G7 show of unity, Manhattan arrests tied to illegal overseas police station, and Beijing hospital fire
+ India surpasses China in population and Record Store Day
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PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Chinese surveillance giant Hikvision has repeatedly denied reports that the company is complicit in human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang.
But new details from an internal review of its contracts with police agencies in the region reveal the company has known since at least 2020 that some of its Xinjiang contracts were a "problem" because they included language about targeting Uyghurs as a group, according to a recording of a recent private company meeting obtained by technology trade publication IPVM and exclusively shared with Axios.
U.S. officials call out companies for forced Uyghur labor in their supply chains – The China Project
An April 18 hearing of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) aimed to assess the success of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), and close loopholes.
The Act was signed into law by U.S. President Joe Biden on December 23, 2021, with strong bipartisan support.
A number of media organizations, scholars, and nonprofits have compiled compelling evidence of forced labor by Uyghurs in agriculture and manufacturing. The UFPLA bans the import of any product from Xinjiang — assuming that they are products of forced labor — unless companies can prove otherwise and present documentation to the contrary.
At the hearing, members of the CECC and witnesses complained of multiple violations. Two companies received special mention: Shein and Temu, which operate apps that offer extremely cheap clothing and other goods that are shipped to American customers directly from China. Because the goods are sold at such low prices, most packages are subject to the so-called “de minimus” rule, which allows an imported package to enter the U.S. free of tariff, taxes, or inspection if its value is under $800.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
Beijing Hospital Fire Kills 29 People, 12 Arrested – Sixth Tone
At least 29 people, including two hospital workers, have died in a fire at a Beijing hospital on Tuesday, city authorities announced. A preliminary investigation into the cause of the fire has concluded that on-site construction caused flammable paint to ignite.
Among the dead are 26 patients, a nurse, a nursing assistant, and a family member. Sixteen were female and thirteen were male. Twenty-six of the victims were from Beijing. The youngest victim was 40 years old and the oldest was 88 years old. The average age of the victims was 71.2.
Twelve people have been arrested, including the heads of the hospital and construction firm.
Eight Long Hours of Silence – China Media Project
One writer commenting through WeChat used the phrase “terrifying silence” to describe the sense of quiet on social media surrounding the Changfeng Hospital fire. Many people wondered whether the content review system on social platforms might have been silently upgraded. Andy, an employee at a video platform in China, told Initium that all content on his platform is first filtered through an automated censorship system (机器审查).
“A number of sensitive keywords will first be preset and there is also image recognition, for example for certain bloody or violent images, fires, and so on. If the machine detects these, it will not release the video or will push it on for manual review.” This step, said Andy, is what they refer to as the “bottom-line review,” which is used to determine whether something is vulgar or has to do with political or security matters.
The review process is both strict and meticulous, Andy said. He cited the example of a previously reviewed short video in which one frame, if you zoomed in several degrees, included a book on a bookshelf with a sensitive title. This sort of video, too, is routinely screened and rejected.
Officials in Beijing have released four women on bail who were arrested for joining rare nationwide protests in late November against China's tough anti-coronavirus policies, an activist said.
One of the women, former book editor Cao Zhixin, had recorded a video before her detention saying, “If you're watching this, it means that I have been taken away by the police.”
She and her friends Li Yuanjing, Zhai Dengrui and Li Siqi were detained in Beijing in December and accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a vague charge often used against dissidents, according to Human Rights Watch.
All four were released Thursday on bail, according to a Chinese activist who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of government reprisals.
"The protesters who are still detained are young intellectuals and creatives: editors, journalists, Shakespeare lovers," Huang said, adding that they were neither seasoned activists or dissidents but idealistic youngsters who acted spontaneously out of a sense of justice.
"Over the past ten years, the space for us to exist - and the space for civil society in China - has continued to shrink."
Huang said he believes that the demonstrations directly triggered the end of the zero-COVID policy, but their lasting impact on China comes at a price.
"Even though zero-COVID is over, these people who sacrificed their freedom for us are still in prison," he said.
"As long as one protester is still detained, the world cannot stop paying attention to the white paper movement."
China will amend its anti-espionage law, listing cyberattacks by a “spying entity or its surrogate” as an act of espionage for the first time.
A spokesman from China’s top legislature said on Friday that the change was one of the items on the agenda of a legislative meeting next week focused on revising the country’s anti-espionage law, with new provisions related to cyberespionage.
Earlier this month, Beijing announced a slew of espionage cases by surrogates recruited by foreign spy agencies and warned Chinese citizens to stay alert to such activities.
After the ‘Two Sessions’: China in 2023 and beyond – Council on Geostrategy
It would take catastrophe in the economy and splits in the leadership for Xi to lose power. Both are unlikely. But tensions are likely to rise both domestically and in foreign relations. Xi is pushing the CCP and PRC towards technological totalitarianism. He believes that he can ‘forge souls’, a phrase he often uses. But humans often show a recalcitrant obstinacy, as the nationwide (if small scale) protests by a new generation against Covid-19 lockdowns and, for a few, against the CCP itself showed.
Meanwhile abroad, Xi may have broken cover and moved away from Deng’s ‘hide and bide’ policy too early. The United Kingdom (UK) and other free and open countries are more aware of his aims and methods. They neither like what they see, nor are prepared to be as cooperative as before. And yet, in external relations, Xi appears to be, in the phrase used of Margaret Thatcher, a former Prime Minister of the UK, ‘not for turning’. His aggressiveness shows no signs of being tempered – in rhetoric on rare occasions, but not in action. And the UK, US and other developed countries are no longer inclined to give the CCP the benefit of the doubt. ‘High winds and choppy waters’ may be an apt, or possibly inadequate, description of the coming few years.
Some might question why, after more than a decade of purges, the party under Xi still seems to be rooting out problems. Ling Li, a lecturer at the University of Vienna, says that the very structure of the party breeds graft: a lack of transparency benefits both autocratic leaders and unscrupulous cadres. Plus, Ling notes, watchdogs such as the CCDI are centralised, while “corruption occurs in a very decentralised fashion. That means you always have more corruption than the anti-corruption agency has the capacity to investigate.”
China’s leading exporting province of Guangdong suffered its first population decline in over four decades last year, the latest sign of a demographic challenge that could reshape the country’s economic landscape.
The southern province said its resident population – people living in the region for more than six months – fell by 272,000 from a year earlier to 126.57 million, according to data released by the Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Statistics earlier this month.
“[The population decline] is a phase of temporary return of out-of-province migrants to their hometowns following the impact of the 2022 Guangdong [coronavirus] pandemic surge,” the bureau said after recording the first decline since the start of the data in 1978.
Chinese TV Drama Normalizes Women Dating Younger Men – Sixth Tone
Women dating younger men are usually frowned upon by many in Chinese society, but a new television drama centered on such relationships has been well received by audiences, suggesting that traditional attitudes toward the issue are gradually shifting.
“Nothing But You” breaks away from the conventional romantic storylines portrayed in most Chinese films and TV series, with the plot focusing on the love story between a 32-year-old office worker and a 22-year-old tennis player. The finale on Friday smashes several stereotypes associated with those in their late 20s and 30s, often shamed as “leftover women,” even though many prefer to remain single these days.
The TV series, which has a rating of 8.2 out of 10 on review platform Douban, aims to normalize jiedilian, a Chinese term used to describe the relationship between an older woman and a younger man. Some 80% of the 1,618 respondents in a February survey conducted by dating app Soul said they were open to dating people older than them.
Every day across China, millions of young women, referred to as beinai mama or “breast milk-carrying mothers,” are determined to continue breastfeeding while juggling family commitments and careers.
But with many offices lacking even basic facilities — let alone designated lactation rooms, fridges to store milk, or flexible working hours — many are struggling to cope.
And despite central government guidelines in 2016 to improve amenities for mothers and infants in public places, transport hubs, and workplaces across China, progress has been slow.
Hangzhou Publicizes Names of Metro Sexual Harassers – Sixth Tone
The Hangzhou city government’s decision to release the names of sexual harassers to the public has received widespread support online, with many netizens calling for other cities to follow suit.
The move is the latest push by city governments to crack down on sexual harassment on public transport, a problem that many Chinese women have complained about for years.
China’s Latest Cynical Buzzword Is a Cry for Help – Sixth Tone
A character created by the author and cultural critic Lu Xun in 1919, Chinese schoolchildren learn that Kong Yiji was a pedantic man of letters who stubbornly clung to tradition and failed to adapt to the times. Now, many young Chinese, struggling to find a good job despite their degrees, have come to feel a certain kinship with him. Contrary to what they’d been led to believe, not only has higher education not translated into professional success, but it’s even become a burden — much like the battered scholar’s robes that make Kong Yiji the subject of derision in Lu Xun’s story.
LEGOLAND Shenzhen Resort Opens in 2024 – Pandaily
On April 18th, it was announced that the main structures of the three major themed hotels in LEGOLAND Shenzhen Resort will soon be topped off. It is expected to be completed and put into operation by 2024.
HONG KONG & MACAO
Hong Kong should cap the starting rent for subdivided flats, a concern group and a lawmaker have said, after official data showed tenants were paying more even after the adoption of a new law restricting increases.
They made their call on Tuesday after the Housing Bureau published data on last year’s rents for more than 10,200 subdivided flats, 16 months after the city imposed rent control laws on the boxlike homes notorious for substandard conditions, poor hygiene and safety risks.
“It really seems to be happening that fast,” Tsang tells Sixth Tone. “Luckily, I had at least gathered a lot of footage of them, so they will never be completely forgotten.”
The city’s gleaming neon signs — for so long an icon of Hong Kong — ended up playing a central role in “A Light Never Goes Out,” which made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last October and has since played to acclaim on wide release in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Starring legendary Taiwanese actor Sylvia Chang, the film tells the story of a local widow trying to maintain her sanity after her husband’s passing — while also trying to keep his neon sign-making business alive.
Hong Kong’s Roman Catholic bishop on Friday said he has invited the state-appointed archbishop of Beijing to visit his city, a symbolic gesture that experts said could strengthen the fragile relationship between China and the Vatican.
Bishop Stephen Chow said Joseph Li, who is the leader of the mainland’s Communist Party-sponsored version of the Catholic church, appeared to be “quite positive” about the invitation. He gave no indication when Li might visit.
Chow announced the invitation on the last day of a five-day trip to Beijing, the first by a bishop of Hong Kong in nearly three decades. Chow’s trip followed a year of strained relations in which Beijing unilaterally appointed two church leaders and Hong Kong arrested a cardinal.
The former boss of Macau’s second biggest casino VIP room operator has been jailed for 14 years in the gambling hub after he was convicted of 34 charges of fraud, illegal gambling and criminal association related to HK$1.5 billion (US$191 million) in off-the-books junket operations.
Taiwan Quietly Urges US to Calm Rhetoric on China Chip Risk – Yahoo Finance
Spooked by the threat that China might invade Taiwan, the US wants to cut its dependence on the island’s world-beating microchips. Officials in Taipei believe the Biden administration is going too far.
In quiet conversations and back-channel warnings, Taiwanese officials have urged their American counterparts to tone down their rhetoric about the dangers of relying on chips made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.
The officials are particularly unhappy with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who has called US dependence on Taiwanese chips “untenable” and “unsafe.” They were also uneasy with remarks by a top Republican lawmaker, Michael McCaul, during a recent trip to Taipei. He said Taiwan’s semiconductor industry is a strategic asset that’s “very vulnerable to invasion.”
Taiwan foreign minister warns of conflict with China in 2027 – The Guardian
Taiwan’s foreign minister has said he is preparing for the possibility of a conflict with China in 2027.
Speaking on LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr, Joseph Wu said: “We are taking the Chinese military threat very seriously … I think 2027 is the year that we need to be serious about.”
US intelligence believes that Xi Jinping, China’s leader, has ordered the country’s military to be ready by 2027 to annex Taiwan. China regards Taiwan, a democratic and self-governing island, as a renegade province that must be reunited with the mainland. Since he came to power in 2012, Xi has stressed that the Taiwan issue “cannot be passed on from generation to generation”.
Lawmakers are confronting stark realities over a possible Chinese invasion against Taiwan, raising an urgent alarm that the U.S. must act faster to stock up the island on the weapons needed to counter such a military attack.
That is one of the conclusions drawn after a wargame exercise Wednesday night carried out by the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, a bipartisan panel dedicated to identifying the greatest risks posed by the People’s Republic of China against U.S. national security interests.
The Philippines has ruled out the United States stockpiling weapons that could be deployed to defend Taiwan on bases the security ally has access to under the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Washington would not be permitted to conduct activities that were not stipulated in the 2014 deal.
“Our view is that EDCA is not aimed at any third country outside its meant for use for the Philippines,” Manalo told a senate hearing on Wednesday.
Visiting French lawmaker meets VP Lai, relays Macron message – Focus Taiwan
A delegation from the French National Assembly met with Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) in Taipei on Tuesday and brought with it a message from French President Emmanuel Macron reaffirming support for the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.
Eric Bothorel, who led the four-member delegation to Taiwan, told Lai at the Presidential Office that he had been entrusted by Macron to deliver a "special" message to "renew his friendship with Taiwanese people."
Macron wishes to reaffirm France's support for the status quo in the Taiwan Strait while expressing that "[Paris'] will to cooperate with Taiwan is intact," according to Bothorel, who chairs the France-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group.
Orders for Taiwan’s exports, led by hi-tech hardware including computer chips, have plunged by their steepest degree since the global financial crisis on continued low demand in major markets such as the US, but analysts expect a turnaround later this year.
Export orders declined by 25.7 per cent in March to US$46.58 billion, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said on Thursday.
The seventh-straight month of falling orders reflects ongoing weak consumer demand in Europe, the US and mainland China, according to economists.
“Unless imports of Taiwanese semiconductor chips by the US and Europe increase, the year-on-year contraction should continue in the first half of 2023,” said Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China with ING.
American lawmakers and Taipei are pushing for Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen to attend this year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit despite objections from Beijing.
In a letter sent to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday, 21 House Republicans urged the State Department to invite Tsai to this year’s summit, expected to be held in San Francisco on November 12.
Taiwan, which joined Apec in 1991 under the name “Chinese Taipei”, has not been able to send its leader to the annual summit because of objections from Beijing, which sees the island as a part of its territory with no right to attend events organised by global bodies that require statehood for participation.
In southern Taiwan, high-speed trains whoosh past now barren rice paddies, while overhead, the occasional Taiwan-made fighter jetroars by from the nearby airbase – a reminder that the island's storied agricultural way of life often existed harmoniously with the most advanced semiconductor manufacturing bases in the world.
Now, as the island faces one of its worst droughts in a century, both the rural and high-tech are competing for water.
"We barely have enough water and you're diverting even more for others to use," says Yang Kuanwei, a tomato farmer bemoaning government water policies in Taiwan's southern Tainan county, where chip giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, or TSMC, is building a state-of-the-art factory.
Taiwan to open 2nd representative office in Italy – Focus Taiwan
Taiwan currently has only one representative office in Italy, in the capital Rome, and the one being set up in the northern city of Milan will help facilitate closer trade and economic links with that part of the European country, MOFA said.
Ukrainian ballet troupe to bring 'Wartime Elegy' to Taiwan – Focus Taiwan
The United Ukrainian Ballet Company (UUB) will perform in Taiwan for the first time at the end of April but will drop the classic "Swan Lake" and instead put on "Wartime Elegy," a tribute to Ukraine's people by choreographer Alexei Ratmansky as war rages on.
The troupe will give three performances on April 29 and 30 at the Taipei Music Center in Nangang District, each of which will consist of 13 pieces and acts that include such classics as Giselle and Carmen and modern works such as Ratmansky's "Wartime Elegy."
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Coming up next:
G7 meeting amid tensions with China and Russia
FBI’s arrest of two for allegedly operating a covert overseas ‘police station’
India's surpassing of China in population
Analysis of China's growth rebound
The limits of renminbi internationalization
Record Store Day in China
And so much more…