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
  2-6.3.2020, No. 806  
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Foreign Policy

Ministry: Xi to visit Japan at most appropriate time (China Daily)
Beijing and Tokyo agreed to ensure that President Xi Jinping's state visit to Japan will take place at the most appropriate time and in the best environment and atmosphere, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Thursday. He made the remark after the Japanese government confirmed the postponement of the visit, which was previously scheduled for the spring. China and Japan are making all-out efforts to combat the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak, Zhao said at a daily news conference, adding that both sides must ensure the state visit will take place at a time and in an environment and atmosphere that are most appropriate for its success. He said that the two countries will remain in close communication on the timing of the visit. Also on Thursday, China expressed resolute opposition to the passing of the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act of 2019 by the US House of Representatives, urging Washington to take concrete measures to prevent it from becoming law. The bill, passed by the House on Wednesday, says that the US government should consider increasing or decreasing economic, security or diplomatic engagement with another nation as a result of an action taken by that nation to either strengthen or undermine ties with Taiwan. Zhao said at the news conference that the bill seriously violates the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiques, adding that it goes against international law and basic norms governing international relations. The one-China principle is the prevailing trend recognized by international consensus, and altogether 180 countries have established diplomatic relations with China, he said. Zhao noted that the US established diplomatic ties with China on the basis of the one-China principle more than 40 years ago. However, the US is going against the trend of the times by thwarting other sovereign nations' pursuit of normal relations with China, which is unreasonable, he said. "We urge the US to handle issues relating to Taiwan prudently to avoid damaging bilateral relations and cross-Straits peace and stability," he said. The bill, previously passed by the Senate in October 2019, now needs a second approval from the Senate due to textual changes, before it is presented to the US president to sign into law. If passed, it will then be sent to the president for final approval. ^ top ^

China 'using visas as weapons' against foreign journalists, says press group (SCMP)
The Chinese government is threatening to take visas away from journalists as a way of intimidating foreign media "like never before", a press group said on Monday, following the expulsion of three reporters last month. In its annual report, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said it also feared Beijing was preparing to expel more reporters, with two journalists this year given working visas of a month. At least 12 correspondents received press credentials valid for six months or less – more than double the number given short-term visas the previous year, in what the FCCC said was a record. Resident journalist visas, which are mandatory for all foreign media based in mainland China, are typically issued for a year. "Chinese authorities are using visas as weapons against the foreign press like never before," the report said, pointing to a "continued decline in reporting conditions". Since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013, China had forced out nine foreign journalists, either through outright expulsion or by non-renewal of visas, the FCCC said. The report also found that most of the journalists surveyed – 82 per cent – said they had experienced interference, harassment or violence while reporting in China over the past year. Nearly double the number of correspondents surveyed this year faced difficulty renewing their credentials, and almost all said they believed this was related to their reporting. Last month, Beijing ordered three reporters from The Wall Street Journal to leave the country over what it deemed a racist headline in an opinion piece they were not involved in writing. Deputy bureau chief Josh Chin and reporter Chao Deng, both US nationals, as well as reporter Philip Wen, an Australian, were given five days to leave. The reporters had covered events in western Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, including forced labour, surveillance and re-education camps. Last August, China refused to renew the press credentials of Wall Street Journal correspondent Chun Han Wong after he and Wen wrote an article on one of Xi's cousins. The group said that "hostility toward foreign press is now so pervasive that the most basic elements of journalism are often frustrated in China". The foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment. ^ top ^

Commentary: Washington's China media cap exposes fake press freedom (Xinhua)
The U.S. State Department has recently announced a cap on the number of staffers for Chinese media based in the United States. Such a peremptory move represents the latest step in an escalating political crackdown by Washington on Chinese media outlets in the United States, and has seriously disturbed the normal reporting activities of these organizations. Furthermore, the policy tarnishes the credibility of these news outlets, hinders regular people-to-people exchanges, and fully exposes the two-faced nature of America's so-called freedom of the press. Washington loves to brag about press freedom. The facts, however, tell us otherwise. "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one," A. J. Liebling, a writer for The New Yorker, once said, accurately revealing how in the United States freedom of press is reserved for deep-pockets, vested interests groups and the powerful. In recent years, this U.S. government has been on a systemic offensive against press freedom and media bodies, seeking to portray those unfriendly media as "fake news" makers. While Washington has kept a tight leash on media reporting domestically, it has used the news media as a weapon against countries around the world it deems either unfriendly or challenging. U.S. daily Wall Street Journal recently published an article, tagging China as the "real sick man of Asia" while the country was bravely fighting the novel coronavirus outbreak. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has insisted on defending the newspaper's ignorance and racism, while ignoring the opposition of the Chinese government and its people. And in the U.S. media's coverage of countries like Syria and Venezuela, the absence of unbiased reporting and journalistic objectivity have been too conspicuous to deny. These abuses of its superpower status have unequivocally revealed Washington's Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice. For those harboring a zero-sum mentality in Washington, China is a threat that needs to be dealt with. In a newly released book "Fake Fear: America and China Relations," author Xin Jiyan argues that "Washington is currently besieged by hawkish policy makers, who consider China as indeed a cause for fear... although China-bashing is not new, it is increasingly jeopardizing normal exchanges, mutual trust and cooperation between China and the United States." The United States has long boasted about its own brand of democracy and freedom, a "Shining city on a hill." Yet such self-aggrandizement only serves to bolster Washington's naked hegemonic desire to rule the world supreme, utilizing domestic news media in the process. It reveals that America's resolute belief in freedom of the press is anything but. ^ top ^

US will answer China's 'harassment' of American journalists with 'reciprocity', Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warns (SCMP)
Top US diplomat Mike Pompeo on Thursday warned that Washington would respond with "reciprocity" if Beijing continued to restrict the work of US journalists in the mainland, days after Chinese officials vowed revenge over the slashing of the quota for Chinese state media journalists working in the US. "Where the Chinese Communist Party has imposed increasingly harsh surveillance, harassment and intimidation on our independent and world-class journalists, we will respond to achieve reciprocity," Secretary of State Pompeo said at a media briefing. "A free press helps expose corruption and protect the people from cover-ups, as well as help the world understand the CCP's thinking." Censorship, he added, "can have deadly consequences. We urge the CCP to immediately uphold its commitment to uphold freedom of the press". The US on Monday said that effective March 13, the cap on the number of US-based employees of China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily Distribution Corp, Xinhua News Agency and Hai Tian Development USA would be cut to 100 from 160 currently. The five outlets were last month redesignated by the State Department as foreign missions. The quota cut came in response to China's decision last month to revoke the visas of three Wall Street Journal reporters after the US newspaper did not apologise for an opinion essay that referred to China as the "real sick man of Asia". China reacted with fury over the use of the phrase, claiming it was derisory as it rekindled memories of an 18th and 19th century reference when it was dominated by foreign powers. The three expelled journalists played no role in the writing, editing or publication of the op-ed piece. Signalling that the issuance of journalist visas could be the next frontier in the escalating US-China rivalry, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying wrote on Twitter on Tuesday: "Now the US has kicked off the game, let's play." Fang Hong, a spokeswoman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, said in a statement to the South China Morning Post earlier this week that by imposing a personnel cap, "the US side is using the excuse of seeking reciprocity to keep down China's media outlets." "This will not only gravely disrupt their normal operation and affect the work and life of Chinese journalists in the United States, but also hinder greater mutual understanding between the two peoples," she said. On a separate front, Pompeo on Thursday also congratulated Singaporean national Daren Tang for winning the nomination to be the next director general of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). Among Tang's competitors was China's candidate Wang Binying, WIPO's deputy secretary general. The race in recent weeks had been characterised as a proxy diplomatic contest between the two superpowers. Tang, a career bureaucrat who currently heads the city state's domestic intellectual property law oversight body, will be appointed to the position after his nomination is endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly – a step seen as a formality. Pompeo said Tang was a "thought leader on intellectual property issues and a vocal advocate for transparency and institutional integrity". He referred to Tang's victory as an "another event [in which] our team here worked hard to ensure a good result for the American people". Tang's nomination "wasn't about defeating China", he said. "This was about the United States selecting the most capable candidate to deliver on intellectual property rights." "We all know the history of China, and property rights, and intellectual property rights, right," Pompeo added. "They've stolen hundreds of millions of dollars of American intellectual property, harming citizens from Kansas to Iowa to Tennessee and Texas, destroying jobs here in the United States of America." In Singapore, officials – wary of being seen as US proxies – have been quick to highlight that it was the republic's own lobbying efforts in the international arena that won Tang the nomination on Wednesday. When confirmed, Tang will become the first Singaporean to lead a major United Nations body. On Facebook, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan congratulated officials who were part of a "whole-of-government elections campaign team". Also on Facebook, one of the country's top envoys wrote that it was "wrong and mischievous" for Tang's victory to be characterised as a win for the US. "Daren is Singapore's candidate. He is not USA's candidate. We are of course grateful to the US for its support but we are not a US proxy and not part of the US confrontation against China," ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh wrote on the social media platform in response to a comment on whether the city state was taking sides in the US-China rivalry. Singapore is long reputed for its adroit diplomatic policy in which it simultaneously maintains strong strategic ties with the US while also having China as its top trading partner. ^ top ^

Commissioner's office of Chinese foreign ministry urges US to stop condoning anti-China suspects in Hong Kong (Global Times)
The Office of the Commissioner of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on Saturday urged the United States to immediately stop condoning anti-China and trouble making suspects in Hong Kong. The spokesperson of the US State Department made unwarranted remarks and voiced "concern" about the Hong Kong police's recent legal action against Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, widely known as one of the "black hands" behind Hong Kong's months-long unrest, and several others in accordance with the law. In a statement issued on Saturday night, the commissioner's office in reply expressed strong disapproval and firm opposition, making it clear that the United States is pointing fingers at the HKSAR government's law-based governance on the pretext of human rights and freedom, which is a blatant interference in Hong Kong affairs and in the HKSAR's rule of law and judicial independence. "Hong Kong is a city governed by the rule of law. No one is above the law, and all individuals should take legal responsibility for their actions," the statement said. Some American politicians have openly glorified Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and his ilk -- who have long been engaging in anti-China and trouble-making activities in Hong Kong -- as "advocates for civil liberties and democracy" while acting as the judge and firing accusations at the Hong Kong police who have taken the action against the suspects in strict accordance with the law, it said. The statement emphasized that China is firmly committed to safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests, and to opposing any external interference in Hong Kong affairs. The statement again urged the US side to immediately stop condoning anti-China suspects who have tried to mess up Hong Kong, stop undermining the rule of law and judicial independence in the HKSAR, and stop meddling with Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs as a whole. Otherwise, the Chinese people, including the Hong Kong compatriots, will definitely fight back. ^ top ^

Coronavirus: China will 'definitely' meet US trade deal agricultural demands, but may invoke force majeure (SCMP)
China will "definitely" honour its agricultural purchase commitments as part of its phase one trade deal signed with the United States in January, despite the coronavirus epidemic, a former senior Chinese government official said on Friday. Wei Jianguo, a former deputy minister responsible for foreign trade at the Ministry of Commerce, told a press conference organised by the government in Beijing that China was fully committed to the deal. However, the coronavirus outbreak that followed the signing of the deal in Washington may mean China has to invoke a force majeure clause in the trade deal with regard other planned purchases, "if some parts fail to happen", Wei said, adding that Beijing will redouble its efforts to implement the deal "once the coronavirus epidemic is over". "China is fully able to complete the agreed amount of agricultural product imports [from the US]," Wei said, without mentioning purchases of non-agricultural products, such as manufactured goods and energy. Wei's comments mark the first on-the-record confirmation from Beijing insiders that China has no plan to walk away from the trade dea l because of the coronavirus epidemic, which has caused huge damage to its economy. It is also the latest suggestion, however, that China may look to a clause in the deal which states that both parties will enter consultations if "a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event outside the control of the parties delays a party from timely complying with its obligations". According to the terms of the phase one deal, China will buy an additional US$200 billion American goods and services over two years, including US$32 billion in agricultural products. These will come on top of pre-trade war import levels, with many analysts questioning whether China had demand for such volumes, even before the coronavirus hit. "The first phase of the agreement did not come easily and is the result of our efforts. But to implement the agreement, the two sides must continue to move towards each other," said Wei, now vice-chairman at China Centre for International Economic Exchanges, a state-backed think-tank. "I would like to emphasise that after the coronavirus epidemic in China, the cooperation between China and the US in the agriculture sector will definitely deepen," he said. "China will definitely honour the phase one trade deal." There are growing concerns that the weakened demand for imported goods caused by the coronavirus will mean China is unable to meet its lofty import target. China's pledged purchase of Boeing planes, for instance, has begun to look very ambitious when thousands of flights are cancelled everyday by Chinese airlines and international airlines flying to and from China. A note from US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, released on Tuesday in Washington, stated that China is taking numerous steps to meet the agricultural purchasing commitments. Without mentioning the virus, which has infected more than 80,000 and killed more than 2,700 people worldwide, Perdue said that he was "encouraged by progress made last week" in meeting the agriculture purchase commitments in the deal and that "we fully expect compliance with all elements of the deal". ^ top ^

UN acknowledges China's leading role in utilization of renewable energies: diplomat (Xinhua)
China on Monday appreciated the comprehensive and pragmatic report submitted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The report introduced good practices of environmental protection in more than 170 countries, including China, according to Liu Hua, Special Representative for Human Rights of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, at the interactive dialogue held at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council. Liu said that ecological conservation and environmental protection benefit future generations, and lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets. Economic development must not be traded at the expense of the ecological environment, Liu stressed, saying that China has proposed the strategic task for developing an ecological civilization and building a beautiful China. As the special rapporteur pointed out, she said, China attaches great importance to the development and utilization of renewable energy sources, and is among the top five countries in the world in generating electricity from wind and solar. "We have actively promoted significant progress in addressing climate change and energy conservation and emission reduction. The intensity of carbon dioxide emissions has continued to decline, and the proportion of non-fossil energy consumption has gradually increased," she said. The Chinese diplomat also introduced that China's total installed electricity generating capacity of renewable energy accounts for 30 percent of the world's total, the increased forest stock volume has already met the 2030 target in advance, the discharge of major pollutants has dropped significantly, and the quality of the ecological environment has continued to improve. Liu added by saying that this year is a critical year for global environmental governance, the international community will formulate a global biodiversity framework for post-2020, and the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will be held in October 2020 in Kunming, China. She said that as a responsible developing country, China will continue to work with the international community to strengthen cooperation in areas such as environmental management, strengthen legislation, increase public awareness and participation, and environmental technology innovation, and make unremitting efforts to build a community of shared future for mountains, rivers and forests. ^ top ^

Feature: China's contribution to global IP governance "remarkable" (Xinhua)
When talking about the development of intellectual property (IP) in China, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Director General Francis Gurry said "it's a remarkable journey and a remarkable story." Born at the start of reform and opening-up, China's IP cause has taken only decades to accomplish what the western IP system took hundreds of years to develop. While developing and improving its IP system, China has been active in international cooperation to boost global IP governance. Starting from zero at the beginning of its reform and opening-up, China has established a relatively complete IP legal system in line with prevailing international rules, joined almost all major related international treaties, and developed cooperative relations with over 80 countries and international or regional organizations in a relatively short period of time. China has always been a follower, participant and upholder of the international rules of IP, Shen Changyu, commissioner of the National Intellectual Property Administration, told Xinhua in a recent interview. China is an active participant in multilateral and bilateral affairs within the framework of WIPO to promote and improve global IP governance, Shen added. In recent years, international cooperation with China on IP protection has has continuous innovative progress. IP cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative has in particular achieved practical results. In 2019, China and the European Union (EU) completed an eight-year negotiation on an agreement to protect geographical indications (GI), which included 275 GI from each of the two sides in the appendix, such as EU's Irish whiskey and traditional Chinese Shaoxing wine. With the ratification of Indonesia on Jan. 28, the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances will take effect for its 30 contracting parties on April 28. The Beijing treaty, adopted by WIPO member states in 2012, fills a gap in the international treaty on the comprehensive protection of performers in audiovisual performance. IP is not only an important strategic resource of a country, but also a booster of technological innovation and a bridge of trade globalization. China is a protector and creator of IP. Statistics show that by the end of 2019, China had led the world in patent and trademark applications for several years running. According to data from the WIPO for 2017 and 2018, China was the second largest applicant for international patent applications submitted through the Patent Cooperation Treaty, and the third largest for trademark registration under the Madrid System. After about 40 years of development, China's IP governance capability is in line with that of the international community and its IP protection has reached the international standard, which is fully recognized by the world, said Shan Xiaoguang, dean of Shanghai International College of IP at Tongji University. In the process of advancing the development of its IP system, China has made great efforts to enhance protection and optimize policies, insisting on providing effective protection without discrimination for both domestic and foreign enterprises. Foreign plaintiffs are able to win and receive injunctions in patent infringement cases brought in China according to the law, Patently-O, a U.S. leading patent law blog, wrote, adding that China's IP protection practice is fair and just. China's effective protection brings huge benefits to foreign IP holders every year. Statistics show that the country paid 34 billion U.S. dollars for IP royalties in 2019. China has strengthened IP protection with an open attitude, making it a magnet for global trade and innovative activities. Global innovative activities occur mostly in metropolitan hotspots in China, Germany, Japan, South Korea and the United States, according to the 2019 edition of WIPO's "World Intellectual Property Report." According to Doing Business 2020, an annual report published by the World Bank, China jumped to 31st in its ranking for ease of doing business and is among the top 10 improvers for a second consecutive year. Advanced experience accumulated during the rapid growth of the IP cause in China over the past decades has attracted worldwide attention. China places IP at a strategic high level, pays attention to IP protection in all economic fields, and has shown its determination of long-term policy for decades, which set up examples for other countries, said Gurry. Renata Righetti Pelosi, president of the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property, pointed out two reasons for the rapid development of the IP cause in China. On the one hand, the needs of economic operators in China have increasingly overlapped with those in the world, and the two sides have reached more consensuses on IP protection, Pelosi said. On the other, China has many IP talents with a global vision, who are leading the rapid growth of this sector, she added. Through academic exchanges and personnel training, China is also actively contributing its wisdom to global IP governance and is more confident about joining global IP cooperation. The first batch of students from countries that joined the Belt and Road construction successfully graduated from China with master's degrees in IP in 2018, bringing the knowledge and experience of IP protection they learned from China to the world. As global IP governance is facing new challenges posed by a new phase of development and a new round of scientific and technological revolution has brought great changes to the industry, many industries spawned by new technologies have gone beyond the scope of protection of the original IP system. In the new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation, countries should learn from each other with a more open and inclusive attitude, said Shan, adding that China has led the world in such technological fields as artificial intelligence, big data and life science, and accumulated valuable experience on IP protection in related industries, which is conducive to solving global challenges. ^ top ^

China urges Washington to prevent TAIPEI Act from becoming law (China Daily)
China on Thursday expressed resolute opposition to the passing of the TAIPEI Act of 2019 by the United States House of Representatives, urging Washington to take concrete measures to prevent the act from becoming law. The act says the US government should consider increasing or decreasing economic, security, or diplomatic engagement with another nation as a result of an action taken by that nation to either strengthen or undermine ties with Taiwan. The act seriously violates the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiques, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, adding that it goes against international law and basic norms governing international relations. The one-China principle is the prevailing trend recognized by international consensus, and altogether 180 countries have established diplomatic relations with China, Zhao said at a daily news conference. He noted that the US established diplomatic ties with China on the basis of the one-China principle more than 40 years ago; however, it is going against the trend of the times by thwarting other sovereign nations' pursuit of normal relations with China, which is unreasonable. "We urge the US to handle issues relating to Taiwan prudently to avoid damaging bilateral relations and cross-Straits peace and stability," he said. The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019. The bill, previously passed by the Senate in October 2019, now needs a second approval from the Senate due to textual changes, before it is presented to the US president to sign into law. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Highlights of Xi's remarks at a leadership meeting on controlling COVID-19, stabilizing economy (Xinhua)
Xi Jinping has chaired a leadership meeting to study the major tasks in preventing and controlling the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and stabilizing economic and social development. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made an important speech at Wednesday's meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. After the whole country's arduous efforts, a positive trend has emerged as the epidemic prevention and control situation has seen steady improvement and the resumption of the order of work and life has been accelerating. The following are highlights of what President Xi urges: -- Speeding up the establishment of an economic and social order compatible with the epidemic prevention and control; -- Consolidating and expanding the hard-won positive trend, and bringing the country's economic and social development back to the normal track at an early date; -- Creating conditions for securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and eradicating poverty; -- Understanding the complexity of the current situation for epidemic prevention and control, as well as the economic and social development; -- No relaxation in the epidemic response preparedness, as the risk of an outbreak is rising in regions outside Hubei as more people move around and crowds gather; -- More international cooperation on epidemic prevention and control; -- Targeted and solid measures to push for work resumption to minimize the loss caused by the outbreak. The meeting demands: -- continued and solid efforts in strengthening the prevention and control in Hubei and Wuhan, especially at the community level; -- All COVID-19 patients in severe conditions should be treated at high-level designated hospitals; -- Intensifying epidemic-related scientific research, with strengths concentrated on tackling the most pressing issues; -- Differentiated approaches to help work and production resume in regions based on their epidemic situations; -- Unleashing consumption that had been suppressed by the outbreak and strengthening new and upgraded consumption to compensate the lost consumption on goods and services during the outbreak. -- Stabilizing foreign trade and investment, assisting businesses, stabilizing employment, creating more jobs, helping college graduates and migrant workers find work, and solving difficulties for small household businesses; -- Greater efforts to help poverty-ridden areas and the people, especially migrant workers from impoverished regions, to ensure the goal of poverty eradication is met on time, according to the meeting; -- More attention paid to epidemic prevention and control work in Beijing and other key regions; ^ top ^

NPC calls for precise legislation at local level to curb epidemic (Xinhua)
The Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) on Thursday called for local legislations that fit the actual situations of corresponding places to curb the COVID-19. Local-level legislatures should listen to the suggestions from professional personnel and the public to improve the quality of relating legislation, said the commission. Noting that the NPC Standing Committee will revise laws relating to the prevention and control of COVID-19, the committee urged local legislatures to follow up and modify relevant local laws and regulations promptly for better legal guarantee of public health. ^ top ^

China unveils guideline on deepening reform of medical insurance system (Xinhua)
The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the State Council on Thursday unveiled a guideline on deepening the reform of the country's medical insurance system. The guideline is for further implementing the decisions and plans made at the 19th National Congress of the CPC on establishing a distinctively Chinese system for medical insurance, as well as solving the problems of imbalanced and insufficient development of medical insurance, according to the authorities. The goal of the reform is to set up a medical security system that centers on basic medical insurance and is underpinned by medical aid by 2030, the guideline reads. It calls for efforts to improve the treatment insurance mechanism, noting that fair and moderate treatment insurance is an intrinsic requirement for enhancing people's wellbeing. The insurance mechanism for medical costs during major epidemic outbreaks should thus be improved, with measures such as releasing special medical insurance payment policies to ensure that medical institutions can provide treatments before charging and that treatments will not be affected by patients' concerns over fees. Moreover, the guideline asks for efforts to make the operation mechanism for financing medical insurance more stable and sustainable, and proposes methods to set up an effective and efficient mechanism for medical insurance payment. The document also features fund monitoring, the supply-side reform on medical services, public management services and other issues concerning the country's medical insurance system. ^ top ^

Backlash in China over draft rule on permanent residency for foreigners (SCMP)
A proposed regulation to make it a little easier for foreigners to get permanent residency in China has caused uproar online, with many Chinese expressing strong opposition to the move. China's permanent residency requirements are some of the toughest in the world, and foreign applicants would still need to meet strict education and investment conditions under the draft released by the Ministry of Justice last week. But it was announced at a time when nationalist sentiment is rising – stoked by state media propaganda on the coronavirus epidemic. The draft – which will be open for public comment until March 27 – met with a backlash on social media. By Wednesday, a hashtag on the regulation had drawn more than 3 million comments on Weibo, China's Twitter, with most taking a hardline stance against the move. "The Chinese people are united in the face of the pandemic and have shown impressive solidarity as a nation," one person who opposed the new rules wrote on Weibo. "I wonder which of the permanent residents would serve China wholeheartedly." Another commenter also cited the coronavirus crisis, saying foreigners had a choice to leave the country while Chinese had to stay. "Look at Wuhan – all 1.4 billion Chinese are standing with Wuhan, but how many foreigners have left?" The new virus strain emerged in Wuhan in central China in December. Wuhan and Hubei province have been the worst-hit areas, reporting most of the more than 3,000 deaths from the disease. The negative reaction to the permanent residency proposal chimes with the state media narrative that many countries have turned their backs on China over the outbreak, with cases of racism against Chinese abroad played up. On Wednesday, an article saying the United States owed the country an apology for "leading the isolation of China" by repatriating its citizens from Wuhan and limiting flights from the country was carried by several state-run outlets. The justice ministry's draft has also prompted discussion of the controversial one-child policy imposed on Chinese for more than three decades to control population growth. Ren Zeping, chief economist at Evergrande Research Institute, weighed into the debate in a report published on Sina, saying China should scrap birth controls on its citizens before relaxing its immigration policy. "It's not that we do not welcome foreign talent … but why don't we first relax birth controls on our own people before introducing foreign talent?" he wrote. "Is it because our own children are not good enough?" Beijing has claimed success for having brought down the number of births by at least 400 million through the notorious policy introduced in 1979. China's rapidly ageing population pushed Beijing to end the policy in 2015, and couples can now have two children. Ren noted that the new permanent residency regulation set a higher bar for income and investment than many developed countries did, but said it could open the door to unequal rights. According to a Chinese survey, some 7,356 foreigners obtained permanent residency in China from 2004 to 2013. The United States in comparison issued close to 1 million green cards in 2013 alone. The proposed regulation would slightly relax the conditions to apply – for example, by lowering the investment requirement from US$2 million to US$1.43 million. It would allow foreigners to apply for permanent residency if they had a doctorate, worked in a government-designated priority sector – the draft did not name the sectors – or if they earned at least three times the average local salary. They should also have spent a certain amount of time in the country – ranging from three to eight years depending on the basis of their application. Foreigners recognised for making "outstanding contributions" to China or those brought in to work in a "sector of urgent need" could also apply without having lived in the country. As the debate continues to rage, Wang Jing, an anthropologist with New York University Shanghai, noted that the proposal had triggered a wave of racist comments online. She said they had been fuelled by the global alt-right movement as well as China's patriarchal nationalism, with some making remarks about not wanting Chinese women to marry foreigners. James Zimmerman, a partner in the Beijing office of law firm Perkins Coie, said the proposal could make the permanent residency process easier, but there was still a long way to go to lure foreign talent. "Reform of the application process for permanent residence status is a helpful step towards alleviating the bureaucratic headache of the process," said Zimmerman, former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China. He added that the decision to apply for permanent residency often depended on a range of factors, including availability of health care, access to the arts and sporting events, and free flow of information and press freedom. "Unfortunately, China has a long way to go before it can truly attract people from around the world to apply for permanent residency," he said. "Indeed, the Covid-19 outbreak is an unfortunate situation that will have people thinking twice about living in China, both temporarily and permanently," he said, referring to the disease caused by the new coronavirus. ^ top ^

Xinhua Headlines-Xi Focus: Xi stresses COVID-19 scientific research during Beijing inspection (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday stressed coordinately advancing the scientific research on novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to provide support for winning the battle against the epidemic. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks during his visit to the Academy of Military Medical Sciences and the School of Medicine at Tsinghua University in Beijing. During his visit, Xi learned about the progress of research and application of the vaccines, anti-bodies, medicines and fast testing kits. On behalf of the CPC Central Committee, Xi extended sincere gratitude and greetings to frontline science and technology personnel. "Science and technology are the most powerful weapon in humanity's battle against diseases," Xi said. "Mankind can not defeat a major disaster or epidemic without scientific development and technological innovation." Xi said the COVID-19 research must be taken as a major and pressing task, calling for accelerating its progress and overcoming major difficulties in epidemic prevention and control at an earlier date. On Monday afternoon, Xi first went to the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, where he heard a report on the academy's COVID-19 scientific research and inspected a contingency medicine research lab for major epidemic outbreaks. Xi stressed the pivotal role of science and technology in curing more patients, reducing mortality and eventually defeating the epidemic. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the academy's contingency scientific research efforts have delivered positive results, he said. Xi urged prompt efforts to develop safe and effective vaccines, drugs and testing kits to help fight the virus. He also called for more core technologies with own intellectual property rights and strong products after the tough battle against the coronavirus. While inspecting the School of Medicine at Tsinghua University, Xi noted coordination between the frontline battle against the epidemic and scientific research and material production. He called for accelerating the development of new-type testing kits, antibody medicines, vaccines, and diagnosis and treatment plans. Xi also required efforts to reinforce the national surveillance network for major epidemics, improve the legal and regulatory system, promote the research of cutting-edge technologies and cultivate top-notch professionals to raise the country's ability to respond to major public health emergencies. Chairing a symposium at Tsinghua University, Xi heard reports and gave an important speech. He noted the progress made by the country's scientific and technological front in just over a month, saying it has provided forceful support to epidemic prevention and control. At the moment, winning the people's war against the epidemic still requires hard work, Xi said, stressing more efforts to seek solutions through science. "Saving the lives of more patients is the most pressing and important task," he continued. Xi stressed linking the research on medicines and medical equipment with clinical treatment as well as giving priority to the clinical application of scientific research achievements. Treatment should combine traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine, more effective drugs be applied and new treatment methods explored to prevent patients with mild symptoms from becoming severely ill, he said. Advanced treatments using convalescent plasma, stem cells and monoclonal antibodies should also be applied to treat severe and critically ill patients, he added. On vaccine, Xi said it is vital to epidemic prevention and control, with its safety the top priority. He called for speeding up the vaccine research and development while closely tracking the progress of related research overseas. Xi urged early clinical trial and application of vaccines, as well as linking research and development with industrial-chain production. He also required building a national reserve system for vaccines. Xi stressed the importance of coordinating research on virus source tracing and transmission routes and evaluating whether some suspected animals are intermediate hosts. Xi pointed out that new technologies, including artificial intelligence and big data, should be applied to epidemiological investigation and virus source tracing to figure out where the virus comes from and how it will develop. Xi also underscored psychological intervention to help patients recover. Bio-security should be included in the overall national security as an important part, Xi said, calling for strengthening the system and capacity building of epidemic prevention and control and scientific research on public health. Xi called for improving the epidemic warning and forecast systems to gather information in a timely manner and quickly take response measures. He emphasized concentrating nationwide resources to double down on key and core technology research and urged breakthroughs in developing high-end medical equipment to accelerate fixing the country's "weak link" in this sector. Xi also emphasized resolutely eradicating the bad habit of eating wild animals to promote a civilized, healthy and environmentally-friendly lifestyle. Public health security is a common challenge faced by humanity, and all countries should join hands to cope with it, Xi said. Noting that the COVID-19 outbreaks have emerged in many countries, Xi said it is important to step up communication and exchange with the World Health Organization and carry out scientific research cooperation on source tracing, drugs, vaccines, testing and other fields with other countries, especially those hit hard by the virus. Xi called on countries to share research data and jointly work out response strategies to contribute to building a community with a shared future for humanity. ^ top ^

Biosecurity seen as top legal priority (China Daily)
China will speed up its legislative process for creating biosecurity laws and relevant legal mechanisms so as to integrate biosecurity risk management into overall national security, Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense, said on Monday. Wu said enhancing biosecurity is a common practice by many nations, and the international community has always attached great importance to biosecurity issues. China has recently integrated biosecurity into its overall national security, thus systematically ensuring better protection for public health, national security and the long-term stability and prosperity of the nation, he said. "This epidemic has highlighted the importance of biosecurity," he said. "China will issue biosecurity laws as soon as possible, and speed up the process of building the legal and support apparatus for national biosecurity." ^ top ^

Ministry: Schools should still delay reopening to curb virus (China Daily)
All schools in China should continue delaying their reopening date in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Education said on Friday night. Schools are required to postpone the start of the spring semester until the epidemic is under control. Meanwhile, schools should meet the basic epidemic prevention and control requirements to guarantee the public safety of the students and teachers, according to a notice issued by the ministry. Schools have also been asked to pick different time slots to start the spring semester, it said, adding that the new semester should be synchronized, however, for the senior students of high schools in the same province, as well as the senior students of middle schools in the same city. It also noted that brick-and-mortar training institutions are not allowed to conduct after-school programs without the approval from provincial education authorities. Schools should also step up their efforts to improve online education and further explore the combination of on-site teaching and online programs after the new semester begins, according to the notice. The education authorities will also take multiple measures to make sure to promote the graduation and employment of college graduates. ^ top ^

Despite positive trends, Hubei to maintain strict epidemic controls (China Daily)
Hubei, center of the novel coronavirus outbreak, will maintain the strictest possible epidemic control and prevention measures despite recent positive changes showing curbed virus transmission, a senior official said. The province has seen a continuous decline in the number of patients with fever, and a marked decrease in the number of new suspected cases and confirmed infections, said Yang Yunyan, the province's vice-governor, in a news conference on Tuesday. The provincial capital Wuhan has seen the number of daily new infections drop below 200. Over the course of Monday, only 114 additional cases were counted, which shows "the spread of the epidemic has preliminarily been curbed", he noted. Meanwhile, with the shutdown of a makeshift hospital in Wuhan's Qiaokou district on Sunday, he said the lack of hospital beds to accept infected patients in the hard-hit capital city has been addressed. He said the continuous increase in recovered patients and constant drops in patients exhibiting critical condition and fatalities also shows the treatment has been increasingly effective. In spite of all the positive changes, however, "the epidemic control situation in the province remains grim and complicated. We will continue to take the strictest possible prevention and control measures," he said. "The risk of the epidemic's further spread has yet to be completely brought under control", he said, and "there are still some uncertainties in the prevention and control work." Over 20,000 infected patients are still hospitalized in the province, including 6,000 exhibiting serious symptoms or in critical condition. The province has also recently found some infected patients exhibiting no symptoms at all. A few recovered patients that have been discharged from hospitals tested positive in nucleic acid tests, he explained. "Generally, there are still some hard nuts to crack for us," he said. ^ top ^

How WeChat censored even neutral messages about the coronavirus in China (SCMP)
China's most popular messaging app censored a range of neutral chat group references to the coronavirus epidemic, potentially threatening public access to essential health and safety information, according to a digital media research group. As well as politically sensitive terms, the researchers found that WeChat censored keyword combinations ranging from discussions of Chinese leaders' responses to the outbreak, neutral references to government policies on handling the epidemic, responses to the outbreak in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau, and references to Li Wenliang, a doctor who died after raising concerns about the outbreak. The analysis was conducted by the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and based on tests of keywords extracted from reports on major news websites in mainland China and Hong Kong. "Many of [the censored keywords] refer to the leadership in a neutral way … eight of the Xi-related keyword combinations reference his whereabouts during the outbreak such as whether he had been to Wuhan city," the report said, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has not visited the central Chinese city where the virus emerged. Premier Li Keqiang visited Wuhan in late January, but keyword combinations of "pneumonia, Li Keqiang, Wuhan, premier and Beijing" were censored as well, the researchers found in their tests conducted between January 1 and February 15. WeChat, a hugely popular social media app with more than 1.1 billion active monthly users, started to censor group discussions on the coronavirus from January 1, one day after Li Wenliang warned his medical colleagues in a private chat group about a suspected outbreak, the researchers said. During the period, the platform censored at least 516 keyword combinations – in both simplified and traditional Chinese – directly related to the coronavirus, with a noticeable increase in February. It also censored 51 combinations, including "centralised quarantine and Wuhan lockdown", that referred to official policies reported by news media accessible in mainland China. More than 30 per cent of the keyword combinations censored in chat groups referred to President Xi Jinping, despite some of the combinations being neutral. The keyword combination of "US Centres for Disease Control" and "coronavirus" was censored during the test period but has since been unblocked. "The blacklisted keywords on WeChat keep changing from time to time. For example, some keywords would be blocked for just a few days, but some could be blocked for months," Citizen Lab researcher Lotus Ruan said. It was not clear whether WeChat blocked these keyword combinations based on government directives or on its own initiative. The researchers said the keyword blocks might have been a case of WeChat "over-censoring" to avoid official reprimands for failing to prevent the distribution of "harmful information" including "inappropriate comments and descriptions of natural disasters and large-scale incidents". Despite the heavy restrictions, most people in China, including government officials, depend on WeChat for private and work communication. Censorship is tighter on group chats than one-to-one messaging, and on domestic than international users. Overseas users can see websites and messages that are not accessible to users in China, even when they are part of the same chat group. WeChat did not respond immediately to a request for comment. ^ top ^

Chinese doctors testing performance of drugs to treat novel coronavirus (China Daily)
China is happy to share the results of clinical trials on drugs to treat novel coronavirus with the rest of the world in the effort to fight against the disease, a medical expert said on Wednesday. Cao Bin, vice-president of China-Japan Friendship Hospital, said at a news conference on Wednesday that Chinese doctors are testing the performance of lopinavir and remdesivir on patients with COVID-19, and the clinical trial on lopinavir has been finished. The WHO and international society are all eager to know the results of the clinical trials in the Chinese mainland.... We will share the results with the rest of the world as soon as possible," he said. Cao also said there are two trials on remdesivir underway on the Chinese mainland -- one includes mild to moderate cases and the other is aimed at severe and critical cases -- and it seems both are going on successfully. Remdesivir, which kickstarted a phase III trial in China on Feb 3, was originally developed for Ebola. The study, expected to be completed on April 27, is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of remdesivir in hospitalized adult patients with mild and moderate infections. "As soon as we finish the trials, we will be happy to share the data with international society," Cao said, adding that he believes the clinical trials will be a great contribution by Chinese doctors to the world. ^ top ^



Beijing pilots blockchain e-invoicing (Xinhua)
Beijing has started to implement blockchain-based electronic invoicing as a parking service operator issued the city's first-ever blockchain regular invoice on Tuesday. The municipal taxation authority said Wednesday that it will progressively promote blockchain e-invoicing in all parking lots and local parks throughout the city to simplify paperless invoice issuance and make life and tax service more convenient. By using distributed ledger technology and cryptographic algorithms, Beijing is seeking to build an ecosystem that features the transparency, traceability and immutability of blockchain to better connect tax offices, e-invoice issuers and recipients. Blockchain-based invoicing will be adopted in more application scenarios and cover more trades and types of invoices, the municipal tax service said. ^ top ^



Western media's selective Xinjiang coverage is pampering terrorists: scholar (Xinhua)
Xinjiang has been a focus of Western media in recent years, but some of their irresponsible coverage is pampering terrorists and thus detrimental to the stability and development there, a scholar told a symposium held here on Monday. Zheng Liang, professor at the School of Journalism and Communication, China's Jinan University, said that after studying 676 articles published on major Western media in 16 years from 2000 to 2015, he found that those reports often construct Xinjiang as a "Uyghur region" and portray violent terrorists' behaviors in Xinjiang as "ethnic conflict." China accuses terrorists of orchestrating those attacks, but some Western media tend to downplay the radical fundamentalist ideology, Zheng said. Speaking at the symposium on counter-terrorism, de-radicalization, and promotion and protection of human rights, Zheng said that Western media tend to portray violent incidents in Xinjiang as "ethic conflict," but they are actually of the same nature as terrorism. Monday's international symposium was jointly sponsored by the Mission of China to UN at Geneva, the Mission of Cameron to UN at Geneva, and the China Society of Human Rights Studies. ^ top ^

Training centers in Xinjiang offer hope (China Daily)
Vocational education and training in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region are giving the younger generation there the "hope of life", according to Jayanath Colombage, director-general of the Institute of National Security Studies of Sri Lanka, who attended a symposium on counterterrorism in Geneva on Monday. The conference, which focused on counterterrorism, deradicalization, and the promotion and protection of human rights, was a side event during the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Global experts from countries including China, Cameroon and Serbia were invited to share their experiences of the fight against terrorism, and to discuss the effectiveness of anti-terrorism efforts. Colombage went to the autonomous region in northwestern China last year. He told the audience about a very different Xinjiang to the one seen in some Western media reports. "When I went to education training centers, what I saw is that young people there now have the hope of life," he said. "They told us earlier on they didn't have any hope because they didn't have good education or good skills, so they were easily led by extremist ideology." From 1990 to the end of 2016, separatist, terrorist and extremist forces launched thousands of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, killing large numbers of innocent people and hundreds of police officers, and causing immeasurable damage to property. No violent or terrorist attacks have occurred in Xinjiang for more than two years, according to the State Council Information Office of China. Kham-Inh Kitchadeth, the permanent representative of Laos to the UN Office in Geneva, who also visited Xinjiang last year, said people's lives in the region are now "back to normal". ^ top ^



Coronavirus: more than 100 Hong Kong restaurants refuse to serve customers from mainland China, investigation reveals (SCMP)
More than 100 restaurants in Hong Kong have refused to serve diners from mainland China during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a human rights group that is warning firms against crossing the line into racial discrimination. The Society for Community Organisation (SoCO) found the businesses were posting messages online or displaying notices at their premises barring Mandarin speakers and non-locals, while secret shopper visits revealed mainlanders were being turned away. Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, from SoCO, said the health crisis did not justify discriminatory practices against visitors to the city and recent immigrants from the mainland. "Of course restaurants should take different [public health] measures, but they should not do it in a way that strips some people of their rights or discriminates against them," the veteran activist said in a press conference on Thursday. Hong Kong has 104 confirmed cases of the coronavirus originating from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, including two deaths. The virus, which causes the deadly illness Covid-19, has infected more than 80,400 people on the mainland. The human rights advocacy group scoured websites and the social media accounts of local restaurants and found 101 of them had posted messages of a discriminatory nature, including refusing to serve mainlanders and Mandarin speakers, or declaring they would only entertain locals. The investigation, conducted between February 15 and 28, also involved visits to 61 restaurants. It found 38 of them had displayed signs on their premises that did not welcome mainland customers. Investigators posed as Mandarin-speaking customers at 13 eateries, and were denied service at five of them. At one eatery, the researcher was asked to produce a Hong Kong identity card after speaking in Mandarin, the official language of the mainland, to ask for a table for one. In another case, an investigator was rejected even though he told restaurant staff where he was from and that he had not crossed the northern border in the past 14 days. Tsoi said while denying service to everyone who had been to the mainland in the past 14 days did not discriminate against a particular group of people, restaurants would cross the line into racial discrimination if they imposed a blanket ban on all mainlanders. The Race Discrimination Ordinance outlaws the discrimination, harassment and vilification of a person on the grounds of their race, which includes the race, colour, descent, and the national or ethnic origin of the person. Tsoi said the legislation should be amended to include nationality and resident status to better protect mainland visitors and those who had moved to the city, while sharing the same Chinese ethnicity as most Hongkongers. In response, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) said whether such cases amounted to discrimination would be determined on a case-by-case basis. "Service providers, including restaurants, are subject to the regulations [under the ordinance] and responsible for ensuring that customers are not treated less favourably than another person or group because of their race, disability, gender and family status," a spokesman said. "Whether the restaurants' refusal to serve customers from mainland China would constitute race discrimination depends on the actual circumstances." It urged all sections of society to avoid all forms of prejudice and help the city win its fight against the epidemic. The findings came three weeks after the EOC advised Kwong Wing Catering, a popular local restaurant chain – which supported the anti-government protesters who took to the city's streets from last June – to remove notices displayed at its outlets. Those posters said the eatery would only serve Hongkongers and that its staff did not speak Mandarin. At that time, the commission said although the language spoken by someone was not included in the legislation's definition of race, "language-related requirements or conditions may result in indirect discrimination against a particular ethnic group if members of this group are unable to meet those requirements … and suffer detrimental treatment as a result". ^ top ^

'Disaster' for rule of law feared (China Daily)
Hong Kong's police chief and legal experts said the city's rule of law faces a "disaster" if local people's ignorance of the law is not addressed. The warning comes as the local crime rate has seen a 9.2 percent increase last year, fueled by anti-government protests that began in June. Briefing the press on Monday, Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung said he was "extremely concerned" that a society which encouraged young people to engage in street violence and then tolerated their illegal actions would see its rule of law severely undermined. About 40 percent of the more than 7,500 people arrested for their roles in the often-violent protests were students, police revealed. Underage students accounted for 50 percent of those arrested in the first month of 2020. Sharing Tang's deep concerns, Barrister Lawrence Ma Yan-kwok, chairman of the Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, told China Daily that the rule of law is constantly being undermined by young offenders who fall prey to radical politics and the "color revolution" agenda of some Western powers. The surging number of juvenile offenders also indicates that education about key legal issues is ineffective in Hong Kong, said Ma. He urged residents and the opposition camp not to portray hardcore protesters as martyrs or heroes — which could exacerbate the situation. A total of 5,000 more cases, mostly attributable to violent protests in the second half of 2019, were recorded than the year before, ending 12 years of falling crime rates, which hit a 48-year low in 2018. Many of these offenses are related to unlawful assembly, criminal damage, rioting, arson and doxxing, said Tang. The number of burglaries, robberies, snatchings and thefts from vehicles also significantly increased as criminals took advantage of police manpower being stretched thin due to protest violence, he added. The manpower shortage also contributed to a 9.4 percent year-on-year decline in the force's overall detection rate to 37.1 percent for 2019. The prolonged street violence also overburdened the police, forcing 12,000 officers to work overtime, some on duty for 50 to 60 hours in one stretch, during the social unrest. Overtime payments accounted for the roughly HK$3 billion ($385 million) budget overrun last year, Tang explained. Solicitor Kennedy Wong Ying-ho said Tang's concerns demonstrated the need to allocate extra resources to the law-enforcement officers under stress. This could be the only way to avoid a disaster for the rule of law, he added. Police should also work closely with local districts to prevent illegal activities, said Wong, noting that many underage offenders, due to inadequate legal education, could be easily misled by opposition propaganda and choose to "abide by the law selectively". The government, in its budget unveiled on Wednesday, allocated HK$25.8 billion to the police force, up from HK$23.6 billion last year, which includes the cost of hiring more than 2,500 additional officers. About HK$300 million will be used to purchase protective equipment and another HK$200 million for armed vehicles and water cannons to deal with increased violence. Tang warned about the emergence of homegrown terrorism, which is characterized by the use of dangerous weapons such as explosives, guns, corrosive liquids and homemade bombs. "We have to face the reality that there is a new normal — things cannot go back to how they were one year ago. Petrol bombs are being thrown every day against police stations and clinics. This is a very significant threat," said Tang. ^ top ^

Arresting and prosecuting Jimmy Lai demonstrates HK's rule of law (Global Times)
Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, a well-known and veteran "political media person," is a unique ghost-like existence in Hong Kong's diverse political ecosystem. His NEXT Digital, and Apple Daily in particular, is characterized by slanders and attacks on the governance of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government and China's overall political system. Lai has played complicated and multiple roles as "fundraiser," "propagandist," and "behind-the-scenes master" during Hong Kong's radical social movements. If his acts were carried out within the scope of the law, perhaps he could be defended as exercising the right to freedom of speech and freedom of political participation. However, Lai's many actions have crossed legal boundaries, endangered the rule of law and challenged the "one country, two systems" principle. Voices demanding Lai be prosecuted and punished in accordance with law have long existed, and the Hong Kong police and the SAR government are believed to have had some strong evidence to punish him legally. Lai was arrested on Friday morning for intimidation and illegal assembly. The actions against him were carried out in accordance with law and within the degree of autonomy that Hong Kong has. He was released on bail at noon but will appear in court on May 5. In Hong Kong, there are a certain number of people who abuse the political freedom that the "one country, two systems" principle and the Basic Law to engage in subversive activities. Article 23 of the Hong Kong Basic Law provides that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region "shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies." Lai accepted foreign aid to incite radical social movements in Hong Kong and subvert the Basic Law. However, he has been at large due to the absence of Article 23 legislation and judicial omission. Nonetheless, there are other charges that can be used to punish Lai for acts that endanger the city. As the violent protest against the extradition bill in Hong Kong last year has seriously damaged the rule of law, the Hong Kong police, the Department of Justice and courts have reached a growing consensus that legal actions must be taken to maintain Hong Kong's rule of law, restore social order and reshape the authority of constitutional order. Prosecuting Lai is within Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and the central government won't intervene. But the central government should support and supervise the SAR government and relevant authorities to carry out their duties in accordance with law. However, unfortunately, as the political ecology in Hong Kong seriously deteriorates, any legal action would be overly politicalized and criticized as long as it involves opposition figures. This time is no exception. Some local and Western media outlets call the arrest of Lai "blatant acts of political suppression," and even called on the US to intervene and impose sanctions. They might think the US could use its Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act that came into force on November 21, 2019 to protect "dissidents" and sanction relevant Hong Kong law-enforcement officers. However, their appeal has no legal basis and is unfeasible. First of all, the US bill is illegal and it's a long-arm jurisdiction over Hong Kong's autonomy. Second, China and the US have signed the phase one trade deal, and the role of Hong Kong as a bargaining chip has declined. It's not in line with US interests to sacrifice political capital to interfere in Lai's case. Third, Lai case is an ordinary criminal case, and is in the process of investigation. Hong Kong has sufficient procedures to protect the suspect under the rule of law and Lai can also hire top lawyers to defend him. The SAR government and Hong Kong society are reaching consensus to rebuild the economy and people's livelihood, bridge the divisions within the society, assist young people in development and take effective prevention and control measures to deal with the COVID-19. But radical opposition including Lai are still seeking opportunities to undermine the city's rule of law. Therefore, the SAR government needs to focus on both the livelihood and rule of law so as to get Hong Kong back on the track of order, stability and prosperity. HongKongers' wish to return to a stable life and the rule of law cannot be trampled upon. No one can enjoy privileges beyond the law. Lai must be punished in accordance with the law to prove the rule of law of Hong Kong.  ^ top ^

Hong Kong government extends HK$10,000 handout scheme to new arrivals on low incomes (SCMP)
A HK$10,000 handout for permanent residents will be extended to some of the hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers who have recently moved to the city, the government revealed on Tuesday. Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said new arrivals on low incomes would be entitled to the one-off payment through a trust fund designed to plug gaps in the flagship policy from last week's budget. Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced last Wednesday a HK$10,000 (US$1,285) handout for every adult permanent resident in Hong Kong at a cost of HK$71.1 billion. The exclusion of immigrants without the status drew criticism from some quarters, leading Chan to consider dipping into the Community Care Fund for those missing out. Speaking on a radio programme on Tuesday, Law confirmed the government would hand the same sum to newcomers on lower incomes and those coming to the city to reunite with their families, subject to criteria. "[It will be] primarily for those who are living in Hong Kong, but unfortunately they might not have reached seven years to become permanent residents, rather than those in transit such as those who come to study or imported labour," he said. "The amount of money will be disbursed by the Community Care Fund, therefore it will have a rider on it and that is: it will be someone who has some financial needs, so it's basically the grass roots people we are talking about." Selective eligibility tests would be carried out, but the government "hoped to be more lenient" because the payment would not be regular one, he added. According to Immigration Department figures, around 307,000 people had arrived to live in Hong Kong from mainland China since 2013, but it remained unclear how many of them would meet the criteria. Law said he hoped the new immigrants could get the money "as soon as possible", although it was also uncertain if the target payment date in July for permanent residents would be matched. In 2011, those who were not permanent residents had to wait another six months for HK$6,000, he said, referring to a similar giveaway by the Donald Tsang Yam-kuen administration, which benefited 230,000 people. The Community Care Fund task force, also chaired by Law, will meet this month to discuss the details. Under the 2011 scheme, only those earning a maximum of HK$7,300 a month, or HK$37,300 for households of six people or more, were entitled to the money. The scheme included people who arrived on one-way permits from the mainland, dependants of permanent residents and people who had unconditional right to stay, as well as their dependants. Law said offering the handout for permanent residents through the budget, while distributing the cash for new immigrants separately via the fund, could avoid legal challenges. "For the budget, we have to be clear with definitions, such as permanent residents, on the money we spend. For those we missed, we make use of the fund," he said. "A giveaway for all citizens may not be a very fair decision, as those in need may not be able to get assistance, but under the current social circumstances, this is the fastest, simplest and direct way." The handout was designed to ease the financial squeeze felt by Hongkongers amid the Covid-19 outbreak, anti-government protests since last June and the global economic slowdown. Separately, Law, who is also the labour chief, said the unemployment rate might reach 4 to 5 per cent given the impact of the coronavirus epidemic, while the drop in tourist numbers of about 170,000 a day would have a huge impact on retail and food industries. ^ top ^



Mainland advises DPP official to stop lying: spokesperson (Xinhua)
A Chinese mainland spokesperson on Wednesday slammed the lies by a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) official accusing the mainland of obstructing the return of 1,148 Taiwan compatriots from coronavirus-hit Hubei Province. Su Tseng-chang, who said "the process got stuck at the mainland side," is completely ignoring the facts and calling white black, said Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office. The mainland side has been taking care of the compatriots since the beginning of the outbreak and working hard to meet their actual demand and their hopes to go back home, said Zhu. The Taiwan authority, however, has kept looking for excuses for obstructing plans to send back Taiwan compatriots from Hubei, said Zhu. Su himself has said publicly that the stranded compatriots can not go back to Taiwan due to the island's insufficient capability in epidemic prevention and control, said Zhu. ^ top ^



China to ensure steady economic, social progress through refined mechanism for stability in six key areas (Xinhua)
China will refine the coordination mechanisms for stable performance in six key areas, namely, stability in employment, finance, foreign trade, foreign investment, domestic investment, and market expectations, to promote both effective outbreak response and steady economic and social progress. The decisions were made at the State Council's executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang Tuesday. "The coordination mechanisms for stable performance in the six key areas have, since their launch, played an important role in forging inter-agency synergy to keep major economic indicators within the proper range. This year we may face even greater challenges, hence there is a higher need to refine these mechanisms to make our work across the six areas better targeted," Li said. The meeting underlined the need to advance epidemic control and economic and social development in parallel. It urged targeted steps in ensuring stability in the six key areas to more effectively manage the impact of the outbreak on the economy. Inter-agency coordination on macroeconomic policies, foreign trade and investment, and financial stability must be fully leveraged to formulate strong and effective response measures to boost the internal dynamism of the economy and keep major economic indicators within the proper range for the whole year. "The most pressing task now is to manage the impacts of the epidemic. Maintaining stability in the six key areas will help keep capital flowing and the industrial chain running, and contribute to an economic performance within the proper range," Li said. The meeting also adopted a host of policies for facilitating the restart of business activities in the logistics sector from transportation, shipment to express delivery services to provide a strong underpinning for epidemic control, help smooth the flow of economic activity, and meet people's daily needs. The meeting called for following the region-specific, tiered and targeted approach to encourage businesses to resume operation in an orderly way. Any arbitrary requirements on the resumption of work must be lifted. Face masks and other needed protective gear should be made available through coordination. Sub-national authorities are required to provide equal convenience for both postal and courier services providers under all types of ownership. "A major obstacle in current outbreak response and production resumption lies in logistics. Undue restrictions should be removed as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the operation of both industrial and supply chains will be hampered," Li said. Further tax and fee cuts will be made to logistics-related services. Insurance companies will be encouraged to lower or exempt premiums for commercial vehicles, ships and aircraft whose operations are suspended during the outbreak, by way of extension of insurance period and deduction of policy renewal fees. For toll-road operators encountering difficulty in repaying their financial debts as a result of the toll-free pass policy, financial institutions will be guided toward providing support to them through deferring interest payment, extending principal repayment and rolling over maturing loans. "It is important to further cut costs for logistics companies, deferring or exempting relevant payments as needed. Such steps should also enable truck and taxi drivers to get tangible benefits," Li said. "We must enhance preparedness in terms of policies and projects, do everything we can to keep economic development and employment stable, and work hard to meet this year's targets for economic and social development," Li said. ^ top ^

Nearly half of China's SMEs resume work amid epidemic (Xinhua)
Around 45 percent of China's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) had resumed work by Monday as the country promoted orderly reopening of companies amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The work resumption rate of SMEs posted steady growth, rising from 32.8 percent as of Feb. 26, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). Efforts should be strengthened to further assist SMEs to resume work and stabilize production and operation, said Xin Guobin, vice minister of the MIIT, noting SMEs' comparative weakness in capital, risk resistance and resource allocation. The ministry plans to enhance classified guidance and take all measures to ease the difficulties of SMEs to accurately promote orderly work resumption of the companies based on local conditions and risk levels. China has issued an array of policies to help SMEs weather the epidemic outbreak, such as deferring loan and interest payment, cutting tax and fees, social insurance contributions and rent, offering low-interest lending and facilitating employment and training. ^ top ^



'Vision-2050' policy document presented to central bank (Montsame)
Head of the Cabinet Secretariat of Government L.Oyun-Erdene today handed over 'Vision-2050', Mongolia's long-term policy document, to the Governor of the Bank of Mongolia B.Lkhagvasuren. "To realize the long-term development policy, the government needs to have a close collaboration with the Central Bank, other professional organizations, and political parties. Moreover, the monetary policy of the central bank and investment policies of the government have to be interrelated and implemented under one general guidance; thus, the policy document is now being presented to the Bank of Mongolia," emphasized Mr. Oyun-Erdene. After receiving the policy document, Mr. Lkhagvasuren briefed about the central bank's policy on banking sector reform, outcomes of monetary and macro policies, present economic situations, and further outlook. He also shared views on what measures the central bank needs to be taken as well as how to cooperate with the government and parliament during this period of the heightened state of readiness concerning the risk of coronavirus spread. ^ top ^

Situations of foreign debt, human rights in Mongolia presented at Human Rights Council Session (Montsame)
The 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council is taking place between 24 February and 20 March in Geneva, Switzerland. On March 04, UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky and UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst presented their reports on their visits to Mongolia. UN Independent Expert Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, who worked in Mongolia in September 2019, thanked for the government of Mongolia for cooperating with him during his trip to Mongolia and afterwards, becoming a good example of cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council. Despite decline in foreign debts of Mongolia during recent years, Mr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky notified about imminent economic challenges due to a large amount of foreign debts held by individuals and entities. Noting that the mining industry becomes a driving force of Mongolia's social and economic growth, the UN Independent Expert emphasized about the importance of community groups gaining equally from the development yields while taking the environment, pastureland and nomadic livestock husbandry conditions into considerations. He also praised the establishment of several funds aimed at maintaining economic stability and equal distribution of mining profits. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst, who visited Mongolia in April and May 2019 to assess the situation of human rights defenders in the context of the State's obligations and commitments under international human rights law. In his report, Mr. Michel Frost praised the significant number of Mongolian laws in Mongolia generally guarantees the rights and freedoms of human rights defenders in the country. However, he expressed the concerns with the country's failure to effectively implement these laws in practice. Special Rapporteur also appreciated that Mongolia is, in general, a relatively safe country for human rights defenders, but he believes this relatively safe environment does not translate into a situation where human rights defenders are encouraged, enabled and empowered in their activities. "Obstacles such as stigmatization, pressure, criminalization, hate speech on social media, and recent political discourse and legislative amendments hinder the work of human rights defenders" he notes in his report. He concludes that a robust law to protect human rights defenders, which the Government began working on prior to the visit of the Special Rapporteur, would prove to be a powerful step forward for the recognition and protection of human rights defenders in the country. The Special Rapporteur also appreciated the commitment by the Government of Mongolia on working to adopt a law to protect human rights defenders. "Given that no other country in the region has adopted a law to protect defenders, the adoption of legislation on this matter would prove to be a powerful step forward in the country and the region as a whole." Mr. Michel Forst presented in his report. ^ top ^

Meeting held to discuss economic difficulties caused by COVID-19 spread (Montsame)
Mongolia is on heightened state of readiness for prevention of COVID-19 infection, following the decision made by the State Emergency Commission. Due to the state, some entities are facing economic difficulties. In regard with the current condition, Speaker of the Parliament G.Zandanshatar held a meeting with some ministers, chairpersons of standing committees and heads of the Bank of Mongolia and the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) to discuss ways to overcome economic difficulties. At the meeting, in line with the outbreak of new coronavirus, the Central bank authorities were instructed to take measures for lowering loan interest by reducing its policy rate as well as to free small and medium business runners from loan interest burden in the near future. "The central banks of the countries are taking measures such as to soften their monetary policy and keep the policy rate unchanged. Therefore, the Central Bank is to convene the Monetary Policy Committee meeting next week to put its proposal to cut policy rate by 0.5 percentage point. We also consider that loan and funding products could become more accessible and loan interest could be lowered if the required reserve amount as well as policy rate are reduced. As the World Health Organization warns that dirty banknotes may be spreading coronavirus, the BoM is fulfilling works to provide new banknotes for its money supply to commercial banks and destroying dirty bills," central bank governor B.Lkhagvasuren said. The MNCCI has conducted a survey among over 1000 entities on how preventive actions for COVID-19 infection are affecting their businesses. According to the survey, 57.4 percent of them answered 'highly affected' and 32 percent answered 'moderately affected'. It gives direct impact to tourism, construction, education and service provider sectors. They also answered service and goods supply lowered by 60 percent and 15 percent of them answered they are in pressure for money. Mining, IT and health sectors' revenue has been declined as well. Aside from it, 66 percent of total entities answered loan payment and its term and rate are the main difficulties facing in their businesses. Representatives of the entities emphasized the importance of reducing bureaucracy in government services and promptly providing services related to foreign trade and its permission. ^ top ^


Gabriel Bishop
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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