Canada and China's tit-for-tat, Blinken hoping to visit China ‘in the near future’, and raids on foreign firms
+ Xi inspects Xiong'an New Area and China races ahead on AI regulation
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PHOTO OF THE WEEK
The EU's trade gurus, confronted with concerns over whether Chinese cotton or solar panels are being produced with Uyghur Muslim forced labor, have long turned to the International Labour Organization (ILO) guidelines for reference, adopting its rules while urging Beijing to ratify and observe them.
Except they might not be that effective in this case.
In a new research paper previewed by POLITICO, Adrian Zenz, a leading scholar on Beijing's repressive policies, casts doubt on the applicability of these rules by the ILO, a U.N. agency, arguing they were mainly drawn up to tackle commercially — not politically — driven exploitation.
In other words, Beijing is not primarily looking for cheap labor when its local officials in Xinjiang arrange for Uyghurs to go to work. Instead, it is a top-down political campaign to make these Uyghurs, collectively presumed by the state to be potential secessionists and terrorists, submit to Communist Party rule.
Those whose culture and heritage are being used for profit have “no ability to assert their own desires of how their culture and heritage should be represented,” she says. Official representations of Uyghurs are “always extreme and they’re always lacking in nuance”—whether it’s depicting Uyghurs as potential terrorists or as smiling and dancing—and “ignore the diversity of views and normality of people” among the community.
“That is really the key issue: the problem of the right to really own their own culture.”
China’s government is trying to create a tourism experience where Xinjiang is “different enough that it’s worth maybe spending extra for airfare, but not so different where Han Chinese tourists feel out of place,” explains Timothy Grose, a professor at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, who studies ethnic policy in China and has conducted fieldwork in Xinjiang.
That includes downplaying Islamic parts of Uyghur culture and minimizing cultural differences to the degree that “it’s just exotic,” he says, “and maybe even a little quaint and romantic.”
Investors called on Volkswagen to request its joint venture partner SAIC seeks an independent external audit of the Xinjiang plant. "Volkswagen must be certain that its supply chains are clean," said Ingo Speich, head of sustainability and corporate governance at Deka, a top-20 Volkswagen shareholder.
China chief Ralf Brandstaetter said: "We do not see any evidence of human rights abuses at the plant," adding that the carmaker was not able to implement an audit without agreement from SAIC.
Brandstaetter visited the plant earlier this year and said on Wednesday: "I have no reason to doubt my impressions or the information available to me."
Still, activists including Haiyuer Kuerban of the World Uyhur Congress highlighted the reports of mass internment camps and links between Volkswagen suppliers and companies with a presence there, as well as the difficulty for locals to speak openly given the state's restrictions on free speech.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
Yang Maodong, who goes by the pen name Guo Feixiong, was sentenced on Thursday by the Guangzhou intermediate people’s court for “inciting subversion of state power,” his brother Yang Maoquan wrote on social media. Repeated phone calls to the court went unanswered on Friday.
The court jailed Yang for his “long-term attack and smearing of the Chinese political system and incitement of others to subvert state power”, his brother wrote. The court accused him of publishing dozens of “seditious” online essays, founding a website that advocated constitutional democracy and talking to the foreign media after he was barred from travelling to the US to see his terminally ill wife in 2021. He was swiftly detained by the authorities and has been incarcerated ever since. He was charged in January last year, two days after the death of his wife, Zhang Qing.
An unmarried Chinese woman has made a final appeal in court in her bid to sue a hospital for violating her rights by refusing to freeze her eggs because she is single.
Teresa Xu, a 35-year-old freelance writer, lodged her complaint against the Beijing Obstetrics and Gynaecology Hospital in 2019 in a landmark case in China of a woman fighting for her reproductive rights.
Ms Xu's appeal comes as the attitude of authorities to giving unmarried women access to reproductive technologies has begun to soften as China grapples with a falling birth rate that has brought its first population drop in six decades.
"People have been paying lots of attention to the case, and this is very important for single women," Ms Xu told reporters outside the court in Beijing after the hearing.
Data from consulting firm Zhiyan shows that sales of sex toys for women in China increased 114.4% and 67.2% in 2018 and 2019, respectively, far exceeding growth in the market for men. And in 2021, sales of sex toys for women on Tmall, a popular online marketplace, soared elevenfold year-on-year.
These figures suggest that there is growing demand for sexual liberation and a willingness to explore new avenues of pleasure. That women are driving this demand is now influencing the design of new products, according to product managers at the Shanghai exhibition.
Women are not just looking for pleasure, but also for discreet and creative options, said Liu Fan, product manager of Svakom. This year, Svakom showcased a range of sex toys designed to resemble everyday objects such as phones, plants, and pens.
Unemployment among young urbanites hit unprecedented highs last summer, and China began rolling out stimulus measures and hiring targets months ago in preparation for another challenging graduation season.
China’s 1999 decision to expand access to higher education produced a more educated workforce and helped fuel the next decade or so of growth. But now, many highly-educated young Chinese are questioning whether college degrees still make them competitive on the job market.
Employers seem to be wondering the same thing. If you ask companies why they’re not hiring, they’ll insist the problem isn’t a lack of jobs. Rather, it’s a shortage of workers with the skills they require. According to them, China’s universities simply aren’t doing enough to help their students to succeed on the job market.
From May 15, Beijing will once again allow different categories of travelers to enter and leave the Chinese mainland using fast-lane services to expedite border inspection. The move aims to make traveling between the regions easier to boost the economy.
Eligible travelers include Chinese citizens with passports or special permits to enter or leave Hong Kong, Macao or Taiwan, as well as foreign passport holders and individuals who have been granted certain residence permits in China, according to a Thursday statement by the National Immigration Administration. The move fully restores the fast-lane services available before the pandemic, the administration said.
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Coming up next:
Hong Kong passes law to limit work of foreign lawyers
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