torsdag 17. januar 2019

'China is after us': Uighurs in Pakistan report intimidation

On a cold winter evening, Mohammad Hassan Abdul Hameed, 34, walks towards his restaurant, past silk stores in the busy China Market in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. He, like many others here, belongs to the persecuted Uighur community from the Xinjiang province of China.  Abdul Hameed's father arrived in Rawalpindi 50 years ago to work in a pilgrims' guesthouse intended for Uighurs heading to Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj. Today, the guesthouse sits abandoned in the market, not far from Abdul Hameed's restaurant. According to members of the community, it was closed down at the request of China in 2006.

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Rights Groups Demand Release of Uyghur Professor Ilham Tohti on Fifth Anniversary of Arrest

Rights activists and Uyghur advocacy groups on Tuesday demanded the release from prison of Uyghur academic and blogger Ilham Tohti in statements marking the fifth anniversary of his arrest on charges of promoting separatism and subsequent sentencing to a life term behind bars. An outspoken economics professor who regularly highlighted the religious and cultural persecution of the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic minority in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), Tohti was sentenced on Sept. 23, 2014 following a two-day show trial.

The court decision cited Tohti’s criticism of Beijing’s ethnic policies, his interviews with overseas media outlets, and his work founding and running the Chinese-language website, which was shut down by Chinese authorities in 2014. On Tuesday, the Germany-based Ilham Tohti Initiative urged Beijing to immediately and unconditionally free the jailed writer and professor, calling the conditions of his imprisonment a “calculated and cruel deprivation” of his rights to family visits and outside communication. 

China's Belt and Road Initiative and Its Impact in Central Asia

Chinese aid is presented as being free of political conditionality, in contrast to aid from the West and international financial institutions. However, Beijing expects recipient countries - and Central Asian countries in particular - to be loyal to the "One China" policy, which includes refusal to support the Uyghur cause, collaborating in "the hunt for dissidentes", limited relations with Taiwan, silence on the Tibetan issue, and alignment with China at the UN Security Council. 

China's Belt And Road Initiative Faces Obstacles in 2019

China is confronting multiple setbacks, flaws, and failures in President Xi Jinping’s ambitious overseas infrastructure project—the Belt and Road Initiative. Experts note that more than five years after its launch, three of the six economic corridors planned for the massive initiative, often referred to as the BRI, lack any Chinese-funded major projects.

And it appears that the BRI isn’t as well organized as some believe it to be. Some nations worry about debts that they owe to China for project loans. Critics describe these as part of a kind of Chinese “debt-trap diplomacy.” Others fear that Chinese-built infrastructure projects, such as ports, dams, and railways, will result in an increase in Chinese political and strategic influence. According to Jonathan E. Hillman, senior fellow of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic & International Studies, the BRI’s “sheer scale demands attention.”

Why a 1,200-year-old calligraphy piece angered China

A decision by Taiwan's National Palace Museum to lend a rare calligraphy to Japan's Tokyo National Museum has sparked outrage across China. On paper it seemed like a straightforward cultural exchange, so why has this prized masterpiece created 1,200 years ago caused so much anger today? The calligraphy, titled Requiem to My Nephew, was painted by Yan Zhenqing - considered to be one of the greatest calligraphers in China. He lived between 709 to 785 AD.

Yan Zhenqing wrote the piece in 759 AD, after he found that his nephew had died. "He's a household name in China," Fine Arts professor Tong Kam Tang of the Chinese University of Hong Kong told the BBC. Mr Tong said the piece of work was a draft by Yan Zhenqing, and so carried markings and scribbles written by the author, making it even more prized. The final piece has long been lost.

US, UK hold rare joint drills in the South China Sea

The US and the UK finished six days of coordinated drills in the South China Sea on Wednesday, in a move likely to antagonize Beijing, which views a large swathe of the contested sea as its territory. In a statement released on Wednesday, the US military announced the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell, and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll conducted operations in the South China Sea between January 11 and 16.

According to the US, the two vessels conducted communications drills, division tactics and a personnel exchange during the week, to help "develop relationships" between the two navies. "Professional engagement with our British counterparts allows us the opportunity to build upon our existing strong relationships and learn from each other," US Cmdr. Allison Christy said in the release, adding it was a "rare opportunity" to work with the UK navy.

US report says rapidly modernizing Chinese military has set sights on Taiwan

Over the last few years China has made a series of ambitious military reforms and acquired new technology as it aims to improve its ability to fight regional conflicts over places like Taiwan, according to a new report from the US Defense Intelligence Agency. "Beijing's longstanding interest to eventually compel Taiwan's reunification with the mainland and deter any attempt by Taiwan to declare independence has served as the primary driver for China's military modernization," said the agency's report, titled "China's Military Power."

The report, which was published Tuesday, added that "Beijing's anticipation that foreign forces would intervene in a Taiwan scenario led the (People's Liberation Army) to develop a range of systems to deter and deny foreign regional force projection." Earlier Tuesday in Beijing, China made plain to the US military that it is will countenance no interference on Taiwan, according to a report on the Chinese military's English-language website.

onsdag 16. januar 2019

China might just have grown the first plant ever on the moon

Cotton seeds carried to the moon by a Chinese probe have sprouted, marking what could be the first plant to ever grow there, according to Chinese government images. In making the announcement Tuesday, Chinese researchers released pictures from the probe showing the tiny plant growing in a small pot inside the spacecraft, hundreds of thousands of kilometers away from the Earth. China became the first country to land a probe on the far side of the moon on January 3 when a rover named Yutu 2, or Jade Rabbit 2, touched down in the moon's largest and oldest impact crater, the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Australia's fortunes are linked to China's economy — for better or worse

Australia's dependence on Chinese money has been a blessing for the local economy, but it could unravel painfully if China's economic slowdown worsens.Given that China is the world's second-largest economy, its slowdown is expected to have a ripple effect across the world. A third of Australia's exports are shipped to China, meaning any shockwaves from Beijing will be felt particularly sharply in the lucky country.In recent months, China's economy has taken a beating as a consequence of its ongoing trade war and tit-for-tat tariffs with the United States.

Five years after his arrest, the lessons China’s Ilham Tohti tried to teach are left unheeded

Ten years ago, it would have been difficult to anticipate how Uyghurs in China would manage under new Party leadership. Five years ago, two dozen police stormed into Ilham Tohti’s apartment, snatching him up in a matter of minutes. Nothing has been the same since. The Uyghur economist, writer and professor, who founded the website “” in 2006 to promote conciliation between Uyghurs and Han Chinese, was sentenced to life imprisonment eight months later for “separatism” after a two-day trial.

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America’s Freedom of Navigation Operations Are Lost at Sea

On Jan. 7, the USS McCampbell conducted a freedom of navigation operation near three features in the Paracel Islands chain. This was the ninth known operation conducted by the Trump administration, which has undertaken South China Sea excursions more regularly despite risky Chinese challenges. The operation followed Vice President Mike Pence’s assertion last November that “the United States is taking decisive action to protect our interests and promote the Indo-Pacific’s shared success.”

Yet a poll released this week showed that two-thirds of respondents in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) believe U.S. engagement with Southeast Asia has declined and one-third have little or no confidence in the United States as a strategic partner and regional security provider. In short, for all its tough talk on China and increased activity in the South China Sea, the Trump administration’s credibility in Southeast Asia is eroding.

Will Hong Kong investigate claims of China spying on the city’s international journalists?

After a Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that mainland Chinese police had conducted “full…surveillance” on the Journal’s reporters working in Hong Kong, the territory’s Secretary for Security John Lee responded with a reassurance: “I can tell you for sure that only Hong Kong authorities have the power to enforce the law in Hong Kong.” But, given the recent record of mainland meddling and Hong Kong government inaction, residents here are unlikely to take much comfort from Lee’s words.

The Belt and Road Initiative Is a Corruption Bonanza

When former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was ousted from office in May 2018, it’s possible that no one was more dismayed than officials in Beijing. After all, Najib had granted China extraordinary access to Malaysia. Across the country, huge China-backed infrastructure projects were being planned or breaking ground. But as China’s presence in Malaysia swelled, a scandal was engulfing the prime minister’s office. Najib was accused of massive corruption linked to the development fund known as 1MDB. As the election neared, his opponent, Mahathir Mohamad, alleged that some of the Chinese money pouring into Malaysia was being used to refill the fund’s graft-depleted coffers.

Now, Malaysia’s anti-corruption commission is investigating those claims. And last week, an explosive Wall Street Journal report exposed the most damning evidence yet: minutes from a series of meetings at which Malaysian officials suggested to their Chinese counterparts that China finance infrastructure projects in Malaysia at inflated costs. The implication was that the extra cash could be used to settle 1MDB’s debts. According to the report, Najib, who has denied any part in corruption, was well aware of the meetings.

China Jails Activist Over 'Down With The Communist Party!' Toilet Graffiti

Authorities in Shanghai have jailed an activist who called on people to write "Down with the [ruling Chinese] Communist Party" in a public toilet in the city, and wrote his own satirical graffiti about indefinite rule by President Xi Jinping. Ji Xiaolong was sentenced to three-and-a-half years' imprisonment by the Shanghai's Pudong District People's Court on Monday, after it found him guilty of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" on the same day.

Ji was detained last July after calling on rights activists and democracy campaigners to respond to Xi's call for a "toilet revolution" by penning political slogans on the walls of toilets in universities and hospitals that could be seen by thousands. At his trial on Monday, Ji freely admitted having scrawled "Down with the Communist Party!" and other "sensitive phrases" on the wall of a public toilet in the city, his sister told RFA.

The Patriarchy Strikes Back in China

This winter, Chinese authorities detained at least 12 young activists campaigning for labor rights in several cities, including kidnapping a student on the renowned Peking University campus and beating several of his classmates. Authorities have cracked down on student activists at other universities as well, including Renmin University, Nanjing University, and Sun Yat-sen University.

Foreign news reports emphasize that the students are Marxist, but the latest uprising is far more broad-based. The latest flashpoint around elite students supporting labor rights is connected to a years-long women’s rights movement since at least 2012 that has become increasingly cross-class in nature, advocating for gender equality and workers’ rights. The Communist Party has responded to the rise in student activism against inequality by tightening ideological controls on university campuses across China and intensifying its crackdown on academic freedom and women’s rights activism, particularly when it intersects with labor rights activism.

tirsdag 15. januar 2019

Swedish defence agency warns satellite station could be serving Chinese military

A Swedish defence agency has warned that the country is facing a growing security challenge from China, saying one of its satellite stations could be serving the Chinese military. Claims about the station in Kiruna, northern Sweden – which was built by China in 2016 – add to controversy over increasing Chinese influence in the country, partly fuelled by rising global scrutiny of such projects involving China. The Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), under the Ministry of Defence, on Sunday told broadcaster SVT that the nominally civilian cooperation with China could ultimately be controlled by the military.

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Canada revises travel advice for China in wake of citizen's death sentence

Canada has issued a travel warning to its citizens going to China, in the wake of a Canadian man being sentenced to death over drugs charges. On Monday a Chinese court upped Robert Lloyd Schellenberg’s sentence from 15 years in prison to execution after he appealed against the court’s December verdict.

A retrial was ordered after prosecutors claimed new evidence showed Schellenberg played an important role in drug trafficking operations. “The evidence is compelling and ample, and the criminal charges are well founded,” the court said. It said Schellenberg could appeal to the Liaoning high court within 10 days.

Late on Monday, Canada’s foreign ministry updated its travel advisory for China to warn citizens about “the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.” It added: “We continue to advise all Canadians travelling to China to exercise a high degree of caution.”

'Hostage' diplomacy: Canadian's death sentence in China sets worrying tone, experts say

China’s sentencing of a Canadian to death for drug trafficking threatens to escalate tensions between the two countries and set a dangerous precedent, according to experts. On Monday, the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court in the northeastern province of Liaoning increased Robert Schellenberg’s sentence from 15 years in prison to the death penalty, concluding the Canadian had played “a key role” in a failed attempt to smuggle 222kg (almost 500lbs) of methamphetamine from China to Australia in 2014.

The verdict has raised questions about whether Beijing is using the case to exert pressure on Ottawa after Canadian authorities detained senior Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, in December.