China's exit bans, May Day holiday travel boom, and John Kerry reveals China invited him to visit
+ Ding Liren makes history as China's first men's world chess champ
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PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Shanghai police are building a sweeping surveillance system which notifies authorities whenever foreign journalists book flights or train tickets to Xinjiang.
The system also flags police whenever a Uyghur arrives in Shanghai. All this is made possible by connecting directly to Shanghai's Alibaba police cloud.
“The Chinese government outrageously yet dangerously conflates Islam with violent extremism to justify its abhorrent abuses against Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at HRW.
“The UN Human Rights Council should take long overdue action by investigating Chinese government abuses in Xinjiang and beyond.”
The letter, which was signed by two dozen Republican and Democrat lawmakers, cited "credible allegations of utilising underpaid and forced labour".
It also called on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to force Shein to independently audit and verify "that the company does not use Uyghur forced labour", before it was allowed to sell shares in the US.
In response to the letter, Shein told the BBC: "We are committed to respecting human rights and adhering to local laws and regulations in each market we operate in."
The gravity of the crimes against humanity in Xinjiang deserves global action, or else abusers like the Chinese government will be further emboldened. The credibility and strength of the U.N. human rights systems also hinges upon their ability to hold all countries, including powerful ones, to account. What is at stake is not just the rights of Uyghurs, or people in China, but the rights and dignity of everyone around the world.
Fang Bin, who documented the initial Covid outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has been freed from jail after three years, sources told the BBC.
Mr Fang is one of several so-called citizen journalists who disappeared after sharing videos of scenes in Wuhan, the epicentre of the pandemic.
After disappearing in February 2020, he was sentenced to three years in jail at a secret trial in Wuhan, sources said.
He was released on Sunday and is in good health, they added.
After China reformed and opened up its economy in the 1980s, Suifenhe rose to prosperity as a hub for China-Russia trade. However, the fortunes of local trading firms have declined in recent years.
The downturn in the Russian economy since 2014 has hit Suifenhe’s export business hard. Then came the pandemic, which brought waves of lockdowns lasting over 120 days in total. Now, the war in Ukraine is dampening demand for trade and tourism even further.
Suifenhe is doing what it can to adapt. Local businesses have pivoted to importing goods from Russia, or selling products via cross-border e-commerce, to boost sales. For many, however, it’s an uphill battle.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
China is increasingly barring people, including foreign executives, from leaving the country, according to a report and research.
Scores of Chinese nationals and foreigners have been ensnared by exit bans, according to the report from the rights group Safeguard Defenders, while a Reuters analysis has found an apparent surge in court cases involving such bans in recent years.
Foreign business lobby groups are voicing concern about the trend, calling it a jarring message as the authorities say the country is open for business after three years of tight Covid-19 restrictions.
Why China’s Censors Are Deleting Videos About Poverty – The New York Times
Poverty alleviation is a medal the party flaunts to claim its legitimacy. But despite China’s rise as an economic power, it has a drastically inadequate social safety net, and the government is eager to block any discussion of the conditions poor people face.
Xi is pursuing a “crusade against journalism,” Reporters Without Borders said in a report Wednesday. It called China’s decline in press freedom “disastrous.”
China’s government has revised its conscription laws, allowing retired service people to re-enlist and increasing recruitment focused on expertise in space and cyberwarfare.
The amended regulations, approved by the state council and the central military commission, came into force on Monday, and covered all aspects of China’s military recruitment and personnel deployment processes, for domestic emergencies and wartime.
The changes aim to provide “institutional guarantees for consolidating national defence and building strong armed forces”, state media reported.
One of China’s most famous screenwriters has been accused by at least a dozen women of sexual harassment in another high-profile sexual harassment scandal in the country’s literary scene.
The scandal began with an anonymous Douban post on April 28, now deleted, which accused 52-year-old Shi Hang of verbal and physical sexual harassment. At the time of publication, at least 11 other women have come out with similar accusations against the celebrated screenwriter.
While some are now choosing to buzz their hair off to challenge traditional standards and promote gender equality, others simply find it practical and low-maintenance.
Their reasons notwithstanding, the style is quickly catching on, with more and more women ditching long locks for a shorn style. Says Song: “Why do girls have to listen to others and be gentle and quiet, and obedient in particular? I just don’t want to obey the rules.”
Brantly Womack: Reflections on a Recent Trip to Beijing – U.S.-China Perception Monitor
Public opinion, including on social media, is monitored, and therefore only occasional and oblique critical comments surface. What I heard on my visit—and could not have heard at a distance—was private opinion. There was ubiquitous disgust at the 2022 COVID policy, blame is placed on Xi, and there are concerns about China’s future. Before COVID, many of my friends (most of whom were academics and Party members) were softly alienated from the leadership. After all, many had sympathized with the 1989 demonstrations. However, some had liked Xi and his anti-corruption campaigns. But this time the gulf between private opinion and public opinion was complete. While the Party remains a collection of people in society and one with memories of some voice and popular responsiveness, Xi has neutered the Party as a political class by squeezing “democracy” out of “democratic centralism.”
When China sailed one of its two active aircraft carriers, the Shandong, east of Taiwan last month as part of military drills surrounding the island, it was showcasing a capability that it has yet to master and could take years to perfect.
As Beijing modernizes its military, its formidable missile forces and other naval vessels, such as cutting-edge cruisers, are posing a concern for the U.S. and its allies. But it could be more than a decade before China can mount a credible carrier threat far from its shores, according to four military attaches and six defence analysts familiar with regional naval deployments.
Instead, China's carriers are more of a propaganda showpiece, with doubts about their value in a possible conflict with the U.S. over Taiwan and about whether China could protect them on longer-range missions into the Pacific and Indian oceans, the attaches and analysts told Reuters.
China, India and Japan are leading a surge in military spending in the Asian region with geopolitical tensions pushing South Korea, Australia and Taiwan, among others, to follow suit.
China’s military spending now exceeds the combined outlays of the next 25 biggest nations in the region, for which there are reliable estimates, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) annual survey. It does not make estimates for Vietnam or North Korea.
The US retains by far the largest military with spending of US$812 billion last year—almost three times that of China. Its commitment of 3.45% of GDP is one of the largest in the advanced world, exceeded only by Israel (4.5%) and by both Russia (4.06%) and the Ukraine (33.5%).
China’s Netizens Hate Make-Up Workdays With a Passion – The World of Chinese
While the official calendar shows Chinese workers enjoy 26 days of public holidays in 2023, a closer look also reveals several 调休 days—mandated workdays on weekends that offset some of the days off.
Taking the recent Labor Day holiday as an example, it appears that workers get five days off (from April 29 to May 3), but two of those days were already on the weekend, while there were also two additional workdays on Sunday April 23 and Saturday May 6. That means cumulatively workers only got one additional day off.
This “artificial long holiday (人造长假 rénzào chángjià)” enrages netizens, with many suggesting it shouldn’t be called a “holiday (放假 fàngjià)” but a “holiday loan (放贷 fàngdài).”
Gallery: Dressing Up for COMICUP – Caixin
The two-day event in Shanghai, one of China’s largest anime conventions, drew 300,000 creators and fans following a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. This year’s showcase, which wrapped up Wednesday, hosted nearly 15,000 booths featuring an array of fan-created comics, games, and novels as well as numerous attendees who came dressed as their favorite characters
HONG KONG & MACAO
The number of District Council seats democratically chosen by the public are to be slashed to around 20 per cent, Chief Executive John Lee announced on Tuesday. Pending legislative approval, candidates will also be put through national security background checks and a new nomination system, following a landslide by the pro-democracy camp in the last polls in 2019.
Hong Kong national security police seized an "exhibit" on Friday that has been identified by local media as a dismantled statue commemorating the deadly Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.
The eight-metre-high (26-feet) "Pillar of Shame" by Danish artist Jens Galschiot -- featuring anguished faces in a twisted tower -- sat on the University of Hong Kong's (HKU) campus for more than two decades.
Davidson’s comments came two days after Hong Kong’s chief executive, John Lee, revealed plans to reduce the proportion of directly elected seats on local district councils from 90% to 20%.
Mark Sabah, the UK and EU director of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, said Davidson’s comments “laid bare the actual position” of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, which he said “has become an offshoot of the department of trade and industry … It is a mockery.”
He added: “All we have heard so far is confused, topsy-turvy China strategy from the FCDO. The consul general in Hong Kong said what is the actual policy of the FCDO, which is openness and trade.”
Benedict Rogers, the chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, said Davidson’s remarks “reflect a troubling softening of approach towards China”.
Imprisoned Hong Kong activist wins Gwangju Prize for Human Rights – The Korea Times
Chow Hang-tung, a prominent pro-democracy activist in Hong Kong, was chosen as the winner of this year's Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.
Chow, 38, who is in prison now after being convicted of inciting and taking part in arranging an unlawful assembly ― a commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre ― has become a symbolic figure for everyone who is longing for democracy, a judging committee said at the May 18 Memorial Foundation office in Gwangju, Tuesday.
On behalf of Chow, her representative is expected to receive the award at the ceremony on May 18, Korea's anniversary of the 1980 pro-democracy uprising in the southwestern city.
The Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) has announced to scrap the minimum height and weight requirements for new recruits as part of its latest bid to step up recruitment efforts amid more than 5,000 vacancies.
Starting on Friday, those who are interested in applying to become a police constable, probationary inspector or an auxiliary police constable in the city will enjoy relaxed entry requirements, the Force announced in a statement on Wednesday.
Hong Kong's March retail sales rose 40.9% from a year earlier, the second biggest percentage rise on record, as consumer and visitor spending continued to improve, though the low base of comparison also contributed, government data showed on Thursday.
Sales increased to HK$33.6 billion ($4.28 billion) in a fourth consecutive month of growth. That compared with a 31.3% rise in February and a record of 44.8% jump in February 1988.
The stance by the HKMA on crypto regulation marks a fresh chapter for the financial hub to be more forward-looking and inclusive. The crypto industry can serve as an engine to attract top talents and boost the digital economy’s development. It can help rejuvenate beleaguered financial markets, as the Hang Seng Index fell by almost 30 percent since June 6, 2019, and strengthen weakened Hong Kong Dollar. The digital assets industry is one of the rare opportunities that the city can seize to reinvigorate a brighter future.
U.S. President Joe Biden's administration plans to send $500 million worth of weapons aid to Taiwan using the same emergency authority that has been used more than 35 times for Ukraine, a source familiar with the plan said on Friday.
As a part of the 2023 budget, Congress authorized up to $1 billion worth of weapons aid for Taiwan using Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA), a type of authority that expedites security assistance and has helped to send arms to Ukraine.
This drawdown, which authorizes the president to transfer articles and services from U.S. stockpiles without congressional approval during an emergency, would be the first from that $1 billion authorization.
Analysts from the Chinese mainland warned on Saturday that a reported US plan to send $500 million worth of weapons aid to Taiwan using the Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA) [the same emergency authority that has been used 35 times for Ukraine] would further turn the island into a powder keg. This provocative move further proves the US' intent of using the island as a pawn to contain China while neglecting the safety of local residents.
Taiwan’s chief trade representative says his country’s semiconductor makers will expand production in the U.S. as much as they can afford to do so, but he insists Taiwan remains an ideal place for that production and other U.S. trade, business and investment, despite tensions with China.
A war between the U.S. and China over Taiwan would be a nightmare scenario for America's allies in the Pacific, but it’s becoming increasingly clear what roles they might play if one breaks out.
Hong Kongers face new residency rules – Taipei Times
National security agencies are concerned that China might try to infiltrate Taiwan through Hong Kong, they said.
According to the proposed amendment, Hong Kongers born in Hong Kong and with no relatives in mainland China would need to stay in Taiwan for four years before they can apply for permanent residency, the official said.
Mainland Chinese with permanent residency in Hong Kong would need to stay for at least six years before they can apply, similar to Chinese spouses of Taiwanese, they said.
Zelenskyy honors Taiwanese soldier who died in Ukraine war – Focus Taiwan
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has given a state award to Tseng Sheng-guang (曾聖光), a Taiwanese volunteer soldier who died last November while fighting for Ukraine, in honor of his "selfless performance," according to the website of the Ukrainian president.
Zelenskyy awarded Tseng -- among many others -- the Order for Courage of the third class for "the personal courage shown in the defense of the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," according to a list dated April 28 on the website.
The Fuchien Kinmen District Court on Thursday handed down a combined 15-year jail sentence to a local travel operator for having developed a spy network for China for over 20 years and for running an underground money exchange service.
Indigenous people are allowed to use either a traditional Han Chinese name or a Chinese transliteration of their native name, which many complain sounds clunky and imprecise. They can also include what is known in Taiwan as the “Romanization” of the Indigenous name, which means that it is written out phonetically with the Latin letters used in English and other Western languages — the same way Giljegiljaw’s name was displayed on his Cleveland uniform.
Now some are fighting to drop the Chinese characters altogether.
Coming up next:
US climate envoy Kerry says China has invited him for talks
Czech foreign minister says China’s 14+1 initiative is dead
Italy unlikely to renew China deal
Canada mulls expelling China diplomat for targeting lawmaker
And so much more…