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SCHWEIZER BOTSCHAFT IN BEIJING
EMBASSY OF SWITZERLAND IN BEIJING
AMBASSADE DE SUISSE EN CHINE

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
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  18.-22.3.19, No. 760  
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DPRK

Mongolia

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Switzerland

Swiss Alps postcards urge move for climate (China Daily)
2019-03-22
Nearly 900 postcards from youths all over the world were stamped and mailed on Wednesday from Europe's highest mailbox on the Jungfraujoch peak, Switzerland, to global leaders, calling for action against climate change. Last November, a gigantic postcard breaking the Guinness Worlds Records was staged just under the 3,466-meter-high Jungfraujoch to raise awareness worldwide of the emergency and necessity to fight climate change. That huge postcard was composed of 125,000 small cards, each with drawings, messages and wishes of fighting climate change from children and youngsters from 35 countries worldwide, mostly developing countries, according to the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, or SDC, the event's organizer. At the center of the postcard was a huge slogan that read "STOP GLOBAL WARMING #1.5 C" to signify the goal of limiting global warming to a maximum of 1.5 C, a target recently set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It shows that under certain conditions, it's still possible to keep the impacts of climate change at a tolerable level. Copies of a special postcard, made of images of the record-breaking one, were later brought to the UN Climate Conference, or COP24, in Poland in December, to collect handwritten anti-climate-change messages by world's youth representatives there. On Wednesday, about 900 of those postcards, some also carrying e-mail messages by youths from around the world, were stamped and sent from Europe's highest mailbox to heads of government, business leaders, and heads of international organizations in 11 countries, urging for immediate policies and action against climate change. According to SDC's Daniel Maselli, "The youths have started moving. They have raised their voices since COP24. They want to see decision-makers taking serious measures to reduce CO2 emissions worldwide. They want to have a future." Two Swiss teenagers, Sarangan and Selma, both 17 and helping to stamp the postcards at Jungfraujoch, also voiced their calls for people to drive electric cars, which would be better for global warming, and for governments to make new rules and regulations to reduce CO2 emissions. The event's high-rise location on the Aletsch Glacier has been a perfect example of climate change impact, Gass said. Stretching over 23 kilometers, the glacier in the Swiss canton of Valais is the longest in Europe, measuring 1.5 km wide on average and 900 meters at its thickest point. Scientific studies have shown that Aletsch, together with the vast majority of glaciers in central Switzerland, are melting at an ever-quickening pace and could almost disappear by the end of this century. ^ top ^

Proposal submitted on opening Embassy of the Swiss Confederation in Mongolia (Montsame)
2019-03-14
Speaker of the Parliament G.Zandanshatar, who is on official visit to the Swiss Confederation, held official talks with President of the Swiss National Council, Ms. Marina Carobbio Guscetti on March 13. Stating that the two countries have common values to respect democracy and human rights and to strengthen international security, Speaker G.Zandanshatar emphasized the Parliament and the Government of Mongolia have been focusing special attention on solidifying democracy, honoring justice and preventing from corruption and abuse of power related crime. While submitting proposals on setting up Mongolia-Switzerland group in the Swiss parliament and opening the Embassy of the Swiss Confederation in Ulaanbaatar, he expressed his interest to broaden cooperation in the areas such as trade, investment, tourism, agriculture, culture, education, science, defense and sea transport. Requests were made to organize a concert for promoting Mongolian folk and classic arts in Switzerland and to conduct painting and photo exhibitions in Ulaanbaatar city within the 55th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties. Noting that Mongolians highly appreciate activities of the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development, which has been implementing highly effective projects and programs in Mongolia, the Speaker expressed gratitude to the Swiss side on continuously involving Mongolia in its 2017-2020 Development and Cooperation strategy. Moreover, he asked to provide opportunity to cooperate with Switzerland Global Enterprise (SGE) and investment funds as well as to render assistance on establishing bilateral free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association. In turn, Ms. Marina Guscetti highlighted her requests to solidify parliamentary democracy, increase citizen engagement as well as to deepen successful cooperation of parliamentary offices further. Speaker G.Zandashatar expressed his full support on proposals made by Ms. Marina Guscetti on encouraging joint researches of educational institutes and trade and investment interest and initiatives of business people and activating collaboration of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the two countries. ^ top ^

 

Foreign Policy

Chinese president arrives in Italy for state visit (Xinhua)
2019-03-22
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Rome Thursday for a state visit to Italy to map out the future of the bilateral relationship and move it into a new era. It is the first visit by a Chinese head of state to the European nation in 10 years. Two Italian fighter jets escorted Xi's plane as it entered the country's airspace. Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, were greeted by senior Italian government officials at the airport. While delivering a written speech upon arrival, Xi said that the China-Italy relations have withstood the test of time and international vicissitudes since the two countries forged diplomatic ties 49 years ago. Upholding the principle of mutual respect, trust and benefit, China and Italy have constantly promoted their friendship and cooperation, setting an example of developing bilateral ties between two countries of different social systems, cultural backgrounds and development stages, Xi said. The practical cooperation between the two countries has yielded fruitful results, bringing tangible benefits to the two peoples, said Xi, adding that the bilateral cultural and people-to-people exchanges are rich and colorful, and have enhanced mutual understanding and friendship. The Chinese president noted that he is looking forward to meeting the Italian leaders to jointly draw the blueprint for the future development of bilateral relations. "I believe with the concerted efforts of both sides, the China-Italy comprehensive strategic partnership will enjoy a better tomorrow," Xi said. Italy is the first stop of Xi's three-nation Europe tour, which will also take him to Monaco and France. ^ top ^

Europe wakes: why Beijing is on a mission to quell Brussels' fears about China (SCMP)
2019-03-22
When Chinese President Xi Jinping lands in Europe on Thursday, China will have already sent one big signal that it is trying to improve ties with the 28-member European Union. In a reversal of last year's arrangement, Beijing has scheduled the EU-China Summit before another top-level meeting between China and 16 countries in eastern and central Europe, a gathering known as the 16+1. Observers and diplomatic sources say the gesture indicates that Beijing is aware of EU unease about China's growing influence on the continent and tactics that some claim are meant to divide the bloc. That unease is driving a sharper, more unified EU approach to China, and last week resulted in Brussels' labelling Beijing for the first time as a "systemic rival". Xi will use his trip – which includes stops in Italy, France and Monaco – to try to ease fears that Beijing has become a threat to the EU, a mission that has taken on greater importance with China mired in a trade war with the United States. The EU's discontent surfaced after last year's 16+1 meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria. The meeting took place before the EU-China Summit in the Chinese capital, suggesting to Brussels that Beijing was paying more attention to these nations instead of the EU. Cui Hongjian, a senior fellow with the China Institute of International Studies, said that while the order of last year's summit was not intended to convey political importance, China decided to let the EU select a time for the EU-China Summit this year. The EU was slow to respond, but both eventually agreed on a date, he said. "China has never made 'who meets first' a sign of privilege or bias. From China's perspective, meeting first has its advantages, and meeting second has its advantages as well," he said. Major members of the bloc expressed concern that China was trying to sway the central and eastern European nations to its side with its promises of infrastructure and investment, endeavouring to make them feel less inclined to back the EU on issues such as China's trade practices and human rights. Lucrezia Poggetti, a research associate at the Berlin-based Mercator Institute for China Studies (Merics), said holding the EU-China Summit before the 16+1 was a plus for Brussels. "This will allow the EU to be able to set the tone for discussions, and get its message across Europe cohesively, before China goes to Croatia for the 16+1." Poggetti said China's recent tactics in Europe "must be seen against the backdrop of the US-China trade deal being negotiated. China is aware of the toughening stance in Europe, and at least on the surface they would like to make things look very friendly and cooperative". "China is in need of partners," she said. She added that China would be hard pressed to allay European concerns on a range of issues, including the alleged risks posed by Chinese telecom companies. Those concerns about China were spelt out last week in the 16-page paper "EU-China – A strategic outlook". It outlined 10 points of action for the EU in its relations with Beijing, including expanding cooperation on issues such as Iran and North Korea, ramping up pressure to end market-distorting state subsidies for domestic industries and curtailing possible threats to 5G telecommunications security. The document also sets an ambitious deadline of 2020 for the completion of a long-awaited EU-China joint investment agreement. The EU is also planning a new industrial policy to help European firms compete with China, pushed strongly by Germany and France. Frans-Paul van der Putten, senior research fellow at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague, said the paper was aimed at helping EU member states deal with a more "powerful China". "While the [European] Commission is getting tougher on China, at least for now it does not seem to be aiming for a confrontation with China," he said. That bodes well for China, which is already embroiled in a lengthy trade conflict with the US. Beijing fears that Western economies could align against it in their demands for greater market access and an end to industrial subsidies, among other things. Shortly before the US imposed tariffs on Chinese imports on July 6, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on Europe to work with China to protect the global trade regime and not "stab China in the back" – suggesting that Beijing was worried that Brussels might side with Washington. Washington has also urged European nations to ban Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies from their next-generation telecommunications networks and expressed dismay over Italy's interest in joining the "Belt and Road Initiative", Xi Jinping's massive infrastructure programme that aims to link China to Europe and Africa. But there are also tensions between the EU and the US. The triangular relationship between the EU, China and the United States has caused all parties to hedge their bets, fearing that a deal between two may come at the expense of the third. "While Beijing is worried about the united pressure from the US and EU, Europe is fearful of a sudden harmony between the US and China in the economic arena. This may become Europe's worst nightmare," said Klaus Larres, professor of international affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In recent weeks, senior Chinese diplomats have launched a charm offensive, calling on Europe to stay "independent". They have also maintained that China is not trying to divide the bloc through infrastructure investment in central and eastern Europe. On Monday, Wang told the EU high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, that the emergence of China-EU cooperation and competition was "something everyone is focused on right now". In response to Europe's tougher policy on China, Wang then outlined his own 10 points on China-EU relations, all of which stressed areas of cooperation with Europe, from upholding multilateralism in trade and world affairs, to fighting terrorism and poverty alleviation. Wang also set the stage for Xi's trip to the continent, saying Xi's choice of Europe for his first official visit of the year "demonstrates China's high regard for Europe". But Mogherini said: "It would be quite naive, if not ridiculous, to hide that we have differences in the ways in which we address our governance and our political systems." There is also disquiet within the 16+1. Promises by Beijing to bring large amounts of investment to the region had left much to be desired by members, said Jakub Jakobowski of the Centre for Eastern Studies in Warsaw. "For years, China has only paid lip service to its promises. We hope that China will come up with some concrete results," he said. China's investment in eastern Europe plunged 40 per cent from a year earlier in 2018, accounting for only 1.5 per cent of all Chinese investment in the EU, according to a Merics study. The figure represented half the peak total of 2016. Overall Chinese investment in Europe has fallen dramatically in recent years, due to stricter investment screening in Europe as well as tightening liquidity in China. Central and eastern European countries also have begun to take more of a "Europe-first" approach to China, and have found common ground with Brussels on areas ranging from China's approach to infrastructure and investment to demands for greater access to China's markets. "In a way, there is a convergence between what Brussels demands and what [the 16+1] demands, and as a result we see more and more emphasis to the common EU approach within 16+1," Jakobowski said. As the EU-China summit approaches, Beijing hopes the sides can come up with a joint statement that shows mutual friendship rather than repeat their debacle of two years ago when the parties could not agree on a communique. This year, Beijing will want the statement to underscore the values of multilateralism and opposition to protectionism, but the EU will demand concrete progress from China at least on trade friction. Joerg Wuttke, a former president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, said the EU wanted to maintain its relations with China, but increasingly felt the need to take stronger action to voice its concern. "The EU has no interest in cooling its China relationship, but if it does not act now to protect its economy from unfair state-owned enterprise competition in the EU market, then the citizens of Europe might ask for more protection," Wuttke said. "[There is] growing realism in Europe and the end of naivety when it comes to China." ^ top ^

The US should stop trying to sabotage BRI projects (China Daily)
2019-03-22
In early 2015, the Barack Obama administration tried desperately to block the United Kingdom and several other European countries from joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank by accusing, without any basis, the then newly established bank of possible low environmental and governance standards. The real reason, according to former US treasury secretary Larry Summers, was that the Obama administration could not secure any funding from the Republican-controlled Congress to join the AIIB. And to save itself from embarrassment, the US administration tried to prevent European countries from joining the bank. The attempt has been widely criticized by Republicans and Democrats both as a blunder. Former US deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick, who famously said that China should become a "responsible stakeholder", sighed that when China was playing the role of a responsible stakeholder, the US tried to stop it. The US is trying to do the same again. While the AIIB provides much needed infrastructure financing for countries, the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative aims to build connectivity linking Asia, Europe and Africa. The initiative, which has been endorsed by more than 100 countries, is aimed at building roads, bridges, railways, ports and other infrastructure facilities, in order to help expedite economic growth, especially in developing countries, which are often haunted by high youth unemployment. And building roads and bridges, no doubt, will benefit the world much more than the 800-plus military bases that the US has built across the world. However, when Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte indicated that Rome would sign a memorandum of agreement with Beijing on the Belt and Road Initiative during President Xi Jinping's ongoing visit to Italy, the White House became furious again. Garrett Marquis, a White House National Security Council spokesman, called the BRI a "vanity project" and a debt trap. He even said the accord Italy planned to sign was "a political hazard". Perhaps Marquis believes that the Italian government does not know how to make its own decisions. But if he really knows anything about debt traps, he should advise the US administration how to stop its monstrous national debt of about $22 trillion from continuing to climb at an alarming rate. Besides, if Marquis believes the US has a better vision and a superior infrastructure connectivity plan than the BRI, he should let the world know about it instead of slandering China like a loser-a trait evident among the senior US officials who coerced European countries to not include Huawei in their 5G networks. Italy might be the first G7 member to endorse the BRI, but it is not the first European Union country to do so. Portugal, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland and Hungary have all inked BRI deals with China. On March 13, CNBC reported that Malta, an island nation in the Mediterranean that is also a EU member state, has indicated it, too, could join the BRI. The news channel quoted Maltese Finance Minister Edward Scicluna as saying that "certain prejudices" should not come in the way of good business. I am not sure if Marquis, or his boss, US National Security Advisor John Bolton, plan to lecture, warn or threaten Malta as they have been doing to Italy these past days. But instead of indulging in such reactionary activities, the US should abandon its Cold War mentality and stop looking for non-existent enemies. More important, the US should also stop forcing other countries to choose between China and the US, especially as many countries made it clear they do not want to be lectured on what they should do when the Obama administration launched the "pivot to Asia strategy". The world needs more infrastructure-building projects such as the BRI, not moves to sabotage such projects, as the US has been trying to do for quite some time now. ^ top ^

Tesla sues engineer for allegedly stealing data and Autopilot source code before joining Chinese self-driving car firm Xiaopeng Motors (SCMP)
2019-03-22
Tesla filed a lawsuit on Thursday against a former engineer at the company, claiming he copied the source code for its Autopilot technology before joining a Chinese self-driving car start-up in January. The engineer, Guangzhi Cao, copied more than 300,000 files related to Autopilot source code as he prepared to join China's Xiaopeng Motors Technology Company Ltd, the Silicon Valley carmaker said in the lawsuit filed in a California court. Separately, Tesla lawyers on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against four former employees and US self-driving car start-up Zoox Inc, alleging the employees stole proprietary information and trade secrets for developing warehousing, logistics and inventory control operations. In a statement, Xiaopeng spokeswoman Marie Cheung said the company was not aware of Cao's alleged misconduct and that the company has started an internal investigation on the matter. The company "fully respects any third-party's intellectual property rights and confidential information. The company has been complying and will comply all applicable laws and regulations," she said in a statement. Cao and Zoox could not immediately be reached for comment. Tesla is building a vehicle assembly facility in Shanghai, putting it in direct competition with Xiaopeng and other Chinese companies in the world's largest electric vehicle market. Its Autopilot is a driver assistance system that handles some driving tasks and allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel, although the company stresses it still requires driver supervision and does not make the vehicle autonomous. Cao's LinkedIn profile shows he has been working with Xiaopeng since January as "head of perception." Xiaopeng, which debuted an electric car in Las Vegas last year, counts Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Foxconn Technology Co Ltd among its investors. The company, also known as Xpeng Motors, employs at least five former Tesla employees, the US carmaker alleged in the lawsuit. Apple Inc last year accused one former employee of stealing trade secrets related to self-driving cars and joining Xiaopeng's US subsidiary. Several companies are racing to develop the technology required to make cars drive on their own and lawsuits against former employees have become common as firms strive to keep proprietary information in-house. Alphabet Inc's Waymo self-driving vehicle unit took Uber Technologies to court after a former employee stole thousands of confidential documents and became chief of Uber's self-driving car project. Uber later paid US$245 million to settle the case. ^ top ^

China's US$7 billion railway link to Laos is almost half done, on schedule to begin service in 2021 (SCMP)
2019-03-21
China's railway line to Laos is almost half complete, putting it on schedule to begin service in December 2021, said the chief of Lao Railways. Trains on the line can travel at up to 160 km/h (100mph) said Lao Railways' director general Somsana Ratsaphong. Tickets will start from US$20 a trip. The US$7 billion project is a showcase of Chinese President Xi Jinping's "Belt and Road Initiative" for rebuilding infrastructure along the ancient Silk Road from China to Africa and Europe, which has garnered an estimated US$460 billion in investments since its inception in 2013. The Kunming-Vientiane link would eventually connect with a railway line to Bangkok, and southward along the Malay peninsula through to Singapore. The Chinese government will bankroll 70 per cent of the cost of the railway, while Laos – where subsistence agriculture makes up half of the economic output – pays for the remaining 30 per cent with loans from Chinese financial institutions. China was the biggest foreign investor in Laos as of 2016, having invested US$5.4 billion since 1989. "For an economy like ours, with a population of only 6.8 million people, it is good for us to make use of the manpower and finance from China," said Ratsaphong, during the Asia-Pacific Rail conference in Hong Kong. Part of the loan's tenure will be interest-free, with a 2 per cent annual rate charged over 30 years, according to Ratsaphong. The financing terms have raised concerns among developing nations of being pushed into a debt trap, as debtors may find themselves saddled with large borrowings that would take a long time to repay. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has been the most vocal critic, instructing his government to scrap a US$20 billion rail link on the country's east coast after balking at its construction cost and the terms of its loans from Chinese banks. Sri Lanka handed over management of the Hambantota Port to China in a 99-year lease in 2017, after failing to repay loans on the US$1.5 billion project. "The debt trap is created not because of the money from China, [but] mainly because some countries did not do a good assessment" on the financial terms and repayment requirements, said the World Bank's adviser Andrea Giuricin, also a visiting professor to the China Academy Railway Sciences. China's state-run construction companies have mastered some of the world's most impressive engineering and building technology, but are still lacking in project management expertise, Giuricin said. China "lacks a good track record in management," he said. "Most of the high-speed railways in China are losing money, and the data is not transparent. For some places, you simply don't need to build the fastest railway." For Ratsaphong, the new rail link promises closer connectivity, which will spur greater economic development in his nation, one of the poorest among the 10 economies among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean. "The railway will bring new developments including industrial parks, hotels and tourism business that generates income "way bigger than ticketing", said Ratsaphong, noting journey costs would be cut by 40 per cent, compared to using roads on the same route. ^ top ^

Philippine foreign minister praises Chinese system (Global Times)
2019-03-21
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. in Beijing on Wednesday. At the joint press briefing with Wang, Locsin spoke highly of the Communist Party of China and praised China's unique political system as an advantage: "There is no propulsion as strong as people power, but it demands the direction of a single hand… That hand is absent in Western democracy. That direction the Communist Party has supplied. No other institution anywhere in the world could do it." Although Locsin's words triggered Western media dissatisfaction, they were based on facts. As the second-largest economy today, China's rise is closely connected to its political system. No one can deny that. What is the standard for judging a system? It is not the Western model, but whether the system can benefit a country's development and raise people's living standards in the long run. In the past 40 years, China's system has averted economic crisis and tided the country through the global and Asian financial crises. But Western countries failed at that. Locsin was simply telling the truth. And it takes courage to tell the truth on this question. Some Western media have complicated the question in the belief that Western democracy is the only standard for a good system. This may lead to prejudice against the China model. Instead of being selectively deaf to China's achievements, people should come to China and witness the country's development by themselves. Some Western people say that the US system is the best in the world, as the country has become the world's largest economy. But take the Philippines. The Southeast Asian country almost copied the US political system. Although the Philippines used to flourish economically in the 20th century, today the country has a huge gap between rich and poor and has to receive economic aid from foreign countries. The US system fits the US, but it is not a universally accepted model that fits every country. In fact, Manila has already started to question the US system. Earlier this month Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte queried the US promise to protect the Philippines from an attack in the South China Sea. "They still do not have a budget. I almost experienced that," he said. Duterte is obviously losing trust in his country's long-standing ally. He has found flaws in the US system, which has caused a stalemate between his ruling party and the opposition party. Consequently it is hard for the Duterte administration to make and carry out decisions, which eventually leads to an inefficient government. Both Duterte and Locsin's statements reflect the fact that Manila has realized simply copying and relying on the US system will never help. But more importantly, the Philippines should understand this: The best model is not the US system or the Chinese system, but the one that best fits its own national conditions. China's model is in line with its own social and historical conditions, leading to the country's rise. This is the most important lesson that the Philippines and other developing countries should draw from China's unique path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. ^ top ^

China-France bilateral trade volume hits record high in 2018 (Xinhua)
2019-03-21
The bilateral trade volume between China and France surpassed 60 billion U.S. dollars, hitting a record high last year, the Ministry of Commerce (MOF) said Thursday. The bilateral trade volume saw a 15.5-percent increase to 62.9 billion U.S. dollars, with France's exports of agricultural products, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and luxury clothing seeing fast growth, MOF spokesperson Gao Feng told a news conference. For the first two months in 2019, the bilateral trade volume grew 19.4 percent year on year to 10.6 billion U.S. dollars. China's imports of goods from France grew 42.2 percent, said Gao. In terms of investment, France is the fourth largest country in the European Union (EU) to invest in China and ranks third in attracting Chinese investment in the EU. In 2018, the direct investment from France to China grew 28 percent, while investment in reverse went up 12 percent. By the end of January this year, the total investment between the two countries exceeded 40 billion U.S. dollars. According to the MOC, China and France have kept deepening cooperation in traditional industries such as nuclear, aviation and automobile industries, while actively expanding cooperation in emerging industries including environmental protection, elder-care and finance. In the future, China would like to work with France to deepen cooperation in the traditional fields and expand cooperation in agriculture, finance and elder-care industries, Gao said. ^ top ^

US President Donald Trump says tariffs on Chinese imports may remain in place for a 'substantial period of time' (SCMP)
2019-03-21
US tariffs on Chinese imports could remain in place for a "substantial period of time", even extending beyond the reaching of a trade deal between Washington and Beijing, US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday. "We're talking about leaving [the tariffs] for a substantial period of time because we have to make sure that if we do the deal with China, that China lives by the deal," Trump told reporters outside the White House. In a trade war now in its ninth month, the US has imposed duties ranging from 10 to 25 per cent on around US$250 billion of Chinese goods entering the US. In retaliation, Beijing has put tariffs on around US$110 billion of imports from the US. Trump's remarks came as his chief trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, prepares to head to Beijing next week for the latest round of high-level talks, after a weeks-long hiatus in face-to-face meetings between the two sides. Lighthizer, the US trade representative, will travel to China with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Politico reported on Tuesday. Washington is pursuing commitments from Beijing to change its trade practices and economic policies, including better protection of intellectual property, ending the alleged forced transfer of foreign technology through joint ventures, increasing access to China's markets, and augmenting purchases of US goods, particularly in agriculture. One particularly sticky aspect of the negotiations has been enforcement, the verification mechanism by which the US can monitor China's adherence to – or deviation from – the promised changes and enact commensurate punitive measures. Beijing has resisted implementing a verification mechanism that would allow the US to act unilaterally, for instance with more tariffs. Trump suggested on Wednesday that prolonging the tariffs could be a way to hold Beijing accountable. China has had "a lot of problems living by certain deals, and we have to make sure", Trump said. In what he presented as a goodwill gesture earlier this month, Trump held off on a planned 10 to 25 per cent increase in tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese imports, citing "substantial progress" in negotiations. A US Chamber of Commerce official, who had been briefed on the progress of the talks, said recent conversations between Lighthizer and Liu He, the Chinese vice-premier, focused heavily on a verification mechanism. The two spoke twice last week over the phone. "On enforcement, they spent a lot of time on that," the chamber official told reporters in a background briefing on Friday, adding that the issues of tariffs and enforcement were closely linked. Trump administration officials were concerned that Beijing was backing away from pledges it had made on certain issues because of a lack of assurance the US would lift the tariffs, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing multiple unnamed sources familiar with the negotiations. At a recent Senate hearing, Lighthizer said the US had "to maintain the right to be able to – whatever happens to the current tariffs – to raise tariffs in situations where there's violations of the agreement". Trump's comments on Wednesday suggesting a "substantial" extension of tariffs were met with dismay by US retail industry figures who have lobbied for the removal of import taxes, which recent studies show have a far greater impact on US consumers than Chinese exporters. "American families have already paid $14.4 billion worth of tariffs in 2018," said Hun Quach of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), citing White House data released this week by the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). "How much more substantial can we get?" The CEA figures referred to revenue from newly imposed tariffs on imports from all countries. Contrary to Trump's repeated insistence that China is footing the bill for his import tariffs, two recent studies – one by economists at several US universities, the other by the Centre for Economic Policy Research – found that increases in US consumer prices have overwhelmingly covered the costs of the duties. "We need to resolve this issue quickly and remove tariffs on everyday products for the sake of American businesses, workers and families," said Quach, a former US trade official and current vice-president of international trade at RILA, whose clients include Walmart, Target and Apple. Trump's comments were "deeply concerning to the American farmers, businesses and consumers that are actually paying for this trade war", said Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, a coalition of more than 80 trade associations. "Every second [the tariffs] remain in place, they drain money from the pockets of hardworking Americans." Despite the threat of sustained tariffs, Trump said prospects for a deal were "coming along nicely". Lighthizer has repeatedly sought to temper optimism about a consensus, telling lawmakers at a US House hearing in late February that much work remained to be done "both before an agreement is reached and, more importantly, after it is reached, if one is reached". ^ top ^

Angela Merkel resists US pressure to ban Huawei as Germany launches 5G auction (SCMP)
2019-03-20
Chancellor Angela Merkel signalled she is loath to cave in to US pressure to bar Huawei Technologies, saying she will not single out individual vendors as Germany toughens its security requirements for mobile networks. "There are two things I don't believe in," Merkel said in an onstage discussion on Tuesday at the Global Solutions summit in Berlin. "First, to discuss these very sensitive security questions publicly, and second, to exclude a company simply because it's from a certain country.'' The United States has warned it could scale back the sharing of sensitive information with Berlin if it does not exclude hardware made by Huawei from its 5G infrastructure, arguing that Chinese equipment could help Beijing spy on Western companies and governments. European carriers, however, have warned governments that sidelining Huawei would delay fifth-generation networks by years. The Chinese telecoms giant, which has repeatedly denied US allegations that it could enable Chinese state-ordered spying, is deeply embedded in Germany's phone networks, so restrictions would be more disruptive than in some other countries. Germany on Tuesday started selling 5G-ready airwaves to carriers including Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone Group and Telefonica. Huawei is not one of the bidders but provides the hopefuls with essential hardware such as antennas and routers. The roll-out is critical as Europe's biggest economy tries to reduce its dependence on old-school engineering. The country lags behind the likes of Qatar, Albania and Moldova when it comes to mobile internet speeds, a handicap in the transition to a data-based economy. Merkel's government has promised to create a "world-class" digital infrastructure and end the notorious dead zones that dot the countryside. Germany should not be naive when it comes to the security of its networks, Merkel said, adding that a joint European solution to the Huawei issue "would be desirable". 5G technology is harder to police, and that is why Germany is tightening requirements for companies that want to supply the technology – whether they are from China or elsewhere, Merkel said. "So far, lots of countries have used Huawei technology," she said at the conference. "That's why the federal government has not taken the approach of simply ruling out any contractor or stakeholder, but we have set standards for those bidding for 5G technology. "We will also write these standards legally into our telecommunications laws … We will give everyone a chance, but shouldn't be naive; instead we see that there are very different laws in China." "Of course we're in a systemic competition with China,'' Merkel said in a separate speech at the same event. "But the answer can't be that we fight those who are economically strong, we must stand up for fair, reciprocal rules and not give up on multilateralism.'' Jochen Homann, chairman of the German Federal Network Agency (BNA), said excluding Huawei's equipment would present significant problems for the auction winners. "Huawei is an important supplier, already present in our previous networks – it will be difficult to do without such companies and this is not at all what we want," Homann told German public broadcaster ARD. The US has accused Beijing of using Huawei's 5G network gear as a Trojan horse, forcing operators to transmit data to the government, but Washington has not provided evidence to support its suspicions. Huawei has strenuously denied allegations its equipment could be used for espionage, while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday lashed out at what he called "abnormal, immoral" attacks on the Chinese firm. US-led attempts to encourage other nations to ban Huawei equipment from their telecoms infrastructure suffered a setback when Merkel's government decided against imposing company-specific restrictions on the 5G auction. With other nations across the EU also grappling with the same issue, Jyrki Katainen, vice-president of the European Commission, said Brussels would make recommendations on security in digital networks. But he told business newspaper Handelsblatt that it was "unlikely that we will name one or two companies that should be excluded". According to media reports, the US ambassador to Germany last week warned in a letter to Germany's economy minister that Washington could review intelligence cooperation unless Berlin agreed to a Huawei ban. The threat escalated when Nato's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, US General Curtis Scaparrotti, warned Germany that Nato forces would cut communications if Berlin were to work with Huawei. Scaparrotti said the US military was concerned about the risk of Germany's telecommunications being compromised as "particularly with 5G, the bandwidth capability and ability to pull data is incredible". "If it also is inside of their defence communications, then we're not going to communicate with them. And for the military that would be a problem." Germany's Federal Intelligence Service (BND) shares some of the US fears, according to a report. BND security experts have asked the government to take China's overall strategy into account, including a law compelling cooperation in security matters, according to Der Spiegel magazine. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China chemical plant explosion death toll reaches 44, with 90 injured (SCMP)
2019-03-22
The chemical plant blast in China's Jiangsu province on Thursday, which packed the force of a minor earthquake, has killed at least 44 people, left 32 in a critical condition and seriously injured 58, according to the local authority. The Ministry of Emergency Management said 88 people had been rescued from the scene. Injured people were streaming into the emergency ward at Xiangshui People's Hospital – one of the largest hospitals in Xiangshui county, about 300km north of Shanghai – in the early hours of Friday. A man who was pulled from the rubble on Thursday night was shown calling his family immediately afterwards in a video clip by Xinhua. "I am out. Firefighters rescued me. I am fine, just some minor injuries," the man said, gasping. China Central Television reported that the blaze had been contained, but drone video images from Thepaper.cn showed the fire was still visible amid heavy black and orange smoke. The plant had been flattened and reduced to rubble, with only part of the workshop frame still standing. A survivor who was standing by the roadside 1.5km from the factory said the impact blew him and two of his friends into the air and rolled them over several times before they fell to the ground. "The air blast hit us and sent us up in the air," the man, surnamed Lan, told Beijing News. "I can't describe it. It's horrifying to death." The car they were standing by was damaged severely, with a collapsed roof and broken windows, but they had no choice but to use it to drive to hospital. "I couldn't get through on 120 [ambulance hotline] at all," Lan said. "We had no other means but to drive this broken car … One had an injured foot and the other had damage to his internal organs." Workers at the Henglida Chemical Factory, 3km from the blast, said its windows and doors were blown out. Its roof collapsed as they tried to escape, and causing head injuries. Residents from Yancheng and nearby cities queued past midnight to donate blood. ^ top ^

Sweden's ex-China ambassador denies misconduct over meetings with daughter of detained bookseller (HKFP)
2019-03-22
Sweden's former ambassador to China has denied breaching national security over her involvement in a series of unauthorised meetings about detained bookseller Gui Minhai. Anna Lindstedt is under investigation by the Swedish Prosecution Authority after she allegedly led negotiations to release a detained Swedish bookseller in exchange for his daughter's silence. Lindstedt said she welcomed the investigation by Swedish authorities, according to media reports. "Due to the investigation, we do not have any comments at the moment," her appointed lawyer Conny Cedermark told HKFP. Angela Gui has been campaigning for the release of her father Gui Minhai, who was among five Hong Kong-based booksellers affiliated with Causeway Bay Books, which sold political gossip titles. He disappeared in late 2015, only to reappear in mainland China "confessing" on state TV. In a lengthy blog post, Angela Gui said that Lindstedt contacted her in January to discuss "a new approach" to securing the release of her father and invited her to a meeting with two businessmen who alleged to have connections to the Chinese Communist Party. Gui said when the group asked her to stop all media engagement she refused, adding: "I'm not going to be quiet in exchange for a visa and an arbitrary promise that my father 'might' be released. Threats, verbal abuse, bribes, or flattery won't change that." The former diplomat left China last month. A new acting head of the mission has been assigned to the Swedish embassy in Beijing, pending the conclusion of the investigation. HKFP has contacted the Swedish Prosecution Authority for comment. ^ top ^

Senior CPC official stresses building high-level think tanks (Xinhua)
2019-03-21
A senior Communist Party of China (CPC) official Thursday called for efforts to build a batch of high-level think tanks that meet the requirements for the new era. Huang Kunming, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks at a meeting of national high-level think tanks. Huang said high-level think tanks should focus on the central work and major needs of the Party and the state, and strengthen strategic forward-looking research, so as to better support economic and social development. The think tanks were ordered to broaden their international horizons, deepen research on international issues, increase exchanges and cooperation with other countries and better spread Chinese views around the world. ^ top ^

As swine fever threat falls, most quarantines lifted (China Daily)
2019-03-21
China has lifted pig quarantines in most of the areas where outbreaks of African swine fever have been found, signaling a steady slowdown in the spread of the virus, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said on Tuesday. Since the first outbreak of the deadly pig disease was discovered in August in Northeast China's Liaoning province, 113 cases in 28 provincial-level regions have been confirmed by the ministry. Restrictions on the transport of pigs in 105 of those cases have been lifted. The ministry has imposed strict quarantine measures in affected areas and ramped up supervision of pig farms, transport businesses and the pork processing industry after the onset of the highly contagious viral disease. Humans are not affected. Yu Kangzhen, vice-minister of agriculture and rural affairs, said the spread of the virus has slowed because of measures imposed by the authorities, but added that it's difficult to wipe out the disease in the short term. In the latest case, which was discovered on March 12 in Linshui county of Guang'an, Sichuan province, a transport truck carrying 150 pigs, nine of them dead, was seized at a toll station. It was the second case in March after an outbreak that killed 20 pigs on a breeding farm in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region was confirmed on March 7. The next step, Yu said, is to maintain the momentum of the ongoing disease prevention and control measures and strengthen oversight over the slaughtering sector. On Friday, the ministry launched checks on slaughterhouses nationwide and ordered them to carry out self-inspections. Yu stressed the need to secure supplies of live pigs and pork products. The domestic output of live pigs in China has been declining since the second half of last year because of the disease, according to Yang Hanchun, a professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine of China Agricultural University. Yang predicted that the supply of pork products is likely to tighten in the third or fourth quarter of this year and lead to a price surge. ^ top ^

Hitting PM2.5 target 'very difficult' (China Daily)
2019-03-21
Lack of determination on the part of local governments to transform their industrial structures can be a major hindrance to controlling air pollution in northern China, especially as the country experiences an economic slowdown, a national legislator said recently. Wang Jinnan, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and president of the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning, made the comment in an interview with China Daily on the sidelines of the annual two sessions, which concluded last week. He said the Fenhe-Weihe River Plain area, which encompasses 11 cities in Shanxi, Shaanxi and Henan provinces, has been listed as a key area for air pollution control. Even though the area experienced better air quality in 2018, it remains prone to smog because of the high level of pollution discharged from its extensive coal-reliant industries. Last year, the average density of PM2.5 particulate matter in the area reached 58 micrograms per cubic meter, down by 10.8 percent year-on-year. In the month of January, however, the area saw density rise by 16.4 percent from the previous January to 128 mg/cu m, according to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment. The data for February has not been made public yet, but there have been signs showing a deteriorating situation. Wang said transforming the industrial structure "is undoubtedly the fundamental solution" for air pollution control in the region. The current heavy reliance on coal for energy and the transportation system dominated by diesel trucks need to be adjusted to improve air quality, he said, adding that efforts should also be made to increase the total vegetated area to reduce kicked-up dust, which has been a major contributor to PM2.5. A long-term road map for the transformation is urgently needed in the area, he said, because without it many local governments are passive and will not meet their targets. China's top environmental watchdog set a target of reducing PM2.5 density by 4 percent year-on-year from Oct 1 to March 31-the period that usually sees the worst air quality of the year because of heating-in the Fenhe-Weihe River Plain area. Based on the current situation, it will be difficult for some cities in the area to hit the target, Wang said. Every city in the area should draft medium-and long-term plans for energy transformation, though this will be challenging in light of the economic slowdown, he said. "It's very difficult. Very." Wang, however, stressed that the transformation is not only a requirement for air pollution control, but also a must to achieve high-quality development. It's important to make local governments fully aware of the importance of the transformation. "If they are fully aware of the importance, they will be resolute in working on it," he said. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping tells Chinese teachers to help 'nurture support' for Communist Party rule (SCMP)
2019-03-19
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday called for a tighter ideological grip on university campuses and in schools, demanding teachers step in to fend off what the ruling Communist Party sees as the "wrong ideas". Speaking at a seminar in Beijing attended by teachers from across the country, Xi also called for courses on ideological and political theory to be strengthened at all levels, from primary schools to universities. Starting with toddlers, Xi said China must "nurture generation after generation [of young people] who support Chinese Communist Party rule and China's socialist system". "Most importantly, we must emphasise [taking the correct stance] on politics such that people who have faith [in the party] can preach what they believe in," Xi said. "And these people must be able to analyse problems with the right political perspective and have a clear mind in telling right from wrong." The Chinese leader also called on the nation's educators to take the initiative to instil patriotism in the nation's youth and reject "wrong ideas and ideology". Xi said the key to strengthening ideological and political education was teachers, and that they should shoulder responsibility in spreading party-approved ideology. "Party secretaries and principals of schools must take the lead in teaching theories of politics to the students … and in building and strengthening our army of professional teachers … who are strong in teaching politics," Xi said. "We need to spread mainstream ideology and directly confront all kinds of wrong viewpoints and ideologies," he said in a veiled reference to Western ideas and influences. "We need to guide the students to be confident about socialism with Chinese characteristics … to have patriotism deeply ingrained among the students, so that they will voluntarily participate in … the building of a great modern socialist country and the struggle for rejuvenating the Chinese nation," he said. Teachers should also set the right example for students in the classroom, privately and in cyberspace, Xi said – apparently suggesting that educators would be held accountable for anything they put online. His speech comes after a nationwide crackdown on a small but burgeoning student movement led by young Marxist activists at universities in major cities, protesting over growing inequality and corruption in Chinese society. Since Xi took power in 2012, the party has sought to curb the spread of "Western values" on campuses, banning textbooks that promote "Western ideas" such as democracy and rule of law. The president vowed in 2016 to turn university campuses into "strongholds of the party's leadership" and has demanded that they strengthen Marxist teachings. Dozens of higher education institutions such as Peking University and Renmin University have set up new departments on "Xi Jinping Thought" since Xi's political theory was enshrined in the party constitution in 2017. ^ top ^

Li Keqiang says it is time China to 'turn the blade inward' to boost jobs growth (SCMP)
2019-03-18
China has pledged to create more than 11 million new jobs this year – equivalent to the population of Belgium and more than that of Hong Kong – as it tries to ensure social stability amid an economic slowdown and rising tensions with foreign countries. Wrapping up the annual legislative sessions on Friday, Premier Li Keqiang said Beijing was aware of the downward pressure from the economy, with GDP growth slowing to 6.6 per cent last year – its weakest pace since 1990. But he ruled out any significant quantitative easing measures to flood the economy with money as Beijing did a decade ago, saying the slowdown would be countered this time by reducing taxes to help private companies – especially small and medium-sized ones – and cutting red tape. "Large-scale tax and fee reduction means we will be touching the government's own interest, cutting into our own flesh," Li said during his annual press conference after the National People's Congress meetings finished in Beijing. Li said governments at all levels would have to make bold and courageous sacrifices, "turning the blade inward" and "cutting our own wrists" so that China could carry out the measures. The premier has said that China aimed to save 2 trillion yuan (US$297.56 billion) this year for corporate taxpayers by lowering value-added tax (VAT) and their social security payments for employees. VAT for manufacturers will be lowered by 3 percentage points to 13 per cent. For construction and transport companies, the VAT rate will be cut by 1 percentage point to 9 per cent. The service sector rate will remain unchanged at 6 per cent, according to the annual government work report delivered by Li last week. It is not known when the new tax rates will take effect, but analysts said they expected them to begin soon. On Friday, Li said government belt-tightening was the solution. "We will not only reduce spending in the public budget, we will also ask specific financial institutions and state-owned enterprises to contribute more of their profits to the state coffers," he said. Tang Jianwei, chief macro analyst with the Bank of Communications, said implementation at the local level would be vital for the tax cut plan. "It could also be an opportunity to force local governments to make changes," Tang said. "According to my own study of government expenditure last year, there is room to make spending cuts of 2 trillion yuan." The measures are aimed at boosting employment – an important area for ensuring social stability – and it is the first time Beijing has given jobs growth the same prominence as its monetary and fiscal policies in managing the economy. "We will ensure more than 11 million new jobs are created this year," he said. "Actually, we hope the number will be the same as it was last year – which was 13 million [new jobs]." Li said employment was the most important factor in keeping economic growth in a "reasonable range". The target for this year has been set at between 6 per cent and 6.5 per cent. With the number of fresh university graduates expected to hit a record high of 8.34 million this year, China is facing the challenge of creating enough jobs for them during a politically sensitive year when the 30th anniversary of the 1989 bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protests will be marked. Shen Jianguang, chief economist at JD Digits, a unit of e-commerce firm JD.com, said the emphasis on jobs reflected Beijing's deep concerns about stability. "A high unemployment rate could bring many risks to the [Communist Party's] authority," Shen said. "China faces a labour shortage, and there are still many concerns about structural unemployment. A large increase in the supply of new graduates could exacerbate the problem." Speaking at a separate press conference on Friday, Guo Wei, vice-director of the Research Office of the State Council, who was involved in putting together the work report, said securing a job was "the most fundamental factor for people's livelihoods". He said a slew of policies would be announced to address the employment problems of university graduates, retired soldiers, migrant workers and people working for struggling companies. "Only when employment is well handled can the country be stable and harmonious," Guo said. While Li's focus was on jobs, he chose not to talk about the other risks to social stability. He took 17 questions – carefully screened in advance – from Chinese and foreign journalists, but did not touch on sensitive topics such as Xinjiang or Tibet. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the exile of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, as well as 10 years since deadly clashes in Xinjiang. China's stance on the crisis between India and strategic ally Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir region was also not discussed, nor were there any questions on the contested South China Sea. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Toll-free entry, cheaper hotels spur travel to Tibet (China Daily)
2019-03-22
Free admission to top tourist venues, hotel rooms at half price, and cheaper flights have made the Tibet autonomous region a hot destination for tourists this winter, which is traditionally a quiet tourist season. The region received 2.46 million visits from tourists from Nov 1 to March 15, an increase of 84.2 percent year-on-year, the region's Tourism Development Bureau said in a statement on Wednesday. This has been the second winter that the regional government promoted its "travel to Tibet in winter" campaign to attract tourists. Between Nov 1 and March 15, people got free admission to top tourist sites, including Potala Palace -a UNESCO World Heritage Site -where admission during other periods will set visitors back 200 yuan ($29.70), and advance reservations are required during peak season. The winter campaign also requires all hotels in the region to offer rooms at half price, including five star hotels such as the Shangri-La in the regional capital of Lhasa. The measures showed immediate results when they were introduced from February to April in 2018, said Go Khok, mayor of Lhasa. Compared with the 2016-17 winter season, the number of visits doubled from November 2017 to April 2018. "Traditionally, tourism in Tibet only booms between May and October and then becomes very quiet in the winter, which has resulted in low rates of return on investments in tourist infrastructure," said the mayor. This winter, the average occupancy rate of hotels in Lhasa reached 60 percent, and soared to 90 percent in some hotels. In the past, many hotels chose to send their staff to branches outside Tibet to cut costs in winter, but this season was quite different, he added. About 130,000 people in the city make their living from tourism, and some 70 percent are local farmers and herdsmen. So the boost in tourism will significantly increase their incomes, Go Khok said. Meanwhile, Tibet has stepped up efforts in environmental protection to cope with the increasing number of tourists, he said. "The city's 13 districts and counties will be equipped with wastewater treatment plants by June 1. We must plan environmental protection measures ahead of tourist development," he said. Siga, manager of Pingcuo Kangsang Hotel in Lhasa, had a very busy winter. The hotel, which offers rooms with a view of Potala Palace, was fully booked during the Spring Festival holiday in February. What surprised her even more was that reservations kept coming in after the holiday, she said. "Many small businesses such as restaurants normally decide to close down for the winter because business has typically slowed to a crawl. This year, they chose to stay open," said Siga, who was born in the city. Some hotel quests even came to Tibet for weekend getaways because cheap flights from Chengdu, Sichuan province to Lhasa were offered over the winter, she said. Although the region's climate in the winter months is relatively mild, there is a large temperature difference between day and night. Also, people are more likely to suffer from altitude sickness in the winter when they travel to Tibet, which is located on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and has an average altitude of more than 4,000 meters, because there are fewer leafy trees pumping out oxygen in the cold months. To attract tourists in the winter, many hotels including Pingcuo Kangsang have installed floor-heating systems in rooms. What's more, many hotel rooms are equipped with oxygen-generating machines to help people ease symptoms. ^ top ^

Tibet holds lectures to strengthen monks' legal, political knowledge (Global Times)
2019-03-21
Counties in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region launched a lecture tour to promote legal and policy awareness among monks and nuns and safeguard national unity. Gonggar county in Shannan Prefecture has started its 2019 education campaign and plans to make the campaign a regular activity. Starting March 5, lecturers, who are mostly monks and nuns, informed other monks and nuns in the county on how to firmly uphold the leadership of the Communist Party of China and unswervingly follow the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and they also spoke on how to safeguard national unity and strengthen ethnic unity, Tibet Daily reported on Thursday. The campaign said monks and nuns should be politically reliable and take a clear-cut and firm stance, be profound in religious knowledge, be convincing in morality and play an active role at critical moments, according to a special workshop held in 2018, Tibet.cn reported. Cona county in Shannan also launched a similar campaign on March 11, which incorporated education on the Constitution and other laws to raise monks' legal awareness and understanding of national policies, according to the regional government's website. Legal education among monks and nuns is necessary and timely, which can play a key role in regional stability, Xiong Kunxin, an ethnic studies professor at Tibet University in Lhasa, told the Global Times on Thursday. In some areas, where most people believe in Buddhism, monks and nuns who have a deeper understanding of laws and national policies can better promote the policies among believers, according to Xiong.  ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Western pressure has no effect on China's governance in Xinjiang (Global Times)
2019-03-21
Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has always been a hot topic in the West. US media outlet The Atlantic even dug out a past incident of 22 Uyghur prisoners in detention at Guantanamo Bay and speculated about the reason. Interestingly, Sweden announced it would grant refugee status to Uyghur Muslim asylum-seekers from China. Police officers in this very country last winter dumped two Chinese seniors in a chilly suburb late at night, but now the nation is showing its sympathy. Western society's rightist tendency in dealing with Muslims and immigrants is increasingly apparent, made manifest in the rise of white supremacy. New Zealand's mosque shooting is an example. Meanwhile, the West is eyeing China's Xinjiang governance, portraying anti-extremist governance activities as persecution of Muslims. Western media claimed some innocent Uyghur Muslims were persecuted to death at the vocational training centers in Xinjiang, or "concentration camps" in Western rhetoric. However no evidence has been provided to support their allegation. But 50 Muslim were truly gunned down by a white supremacist in New Zealand mosques. Although the gunman is from Australia, he represents the ultra-right ideology spreading fast in the West. The West is good at argument. While it squeezes out Muslim immigrants, it hypocritically supports Muslims in China protesting against the government. Western elites never admit their values are confusing, but are narcissistic in their behavior. Despite loud noises from the Western propaganda machine, the accusations have had little real effect. The stories fabricated by Western media and claimed they made have amounted to nothing more than a bubble. This round of media attacks by Western public opinion has not affected governance in Xinjiang. Officials and ordinary people in Xinjiang won't let Western voices influence their judgment or predict the future situation. Western opinion has a limited influence in the Islamic world. Only Turkey under Pan-Turkism has made statements that intervene in the situation of Xinjiang. No other Muslim countries have followed the lead of the West. The Xinjiang problem is largely an issue created by a few Western countries with their media organizations and a small number of lawmakers that hold an aggressive anti-China stance. The West failed in pressuring China through the UN Human Rights Council. The West has suffered repeated defeats regarding Xinjiang but still keeps trying. The foreign media has reported that China has invited Western diplomats to visit Xinjiang. At least two Western reporter delegations have visited the vocational education and training centers. China has not refused communication with the West, a reflection of China's magnanimity and self-confidence. Most importantly, China's governance in Xinjiang is practical and realistic. The country is sincere in helping people influenced by extremism. By contrast, some Western forces, driven by geopolitical factors, attacked China's governance in Xinjiang. But good prevails over evil. These forces can do nothing about Xinjiang even if they play all their cards. ^ top ^

China says it has arrested 13,000 'terrorists' in Xinjiang as it seeks to justify internment camps for Muslims (SCMP)
2019-03-18
China has arrested nearly 13,000 "terrorists" in far western Xinjiang since 2014, the government said in a white paper released on Monday, the latest bid to counter criticism of its treatment of Muslim minorities. Beijing has drawn international condemnation for its network of mass internment camps in Xinjiang, where rights experts estimate 1 million or more Uygurs and other Muslim minorities have been held for political indoctrination. In response, the Chinese government last year launched a propaganda offensive to reframe and justify the camps, which it insists are "vocational training centres" that are necessary to counter "religious extremism" and ensure stability. The white paper released by the State Council, China's cabinet, is the latest effort to advance that narrative, with a focus on how its "hard-hitting" approach has helped thwart terror attacks. "Since 2014, Xinjiang has destroyed 1,588 terrorist groups, arrested 12,995 terrorists, seized 2,052 explosive devices, investigated and punished 30,645 people for 4,858 illegal religious activities and confiscated 345,229 copies of illegal religious materials," it said. But it did not state how many people had been detained in the camps, which it said were for eradicating the influence of "terrorism and extremism" on people who carried out minor crimes or offences. Last Tuesday, Xinjiang governor Shohrat Zakir said during the country's annual legislative sessions that the number of detainees was less than 1 million – an estimate made by United Nations rights experts last summer. Zakir called the figure "hype" but declined to provide the exact number instead, saying only that it was "dynamic and changing". Zakir also disputed criticism that the detainees were kept in "concentration camps" and instead called them "boarding schools" and said they could return home freely if they wished. Adrian Zenz, an expert on Xinjiang with the European School of Culture and Theology in Germany, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last Wednesday that after two years of rapid expansion, the camps may now hold as many as 1.5 million Muslims. Zenz said the figures cited in the white paper were not designed or suited to counter Western estimates, but were likely intended to "lend justification to the massive 'preventative' internment strategy by implying that Xinjiang has suffered from a very major terrorist threat". He said the white paper was also "designed to make us believe that the re-education centres function just like 'boarding schools'", referring to Zakir's comment, and it was a "clear attempt to respond to the growing global outcry". Former inmates have told foreign media that they were subjected to abuse, political brainwashing, forced labour and were cut off from their families outside while at the camps. The white paper, however, claimed "trainees" were well looked after, enjoyed "colourful" sports and recreation activities and could pay "regular visits" home. But it did acknowledge that they were banned from holding or participating in religious activities inside the facilities. Patrick Poon, China researcher with Amnesty International, said the white paper showed that the Chinese government was concerned about justifying the existence of the camps. "However, apart from the numbers, we simply have no information about who those 'terrorists' are," he said. "The broad and vague definition of 'terrorism' and 'extremism' in fact is the cause of the mass arbitrary detention of the people in the region," he added. In the past months, China has ramped up efforts at home and abroad to defend the camps, escorting select diplomats and journalists on highly controlled tours to visit see them and speak to select inmates. State media has also released videos depicting rosy lives inside the camps to counter accounts of harsh conditions and abuse by former inmates in Western media reports. But the campaign has so far failed to gain much credibility or quell criticism. Last week, the US State Department said it was considering sanctions on those responsible for human rights violations against Muslims in Xinjiang, echoing Turkey to call the situation a "great shame for humanity". Last month, Turkey became the first prominent Muslim-majority power to lash out at China over the camps and call for their immediate closure. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

System allowing mainland Chinese people to move to Hong Kong will not be amended, says security chief (HKFP)
2019-03-21
Secretary for Security John Lee has said the government has no intention to amend the current one-way permit mechanism which allows mainland people to move to Hong Kong. Under the programme, 150 people can move to Hong Kong from China each day, though the local authorities have no power to vet who can come. Lee was responding to a motion debate on reforming immigration and admission policies, as tabled by democrat Gary Fan. The Neo Democrats lawmaker suggested Hong Kong should take back the power to vet new arrivals, with the daily quota reduced to 75. Fan also suggested that there should be a mechanism to check if new immigrants had sufficient financial ability to live in Hong Kong. He said new immigrants should be able to permanently return to the mainland if they wish, and more time should be allowed to check potential cases of bogus marriages, among other suggestions. "Hong Kong is now like a severely overcrowded ship. Too many people, and it will sink," Fan said. Fan raised examples of foreign countries, as well as the European Union, setting financial requirements for cases of family reunions. "Setting an immigration policy does not constitute discrimination. On the contrary, setting a reasonable population policy in line with local expectations and development needs will prevent unnecessary confrontation and hatred," Fan said. In response, Lee said one-third of locally registered marriages were cross-border marriages, and there was no downward trend in the long run. Under the current system, Lee said, mainland spouses may have to wait for four years before coming to Hong Kong. "We have no intention of changing the current one-way permit system. Hong Kong has attached importance to the public's opinion on mainland residents moving to Hong Kong. We will closely monitor the usage of one-way permit quotas," Lee said. He said the power of approving one-way permits is the responsibility of the mainland authorities, and the approval standard was "open, objective and transparent." Responding to Fan's suggestion to introduce financial checks for new immigrants, Lee said the dependent system was meant for family reunions, and enables the city to retain and attract overseas talent. "If the one-way permit system had a financial test, then it would not be for family reunions anymore. It would be choosing mainland people from rich family backgrounds to come to Hong Kong, whilst other people would have to wait for a long time," Lee said. Fan's motion was rejected by the legislature. ^ top ^

Hong Kong is no closer to legalising same-sex marriage, says Chief Exec. Carrie Lam (HKFP)
2019-03-21
Hong Kong's government is no closer to legalising same-sex marriage, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a Bloomberg Invest Asia conference on Thursday. Lam said the issue of same-sex marriage remains controversial, but indicated that a recent court ruling in immigration arrangements for same-sex couples who married abroad "does help" to bring overseas talent to the city. She had been responding to concerns that a failure to legalise same-sex marriage could harm businesses who want to attract foreign talent. Last July, the Court of Final Appeal upheld a lower court's judgement in favour of a lesbian expat known as QT, a ruling that has been hailed a "landmark decision" for the city's LGBTQ+ community. The court ruled that denying a spousal visa to QT on the basis of marital status amounted to unlawful discrimination. Prior to the ruling, QT was only allowed to enter the city on a tourist visa, on the grounds that her same-sex union was not recognised under Hong Kong law. In spite of the unanimous judgement, same-sex marriage is not recognised in Hong Kong. Lam touted the city's commitment to the rule of law in abiding by the QT ruling, despite the government losing the case in court. "This is also an indication of the rule of law in Hong Kong and we will give dependent visas to the same-sex partners of people who come in to work with us," she said. A 2018 survey by the University of Hong Kong found that support for legalising same-sex marriage in Hong Kong had jumped to 50 per cent, a rise of 12 per cent in four years. ^ top ^

China extradition law should be handled with extreme caution says Hong Kong trade group (HKFP)
2019-03-20
Any update to the city's extradition laws should be handled with extreme caution and not rushed, the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC) said on Tuesday. A paper sent to the legislature by the Security Bureau has proposed amending extradition laws to allow Hong Kong to handle extradition requests from jurisdictions where there are no preexisting agreements, most notably from mainland China and Taiwan. The HKGCC said it was concerned about people in Hong Kong being extradited over crimes perceived to be less serious, adding that extradition should be reserved only for "the most heinous" of crimes. "We would encourage engagement by the Government to consider views being raised in the community, so that if the proposal goes forward there is a clearly-defined framework that commands broad public support," said HKGCC Chairman Aron Harilela. "Other issues also need to be considered. These include offences that may qualify for potential extradition and the safeguards available to protect the individual accused of the crime." The trade group said that the safeguards outlined in the government paper do not go far enough and extradition agreements with other jurisdictions, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, contain a "much longer" list of grounds for potential refusal. The proposal has sparked a backlash from local and international business sectors over the potential for suspects to be extradited to the mainland in relation to financial crimes. In a letter to the Secretary for Security John Lee in March, the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong raised "grave concerns" over the city's compatibility with China's rule of law and its high conviction rate, saying: "Mainland criminal process has deep flaws, including lack of an independent judiciary, arbitrary detention, lack of fair public trial, lack of access to legal representation and poor prison conditions." Hong Kong has an existing system for dealing with one-off extradition requests but they must be scrutinised by the legislature. The Security Bureau has proposed amending the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance (FOO) and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance (MLAO) to enable a case-by-case approach to fugitive transfer requests. ^ top ^

 

Macau

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Taiwan

Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen to transit through US during Pacific trip – sources (HKFP)
2019-03-21
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen will make a stopover in the United States on her way back from visiting three Pacific nations this month in a move sure to irk Beijing, sources said Wednesday. Tsai will leave for Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands on Thursday in a trip to shore up ties amid growing concerns about China's increasing clout in the region. She is scheduled to transit through Hawaii on March 27 on her way back to Taipei, the sources said without elaborating. Taiwan is typically low-key in announcing its leader's specific itineraries, fearing China will use its power to disrupt. Tsai's last state visit was to Paraguay and Belize in August with US transits that prompted an official protest from Beijing after she gave a speech in Los Angeles — the first time in 15 years that a Taiwanese leader spoke publicly on American soil. Beijing also protested when Tsai transitted through Hawaii and the US territory of Guam during her first official visit to the Pacific in 2017. Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 but has remained Taiwan's most powerful unofficial ally and biggest arms supplier. China, which sees the self-ruling island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, bristles at any moves by countries that might lend Taiwan diplomatic support or legitimacy. Beijing has stepped up diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since Tsai took office in 2016, as she has refused to acknowledge its "one China" policy. Five countries have switched official recognition to Beijing since Tsai became president, leaving Taipei with only 17 diplomatic allies including six in the Pacific. Beijing has also made progress with the Vatican, Taiwan's most powerful official ally and its only one in Europe, by signing a landmark agreement with the Holy See on the appointment of bishops last year. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Chinese economy maintains stable progress with opportunities ahead (Xinhua)
2019-03-21
China's economy will maintain resilience and progress partly due to further opening up, a stronger domestic market and booming high-tech industries, a senior official has said. Ning Jizhe, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, made the remarks in his article published in the latest issue of Secretary Work, a periodical under the supervision of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee. China's economic development over the past 40 years was made possible due to, among other things, the incremental opening up of the economy. Despite a drastic decline in global cross-border investment in 2018, China's actual use of foreign capital hit 134.97 billion U.S. dollars, up 3 percent from a year earlier. China has signed 17 free trade agreements with 25 countries and regions, with another 13 agreements under negotiations. Robust domestic demand has become a key driver of the Chinese economy or even the global economy at large. China managed to grow at an annual speed of 6.6 percent last year, with consumption contributing over 76 percent to its growth. Chinese consumption has become increasingly important for its trade partners. China was the world's second-biggest importer after the United States between 2012 to 2017, and has become the biggest trade partner of over 120 countries and regions. Ning expects China's domestic consumption to be further unleashed owing to rising household incomes, better consumption environment and improved product quality, which will help ensure China's economy stay on track. The country is also becoming an increasingly important global player in the innovation economy. R&D investment accounted for 21.5 percent of China's gross domestic product in 2017, and China has taken the global lead in the number of research and development personnel employed within the country. China has become one of the regions to witness fast development of high-tech industries. Last year, output of new energy vehicles, fiber optics and smart televisions surged 40.1 percent, 23 percent and 18.7 percent respectively, year on year. An increase in innovation is also tied to an increase in patent application filings within China. In fact, China had been the top nation for patent application filings for seven consecutive years by the end of 2017. Looking ahead, Ning stressed that China should seize strategic opportunities to maintain high-quality economic development. To fulfil the target, efforts should be made to enhance the counter-cyclical adjustment of macro policy to keep economic growth within a reasonable range, Ning said. While facilitating the development of the services industry to upgrade consumption, China will encourage innovation and investment in the construction of new infrastructures, including big data and artificial intelligence. More measures will be unveiled to prevent financial risks, reduce poverty and promote green development, according to Ning. Besides, the country will also deepen the supply-side structural reform to create new development dynamics and accelerate industrial upgrading, push forward coordinated regional development and advance all-round opening-up, Ning added. ^ top ^

Spotlight: China's foreign investment law to boost investor confidence, say overseas observers (Xinhua)
2019-03-19
China's newly approved foreign investment law bodes well for overseas investors in terms of equal treatment and stronger legal protection, observers of various communities in the United States have said. China's national legislature on Friday passed the foreign investment law, a landmark legislation that will provide stronger protection and a better business environment for overseas investors. The law, based on a system of pre-establishment national treatment plus a negative list, aims to improve the transparency of foreign investment policies and ensure that foreign-invested enterprises participate in market competition on an equal basis. The law "has sent a clear message that China welcomes foreign investment and protects the legitimate rights of foreign investors," Li Ji, a professor of law at Rutgers University in the U.S. state of New Jersey, told Xinhua. "A main purpose of law-making is to add transparency and predictability to (China's) investment environment, which will help strengthen investor confidence," the professor added. China's national treatment "will afford foreign investors treatment that is no less favorable than that afforded to Chinese investors during the establishment, acquisition, expansion and other stages of their investment," Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for China-America Studies, told Xinhua. He noted that the legislation explicitly prohibits forced technology transfer by administrative measures and essentially bars local governments from interfering in national foreign investment policies. Therefore, the investment protection clauses in the law will be "gladly welcomed by foreign businesses," he said. Jorge Mariscal, emerging markets chief investment officer at Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) Global Wealth Management, also said he believes that these measures will help foreign investors to strengthen their confidence to invest in China. "We hope and remain positive that these measures will increase investors' confidence in investing in China," Mariscal told Xinhua. Similarly, Gupta also believed that the law will help address major issues that foreign investors face in China, as it provides them with strong protection to ensure administrative and regulatory impartiality. "Foreign investors will now be able to compete on the same terms as China's domestic companies," Gupta told Xinhua, adding that a number of key sectors have gone through significant liberalization for foreign direct investment (FDI), such as cars, finance and insurance. By explicit prohibition, the law would help resolve investors' grave concerns and prompt more foreign capital to flow into China, said Hao Yong, a partner of JunHe law firm LLP New York office. "It shows the government's respect to contracts, and will improve its credibility," Hao told Xinhua. "Such measures will make a more level playing field for overseas firms and help increase their competitive edge in China." About 960,000 foreign-invested enterprises had been set up in China, with the accumulated FDI exceeding 2.1 trillion U.S. dollars by the end of 2018, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. A survey of 240 companies by the American Chamber of Commerce in South China also shows that the respondents plan to increase their reinvestment budgets from profits in China this year to an estimated total of 19.4 billion dollars, up nearly 40 percent from 2018. The law is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, yet more auxiliary measures supporting the enforcement of the law would be needed to effectively upgrade China's investment environment for foreigners, Hao said. Viewing the legislation as "a definite step in the right direction," Mariscal from UBS also stressed that enforcement of the law would be key. "What would particularly affect the foreign investors is the effectiveness in the implementation of the legal framework," the UBS investment officer said. "The foreign investment law relates to longer term FDI. It will take some time, but we should see greater appetite to relocate businesses to China," he said. In this aspect, Gupta said that it would take some time for the law to reassure foreign businesses that "the playing field is being leveled in China to allow fair competition to take hold, irrespective of national origins." As always, when a piece of legislation is passed, the key is in the implementation, he noted, adding that the success of the enforcement will depend on how rigorously the regulations regarding implementation are written. In terms of foreign investment protection, "strong measures to deal with political, regulatory and administrative non-compliance are envisaged. A robust working mechanism to promptly address foreign businesses' complaints is also envisaged," he said. The scholar also pointed out that the law's significance for China's new round of opening-up and reform is "potentially profound," as it embodies its potential to help transform the Chinese economy into "a more sophisticated, advanced economy-type, productivity-led growth model." ^ top ^

 

DPRK
US Treasury sanctions two China-based shipping companies over claims they helped North Korea evade international sanctions (SCMP)
2019-03-22
The United States on Thursday sanctioned two China-based shipping companies it says helped North Korea evade US and international sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme, the first such steps since US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's summit meeting collapsed last month. The US Treasury also issued an updated advisory that listed 67 vessels that have engaged in illicit transfers of refined petroleum with North Korean tankers or were believed to have exported North Korean coal. The Treasury Department identified the newly sanctioned firms as Dalian Haibo International Freight Co Ltd and Liaoning Danxing International Forwarding Co Ltd, both based in China. The move prohibits US dealings with the designated companies and freezes any assets they have in the United States. The US announcement came weeks after a second summit between Trump and Kim, in Hanoi, broke down late last month over conflicting demands by North Korea for relief from tough sanctions and from the US side for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. The United States has led international efforts to press North Korea through sanctions to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. "The United States and our like-minded partners remain committed to achieving the final, fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea and believe that the full implementation of North Korea-related UN Security Council resolutions is crucial to a successful outcome," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement. "Treasury will continue to enforce our sanctions, and we are making it explicitly clear that shipping companies employing deceptive tactics to mask illicit trade with North Korea expose themselves to great risk." US-North Korean engagement has appeared to be in limbo since last month's summit breakdown. Washington has said it aims to re-engage with Kim, but North Korea has warned it is considering suspending talks and may rethink a freeze on missile and nuclear tests in place since 2017 unless Washington makes concessions. On Monday, two senior US senators called for the Trump administration to correct a slowing pace of American sanctions designations on North Korea, saying there had been a marked decline in such actions during the past year of US diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang. They pointed to a 2019 UN report which found that North Korea had continued to defy UN sanctions with a massive increase in smuggling of petroleum products and coal and violation of bans on arms sales. The Treasury statement said Dalian Haibo was targeted for dealings with Paeksol Trading Corp, a company previously designated by US sanctions on North Korea. It said Dalian Haibo shipped cargo from Dalian, China to Paeksol in Nampo, North Korea, in early 2018 aboard North Korean-flagged vessels. The statement said Liaoning Danxing had "routinely used deceptive practices" to enable the work of North Korean procurement officials based in the European Union. The Treasury statement said evasion tactics employed by North Korea included disabling or manipulating automated identification systems, physically altering vessels, transferring cargoes between ships and falsifying cargo documentation. It said ports visited by vessels involved in ship-to-ship transfers included those in Taiwan, China, Russia and South Korea. The Treasury Department said that in 2018, North Korean ports received at least 263 tanker deliveries of refined petroleum via UN-prohibited ship-to-ship transfers. It said that if the tankers were fully laden, North Korea would have imported 3.78 million barrels – more than 7½ times the 500,000 barrels per year allowed under a UN resolution. Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, said early this month that the United States would look at ramping up sanctions on North Korea if Pyongyang did not scrap its nuclear weapons programme. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on March 4 he was hopeful he could send a team to North Korea "in the next couple of weeks," but there has been no sign of direct engagement since the failed February 27-28 summit. ^ top ^

North Korean dissident smashes portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il in viral video (SCMP)
2019-03-21
A shadowy dissident group dedicated to overthrowing the North Korean regime has released footage purporting to show a person inside the totalitarian state destroying portraits of national founder Kim Il-sung and second-generation dictator Kim Jong-il. Cheollima Civil Defense on Thursday released a short video on its website of a figure, whose face is blurred, removing portraits of current leader Kim Jong-un 's grandfather and father from a wall and smashing them on the ground. During the 34-second clip, captions in Korean and English describe the scene as occurring recently on "our homeland's soil", followed by "Down with Kim family rule!" and, "For our people we rise up! Long live Free Joseon!" The video has been viewed more than 20,000 times on YouTube. Desecrating the image of the ruling Kim dynasty, whose portraits adorn every building and public place in North Korea, is considered a heinous crime in a country where the leadership enjoys godlike status. "Without question, you'd be executed by firing squad," said Ken Eom, a former North Korean military officer who defected to South Korea in 2010. Eom, however, said he had serious doubts that the video was filmed inside the North, especially as the room resembles an institute where North Koreans are forced to study the Kims' family history. As well as floor tiling and a computer chair that would be unusual in the isolated country, Eom said such a bold display of resistance in public would be incredibly risky. "For example, it would be possible for someone at home to quietly tear up a portrait of Kim Il-sung – something like that is possible," he said. "But I think a performance like this is impossible." Eom said the figure in the video was most likely a North Korean defector based outside the country. Free Joseon is the name that Cheollima, which describes itself as a government in exile, intends to use for a future state after the "liberation" of the North, which the Kims have ruled with an iron fist since 1948. A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry report found the North responsible for human rights violations that it said were without "parallel in the contemporary world", including murder, torture, rape and forced abortions. The release of the footage comes after Cheollima on Sunday appealed to media to respect its anonymity and announced the sale of 200,000 "visas" to visit Free Joseon after the fall of the Kim dynasty. Although its membership and funding remain shrouded in secrecy, the group has been described by some experts as potentially the most organised and audacious opposition to emerge against the Kim dynasty in seven decades. Last week, The Washington Post reported that the mysterious group was responsible for a daring raid on the North Korean embassy in Madrid during which a group of intruders tied up staff before making off with computers and mobile phones. Spanish media had earlier reported that local authorities had found evidence of involvement by figures connected with the CIA, to which the American spy agency issued an "unconvincing" denial. The Washington Post report, which cited unnamed sources, said Cheollima had carried out the raid without the help of any government. The group has yet to claim responsibility, although a Twitter account bearing its name posted a link to the report on Thursday with the comment, "leaving the shadows". Cheollima first rose to prominence in 2017 when it claimed credit for evacuating Kim Jong-un's nephew Kim Han-sol from Macau. The 23-year-old appeared in a video released by the movement after his father Kim Jong-nam was assassinated in Kuala Lumpur in a hit suspected to have been directed by Pyongyang. ^ top ^

Seoul seeks to break deadlock in nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang (SCMP)
2019-03-18
As talks between Washington and Pyongyang on denuclearisation appear to have stalled after last month's summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended without agreement, South Korea is looking for ways to end the impasse. A statement issued by Seoul's presidential Blue House on Monday said the time was now right for the two Koreas to hold further talks – building upon President Moon Jae-in 's policy of rapprochement which saw him meet Kim three times last year. "We're in a deep agony over how to take advantage of this baton that has been handed over to us," said the statement, attributed to a high-ranking official. "We agree with the view that no deal is better than a bad deal … However, in reality, it is difficult to achieve complete denuclearisation at one stroke. I think we need to reconsider the so-called all or nothing strategy." After last month's summit in Hanoi was cut short by several hours, Trump told reporters that Pyongyang had wanted "sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn't do that … we had to walk away from it". North Korea contradicted this claim, with the country's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho later saying Pyongyang had made "realistic" proposals in return for a "partial lifting of sanctions". In the days and weeks since, the North has threatened to suspend all channels of communication with Washington and even restart its missile tests. To end the impasse, South Korea wants to get the North to "agree with a broad road map aimed to achieve the overarching goal of denuclearisation", according to the Blue House statement. "On the basis of that, we should make further efforts to turn a small deal into a deal that is good enough. In order to achieve meaningful progress, we need one or two early harvests for mutual trust-building to move on toward the final goal." Yoon Sung-suk, a professor of political science at Chonnam University, said there were "mounting fears" among many in the South that the breakdown in talks would affect efforts at reconciliation with the North. "President Moon has put everything on the success of diplomacy with the North, as he faces falling approval ratings amid the sluggish economy. For him, this is a high stakes political gamble", Yoon said. During Moon's meetings with Kim last year, the two signed an agreement to "bring forward the future of co-prosperity and unification" and "encourage more active cooperation, exchanges, visits and contacts at all levels". Both sides subsequently took steps to defuse tensions by demolishing watchtowers near the demilitarised zone that separates them and starting work on cross-border railways and roads. But without substantive progress in nuclear negotiations and on sanctions relief, these inter-Korean projects will likely go nowhere. Koh yu-hwan, a professor of political science at Dongguk University, said Seoul was trying to keep diplomacy alive "even if the prospect of the North and the US reaching a compromise in the foreseeable future does not look bright". "Seoul's idea is that the North and the US reach a compromise in which Pyongyang implements a complete denuclearisation phased in a couple of steps rather than at one stroke," he said. In an interview on Sunday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton criticised the North Korean side for not being "willing to do what they needed to do" to reach a deal, while also mooting the possibility of China being involved in future talks. "The idea that there's a role for China in the negotiations is something that we'd be willing to consider if we could see some movement on North Korea's part," he said in the interview with New York radio station AM 970. "What they could do more of is apply more pressure on North Korea. They could apply the UN sanctions more tightly." ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Mongolia's Consulate to cooperate with Erlian city (Montsame)
2019-03-21
On March 18, Mongolian Consulate in Erlian, the Republic of China signed a plan of cooperation with Internal Affairs Office of Erlian with a purpose to protect interest of Mongolians and prevent from crimes. The plan of cooperation reflects measures, such as to eliminate illegal acts of those who borrow money to Mongolians by taking their passports and official documents as a collateral and prevent people from being victim or partner of prostitution, gambling, drug use and drug trafficking. ^ top ^

UN Commission on the Status of Women convenes (Montsame)
2019-03-21
The 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women is taking place under the theme, 'Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls', at the United Nations Headquarters in New York between March 11-22. The Mongolian Prime Minister's social policy advisor N.Khurelbaatar participated in the general discussion and gave a speech. He said, "With the Sustainable Development Vision 2030 approved, Mongolia aims to ensure gender equality as well as to create the favorable conditions to equally distribute social wealth. The Government's announcement as 2019 to be the year of citizen-centered public services also coincides with the theme and aim of the session. To implement Goal 5 of Sustainable Development Goals on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, an international conference took place with the theme, 'Sustainable Development Goals: Gender and Development', under the auspices of the Prime Minister in June 2018, during which the 'Ulaanbaatar Declaration' was released." Mongolia has been a member of the Commission on the Status of Women since 2015. ^ top ^

 

Jennia JIN
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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