mandag 20. september 2021

Hong Kong sees patriots inducted into new election committee

An election for Hong Kong's new Election Committee (EC) which only allowed "patriotic" candidates to run has concluded. The EC is responsible for choosing the city's next leader. It is the first poll since sweeping reforms to its electoral system were passed. The number of registered voters was also slashed by almost 97%.

Critics had earlier warned the voting reforms were designed to remove all opposition from the city's parliament. The electoral reform law which was passed in May, was designed to weed out "non-patriots". It also saw the EC given new powerful responsibilities, allowing it to nominate all candidates for LegCo - the city's parliament. This allows for a pro-China panel to vet and elect candidates, which critics said reduced democratic representation.

Only one opposition-leaning candidate running in the election won, with Tik Chi-yuen telling reporters afterwards that "there is at least some room for us [the opposition]".

China’s ‘Standards 2035’ Project Could Result in a Technological Cold War

The eventual decline of the West’s dominance in the standards domain has offered an opportunity for China to play a bigger role in finalizing and setting technology standards. The Chinese state has gradually increased its technical capabilities and has worked toward strengthening the technology sector in the country during the last two decades. The domestic private technology sector of China, supported by the state, has gained immense heft on the international stage. Now, it looks to play an active role in advocating for global technical standards and a worldwide governance mechanism for governing emerging technologies. In this way, China hopes to boost domestic economic growth and project geopolitical influence.

The Chinese government argues that a revamp of the international technology governance framework mechanism is needed to break the existing hegemony of the West. President, Xi Jinping has categorically stated that global rules cannot be imposed by “one or a few countries.”

AUKUS and Submarines: The Fallout for France

Two weeks ago, France and Australia inaugurated their first 2+2 ministerial dialogue. This strategic partnership was based on a common analysis of the dangers weighing on the Indo-Pacific with an increasingly aggressive China in the maritime domain. This shared vision, which reflects France’s commitment in Asia, had been developed since 2016 around the supply of 12 French conventional submarines to Australia – at the time, the Australians rejected any idea of nuclear propulsion – but went far beyond that sole industrial interest.

In 2018, it was in Australia that French President Emmanuel Macron gave a decisive impetus to the French Indo-Pacific strategy in a famous Garden Island speech where he defined an “Indo-Pacific axis” formed by France, India, and Australia to counterbalance Chinese hegemonic ambitions. This Indo-Pacific vision was inclusive and cooperative, seeking to bring together middle powers worried by the unilateralism of the Trump administration then in power in the United States.

A ‘Proof of Death’ Video From Xinjiang

A campaign by the Chinese government to discredit survivors of detention camps who speak out against the regime has taken a macabre turn with the release of a “proof of death” video claiming that the demise of a young Uyghur woman was self-inflicted. The short video set out to prove that Mihriay Erkin did not in fact die under interrogation as alluded to by Radio Free Asia. Instead it set out to “put the record straight” and claimed her death was caused by a refusal to accept treatment for the complications of Hepatitis B.

So-called “proof of life” videos, whereby long “disappeared” relatives of the diaspora are paraded on screen extolling the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), are the CCP’s latest tactic used to discredit activists campaigning on behalf of their families in Xinjiang.

China and the US were both born from armed conflict. They're now polar opposites on gun control

Last week, a 47-year-old man stormed into a law firm in China's Wuhan city and shot dead a lawyer who he had "some disputes with," according to Chinese state media. He then stuffed his gun, just under 20 inches (50 centimeters) long, into a tennis racket bag and left.

The fatal shooting shocked many in China, which has some of the world's strictest gun control laws -- so much so, that some people thought initial reports were about yet another American shooting. "When my friend told me about the shooting, I thought it was the United States," one person wrote on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. Another user wrote, "Using a gun to kill people in China? Am I watching an American movie?"

That disbelief widely reflects how rare gun crime is in China -- in contrast to it being a daily reality in the US. The two countries stand on opposite ends of the spectrum of gun control, with the right to bear arms legally protected and vehemently defended in one, and a near-total ban on civilian firearm ownership in the other. The difference is stark when it comes to public safety. Despite being the world's most populous country, with 1.4 billion residents, China only records a few dozen gun crimes a year. And more broadly, violent crime has continued falling, reaching its lowest level in 20 years in 2020, according to state-run news outlet Xinhua.

Jonathan Mirsky: reporter who went from Mao fan to fierce Beijing critic

Jonathan Mirsky, the Observer’s former China correspondent who has died aged 88, was acutely aware of the mounting danger from the bullets criss-crossing Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989 as units of the People’s Liberation Army were sent in to break up the protests. He was aware too that he desperately needed to get his copy to London. Writing about the experience 30 years later, Mirsky admitted that few at first had any sense of the scale of the violence that was being unleashed either on the students in the square. All that, however, was to change quickly.

“At three in the morning I feared I might be killed,” Mirsky recalled. “But I knew I must file the story for the paper. As the silver streaks of bullets lighted the darkness, a student next to me said: ‘Don’t worry. The soldiers are using blanks.’ A few seconds later he slumped over, dead, with a wet red circle on his chest.

“As I began to leave the square,” Mirsky continued, “I came to a knot of armed police whose trouser bottoms had been ignited by Molotov cocktails thrown by workers. When they saw me passing they shouted at me to stop. I said: “Don’t hit me. I’m a journalist.” Their officer shouted back, in Chinese: “Fuck you, we’re going to kill you.”

Will China’s President Xi’s big bet pay off?

Chinese President Xi Jinping is making the most audacious geopolitical bet of the 21st century. A head-spinning series of seemingly disparate moves over recent months add up to nothing less than a generational wager that Xi can produce the world’s dominant power for the foreseeable future by doubling down on his state-controlled economy, party-disciplined society, nationalistic propaganda, and far-reaching global influence campaigns.

With each week, Xi raises the stakes further, from narrowing seemingly mundane personal freedoms like karaoke bars or a teenager’s permitted time for online gaming to three hours weekly to the multimillion U.S. dollar investor hit from his increased controls on China’s biggest technology companies and their foreign listings.

It is only in the context of Xi’s increased repressions at home and expanded ambitions abroad that one can fully understand Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision this week to enter a new defense pact, which he called “a forever agreement,” with the United States and the United Kingdom.

China enters Taiwan air defense zone a day after island’s military budget boost

Taiwan’s air force scrambled on Friday to warn away 10 Chinese aircraft that entered its air defense zone, Taiwan’s defense ministry said, the day after the island announced a $9 billion boost to military spending to counter the threat from China.

Chinese-claimed Taiwan has complained for a year or more of repeated missions by China’s air force near the democratically governed island, often in the southwestern part of its air defense zone close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands. The latest Chinese mission involved 6 J-16 and 2 J-11 fighters plus one anti-submarine and one reconnaissance aircraft, the Taiwan ministry said.

Taiwan sent combat aircraft to warn away the Chinese aircraft, while missile systems were deployed to monitor them, the ministry said. The Chinese fighters flew in an area close to the Pratas, while the anti-submarine and reconnaissance aircraft flew into the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines, according to a map that the ministry issued. Warships, early warning aircraft and bombers were deployed on Friday in patrols and drills aimed at improving the joint combat capabilities of China’s military in the area, a spokesman for China’s Eastern Theater Command said in a statement on Saturday.

What China developer Evergrande’s debt crunch means for U.S. investors

A debt crunch involving China’s second largest properly developer has caught investors’ attention in the past week. Evergrande, the Shenzhen-based company, is facing a default on its debt burden of roughly $300 billion. The crisis has echoes to the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, which marked its 13-year anniversary last week, a development that at the time sent shockwaves through global markets.

Ed Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research, says it’s unlikely Evergrande will have a fallout quite as severe as the Lehman bankruptcy when the global economy and credit markets collapsed. Instead, he sees it as analogous to a different event a decade even earlier.

Evergrande collapse could have a ‘domino effect’ on China’s property sector

China’s “highly distressed” real estate companies are at risk of collapse as the country’s highly indebted developer Evergrande is on the brink of default, warns AllianceBernstein’s Jenny Zeng. Speaking with CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Friday, the co-head of Asia fixed income at AllianceBernstein warned of a “domino effect” from a potential Evergrande collapse.

“In the offshore dollar market, there is a considerable large portion of developers (who) are implied to be highly distressed,” Zeng said. These developers “can’t survive much longer” if the refinancing channel remains shut for a prolonged period, she added.

Evergrande, the world’s most indebted property developer, is crumbling under the weight of more than $300 billion of debt and warned more than once it could default. Banks have reportedly declined to extend new loans to buyers of uncompleted Evergrande residential projects, while ratings agencies have repeatedly downgraded the firm, citing its liquidity crunch.

søndag 19. september 2021

China's growing military is going to face a much bigger problem than the US

In recent months, Washington has had a lot to say about China's ever-expanding air, naval, and missile power. But when Pentagon officials address the topic, they generally speak less about that country's current capabilities, which remain vastly inferior to those of the US, than the world they foresee in the 2030s and 2040s, when Beijing is expected to have acquired far more sophisticated weaponry.

"China has invested heavily in new technologies, with a stated intent to complete the modernization of its forces by 2035 and to field a 'world-class military' by 2049," Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testified in June.

The United States, he assured the Senate Armed Services Committee, continues to possess "the best joint fighting force on Earth." But only by spending countless additional billions of dollars annually, he added, can this country hope to "outpace" China's projected advances in the decades to come.

As it happens, however, there's a significant flaw in such reasoning. In fact, consider this a guarantee: By 2049, the Chinese military (or what's left of it) will be so busy coping with a burning, flooding, churning world of climate change — threatening the country's very survival — that it will possess scant capacity, no less the will, to launch a war with the United States or any of its allies.

Stan Grant: In the 'post-American world', has Australia backed the right global superpower?

Robert Oppenheimer, known as the "father of the atomic bomb", famously quoted the Hindu text the Bhagavad-Gita: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." Oppenheimer knew he had unleashed a weapon that could destroy humanity itself.

Australia has now crossed that threshold into the nuclear world. We won't be deploying nuclear weapons, but we will be operating nuclear-powered vessels of war. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said we have entered a new era. He's right. We will now join only six other nations with nuclear-powered submarines. The battle lines for security in the Indo-Pacific are being clearly drawn. On one side is the US and its allies, on the other China. Australia no longer pretends it doesn't have to choose between Washington and Beijing. We are all in with the US, and the risk is a catastrophic conflict. In fact, we are preparing for it.

The US alliance has been the bedrock of Australia's security. But is that still the case? Former prime minister Paul Keating doesn't think so.

A Chinese student in Canada had two followers on Twitter. He still didn’t escape Beijing’s threats over online activity

Dan, whose name I’ve changed to protect his identity, hails from one of China’s picturesque and relatively laidback southwestern provinces. He studied English diligently and was elated when a top Canadian university accepted his application to study law.

About a month before the start of the September 2017 session, when Dan was still in China, the university issued his student credentials, and with them he received access to a virtual private network (VPN). The tool allowed him — for the first time in his life — to scale the “Great Firewall of China” and access an uncensored internet.

Curious, the 21-year-old thought he might check out some overseas social media sites, connect with future classmates, and read world news; that way, he wouldn’t seem so out of touch once he arrived. He would be joining a cohort of Chinese international students in Canada totalling around 140,000 that year.

Pro-Beijing Media Target Hong Kong Trade Union, Labor Groups in Latest Denunciations

Hong Kong newspapers backed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) stepped up their denunciations of independent trade unions in the city on Friday, amid an ever-widening crackdown on civil society under the national security law. The Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao newspapers on Friday reported that Hong Kong's pro-democracy Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) would be the next civil society group to disband following denunciations by CCP media.

"Our information indicates that the CTU will soon disband," the report said. "The executive committee met on Sept. 16 to pass the resolution, but it still needs to be formally approved at a general meeting on Oct. 3."

The report accused the CTU of prompting a "tsunami" of new union registrations during the 2019 protest movement, and of "promoting anti-Chinese sentiment and unrest." "They have deviated utterly from the purpose of a trade union under the law, steal from industry, and divide society," the paper said, naming veteran labor activist Lee Cheuk-ying, who is currently serving a 14-month jail term for his role in the 2019 protest movement.

It also singled out Winnie Yu, the founder and chairwoman of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, a labor union representing Hospital Authority staff.

New Study Finds High-Level Government Role in China’s Uyghur Internment Camps

China’s top policy, legislative and advisory bodies were closely involved in the creation of the “Re-Education Internment Campaign” in Xinjiang that has sent some 1.8 million Uyghurs to detention camps and drawn genocide accusations against Beijing, according to a new report by a leading expert on the camp system.

German researcher Adrian Zenz — whose previous work has documented the existence and scope of the four-year-old internment camp system, as well as the motivation behind it — draws on previously unanalyzed central government and state media reports to connect the program to highest rungs of power in Beijing. Documents on the drafting and approval of legislation in 2017 to set up the Uyghur internment campaign in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region demonstrate “that the framing of Xinjiang’s de-extremification through re-education campaign was undertaken with the direct knowledge of leading figures in China’s most powerful policy, legislative and advisory bodies,” the report says.

The “XUAR De-Extremification Regulation” was spearheaded by three important party-state bodies: Central Committee Xinjiang Work Coordination Small Group, the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in Beijing, and the State Administration for Religious Affairs, Zenz writes.

One of Asia's most prestigious universities is on the frontline of a battle for democracy

Students and lecturers at Hong Kong's most prestigious university returned from summer break this month to a very different institution. The Democracy Wall at the University of Hong Kong (better known as HKU) -- a pinboard where students once shared political thoughts -- is gone. The student union, which once advocated for students, is all but defunct, with four of its members facing charges of advocating terrorism.

Although many students and academics were happy to be back on campus -- many for the first time since the start of the pandemic -- a political chill hangs over the university that some staff say is influencing how they teach.

While the Hong Kong government told CNN the city's universities "continue to enjoy academic freedom," four current HKU staff who spoke with CNN on condition of anonymity said they are more cautious about what they say in class, afraid that their own students could report them to authorities. The self-censorship began after June last year when Beijing imposed a controversial and sweeping national security law on the city. Since then, more than 140 people have been arrested under the law, including activists, journalists, politicians and educators, and, of those, 85 have been charged.

‘Puppet showmen’: Hong Kong elite vote in ‘patriots only’ election process

Hong Kong’s political elite begin selecting a powerful committee on Sunday that will choose nearly half the legislature – and later a new leader – under a new “patriots only” system imposed by Beijing. The first poll under that new system, dubbed “patriots rule Hong Kong”, will take place on Sunday as members of the city’s ruling classes choose a 1,500-seat election committee. In December, that committee will appoint 40 of the city’s 90 seats in the legislature – 30 will be chosen by special interest groups and just 20 will be directly elected. In March next year, it will pick Hong Kong’s next China-approved leader.

The financial hub has never been a democracy – the source of years of protests – but a small and vocal opposition was tolerated after the city’s 1997 handover to authoritarian China. Huge democracy rallies exploded two years ago and Beijing has responded with a crackdown and a new political system where only those deemed loyal are allowed to stand for office.

Aukus: French minister condemns US and Australia 'lies' over security pact

France's foreign minister has accused Australia and the US of lying over a new security pact that prompted Paris to recall its ambassadors.Jean-Yves Le Drian also accused the countries of "duplicity, a major breach of trust and contempt". The pact, known as Aukus, thwarted a multibillion-dollar deal France had signed with Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had acted in the country's national interests. He insisted the French government "would have had every reason to know that we had deep and grave concerns" that the $37bn (£27bn) deal signed in 2016 - for France to build 12 conventional submarines - "was not going to meet our strategic interests. Of course it's a matter of great disappointment to the French government, so I understand their disappointment," he said. "But at the same time, Australia like any sovereign nation must always take decisions that are in our sovereign national defence interest."

The Aukus agreement - which also includes the UK - will see Australia being given the technology to build nuclear-powered submarines as a way of countering China's influence in the contested South China Sea.