onsdag 30. september 2020

Trump-Biden Debate Prompts Shock, Despair and, in China, Glee

The unedifying spectacle of Tuesday night’s presidential debate produced some shock, some sadness and some weariness among American allies and rivals alike on Wednesday. As President Trump bellowed, blustered and shouted down both the moderator, Chris Wallace, and his opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and as Mr. Biden responded by calling Mr. Trump a “clown,” many wondered if the chaos and tenor of the event said something more fundamental about the state of American democracy.

Japan's Defense Ministry asks for decades-high 8.3% budget increase amid growing threats in East Asia

Japan's Defense Ministry is asking for a 8.3% budget increase in 2020, its largest rise in more than two decades, in the face of China's rapid military modernization and a looming threat from North Korea. The Defense Ministry announced the draft budget on Wednesday afternoon, worth $51.9 billion in total spending (5.48 trillion yen), saying it would help the country's military build its capacity to respond to new threats, including cyber, space and electromagnetic warfare.

Among the new spending recommended by the Defense Ministry is $690 million to expand the Japan Self-Defense Forces' space unit and Space Situational Awareness surveillance system, and $340 million to build out its cyberspace defense unit and electromagnetic warfare capabilities.

Japan's parliament still needs to approve the budget later this year. If approved, it will be the ninth consecutive annual increase in Japan's military spending. Stephen Nagy, senior associate professor at the Department of Politics and International Studies at Tokyo's International Christian University, said the expansion of Japan's military budget would match rapid military growth by other regional powers. The requested budget increase, while large, was in line with similar military expenditure in other parts of East Asia, including China, South Korea and Taiwan, Nagy said.

In Trump-Biden debate chaos, China and other opponents of democracy are the big winners

In an ugly, cantankerous presidential debate, one of the few things Donald Trump and Joe Biden agreed upon was China. Both criticized the other for being too soft on Beijing, with Trump accusing Biden of being hoodwinked by China during his time as vice president, and Biden hitting Trump for saying "what a great job" Chinese President Xi Jinping was doing at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

But while Beijing would rather not be a topic at all in the United States election, and this rare consensus represents a growing anti-China strain in Washington, the debate as a whole will have raised spirits in the Chinese capital.

For decades, Beijing has criticized US-style democracy, holding up (very real) flaws in the American system as vindication for Chinese authoritarianism. Anyone advancing reform or liberalization in China is forced to answer for every failure in the US, and made to justify why that will be better than the Chinese system, which may not offer much in terms of representation, but at least provides stability and economic growth. On Tuesday, Trump helped to bolster that view, and in turn, further erode global confidence in US-style democracy.

Ai Weiwei: 'Too late' to curb China's global influence

The leading Chinese dissident, the artist and filmmaker Ai Weiwei, says China's influence has become so great that it can't now be effectively stopped. "The West should really have worried about China decades ago. Now it's already a bit too late, because the West has built its strong system in China and to simply cut it off, it will hurt deeply. That's why China is very arrogant."

Ai Weiwei has never minced his words about China. "It is a police state," he says. The artist famously designed the Bird's Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but ran into serious problems after he spoke out against the Chinese government. Eventually, in 2015, he left China to come to the West. He lived first in Berlin, and last year settled in Cambridge.

China clamps down on climbing 'wild Great Wall'

As China's busiest holiday season approaches, Beijing has warned that it will punish those who climb the "wild Great Wall". The term is often used to describe parts of the famous landmark that are not restored and closed to tourists. Fines will be enforced more strictly over Golden Week, with thousands of domestic tourists expected to visit.

China is banking on the holiday to boost its badly hit tourism industry. "This year's National Day holiday lasts eight days and the number of visitors to explore the 'wild Great Wall' is bound to increase," Yu Hankuan, director of the Yanqing District Cultural Relics Administration told the Global Times.

Babri mosque: India court acquits BJP leaders in demolition case

A special court has acquitted top leaders from India's governing party for their alleged role in the demolition of a mosque in 1992. Former Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, and BJP leaders MM Joshi and Uma Bharti, had denied charges of inciting Hindu mobs to demolish the 16th Century Babri mosque in the town of Ayodhya. The demolition sparked violence that killed some 2,000 people. It was also a pivotal moment in the political rise of the Hindu right-wing.

Wednesday's verdict acquitted 32 of the 49 people charged - 17 had died while the case was under way.
The court said there was insufficient evidence to prove the demolition had been planned. Hindu mobs had demolished the mosque, saying it was built on the ruins of a temple for Lord Ram - they believe the deity was born in Ayodhya. It is both a historic and contentious verdict, ending a case that also implicated former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who died in 2018.

tirsdag 29. september 2020

Chris Patten: China's Leaders Can't Be Trusted

When I was governor of Hong Kong, one of my noisiest critics was Sir Percy Cradock, a former British ambassador to China. Cradock always argued that China would never break its solemn promises, memorialized in a treaty lodged at the United Nations, to guarantee Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and way of life for 50 years after the return of the city from British to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

Cradock once memorably said that although China’s leaders may be “thuggish dictators,” they were “men of their word” and could be “trusted to do what they promise.” Nowadays, we have overwhelming evidence of the truth of the first half of that observation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s dictatorship is certainly thuggish. Consider its policies in Xinjiang. Many international lawyers argue that the incarceration of over one million Muslim Uighurs, forced sterilization and abortion, and slave labor meet the UN definition of genocide. This wicked repression goes beyond thuggery.

AP Interview: US ambassador defends tough approach to China

The departing U.S. ambassador on Tuesday defended a tough approach to China that has riled relations between the world’s two largest economies, saying the Trump administration has made progress on trade and that he hopes that will extend to other areas.

Terry Branstad, the longtime Iowa governor chosen by President Donald Trump to be envoy to China, agreed however that China has generally reacted to pressure by responding in kind, from closing consulates to imposing import tariffs. “The unfortunate thing is we’re trying to rebalance the relationship so we have fairness and reciprocity, but every time we do something, they keep it unbalanced,” he said in an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

China objects to Ladakh status, Indian border activities

China on Tuesday called India’s designation of the region along their disputed border as a federal territory an illegal move, and voiced new objections to infrastructure construction that seems to strengthen India’s position in the area. Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin also said reports of new Chinese military bases and other facilities being built on its side were “totally untrue and have ulterior motives.”

Senior commanders agreed earlier this month not to add more troops along their fast-militarizing disputed border in the mountainous Ladakh region, but appear to have made no progress in disengaging their forces from the ongoing standoff as they had earlier pledged to do.

Beijing orders importers to avoid frozen food from countries with major coronavirus outbreaks

Authorities in the Chinese capital Beijing have ordered importers to avoid frozen food from countries suffering severe coronavirus outbreaks after several incidents of imported seafood testing positive for the virus. According to a statement from the Beijing Municipal Commerce Bureau, "customs and local governments have repeatedly detected the coronavirus in imported cold chain food, proving it risks contamination."

The bureau urged importers to closely monitor the pandemic situation around the world and "take the initiative to avoid importing cold chain foods from areas severely hit by the pandemic." Companies are also instructed to improve their warnings and reporting mechanisms, and to inform authorities quickly if products test positive.

Health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have said the possibility of catching the coronavirus through food is low, but China, which has largely stamped out domestic transmission of the virus, is on high alert for possible re-contamination.

When it comes to international recognition, even when Taiwan wins, it loses

What's in a name? For self-ruled Taiwan, quite a lot, actually. From climate action groups and the Olympics to bird-watching societies, the island's government in Taipei has its hands full making sure it is referred to by the correct moniker. Or, at least, is not listed as part of China.

Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of almost 24 million people located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. Even though Taiwan has never been controlled by China's ruling Communist Party, authorities in Beijing insist the island is an integral part of their territory and have for years imposed diplomatic, trade and military pressure on Taipei, marginalizing it in the international community and allegedly interfering in the island's politics.

This has resulted in Taiwan being blocked from participating in the World Health Organization and other international bodies -- and sometimes even being listed as part of the People's Republic of China by other groups.

China's President Xi says Xinjiang policies 'completely correct' amid growing international criticism

Chinese President Xi Jinping believes his policies in the far-western region of Xinjiang are "completely correct," despite growing international criticism of alleged human rights abuses and mass internment. Up to 2 million Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, as well as other minorities, are believed to have passed through detention centers in the region in recent years, according to the US State Department, where they have allegedly been subject to political indoctrination and abuse under the guise of de-radicalization efforts.

Speaking at a two-day work conference on Xinjiang that ended on Saturday, Xi said that China's Xinjiang strategy was correct "and must be adhered to in the long term." "The whole party must treat the implementation of the Xinjiang strategy as a political task, and work hard to implement it completely and accurately to ensure that the Xinjiang work always maintains in the correct political direction," Xi added, according to state media.

Amnesty to halt work in India due to government 'witch-hunt'

Authorities froze bank accounts after criticism of government’s human rights record. The organisation has been forced to shut down all operations and lay off all staff.

Chinese Uighurs could be allowed to seek genocide ruling in UK

Uighurs and other Muslim minorities would be given the right to petition a UK high court judge to declare that genocide is taking place in China, requiring the UK government to curtail trade ties with Beijing, under proposals brought by MPs and peers. The cross-party parliamentary revolt is causing deep concern in government, where there are fears that judges and human rights campaigners could be empowered to throw UK-China trade relations into turmoil.

The moves are being led by the former cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith but have broad cross-party support. Under the proposals, human rights campaigners would for the first time be able to seek redress in the UK courts for cases of alleged genocide, instead of the issue being determined at the UN, where deep political divisions mean those committing war crimes can in effect act with impunity.

mandag 28. september 2020

Who runs Hong Kong: party faithful shipped in to carry out Beijing's will

A senior communist party operative whose only previous experience in Hong Kong is a business trip two years ago; a former Guangdong mayor who oversaw the mass arrests of villagers protesting against land seizures; a former provincial party secretary best known for tearing down hundreds of churches and crosses in eastern China. These are China’s top officials charged with Hong Kong affairs, hardliners and allies of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, who are remaking the semi-autonomous territory into a city that is directly under Beijing’s control in all but name.

‘Back where we were’: history repeats for Hong Kong's freedom swimmers

They came one by one, dragging themselves from the sea on to the shores of Hong Kong over oyster beds, their bodies bleeding. Some had swum for miles, braving choppy, treacherous seas, tied together by ropes. Others made the desperate journey in makeshift boats.

They were known as freedom swimmers – hundreds of thousands of young men and women who fled mainland China and risked their lives in search of freedom in the British colony amid the oppressive political movements in China between 1950 and 1980, which targeted “class enemies”. Those who survived to tell their tales were the lucky ones. Many more never made it. Some were shot dead by border guards, or arrested and sent to labour camps. Others drowned or were attacked by sharks. Some were executed – the act of defection was considered treason.

Case to extradite Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou to US resumes

The legal battle between Washington and Huawei resumes this week when a Canada-based senior executive at the Chinese state-backed telecommunications firm reappears in a Vancouver court on Monday claiming the effort to extradite her to the US should be thrown out. Huawei will claim an abuse of process, arguing the US government has provided Canadian authorities with partial and misleading evidence in an effort to show finance officer Meng Wanzhou tried to circumvent US sanctions on Iran 10 years ago.

Meng, the daughter of the company’s founder, will appear in court on Monday for the first time in months after the Canadian government ordered her to remain in Vancouver until her extradition is settled. The Chinese government has condemned the US extradition drive as nakedly political. Huawei’s drawn out legal fight aims to show the US government it has no hope of securing Weng’s extradition for many years, and increase political pressure on the Canadian government to acknowledge its justice system is being used as part of Donald Trump’s trade battle with Beijing.

Pompeo to criticise Vatican's renewal of China deal during visit

Mike Pompeo will visit the Vatican to protest against the imminent renewal of a deal between the Catholic church and China, which the US secretary of state claims endangers its moral authority. Pope Francis has reportedly declined to meet Pompeo during his visit this week, citing the closeness of the US election. However, such a move is likely to be linked to Pompeo’s recent attacks on the Vatican’s perceived soft-pedalling on China’s human rights record as the two sides prepare to extend a historic agreement signed two years ago

The details of the deal have never been made public, but it gave the Vatican a say in the appointment of Catholic bishops in China. Pope Francis also recognised eight bishops that had been appointed by Beijing without his approval.