Party cements control over finance, foreign investment turns negative, and Albanese in China
+ influential bloggers lose anonymity on China's social platforms
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PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Some Chinese political pundits and diplomatic officials are drawing comparisons between Gaza and Xinjiang in what appears to be an attempt to suggest that while Beijing’s policy in Xinjiang has brought prosperity to its predominantly Muslim population of Uyghurs, the West and Israel’s policies in Gaza have wrought destruction.
The international community needs to “look at the irony” when China condemns Israeli collective punishment in Gaza, Rayhan Asat, a Uyghur human rights attorney, told the China Project. In some ways, China’s crackdown on Uyghurs is more pervasive than the situation in Gaza, Asat argues. Although there is no Hamas-like militant group in Xinjiang that has pushed for extensive violence against China, Beijing “collectively punished and continues to punish the entire population in the Uyghur region” through methods like mass imprisonment and forced sterilization, she says.
While the Middle East has criticized Israel’s actions in Gaza, the war hasn’t dented China’s autocratic reputation in the region because Middle Eastern leaders “appreciate that China does not lecture them about human rights,” the Economist writes. Instead, its rulers have endorsed China’s “legitimate” actions in Xinjiang, which have reportedly included destroying mosques, jailing imams, and sending millions of Muslims to “re-education camps.”
China on Tuesday set out plans to develop a free trade zone in its northwestern Xinjiang region, rooting it in President Xi Jinping's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative to connect the country to Europe through economic corridors.
Rights groups accuse Beijing of abuses against Uyghurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority that numbers around 10 million in Xinjiang, including the mass use of forced labour in internment camps. China denies any rights abuses.
Opening up Xinjiang as a free trade zone aligns with broader Chinese government plans to boost cross-border trade and infrastructure connectivity across northern China, including in Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning provinces.
The plan proposes giving officials in Xinjiang greater autonomy to enact policies to attract foreign investors from neighbouring countries, of which all but Afghanistan are members of China's ambitious project to revive the ancient Silk Road.
Fiji has withdrawn from an international statement that called on China to end its persecution of Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, underlining the superpower’s leverage over Pacific island countries.
A total of 51 nations had backed the statement that was issued in mid-October at a U.N. committee on human rights violations in the region in China’s northwest. It cited an assessment by the office of the U.N. human rights commissioner that relied extensively on China’s own records and found evidence of large-scale arbitrary detention and other abuses such as torture, forced abortions, family separations and forced labor.
“Fiji attaches great value to its bilateral relations with the People’s Republic of China and based on its policy of non-interference has withdrawn Fiji’s vote,” the Fijian government said in a statement Monday.
“The world does not only consist of the U.S. and the European Parliament, but also Latin America, Africa and Asia,” said Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, one of the organizers.
“That is why one of the reasons that we chose to host this forum in Japan, because Japan is one of the largest economic power players in Asia, in addition to being a democratic power player neighboring China,” he said.
Another reason organizers chose Japan as host was to “break the silence of other Asian countries that are not familiar with what is happening to the Uyghurs and those who have been silent on the Uyghur genocide,” Isa said.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
National flags flew at half-mast across China on Thursday as the country put its former premier Li Keqiang to rest.
Li, whose body was moved to Beijing from Shanghai where he had died of a heart attack on 27 October, was cremated.
Pictures show crowds gathered along the streets as a convoy said to be carrying his body drove past.
Muted state coverage of his funeral stands in contrast to the outpouring of sorrow among ordinary Chinese.
While Han Chinese are showing an outpouring of grief for the late Premier Li Keqiang, Uyghurs and Tibetans are not displaying any warm sentiments for the official who is remembered more for Beijing’s repression than any economic reforms.
Li, the second-ranked member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party from 2012 to 2022, died of a heart attack on Oct. 26 at age 68.
He played an instrumental role in the Chinese government’s crackdown on the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang that culminated in the mass detentions of an estimated 1.8 million people in internment camps in 2017 and 2018, two experts on the region said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called on the country’s auditors to make officials feel like they are being “followed by shadows”.
The directives were made by Xi in a speech he gave at a meeting with the Central Auditing Commission in May. The previously undisclosed speech was published in Qiushi, a top theoretical journal of the Communist Party, on Tuesday.
In his speech, Xi told the auditors that they must live up to their responsibilities by ensuring there are no blind spots in their work and the party’s policies are implemented as intended.
“The audit targets should feel that auditing follows them like a shadow, and they feel someone is watching over their shoulder at all times,” he said, stressing the need to keep a close watch on all units that manage public funds, state-owned assets and resources.
Xi highlighted five policy areas for auditors to focus on: finance, monetary policy, industry, technology and social affairs.
China’s top anti-corruption watchdog has warned Communist Party cadres who hold leadership positions in certain public offices to steer clear of investing in private equity (PE) funds in case they end up being investigated for graft.
For these officials, putting money in PE funds, which usually invest in unlisted companies, is akin to running a business by stealth, and can easily lead to corruption, according to a book compiled by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) on implementing law and party discipline.
Chinese President Xi Jinping thinks the Communist Party’s control over rural areas is insufficient and threatens stability, according to a new book published on the mainland.
“There are some urgent problems in the countryside that need to be solved, such as the fact that grass-roots organisations are still weak and lax in some places,” Xi told a seminar of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s top political advisory body, in March last year. His comments were disclosed in detail in the book published in late October.
In statements made public for the first time, Xi said that in China’s rural areas, “ religious, ‘underworld forces’ and other organisations have grown and spread, and have even taken control of village affairs and caused harm” and that “in some places, people don’t care about village affairs”.
Xinhua reported on the speech last March, saying Xi demanded that rural revitalisation must not only focus on economic development, but also strengthen the construction of rural grass-roots party organisations, attend to the ideological and moral education of villagers, emphasise the rule of law, improve the system of rural governance and deepen the self-governance practices of villagers.
He also called for a “sustained crackdown on gang crimes in the countryside”.
But official reports at the time did not contain Xi’s fierce criticism of the rural situation.
“These demands must be met regularly, like daily cleaning. Otherwise, dust will accumulate,” Xi said, according to another newly disclosed line from the speech.
China’s spy agency is cracking down on weather stations with foreign links it says pose a threat to national security, the latest sign the secretive group is becoming more assertive under President Xi Jinping.
The Ministry of State Security said Tuesday that hundreds of illegal meteorological facilities were sending information abroad, some of them from sensitive sites such as military bases, industrial enterprises and grain-producing areas.
A number of the stations were “directly funded by foreign governments,” the spy agency said a post on social media, adding data went to overseas security officials — although it didn’t give details on what nations were supposedly involved. China’s security officials are “investigating and dealing with the relevant illegal activities,” it said.
China's leader Xi Jinping this week called on women in the country to "create a new trend of family" to help curb an aging population amid a record drop in the birth rate, according to state media.
What he's saying: "Doing a good job in women's work is not only related to women's own development but also related to the harmony of families and society, as well as national development and progress," Xi said during an event in Beijing on Monday, per state media.
"It is necessary to strengthen guidance on young people's perspectives on marriage, childbearing and family," Xi added during the discussion with the leadership of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's All-China Women's Federation, according to Xinhua and other state media.
As China's population has begun to decline, raising fears of a looming demographic crisis, China's leaders are putting pressure on women to curtail their career and educational ambitions and instead return to traditional roles in the home.
When Wang Xia opened Shanghai’s first “female-friendly” bookstore in 2020, she just wanted to create a safe space for women to express themselves. She had no idea how successful — or potentially sensitive — the business would become.
The poll, which was announced on Oct. 10 in an unexpected move, will focus on urban and rural areas throughout the country. The survey will be based on a sample of 500,000 households and last for around two weeks until Nov. 15, China's National Bureau of Statistics said.
It will help provide a basis to monitor China's population developmental changes and for the government and Communist Party to formulate national economic, social development and population related policies, it said.
‘I’ve Been Liberated From a Cage’ – China Books Review
“By 2021,” Murong told the China Books Review, “I felt sure that if I stayed I would be arrested.” He was urged to leave by friends, and by his Australian publishing house, Hardie Grant Books, who were about to publish Deadly Quiet City: Stories From Wuhan, Covid Ground Zero, a nonfiction work that documents ordinary lives in Wuhan during the first lockdown of the Covid pandemic. “The risk of being imprisoned was the biggest factor,” he said, “but another reason was that I couldn’t publish in China.” It was time to go.
Yet there are consolations of exile. Murong hasn’t dreamt about being arrested in a long time. In Beijing, he would rarely make plans for the next year; he couldn’t be sure if he wouldn’t be in prison. In Australia, his writing could be published without censorship. “I didn’t want to leave China because I thought I could still do something,” he said. “But once I left, I realized there are many more things to do in the free world. It’s like I’ve been liberated from a cage. Now I can write anything I want.”
Halloween revellers thronged central Shanghai late on Tuesday night, with some dressed in costumes that poked fun at China's strict COVID-19 curbs in a rare showcase of free expression as police looked on.
Celebrations in the Chinese financial hub began on the weekend, culminating on Tuesday in a large crowd of mostly young people that gathered around a popular bar area, according to onlookers and social media posts.
While most attendees did not dress up and many of those who did wore outfits like monsters and superheros, some attracted attention on social media for costumes such as blue and white hazmat suits that gained infamy in China last year for being used by authorities enforcing COVID-19 curbs known as "dabai".
The weekend ahead of Halloween, revelers flocked to the bustling Huangpu district, donning colorful ensembles to mark the holiday. Partygoers dressed up as their favorite cultural icons, taking part in costume shows, and parading the streets
HONG KONG & MACAO
In a statement Tuesday, the Hong Kong government said that it had received an invitation this month to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Economic Leaders’ Meeting taking place Nov. 15 to 17 in San Francisco, but that Lee would not be able to attend in person due to issues with scheduling.
Instead, Hong Kong’s financial minister Paul Chan will attend as a representative of Hong Kong on Lee's behalf.
Hong Kong on Friday condemned a U.S. bill calling for sanctions against 49 Hong Kong officials, judges and prosecutors involved in national security legal cases, saying U.S. legislators were grand-standing and trying to intimidate the city.
The Hong Kong Sanctions Act is a bipartisan bid by U.S. congressmen in the House of Representatives and the Senate urging the Biden administration to sanction the officials, judges and prosecutors responsible for the political persecution of pro-democracy activists in the former British colony.
Officials named in the bill include Secretary for Justice Paul Lam, Police chief Raymond Siu and judges Andrew Cheung, Andrew Chan, Johnny Chan, Alex Lee, Esther Toh and Amanda Woodcock.
The bill would require the U.S. president to determine whether the Hong Kong officials named in it qualify for sanctions under existing U.S. legislation, including the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.
The main political shadow hanging over the games is China’s national security law, which has been used to crack down on pro-democracy journalists and activists in Hong Kong.
Some organisations and human rights activists have expressed concern that this law could be used to prosecute participants and attendees of the games, and called for the event to be cancelled. The Gay Games Hong Kong described these concerns as “unfounded slurs” and said that it is not a political organisation.
But the national security law is a valid reason to be concerned. Participants could be arrested if they are seen by authorities to “endanger national security”, which critics argue is open to the authorities’ interpretation.
The exodus of tens of thousands of professionals from Hong Kong triggered by a crackdown on its civil liberties is being offset by new arrivals: mainland Chinese keen to move to the former British colony.
The Asian financial hub has attracted tens of thousands of visa applications from mainland Chinese under the Top Talent Pass Scheme, a program launched in late 2022 aimed at luring high-income professionals and top global university graduates from around the world, though nine in 10 successful applicants are from China.
For mainland Chinese, Hong Kong’s unique attributes — such as wider freedom of speech and internet access, its cosmopolitan ambiance, a less oppressive work culture, and a society where ability largely trumps connections — set it apart, according to interviews by The Associated Press with 20 mainland Chinese visa holders.
Four former student leaders of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) have been jailed for two years each for incitement to wound over a controversial motion they passed to mourn a man who stabbed a police officer before taking his own life in July 2021.
Yuen was arrested in March after returning to Hong Kong from Japan, where she was studying. Local media outlets reported that she was in the city to change her Hong Kong identity card. She was initially arrested on suspicion of inciting secession, a crime under the national security law.
Her passport was confiscated and she was unable to return to Japan to continue her studies, according to local media reports.
A Post-Mortem of the ‘Battle For Hong Kong’ – The Diplomat
For many years Hong Kong was seen as a cushion of sorts between China and the rest of the world. It served as an important financial center for Chinese and Western companies that wanted to do cross-border business, but more than that was a place where people could meet freely, and where ideas and criticisms about the mainland were still permitted. […] The crisis over the extradition bill, and Beijing’s subsequent crackdown, has destroyed Hong Kong’s status as a middle ground where two hostile systems can co-exist. It has instead become the latest example of Beijing’s anti-democratic actions and an additional talking point in explaining tensions between the U.S. and China.
The Hong Kong 2019 Protest Movement: A Data Analysis of Arrests AND Prosecutions – Georgetown Center for Asian Law
The Hong Kong government has effectively weaponized its legal system to crack down on participants in the 2019 protests. Our analysis strongly indicates that the government manipulated the criminal justice process to punish protesters, and to deter any future protests.
Presidential frontrunner Lai Ching-te (賴清德) has said that Taiwan's envoy to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), is "at the top" of the list of candidates he is considering as a running mate.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) nominee, who is currently Taiwan's vice president, made the remarks in a trailer aired Tuesday for a TV interview with host Paul Lee (李四端).
The KMT and TPP, which have been discussing the possibility of teaming up, said after a meeting between their leaders on Monday they would "support each other and maximize seats" in parliament to "deepen democracy".
But in response to questions from reporters about a joint presidential election ticket, the leaders said more discussions were needed to work out a plan on that.
"There were some disputes remaining to be settled," said Ko, a former mayor of the island's capital, Taipei, adding that he wanted a "fair and mutually acceptable" pact with the KMT.
Thailand to waive visa requirement for Taiwanese in November – Focus Taiwan
Taiwanese travelers will not need a visa to visit Thailand from Nov. 10 until May 10, 2024, the Taipei Tourism Authority of Thailand announced Tuesday.
Republic of China (Taiwan) passport holders traveling to Thailand for sightseeing purposes will be granted a visa-free stay of 30 days, the office said in a news release.
Lee Chi-yuen (李奇嶽), a spokesman for the Taipei-based Travel Quality Assurance Association, said the visa waiver program could potentially boost the number of tourists from Taiwan visiting Thailand by 20-30 percent.
The University of Edinburgh has returned the skulls of four Paiwan warriors to Taiwanese Indigenous leaders, nearly 150 years after their deaths.
The repatriation is the first of its kind for Taiwan, according to the university, and comes as Edinburgh and similar institutions across Europe reckon with their colonial past.
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