement authorities to conduct legal reviews prior to all major decisions. ^ top ^

The song The Chinese Dream released to arouse patriotism (Global Times)
The song The Chinese Dream was recently released during a ceremony at a school in North China's Hebei Province, located in the county where Chinese President Xi Jinping worked in the 1980s. The Chinese dream, which targets the "great renewal of the Chinese nation," was proposed by Xi in 2012. It's about realizing a prosperous and strong country, rejuvenation of the nation and the well-being of the people, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Written and composed by Jiang Kairu and Hou Dejian, the song was released at Hebei Province's Zhengding Middle School on Monday for the first time, according to a news report released by the school on its website. Jiang, 83, also penned the Story of the Spring, a patriotic song that praised former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's reform and opening-up policy. Hou, a Taiwan songwriter, composed the popular song Descendants of the Dragon, which quickly became a hit and is commonly regarded as expressing sentiments of patriotism. Two versions of the song The Chinese Dream were played at an event at the school, one was played by the school's symphony and another was sung by two singers. It's expected to be sung and passed on from generation to generation among the young Chinese students, reported. The producer Yue Xiaofeng said at the event that realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has been the dream of Chinese people since modern times. The essence of the Chinese dream is to realize prosperity and revival of the nation, along with the happiness of people and the harmony of society. Zhengding Middle School's principal, Zhou Qing, said that the event is an inspiration for the school and provides patriotic education for the students. Xi has worked about three years at Zhengding as the Secretary and Deputy Secretary with the Communist Party of China's (CPC) Zhengding County Committee between March 1982 and May 1985, according to the website of the Party School of Central Committee of the CPC. ^ top ^

Ministries respond to public concerns (China Daily)
Several ministry-level departments, including those for commerce, veterans affairs and public security, have responded recently to issues of public concern. The Ministry of Commerce said on Dec 27 that a number of measures will be adopted to ensure the supply of daily necessities in the market during the Spring Festival holiday, which begins on Feb 5, the start of the Lunar New Year. Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said it will prioritize measures to enable better alignment between production and sales to ensure the supply of key products such as pork and other necessities. The ministry will launch a daily market briefing mechanism to increase the supply of pork from central and local reserves when necessary during the festive period, he said. The mechanism will also help the ministry publish timely information about supply and demand during extreme weather conditions or major price hikes to better guide business operations and public consumption, he said. The ministry will also encourage promotions that combine elements of local customs, tourism and specialties to boost consumption, he added. The Ministry of Veterans Affairs said on Dec 29 it will take steps to improve the level of education and training of military veterans to improve their competitiveness in the job market. The ministry said it plans to encourage veterans to receive academic education and to better implement supporting policies, including providing free education and training. More vocational education will be made available to veterans to enhance their employability, with more job-oriented and specific training programs, it said. The ministry will step up cooperation with both State-owned and private companies, organize regional job fairs for veterans, and set up information platforms to share job posts. Veterans who want to start businesses can also enjoy tax cuts, and the ministry will set up investment funds and provide professional guidance as part of support measures. Veterans can also enjoy preferential policies, including in pensions, medical services, housing, transport and their children's education. The benefits will differ according to each veteran's contribution while in service, the ministry said. A regulation has been issued to safeguard the authority of the police during law enforcement activities, the Ministry of Public Security said on Dec 29. It said the regulation is meant to ensure that public security officers perform their duties according to the law, and to safeguard the authority of the law and the police. According to the regulation, when police officers perform their duties in accordance with the law, they are protected by the law and should not be hurt or obstructed. The safety of police officers and their close relatives shall not be threatened or infringed, and their dignity shall not be insulted or disparaged, it said. The National Radio and Television Administration said on Dec 26 that it has started a trial run for a new system that provides audience ratings based on big data and prevents falsified viewing figures. The new system, which has been developed since 2016, will determine audience size by collecting data directly from cable TV service providers, the administration said. It has collected data from about 40 million TV viewers so far, including viewing figures for live, on-demand and other types of TV programs, administration official Yu Ying said, adding that it is expected to cover hundreds of millions of people in the future. Unlike the old system, which was based on surveys with limited sample sizes, the new system will gather data directly from viewers, Yu said, providing numbers that accurately reflect what is being watched and by how many people. ^ top ^

China birth numbers expected to fall to lowest level since 2000, creating new economic and social challenges (SCMP)
The number of children born in China in 2018 is expected to have dropped to the lowest level since 2000 after a year that "will be remembered as a historical turning point for Chinese population", signalling a "demographic crisis" that threatens already struggling economic growth prospects, mainland media and researchers said. The final figure for China births in 2018 will drop below 15 million, or more than two million fewer than in 2017, the state-run tabloid Global Times reported. If confirmed, it will fall far short of the family planning authority's previous estimates of up to 20 million births. China's National Bureau of Statistics is expected to release nationwide birth figures for 2018 later this month, but data released by local authorities has all pointed to a considerable drop in births. Yi Fuxian, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a long-standing critic of China's family planning policy, and Su Jian, an economist at Peking University, co-authored a paper arguing that China may have started to see a long-lasting fall in its population. "The year 2018 will be remembered as a historical turning point for Chinese population," Yi and Su wrote in a copy of the paper sent to the South China Morning Post. "The Chinese population has started to fall, the ageing problems has accelerated, and economic vitality has weakened. "A great nation, which once upon a time accounted for nearly a third of the world's total population, is gradually degenerating into a small group of the old and the weak thanks to wrong demographic policies." There were only 64,753 in the first 11 months of 2018 in Liaocheng in Shandong province, one of China's most populous provinces, a fall of 26 per cent from the same period in 2017, according to the Dazhong Daily, the local official newspaper. In Qingdao, another city in Shandong, births between January and November plunged 21 per cent on a year-on-year basis to 81,112, according to the local municipal family planning authority. Hua Changchun, an economist with Guotai Junan Securities, wrote in a research note that the number of births across China could be as low as 14 million if the 20 per cent fall was replicated nationwide. He added that such a fall in births could have a far-reaching impact on China's economic and social development, including eroding demand for property in the future. "A sharp drop in new births is probably the beginning of a long new era, during which population will see contraction," Hua said. The process of a quickly ageing society, highlighted by fewer births, a shrinking age group between 20 and 50, and a surge in the elderly population, has started in China, which is set to affect the economy, Hua added. Beijing had previously expected a surge in births after it abolished its one-child policy for a two-child policy in 2016, but after decades of economic boom and tight birth controls, the population has proven to be more reluctant to take advantage of the change than the government had anticipated. Ren Zeping, chief economist at property developer Evergrande Group, wrote in a note this week that China is walking into a "demographic crisis" as the second-child policy relaxation has failed to the boost fertility rate, which shows the number of children a women is expected to have during her life. China's National Bureau of Statistics stopped publishing fertility data in 2016. "China must immediately lift birth controls and encourage people to have babies," Ren wrote. Births in 2016 rose to 17.86 million from 16.55 million in 2015 following the introduction of the two-child policy, but the acceleration was short-lived as figures fell to 17.23 million in 2017 despite the government also offering incentives for people to maximise the new quota. Beijing's new approach has seen the government switch from forced abortions and heavy fines during its one-child policy to providing childcare services and encouraging people to have more children. In the latest move, the China Family Planning Association, which is overseen by the State Council, will "focus on maternity care and family health services". ^ top ^

New Intellectual Property Court opens in Beijing (China Daily)
China's top court opened its Intellectual Property Court in Beijing on Tuesday, as a new step to effectively safeguard IP rights. The new court, a subdivision of the Supreme People's Court, has been set up in the capital's Fengtai district. It is responsible for handling civil and administrative appeals related to patents, according to the top court. Litigants who disagree with rulings made by intermediate people's courts at the city or prefecture level, or by specialized IP courts, can appeal directly to the top court instead of first appealing to provincial high people's courts. "The change to patent-related litigation procedures aims to help prevent inconsistency and improve the quality and efficiency of trials," said Luo Dongchuan, chief judge of the IP Court. The IP Court will also study difficult patent-related cases to help foster a favorable legal environment for technological innovation, and create a better business environment for domestic and international enterprises, he said. The new court, with 30 judges selected from IP tribunals in 10 provinces across the country, has courtrooms, a litigation service center, a technical investigation department, and a coordination office. People will be able to enjoy better legal services in the new IP court. Wang Chuang, deputy chief judge of the IP Court, said they will be able to read case-related materials on the court's online platforms. The establishment of the IP Court implements a resolution on IP appeal procedures that was adopted at a bimonthly session of the country's top legislature, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, in October. ^ top ^

China adopts revised civil servant law to facilitate civil service reform (Xinhua)
China's top legislature on Saturday voted to adopt the revised civil servant law as part of the country's efforts to promote its civil service reform. Lawmakers approved the revision at the end of a week-long bimonthly session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee. The civil servants' reward and punishment systems have been improved in the new law, an official with the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee has said. The new law states that civil servants who perform well in certain circumstances should be rewarded and those who fail in their performance appraisals could face demotion. Supervision over civil servants has been reinforced in the revision, according to the official. The revised law states that a civil servants' failure to fulfill their obligations and duties will be a violation of disciplines. Civil servants must not work as leaders of industry regulators or administrative departments in charge of supervising businesses run by their own spouses, children or spouses of their children, according to the new law. The law also improved the regulations regarding civil servants' positions and ranks as well as civil servant recruiting. The revision of the civil servant law, which first took effect in 2006, was launched in March 2017. Nearly 30,000 people posted more than 56,000 opinions concerning the draft revision of the civil servant law during a previous public opinion collection on the website of the NPC Standing Committee, the official said. The revised law will come into effect on June 1, 2019, as the institutional reform in local governments across the country will be generally wrapped up at the end of March 2019. ^ top ^

Chinese Muslim poet Cui Haoxin fears his people will suffer as history repeats itself in wave of religious repression (SCMP)
Poet and religious rights campaigner Cui Haoxin is too young to remember the days of his people's oppression under Mao Zedong. The 39-year-old was born after the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76, when the Hui – China's second-largest Muslim ethnic group – were tormented by the Red Guard. Since then, the Hui generally have been supportive of the government and mostly spared the kind of persecution endured by China's largest Muslim group, the Uygurs. But there are signs that that is changing, and Cui fears both that history may be repeating itself and for his own safety as he tries to hold the Communist Party accountable. In August, town officials in the Hui region of Ningxia issued a demolition order for the newly built Grand Mosque in Weizhou, although they backed off in the face of protests. More recently, authorities in nearby Gansu province ordered the closure of a school that taught Arabic, the language of the Koran and other Islamic texts. The school had employed and served mainly Hui since 1984. A Communist Party official from Ningxia visited Xinjiang, the centre of Uygur oppression, to "study and investigate how Xinjiang fights terrorism and legally manages religious affairs". China under President Xi Jinping is clamping down on minorities and tightening control over religious and political activity. In some places, a campaign to "Sinicise" religion has prompted authorities to seize Bibles, remove the halal designation from food products, flatten churches and strip mosques of loudspeakers, crescents and domes. Cui spoke out against government intrusions and he is worried that violence lies ahead. "One has dignity. For a person, it is his or her bottom line," he said. "If the persecution is too unbearable, if something happens, there could be a disaster." Cui is one of the few Chinese citizens to criticise the party openly. For that, he has suffered censorship, detention, and "home visits" by police. At his home in Jinan, a city in China's eastern Shandong province where Cui's family traces its roots back five centuries, police arrived earlier this year with a demand that he stop criticising the government online. Cui posts attacks on Beijing's policies related to Muslims in China and abroad, such as the government's support of Myanmar despite widespread criticism of its treatment of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority. A few months later, on November 27, police took Cui to the local public security bureau for hours of questioning. A recent Human Rights Watch report said that China started "targeting Twitter users in China as part of a nationwide crackdown on social media" in November. Cui refused to stop or delete his tweets. The 10 million Hui living in China generally speak Mandarin – Cui is a former teacher of the standard Chinese dialect – and follow many Chinese cultural practices. They enjoyed relative freedom of worship compared to the Uygur, some of whom call the Hui "tawuz" which means watermelon in the Uygur Turkic language. "Green or Islamic on the outside, and red or communist on the inside," wrote University of Toronto professor Isabelle Cote in a study on Uygur attacks on Hui in Xinjiang from 2009 to 2013. Further back, Hui served Chinese emperors as shock troops, repressing Uygur rebellions. While the Hui face prejudice from the Han Chinese majority, they are proud to be Chinese and have a "positive outlook for the future", said David Stroup, a University of Oklahoma professor who met Hui across China in 2016. Many saw an opportunity in China's "Belt and Road Initiative", a US$1 trillion trade and infrastructure initiative that runs across several Muslim-majority nations in central Asia and Africa, he said. They aspired to become middlemen on a revived Silk Road linking China with Islamic nations. "It was going to be an opportunity for the Hui to play an important role as ambassadors to the Islamic world," Stroup said. It came as a shock, he said, when new regulations targeted the practices of Hui alongside those of other religious groups this year. Tension bubbled in August in Weizhou, where the town's pride and joy is a mosque with four minarets and nine domes tipped with crescent moons that dwarfs a warren of brick and concrete homes. Government officials issued a demolition order for the Grand Mosque, alleging it had been "illegally expanded" and adding that 1.07 million yuan (US$155,000) from foreign sources was received by four mosques – financing that would be illegal under Chinese law. Hundreds of Hui flocked to the mosque's courtyard to protest. The mosque remained unscathed, even if it was draped in a banner reading in Chinese: "Stick to directives of Sinicised religion". Weeks later, a senior Communist propaganda official in Ningxia blamed the incident on "an oversimplified administrative decision" by local authorities. "It originally should not have happened," said Bai Shangcheng, director general of the regional Communist Party department that oversees religious groups. Dissent simmered quietly in the Hui community after the mosque incident, according to Cui, who circumvented China's internet censorship to tweet about the protest and send video to a Turkish television station. In November, the Communist Party-run Global Times reported that Ningxia had signed an anti-terrorism cooperation agreement with Xinjiang during a visit by Ningxia Communist Party chief Zhang Yunsheng. There is a vast security apparatus in Xinjiang, with checkpoints and surveillance cameras. By some estimates, more than a million Uygur and Kazakhs have been detained in internment camps in what was purportedly a crackdown on extremism. Two former camp detainees said that some Hui were swept up in the clampdown. The order to close the Gansu Arabic language school came this month, Global Times reported. An unnamed expert in Beijing told the newspaper that teaching Arabic sometimes aroused public concern if it crossed into preaching. The article quoted China's education law: "The State separates education from religion." Sixty years ago, Communist Party cadres descended on the Hui city of Linxia to excise "superstitions" in the city in a "struggle against the privileges of feudalism and religion", according to a 2016 book by Matthew Erie, an Oxford University professor of modern China studies. Red Guards lit bonfires with wood from demolished mosques and tombs, Erie wrote in China and Islam: The Prophet, the Party, and Law. They forced Muslims to wear signs reading "enemies of the state". Cui fears the current crackdown on religion will take China back to those days of blood. At a teahouse in Jinan, as steam from his jasmine tea mixes with the scent from a tray of sweets, he recites from his poem Letter from Prison. "It seems like I can see the bulldozer running wild in the Thousand and One Nights. The angel upon my shoulder urges me: 'Tell the truth under the grey sky'." ^ top ^

China to reduce poor population by 10 mln in 2019 (Xinhua)
Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua said Friday that efforts shall be made to lift another 10 million rural residents out of poverty in 2019 as it is a critical year in winning the battle against poverty. Hu, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and head of the State Council Leading Group of Poverty Alleviation and Development, made the remarks at a national poverty reduction and development conference. Hu called for implementing the spirit of the Central Economic Work Conference, carrying out targeted poverty alleviation and improving the alleviation work quality and efficiency to ensure the alleviation target is met. He said the planning and construction of new homes for relocated poverty-stricken residents in the 13th Five-Year Plan Period (2016-2020) should be finished in 2019. Hu ordered integrating poverty alleviation with the countryside rejuvenation strategy to boost the self-development ability of the poverty-stricken population to prevent them from returning to poverty after being lifted out it. He also called for further promoting the booming east to help reduce poverty in certain places in the west and mobilizing social forces to join in the poverty alleviation campaign. Over 10 million people in the countryside are estimated to be lifted out of poverty this year, with 2.8 million relocated. Over the past six years, over 80 million rural population have been lifted out of poverty, said Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development. ^ top ^

China's Internet watchdog removes 3,469 mobile apps over law violations (Xinhua)
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said on Friday it has removed 3,469 mobile applications for spreading vulgar content and engaging in other illegal acts, in a series of operations recently aimed to clean up the Internet. In a statement posted on its website, CAC blamed the apps for causing chaos on the Internet. Some of the apps were accused of spreading pornographic content in exchange for money, while some were found guilty of advocating violence. Some apps, while branding themselves as educational apps, tried to defraud users and obtain personal information without approval, said the statement. These apps' illegal acts constituted "peddling spiritual heroin," and have "polluted the cyberspace, harmed teenagers' sound growth and caused adverse social impact and must be dealt with in accordance with the law," it added. The CAC also said it has called in 28 app store operators, social platforms and cloud service providers to serve a warning for failing to curb the spread of such apps and urged them to improve their management. Vowing to adopt a "zero-tolerance" policy to guard against the spread of such apps, the CAC noted it will strengthen the management of mobile apps on a regular basis and welcome tip-offs from Internet users. CAC said the number of mobile apps provided by domestic app stores has exceeded 4.8 million. ^ top ^



Border soldiers reorganize into frontier police in Xinjiang (Global Times)
Border soldiers and officers in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have become members of the frontier police assigned to entry-and-exit check stations, which allows them to continuously contribute to the region's stability. These soldiers, who used to belong to the Xinjiang Public Security Frontier Corps, took the oath to become police officers of the region's general exit-and-entry frontier inspection station on Tuesday, the China News Service reported on Wednesday. The change is part of a reform announced by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in March 2018, which stipulates the demobilization of the border police, the fire brigade and the police guards from the Armed Police Forces. "I volunteer to be the people's police of China. I would like to dedicate myself to the noble cause of people's public security, be firmly faithful to the Party and serve the people…" soldiers solemnly swore to the police badge. The station has long been committed to safeguarding Xinjiang's social stability, the peace of the country's northwestern border; has overcome many obstacles and won many battles, said Mou Zongyi, a vice director of the Public Security Department of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region at the ceremony. Mou said that the station has built an indestructible iron wall to protect the border, and made an indelible contribution to the region and even to the whole nation's stability. He also asked all police officers of the station to help speed up the management and transformation of border control. Shen Junqi, a police officer from the station, said he will inherit the force's glorious traditions and carry forward the mission of the people's police. The station has 16 exit-and-entry checkpoints and 10 border control groups under its jurisdiction. It also keeps the safety of the more than 5,700 kilometers long border line. ^ top ^



Beijing liaison office lunch for lawmakers likely to be on the premises, which could keep pan-democrats away (SCMP)
The central government's liaison office is likely to host a lunch for lawmakers next month at its premises in Sai Ying Pun, a sensitive venue in the eyes of pan-democrats, who said the choice would further hinder their attendance. Two senior sources in the pro-establishment camp told the Post that the lunch was expected to take place at the liaison office, saying it was a matter of respect. Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen on Wednesday said the liaison office head Wang Zhimin had invited all lawmakers to lunch on February 19 – Chinese Valentine's Day. Noting that some pan-democrats were wary of entering the office, Leung said he had relayed their views to the liaison office but the choice of location remained in the hands of the host. Lawmakers Martin Liao Cheung-kong, convenor of the pro-establishment camp, and Gary Chan Hak-kan, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, told the Post on Thursday that the lunch was expected to take place at the liaison office. "Asking people to visit one's home is paying the greatest respect to Chinese guests, is it not?" Chan said. "We invited Director Wang for lunch to the Legislative Council, not to a restaurant in Admiralty." "A guest should be at the convenience of the host. It is inappropriate for the guest to be picky about the location," he continued. "The pan-democrats claimed they wanted to enhance communication [with the Beijing office], but they just give up the chance when it comes." After taking office in September 2017, Wang visited Legco last April for the first time and mentioned inviting lawmakers to tour his office. Claudia Mo Man-ching, convenor of the pro-democracy camp, said she was notified by Leung about the invitation on Christmas Eve, saying she was told that the venue was yet to be confirmed. "If the lunch is really held at the liaison office, then I think most pan-democrats would not go," she said. "The liaison offices premises is an enclosed structure, unlike Legco, which has a demonstration area." "If we set foot on the premises, it is as if we have endorsed the role of the liaison office in the city," Mo said, pointing out that the liaison office had generated a worrying perception of interference in local affairs by lobbying lawmakers for the administration and coordinating the pro-Beijing camp's strategy in elections. Even before learning of the location of the lunch, lawmakers with a more radical stance like Neo-Democrats legislator Gary Fan Kwok-wai had already rejected the invitation saying "there are more important things to do". The moderate pan-democrat Kenneth Leung, representing the accountancy sector, refrained from shutting the door but voiced his reservations. "The location of the liaison office is rather sensitive," he said. "It would be much better if it were an open and transparent venue with media free to cover for the whole process." The Democratic Party leader Wu Chi-wai on Thursday said the party had no interest in attending such a "social event". "I don't think such casual chit-chat can solve any problems in Hong Kong," he said. Stepping into the liaison office in Western District is always a sensitive issue for pan-democrats with many remembering the last time they visited the office. In 2010, the Democratic Party went to the office to discuss electoral reform. They achieved a breakthrough when Beijing adopted their recommendation of setting up five more directly elected seats – the so-called super seats. But they were viewed as turncoats by rivals on their own bloc, who said the trade was done in a "black-box", or opaque, manner. In 2014, Zhang Xiaoming, then director of the liaison office, also invited all lawmakers for lunch at the office after visiting Legco. But that failed to happen as all pan-democrats turned down the invitation. However, pro-Beijinger Wong Kwok-kin believed most pan-democrats would not attend even the lunch were relocated elsewhere. "They are mainly concerned about the reception by their supporters. No one dares take the risk," Wong said. "If they seemed receptive to the invitation, I believe the liaison office would be happy to arrange a venue away from the premises." ^ top ^

Two gay men mount first legal challenges to Hong Kong laws banning same-sex marriage, with court giving their applications green light to proceed (SCMP)
Two Hong Kong gay men have launched the first legal bids challenging the city for not allowing them to get married, it was revealed during a court hearing on Thursday. The two separate legal challenges were mounted by a 21-year-old University Hong Kong student, known as TF, and a 31-year-old activist, known as STK, who argued in the High Court that the lack of options for same-sex couples to get married violated their right to equality under the city's Bill of Rights and mini-constitution, the Basic Law. Hong Kong does not recognise or permit marriage between two people of the same sex, an issue that has sparked numerous court challenges in recent years. But while there have been legal challenges relating to spousal visas, taxation and the lack of civil partnerships, it is the first time the issue at the core of the minority rights movement – whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry – has come before Hong Kong's courts. A victory for the applicants would be the most progressive development for LGBT rights in the city. But on the other hand, some LGBT activists and legal experts fear that if the challenges are unsuccessful then potential advancements in smaller increments will be shut off. One human rights lawyer, who preferred not to be named, said it was important to lay a foundation before bringing such a big case. "Launching that case prematurely without laying a proper foundation could be disastrous as under our system of law, an adverse precedent could take many years to overcome and end up delaying change for decades," he said. Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, the city's only openly gay legislator, said he was aware of such a dilemma, but respected the legal bids, saying different people in the LGBT community would want to fight for their rights to various extents. The two judicial reviews were lodged last year. But because the court documents were not made available due to their sensitive nature, the legal challenges only came to light during a preliminary hearing at the High Court on Thursday. Barrister Hectar Pun Hei SC, for the two applicants, said the Marriage Ordinance and Matrimonial Causes Ordinance were "inconsistent" with the city's human rights laws because they only allowed "voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others". That violated the Basic Law and Bill of Rights, which required people to be treated equally, he said. Instead, Pun urged the court to reinterpret the definition of marriage in the ordinances as a "voluntary union for life of two persons". "By reformulating the relevant statute … [my client STK] can get married immediately," he said. He also said STK, who had already married his partner in New York, took issue with his foreign marital status not being recognised in Hong Kong. He urged the court to address that. Mr Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming gave both applications the green light to be heard, but suspended them to first deal with a similar case. He intended to first hear another case involving a 29-year-old lesbian, known as MK, who was seeking a civil union partnership system in Hong Kong. MK's case, he said, would cover the principle issues found in the applications lodged by the pair. Chan said he and other activists had discussed the issue of litigants, and believed that if there were more applicants in a challenge, there would be more people of different backgrounds involved and more support. He said these were usually cases that would reach the highest court, so a higher number of applicants could prevent the problem from dropping away. Kelley Loper, director of the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Comparative and Public Law, said there were strong arguments for same-sex marriage based on the constitutional right to equality and non-discrimination in the Basic Law and Bill of Rights. "Courts in many other common law jurisdictions have granted rights to same-sex marriage or civil unions based on similar arguments. And Hong Kong frequently finds human rights judgments from these countries very persuasive," she said. Hong Kong could become part of the global trend towards judicial recognition of same-sex marriage, she added. The present legal bids join a list of other high-profile cases which have come before the court in recent years. In the top court in July last year, QT, a British citizen, successfully challenged the city's policy of not granting same-sex partners spousal visas. There is also an ongoing legal bid by gay senior immigration officer, Angus Leung Chun-kwong, who is trying to overturn an appeal court ruling against his requests for his husband to receive civil service spousal benefits offered to heterosexual colleagues, as well as having his tax assessed jointly. In November last year, a gay man named Nick Infinger also lodged a judicial review against the Housing Authority for denying him a public housing flat just because he was married to another man. ^ top ^



Lessons learned on sovereign power in Hong Kong crucial as Beijing shapes 'one country two systems' for Taiwan, expert says (SCMP)
Lessons learned from the implementation of the "one country, two systems" formula in Hong Kong will be of great value to Beijing as it seeks to woo Taiwan into accepting the model for reunification with the mainland, a legal expert said. Issues such as school textbooks and the right of final adjudication should be clearly defined as matters of sovereign power of the central government if a Basic Law is to be adopted for Taiwan, said Tian Feilong, associate professor of Beijing's Beihang University and executive director of the university law school's One Country Two Systems Legal Studies Centre. Tian was commenting on a speech made by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday in which he urged Taiwan to reunite with the mainland under the one country, two systems model that has been implemented and tested in Hong Kong. Xi was speaking at a meeting to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the end of military confrontation across the Taiwan Strait. Tian said that if there was a Basic Law for Taiwan, it should clearly define the sovereign rights of the state and the "self-governance" rights of Taiwan. "There will have to be a catalogue [to define] what are the sovereign rights of the State [which should include] the right of final adjudication [on legal matters] … as well as the power to lay down the general directions of education policies," he said. "For instance, school textbooks can be under the purview of Taiwan but the content may have to be subject to vetting by the central government," he said. "The textbooks must carry messages that lean towards recognising [the sovereign rights] of the state but with the details negotiable." Tian said the Basic Law of Taiwan would also have to spell out that the central government had the power of effective oversight over the island. His comments reflected a growing wariness among Beijing leaders over the promotion of national education in Hong Kong and the rise of pro-independence voices in the territory in recent years. Professor Yu Xintian, president of the Shanghai Institute for Taiwan Studies and one of the more than 20 experts on Taiwan affairs who attended Wednesday's meeting, said Beijing solicited their views before Xi delivered his speech. "The Taiwan model of one country, two systems that general secretary Xi proposed in the meeting is obviously different from that in Hong Kong. However, the two sides will have to sit down and discuss how different it would be," Yu said. "When [China's former paramount leader] Deng Xiaoping talked about reunification [with Chinese-American scholar Winston Yang in 1983], he went as far as to say the name of the nation and the national flag could be changed," she said. Li Peng, head of Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University said negotiations would decide how the one country, two systems model would be applied to Taiwan. "It will have to take the experience of Hong Kong into account. However, there will definitely be more room [for Taiwan] in designing the model," he said. "As long as the prerequisites such as national sovereignty, security and national interests are guaranteed, everything is possible and everything is negotiable," Li said. However, Wang Kung-yi, a professor of political science at Chinese Culture University in Taipei, said Beijing's promises would be unlikely to impress Taipei, especially after what had happened in Hong Kong and Macau. "Although Xi called for negotiation of a one country, two systems formula to suit Taiwan, most people here are still concerned whether Beijing would abide by its words and refrain from gradually retracting its promise of autonomy as it has done in Hong Kong and Macau," he said. Until Beijing implemented democratic reforms, the Taiwanese people would have no confidence that the Communist Party would agree to a federation, confederation or an even looser European type of union system, which would be more acceptable to them, Wang said. On Wednesday, Taiwan's pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen rejected Xi's proposal of one country, two systems saying the majority opinion in the island was against it. ^ top ^

Taiwan's Tsai Ing-wen urged to stand aside by hardline pro-independence faction (SCMP)
Taiwan's hard core pro-independence camp has warned the self-ruled island is facing an "imminent crisis" and called on President Tsai Ing-wen to drop her ambitions for a second term and take a back seat role for the rest of her government's time in office. Four senior figures from the hardline faction of Tsai's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) endorsed an open letter, published on Thursday in several local newspapers, which warned of a party split if she insisted on standing again. The four signatories – Peng Ming-mun, Wu Li-pei, Lee Yuan-tseh and Kao Chun-ming – are veteran pro-independence activists whose faction within the DPP has long shown its displeasure with Tsai for her relatively soft position on independence. The incendiary letter was published a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping said it was time for Beijing and Taipei to start talks on unification and the adoption of "one country, two systems" in Taiwan, a stance which was roundly rejected by Tsai. In what analysts said was clear evidence the two leaders were now playing a zero-sum game, Tsai said Taiwan would not accept the "one country, two systems" model and that it was opposed by majority opinion. She also said no individuals or parties could represent the government in talks with the mainland. The open letter called the current situation extremely severe and difficult for the DPP, due to its crushing defeat in the November local elections, in which the party lost 2 million votes and seven of the 13 cities and counties it used to control, including Kaohsiung, its stronghold in southern Taiwan. The Kuomintang (KMT) victory in the local elections was equivalent to Taiwan opening up to the mainland, as the heads of local governments from north to south were now from the mainland-friendly KMT, the letter said. It said if Tsai insisted in running, not only she would face a bitter defeat, but the party would split because other, more qualified, party members – who no longer have trust and confidence in Tsai – would challenge her in next year's elections. The hard core camp would have no option but to support those people, the letter continued. "Our appeals are very clear: First, President Tsai must give up her ambition to seek a second term and announce that she would only serve one term. "Second, the president must hand over her executive power and retreat to the backstage to allow the premier to assume his duty of forming his own cabinet in line with the constitution." Presidential spokesman Alex Huang said the most serious thing to do at this time was to safeguard Taiwan's sovereignty, rather than discussing next year's elections. "No one can decide who to run and who shouldn't run. It's the democratic mechanism which has the last say," he said. In Beijing, Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, lashed out at Tsai for rejecting Xi's calls for unification. "What Tsai said is a naked announcement of the separatist's state-to-state theory, which not only goes against the wishes of the people of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, but also intensifies the confrontation between the two sides and sabotages cross-strait peaceful development," he said. Ma said Tsai must self-reflect after the DPP's crushing defeat instead of continuing to promote a confrontational policy towards the mainland. "One country, two systems …. is the best solution for cross-strait unification issue," he said. Taiwan and the mainland have been divided since Kuomintang, or Chinese Nationalist, ­forces were defeated by the Communists and retreated to the island in 1949, at the end of China's civil war. In the 70 years since, relations across the strait have been tense, with the threat of military ­confrontation ever present. ^ top ^

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen tells Beijing it 'must' respect island's sovereignty, people's choices (SCMP)
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen used her New Year's Day speech to give Beijing a lesson in handling cross-strait relations, while promising to protect the self-ruled island's sovereignty and its people's livelihoods. The message came just a day before Chinese President Xi Jinping is set give a speech to mark the 40th anniversary of a key policy statement, known as the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan", that eventually led to a thaw in relations with Taiwan. Tsai said on Tuesday that Taipei would not give any ground on sovereignty despite her ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffering a landslide defeat in the local government elections in November, when the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) won control of 15 of 22 cities and counties – including the former DPP stronghold of Kaohsiung. Some observers said at the time that the poll result reflected public support for the KMT's more Beijing-friendly policies. "I admit that the … local elections were the most serious critique of the ruling authority, but I must stress that the results did not suggest the general public was choosing to give up our sovereignty, nor did they reflect a desire among the Taiwanese people to make concessions on this issue," she said. Beijing must appreciate that the "Republic of China, Taiwan" had existed for a long time and it must respect the choice of Taiwan's 23 million people to live in freedom and a democratic system, Tsai said. It must also seek to resolve cross-strait differences through peaceful discussions and must hold government-to-government talks with Taipei through their authorised agencies, she said. "Only with these 'four musts' can we determine whether cross-strait relations will head in a normal direction," Tsai said. Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province awaiting reunification with the mainland, by force if necessary. It suspended official exchanges with Taipei after Tsai was elected president in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle, an understanding that Beijing says is the foundation of any exchanges between the two sides. Tsai said the island would face challenges from all sides this year, and cross-strait ties would be an important area of development. "We never oppose normal exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, nor do we oppose city-to-city exchanges, but such exchanges should be healthy, normal and without political preconditions," she said, referring to the expected increase in links between KMT-controlled centres and mainland cities. Newly elected KMT mayors are pushing to increase economic and tourist exchanges with mainland cities, even if it means supporting the one-China principle, the consensus that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are "one family". As well as her guidelines on how she expected the mainland to behave, Tsai said her own administration needed to build "three shields": to protect the livelihoods of the Taiwanese people, guard against Beijing's information warfare, including disinformation, and strengthen oversight and regulatory mechanisms for cross-strait interactions on issues that could compromise the island's sovereignty. Beijing should not seek to force any issues of a political nature on Taiwan and that "political dialogue between the two sides that involves the participation of Taiwan's people should be conducted under the government's supervision", she said. If the two sides could not come together on issues like food safety or African swine fever prevention, "how could they possibly be one family?" she asked. Beijing has refused to work with Taipei to stop the spread of the deadly disease, which has killed millions of pigs on the mainland and threatened to wreak similar havoc in Taiwan. As a result, the island has banned all pork and pork-related products from the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau. Lai I-chung, a former vice-president of Taiwan Thinktank, said the red lines announced by Tsai applied not only to the mainland but also Beijing-leaning politicians in Taiwan. "Beijing has its red lines and … the president has spelt out hers," he said. Arthur Wang, secretary general of Cross-Strait Policy Association, agreed that the "four musts" and "three shields" were intended as a clear warning to all parties that Taiwan would never give up its sovereignty. "They are telling the heads of KMT-controlled local governments that their future city-to-city talks with their mainland counterparts must still be under scrutiny of the Tsai government," he said. Alexander Huang Chih-cheng, an associate professor at Tamkang University's department of diplomacy and international relations, said Tsai's message was well timed. "Her message was meant for Beijing ahead of Xi's talks, and she used the term 'Republic of China, Taiwan' for the first time in her comments about cross-strait relations," he said. "It remains to be seen how Xi will respond." ^ top ^



Full speed ahead for China's high-speed rail network in 2019 in bid to boost slowing economy (SCMP)
China plans to expand its high-speed rail network by 3,200km in 2019, which is more than is currently being operated in either Spain, Japan, Germany or France, in a bid to aid a slowing economy locked in the trade war with the United States. The China Railway Corporation, the state-owned agency in charge of railway construction, plans to put a total of 6,800km of new track into service in 2019 as Beijing again relies on infrastructure investment to arrest an economic slowdown, according to a government plan released this week. Spain, which has the world's second biggest high-speed rail network after China, only has a total of around 3,100km of track in operation, followed by Japan, Germany and France. China's spending spree on railway infrastructure, which started in the aftermath of the global financial crisis a decade ago, means Beijing is well ahead of its schedule to build a total of 30,000km of high-speed railway lines by 2020. At the end of 2018, China had over 29,000km of 250km/h (155mph) high-speed railway lines, two thirds of the world's total, having added 4,100km in 2018 as part of a 4,683km overall expansion project last year. As China is completing its strategic goal of building a nationwide high-speed rail network after a decade of construction, which has greatly reduced travel time between major Chinese cities, the railway authority is now looking at new lines that extend deep into the country's remote corners. These include a second railway from Sichuan to Tibet – a line that is strategically important but also has to cross some of the deepest valleys in the world along the route. China Railway said a feasibility study of the 1,700km line winding through the "roof of the world", with a budget of 250 billion yuan (US$36.42 billion), is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter before before a possible start to construction in the third quarter. The project is not included in the 6,800km total for 2019. Beijing's determination to invest in railway infrastructure came after the country's fixed asset investment, a major growth engine, slowed to a decade-low of 5.9 per cent in the first 11 months of 2018. Infrastructure construction, including roads and railways, surprisingly slowed to 3.7 per cent from January to November from 20.1 per cent a year earlier. The slowdown in investment helped to drag down China's overall economic growth with the world's second biggest economy facing headwinds from the trade war with the United States. Iris Pang, chief Greater China economist of ING Bank, said Beijing needs to start making preparations because no one knows for sure what next direction the trade war will take next. The 90-day trade truce with the United States will end on March 2, right ahead of China's Two Sessions meeting, during which Premier Li Keqiang will announce the 2019 gross domestic product growth target, fiscal deficit ratio and probably the money supply goal. China's first quarter growth for 2019 is widely believed to be a test to Beijing's policymakers because substantial damages from current US tariffs will be felt, with some predicting it will drop below the psychologically important threshold of 6 per cent in the first half of the year. "One of the defensive measures would be to push up railway investment when the national economy slowed to certain point, such as below 6 per cent," said Pang. At their annual work conference on Wednesday, general manager Lu Dongfu said China Railway "will maintain the intensify" of spending. While the specific spending target was not disclosed, China's total investment in its rail network could easily hit a record high in 2019. Railway construction is often used as a countercyclical tool, with investment plans adjusted according to government needs. For instance, Beijing had originally planned to cut 2018 railway investment to 732 billion yuan (US$106.63 billion) from 801 billion yuan in 2017, but instead opted to raise spending after the first round of US tariffs were imposed on Chinese exports, eventually spending 802.8 billion yuan last year. "The infrastructure investment could be stabilised at the current level, but it won't reach the high growth like [seen a decade earlier]," added Pang. China's railway fixed-asset investment jumped 61.5 per cent to 416.8 billion yuan in 2008, when the country started the construction of its high-speed rail network, government data showed. Investment rose another 69.1 per cent to 701.3 billion yuan in 2009, as the authority stepped up domestic construction to offset the global financial crisis. ^ top ^



Donald Trump says he received a 'great' letter from North Korea's Kim Jong-un, and will probably meet him again (SCMP)
US President Donald Trump said Wednesday he had received a "great letter" from Kim Jong-un, after the North Korean leader warned Pyongyang might change its approach to nuclear talks if Washington persists with sanctions. "I just got a great letter from Kim Jong-un," Trump told a cabinet meeting, reiterating that he still expected to hold a second summit with the North Korean leader, after the pair signed a pledge on denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula in Singapore last June. "We really established a very good relationship," Trump said. "We'll probably have another meeting." Trump has cast his first summit with Kim as a major diplomatic victory, and on Wednesday repeated his claim that there would have been a "big fat war in Asia" had they not sat down to talk. But progress has stalled since the Singapore summit, with the two sides disagreeing over the meaning of their vaguely worded declaration, and the pace of US-North Korean negotiations has slowed, with meetings and visits cancelled on short notice. Speculation about a second Trump-Kim summit has meanwhile ebbed and flowed, with the US president saying that he hoped it would take place early this year. In a tweet on Tuesday, Trump said he would "look forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realises so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!" The North is demanding relief from multiple sanctions imposed over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, and has condemned US insistence on its nuclear disarmament as "gangster-like". In his New Year speech Kim called for the sanctions to be eased, saying that the North had declared "we would neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them," and urged the US to take "corresponding practical actions." Culminating in late 2017, the North has carried out six atomic blasts and launched rockets capable of reaching the entire US mainland, but has now carried out no such tests for more than a year. ^ top ^

China encourages DPRK, U.S. to work for denuclearization of Korean Peninsula (Xinhua)
China said on Wednesday it hoped that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States would respect and accommodate each other's reasonable concerns to achieve progress in the denuclearization of and establishing a peace mechanism on the Korean Peninsula in the new year. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang made the comments at a routine press conference when responding to a reporter's question on the New Year's speech by top leader of the DPRK Kim Jong Un. Kim said Tuesday that he would push forward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and was ready to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump at any time. "We hope the DPRK and the U.S. will respect and accommodate each other's reasonable concerns, and make positive progress in advancing the denuclearization of and establishing a peace mechanism on the Korean Peninsula in the new year," Lu said. "China will continue to play its role in this regard." China encourages and supports further talks between the DPRK and the U.S. and hopes for positive results, Lu said. He said that important and positive changes took place in the situation on the Korean Peninsula, peninsula issue was back to the track of dialogue and negotiation, and relations between the DPRK and the Republic of Korea (ROK) witnessed all-round improvement over the past year. "China recognizes the measures taken by the DPRK for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, supports DPRK's stance to further stick to denuclearization and peace talks," Lu said. "China supports the DPRK and the U.S. as well as the DPRK and the ROK in continuing their good interaction and showing goodwill, consolidating mutual trust and improving relations, so as to advance the denuclearization and political settlement of the peninsula issue." On Dec. 30 last year, Kim sent a letter to ROK President Moon Jae-in, showing his willingness to visit Seoul. ^ top ^

Kim Jong-un New Year speech: 'no choice but to consider a new path if US doesn't keep its promises' (SCMP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has renewed a pledge to denuclearise the Korean peninsula despite stalled negotiations with the US, but warned he could just as quickly resume his nuclear weapons programme if sanctions are not lifted. "It is my firm willingness to achieve a permanent peace regime and the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula", Kim said in his New Year's Day speech on Tuesday. Speaking from an armchair in a stately office, the young leader warned that the North may also be forced to find a "new path" towards peace and denuclearisation should the United States fail to carry out its end of the agreement. "If the US does not keep its promise made in front of the whole world," Kim said, "we may be Left with no choice but to consider a new way to safeguard our sovereignty and interests." Following a rapid diplomatic rapprochement that began with the North's participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the South, Kim and US President Donald Trump signed an agreement to work towards the "denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula" in Singapore last June. But the two countries still disagree over what the Singapore pact actually means, causing follow-up negotiations to stall. Among the issues hampering denuclearisation negotiations is Washington's request for the North to declare its nuclear and missile facilities. "The North evidently believe that providing such a declaration would essentially be providing the US with a target list should negotiations fail," Robert S. Litwak at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars wrote on 38 North website. North Korea has a nuclear arsenal which could expand to almost half the size of the United Kingdom by 2020, Litwak said. "A near-term full rollback of the North's nuclear and missile capabilities is not a realistic possibility", he said. North Korea has said it has shown sincerity in holding up its side of the Singapore denuclearisation pact by closing its nuclear weapons test site, beginning to dismantle its Sohae long-range missile engine test stand and launch platform, and showing a willingness to take down facilities in Yongbyon should the US take corresponding steps. But it has accused the US of being "gangster-like" in its sanctions approach. Washington, meanwhile, has said it will maintain sanctions until the "final, fully verified denuclearisation" of the North. In Tuesday's speech, however, Kim said he was willing to meet Trump again "at any time", reflecting the US president's comments that he too wants a second summit with the North's leader this year. "While strongly calling for sanctions relief, Kim Jong-un was putting emphasis on resolving the nuclear issue through peaceful dialogue," said Professor Kim Yong-hyun, from Dongguk Univesity in South Korea. "By saying it like this, Kim has sent the ball to Trump's court." Professor Kim Yong-hyun said another salient point in Kim Jong-un's address was his acknowledgement of the inter-Korean agreement preventing accidental armed clashes and easing military tensions – a pact signed with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in September. The North's leader described the agreement as a "non-aggression pact in effect", and stressed the need for both Koreas to end cold war rivalries and move towards a peaceful coexistence. South Korea's Unification Ministry and President Moon's spokesman Kimk Eui-gyeom welcomed Kim's New Year comments. Kimk said Kim's comments were a "firm commitment" to improving inter-Korean relations and developing US ties, and may lead to a "peaceful settlement of the Korean peninsula issue this year". However, breaking the negotiations deadlock may prove more difficult than a single speech. Professor Yang Moo-jin, from the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the US strategy of "maximum pressure" and sanctions may only deepen the North's suspicion about Trump's intention to hold his side of the Singapore agreement. In a move that may help to get the ball rolling, Stephen Biegun, the US Special Representative for North Korea, said last month that Washington was willing to discuss trust-building initiatives with Pyongyang. He suggested the US may ease a travel ban for Americans heading to the North for humanitarian reasons. ^ top ^



BoM purchases 22 tons of gold (Montsame)
As of December 31, 2018 the Bank of Mongolia (BoM) purchased a total of 22 tons of gold. Compared with the same period of the previous year, the amount of purchased gold increased by 9.5 percent. The 'National Gold to the Fund of Treasures' campaign, which successfully ran nationwide between June 4 and October 30, 2018, made a positive contribution to the gold purchase. It is also considered that the newly established precious metal assay laboratories in Darkhan-Uul and Bayankhongor aimags are giving results. ^ top ^

Diplomatic titles awarded by President (Montsame)
President of Mongolia Khaltmaagiin Battulga issued a decree and presented titles to diplomats in recognition of their commitment to the international relations sphere and solid contribution to the pursuit of the foreign policy priorities of Mongolia. The diplomatic title "Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary" was presented to Galbadrakh Lodoidamba, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to Laos, and Tsogtbaatar Damdin, Member of Parliament and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Moreover, the diplomatic title "Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary" was awarded to Chuluunkhuu Batlai, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to Australia, and Sukhbold Sukhee, Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the United Nations. The diplomatic titles were yesterday presented by President of Mongolia Khaltmaagiin Battulga. During the ceremony, the President gave remarks, congratulating the awardees on their accomplishments. ^ 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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