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
  23-27.3.2020, No. 809  
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Foreign Policy

Xinhua Headlines-Xi Focus: Xi calls for all-out global war against COVID-19 at extraordinary G20 summit (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday called for a resolute all-out global war against the COVID-19 outbreak as leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) convened an extraordinary summit to coordinate multilateral response to the pandemic. "It is imperative for the international community to strengthen confidence, act with unity and work together in a collective response," Xi addressed the summit via video link in Beijing. Calling major infectious disease the enemy of all, Xi said the international community must comprehensively step up international cooperation and foster greater synergy so that humanity as one could win the battle against the COVID-19. The summit came as the global death toll from the COVID-19, an illness caused by novel coronavirus, has climbed over 21,000 and the number of infections has surpassed 480,000 as of Thursday, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University. This is the first time for the leaders of the world's 20 major economies to hold a summit online since the mechanism, which used to only gather finance ministers and central bankers, was elevated to be the world's premier platform for international economic cooperation in 2008. Stressing the outbreak is spreading worldwide and the situation is disturbing and unsettling, Xi called on countries to move swiftly to stem the spread of the virus. He proposed that a G20 health ministers' meeting be convened as quick as possible to improve information sharing, strengthen cooperation on drugs, vaccines and epidemic control, and cut off cross-border infections. Xi also proposed a G20 COVID-19 assistance initiative for better information sharing and policy and action coordination with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO). Guided by the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, China will be more than ready to share its good practices and provide assistance in its capacity to countries hit by the growing outbreak, he said. The summit was chaired by Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The kingdom, which holds the presidency of the G20 this year, said it organized the extraordinary meeting to advance global efforts to tackle the pandemic and its economic implications. The leaders of G20 members were joined by their counterparts from some invited countries, including Spain, Jordan, Singapore and Switzerland, as well as the United Nations, the World Bank and other international organizations, and the chairing states of some regional organizations. During his address, Xi called on countries to make a collective response for control and treatment at the international level. China has set up its online COVID-19 knowledge center that is open to all countries, said Xi. He said it is imperative that countries pool their strengths and speed up research and development of drugs, vaccines and testing capabilities in the hope to achieve early breakthrough to the benefit of all. China supports WHO in leading the global efforts to develop science-based and proper control and treatment and minimize cross-border spread, said Xi, calling on G20 members to enhance anti-epidemic information sharing with the support of WHO and to promote control and treatment protocols that are comprehensive, systematic and effective. He called for a high-level meeting on international public health security to be convened in due course. Leaders of other participating countries and organizations agreed that the fast-spreading outbreak not only severely threatened international public health security, but also cast a huge shadow over world economy, finance and politics. Facing the common crisis for humanity, no country can keep itself away from the spread of the virus, leaders said, calling for solidarity and more swift and concerted efforts than ever. "The summit has released a strong signal of unity and coordination among the G20 members," Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said Thursday night, adding that all sides voiced commitment to enhancing cooperation to jointly tackle the crisis. The agreement made by G20 leaders to share information in a timely manner, guarantee medical supplies and provide assistance to developing countries, especially the least developing countries, explore joint prevention and control measures has rallied global efforts to fight the pandemic, Ma said. The outbreak has disrupted production and demand across the globe and forced hundreds of millions of people around the world into home isolation. Countries need to leverage and coordinate their macro policies to counteract the negative impact and prevent the world economy from falling into recession, said Xi. He urged countries to implement strong and effective fiscal and monetary policies, better coordinate financial regulation and jointly keep the global industrial and supply chains stable. "What China will do in this regard is to increase its supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients, daily necessities, and anti-epidemic and other supplies to the international market," said Xi, adding that China will continue to advance reform and opening-up and contribute to a stable world economy. Xi called on all G20 members to restore confidence for global economic recovery by cutting tariffs, removing barriers, and facilitating the unfettered flow of trade. Comprising 19 countries plus the European Union, the G20 members account for about two thirds of the entire human population and some 86 percent of the gross world product. Leaders agreed to take effective fiscal and monetary policies, ensure global industrial and supply chains stable and strive to reduce the damages caused by the pandemic on world economy. Ruan Zongze, executive vice president at the China Institute of International Studies, said Xi's remarks at the summit has infused confidence in the international community as the situation in China is moving steadily in a positive direction after a strenuous struggle with targeted measures. On the other side, China's promise to provide countries with urgently-needed medical supplies, impose no limitation on export and safeguard the stability of industrial and supply chains will also inject vitality into the world economy, said Ruan. ^ top ^

Full text of Xi's remarks at Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit (Global Times)
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday delivered a speech titled "Working Together to Defeat the COVID-19 Outbreak" at the Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit via video link in Beijing. The following is an English translation of the full text of the speech: Working Together to Defeat the COVID-19 Outbreak Remarks by H.E. Xi Jinping President of the People's Republic of China At the Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit Beijing, 26 March 2020 Your Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Dear Colleagues, It is good to join you. Let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to His Majesty King Salman and Saudi Arabia for having done tremendous work of communication and coordination to make this summit possible. Facing the COVID-19 outbreak that caught us all by surprise, the Chinese government and Chinese people have been undaunted as we took on this formidable task. From day one of our fight against the outbreak, we have put people's life and health first. We have acted according to the overall principle of shoring up confidence, strengthening unity, ensuring science-based control and treatment and imposing targeted measures. We have mobilized the whole nation, set up collective control and treatment mechanisms and acted with openness and transparency. What we fought was a people's war against the outbreak. We have put up a strenuous struggle and made tremendous sacrifices. Now the situation in China is moving steadily in a positive direction. Life and work are quickly returning to normal. Yet, there is no way we will lower our guard or relax control. At the most difficult moment in our fight against the outbreak, China received assistance and help from a lot of members of the global community. Such expressions of friendship will always be remembered and cherished by the Chinese people. Major infectious disease is the enemy of all. As we speak, the COVID-19 outbreak is spreading worldwide, posing enormous threat to life and health and bringing formidable challenge to global public health security. The situation is disturbing and unsettling. At such a moment, it is imperative for the international community to strengthen confidence, act with unity and work together in a collective response. We must comprehensively step up international cooperation and foster greater synergy so that humanity as one could win the battle against such a major infectious disease. For that to happen, I would like to put forth four proposals. First, we need to be resolute in fighting an all-out global war against the COVID-19 outbreak. The community of nations must move swiftly to stem the spread of the virus. In this regard, I propose that a G20 health ministers' meeting be convened as quick as possible to improve information sharing, strengthen cooperation on drugs, vaccines and epidemic control, and cut off cross-border infections. G20 members need to jointly help developing countries with weak public health systems enhance preparedness and response. I propose a G20 COVID-19 assistance initiative for better information sharing and policy and action coordination with the support of the World Health Organization. Guided by the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, China will be more than ready to share our good practices, conduct joint research and development of drugs and vaccines, and provide assistance where we can to countries hit by the growing outbreak. Second, we need to make a collective response for control and treatment at the international level. This is a virus that respects no borders. The outbreak we are battling is our common enemy. All must work together to build a strongest global network of control and treatment that the world has ever seen. China has set up its online COVID-19 knowledge center that is open to all countries. It is imperative that countries pool their strengths and speed up research and development of drugs, vaccines and testing capabilities in the hope to achieve early breakthrough to the benefit of all. Discussions are also needed regarding the establishment of regional emergency liaison mechanisms to enable quicker response to public health emergencies. Third, we need to support international organizations in playing their active roles. China supports WHO in leading the global efforts to develop science-based and proper control and treatment and minimize cross-border spread. I call on G20 members to enhance anti-epidemic information sharing with the support of WHO and to promote control and treatment protocols that are comprehensive, systematic and effective. The G20 platform for communication and coordination may be used to increase policy dialogue and exchange, and a high-level meeting on international public health security may be convened in due course. For China, we will be happy to join other countries and scale up support for relevant international and regional organizations. Fourth, we need to enhance international macro-economic policy coordination. The outbreak has disrupted production and demand across the globe. Countries need to leverage and coordinate their macro policies to counteract the negative impact and prevent the world economy from falling into recession. We need to implement strong and effective fiscal and monetary policies to keep our exchange rates basically stable. We need to better coordinate financial regulation to keep global financial markets stable. We need to jointly keep the global industrial and supply chains stable. What China will do in this regard is to increase its supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients, daily necessities, and anti-epidemic and other supplies to the international market. What's more, we also need to protect women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, and provide for people's basic needs. China will continue to pursue a proactive fiscal policy and prudent monetary policy. We will continue to advance reform and opening-up, widen market access, improve the business environment, and expand imports and outbound investment to contribute to a stable world economy. I want to call on all G20 members to take collective actions - cutting tariffs, removing barriers, and facilitating the unfettered flow of trade. Together, we can send a strong signal and restore confidence for global economic recovery. The G20 needs to draw up an action plan and promptly set up communication mechanisms and institutional arrangements for anti-epidemic macro policy coordination. Dear Colleagues, Now is a crucial moment, a time for us to rise up to challenge and act with swiftness. I am convinced that through solidarity and mutual assistance, we will prevail over this outbreak and we all will embrace a brighter future for mankind! Thank you. ^ top ^

Foreign airlines limited to one flight per week starting Sunday (China Daily)
Every foreign airline will be required to maintain only one air route to China and operate no more than one flight a week starting Sunday, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said in a circular on Thursday, in the latest move to cut international passenger flights and curb imported novel coronavirus infections. Domestic airlines also are asked to retain only one air route with each foreign country and operate no more than one flight a week starting Sunday, according to the circular. The retained flights should be based on the international flight plan between March 16 and 22 released by the administration on March 12. Airlines should submit their flight plans to the administration for approval in advance, the circular said. Air route permits and flight schedules of the suspended flights will be preserved for airlines that follow the circular, it said. Flights to and from China should carry no more than 75 percent of the passengers that they are licensed to carry, the circular said. The flights could be further slashed in accordance with epidemic development, and airlines should pay close attention, it added. ^ top ^

Coronavirus: no agreement on Pompeo's 'Wuhan virus' terminology as G7 foreign ministers spar over infection source (SCMP)
Foreign ministers from the Group of 7 leading industrialised democracies sparred Wednesday over whether to call out China as the source of the coronavirus pandemic. Meeting by video conference because of the outbreak, the ministers agreed on the need for joint efforts to halt the spread of the virus, known as Covid-19. But US and European diplomats said the ministers were unable to agree on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's call for Covid-19 to be identified by name as the "Wuhan virus". As a result, just a day after G7 finance ministers and central bankers issued a joint communique referring to "Covid-19," the foreign ministers opted against releasing a group statement. US officials pointed to Tuesday's finance ministers' statement to reject suggestions of G7 disunity and said the foreign ministers had never intended to release their own communique. European officials said Pompeo had insisted on identifying Covid-19 as the "Wuhan virus" even though the World Health Organisation and others have cautioned against giving it a geographic name because of its global nature. In recent weeks, Pompeo has stepped up his use of "Wuhan virus", accusing China of putting the world at risk by not revealing more details about the outbreak, which was first reported in the city of Wuhan. President Donald Trump had until very recently frequently referred to Covid-19 as the "China virus" or the "Chinese virus", but since the beginning of this week has steered away from those terms as critics have said they foster discriminatory sentiments and behaviour against Asians and Asian Americans. In a solo news conference after the meeting, Pompeo again referred to the "Wuhan virus", saying it was "the most pressing agenda item". He said all the foreign ministers had "committed to fighting (it) with transparency, as is necessary all around the world." He did not deny there had been disagreements over what to call the virus, but said all the ministers had acknowledged that China had not been forthcoming about its details early on and was now trying to shift the narrative about it. "Every one of the nations that was at that meeting this morning was deeply aware of the disinformation campaign that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in to try and deflect from what has really taken place here," Pompeo said. Other foreign ministers were not nearly as emphatic in their own comments about the meeting, with at least one leaving open the suggestion that China is not the only country trying to use the outbreak to advance political points. French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian said in a statement that he had "underscored the need to combat any attempt to exploit the crisis for political purposes and expressed the view that the unity of all to effectively combat the pandemic must now take precedence over any other considerations." The disagreement over the virus terminology was first reported by the German publication Der Spiegel. German officials said they were more concerned about what would come from a virtual summit of the Group of 20 nations leaders that is supposed to be held on Thursday at the request of Saudi Arabia. US officials meanwhile downplayed the disagreement among the foreign ministers and pointed to the G7 finance ministers' statement from Tuesday that did not mention either "Wuhan" or "China" in relation to the virus and instead referred to it repeatedly as Covid-19. ^ top ^

New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal urge China to reconsider expulsion of US journalists (SCMP)
In an unprecedented move, the publishers of three major American newspapers have written an open letter to the Chinese government, appealing to Beijing to reverse its decision forcing out 13 of their journalists. The publishers of The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times said that the government's expulsion of their journalists working in China was "threatening to deprive the world of critical information at a perilous moment". "We strongly urge the Chinese government to reverse its decision to force the Americans working for our news organizations to leave the country and, more broadly, to ease the growing crackdown on independent news organisations that preceded this action," the publishers wrote, saying that the news media has become collateral damage in a diplomatic spat between the US and China. On March 17, Beijing's foreign ministry revoked the press credentials of American journalists from the Times, Post and Journal, giving them each 10 days to return their media passes and effectively expelling them from the country. Beijing is also requiring the three papers, along with Voice of America and Time magazine, to share information about their staff and operations in China with the government, and has said that it would take further "reciprocal measures" on visas, administrative review, and reporting for American journalists working in the China. If China goes through with it, the move would be the largest expulsion of journalists from the country in more than 30 years. Tensions have been rising between the two nations, with each taking turns cracking down on the other's foreign press. China's announcement was widely regarded as retaliation for the Trump administration's recent decision to designate five Chinese media outlets working in the United States as government entities or "foreign missions" — opening them up to tighter regulation and restricting the number of Chinese nationals they could employ in the US. In February, China expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters over an opinion-piece headline, "China is the real sick man of Asia", which it called racist. Separately last week Beijing also revoked the licenses of Chinese citizens working as researchers and assistants at US media organisations in the country. Chinese nationals are already not permitted to work in China as reporters for foreign media organisations, but they can be researchers and translation assistants. In their open letter, the publishers emphasised their reporters' role in publicising the spread of the coronavirus from its earliest cases in Wuhan, and went to lengths to spotlight their reporters' often favorable coverage of China's response to the virus. "We have prominently featured news and analysis about China's remarkable progress in reducing the spread of the virus through containment and mitigation," they wrote. "Even now, with some of our journalists facing imminent expulsion, they are reporting on how China is mobilizing state resources to develop vaccines that could offer hope to billions of people there and around the world." The letter, which was published as a full-page ad in each paper on Tuesday, represents a rare coming together for three major news rivals usually locked in fierce competition. It is the first time publishers of the three papers have made a joint public statement. "On this matter we speak with a single voice," wrote Journal publisher William Lewis, Post publisher Fred Ryan and Times publisher AG Sulzberger. "We believe it is unambiguously in the interests of the people of both countries, as well as their leaders, to let journalists do their work." China has not officially responded to the letter and calls and emails to the Chinese embassy in Washington went unanswered on Tuesday. ^ top ^

US Navy launches live-fire missiles in 'warning to China' (SCMP)
The US Navy was targeting China with live-fire missile tests in the Philippine Sea last week, sending a message that it was up to the challenge of the PLA's new advanced systems, military analysts said. In the drill in waters east of the Philippines on Thursday, the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry launched a medium-range Standard Missile-2, the US Seventh Fleet said on its Facebook page. It was accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh, which also launched an SM-2 during the drill. Beijing-based military specialist Zhou Chenming said these kinds of drill were not common and "could be seen as a warning to the People's Liberation Army". "The US Navy is worried about Chinese missiles, which China could use as a trump card in a military conflict between the two parties in the region. The Seventh Fleet wants to warn Beijing that it can intercept missiles from China," Zhou said. Li Jie, another Beijing-based military analyst, agreed that the launches were a message to China – and to a lesser extent, Russia. "The US Navy wants to tell China that they can counter the PLA's advanced missiles," Li said. The PLA has developed two kinds of missiles that could pose big threats to the US military – the "carrier killer" DF-21D and the anti-ship DF-26, which has a 4,000km (2,500-mile) range and puts the US naval base in Guam within reach. Either one of the missiles might have been put through its paces in June when the PLA Rocket Force staged missile tests in the disputed South China Sea, according to the Pentagon. The USS Barry was retrofitted with the latest Aegis combat system two years ago, improving its ability to defend bases such as Guam and US warships from the two kinds of Chinese missiles. Further US upgrades and tests can be expected, as the PLA tries to narrow the hardware, software and training gap with the American military, according to Collin Koh Swee Lean, a research fellow with the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies' Maritime Security Programme in Singapore. "Given the shift in defence focus to the Indo-Pacific and with the PLA threat in mind, I wouldn't be surprised if the US Navy conducted more such live-fire exercises to validate the fleet's capabilities against the evolving PLA missile strength," Koh said, adding that the Philippine Sea would be a significant battlefield in any future China-US armed conflict. The missile launches come as the US strengthens military links with Vietnam, the Philippines and other regional allies as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy to curb China's power in the South China Sea. The Seventh Fleet said the Barry's live-fire operation was in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific. Hong Kong-based military commentator Song Zhongping said the drill in the Philippine Sea was meant to strengthen the US military presence in the region, amid fears that the US could be forced out by the PLA. "The Philippine Sea is also the critical maritime artery for PLA vessels when they sail to the western Pacific and Indian oceans," Song said. "The US Navy needs to further enhance its military presence in the region, signalling that political trust between the two countries is falling." ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

China's top legislator calls for improving public health legislation, law revision (Xinhua)
China's top legislator Li Zhanshu has called for efforts to strengthen and improve legislation and revision of existing laws in public health. Li, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, made the remarks at a symposium held by the NPC Standing Committee. Li underlined the importance and the urgency of improving public health legislation and law revisions to guard against major public health risks in light of the weak links exposed in the coronavirus outbreak. Stressing the centralized and unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee and a people-centered approach, Li called for enhancing law-based governance capacity in public health. Li said a coordinated mechanism for legislation and law revision and a special task group should be set up to review the implementation of relevant laws to push for scientific and effective legislation and revisions. Advice and suggestions put forward to address the problems revealed in epidemic response, in particular, should be taken into consideration, he added. ^ top ^

China temporarily bans entry of foreigners in response to surging imported infections (Global Times)
Foreign nationals are temporarily forbidden from entering China even with valid visas, Chinese authorities announced on Thursday, in a move called by some experts as "semi sealing off of the border" that signals the country's determination to fight the pandemic battle. The notice was jointly issued Thursday night by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Immigration Administration and will take effect on Saturday. The suspension is a temporary measure that China is compelled to take in light of the outbreak situation and the practices of other countries. China will stay in close touch with all sides and properly handle personnel exchanges with the rest of the world under special circumstances. The above-mentioned measures will be calibrated in light of the evolving situation and announced accordingly, the notice said. This is the strictest measure taken toward foreigners since China's opening-up and reform, which is also an unprecedented step, reflecting the country's decisive and aggressive COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control work in fighting the pandemic battle, said Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University. Due to mounting pressure of imported COVID-19 infection cases, China has to take this measure, which is temporary but necessary, otherwise, the result of containment would be threatened, Cai Jiangnan, the director of the Center for Healthcare Management at the China Europe International Business School, told the Global Times on Thursday. Peking University Professor Zhang Yiwu said this move signals China will partly seal off its border in response to rising numbers of imported infections. "We cannot keep our own nationals outside, so we have to stop foreign nationals from coming in and adding pressure to our virus prevention work," said Zhang. He noted this measure also suits with other countries to prevent imported infections. The notice says foreign nationals coming to China for necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities or out of emergency humanitarian needs may apply for visas at Chinese embassies or consulates. Entry by foreign nationals with visas issued after this announcement will not be affected. It's necessary to keep a channel open for foreigners who work in the trade and technology sectors, as the country, which is also the world's factory and largest manufacturer, is resuming work amid the outbreak, said Mei Xinyu, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce, noting that it will play a decisive role in stabilizing the global economy. As of Tuesday, China has reported 474 imported cases from 34 countries, with the capital Beijing shouldering the heaviest burden of receiving those patients. The UK is the biggest source of imported cases, according to statistics. "We can't afford to see cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou become a second Wuhan, given the pandemic has been worsening overseas," Yang Zhanqiu, a virologist at Wuhan University, told the Global Times. The policy is necessary as an outbreak rebound would seriously affect Chinese social and economic development, he said. The pandemic has caused so far more than 490,000 cases worldwide, affecting more than 170 countries and regions and causing 22,184 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Medicine. ^ top ^

5G operators gear up investment with 200b budget (China Daily)
China's three major telecommunications companies - China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile - and China Tower are all betting big on 5G and gearing up for their infrastructure construction, with a total estimated budget amounting to nearly 200 billion yuan in 2020, China Securities Journal reported Wednesday. According to their annual results, China Mobile plans to invest 100 billion on 5G construction this year, rising four times from a year earlier. The estimated spending on 5G of China Unicom and China Telecom also saw significant increase than last year, with 35 billion and 45.3 billion yuan in investment, respectively. China Tower said earlier that 17 billion yuan of the company's budget in 2020 will go to 5G investment. China Mobile achieved 1.2 percent revenue growth to 745.9 billion yuan, while China Unicom and China Telecom both reported slight declines in revenue, 290.51 billion and 375.73 billion yuan, respectively. In term of net profit, China Unicom saw a huge increase of 22.1 percent year-on-year with 4.98 billion yuan, however, the other two operators generated less income than the previous year. China Mobile recorded net profit of 106.6 billion yuan, down 9.5 percent, while China Telecom saw net profit of 20.52 billion yuan, dropping 3.3 percent compared to a year earlier. The number of users for three telecom operators all increased from 2019 to 2020. Users of China mobile rose 25.21 million to a total of 950 million. China Telecom ranked second, with 336 million users and followed by China Unicom with 318 million users. As 5G technology taking off in 2019 and seeing rapid development in 2020, the three telecom operators have been taking multiple actions on pushing forward 5G commercialization, offering 5G data packages, and investing more in telecommunication infrastructure constructions. China Mobile had set up 50,000 5G base stations and offered 5G commercial services for 50 cities across China by the end of 2019. As of February this year, the number of users in 5G packages reached 15.4 million, increasing 23.4 times in four months. By the end of 2019, China Telecom had set up 40,000 5G base stations, with 10.73 million users in 5G service packages. China Unicom also announced it had over 60,000 base stations for 5G in available. ^ top ^

China's central bank moves closer to issuing digital currency: insiders (Global Times)
China's central bank is one step closer to issuing its official digital currency. It seems the People's Bank of China (PBC), in collaboration with private companies, has completed development of the sovereign digital currency's basic function and is now drafting relevant laws to pave the way for its circulation, industry insiders said. As more central banks around the world are cutting interest rates to zero or even entering negative territory to release liquidity into the market amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, China should accelerate the launch of its digital currency, industry insiders noted. Cryptocurrency is seen as the most convenient tool to translate a central bank's zero and negative interest rate policy to commercial banks. Alipay, the financial arm of Chinese tech firm Alibaba, reportedly publicized five patents related to China's official digital currency from January 21 to March 17. The patents cover several areas of digital currency, including issuance, transaction recording, digital wallets, anonymous trading support and assistance in supervising and dealing with illegal accounts, industry media reported. Alipay has not responded to the Global Times' interview request as of press time. An industry insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the patents concern the basic function of a digital currency, including circulation, payment, issuance and an anti-money laundering function. "Judging from the patents, the first step of technological development has been basically completed," the insider said. But he noted that the next step, which involves digital currency legislation and working with banking and insurance regulators on supervision, could be more lengthy, which poses uncertainties for the exact date of the launch. The Global Times reported earlier that a number of private firms, mostly based in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, such as Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei and China Merchants Bank, have participated in the development of the digital currency. Cao Yan, managing director of Digital Renaissance Foundation, said that in terms of development, it is more efficient for China's central bank to work with private institutions which have accumulated rich experience in blockchain technology and third-party payment. Cao believes China's central bank should accelerate the launch of its digital currency in the face of the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic. The global virus outbreak has prompted central banks like the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan to cut their benchmark interest rates to near zero or moved into negative territory. "If there is a chance China is considering lowering its interest rate into negative territory as an final option and directing such policy to commercial loans and lending, a circulated digital currency rather than M0 will be able to achieve that," Cao told the Global Times on Tuesday. ^ top ^

As outbreak slows to trickle, big cities see divorce filings pour in (China Daily)
Registration offices in major cities have been overwhelmed by divorce applications since they resumed services this month following a slowdown in domestic novel coronavirus infections. The deluge of applications has prompted many to suspect that the self-quarantine rules-which limit the time people spend outside their homes to curb infections-have taken a toll on faltering marriages, although some divorce lawyers suggest that the month that follows the Lunar New Year is traditionally a turbulent period for couples. In Xi'an, Shaanxi province, the influx of divorce appointments has led local registrars to implore bickering couples to think twice and avoid making rash decisions, according to Huashang News, a local newspaper. Many were quoted as saying that they have been working full tilt to handle such applications since they returned to work on March 2. A search on the city's public service reservation platform by China Daily showed that couples seeking divorce have to wait until early April to have their petitions reviewed. In Shanghai, quarreling duos were dismayed to find they have to wait until early May to file their earliest petitions, and those in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, were compelled to move fast as slots were running out for April, according to local reservation data. A registry in Dazhou, Sichuan province, said they handled 88 such petitions between Feb 24 and March 11, a sharp increase, adding that the remainder of March has been fully booked. There has also been a rise in domestic violence cases. According to Under Blue Sky Women and Children's Rights Association, an anti-domestic violence group in Hubei province-which was hit hard by the epidemic-police in Jianli county in Hubei received 175 reports of domestic violence in February, compared with 47 during the same period last year. In Qianjiang, another county in the province, 85 cases were reported in January and 89 in February, both around twice the numbers reported during those months last year. "The increase is prominent, whether year-on-year or compared with months before the novel coronavirus outbreak erupted in December," said Wan Fei, a retired police officer in Hubei who founded the association in 2014. It is not unusual for marriage crises to erupt in the wake of the Spring Festival break, which many marriage lawyers have described as a hotbed for family frictions and even broken relationships. The weeklong holiday brings together family members of several generations under the same roof who have drastically different living habits and values, potentially creating serious friction, lawyers and relationship experts say. This year, the novel coronavirus outbreak disrupted the festivities in late January and forced many to either sit idle at home unpaid or work remotely. Schools have also been canceled, causing millions of students to attend online courses from their bedrooms. Limited space at home has caused couples to lose their independent territories for months, causing interference and magnifying small problems, according to Zhang Jing, executive director of the Family Development Research Center under China Women's University. "The needs of wives, husbands and children for work and study environments vary, and the failure to communicate may result in an emotional breakdown," she said. For some, parenting was the focal point of marital conflicts during the epidemic, which shuttered schools and compelled parents of young students to teach from home so as not to let them fall behind their peers. Li Xin, a 37-year-old mother of two who lives with her parents-in-law in Xianyang, Shaanxi, said: "Their grandparents dote on them and my husband does not approve of my teaching, which is frustrating." Liu Ruini, a lawyer with the Shaanxi Span Law Firm in Xi'an, noted a trend of people who work away in cities divorcing their partners in rural areas after the Lunar New Year reunites them and reveals growing gaps in values, visions and financial capabilities. "When people get financial security, they crave spiritual resonance," she said. However, Zhang Jing, the researcher, noted that bonding has tightened for some couples, usually white collar workers who have little quality time for each other because of tight schedules. The bonding is also stronger among some couples who are both hospital workers in epidemic-stricken regions, as they appreciate each other's bravery in the face of death, she added. Liu said the divorce reservation numbers are misleading, noting that not all of those who applied would divorce. "Many were just quarreling, and they do not mean it," she said. ^ top ^

China adds 33 drugs to its plan to offer patients more affordable treatment (SCMP)
China has added another batch of medicines to a generic drug procurement programme that could slash drug prices by almost 60 per cent on average, as the country continues to overhaul its health care system to be more affordable. The National Health Security Administration outlined 33 generic drugs for tender in a bid document released on Sunday. They included treatments for cancer, diabetes and other diseases. Beijing is ramping up its health care reforms to address issues such as the high cost of treatment and unequal access to medical services. High drug prices have been a long-standing problem. Since health care agencies were streamlined into the National Health Security Administration (NHSA) in 2018, there has been significant progress in making drugs more affordable for patients. The administration launched a bulk procurement pilot of 25 generic drugs in 2018 for 11 cities. As a result, pricing has been cut by half on average and savings of about 5.8 billion yuan (US$830 million) have been achieved in drug costs, Xiong Xianjun, a senior official of the administration, said early this year. Since April, the programme had been expanded to 25 provinces and brought reductions in bulk pricing by 59 per cent on average, according to the administration. "The progress has exceeded expectations and [we have] received positive feedback from the public. The cost of drugs to patients has fallen significantly," the agency said in a statement published in September. The bid document released on Sunday changed the maximum number of companies eligible to win a bid from three in the pilot to six. For bids won by four or more companies, they could supply as much as 80 per cent of the national market for that drug, the document said. Franck Le Deu, a senior partner at consultancy McKinsey, said the new model showed that the government was experimenting with the procurement of drugs. China's fragmented health care system under pressure as nation ages 11 Jun 2019 "Clearly they are still feeling their way in and listening to feedback from the industry," he said. "The government is tinkering with the volume-based procurement model to find the right balance between competitive bidding and guarantee of quality supply." Other reforms that have benefited patients include those aimed at widening the coverage of medical insurance. In November, the NHSA added its largest batch of new products so far to its list of subsidised drugs, with the cost of many items more than halved. ^ top ^

Chinese warplanes to get new coatings to make them harder to detect (SCMP)
Chinese military aircraft are to be painted with "low observable" coatings and standardised markings under new guidelines, a move observers say will assist with operations near Taiwan and in the East and South China seas. The guidelines require markings including the national flag and service insignia to be gradually standardised on both active and future warplanes, the official PLA Daily newspaper said earlier this month. The move comes two years after the Chinese navy started experimenting with its J-16 strike fighter, using a dark grey low-visibility coating instead of blue-grey, and replacing its service insignia with a new design, according to military magazine Ordnance Industry Science Technology. Some of the navy's only active aircraft carrier-based fighter jets, the J-15s, have also been given new coatings and markings, according to the People's Liberation Army's official website. PLA Daily said the move aimed to give Chinese wa rplanes a combat advantage as they "will be less likely to be detected by both the naked eye and military radar". It said the new guidelines would be gradually implemented this year. Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said the move would help the air force improve patrols and combat-readiness as it carried out more drills near the Taiwan Strait and in the East and South China seas. China's air force and navy have sent warplanes including Su-35 fighter jets, H-6K strategic bombers and advanced KJ-2000 airborne early warning aircraft to conduct "encirclement" drills around Taiwan since 2018, as Beijing applies pressure on the self-ruled island that it sees as part of its territory. But none of the aircraft seen in photographs of the exercises had low-visibility coatings or standardised markings, as used on the navy's J-16s and J-15s. "Aircraft used by the PLA Air Force have different coatings and markings because they are still in a transitional period," Wong said. "Its counterparts like Taiwan have learned from Western countries like the United States to standardise coatings and markings and designs [since the 1990s]." Beijing insists that Taiwan, which split from the mainland in 1949, remains part of China and they will eventually be reunited – by force if necessary. The PLA also regularly sends aircraft to monitor freedom of navigation operations by the US Navy in the South China Sea. Beijing has territorial disputes in the resource-rich waterway with countries including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. A military insider in Beijing said the US move to send hundreds of its new-generation F-35 stealth fighter jets to South Korea and Japan had also pushed the PLA to upgrade the coatings on its aircraft. "These coatings are a highly technical area, and China puts a tremendous amount of resources into research on this every year," said the insider, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. "The coating that's used on China's first stealth fighter jet, the J-20, is more advanced than they used on the Lockheed Martin F-22s, but it's not yet at the level of the F-35s." Hong Kong-based military expert Song Zhongping said military aircraft used to have a bright red national flag and service insignia that made them more detectable on radar systems, or even with the naked eye. "The red they used is striking, but it's not in line with the 'low observable' requirement for all fighter jets," said Song, who is a military commentator for Phoenix Television. "All fighter jets must have stealth and low-visibility capabilities, and the coatings and markings on them are part of how they can do this and meet requirements for combat." ^ top ^

No new local virus infections for 3 straight days in mainland (China Daily)
The Chinese mainland has seen no homegrown infections of COVID-19, a disease caused by a novel coronavirus, for three straight days, as the latest data of the National Health Commission showed. Imported cases, however, keep increasing and are on a generally upward trend in the past week despite fluctuations. The daily increase of imported cases reached a record high of 41, bringing up the caseload on the Chinese mainland to 81,008, the commission said. To date, 269 imported cases have been counted. Beijing saw another 14 imported cases on Friday, followed by Shanghai with nine. Another six provinces also registered cases coming from abroad on the day. Regions outside Hubei province on the Chinese mainland have counted no homegrown infections in the past nine straight days. With seven more fatalities on Friday, a total of 3,255 people have succumbed to the virus on the Chinese mainland, the commission said. Another 590 people were discharged from hospitals over the course of Friday, bringing up the number of recovered patients to 71,740, it added. With a daily reduction of 173 patients exhibiting serious symptoms, the number of patients that need intensive care now stands at 1,963. In total, 6,013 patients are still hospitalized. With another 36 suspected cases counted on Friday, there are now 106 suspected infections. Among the 685,866 people who have so far been traced as close contacts with the infected, 9,371 are still under medical observation, it said. In Hubei, areas outside its capital Wuhan, the hardest-hit city on the Chinese mainland, have seen no cases for 16 days in a row. On Friday, seven more patients died of the pathogen in the province, bringing up the total fatalities to 3,139. The caseload in the province now is 67,800, the commission said. With six more deaths, the death toll in Wuhan has reached 2,504. The case count in the city now stands at 50,005. The Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and Taiwan have reported a total of 408 confirmed cases, including four deaths in Hong Kong and two deaths in Taiwan, the commission noted. Meanwhile, 136 patients in these regions have been discharged from hospitals. ^ top ^



Beijing to tighten rules against uncivilized behaviors amid COVID-19 epidemic (Global Times)
Wearing a mask when having a flu, covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and eating from separate dishes in public places… The city of Beijing is mulling regulations to impose restraints on uncivilized behaviors. Those who fail to adhere to the rules will be punished, a move made from the experience of fighting against the COVID-19 outbreak to better safeguard residents' health. The draft of the regulations to promote civilized behaviors among the public was submitted to the Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress for a second deliberation on Thursday, the Beijing Daily reported. Sun Li, a deputy chairman of the legislative affairs committee of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress, said the draft of the regulations should be updated in accordance with the experiences gained from epidemic prevention and control efforts. The draft requested residents to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing in public places and wear a mask when suffering from influenza and other infectious respiratory diseases, while patients with infectious diseases must honestly report their conditions, take the required tests and undergo quarantine and other medical measures. According to the draft, residents are encouraged to order appropriate amounts of food, use serving chopsticks and spoons to share the dishes and eat them from separate plates. Acts such as abuse and consumption of wildlife, illegal trading of wildlife products are banned. Those who throw objects from high-rise buildings, drive cars on the wrong side of the road, occupy roads and carry out other uncivilized acts and refuse to correct themselves after education will be severely punished. In addition, express delivery and takeaway companies can be fined up to 50,000 yuan ($7,036) and get marked on their public credit reports if their personnel run red lights or drive on the wrong side of the road while making deliveries and if the company refuses to correct it. Previously, the first draft said the related authorities can publish offenders who refuse to cooperate with law enforcement. However, the second draft deleted that regulation to avoid violation of privacy and personal dignity. Sun said civilized behaviors involve many laws and regulations in fields such as city appearance and environmental hygiene, traffic, tobacco control, dog breeding, tourism and internet. ^ top ^

Beijing raises number of 'high-risk' countries and regions to 25 (Global Times)
Beijing raised the number of countries and regions considered to be at high risk of imported COVID-19 infection to 25, including the US and Italy and newly listed Australia, Singapore, Japan and China's Hong Kong, as China's capital now takes preventing and controlling the imported cases as a priority. Chen Bei, a top official with the Beijing government, said on Wednesday at a press conference that the city has added ten countries and regions to the list - Portugal, Czech Republic, Greece, Israel, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, and China's Hong Kong - following 15 that were named previously by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Beijing News reported Wednesday. The ministry warned Chinese nationals not to go to Italy, Spain, France, Germany, the US, Switzerland, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and Austria, as the countries have been hit hard by the pandemic. Beijing confirmed five more imported COVID-19 cases from abroad on Tuesday, all of whom were Chinese overseas students. Two returned from the US, two from the UK, and one from Spain. The ministry reminded Chinese nationals in the countries to protect themselves, avoid unnecessary outdoor activities and guard against cross infection. ^ top ^



Hyping lawsuit against China on Xinjiang shows ill intent of Turkish scholar, far-right media (Global Times)
A Turkish scholar who suggested that "victims" from Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region seek "justice" in international criminal courts and accused China of "genocide" is actually seeking personal gains, and his advice, which lacks any legal basis, only serves the purposes of some anti-China forces in drawing international attention to Xinjiang and slandering China, Chinese experts on international law and human rights said. Ilyas Dogan, a Turkish professor from Ankara Hac? Bayram Veli University, was cited in a report of a right-wing Turkish news outlet, Kirim Haber Ajansi, on March 4 as saying that the Chinese government is carrying out "genocidal acts" in Xinjiang and if "Uygurs authorized him," he could pursue the issue in the international courts as a lawyer. Erkin ?ncan, a Turkish journalist, told the Global Times that Ilyas Dogan is known for his support for Uygur separatism, his nationalist ideas and opposition to the government in Turkey. The news outlet that interviewed Ilyas Dogan frequently reports on Uygur separatists and always gives one-sided reports on China's Xinjiang policies. "I think Dogan's request for authorization to sue China is just hyping. Which Uygurs does he want to represent? Does he mean separatists from the CIA-backed World Uyghur Congress? Or Uygur terrorists fighting in Syria? Or overseas anti-China forces?" Erkin asked. The Turkish professor Ilyas Dogan has posted a lot of misinformation on China and smeared China's policies in Xinjiang on his social media accounts, including Twitter and Facebook. The professor maintains interactions with "Uygurs in exile" from Xinjiang and follows Rushan Abbas, head of the Campaign for Uyghurs affiliated to the World Uyghur Congress, a US-backed network seeking the "fall of China." Abbas is believed to have worked for several US intelligence agencies. "As a professor of international law, Ilyas Dogan is unprofessional and irresponsible by baselessly accusing China of committing genocide and he intended to serve some anti-China forces," Zhang Yonghe, executive dean of the Human Rights Institution of Southwest University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times on Tuesday. Zhang said that there are no "internment camps" in Xinjiang. Vocational education and training is a kind of assisting and education measure in dealing with illegal or criminal acts of terrorism, extremism of the perpetrators in accordance with the law. Trainees' human rights have been fully protected, and all trainees have now graduated. In his interview with Turkish media on March 4, Ilyas also listed some crimes he alleged the Chinese government "implemented" in Xinjiang, including persecution in the"camps" in Xinjiang, Chinese officials staying in Uygurs' homes and "undertaking acts such as rape since 2017" and "5-year-old children being put into camps." All of these accusations have been repeatedly refuted by the Chinese authorities and the Xinjiang regional government. Parhati Rouzi, a senior Xinjiang official, said at a press conference in January that no good person would fabricate lies such as "ethnic Han men sleeping in the same room as local women" while refuting claims of officials "raping" Uygur women. Zhang Yonghe, who has visited Xinjiang many times, told the Global Times that pairing up with families of ethnic minorities is also one of the methods used by Xinjiang to help with local poverty alleviation work, which is also in accordance with the UN's goal of poverty alleviation to protect basic human rights. According to Parhati, Xinjiang began the "pairing assistance" program to enhance ethnic unity in 2016. Since then, 1.1 million officials of different ethnic groups have been paired with 1.6 million Uygurs, and they respect and help each other. People who participated in the "pairing assistance" program have donated 940 million yuan ($134.85 million) in total, helping their paired partners with medical care, education and employment. In response to Ilyas Dogan's accusations of sending children to the "camps," Zhang said that there are no camps in Xinjiang. "Children of a certain age will go to kindergarten, which means their right to education is being protected in Xinjiang. Does the professor call schools in Xinjiang camps? Aren't children in Turkey going to school? Does he say their children are being sent to camps?" Zhang asked. Zhang also noted that Ilyas Dogan didn't attempt to seek comprehensive and solid information about Xinjiang but only cited baseless rumors. His credibility as a scholar should also be questioned. Ilyas Dogan emphasized that he "could be the lawyer in the international courts if Uygurs authorized him." Ilyas Dogan's suggestion to sue the Chinese government in international criminal courts has little legal basis and will not work. He asked for the authorization of Uygurs, which showed that he is seeking personal gains and wants to hype the Xinjiang issue in international courts, Zhu Ying, deputy director of the National Human Rights Education and Training Base of Southwest University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times. The crimes he alleged China has "implemented" do not exist and the method he suggested to collect "testimony"against China may not be admissible to court, said Zhu, noting that by bringing the topic of Xinjiang to international courts, Ilyas also attempted to sow discord between China and the Islamic world. Lu Zhi'an, a Fudan University professor, told the Global Times that no violent attacks have happened in Xinjiang in nearly three years, which means Xinjiang residents' human rights have been well protected. Professor Ilyas Dogan ignored the facts and wanted to link China to the crime of genocide, which aims to stigmatize China and makes it easy for certain countries to impose sanctions on China, Lu said. On March 11, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) released a report stating that forced labor inside and outside of Xinjiang's vocational education and training centers constitutes "systematic repression" of minority groups, an accusation that China has repeatedly denied. It has also been used by some US politicians to call for sanctions against China over the issue. ^ top ^



Three men arrested as Hong Kong police uncover site containing materials for making ammunition and explosives (SCMP)
Three men were arrested in Hong Kong on Thursday night after police uncovered a small cache of ammunition in the countryside and seized raw materials for making explosives and home-made bullets. After a tip-off, officers went to check an abandoned house near the Leaping Dragon Walk hiking trail in eastern Hong Kong Island and found 800 shells, 200 bullets and suspected gunpowder. Investigators believed they were being used to make ammunition. Officers also found chemicals such as concentrated acid, ammonium nitrate and potassium nitrate, which they said could be used to produce explosives. In a briefing in the early hours of Friday, Senior Superintendent Steve Li Kwai-wah of the organised crime and triad bureau said police believed the bullets were being made for rifles and handguns but had not been used. Seizures of partly made ammunition are rare in Hong Kong. The arrests came after officers received a call reporting the appearance of three suspicious men near the site at about 5.30pm. Police bomb disposal officers were also deployed to the scene. A hooded suspect was taken down the hill along the trail at 10.30pm, while a second man was escorted away an hour later. A third man remained on the hillside. One of the men was later taken to a flat in nearby Cheerful Garden for a police search. Li said he could not tell whether the weapons and chemicals were linked to the anti-government protests that have rocked the city since last June. The motives of the suspects, aged 21 to 23, had to be investigated. The police search would take hours as the site was large and it was dark, he said. As onlookers gathered at the start of the trail near the Island Resort residential estate at Siu Sai Wan Promenade, dozens of officers in riot gear arrived to help escort the suspects to police vehicles. ^ top ^

Coronavirus: was Carrie Lam's plan to enforce alcohol ban just a threat to force bars to act? (SCMP)
A proposal by Hong Kong's leader to ban bars and restaurants from selling alcohol to limit the spread of the coronavirus has gotten off to a rocky start, with industry figures ready to challenge the move in court and experts noting the law already allows her to immediately impose such restrictions. But Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor instead decided to float the idea first as a warning to owners to take steps on their own to curb social gatherings, according to government insiders, a course of action a medical expert said had unnecessarily complicated what should be a straightforward decision about public health. The government could announce the ban as early as Thursday, along with tougher measures to force people to practise social distancing, two sources with knowledge of the situation said. "All options are on the table," one said. Lam rattled the industry on Monday by announcing her administration might force the city's 8,600 restaurants, bars and clubs with liquor licences to stop serving alcohol. Only days earlier, a cluster of infections were revealed as stemming from the Lan Kwai Fong entertainment district in one of the largest recent instances of local transmission. Further restrictions such as a reduction in opening hours or a cap on the number of patrons could follow if behaviour did not change, she said. At least five of Lam's senior advisers voiced their opposition to the idea on Wednesday. They included former Bar Association chairman Ronny Tong Ka-wah, who suggested limiting public gatherings to four people or else a curfew might be needed if the number of cases, which stands at 410, continued to rise. Lam did not give a time frame to implement the measure, only saying it would be a new regulation under the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance. When pressed further on Tuesday, she said officials would need a few more days to study the legal issues in-depth, without detailing what those concerns might be. A source said the original intention of Lam's announcement on Monday was to issue a warning to caterers and diners to practise social distancing. "We are willing to explore other options which can serve the purpose of promoting social distancing, such as restricting opening hours of bars and restaurants, and widening the distance between tables in those venues," a separate government source said. But legal scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun, a chair professor at the University of Hong Kong's law school, said the ordinance provided the chief executive with broad powers to create new laws "for the purposes of preventing, combating or alleviating the effects of the public health emergency and protecting public health". Another scholar from the law school, Simon Young, also pointed to the wide scope to manoeuvre granted to the city's leader, noting that a public officer could be empowered to compel the forfeiture of certain property under the ordinance. But a principal lecturer from the university's law faculty, Eric Cheung Tat-ming, said Lam's legal team would need to consider whether the government indeed had the power to create new regulations regarding the sale of alcohol under the ordinance. "Measures such as putting a certain group of people under quarantine can be implemented quickly because such measures are already included and allowed in the ordinance," Cheung said. "But legislative amendments would be needed for restrictions not specified in the ordinance, and it will take time." Restaurant, bar and club owners say they have been unfairly singled out. "We are considering filing a judicial review application, but we have to wait for the government to [announce] the relevant laws to make that happen," said Cat Hou Chui-shan, chairwoman of the Bartenders and Mixologists Union of Hong Kong. Others backing the challenge included the Hong Kong Small and Medium Restaurant Federation, several business owners and industry associations, she said. Chan cautioned that bar owners would find it difficult to argue the ban on alcohol was unrelated to the spread of the virus. If drinks were not available, "people would probably not be gathering at the bars and pubs in the same manner", he said. But he also warned the ban might amount to a deprivation of intangible property, which calls for reasonable compensation under Article 105 of the Basic Law, the city's mini-constitution. Young said that for now, the ban was less intrusive than forcing licensed establishments to shut. "[The ban on serving] is a step worth trying, and if proven to be ineffective, or only moderately effective, a stepped-up measure could then be used. It is a proportionate and evidence-based approach to tackling the current problem," Young said. The other Executive Council members who joined Tong in questioning the wisdom of the move were Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan and Dr Lam Ching-choi. Ip and Horace Cheung said they doubted the ban would be effective in curbing the spread of the disease and any new law should target public gatherings instead. Tong said he initially put forward the suggestion of keeping gatherings to no more than four people for a two-week period but the government did not pick up the idea. "Often after hearing our advice, the government has to consider for a long time," he said. "It's already too late because the current tally is about people infected seven to 14 days ago. If [the ban] doesn't work this week, we'd have to impose a curfew." As an example of the administration's reluctance to make tough calls, Tong pointed to the complete ban on arrivals and transit passengers, which Lam rejected last Saturday because so many passengers were Hong Kong residents, only to reverse her decision on Monday. Tong said he proposed the ban on non-residents to the government weeks ago but believed officials felt it was not the right time. "On medical grounds, I take it, but politically, is it worth the risk?" Tong said. The senior counsel's remark casts doubts on the decision-making process of Lam's administration and some of her advisers. Both Chan and Young called Tong's proposal to ban public gatherings too drastic or even extreme for now. "I doubt if the current situation, namely a few naughty people failing to comply with a restraint order, is sufficiently serious to justify a total ban of all public meetings, unless the situation gets much worse," Chan said. The Post was told the proposed ban on liquor sales was mainly handled by bureaucrats and Lam's ministers, and was announced without first consulting the non-official Exco advisers. One member privately admitted that, "I only knew about the ban when watching the news on television". Exco member Lam Ching-choi said they were typically not briefed on such "administrative measures". He conceded the government was too conservative at the time. "The bureaucrats may think using the liquor licences can be most effective," he said. But the government had also underestimated the public's willingness to adopt measures to contain the epidemic, Lam said. Exco member Horace Cheung, vice-chairman of the city's largest pro-government party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said: "There should be restrictions on people gathering, and not restricting certain eating habits." Ip, a former security chief, even pointed out that Hong Kong would be the first jurisdiction in the world to issue such a ban in an attempt to reduce social contact. But the Exco member who questioned the ban most fiercely was catering sector lawmaker Tommy Cheung, who chairs the pro-business Liberal Party. He said the sector was against a ban on alcohol sales or public gatherings, and called for compensation to cover rents and payrolls if the measures were introduced. "The ban on alcohol is unnecessary, but if the government was to go ahead, we will cooperate," Cheung said. He refused to say whether the government had consulted him beforehand. Dr Joseph Tsang Kay-yan, a specialist in infectious diseases, said a ban on alcohol sales was a step forward but not drastic enough. He questioned how much economics might have influenced the government's thinking, which might not be the right approach in safeguarding public health. "Why the disease prevention measures in Hong Kong are not thorough enough is because of [such considerations]," Tsang said. He suggested other methods to reduce the spread of the virus, including roping in more private hospitals to help carry out tests for the coronavirus. Hou, the chairwoman of the bartending union, said they were inclined to press ahead with the legal challenge despite uncertainties about winning the battle. "We will do anything and try our best to stop the introduction of the ban on alcohol sales," she said. The amendment by Lam even caught the Liquor Licensing Board by surprise. James Wong Kong-tin, the chairman of the statutory body, said he had no idea whether it could continue to approve licences if the ban came into effect. "We were not notified beforehand and only came to realise it when the chief executive's press conference was held," Wong said. "For the time being, we are still doing our work and handling licences day in, day out." ^ top ^

HK to ban entry of all non-locals (China Daily)
The Hong Kong government on Monday announced it will deny entry to all non-local residents for 14 days entering through flights starting on Wednesday, as part of its further intensified containment measures against widespread infections of the novel coronavirus globally and a surge of imported cases in the city. Announcing the measures, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said those from the Chinese mainland, Macao and Taiwan, would be denied entry if they have been overseas in the past 14 days. Other measures include suspending the transit service at the city's airport and requiring arrivals from Macao and Taiwan to a 14-day mandatory quarantine. In the meantime, the city will ban alcoholic drinks at restaurants and bars holding a liquor license to reduce the risk of local transmission after at least six cases were linked to the city's nightlife hub, Lan Kwai Fong. The government will talk to the food and beverage industry to take sufficient measures to protect their diners. If such measures prove to be invalid, the government will, through legislation, limit the operation period of restaurants or their seats in service. The government also will extend its virus test to all arrivals from the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom upon their arrival. They will be given a sampling container for collecting deep throat saliva. Currently, only asymptomatic patients were given such test upon their arrival. All 143 of samples collected so far returned negative. ^ top ^



US sending destroyer through Taiwan Straits during pandemic a reckless move: experts (Global Times)
Despite eight confirmed COVID-19 cases on US aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and fast increasing number in the US military across the world, the US on Wednesday reportedly sent a warship through the Taiwan Straits. Sending a warship through the Taiwan Straits at any time is seen as a provocation to Beijing but doing it now when Washington faces greater challenge to contain the COVID-19 seems especially reckless, analysts said. The US has been continuously taking negative actions on the Taiwan question including sending warships through the Taiwan Straits, which heavily interrupts China's internal affairs, sabotages peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits, poisons ties between the two countries and the two militaries, and releases wrong signals to Taiwan secessionist forces, which are very dangerous, said Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Ren Guoqiang at a regular press conference on Thursday. The People's Liberation Army has the firm will, full confidence and enough capability to defeat any secessionist activities and safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Ren said. Ren's statement came after US destroyer McCampbell crossed the Taiwan Straits on Wednesday on a navigation training mission, Taiwan media reported on Thursday, citing the island's defense authority. The US military should focus on its own COVID-19 epidemic control work, because things are not looking good for them, a Chinese mainland military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday. The Pentagon announced 53 new cases of US military service members on Wednesday, bringing the number to 227 worldwide, forcing US Defense Secretary Mark Esper to issue a stop movement order on Wednesday to the US military and halt all travel and movement abroad for up to 60 days, Reuters reported on Thursday. Another possibility is that the US destroyer was on its way back to base due to this stop order, but even so, it could send a wrong signal of encouragement to Taiwan secessionists, the expert said. The McCampbell's transit through the Taiwan Straits came at a time when five additional sailors aboard the US aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, also deployed in the Pacific, have tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, making the total number now eight, US media outlet the Hill reported on Thursday. Warships have tighter spaces and less comfortable living conditions than a civilian cruise ship, and staying in a confined space for too long will risk aerosol transmission as the virus density could be very high, warned Wang Peiyu, deputy head of Peking University's school of public health. Another military expert who asked for anonymity told the Global Times that Theodore Roosevelt is not just an aircraft carrier, but a representation of US' power. If the epidemic becomes a large scale one, it will not be just the carrier, but the entire fleet, the entire US Navy, and the US' image as a strong military power will be damaged, the expert said. ^ top ^

Donald Trump signs TAIPEI Act to support Taiwan's international relations (SCMP)
President Donald Trump signed the TAIPEI Act, a bill expressing Washington's support for Taiwan in strengthening its relationships with countries around the world. The legislation, formally titled the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act, was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives on March 4. The Senate bill, which was approved unanimously in October, then had to be reconciled with the House's version before going to Trump to be signed into law. The act – written by Senator Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado, and Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware – says the US should support Taiwan in strengthening its alliances around the world amid increased Chinese pressure and what Coons called "bullying tactics" by Beijing. "The United States should use every tool to support Taiwan's standing on the international stage," Gardner said in a joint announcement with Coons. "This bipartisan legislation demands a whole-of-government approach to ramp up our support for Taiwan, and will send a strong message to nations that there will be consequences for supporting Chinese actions that undermine Taiwan." "I'm pleased the President signed this bill into law," said Coons. "The TAIPEI Act sends a clear message that the United States stands with Taiwan's free-market democracy. I look forward to finding additional ways to support the positive role Taiwan plays in international affairs." Under the bill, the US will consider reducing its economic, security and diplomatic engagement with nations that take significant actions to undermine Taiwan. Beijing has criticised such moves by US lawmakers as attempts to interfere in China's domestic affairs. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has called the TAIPEI Act a "severe violation of the one-China principle". Taiwan currently maintains full diplomatic relations with 15 nations. Since 2016, when Taiwan's pro-democracy president Tsai Ing-wen came to power, eight countries have severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in favor of Beijing, which Tsai described as "part of a series of diplomatic and military acts of coercion" by China. After being re-elected in January by a historic landslide, Tsai told the world that China must face the reality of Taiwan's independence and that Taiwan deserved the mainland's respect. "We have a separate identity and we're a country of our own," she said in an interview with the BBC. According to the bill, the US should advocate for Taiwan's membership in all international organisations in which statehood is not a requirement and says Taiwan should be granted observer status in other appropriate international organisations. "Today and on all days, Congress continues to send a message to the world that America stands with Taiwan. … We [must] ensure that Taiwan has a seat at the international decision-making table, including at the United Nations," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said when her chamber passed the bill. Taiwan had been an observer at the World Health Organisation (WHO) under the name "Chinese Taipei" since 2009 when the cross-Taiwan Strait relations were improved under the Ma Ying-jeou administration. However, the status was revoked after Tsai's election in 2016. Amid the global health threat of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus that started in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the US and China have clashed over Taiwan's exclusion from WHO meetings. Taiwanese experts did manage to attend a WHO meeting in mid-February, without giving their nationalities. In addition to the support from the United States, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have expressed their support for Taiwan's involvement as a WHO observer. In January, the US House voted overwhelmingly to approve a bill in support of human rights and environmental protection in Tibet, a measure that awaits a vote in the Senate. Measures calling for strong US sanctions against Chinese officials over the mass internment of Uygurs and other ethnic Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang have been passed by both chambers and await reconciliation. And in late November, lawmakers in both chambers overwhelmingly approved a bill, which is now law, in support of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement. ^ top ^



Country's economy making strong comeback (China Daily)
China's economy is staging a strong comeback after cratering in the first quarter, while the global outlook is darkening due to financial turmoil. More efforts will be needed to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic and respond to its economic fallout, economists said. The latest predictions by economists around the world pointed to a global recession in 2020, as the shutting down of business to curb the spread of the virus is causing serious economic and financial damage. Moody's said on Tuesday that the global economy is expected to suffer, with real GDP falling by 0.4 percent this year. After a conference call held by G20 finance ministers and central bank governors on Monday, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva predicted negative global growth this year before a recovery in 2021, saying more "bold efforts" will be needed, especially on the fiscal front, to temper the impact. Global central banks and governments are rapidly ramping up their response to economic and financial stress. The US Federal Reserve unveiled unprecedented measures before the market opened on Monday, vowing to buy unlimited amounts of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities to keep borrowing costs at rock-bottom levels, which was called "infinite quantitative easing". Previously, the Fed had cut the policy rate to nearly zero, lowered the cash amount that banks must hold in reserve and said it would provide substantial liquidity to credit markets through various types of credit facilities that had been used only in the 2008 financial crisis. "The Fed's unexpected moves, the most aggressive monetary easing programs in the history of central banking, showed the urgency to buoy investors, which is necessary for the market, although more time is needed to see whether buying an infinite quantity of Treasurys will lead to a sustained rebound for global markets. The credit crush will last if the global economy further retreats," said Ming Ming, a senior analyst at CITIC Securities. The Fed's new actions failed to boost US stocks immediately. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 582.05 points, or 3.04 percent, at 18,591.93 on Monday. The S&P lost 67.52 points, or 2.93 percent. But it caused stocks to rise in Asia, including A shares. China's CSI 300 index of the Shanghai-and Shenzhen-listed stocks added 2.69 percent at the close on Tuesday. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 2.34 percent, after a drop of 3.11 percent a day earlier. The renminbi appreciated against the US dollar as the US dollar index dropped. "Asia appears past the worst of the virus, and while there is still considerable economic fallout to come, the region's economy should be able to eke out a small gain in GDP this year," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's. "The plateauing of the number of new infections in China will allow for a normalization of economic activity over the second quarter, with factory output likely picking up more quickly than activity in the services sector," said Madhavi Bokil, a vice-president and senior researcher at Moody's Investors Service. Chen Yulu, vice-governor of China's central bank, said on Sunday that the economy is returning to its potential growth rate, with significant improvement expected in the April-to-June period. The government's ability to quickly and effectively lock down infected populations has allowed China to restart production more quickly and to limit the damage to longer-term growth prospects, said economists. Chinese policymakers have responded to the negative economic impact and accelerated production resumption. Measures include cutting the amount of cash that banks have to set aside as reserves, in a move that will pump 550 billion yuan ($78 billion) into the economy, and offering 800 billion yuan of relending and rediscounting financing to commercial banks to increase loans. Also included is providing discretionary fiscal supports that include more government spending and tax cuts. Additional actions will be taken if necessary to help China's economy rebound, including boosting fixed-asset investment and consumption, officials said. ^ top ^

Chinese stocks withstand global financial turmoil (China Daily)
China's stock market withstood another round of overseas sell-offs on Thursday, pointing to growing market resilience against the current global financial turmoil, analysts said. The key Shanghai Composite Index ended down by 0.98 percent to close at 2,702.13, while the ChiNext Index, which tracks Shenzhen's innovative startup-heavy board, rose by 0.42 percent to 1,894.94. This came after the global market rout triggered by the worsening spread of novel coronavirus pneumonia, with stock trading in South Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia halted after plunging on Thursday. The S&P 500 in the United States slid by 7 percent amid Wednesday's trading and tripped an automatic trading halt, the fourth time since last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 6.3 percent lower, closing below 20,000 for the first time in three years. The relatively stable performance of China's A-share market on Thursday has reflected its resilience against the recent global market turmoil caused by uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, said Xu Gao, chief economist at BOC International (China) Co. "The A-share market is wobbling, but it has gained its footing from fundamentals," Xu said, citing that the outlook of epidemic control and economic rebound is clearer in China than in the US and European economies. Investors are betting on the rebound of the Chinese economy, as retailers and listed firms engaging in internet data center construction led the market on Thursday. Authorities at different levels have been working to facilitate consumption recovery and infrastructure investment in high-tech sectors including data centers to shore up economic growth. The country's top leadership also called for strengthening research and analysis of the global economic situation. Targeted policies and measures should be formed in a timely manner, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee said after a meeting on Wednesday. China's A-share market is expected to regain its upward momentum in the second quarter of the year with the recovery in domestic economic conditions as well as global investor sentiment, analysts with CITIC Securities said in a report. "After the current global sell-off of risky assets, the weighting of A-shares in global investors' portfolios may evidently increase as they reallocate their money," the report said, citing China's preliminary control of the epidemic, low reliance on external demand and stable sovereign credit rating. FTSE Russell, a global multi-asset index provider, is expected to add more A-shares to its global index series on Friday, with more to be added in June. The move will lead to capital inflow from passively managed funds tracking the indexes. Jameel Ahmad, global head of currency strategy and market research at foreign exchange broker FXTM, said more capital is expected to enter the mainland stock market than exit this year, despite the current net outflow driven by low risk appetite. "China has the advantage of having both the fiscal and monetary pushes to help stimulate the recovery, while most other economies that will face the same economic headwinds do not have the same level of playing cards at their disposal," Ahmad said. ^ top ^

Coronavirus: China braced for second economic shock wave as Covid-19 controls kill demand (SCMP)
At the end of February, bosses of a Chinese industrial piping company were worried about the collapse of local orders, after a draconian lockdown of manufacturing and retail activity that hollowed out the world's second largest economy. Fast-forward less than a month, domestic orders are picking up and factories across China are humming at close to capacity. But Rifeng Enterprise Group now has new concerns. A form of the lockdown that paralysed China is now being replicated in many parts of the world, as countries try to get a handle on the rampant spread of a coronavirus pandemic that is hacking at the lifeblood of the global economy. "We've returned to 100 per cent capacity for overseas demand, but sadly the market is either shutting, or about to shut," said Jason Cheng, general manager of Rifeng's overseas business, adding clients in France, Italy and the United States have made requests to delay payments or cancel orders. "We had a similar situation in 2008 and 2009, where overseas revenue was half of what it was in the previous year," Cheng said. "A similar story is going to happen now, I am very sure." Many in China are now bracing for the second wave of economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, which crippled activity in the first two months of the year. The initial supply shock left large swathes of China's manufacturing engine idling, but economists are now more worried about a double-headed demand shock that is set to rock the economy further over the coming months. With the quickly developing containment effort set to hit overseas demand, Chinese exports – accounting for 20 per cent of the economy – will suffer. Customs data showed that China's exports already shrank by 17.2 per cent in January and February, with analysts warning worse may lie ahead. "As more countries face outbreaks and global financial markets gyrate, consumers and firms may remain wary, depressing global demand for Chinese goods just as the economy is getting back to work," wrote International Monetary Fund economists in a paper released on Friday. The situation in the US, for instance, is deteriorating so quickly that Morgan Stanley economists changed their forecast of a minus 4 per cent contraction in the economy in the second quarter to a record low minus 30.1 per cent, within the space of a week. Unemployment, the analysts said, will average 12.8 per cent over the quarter, with consumption falling 31 per cent. Stanley Szeto is usually on the road, but the executive chairman of high-end textiles company Lever Style has found himself grounded in recent months, as the coronavirus restricted his ability to visit clients and production sites. From his base in Hong Kong, he has witnessed the rapid evolution of the economic shocks on his business. Out of contracted factories around China, Vietnam and other parts of Asia, Lever makes garments for the likes of Hugo Boss, Ted Baker, Fila and All Saints. But as shoppers in the West stop buying, demand is evaporating into thin air. "Now we're at 70, 80 or 90 per cent capacity depending on the facility, but that is way too much because demand has just ceased," Szeto said. "We are in the fashion business and a lot of our clients, their stores are closed." The likes of Adidas, Nike, Lululemon Athletica and Under Armour have all announced store closures in Europe and the US, even as shops start reopening in China. After the Lunar New Year holiday, Szeto's clients were trying to front-load orders for fear the supply chain bottleneck would kill them, now the tables have turned. "They were worried, saying, we need the goods and are worried about the delay coming out of China," he said. "But within the last week the tone has completely changed. It's about, we do not need these goods any more, we may cancel things. So while the supply side is back up and running, there is actually too much supply right now and not enough demand." The second part is a domestic demand story. There is expected to be a spate of bankruptcies emerging from the spectre of the coronavirus and the weeks-long shutdown of China's economy. Already, 100 real estate firms filed for bankruptcy in January and February, Bloomberg reported. Last Monday, meanwhile, the surveyed unemployment rate rose to 6.2 per cent from 5.2 per cent, the equivalent of 5 million job losses. This figure does not include the migrant workers who have not been able to resume work following the lockdown, and who are not under formal contract at their workplaces. Beijing research firm Gavekal Dragonomics has estimated that the coronavirus could cost China's migrant workers a combined 800 billion yuan (US$115 billion) in lost wages, a figure that will be completely lost to the economy, since these workers cannot make up the ground lost over these months, even if they find more work. These metrics will create new holes in domestic demand at a time when retail sales already fell by 20.5 per cent in January and February, a record. "I suspect that while supply-side constraints will be eliminated fairly quickly, it will be much more difficult for demand to recover, and this will be exacerbated to the extent that even people who do not lose income react to the shock by deciding to save more and spend less out of their incomes," said Michael Pettis, finance professor at Peking University. Biggi Stefansson, the owner of IS Seafood, a Chinese distributor of Icelandic seafood, said 94 per cent of his business was lost in February compared to a year earlier. He hopes March will be slightly better for the Shanghai-based company, only 80 per cent down on last year, and even by April his business will still be down by 50 per cent. "Part of it is that people want to go out but they are scared. It's a new behaviour and it will take some time to recover," Stefansson said. The same is seen in Beijing, where meat sourcing and distribution company USource lost over 90 per cent of its business in February. By March, it could still be running at a 50 per cent loss compared to last year. "Demand is slowly picking back up. This week has been good. [But] no-one is expecting growth this year," said William Kerins, who runs the company with his wife Danielle Yang. "Half of Beijing took a salary hit if they did not get fired." Kerins was confident that demand would return eventually, but said even then it would be targeted at the lower-end eateries, with luxury items such as theirs getting hit hard. "No one is ordering a high-end plate when they are eating on their couch. The high-end sector would likely be taking a larger hit than the family run noodle shop," Kerins said. These sentiments were borne out in a recent survey conducted by Beijing financial firm, which found that 64.4 per cent of respondents would be "restrained" in their spending habits after the virus, with 31.4 per cent planning no increase after things clear up. From what we can see, consumer confidence is on the rise just not at pre-crisis levels "From what we can see, consumer confidence is on the rise just not at pre-crisis levels," said Josh Gardner, founder of online marketplace manager Kung Fu Data, who added that e-commerce was looking much stronger than brick and mortar retail, especially for food, medical supplies and home fitness equipment. Combine this with the external challenges facing China's main export partners and hopes of a V-shaped recovery, in which the economy rockets up by virtually the same rate at which it collapsed, appear remote. Most economists now expect the Chinese economy to shrink this quarter for the first time since 1976, at the end of the Cultural Revolution. A global recession is likely to be upon us too, and with the coronavirus making dangerous ground through the rest of the world, the threat to China's economy does not show any sign of abating. "This is a shock in levels, this is a depression," said Alicia Garcia Herrero, chief Asia-Pacific economist at Natixis. "This is now a different China, a different world." China will not be the only country to face such a prolonged and evolving slump, but its government arguably has more to lose than most. The Communist Party has pledged to deliver strong growth and "moderate prosperity" to its citizens, in exchange for total control of the country. For this reason, protracted economic hardship that spawns widespread unemployment and carries the potential for social unrest could be viewed as an existential threat. "There's quite a few countries around the world having existential crises, I would no longer confine that to China," said Richard McGregor, senior fellow at the Lowy Institute in Australia and the author of a number of books on the Chinese government." But I think the cocky diplomatic narrative [overseas] is not matched by facts on the ground for ordinary Chinese people. Obviously the diplomatic narrative is meant to reassure ordinary Chinese that the government did the right thing and that the world recognises that. But that will only last so long – they have to have a return to growth as well." ^ top ^



Top DPRK leader observes demonstration firing of tactical guided weapon (China Daily)
Kim Jong-un, top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), observed the demonstration firing of tactical guided weapon on Saturday, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Sunday. The firing was aimed at re-confirming and showing Korean People's Army commanding officers the tactical characters and power of a new weapon system to be delivered to the army units, the report said. After Kim gave an order, the projectiles were fired "with roaring sound and dazzling flare to precisely hit a target islet," the report said. The firing clearly proved "the characters of different flight trajectories and falling angles, accuracy of guided shells and their power," it said. The KCNA report did not specify what kind of weapon was tested, but the South Korean military said the DPRK on Saturday morning test-fired two projectiles believed to be short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea. Kim said that the new-type weapon systems which the DPRK has recently developed and the tactical and strategic weapon systems in the development stage will make decisive contributions to the realization of the Workers' Party of Korea's strategic plan to make a radical change in the national defense strategy. "We must further build up the striking capability which can wipe any enemy out of our territory if it dares to launch a military action against our state and this is just the aim of building up our defense capability," he added. It is the third time the DPRK test-fired weapons in March, with the last two on March 2 and 9. ^ top ^

Trump sends letter to Kim, offers cooperation (China Daily)
US President Donald Trump has sent a letter to Kim Jong-un, Democratic People's Republic of Korea's top leader, detailing a plan to develop ties, the Korean Central News Agency reported on Sunday, citing Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong. "In the letter, he (Trump) … explained his plan to propel the relations between the DPRK and the United States and expressed his intent to render cooperation in the anti-epidemic work," an apparent reference to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Kim Yo-jong, who is a senior official of the DPRK's ruling Workers' Party of Korea, said in the statement reported by KCNA. While the letter reflects "excellent" ties between the two leaders, Kim Yo-jong warned that broader relations between their two nations are different. Their good personal relationship is not enough, as a hiatus in disarmament talks drags on, she said. "We try to hope for the day when the relations between the two countries would be as good as the ones between the two top leaders, but it has to be left to time and be watched whether it can actually happen." A senior official in Washington confirmed that Trump had sent a letter to Kim, "which is consistent with his efforts to engage global leaders during the ongoing pandemic", The Associated Press reported. "The President looks forward to continued communications with Chairman Kim", the official said. The statement by Kim Yo-jong came a day after reports said that the DPRK had fired what appeared to be two projectiles off its east coast on Saturday, the latest such action it has taken this year. Kim and Trump have met three times and exchanged letters since 2018. But their diplomacy has largely come to a standstill since the breakdown of their second summit in Vietnam in February last year over US sanctions relief and what the DPRK would be willing to give up in return. Sanctions as difficulties Pyongyang is currently under multiple sets of United Nations and US sanctions over its weapons programs. In the report, Kim Yo-jong praised Trump's "efforts to keep the good relations he had with our Chairman by sending a personal letter again at a time like now when big difficulties and challenges lie in the way of developing the bilateral relations". But she said "nobody knows how much the personal relations would change and lead the prospective relations between the two countries, and it is not something good to make hasty conclusions or be optimistic about." Kim Yo-jong said bilateral dialogue "would be thinkable only when the equilibrium is kept dynamically and morally, and justice ensured between the two countries, not merely by the personal letter between the two leaders." Pyongyang set Washington an end-2019 deadline to offer fresh concessions, and in late December Kim Jong-un declared that the DPRK no longer considered itself bound by its moratoriums on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests. On Saturday Kim observed "the demonstration fire of (a) tactical guided weapon", to demonstrate the characteristics "and power of a new weapon system to be delivered" to army units, KCNA reported on Sunday. In addition, Kim spoke of "tactical and strategic weapon systems in the development stage", the report said. After the latest test, a US State Department official reiterated Washington's call on Pyongyang "to avoid provocations, abide by obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions, and return to sustained and substantive negotiations to do its part to achieve complete denuclearization". The UN Security Council also said recently that it would make humanitarian exemptions to sanctions on the DPRK to help it fight the novel coronavirus. ^ top ^



Two evacuation flights to be conducted (Montsame)
At its regular meeting of the State Emergency Commission (SEC) held today, March 26, it was decided to extend the quarantine period for suspected citizens with infection to 21-28 days in aims of prevention of the novel coronavirus infection. By doing so, isolation period for the citizens arrived on the last four chartered flights is extended by a week. The latest research of the World Health Organization and other international organizations have shown that the novel coronavirus has an average incubation period of 5.5-19 days, not 14 days. In connection with the extended mandatory quarantine period, the SEC resolved to operate two chartered flights, changing the scheduled three flights. Member of the SEC and Head of the National Emergency Management Agency T.Badral said "Around 1000 citizens have arrived on the last four evacuation flights and are staying in isolation. The isolation period for those citizens is extended by a week. Therefore, as there is not enough access to isolation facilities for all the evacuees to come, we resolved to conduct two chartered flights in the first place." Furthermore, the SEC backed up the proposal made by the Ministry of Health at the meeting that it is necessary to quarantine each individual in one room in prevention of transmitting infection to each other. Currently 2-4 citizens are staying in one room in the isolation facilities. Regarding with the decision on isolation of each individual in separate room, the officials stated that opportunities to collaborate with hotels and entities will be studied, in compliance with the mobilization law. ^ top ^

Foreign Minister receives Ambassadors (Montsame)
On March 26, Minister of Foreign Affairs D.Tsogtbaatar held a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Michael S. Klecheski, British Ambassador Philip Malone, Australian Ambassador Dave Vosen, and Canadian Ambassador Catherine Ivkoff. At the meeting, Minister D.Tsogtbaatar informed the ambassadors of the COVID-19 situation in Mongolia, ongoing government measures, State Emergency Commission's decisions regarding evacuations of Mongolian citizens abroad and deployment of charter flights to Japan and the Republic of Korea, actions being taken to protect citizens from coronavirus infections, as well as social and economic impacts of the crisis. The Ambassadors thanked government organizations and health professionals for their successful efforts at the prevention of COVID-19 spread and voiced their hope that the virus crisis will be overcome by joint efforts. ^ top ^


Sandro Wirth
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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