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
  15-19.2.2021, No. 853  
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Switzerland plans to lift parts of its COVID-19 restrictions from March 1 (Xinhua)
The Federal Council of Switzerland announced Wednesday that it plans to gradually lift COVID-19 restrictions starting from March 1. The Swiss government said at a press conference Wednesday that at the first stage of its exit strategy, it proposed to open shops, sport and leisure facilities and to allow outdoor events of up to 15 people from March 1. However, restaurants, cafes, cinemas and theaters in the country will remain closed and a work-from-home policy will be maintained until further notice. The Swiss government clarified that only "activities that carry a low risk of infection will be allowed first". According to the Swiss government, the number of new infections, hospital admissions and deaths has continued to fall in recent weeks, but the epidemiological situation remains uncertain as new variants of the virus continue to spread in the country and their percentage double every 10 to 14 days. "We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there is still a long way to go," said Swiss President Guy Parmelin. The re-opening plans will be submitted to the country's 26 cantons for discussion and then the Swiss federal government will make a final decision later on Feb. 24, the Swiss Federal Council said. Restaurants and cafes in Switzerland had been closed since the end of December 2020 as the numbers of daily infections were considered high at that time. On Jan. 13 of this year, the Swiss Federal Council announced additional lockdown measures including the closure of all non-essential shops. ^ top ^


Foreign Policy

China unveils details of 4 PLA martyrs at Galwan Valley border clash for first time, reaffirming responsibility falls on India (Global Times)
Five Chinese frontier officers and soldiers stationed in the Karakorum Mountains have been recognized by the Central Military Commission of China for their contributions in the border confrontation with India, which occurred in the Galwan Valley in June 2020, to commemorate their contributions to defending national sovereignty and territory, the PLA Daily reported on Friday. The Central Military Commission awarded Qi Fabao the title of "Hero regimental commander for defending the border," Chen Hongjun with "Hero to defend the border," and awarded first-class merit to Chen Xiangrong, Xiao Siyuan and Wang Zhuoran. This is the first time China has unveiled casualties and details of these officers and soldiers' sacrifice, died when dealing with the Indian military's illegal trespassing of the Galwan Valley Line of Actual Control (LAC). The awards process also revisited the whole incident - how the Indian military deployed a large number of soldiers who premeditatedly hid, trying to force the Chinese military to concede. How the Chinese soldiers defended the sovereignty of the country amid attacks of steel tubes, cudgels and stones was also highlighted. A total of 20 Indian soldiers died in the skirmish. This is the worst border conflict between the two countries in nearly 45 years. Indian media had previously boasted that the Chinese military suffered more deaths in the region. It is noticeable that the PLA Daily report used "foreign military" to refer to the Indian military, a move that showed China's kindness of not inciting sentiments of the people against the background of the current disengagement of troops from China and India along the border areas. "Since April 2020, relevant foreign military violated the previous agreement… they trespassed the border line to build roads and bridges and intentionally incited troubles, changing the status quo along the border… they even violently attacked Chinese soldiers that were sent for communication," read the PLA Daily report. When facing the Indian military's trespassing and provocations in May 2020, Chen Xiangrong and other Chinese soldiers fought back and forced them to return. "When facing enemies that outnumbered us, none of us flinched. Amid their stone attacks, we drove them away," Chen wrote in his diary. In June 2020, the Indian military violated the previous consensus and trespassed the LAC, setting up shop by building tents. Out of respect to previous agreements and rituals, Qi Fabao, regimental commander of the Chinese military, went to negotiate with a few soldiers. However, the Indian military showed no sincerity and had already deployed more soldiers in an attempt to force the Chinese soldiers to concede. When facing more Indian soldiers appearing from nearby mountains, while reproaching the Indian military for destroying the agreement, Qi organized Chinese soldiers to move into combat formations and engage in any confrontation. The Indian military then started to attack the Chinese soldiers by throwing steel tubes, cudgels and stones. Qi was under heavy attack and sustained a serious head injury. Chen Hongjun went to rescue Qi. Chen Xiangrong fought on the front lines and Xiao Siyuan, who was taking videos as evidence, also went to fight. With many Chinese soldiers coming to support and fight bravely, the Indian military had been utterly defeated - many running away, leaving numerous injured and dead. After being rescued, Qi's left forehead had a wound of more than 10 cm. "He tore off the bandage and tried to stand and fight… that was his last breath," the military doctor recalled. Qi, Chen Hongjun, Chen Xiangrong and Xiao Siyuan fought to the last minute and sacrificed their lives. Wang Zhuoran, a fellow soldier, also gave his life to rescue his comrades when crossing the river to support the others. Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times that China decided to unveil the details of the incident at this moment to refute previous disinformation, stating that it suffered greater casualties or China incited the incident. The facts show to the international community that the responsibility of the deadly skirmish in the Galwan Valley falls on the Indian military, and the Chinese military had to fight back when facing challenges. China also wants to show that it cherishes peace but when it comes to core interests of sovereignty and territory, China will not be afraid and the Chinese military has the confidence and capability to beat back all violators, Qian said By commemorating martyrs at such a high level and praising the soldiers stationed on the frontlines for their contributions, it will encourage soldiers on the frontline to further build defense. Currently, China and India have reached agreement on disengagement from the southern and northern banks of the Pangong Tso (Lake) and relevant work has been ongoing. The China-India border areas are expected to return to previous peace and stability. Qian said that China decided to release the details at this moment to commemorate the martyrs instead of releasing the details immediately after the incident in June 2020, as it is demonstrating the resolution to safeguard the stability of bilateral ties and will not hype hatred or incite nationalism like Indian politicians and media. The stern situation in the border areas also taught soldiers the responsibilities they have shouldered. Touched by the heroes, soldiers in Qi's regiment applied to stay. New equipment has also been deployed to the regiment since January, including the light tank, and logistic supplies have also been updated to offer firm support to soldiers stationed along the border areas. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping's online diplomacy during COVID-19 pandemic (People's Daily)
The COVID-19 pandemic, affecting all countries across the world, has underlined the way that China addresses a global challenge and its vision for a better world. In face of the unprecedented global crisis, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been sharing thoughts with world leaders on addressing the fundamental issues of the times, and offering China's proposals to the solution of global challenges. 2020 was a busy year for Xi, though the pandemic prevented him from traveling overseas. Xi had 87 meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders and heads of international organizations, and he attended 22 important diplomatic events in the form of "cloud diplomacy." Watch the video to learn about Xi's "cloud diplomacy" during the COVID-19 pandemic. ^ top ^

BBC World News ban reasonable, says FM after CGTN ban in UK (Global Times)
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday that China's barring BBC World News is justified, reasonable and lawful in response to UK's revoking the license of Chinese news network CGTN, which was outrageous and unreasonable. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that after investigation by China's National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA), the reports on China issues by BBC World News have seriously violated related regulations, violated the requirement that news should be true and fair, harmed China's national interests and undermined China's national unity, so the channel does not meet the conditions for foreign channels to air in China. The NRTA will not accept BBC World News' application to operate in China in the new year, Hua said. As people can see, BBC has repeatedly produced and reported fake news with a strong ideological bias against China, spreading false information on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and COVID-19 epidemic issues to attack and discredit China, Hua said. She listed several examples. Since 2019, BBC always chose to ignore violence by rioters when covering Hong Kong issues, blaming "Hong Kong police brutality for the increasingly violent protests." On Xinjiang-related reports, BBC journalists based in Beijing only used a few non-real satellite pictures and the so-called reports of anti-China people to fabricate "lies of the century" to attack and smear Xinjiang. In reports related to the COVID-19 epidemic, the video of the anti-terrorism drill was even cited as "evidence" of China's violent anti-epidemic efforts. She slammed the UK as hypocritical as it on the one hand touts freedom of the press while allowing its media to make false reports and hype the political nature of CGTN. China is a country under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. This was the case when China and the UK established diplomatic relations in 1972, and it was the case when CGTN was established in the UK. Hua said that the UK people have not avoided dealing with the Chinese people, nor have UK businesses refused doing business with Chinese companies, or has the UK government rejected cooperation with China on major international and regional issues because China is a country under the leadership of the CPC. Why is working with the Chinese media now a problem? Hua asked. Hua's response came after Western media claimed that China's barring BBC World News is a countermeasure to the ban of CGTN in the UK. British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab on Thursday denounced the Chinese authorities' decision, saying it is "an unacceptable restriction on media freedom." Hua said the UK's ban is a political crackdown on CGTN. As an international professional media organization, CGTN strictly abides by the laws and regulations of the UK and the professional ethics of journalism, and adheres to the principles of objectivity, fairness, truthfulness and accuracy in news reporting. CGTN is internationally recognized for its professionalism. Over the past 18 years since its launch in the UK, CGTN has conducted good cooperation with the UK. It has played an important role in enhancing understanding and communication between the Chinese and British people, promoted cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries, Hua said. However, Ofcom, the UK media regulator, in February 2020, suddenly started proceedings to revoke CGTN's license for its English language news channel, citing the political nature of the channel, and that broadcast license holders cannot be controlled by political bodies. Although this move went without justifiable reason, CGTN has shown great sincerity in fully cooperating with Ofcom's requests and seeking to resolve the issue in a constructive manner during the investigation, she added. However, it was infuriating that Ofcom has repeatedly rejected China's suggestions and arbitrarily revoked the license of CGTN on February 4. Facts have proven that this move was not a so-called technical problem from the beginning to the end, but a political suppression out of a strong ideological bias, Hua noted. China has always been open and welcoming to foreign journalists, including those from the UK, to report in China, and has provided convenience for them to work and live in China. What China opposes is the ideological bias against China, the fabrication of news under the pretext of the so-called freedom of the press, and acts that violate the professional ethics of the press, Hua reiterated. China urges the UK to immediately stop political manipulation and correct its mistakes, said Hua, noting that the country reserves the right to make further justifiable and necessary responses. ^ top ^

Myanmar Crisis Not What China Wishes to See, Ambassador Says (Caixin)
China's ambassador to Myanmar has said political turbulence in the country is "not at all what the Chinese side wishes to see," adding that Beijing had "no prior knowledge" of the military coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's democratically elected leader, earlier this month. In a written interview with Burmese media outlets, Chen Hai indicated that Beijing supported the Southeast Asian nation's democratic transition, saying UN Security Council talks earlier this month "reflect the common position of the international community, including China." He did not condemn the military takeover, saying China hoped that "all parties" would "properly handle the current issues through dialogue and consultation" in order to bring Myanmar politics "back onto a normal track." China was "concerned about the situation" of Aung San Suu Kyi and other detainees, he said. Crowds of protestors have gathered in cities across Myanmar in recent days in opposition to the coup, prompting the military government to respond with violent crackdowns, curfews and internet blackouts. Some demonstrations outside the Chinese embassy in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, appeared to be fueled by claims that Beijing is helping the military regime. "We understand (the protestors') calls, and our work pushing for peace and dialogue reflects their legitimate demands," Chen said. Beijing has "friendly relations" with both the Myanmar armed forces and the National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, he said. Rumors have swirled online that Beijing sent soldiers to Myanmar and flew in technology specialists from the city of Kunming. Chen said the speculation was "completely ridiculous," adding that the planes were "normal cargo flights" to China of Myanmar exports like seafood, which are operating on a reduced schedule due to the Covid-19 pandemic. "If there is a market for such gossip in Myanmar, it is only because of manipulation and incitement by forces behind the scenes with ulterior motives," he said. China has come under pressure from the United States and other countries to formally condemn the coup, which Chinese state news agency Xinhua initially called a "major cabinet reshuffle." Beijing has at times joined international criticism of the Myanmar military, while also urging a return to peace and stability. On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council, of which China is a member, adopted a resolution deploring the removal of the elected government and calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other arbitrary detainees, as well as for the restoration of free internet access. On Feb. 5, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged China to "join the international community in condemning the military coup in Burma," according to a statement by state department spokesperson Ned Price. The previous day, the UN Security Council, of which China is a permanent member, issued a statement stressing the "need for the continued support of the democratic transition in Myanmar" and the "need to uphold democratic institutions and processes." China took part in the discussions leading up to the announcement, Chen said. On Feb. 1, Myanmar's military arrested Aung San Suu Kyi — the 75-year-old State Counsellor and de facto head of state — announced it had seized control of the country, and declared a one-year state of emergency. The move followed a months-long dispute between the armed forces and the civilian government over the results of the November election, in which the NLD won a huge majority of the seats it was permitted to contest under the country's constitution. The putsch hobbled Myanmar's five-year democratic experiment, during which the military was guaranteed a quarter of parliamentary seats. Economic ties between China and Myanmar have grown closer in recent years, with Beijing now the Southeast Asian nation's largest trade partner. Last year, the two countries signed 33 bilateral agreements to build infrastructure projects in Myanmar as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese President Xi Jinping's flagship overseas development strategy. Chinese businesses from carmakers to fintech firms have waded into the Myanmar market, eyeing a population with growing spending power. But controversy has swirled around other ventures, including an investment project in a border village backed by a Chinese investor apparently on the run from illegal gambling charges. ^ top ^

Chinese state councilor makes four proposals for combating pandemic (Xinhua)
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday made four proposals for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and making new contributions to safeguarding peace. He put forward the proposals at a virtual open briefing of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) related to the COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Wang proposed adhering to putting people first and enhancing global cooperation in the fight against COVID-19; fully implementing the UNSC resolutions and creating a favorable environment for fighting the pandemic; solving the vaccine deficit and increasing assistance to developing countries; and strengthening coordination and giving full play to the role of the United Nations system. China has taken concrete actions to promote the fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, he stressed, adding that China has never sought any geopolitical goals in carrying out international cooperation on COVID-19 vaccines, never calculated any economic gains, and never attached any political conditions. "What we think about most is to let the vaccines become accessible and affordable public goods for the people of all countries," Wang said. China will continue to work together with all parties and enhance cooperation on vaccines and pandemic prevention and control, Wang said. The open briefing was convened with the theme of ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines in contexts affected by conflict and insecurity. Delegates of the UNSC members and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attended the virtual meeting. ^ top ^

Chinese, South Korean FMs hold phone talks on bilateral ties, Korean Peninsula issue (Xinhua)
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday held a telephone conversation with Chung Eui-yong, South Korea's new foreign minister, on bilateral relations and the Korean Peninsula issue. Noting that China and South Korea are each other's important neighbors and strategic cooperative partners, Wang said that under the care and guidance of the top leaders of both countries and with the joint efforts of both sides, the relationship between the two countries is pressing ahead toward achieving common development, dedicating to regional peace, joining efforts to rejuvenate Asia, and promoting world prosperity. This year marks the opening of the China-South Korea Year of Cultural Exchanges, Wang said, adding that the next year will see the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and South Korea, which is of great significance to bilateral relations. The two heads of state held a telephone conversation again at the beginning of the new year to jointly launch the China-South Korea Year of Cultural Exchanges and reached new and important consensus on strengthening exchanges and cooperation in various fields, making a good start for the development of bilateral relations throughout the year, Wang said. As the current international and regional situation is changing rapidly, the two sides should strengthen communication and cooperation, implement the important consensus of the two heads of state, and push the China-South Korea strategic cooperative partnership to a higher level in keeping up with the times, Wang said. China is ready to work with South Korea to consolidate anti-pandemic achievements, strengthen bilateral and multilateral anti-pandemic cooperation, continue to improve joint prevention and control and "fast track" arrangements, avoid exporting cases to each other, and guarantee the exchange of travelers on urgent businesses so as to serve the economic development of both countries as well as exchanges and cooperation in various fields, Wang said. Chung, for his part, wished the Chinese people a happy spring festival, saying that South Korea attaches great importance to developing relations with China, and the upcoming two years are of particular significance to the South Korea-China relationship. The two countries should jointly make plans for high-level exchanges in the next phase, ensure the success of the South Korea-China Year of Cultural Exchanges and the activities marking the 30th anniversary of bilateral relations, and deepen exchanges and cooperation in areas including economy and trade, humanity and culture, he said. South Korea firmly supports China in hosting the Beijing Winter Olympics, and is willing to deepen regional anti-pandemic cooperation with China, Chung said. The two sides also exchanged views on international issues of mutual concern. China is in favor of regional cooperative mechanisms featuring openness and inclusiveness, and opposes dividing the world along ideological lines, Wang said. Regarding the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Wang said that the evolution of the situation on the peninsula bears on the important interests of both China and South Korea. China has always attached importance to the unique role of South Korea as a relevant party in the affairs of the peninsula, Wang said, adding that all parties should strengthen communication and coordination and make efforts to maintain peace and stability on the peninsula, and to achieve the two major goals of realizing denuclearization and establishing a permanent peace mechanism on the peninsula. Chung presented South Korea's stance and said that the South Korean side is willing to continue to play a constructive role in promoting the resumption of peace talks on the peninsula. ^ top ^

Coronavirus origin-tracing mission in Wuhan is independent: WHO (People's Daily)
The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday that the international expert team on the COVID-19 origin-tracing mission in Wuhan was "independent" and had no affiliation. "So many times I hear that this is a WHO study or investigation. It's not," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference from Geneva, stressing that it's an independent study which is composed of independent individuals from ten institutions. At Monday's press conference, Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, head of the international expert team in Wuhan, said that their report would be a "consensus document." "The international teams and the Chinese counterparts have already agreed on the summary reports," he said. The expert team, composed of 17 international scientists and 17 Chinese counterparts, are working together to publish an interim joint report, in which they would "make recommendations for future studies," said Embarek. He said that longer studies would be needed to "explore some of the hypotheses and advance our understanding about the origin of the virus." In this respect, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO Health Emergencies Program, warned of the difficulty to find complete consensus at the press conference. "Achieving an absolute consensus around every point is almost an impossibility in science. What we can do is reach conclusions based on the evidence before us," he said. Earlier last week, the international team concluded their month-long research in Wuhan and presented their initial findings at a press conference in China, ruling out the hypothesis that the virus escaped from a laboratory. A WHO source said that the team is working on a summary report which is expected to be published this week, and that a full final report will come out in the coming weeks. ^ top ^

China lodges stern representations with Canada, expressing strong dissatisfaction over declaration opposing 'arbitrary detention' (Global Times)
China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition over the declaration on opposing "arbitrary detention" issued by Canada and some other countries, and China has lodged solemn representations with Canada, Chinese Embassy in Canada said on Tuesday. The Canadian side issued the so-called declaration against "arbitrary detention" with some other countries, and deliberately arranged someone from the Human Rights Watch to accuse China of "arbitrary detention" of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor at the launch of the declaration, which is totally fact-distorting and ill-intentioned, a spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy said. "As is well known to all that the Meng Wanzhou case is a completely political incident." Canada has arbitrarily detained Meng, an innocent Chinese citizen who violates no Canadian law at all, for over two years. By doing so, the Canadian side has grossly trampled the legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese citizen, which is arbitrary detention in every sense of the term, the spokesperson said. On the one hand, the Canadian side claims that it upholds the rule of law and opposes arbitrary detention. On the other hand, it acts as an accomplice of the US, and helps the US use Meng as a bargaining chip to oppress Chinese enterprises. This kind of act is no different from a thief shouting to catch a thief, which is quite hypocritical and despicable, the spokesperson elaborated. The two Canadians were arrested and prosecuted by competent authorities of China in accordance with law for suspected crimes undermining China's national security. Chinese judicial organs handle the cases independently according to law and their lawful rights have been guaranteed. The Canadian side's attempt to pressure China by using "Megaphone Diplomacy" or ganging up is totally futile and will only head toward a dead end, according to the embassy. Canada is making efforts to draw some countries to issue a joint declaration to oppose the so-called China's "arbitrary detention," a source familiar with the matter told the Global Times exclusively on Saturday. As Canadian politicians attack China on the case of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, Chinese experts believed a joint declaration is designed to stigmatize and pressure China. Experts said the declaration, coinciding with China celebrating the Lunar New Year, is an aggressive and ill-considered attack designed to provoke China. As such, China will not be scared and make compromise, Canada's chosen diplomatic approach has never worked before, and will not achieve any goal in the future, and this very act of Canada will just "rebound in the worst possible way," they say. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokespersons have reiterated the official status of both cases addressing Kovrig and Spavor and China's judiciary authorities have released information about the cases. Kovrig was accused of having used ordinary passport and business visa to enter China to steal sensitive information and intelligence through contacts in China since 2017, while Spavor was accused of being a key source to provide intelligence for Kovrig. They are suspected of crimes endangering China's national security, and have already been initiated public prosecution. According to the source, due to the COVID-19 epidemic situation, the hearings for both cases have yet to commence, and the court will push forward the trial soon. The two Canadian suspects will be punished according to the law, the source said. The Canadian move, coming at the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration, is an attempt to divert public attention and create a messy public situation to sway public opinion among overseas Chinese, because the annual Spring Festival is an opportunity for them to celebrate the strength and prosperity of their motherland, Wang Yiwei, Jean Monnet chair professor and director of European Studies at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Saturday. Analysts have pointed out that these countries that signed the so-called declaration have a track record of bias against China, and they are far from representatives of the entire international community. "We understand that Canada is under pressure from the US. However, as a sovereign state, Canada arrested Meng on trumped-up grounds and held her for more than two years with her violating no Canadian law. The so-called declaration is more like a 'confession' admitting the mistake Canada has made in the Meng case," Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Saturday. Meng's case was a serious political incident masterminded by the US to suppress Huawei and other Chinese high-tech companies. Canada is acting as an accomplice of the US, and this is an "arbitrary detention," Lü noted, stressing that "Meng's case is different from those of Kovrig and Spavor and it is pathetic that Canada has chosen to outsource its political process to Washington." Canadian media has been deliberately distorting the facts by making reports that cater to the Canadian government, which wrongly assumes China is retaliating against Canada for the arrest of Meng using the cases of Kovrig and Spavor. "Such attack on China reflects the fear of these countries over the decay of their domestic politics. It is just a vent of their anger and battle of their upset minds," Wang said. Canada's arrest of Meng is widely seen as arbitrary detention among the mainstream opinion of the international community, and even by some former Canadian political leaders, diplomats and figures in business circles. According to Canadian media outlet, in June 2020, a coalition of 19 former politicians, public servants, academics, and public figures addressed a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging the Canadian government to change the wrong position on Meng's case. Canadian media publication 'the Walrus' also published an article on January 8 entitled "Why Canada Should Finally Free Meng Wanzhou." The article said though "there are now rumblings that the US is trying to strike a deal of its own with China to release Meng in exchange for an admission of wrongdoing, Canada shouldn't wait to act." Chinese experts believed the declaration will have no affect on China's judicial process when it comes to the two Canadian citizen's cases and urged Canada to recognize its mistake and rectify its arbitrary detention of a Chinese citizen and immediately release Meng and allow her return to China immediately. ^ top ^

Britain's Boris Johnson says world needs pandemic treaty, citing China's Wuhan (SCMP)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that world powers should clinch a global treaty on pandemics to ensure proper transparency after the novel coronavirus outbreak which was first reported in China. Johnson said he would be keen to sign a global treaty on pandemics where countries agreed to share data, amid British and US concern over access given to a World Health Organization (WHO) mission to China. Asked who he held responsible for any lack of transparency on the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, Johnson said: "I think its fairly obvious that most of the evidence seems to point to the disease having originated in Wuhan." "Therefore we all need to see as much as we possibly can about how that might have happened, the zoonotic questions that people are asking. I think we need as much data as possible," he said. "I think one of the attractive ideas that we have seen in the last few months has been a proposal for a global treaty on pandemics, so that signatory countries make sure that they contribute all the data they have and we are able to get to the bottom of what's happened and stop it happening again," the prime minister said at a news conference. "That is the sensible thing to do." As part of Britain's presidency of the Group of Seven (G7) nations, Johnson wants to lead efforts on a global approach to pandemics, including an early warning system. But a weekend statement ahead of a call of G7 leaders on Friday did not go into detail about any treaty on transparency. The Covid-19 outbreak, which was first detected in China in late 2019, has killed 2.4 million people, tipped the global economy into its worst peacetime slump since the Great Depression and upended normal life for billions of people. Britain's foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday he shared US concerns about the level of access given to a World Health Organization Covid-19 fact-finding mission to China, while Johnson has said he supports US President Joe Biden in his the need for more data from the investigation. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

China orders clergy to toe Communist Party and socialist line (SCMP)
New national rules requiring clergy to embrace the leadership of the Communist Party and China's socialist system are expected to compound limits on religious freedom in the country, according to analysts. The new rules – Measures for the Administration of Religious Personnel – were published by the State Administration for Religious Affairs early this month and will go into effect in May. While the measures underlined many of the controls already in place under existing supervisory guidelines, their packaging as a national regulation gave them greater political force, one observer said. Since 2015, President Xi Jinping has sought bring religions such as Islam and Christianity under the party's control through a process of " Sinicisation ", and stressed that religious adherents must reject foreign influence. Religious leaders, clergy and religious teachers must now actively promote the Sinicisation policy to bring religions under party control and in line with Chinese culture. The rules stipulate that they must safeguard national security and ethnic unity. Under the measures, clergy cannot accept overseas appointments or engage in religious activities that would endanger China's national security. They must comply with a detailed registration process and can only serve one congregation at any one time. The new rules also state that Catholic bishops must be approved and ordained by the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China. But this will not affect the 2018 Sino-Vatican agreement giving the Pope a final say over bishop candidates in China, according to Anthony Lam Sui-ki, a Catholic affairs specialist at Hong Kong Shue Yan University. "All bishop appointments must receive final approval from the Pope before consecration can happen," Lam said. Carsten Vala, a political scientist at Loyola University Maryland specialising in state-church relations in China, said codifying the internal guidelines as national regulations would give them greater legitimacy and power. "[Another] political rationale is to further restrict religious activities and religious leaders," Vala said. The regulations also stress that members of the clergy must be paid through open and legitimate channels and must obtain official approval before they can train overseas. It follows the trial of Protestant house church pastor Hao Zhiwei from Erzhou in Hubei province, over her handling of contributions from church members. Hao is awaiting a verdict, and a decision in her case could set a legal precedent for others involving house church leaders, who usually use their private bank accounts to manage contributions. "This has led to state accusations that house church clergy are defrauding the followers... even though the state has left no other means for such congregations to manage finances when the house church congregations reject registration under the Three-Self authority," Vala said. The party-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement and China Christian Council oversee Protestant churches in China but many house churches refuse to register, citing differences over theology and separation from the state. Yang Fenggang, a professor of religion in China at Purdue University in Indiana, said that the new rules would add to the administrative burden of religious affairs officials, making it tougher for them to enforce rules on informal religious activities. "Whenever the regulation defines what is allowed and what is not, it sets the boundaries, but the party-state approved clergy may evade and cross the boundaries in creative ways," Yang said. ^ top ^

Hundreds of Chinese Patients Died in 'Redundant' Trials of Proven Drugs (Caixin)
Hundreds of Chinese heart disease patients died avoidable deaths, with more still suffering heart attacks and strokes, after 100,000 went untreated in unnecessary trials of widely used medication, new research suggests. The figures — from experiments that ran from 2008 to 2019 — emerged in a review of "redundant" Chinese placebo-controlled trials on statins, a class of drugs used around the world for more than 30 years to lower cholesterol, by a team at Johns Hopkins University. Their findings were published this month in The BMJ, a peer-reviewed British journal. The team said the number of redundant trials they uncovered meant "urgent reform" was needed to protect Chinese patients. The review also found that few of the examined studies reported ethics approval or their funding sources. The Chinese Medical Association has "strongly recommended" statins for treating the kinds of heart disease caused by cholesterol-clogged arteries — specifically angina pectoris and acute coronary syndrome — since publishing guidelines on their use in 2007. The guidelines came on the back of overwhelming Chinese and international evidence for their use. But when the Johns Hopkins team reviewed Chinese statin trials published on research databases in and outside the country, they found more than 2,000 randomized trials that had started, or continued to recruit test subjects, from 2008 all the way up to 2018. The trials involved a total of 207,317 heart disease patients, with more than 101,486 sorted into placebo control groups, meaning they had missed out on the potentially life-saving medicine, the team wrote. That was a clear violation of medical ethics, they wrote, because of the weight of existing evidence and because there were other proven treatments the control groups could have been given. The researchers said 375 Chinese statin trials that had been published before the Chinese Medical Association released its guidelines, all of which concluded statins were safe and effective for patients with coronary artery disease. Of the total 2,577 trials examined by the team, only four did not reach that conclusion. The researchers then turned their attention to "major adverse cardiac events" or MACEs, which might have been suffered by patients' whose conditions went untreated, by working backward from what the 2,045 post-guideline trials concluded about the risks and benefits of statin treatment. They estimated that of the trials that did give details about MACEs — 17.6% or 360 in total — there were nearly 3,500 excess adverse events among placebo patients that might have been avoided with treatment, including 559 deaths, 973 heart attacks and 161 strokes. Yuanxi Jia, the lead author of the study, told Caixin it was "very likely" that the actual number of extra deaths and other MACEs in the studies they examined was higher than their calculation. He stressed they were unable to say for sure if MACEs occurred in trials that did not provide details about them. However, their paper said it would be "inappropriate" to extrapolate these numbers onto the wider cohort. China's guidelines on the use of statins match others around the world. Although questions have emerged about their benefits and risks for some categories of patients, and experts have debated whether they are overprescribed in some countries, the best medical evidence shows they are broadly safe and effective. Coronary artery disease, which includes angina and acute coronary syndrome, is caused by a narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart, explained Bruce Neal, a physician and professor of medicine specializing in heart disease at Australia's University of New South Wales. It is the main cause of heart attacks. Statins lower the amount of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream, which would otherwise collect as plaques inside coronary arteries, thickening and narrowing them. The drugs can also stabilize deposits of plaque to prevent them rupturing, Neal said. Beyond the question of whether they were redundant, researchers identified many issues with the post-guideline trials. Only 13%, or 265 in total, reported approval from an ethics committee. Neal said just because many of the trials didn't report ethics approval did not mean they failed to obtain it. But he said the investigators would have had to make a very strong case for the use of placebos rather than other treatments, given what has already been shown about the safety and effectiveness of statins and the risk of heart attacks and death in the patient group. It was not clear why so many papers did not report ethics approval, and whether this reflected suboptimal reporting, or whether the papers actually bypassed or were rejected by ethics committees, said lead author Jia. Under Chinese medical trial guidelines any research involving humans is supposed to be reviewed and approved by an institution's ethics committee before it is conducted. […] It was also unclear how many more statin trials may have been conducted but never published, the Johns Hopkins team said. Furthermore, their research excluded trials that were not clearly labeled as randomized controlled trials, but there were "likely many non-randomized clinical trials that also assigned participants to statins or placebo." As for the appeal of placebo controlled trials, corresponding author professor Karen A. Robinson, who helped design the study, told Caixin understanding the motivations would require a different kind of study. "We could speculate that cost and convenience or ease may have played a part, but that would only be speculation." The vast majority of the redundant trials were published in Chinese journals and could only be found in Chinese databases such as the China Biomedical Document Service System, CNKI, Wanfang Database and Only 16 were available in English on PubMed, one of the largest global research databases. The study's lead author Jia, who was one of two Chinese researchers who conceived it, said he had originally planned to look at domestic Chinese randomized controlled trials more generally. "I wanted to examine their characteristics, quality, and problems," Jia told Caixin. "But when I was screening those (trials), I realized many of them might be redundant. The redundancy is not limited to statins or coronary artery disease, but seems prevailing over many interventions and disease conditions." Jia, who is a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said he chose statins as a microcosm of the broader issue. "It's not clear how serious the problem of redundant (trials) in China might really be." What's also unclear is whether any of the studies the team looked at were fake, or whether widespread fraud was taking place. The Johns Hopkins team declined to identify the papers, researchers and journals involved, or to release such details to Caixin, with Jia saying that "pointing fingers" was not the aim, and it would be "unfair" to suggest researchers and journals are solely responsible. "The occurrence of redundant (trials) involves multiple stakeholders, including the (reward) system, researchers, journals, ethics committees, funders, and even government supervisors," he said. "We conducted the study to reveal the problem and spark discussions among the stakeholders," he said. Jia said essay mills and research misconduct could be among the reasons why so many unnecessary trials were published, but they had no concrete evidence to prove it. "As reviewers without access to the original data, our ability to detect faked or fraudulent papers is limited." But some of the papers were suspicious, he said. "Some (papers) share the same wording, style and even some of the same results." Ma Danmeng contributed reporting. ^ top ^

China advances effective handling of proposals from NPC and CPPCC sessions, to promote sound economic and social development (Xinhua)
Premier Li Keqiang heard a progress report on the handling of proposals from the 2020 NPC and CPPCC sessions while chairing the State Council executive meeting on Thursday. He urged pooling wisdom of NPC deputies and CPPCC members to sustain sound economic and social development. The meeting noted that last year, State Council offices and departments coordinated the handling of 8,108 suggestions from NPC deputies and 4,115 proposals from CPPCC members, accounting for 88.3 percent and 84.9 percent of the total respectively. Relevant departments adopted some 3,700 pieces of advice and recommendations in the proposals and, on this basis, introduced about 1,500 policy measures. "Handling suggestions and proposals from NPC deputies and CPPCC members is an integral part of government responsibility in serving the people. It is an institutional arrangement that helps pool consensus and improve government performance. It is a concrete step of exercising governance in response to the people's expectations," Li said. The meeting required that as this year's two sessions approach, hearing advice and recommendations from NPC deputies and CPPCC members and handling their proposals, as an important part of government work, should be integrated into the government's decision-making process and policy implementation, to help secure a good start for fully building a modern socialist country. The meeting underlined the imperative to effectively collect and take in the advice and recommendations from NPC deputies and CPPCC members during the two sessions. Leading officials of competent departments shall carefully heed the advice and recommendations from NPC deputies and CPPCC members while sitting in at relevant meetings during the two sessions. All departments concerned shall actively explore more channels such as the internet, hotlines and video link, to fully engage with NPC deputies and CPPCC members. Proposal handling shall be closely incorporated into the work of the government. Advice and recommendations from NPC deputies and CPPCC members shall be carefully studied to be reflected in the Government Work Report and the 14th Five-Year Plan or related work and policy reserves. Their valuable insights shall be translated into solid measures that help the government better deliver. "Continued progress must be made in proposal handling, and concrete results achieved concerning the adopted advice," Li said. The meeting also urged raising the quality of proposal handling. It stressed the need to invite relevant NPC deputies and CPPCC members when researching on key tasks and specific subjects, and to tackle key issues and difficulties in the course of handling proposals. Intensified efforts shall be made in effectively handling the suggestions and proposals of high representation and concern. Special work plans shall be formulated to tackle prominent issues that have been repeatedly raised in the suggestions and proposals. For proposals that are difficult to address and involve local responsibilities, coordination mechanisms shall be set up between relevant departments, NPC deputies and CPPCC members and subnational authorities, to jointly advance the handling. Relevant departments must fulfill their due responsibilities. They shall keep work logs, specify timeframes, and handle all suggestions and proposals in a timely manner. They shall keep NPC deputies and CPPCC members informed on the work progress, and swiftly provide feedbacks and explanations. The General Office of the State Council shall strengthen coordination, supervision and guidance in this regard. Departments concerned shall summarize experience and practices proven effective, and institutionalize and standardize the handling work. Information disclosure of proposal handling shall be refined, to receive oversight of NPC deputies and CPPCC members and the general public. "The annual two sessions will convene shortly. Government departments must work closely together to consolidate the foundation of economic and social development and continuously improve people's livelihood. Relevant departments must strengthen engagement with NPC deputies and CPPCC members," Li said. ^ top ^

Rural agency makes debut (China Daily)
A central agency tasked with overseeing the national strategy of rural revitalization made its debut on Tuesday in an article carried by a flagship magazine of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. It marks the latest development in China's rural policies, which are expected to form a crucial part of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) to be unveiled next month. The article, headlined "The Grand Miracle in Humanity's Poverty Reduction History", was published under the name of the Party committee of the National Administration of Rural Revitalization in the latest edition of Qiushi, the CPC Central Committee's semimonthly theoretical magazine. Little other information surrounding the newly created agency was available from official sources by press time. The Qiushi article looked back on China's poverty relief efforts, which have intensified under President Xi Jinping, rounding up major achievements and lessons amassed during that process. It concluded that central authorities have kept their promise to end domestic poverty over the past eight years-a baseline requirement for building China into a "moderately prosperous society in all respects "before the Party's centenary this year. The article said that the central government has solved critical questions in the field of poverty reduction through innovations such as registering almost 100 million farmers for custom-made relief projects and sending more than 3 million competent officials to aid the battle on the ground. In a widely shared online commentary titled "Hello, National Administration of Rural Revitalization", the Sichuan Daily newspaper said the agency's creation marks a "historic shift" in rural and agricultural policies. The administration will serve as an institutional safeguard for China's transition from poverty alleviation to rural rejuvenation, it said. The publishing of the article by the agency has fueled discussions about its relationship with the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, which up till now has overseen poverty reduction work. Created in 1986, the cross-departmental office has taken on a central role in recent years, commanding a sprawling network of financial and human resources that turbocharged poverty-curbing programs designed for far-flung rural families. "It is just the poverty relief office in another name," one user commented on the Sina Weibo microblogging service, though the antipoverty office's title remained unchanged on its website. "Which ministry is it affiliated with? Is it the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs?" another microblogger wrote. The Sichuan Daily commentary said it is "absolutely not just a change of name", adding that the new agency's duties are expected to be greatly expanded. "If poverty reduction work aims to solve some of the most acute issues in rural and agricultural affairs," the commentary argued, "the rural revitalization strategy aims higher at tackling remaining issues in the sector via better routes." China has seen its rural poverty rate decline rapidly thanks to a top-down effort to boost residents' incomes, usually through developing local industries or helping them land better-paid jobs in urban factories. Infrastructure and public services have also expanded to formerly isolated and impoverished communities in recent years, most notably roads and bridges, safe homes, clean drinking water, compulsory education and affordable healthcare. ^ top ^

China's online speech crackdown extended as cyber watchdog targets bloggers (SCMP)
Ma Xiaolin frequently wrote about current affairs on one of China's leading microblogging sites, where he has 2 million followers. But recently, he said in a post, the site, Weibo, called and asked him not to post original content on topics ranging from politics to economic and military issues. "As an international affairs researcher and a columnist, it looks like I can only go the route of entertainment, food and beverage now," the international relations professor wrote on January 31. Ma, who often posted on developments in the Middle East, is one of many popular influencers working within the constraints of China's heavily censored web who is finding that their space to speak is shrinking even further with the latest policy changes and a clean-up campaign run by the country's powerful censors. He declined an interview request. Beginning next week, the Cyberspace Administration of China will require bloggers and influencers to have a government-approved credential before they can publish on a wide range of subjects. Some fear that only state media and official propaganda accounts will get permission. While permits have been needed since at least 2017 to write about topics such as political and military affairs, enforcement has not been widespread. The new rules expand that requirement to health, economics, education and judicial matters. "The regulators want to control the entire procedure of information production," said Titus Chen, an expert in Chinese social media policy at National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan. The latest move is in line with ever more restrictive regulations under President Xi Jinping that constrict an already narrow space for discourse. Xi has made "digital sovereignty" a central concept of his rule, under which authorities have set limits and increased control of the digital realm. The new credential requirement could restrict individuals from posting original content, including people like Ma who are not openly challenging the line of the ruling Communist Party. Weibo chief executive Wang Gaofei, responding to Ma on the platform, said commentary on news released by official media was permitted but commentators could not "release news" themselves. The policy revision is meant "to standardise and steer public accounts and information service platforms to be more self-aware in keeping the correct direction of public opinion", according to a statement posted by the cyberspace administration. A week after unveiling the new rules in late January, the administration held a nationwide conference on the importance of "strengthening order in online publishing". The head of the agency, Zhuang Rongwen, said the agency must "let our supervision and management grow teeth". On February 4, the agency publicly announced a month-long clean-up drive targeting search engines, social media platforms and browsers. Such campaigns, in which companies take steps to meet government demands, are not new, but enforcement was looser in the past: in 2017, Weibo backed off after complaints it was lumping gay content in with a pornography ban. It appears to be happening in concurrence with a crackdown to enforce existing rules. "It is a big deal, it's a massive campaign," said Xiao Qiang, an expert on digital censorship at the University of California at Berkeley. "And these are people who didn't write something sharp. They are intentionally not being edgy about things." A notice in January on Sohu, which also hosts microblogs, said public accounts without credentials must not issue or republish current affairs news. Banned topics include "articles and commentary on politics, economics, military affairs, diplomatic and public affairs; taking out of context and distorting the content of the Party and country's history; breaking news and commentary". Internet giant Baidu, which also has a publishing platform, issued a similar notice. It is unclear to what extent bloggers will be punished if they publish commentary without the credentials. A current affairs account on Tencent's WeChat messaging app was shut down last week on "suspicion of providing an internet news information service". Under the name August Old Yu, it was run by Yu Shenghong, a former journalist at state broadcaster CCTV, He did not respond to a request for comment. Representatives of Baidu, Sohu, Weibo and Tencent did not respond to requests for comment. The cyberspace administration did not respond to a faxed request. The coronavirus pandemic appears to have in part spurred the tightened regulations. In the early days of China's outbreak, much of the news coverage was driven by online accounts and digital-only media outlets which circulated both news and rumours. During the pandemic, "'self-media' maliciously created rumours and casually disregarded others' privacy, severely impacting the stability and harmony of society, and damaged the legal rights and interest of others", the cyberspace administration said in a notice explaining the new policies. Ultimately, the new rules reflect the censors' worries, even if it is not precisely clear what they are so insecure about, according to Berkeley's Xiao. "In the past entire year, the control has been so tight that hardly anyone can speak about anything," Xiao said. ^ top ^

China reports consumption growth during Lunar New Year holiday (Xinhua)
The consumer spending during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday surged noticeably, according to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Commerce (MOC). The combined sales of retail and catering enterprises in China rose 28.7 percent year on year to 821 billion yuan (about 127.5 billion U.S. dollars) during the Spring Festival golden week, data from the MOC showed. China's online sales exceeded 122 billion yuan during the same period, with online catering sales surging 135 percent compared with the Spring Festival holiday last year as more Chinese ordered ready-to-eat meals through e-commerce or online food delivery platforms. Sales of products related to Lunar New Year's Eve dinners increased by 54.9 percent year on year during the holiday, said the MOC. The Spring Festival, or the Chinese Lunar New Year, is an important occasion for family reunions, which falls on Feb. 12 this year, and many places across China have encouraged residents and migrant workers to stay put for the festival to reduce the flow of personnel and curb the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic. ^ top ^

China to Roll Out Provincial Renewables Targets (Caixin)
China is poised to roll out specific targets for provinces' green energy use, as the country's ambitious goal of peaking carbon emissions by 2030 looms. All of China's province-level regions, except Tibet, are to be given specific yearly targets for renewables' share of their total power consumption for the years to 2030, according to an internal draft plan the National Energy Administration (NEA) sent to local energy authorities on Feb. 5. The plan, open to feedback until Feb. 26, aims to ramp up national share of renewables — which includes hydrogen, wind, solar and biomass — to 40% by 2030. The targets vary among the 30 regions involved, with some having a long way to go and others having already achieved a satisfactory level. More developed regions such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong province need to increase their renewables share from the range of 15% to 25% this year to around 30% by 2026, and eventually up to 40%. For eight regions, mostly located in central and western parts of China, which have renewables shares of between 40% and 70% this year, the draft plan only asks them to ensure the proportion doesn't decline in the coming years. The targets could help fulfill the country's commitment to installing 1.2 billion kilowatts of wind and solar power capacity by 2030, the plan said. President Xi Jinping announced the pledge at the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit in December. That is more than twice the country's current wind and solar capacity, which stood at 530 million kilowatts at the end of 2020, according to the NEA. But Tao Ye, a deputy director of a research center under China's top economic planner, told Caixin the capacity goal should be further boosted to 1 billion kilowatts by 2025 and 1.6 billion kilowatts by 2030 in order for renewable sources to make up 40% of the total energy mix. The draft plan also seeks to help meet another goal President Xi set at the U.N. summit, namely boosting the share of non-fossil fuels — which includes renewables and nuclear energy — in China's national power use to 25% by 2030. The share at the end of 2019 was 15.3%. ^ top ^

Pioneering spirit, hard work urged as China embraces Year of the Ox (People's Daily)
As China rings in the Year of the Ox, President Xi Jinping has urged promoting "the spirit of the ox" in pursuit of fully building a modern socialist China. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, has highlighted the spirit of serving the people as willing steers, blazing new trails in development as pioneering bulls and engaging in an arduous struggle as hardworking oxen. Xi promoted the spirit at a New Year gathering organized by the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference on Dec. 31, 2020. "We must promote the spirit of the ox in serving the people, driving innovative development and working tirelessly. We must continue to be careful, as we were in the past, guarding against arrogance and impetuosity, and continue to fear no hardship and be enterprising, marching forward bravely on the new journey of fully building a modern socialist country, and marking the centenary of the CPC with outstanding achievements," Xi said. Xi reiterated the spirit of the ox in his Spring Festival greetings to all Chinese on behalf of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on Wednesday. In China, an ancient civilization nurtured by its agriculture and fertile lands, the ox has always been considered an important animal as they help farmers cultivate the farmlands. "In Chinese culture, the ox is a symbol of diligence, dedication, endeavor and strength," Xi said. Stressing the virtues of modesty and prudence, Xi called for efforts to achieve the second centenary goal and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and make new and greater contributions to the noble cause of securing peace and development for all mankind. The ox is the second zodiac sign in the Chinese zodiac cycle, represented by 12 animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The previous Year of the Ox was 2009. After an interval of 12 years, a new Year of the Ox began this month. Despite complicated international and domestic situations in 2020, China has made major strategic achievements in the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, conquered serious floods and achieved positive economic growth. The country has lifted nearly 100 million rural poor out of poverty over the past eight years, securing a decisive victory in ending absolute poverty. These hard-won, remarkable achievements would not have been attained without the spirit of the ox, which will play a more important role in the year 2021 as China strives to achieve rural vitalization, implement a new development paradigm and deepen reform and opening up. ^ top ^

Xi's article on poverty alleviation to be published (Xinhua)
An article by Xi Jinping on the poverty alleviation work during his visit to Fuping County of north China's Hebei Province will be published Tuesday in this year's fourth issue of the Qiushi Journal. The article is a transcript of a speech by Xi, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission. It is the essential requirement of socialism to eradicate poverty, improve the people's livelihood and achieve common prosperity, the article says. With regard to completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, the hardest and most arduous tasks lie in the rural areas and the poverty-stricken regions in particular, the article adds. The article stresses helping people in difficulties, especially those in the old revolutionary base areas and poverty-stricken areas, to break away from poverty. Underscoring the importance of Party organizations in poverty alleviation work, the article says they should become the backbone leading villagers to shake off poverty and strive for a better life. The fundamental purpose of the Party is to serve the people, the article says, adding that cadres at all levels should often ask themselves whether they have been wholeheartedly working for the people. ^ top ^



Adapted testing program in place for Beijing 2022 (Xinhua)
A tailored testing program for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games is set to kick off in February to capitalize on the final winter sports season prior to the Games by rooting out problems and accumulating data in order to enhance the experience. A group of domestic athletes and technical officials will be invited to the Beijing 2022 competition venues for the adapted testing program, as organizers aim at implementing the guiding principles of "simplicity, safety and excellence." Last November, due to global travel restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Beijing 2022 organizing committee (BOCOG), the Winter Olympic International Federations, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) jointly made an agreement on cancelling all international test events scheduled in the 2020-2021 season for Beijing 2022. All involved parties agreed in principle on staging 10 full feature test events between October and December, 2021, inviting representatives of the IOC, IPC, Winter Olympic International Federations, international technical officials, and athletes from all countries and regions, and broadcasting and result teams to participate. Three international training weeks are also on the agenda for all participating teams to accommodate to the venues. These arrangements will be based on the pandemic situation and confirmed following evaluation of all parties three months prior to the activities. With scheduled test events quite close to Beijing 2022, the BOCOG has planned a series of testing programs in the Games venues to conduct necessary test operation on infrastructures, including the venues, equipment, facilities, energy and transportation, as well as better preparing venue operation teams, and drilling on command systems, competition organization and service, and safeguarding. Testing programs of snow and sliding disciplines are scheduled for mid and late February, while those of ice disciplines are slated in early April. Apart from domestic athletes and technical officials, some international experts will be invited to observe the tests. After consulting with the Winter Sports Management Center and the sports department of the China Disabled Persons' Federation, organizers will stage 20 Winter Olympic and Paralympic testing programs in February. These testing programs are included in the series of winter sporting events dubbed 'Experience Beijing.' As for the testing programs of ice disciplines in April, the principles of competition organization will be the same as those in February, while the format and content are under the discussion of all parties. Domestic testing programs of ice hockey and curling in the second half of 2021 are on schedule and require further consultation with relevant sports federations internationally and domestically. The BOCOG deems the testing program for snow, sliding, and skating disciplines as the best rehearsal of competition organization of Beijing 2022. 17 Winter Olympic and three Winter Paralympic competitions will be staged in Zhangjiakou (in Hebei Province) and Yanqing (in Beijing) within 10 days in February, when six competition venues and three operation teams in the two competition zones will be put into operation. All competition venues in the Beijing competition zone will embrace their appearances in April. Despite restricting the size of participation during the testing program, organizers expect no lowering of competition venues, anti-epidemic and operational requirements in striving to maximize the testing effect. The Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games will be staged from February 4 to 20 and the Paralympic Winter Games from March 4 to 13 in 2022. ^ top ^



Shanghai sees consumption boom during Spring Festival holiday (Xinhua)
Shanghai saw a consumption boom during the week-long Spring Festival holiday, with major retailers doubling their sales over the same period last year as the holiday ended on Wednesday. Data released by the municipal commission of commerce showed that during the Feb. 11- Feb. 17 holiday period, 390 of the city's closely-watched retailers including cinemas, automobile, home appliance, jewelry, catering businesses, shopping malls and other retail businesses saw their sales more than doubled. Their sales volume reached 7.6 billion yuan (about 1.18 billion U.S. dollars), and 107 major restaurants registered 29.33 million yuan in sales, an increase of 79 percent over the same period last year. The box office takings in Shanghai topped 327 million yuan between Feb. 11 and 16, when cinemas in the city recorded 5.2 million moviegoers. Data showed that visitors to Shanghai contributed 7.66 billion yuan to the city's holiday consumption, up by 1.2 times over the same period last year. ^ top ^



China's domestic ETF market rises 58 pct in 2020: Shenzhen Stock Exchange (Xinhua)
Domestic exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have developed rapidly in China in 2020, with their value climbing 57.68 percent year on year, said the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in a research report. By the end of 2020, 366 ETFs were listed and traded on the Chinese mainland, with an asset scale of about 1.1 trillion yuan (170.93 billion U.S. dollars). New ETF products in the domestic market are mainly ETFs in the chip, new energy, artificial intelligence and 5G industries. In terms of investor structure, institutional investors remain in the majority, but individual investors have been expanding. By the end of June 2020, individual investors held 287.46 billion yuan of domestic ETFs, accounting for 30.7 percent of the total. ^ top ^



People celebrate Tibetan New Year (Global Times)
Local people celebrated the Tibetan New Year which coincided with the Spring Festival this year. ^ top ^



Soaring EU-Xinjiang trade in textile machinery, tomatoes piles pressure on Brussels to act on alleged forced labour (SCMP)
From the ancient ports of southwest Italy to the industrial heartlands of Germany, European companies are enjoying strong trade with China's Xinjiang region amid increasing pressure on Brussels to act against allegations of forced labour and other human rights abuses there. As the European Union (EU) was finalising its investment deal with Beijing in December last year, there was a roaring trade in goods connected to the western region's textiles and tomato industries, which have been targeted by the United States for deep links to the persecution of Uygurs and other Muslim minorities. The EU currently has no outright bans or sanctions directly linked with Xinjiang, but it is under pressure to act amid an outpouring of criticism against the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) and as evidence of human rights abuses in Xinjiang continues to mount. Although the deal says China must progress towards ratifying the forced labour provisions of the International Labour Organization, critics have slammed it for being too weak. Chinese customs records examined by the South China Morning Post showed that in 2020, trade continued briskly. Shipments of German-made parts and accessories for textiles machinery in Xinjiang hit a record high of US$41.2 million last year, a staggering 2,763 per cent increase since 2017, when detailed records began. This was the vast majority of all such parts entering Xinjiang last year, as German exporters took advantage of China's industrial recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The second highest exporter was Switzerland, shipping just US$680,279 worth. A Chinese textiles executive, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said that German and Swiss companies are now dominant in this sector, largely because of their textiles heritage. "But we are seeing a lot more Chinese acquisitions of European companies recently, eventually China will be able to make these parts on their own," he said. The parts can be replacements for equipment across the textiles manufacturing chain, from the carding machines that disentangle, clean and intermix fibres to the combing machines that layer the fibres out ahead of spinning, or the spinning machines themselves – all vital components for any smoothly run textiles plant, according to experts. A spokesman for the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel said that without access to replacement parts such as loom reeds, healds and heald-frames – which fall into this category of imports – factories would be faced with huge problems. Xinjiang produces 85 per cent of China's cotton and 20 per cent of the global total. The industry has been heavily implicated in alleged human rights abuses in the autonomous region, which is home to large populations of Uygurs and other Muslim minorities. In December, an analysis of Chinese government documents by the Washington-based Centre for Global Policy found that in 2018, "at least 570,000" people had been forcibly mobilised to pick cotton in the Xinjiang region. "Xinjiang's total labour transfer of ethnic minorities into cotton picking likely exceeds that figure by several hundred thousand. Despite increased mechanisation, cotton picking in Xinjiang continues to rely strongly on manual labour," the report read. Over the past three years, apparel companies have faced huge pressure to divest from Xinjiang, with the US effectively banning any cotton products linked to forced labour. The Uygur Forced Labour Prevention Act, which would be an effective ban on goods made in Xinjiang, has been reintroduced in the Senate after sailing through Congress last year. The US targeted the sprawling Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) last July with sanctions under the Magnitsky Act, with Europe yet to follow suit, despite passing legislation allowing it to adopt its own Magnitsky-style human rights sanctions in 2020. Tomato products from Xinjiang are inextricably linked to the XPCC, analysts said, and have also been banned from the US market. […] A recent survey by the German Chamber of Commerce in China found that 96 per cent of respondents have "no plans to leave the Chinese market", while "72 per cent plan further investments" there. "Businesses expect to trade with China, it is unrealistic to expect otherwise," said one European diplomat in Hong Kong, speaking anonymously. "The human rights debate creates a headache." The continual stream of shocking headlines concerning Xinjiang has increased this pressure, with Brussels parliamentarians in December urging EU leaders to use new sanction powers to punish Xinjiang officials. "The EU was wrong to try to sell the forced labour language in its investment agreement with China as a major achievement," said Noah Barkin, senior visiting fellow at the German Marshall Fund. "But it does have other tools to respond to the horrific situation in Xinjiang. The question is whether it will use those tools. Unanimity [among EU member states] is required to impose sanctions, and that is a very high bar." The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), a pan-national political grouping formed last year, is calling on all Western parliaments to declare China's treatment of the Uygur people as "genocide" and legislate on trade accordingly. "It is unacceptable that the EU has caved on human rights to seal its investment deal with China. The message from Belgium and across Europe must be clear: no deal without China's ratification of international forced labour standards," said Samuel Cogolati, IPAC co-chair and co-author of a resolution introduced in the Belgian national parliament on Thursday calling for the government to "declare the persecution of Uygur Muslims and minorities a 'genocide'." Belgium, for its part, imported 2,280 per cent more girls' jackets from Xinjiang last year than a year earlier, while shipments of Christmas decorations from Xinjiang to Belgian soared 1,500 per cent. The US Department of Labour last year named Christmas decorations as a Chinese-made products believed to be produced by child or forced labour, while jackets are part of the labyrinthine textiles industry, where malpractices have been highlighted in detail. China has strongly denied the charge of genocide. At a press conference in Beijing last month, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: "There's never ever such thing as genocide in China. Period." Facing down the criticism over the CAI, some EU officials have been at pains to emphasise that the deal should be viewed as a straight investment agreement, rather than a deal on human rights. The commission's director general for trade, Sabine Weyand, has spoken on numerous occasions recently of the EU's "toolbox" for dealing with China, which includes the CAI, sanctions, and a draft bill to rid the supply chain of forced labour that is expected later this year. "If we go along with CAI … we really need to have the [supply chain] legislation on due diligence on board, we really need to get serious on [International Procurement Instrument rules on government purchasing], we really need to look at our global sanctions instruments. And already this is not theoretical. There's good discussion I'm already seeing now happening in the EU," Weyand told a webinar last month. Campaigners have urged the commission to act with urgency. "The situation in Xinjiang speaks to the need for EU lawmakers to ensure the swift adoption of a robust and effective due diligence legislation, which should ensure that good produced through forced labour or other serious abuses throughout the value chain can never enter the EU market," said Claudio Francavilla, EU advocacy officer at Human Rights Watch. ^ top ^

CNN mocked for map placing Xinjiang in S.China's Guangdong (Global Times)
Chinese and overseas internet users hit social media on Friday to mock CNN for misidentifying Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region by locating it instead in a small town of the same pronunciation in South China's Guangdong Province during a live show featuring so-called "human rights concerns." A screenshot of CNN correspondent David Culver talking about the human rights "problems" in China's Xinjiang region was uploaded by internet user "LRG" on Twitter on Thursday, saying he or she was glad to catch Culver's live shot. The map beside Culver marked China's Xinjiang - a region that takes up one-sixth of the whole country's territory - as a small dot near Hong Kong in South China. The screenshot soon caught the attention of domestic and overseas netizens and provoked sarcasm as users noted CNN might have mistaken the region for the Guangdong Province town of Xinjiang in Wengyuan county. "The CNN working staff seemed to use Google to search 'Xinjiang' and then get the location… so unprofessional… I almost laughed with my tears out," one Weibo user posted. Another Twitter user commented that the wrong map showed the ignorance and hypocrisy of CNN and other US media "as they actually know nothing about China's Xinjiang not even its location but they are still giving intensive Xinjiang 'reports.' "All their Xinjiang reports should be flushed in the toilet," another Weibo user posted. Neither CNN or Culver noticed the mistake at the first place: Culver even retweeted LRG's tweet with the wrong map on it. A netizen "Lucy" commented that the "correspondent" had lost his credibility and the tweet showed he cared nothing about the Xinjiang region except for using it in CNN's anti-China narrative. Culver had been engaged in revisiting Wuhan and reporting on China's reciprocal measures of closing down the US consulate in Chengdu of Sichuan Province in response to the US closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston. However, as of press time, "LRG" has deleted the original tweet. But the screenshot of the original tweet can still be found on Twitter. Some pointed out that this was not the first time some Western media was caught out hyping anti-China topics without basic knowledge. For example on January 19, the Chinese version of @BBC News released the video "The Road back to Wuhan" on its Twitter account about the city hit hard by COVID-19 in Central China's Hubei Province. But the BBC map graphic placed Hubei near provinces like Northwest China's Shaanxi or Gansu Province. One netizen joked: "We used to say the BBC news may only got the time and location right and now we cannot even be sure about that!" ^ top ^



Jimmy Lai arrested in prison on fresh charge of national security violations (Global Times)
Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai was arrested by Hong Kong police on charges of "aiding criminals" and "colluding with foreign forces" while he is still in custody for suspected violations of the national security law for Hong Kong after he was denied bail. According to Hong Kong media, the latest arrest was on Tuesday night. Lai is suspected of aiding Andy Li Yu-hin's attempt to escape from Hong Kong to the island of Taiwan. Li is one of the 10 Hong Kong people who were charged and sentenced to prison in the Chinese mainland for illegal border crossing. Another charge Jimmy Lai faces in the Tuesday arrest is colluding with foreign forces to sanction China or take other opposition actions. A 29-year-old paralegal Chan Tze-wah stood trial on Wednesday for the same charges as Lai, and the details revealed in Chan's case suggested Lai's involvement in the attempted escape of Andy Li, Hong Kong media reported. Lai is in custody at Stanley Prison, one of the most secure Hong Kong prisons after his bail application in another case concerning violations of the national security law for Hong Kong was denied on February 9 by the Court of Final Appeal. Lawrence Ma, a barrister and chairman of the Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the charge of "colluding with foreign forces," under the national security law for Hong Kong, will reduce Lai's chance of a successful bail application in the new case, but it may not have much effect on the sentence of his violations. The proceedings in Lai's case have received wide attention as they have become a symbol of how the Hong Kong legal system interprets the national security law. Tian Feilong, an associate professor at Beihang University in Beijing and member of the Beijing-based Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times that regardless of the ruling on Lai's violations, "rejecting Lai's bail means the common law system of Hong Kong has finally applied the 'prudent bail' principle under the national security law for Hong Kong." ^ top ^



China appoints foreign ministry commissioner in Macao SAR (China Daily)
China's central government has decided to appoint Liu Xianfa commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Macao Special Administrative Region, replacing Shen Beili. ^ top ^



Taiwan DPP's claim of mainland thwarting vaccine purchase unfounded: spokesperson (Xinhua)
A Chinese mainland spokesperson on Thursday denounced Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authority for suggesting the mainland spoiled the island's purchase of the COVID-19 vaccine. The accusation was an unfounded claim that spoke volumes about some DPP politicians' inherent quality of forsaking morality for political purposes, said Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. Ma commented on a question about Taiwan media reports saying the mainland obstructed the island's 5-million vaccine doses deal with German pharmaceutical company BioNTech. Ma noted that, in March 2020, BioNTech allied with the pharmaceutical arm of the mainland's Fosun Group for the development and exclusive distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. The allegation was not convincing at all, as it raised unanswered questions such as why Taiwan deliberately made a deal with BioNTech instead of Fosun Pharma, he said. Ma added that the relevant authorities in Taiwan had reportedly forbidden approach attempts by Taiwan companies interested in buying vaccines from Fosun Pharma. The DPP authority owed a clear explanation to the Taiwan people about the real reasons behind the failed deal, said Ma. Ma urged the DPP authority to stop spinning the rumor mill and sacrificing people's well-being for its hidden political agendas. ^ top ^



Businesses encouraged by China-EU trade growth, anticipating investment agreement to be ratified (Xinhua)
Business leaders from China and the European Union (EU) have been encouraged to see the bilateral trade grow in 2020, a year that was marred with lockdowns and industrial disruptions due to the restrictive measures put in place to curb the spread of the pandemic. Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU, said on Monday that China became the EU's main trade partner last year, a place that had been long dominated by the United States. The bloc's imports from China in 2020 grew by 5.6 percent year-on-year to 383.5 billion euros (465 billion U.S. dollars), and exports grew by 2.2 percent to 202.5 billion euros. Meanwhile, its trade with the U.S. saw a substantial decline in both ways, according to Eurostat. Xu Haifeng, chairman of Bank of China (Luxembourg) S.A., hailed the statistical results as "a watershed moment for EU-China trade ties." In an interview with Xinhua on Tuesday about the reasons why the China-EU trade could buck the recession, he attributed it largely to the rapid recovery in the Chinese market: "China took strict measures to combat COVID-19, Chinese people and enterprises made a great sacrifice, and these efforts paid off: the supply chains in China were restored quickly and the strength of China's manufacturing has been maintained." China was the only major economy in the world that registered a 2.3-percent growth of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, whereas the global economy suffered a contraction of around 3.5 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. Xu, who also chairs the China Chamber of Commerce to the European Union (CCCEU), said the historic change came as no surprise. "China's rapid recovery from the pandemic and measures to shore up domestic consumption have been a driving force in keeping the EU's exports of goods to China at a stable and even slightly higher level. Furthermore, the resilience of the supply chain in China certainly laid a solid foundation of manufacturing for stronger need of the EU market," he said. Encouraged by the development, an EU business leader believed it demonstrated the importance of keeping the momentum going. "My personal expectation is that we should continue to have a strong trade relationship with China. China is now a booming economy in the world, and it's in the interest of the EU and EU companies to have close trade relations with China," said Bernard Dewit, chairman of the Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce. What added to the economic boost was the conclusion of the seven-year negotiation for a bilateral investment agreement between the EU and China in December, a deal that has been longed for by the EU to level up the playing field and offer more business opportunities for both sides. Describing the agreement as "a big step forward," Dewit said the compromise reached between the two sides is a good sign, although the draft document is yet to be approved by the European Parliament and national legislatures. The conclusion of the negotiation gives a boost to the confidence of the Chinese business community in the EU, said Xu. "We look forward to ratification and signing of the accord in coming months, and we hope it can be signed quickly," he added. Dewit said that it is necessary for two of the largest markets in the world, China with a population of 1.4 billion and EU over 400 million, to seek to improve economic ties: "I think it's in the interest of both parties to improve, to further exchange, to negotiate eventually new common grounds for the benefit of both parties, and in the end, the world." ^ top ^

China's online advertising market expands in 2020 (People's Daily)
The scale of China's internet advertising market expanded to nearly 500 billion yuan (about 77 billion U.S. dollars) in 2020, up 14 percent year on year, according to the latest statistical report on internet development. The figure marked the third year in a row that market growth had slowed. Internet advertising via mobile devices commanded a market share of 85 percent last year, up from 70 percent in 2018, said the report released by the China Internet Network Information Center. Key opinion consumers (KOCs), or those who can influence their friends and fans and generate consumption behavior, are reconstructing the internet marketing communication chain and boosting advertising, the report noted. China's social networking platforms are now home to a large number of KOCs who have attracted customers of different brands and seen their own advertising value gradually emerge. ^ top ^

Central Bank Steps Up Green Finance Efforts (Caixin)
China's central bank is crafting a package of policies to support finance for green development as part of efforts to play a more active role in the nation's fight against climate change. The People's Bank of China (PBOC) will incorporate ways to promote low-carbon emissions and other sustainable development measures into its financial plans over the next five years, Wang Xin, director of the central bank's research bureau, told a press briefing last Tuesday. The PBOC is also revising a plan for evaluating how deposit-taking banks conduct their green finance business, including how they make green loans and issue green bonds. The central bank can then set up future monetary policy tools based on the results, Wang said, adding that the plan is expected to be issued in 2021 after seeking public comments. The PBOC is currently working with the European Union on a common classification standard on green finance, which is expected to launch this year. Such a standard could boost coordinated development of the green finance market and promote cross-border investment, Ai Ming, deputy director of the PBOC's international department, said at the meeting. The PBOC previously touched on the topic last month when it outlined its key tasks and goals for 2021, including improving policy framework and incentive mechanisms to guide financial resources to support green development. It also said it aimed to improve the financial system's ability to manage climate change-related risks, and ensure that the pricing of carbon emissions credits traded under a national scheme is reasonable. It also jointly released guidelines on investment and financing activities to develop the green economy last October. The central bank's efforts are part of a broader commitment by President Xi Jinping in September to make the world's largest emitter reach peak carbon emissions before 2030 and become "carbon-neutral" by 2060. In December, Xi further committed to cutting China's emissions per unit of GDP by 65% by 2030 from 2005 levels. China's active promotion of green finance dates back to at least 2016, when ecological and financial regulators published guidelines on building a framework for such finance. As of the end of 2020, China had about 12 trillion yuan ($1.9 trillion) in outstanding green credit, and had issued about 810 billion yuan in green bonds, Wang said at last week's press conference. The nonperforming ratio for green credit was 1.6 percentage points lower than the nonperforming loan ratio for commercial banks, which stood at 1.92% at the end of 2020, said Peng Lifeng, deputy head of the PBOC's financial market department. Peng added the nonperforming rate for green credit has remained below 0.5% for the last three quarters in a row. Projects funded by money raised by the green bonds can reduce the need for use of about 50 million tons of standard coal each year, equal to a reduction of more than 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, Peng added. ^ top ^



PM discusses bilateral cooperation with ROK Ambassador (Montsame)
Prime Minister L.Oyun-Erdene had a meeting with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Korea to Mongolia Lee Yeo-hong on February 18. At the beginning of the meeting, the ROK Ambassador relayed a congratulatory message sent from ROK Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on his appointment as the Prime Minister of Mongolia. Prime Minister L.Oyun-Erdene affirmed Mongolia's readiness to further strengthen the comprehensive partnership between Mongolia and its third neighbor with common values, the ROK, elevate it to strategic partnership, and increase the frequency of reciprocal high-level visits. They had discussions about speeding up projects and programs funded with ROK soft loans, in particular, the development of Solongo 1 and 2 apartment complexes and the construction of thermal power plants in 10 aimag centers. Prime Minister L.Oyun-Erdene underlined that the projects are aligned with the goal of housing young people. The Prime Minister then expressed the government's readiness to jointly implement major projects and programs to boost cooperation in the road, infrastructure, energy, logistics, mining, and other areas and promote investment and economic relations under the ROK's New Northern Policy and requested to acquire the AstraZeneca vaccine. The parties concurred to cooperate in evacuating Mongolian citizens and operating charter flights. ^ top ^

PM receives WHO Resident Representative (Montsame)
Prime Minister L.Oyun-Erdene yesterday received UN Resident Coordinator Tapan Mishra, UNICEF Representative Alex Heikens and WHO Resident Representative in Mongolia Sergey Diorditsa, exchanging views on vaccination. Informing that the WHO on Monday approved AstraZeneca and Oxford University's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, Mr. Sergey Diorditsa said Mongolia is able to get the vaccine from any country that is producing the vaccine with official permission. He also informed about Pfizer vaccine which will be produced within COVAX Program and vaccines being developed by other countries. WHO will decide whether to approve Moderna vaccine this month and Sinophram vaccine developed by China next month. While expressing that the Mongolian Government will follow recommendations given only by the WHO, PM L.Oyun-Erdene emphasized the necessity to urgently bring and reserve vaccines developed by other countries. The same day, the PM met with Ambassadors of Russia, China, India and Japan, sharing views on vaccination. The aforementioned countries expressed their readiness to supply vaccine to Mongolia within the framework of cooperation against the pandemic. The PM will also meet with Ambassadors of the United States and the Republic of Korea. ^ top ^

Parliamentary team established to monitor process to improve Oyu Tolgoi agreements (Montsame)
On February 09, Speaker of the Mongolian parliament, State Great Khural G.Zandanshatar issued an ordinance to set up a working team responsible for overseeing the implementation of the 92nd parliamentary resolution of 2019 on 'ensuring interests of Mongolia in the exploitation of the Oyu Tolgoi gold-copper mine'. The Parliament adopted resolution No. 92 on November 21, 2019, which instructs the government of Mongolia to take measures aimed at improving contracts related to the Oyu Tolgoi project, namely, Oyu Tolgoi Investment Agreement (October 2009), Shareholders' Agreement (2011) and Oyu Tolgoi Underground Mine Development and Financing Plan (2015) in line with corresponding legislation. Following the resolution No. 92, a government's working group, which was established in 2019 and currently chaired by Minister of Justice and Home Affairs Kh.Nyambaatar, has successfully convened several times and has been working with Oyu Tolgoi's investor, according to Deputy Chief of Cabinet Secretariat B.Solongoo. The parliamentary working team set up on February 10, 2021 under the initiative of the Mongolian Parliament will be working to examine the implementation of the 92nd resolution and to ensure its effective realization. Headed by Deputy Speaker T.Ayursaikhan, the working team is comprised of parliament members, representing majority and minority parties in the parliament, including N.Altankhuyag, Sh.Adishaa, D.Bat-Erdene, B.Bayarsaikhan, Kh.Bolorchuluun, J.Ganbaatar, J.Munkhbat, D.Togtokhsuren and T.Enkhtuvshin, etc. On February 10, 2021, the working team convened for its first meeting, at the outset of which head of the working team T.Ayursaikhan highlighted that the working team is formed on the basis of shared view that the Oyu Tolgoi Investment Agreement and Oyu Tolgoi Underground Mine Development and Financing Plan, known as the Dubai Plan, are detrimental to Mongolia and do not reflect common interests of the Mongolian people. In addition, sub-teams were formed at the February 10 meeting in charge of overseeing each of seven provisions stated in the 92nd resolution. Sub-teams will work to draw a conclusion and proposals on each provision and present them to the working team. In particular, the resolution commands the government in seven following areas: 1) To undertake comprehensive measures to improve the implementation of and ensure compliance of the Investment Agreement and the Shareholders' Agreement with parliamentary resolutions No. 40 of 2008 and No. 57 of 2009, 2)To improve the Dubai Plan in accordance with the interests and legislation of Mongolia, 3)Explore options to resolve investment for 34 percent equity holding by Mongolia through mineral production sharing agreement or mineral royalties for the purpose of keeping the benefits to be gained by Mongolian side at not less than 53 percent under the Investment Agreement and, if necessary, propose State Great Khural to make amendments to relevant laws and regulations. 4) Revise the valuation of copper, gold, silver and other associated elements of Oyu Tolgoi deposit according to international standards enforced in Mongolia and re-develop feasibility study based on the updated valuation and have conclusion drawn by the competent authority, 5) Renew the Environmental and water assessment, revise the government resolution No. 175, dated June 08, 2011 on 'Taking the land for public needs', while reflecting conditions of the Gobi region groundwater use, 6)Take comprehensive measures to implement recommendations and conclusions of the working group established by parliament speaker in March 2018 to review the implementation of the Investment Agreement. 7) Strengthen financial and human capacity of the Mongolian representation in the Oyu Tolgoi project to international standards. ^ top ^


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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