Posts Tagged ‘China’

10 injured, 7 missing in E China chemical plant blast

April 16, 2014

Xinhua

NANJING, April 16  — A chemical plant blast and fire in east China’s Jiangsu Province has injured 10 people and left seven others missing, local authorities said Wednesday.

The blast occurred at 10:03 a.m. at Shuangma Chemical Plant in Rugao City, according to sources with the city’s publicity department.

Ten people have been rescued from the scene and sent to hospitals, while seven others remain missing, sources said.

Firefighters have extinguished the flames, and the search for the missing is under way.

Established in 1997, Shuangma Chemical Plant mainly produces stearic acid, fatty acid and glycerol.

The blast has not caused severe air or water pollution, according to local environmental protection authorities.

An investigation into the cause of the blast is ongoing.

Photo: Chinese people wear face masks with “No to Kunming PX,” paraxylene, written on signs and  chant slogans as they hold a protest against a planned refinery project in downtown Kunming in southwest China’s Yunnan province Saturday, May 4, 2013. After word spread about an environmental protest that was planned for Saturday in the central Chinese city of Chengdu, drugstores and printing shops were ordered to report anyone making certain purchases. Microbloggers say government fliers urged people not to demonstrate, and schools were told to stay open to keep students on campus. Meanwhile, hundreds of people – many wearing mouth masks – gathered in Kunming to protest a planned refinery project in the area. The demonstrators demanded information transparency and that public health be safeguarded. (AP Photo)

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Vietnam Begins Sea Patrols To Protect Fisheries Resources

April 16, 2014

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“Any foreign activities not approved by Vietnam in this area are illegal and invalid.”

By Vu Trong Khanh
The wall Street Journal

HANOI—Vietnam officially launched a fisheries surveillance force Tuesday that will monitor local fishermen and work to protect the country’s territorial waters.

The move comes at a time of heightened tensions between several countries that have competing ownership claims to parts of the South China Sea, which surround Vietnam.

Officially known as the Vietnam Fisheries Resources Surveillance, the force will conduct sea patrols to monitor and protect fisheries resources, assist fishermen in distress and maintain maritime security, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai said at the launching ceremony in the central coastal city of Danang.

Chinese patrol vessel in the South China Sea, the “Haixun 31″

Officials did not specify the size of the force, but said that it would be headquartered in Hanoi and would have four divisions throughout country.

According to state media citing Mr. Hai, Vietnam has around 120,000 fishing vessels with around one million people employed in the fishing industry.

In addition to protecting local fishing resources, the surveillance center will also work to prevent and deal with violations of Vietnamese laws that take place in the waters Vietnam claims.

Vietnam and several other countries in the Asia-Pacific region have been embroiled in long-standing territorial disputes with China over parts of the South China Sea.

In recent months China, which claims it has sovereignty over virtually all of the South China Sea, has tried to assert its control over the mineral-rich waters, in part by implementing fishing regulations.

In January, China enacted a new regulation requiring foreign fishermen to obtain Beijing’s consent before operating in parts of the South China Sea that it claims, including the waters near the Paracel islands.

Vietnam responded to that move to say it had “indisputable sovereignty” over the Paracels and Spratlys.

“Any foreign activities not approved by Vietnam in this area are illegal and invalid,” Luong Thanh Nghi, the then-spokesman for Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry, said in January.

The South China Sea (called the east Sea by the Vietnamese) is rich in resources — and not just fish.

Chinese fishermen in the South China Sea

Vietnam Navy warship HQ-011 Dinh Tien Hoang
Vietnam’s Navy is capable and growing. Pictured: a Kilo class submarine built in Russia

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The chart above shows how Vietnam views the South China Sea (which many Vietnamese call the East Sea)

 A 1906 map drawn in China shows that country without the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos 

The Hoang Sa administration website has published maps created by China’s Qing Dynasty in 1906 that do not show Hoang Sa (Paracels) and Truong Sa (Spratlys) archipelagos that as part of China.

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Photo: Chinese marine surveillance officers stop and search fishermen in international waters in the South China Sea

A Vietnamese naval soldier stands guard at Thuyen Chai island in the Spratly archipelago, which is closer to Malaysia, the Phillipines and Vietnam, than it is to China. – Reuters pic, February 27, 2014.

Vietnamese naval soldier stands guard at Thuyen Chai island in the  Spratly archipelago, which is closer to Malaysia, the Phillipines and  Vietnam, than it is to China. – Reuters pic, February 27, 2014.

 

Photo: Captain Pham Quang Thanh on the fishing boat that was fired at by a Chinese naval boat off Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands of Vietnam on March 20, 2013

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

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Vietnamese boat captain Vo Van Tu said his boat was attacked by China early in 2014

In recent years, Vietnamese protesters have become more outspoken in accusing China  of piracy and lawlessness in the South China Sea.

Photo: Protesters in Hanoi object to China’s claim to take over the South China Sea last year

Above: China says it has sovereignty over all inside the “Nine Dash Line” as seen here.

Map of South China Sea

China has claimed much of the South China Sea for itself —  claims that have upset many in the region, especially Vietnam and the Philippines. A huge wealth of untapped oil is believed to be below the sea here.

 

The chart below shows the area declared by China on 1 January 2014 as “an area under China’s jurisdiction.” China says “foreign fishing vessels” can only enter and work in this area with prior approval from China. Vietnam, the Philippines and others have said they will not comply with China’s law.

China’s Economic Growth Slows to 7.4%

April 16, 2014

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GDP Data From World’s No. 2 Economy Show Downshift Continuing; Numbers Still Beat Estimates

“Economic growth will continue to weaken.”

By Mark Magnier
The Wall Street Journal

A woman shops for fruit at a stall in Sanya, Hainan Province, China. Bloomberg

BEIJING—China’s gross domestic product growth slipped in the first quarter to its slowest level in 18 months as the world’s second-largest economy continued to downshift.

Reduced momentum in investment and consumption—key drivers of the economy—were behind the moderately weaker quarterly growth.

The 7.4% growth over the year-earlier period was below the 7.7% level seen in the fourth quarter of 2013, and slightly below the target of “about 7.5%” set by China’s leadership for all of 2014. But it came in slightly above economists’ expectations, according to a Wall Street Journal survey of analysts.

The weakened growth signals more choppy waters ahead for the world economy, as China is a major global growth engine. The slightly faster-than-expected result also muddies the waters on whether Beijing will step up measures aimed at supporting growth. In early April, the government announced a series of “mini-stimulus” measures to offset recent slippage in trade and industrial production. These included the acceleration of planned spending on railroad infrastructure and a razing and rebuilding program for shantytowns.

Further weakness moving into the second quarter could prompt planners to double down on these more modest investments, although few expect a major stimulus of the sort seen in late 2009 after the global financial crisis.

“The economy will rely on investment for some time to come,” Standard Chartered economist Li Wei said. “Without support, economic growth will continue to weaken.”

Mr. Li added that he expects some monetary-policy support such as a reduction in banks’ reserve requirement ratios in the second half of the year. Others said authorities could add money into the financial sector, increase tax rebates or accelerate investment in transportation, alternate energy and senior-care facilities.

The Shanghai and Hong Kong stock markets both were up modestly following the news. The Australian dollar—which is sensitive to Chinese economic results because Australia is a heavy supplier of resources—strengthened against the U.S. dollar.

Officials at the statistics bureau attributed then slower first-quarter growth data to weak external demand—affected in part by the severe U.S. winter— a struggling real-estate market and structural changes.

“The growth slowdown is a reflection of China’s growth model transformation,” National Bureau of Statistics spokesman Sheng Laiyun told reporters. “China can no longer expect double-digit growth.”

Industrial production grew 8.8% in March, slightly below analyst expectations of 9%. This compares with 8.6% year-over-year growth in January and February, which were combined to limit distortions from the Lunar New Year holiday, according to the bureau.

The purchasing managers index for March, another indicator of the health of the manufacturing sector that was released earlier this month, was also less than robust.

Fixed-asset investment—covering areas such as machinery, land and buildings—edged up to 17.6% in the first quarter, slightly below expectations, compared with 17.9% year-over-year in January-February. Analysts attributed the result in part to problems in the housing sector.

Some analysts, however, argued that the lower investment number is a positive sign—an indication that China is moving away from excessive reliance on investment, effectively subjecting companies to greater financial discipline.

“It’s a move in the right direction,” said ING economist Tim Condon, adding that 2013 wasn’t a good year for restructuring in China. “It was the culmination of a decade of no reform,” he added. “But 2014 is shaping up to be much better.”

Still, officials didn’t disclose how much of first-quarter growth was attributable to consumption versus investment.

China is grappling with mounting debt at the local government level and in the real estate, steel and resources sectors. Since the beginning of this year, the country has recorded a handful of defaults on trust loans and corporate bonds that have sent jitters through financial markets.

Retail sales, meanwhile, posted 12.2% year-over-year growth for March, in line with the consensus and a modest increase over the 11.8% year-over-year rise seen in January and February. An anti-extravagance campaign introduced last year to stem corruption continues to impede spending significantly, said Standard Charter’s Mr. Li, although it is difficult to quantify the chill, which has impacted everything from tourism and designer handbags to restaurant outings and yachts.

Behind the numbers is growing weakness at Chinese companies and in the real-estate market. Wu Siqin, a native of Hulunbuir in China’s Inner Mongolia region, expects her income to hold steady this year “at best” given jitters in the local economy, as the private construction company where she works struggles to make a profit. “The property market in second- and third-tier cities doesn’t look promising at all,” said Ms. Wu, 39 years old, referring to types of Chinese cities based on development.

While China’s current GDP growth levels would be the envy of most countries, they pale compared with decades of double-digit growth. Planners believe the world’s most-populous country needs high output levels to absorb legions of migrant workers and new graduates hunting for jobs.

At a meeting in October, Premier Li Keqiang said that China needs economic growth of at least 7.2% to ensure sufficient employment, according to the Worker’s Daily, a Beijing-based government newspaper. “The reason why we want to stabilize growth, in the final analysis, is to preserve jobs,” Mr. Li was quoted as saying.

–Liyan Qi, Richard Silk, Grace Zhu and William Kazer contributed to this article.

 

China defends its legitimate South China Sea rights

April 16, 2014

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China defends its legitimate South China Sea rights

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel manoeuvres to block a Philippine government supply ship with members of the media aboard at the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea

By Shen Dingli

China is now facing challenges to its maritime claims. The Philippines has just filed a lawsuit to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea against China over a dispute concerning its fishing rights in the South China Sea.

Manila considers itself to be solely entitled to all economic rights, including fishing rights, in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), per the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Since China drew the so-called “nine-dotted line” [nine-dash line]  in 1947, claiming part of the South China Sea as its own – including an area that is part of the Philippines’ EEZ – Manila has demanded that Beijing yield its economic claim in the overlapping area claimed by both countries.

But the Philippines is telling the world an incomplete story. Sure, it has the right to sue another country in the International Tribunal for its own reasons. However, Manila should be mindful that a country has the right not to ratify a certain international treaty, or to make a reservation when joining a particular treaty. For instance, the United States has joined but not ratified the UNCLOS. China has joined and ratified the UNCLOS, but with certain reservations.

While the economic rights in the aforementioned overlapping area are significant, there is a more fundamental issue here: the sovereignty of the islands and islets in that area. China rightfully owned these rocks centuries before the UNCLOS. This cannot be undone just because the UN convention addresses the fishing rights in the waters surrounding these rocks. The UNCLOS is a treaty that addresses the division and sharing of economic rights at sea, but not the issue of sovereignty at sea.

A review of the basic history is telling. In terms of sovereignty over those sea-based territories, successive Chinese governments have claimed various islands, islets, shoals, etc. in the South China Sea. During the Han dynasty, the Chinese government brought Hainan Island under its jurisdiction. In the Tang dynasty, Chinese control extended to the Nansha Islands (the Spratly Islands). Eight centuries ago, during the Yuan dynasty, Beijing sent some officials to conduct a survey at Huangyan Island (Scarborough Shoal). When the Chinese government claimed all rock features in the South China Sea area in 1947, it was met with virtually no counterclaim.

Moreover, until 1997, successive Philippine governments made it clear – through their constitutions – that the nation’s westernmost territory ended at Luzon Island. In fact, Scarborough Shoal, 130 nautical miles west of Luzon, was completely out of the Philippines’ constitution-defined territory until 1997. It was therefore never an area covered by its defense treaties with either Spain or the United States.

It was only in 1997, when Manila introduced its current constitution, that the Philippines began to claim all the islands within its EEZ. Yes, the 1982 UNCLOS gives the Philippines certain economic rights within this exclusive zone, but it doesn’t give it sovereignty over the Chinese islands and islets within that zone.

The Philippines has recently taken military action to occupy at least eight such islands – a serious infringement upon China’s sovereignty. In addition, in 1999, the Philippine Navy intentionally grounded its tank-landing ship at Ren’ai Jiao (Second Thomas Shoal), further encroaching on Chinese territory. Given such aggression, it should be China suing the Philippines and not the other way around. One is left wondering how a country that doesn’t respect the sovereignty of its neighbors can demand that other nations respect its own economic rights.

There are two categories of dispute at stake – sovereignty and economic rights – and China has strong claims on both. Until 1997, the Philippines accepted that it was not entitled to sovereignty over the Spratly Islands, but China has not accepted Manila’s EEZ without reservation. Manila cannot invade Chinese territory (and territorial waters) in the South China Sea while demanding that China yield its traditional economic rights to an international convention without reservation.

China has long proposed that both sides put aside their differences and co-develop in a fair manner. It has exercised significant self-restraint in dealing with the Philippines’ aggression and encroachment. Given this serious dispute, it is essential that both sides take meticulous care to communicate and ease the tension. But Manila has recently shown no interest in shelving differences. It has even employed gunships to arrest Chinese fishermen in the traditional Chinese fishing area. Facing such challenges, China has to respond resolutely to defend its legitimate rights.

 

Shen-Dingli-photo1Shen Dingli is a former adviser to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan on strategic planning. He is currently the Vice Dean of the Institute of International Affairs, Fudan University.

This article first appeared in http://www.themarknews.com

An article laying out the Philippino perspective will be posted on Friday 

Above: China says it has sovereignty over all inside the “Nine Dash Line” as seen here.

Map of South China Sea

China has claimed much of the South China Sea for itself —  claims that have upset many in the region, especially Vietnam and the Philippines. A huge wealth of untapped oil is believed to be below the sea here.

 

The chart below shows the area declared by China on 1 January 2014 as “an area under China’s jurisdiction.” China says “foreign fishing vessels” can only enter and work in this area with prior approval from China. Vietnam, the Philippines and others have said they will not comply with China’s law.

Opinion: China “rightfully owned” South China Sea islands centuries before the UNCLOS

April 16, 2014

By Shen Dingli
The Daily Star

China is now facing challenges to its maritime claims. The Philippines has just filed a lawsuit to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea against China over a dispute concerning its fishing rights in the South China Sea.

Manila considers itself to be solely entitled to all economic rights, including fishing rights, in its exclusive economic zone, per the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Since China drew the so-called “nine-dotted line” [nine-dash line] in 1947, claiming part of the South China Sea as its own – including an area that is part of the Philippines’ EEZ – Manila has demanded that Beijing yield its economic claim in the overlapping area claimed by both countries.

But the Philippines is telling the world an incomplete story. Sure, it has the right to sue another country in the International Tribunal for its own reasons. However, Manila should be mindful that a country has the right not to ratify a certain international treaty, or to make a reservation when joining a particular treaty. For instance, the United States has joined but not ratified the UNCLOS. China has joined and ratified the UNCLOS, but with certain reservations.

While the economic rights in the aforementioned overlapping area are significant, there is a more fundamental issue here: the sovereignty of the islands and islets in that area. China rightfully owned these rocks centuries before the UNCLOS. This cannot be undone just because the U.N. convention addresses the fishing rights in the waters surrounding these rocks. The UNCLOS treaty addresses the division and sharing of economic rights at sea but not the issue of sovereignty at sea.

Tang Dynasty and Yuan Dynasty

A review of the basic history is telling. In terms of sovereignty over those sea-based territories, successive Chinese governments have claimed various islands, islets, shoals and so on in the South China Sea. During the Han dynasty, the Chinese government brought Hainan Island under its jurisdiction. In the Tang dynasty, Chinese control extended to the Nansha Islands (the Spratly Islands). Eight centuries ago, during the Yuan dynasty, Beijing sent some officials to conduct a survey at Huangyan Island (Scarborough Shoal). When the Chinese government claimed all rock features in the South China Sea area in 1947, it was met with virtually no counterclaim.

Moreover, until 1997, successive Philippine governments made it clear – through their constitutions – that the nation’s westernmost territory ended at Luzon Island. In fact, Scarborough Shoal, 130 nautical miles west of Luzon, was completely out of the Philippines’ constitution-defined territory until 1997. It was therefore never an area covered by its defense treaties with either Spain or the United States.

It was only in 1997, when Manila introduced its current constitution, that the Philippines began to claim all the islands within its EEZ. Yes, the 1982 UNCLOS gives the Philippines certain economic rights within this exclusive zone, but it doesn’t give it sovereignty over the Chinese islands and islets within that zone.

The Philippines has recently taken military action to occupy at least eight such islands – a serious infringement upon China’s sovereignty. In addition, in 1999, the Philippine Navy intentionally grounded its tank-landing ship at Ren’ai Jiao (Second Thomas Shoal), further encroaching on Chinese territory. Given such aggression, it should be China suing the Philippines and not the other way around. One is left wondering how a country that doesn’t respect the sovereignty of its neighbors can demand that other nations respect its own economic rights.

There are two categories of dispute at stake – sovereignty and economic rights – and China has strong claims on both. Until 1997, the Philippines accepted that it was not entitled to sovereignty over the Spratly Islands, but China has not accepted Manila’s EEZ without reservation. Manila cannot invade Chinese territory (and territorial waters) in the South China Sea while demanding that China yield its traditional economic rights to an international convention without reservation.

China has long proposed that both sides put aside their differences and co-develop in a fair manner. It has exercised significant self-restraint in dealing with the Philippines’ aggression and encroachment. Given this serious dispute, it is essential that both sides take meticulous care to communicate and ease the tension. But Manila has recently shown no interest in shelving differences. It has even employed gunships to arrest Chinese fishermen in the traditional Chinese fishing area. Facing such challenges, China has to respond resolutely to defend its legitimate rights.

Shen Dingli is a former adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on strategic planning. He is currently the vice dean of the Institute of International Affairs, Fudan University, in Shanghai. This commentary originally appeared at The Mark News (www.themarknews.com).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 16, 2014, on page 7.

The opinions expressed are the authors alone.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Commentary/2014/Apr-16/253459-asias-maritime-disputes-impose-more-cooperation.ashx#ixzz2z1lNKZqa
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

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The 1735 map of China made by French cartographer Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville
olicyIn this photo taken March 29, 2014, an aerial view shows a Philippines Navy vessel that has been grounded since 1999 to assert the nations sovereignty over the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef also claimed by China//AFP

In this photo taken March 29, 2014, an aerial view shows a Philippines Navy vessel BRP Sierra Madre that has been grounded since 1999 to assert the nations sovereignty over the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef also claimed by China.  AFP

China views the South China Sea and East China Sea as vital areas with “must have” resources. And China also wants to control the maritime domain to protect the free movement of what it needs from the sea — even in a crisis or war.

Above: China says it has sovereignty over all inside the “Nine Dash Line” as seen here.

Map of South China Sea

China has claimed much of the South China Sea for itself —  claims that have upset many in the region, especially Vietnam and the Philippines. A huge wealth of untapped oil is believed to be below the sea here.

 

The chart below shows the area declared by China on 1 January 2014 as “an area under China’s jurisdiction.” China says “foreign fishing vessels” can only enter and work in this area with prior approval from China. Vietnam, the Philippines and others have said they will not comply with China’s law.

China: A tsunami of disgruntled, document-wielding petitioners mobs government anti-corruption investigators

April 15, 2014

Hundreds of disgruntled citizens flock to exclusive 602-room hotel in central China after finding out that an elite team of anti-corruption investigators from Beijing was staying there

The team is reportedly staying at the hotel, in the city of Zhengzhou, as part of a two-month “inspection” mission that is part of president Xi Jinping’s (pictured) high-profile war on corruption

The team is reportedly staying at the hotel, in the city of Zhengzhou, as part of a two-month “inspection” mission that is part of president Xi Jinping’s (pictured) high-profile war on corruption Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Hundreds of Chinese petitioners have ‘flooded’ a luxury hotel where Chairman Mao once stayed after discovering it was playing host to a team of elite anti-corruption investigators.

Large groups of petitioners began travelling to the Yellow River Guesthouse in Henan province late last month after it was revealed that members of the Communist Party’s feared Central Commission for Discipline Inspection had checked in.

The team is reportedly staying at the hotel, in the city of Zhengzhou, as part of a two-month “inspection” mission that is part of president Xi Jinping’s high-profile war on corruption.

“We hope the inspection team can help us,” said Jiang Xiaocai, a 43-year-old petitioner who had made a 60-mile journey to the Guesthouse on Monday in search of justice.

“Our hopes are faint but they are still hopes, otherwise we wouldn’t have come down here,” added Mr Jiang, who was looking for Beijing’s help in settling a long-running legal battle with a state-owned electricity company.

Members of China’s corruption-busting unit checked into the 602-room, 1008-bed Yellow River Guesthouse on March 28, according to a report in the Economic Observer newspaper.

The hotel – which boasts indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a swimming pool and an 800-seat auditorium – appears to have been a comfortable choice.

As well as Chairman Mao, who stayed here in 1964, previous guests include, Li Keqiang, the prime minister, Xi Jinping, the president, and Zhou Yongkang, China’s once-powerful security tsar who is himself now rumoured to be at the centre of a major corruption investigation.

The hotel’s English menu features treats including “Fried Ecological Yellow River carp in Brown Sauce”, “Blueberry Okra”, “Fragrant Sauced Turnip Peel” and even a dish called “The Jane Fungus Buddha Jumps over the Wall.”

Its motto is: “The customer comes first. Service comes from the heart.”

However, any privacy Beijing’s sleuths might have hoped for evaporated within 48 hours of arrival when The Dahe Daily, a local newspaper, announced the investigators presence in Zhengzhou. Within hours their precise location was public knowledge.

The revelation opened the floodgates to a tsunami of disgruntled, document-wielding petitioners. Sensing a rare opportunity to alert Beijng to their problems, they flocked to the hotel from far and wide.

Jiang Xiaocai, a petitioner from Jiaozuo, a city around 60 miles away, told The Telegraph he had seen “hundreds of people” at the hotel’s west gate on Monday afternoon.

Many were seeking to highlight abuses committed by the local police, said Mr Jiang who came with a group of more than 40 other petitioners from his hometown.

Petitioners are not the only ones who have been racing to the Yellow River Guesthouse.

Fearful that Beijing might get wind of their misdemeanors, local Communist Party leaders dispatched more than 200 officials and security guards there to prevent petitioners making contact with the investigators.

Nervous officials from at least five different regions had deployed “round-the-clock teams” outside the hotel, the state-run Global Times reported.

A reporter from the Economic Observer counted at least 110 officials staking out the hotel last week. They were later joined by 100 security guards who attempted seal the hotel off from troublesome petitioners.

Guarding the Yellow River Guesthouse from petitioners has proved a tedious task for those officials.

By day they can seen squatting beside its perimeter walls struggling to entertain themselves with smart-phones and cigarettes as they wait for new petitioners to arrive, the Economic Observer reported.

Some play chess while others have taken to embroidery. One official was spotted getting to grips with “Principles of Economics” by Nicholas Gregory Mankiw, the Harvard University economist.

On Monday, authorities attempted to dissuade petitioners from joining the siege of the Yellow River Guesthouse.

“It’s no use coming to the hotel,” one anti-corruption official told the Global Times.

 

 

Why China should follow international law in the South China Sea

April 15, 2014

By Ziad Haider
Foreign Policy

In this photo taken March 29, 2014, an aerial view shows a Philippines Navy vessel that has been grounded since 1999 to assert the nations sovereignty over the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef also claimed by China//AFP

In this photo taken March 29, 2014, an aerial view shows a Philippines Navy vessel BRP Sierra Madre that has been grounded since 1999 to assert the nations sovereignty over the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef also claimed by China.  AFP

Tensions continue to roil Asia’s waters, but they are now also finding their way into international arbitration. The perilous churn in the South China Sea, dubbed “Asia’s Cauldron” by one leading strategic analyst, stems from the overlapping claims of six states – Brunei, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam – over a body of water vital to global trade, which contains energy resources and abundant fish stock in its vast depths.

Negotiations over a maritime Code of Conduct to stabilise interactions in the South China Sea have been outpaced by the jockeying of ships between China and the Philippines. In the wake of a dangerous and asymmetric two-month stand-off over the disputed Scarborough Shoal beginning in April 2012, Manila has rightly sought recourse in international law to manage the dispute through arbitration. For the sake of regional stability and its own interests, Beijing should follow suit.

The legal wrangling started in January 2013, when the Philippines notified China of its intent to bring a challenge under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an international treaty governing the rights and responsibilities of states in their use of the oceans and seas. (Both China and the Philippines are parties to UNCLOS, while the United States has yet to ratify it.) The Philippines argued then that China’s so-called nine-dash line, which encompasses virtually the entire South China Sea, was unlawful and contrary to UNCLOS.

China’s response was to reject the Philippines’ notification letter altogether, noting Beijing had opted out of UNCLOS procedures for settling disputes that involve sovereignty claims or maritime boundaries.

Beijing must now take a clear and hard look at the merits of abstaining any further. While it may have a legal basis to abstain, acting on it could be strategically short-sighted. Given Beijing’s assertions that its nine-dash line is grounded in international law, a greater show of confidence would be to defend its position before a neutral tribunal.

Beijing will have the chance, if it chooses. Despite China’s protestations, a five-member Arbitral Tribunal was assembled to hear the Philippines’ claims; on March 30, the Philippines announced that it had filed its brief, here called a Memorial, elaborating its challenge. (Intriguingly, Beijing may have asked Manila to delay filing its Memorial in exchange for a mutual withdrawal of ships from the contested Scarborough Shoal.)

China’s willingness to abide by international norms would not only telegraph confidence, but could help offset the growing anxiety generated by its military modernisation and manoeuvrings among neighbours who fear the Beijing doctrine may be veering toward realpolitik. For its part, the United States has expressed its support for the Philippines’ submission. President Barack Obama’s visit to the Philippines in late April will provide an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of such a rules-based approach to managing the dispute. Yet that largely depends on how Beijing responds.

To be sure, nationalist public sentiment stoked by Beijing may have painted China into a corner. Hours after the Philippine Foreign Secretary announced the Memorial’s submission on March 30, the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded that it did not accept the Philippines’ submission of the dispute for arbitration and called on the Philippines to return to bilateral talks. With its Foreign Minister stating that China will never accede to “unreasonable demands from smaller countries” in the South China Sea, its Defence Minister stating that China will make “no compromise, no concessions”, and official media outlets wading in with criticism of the Philippines’ “unilateral” actions in filing its Memorial, it will be that much harder to backtrack. Yet submitting to an international tribunal is by no means beyond the pale for Beijing. China regularly engages in the WTO dispute settlement system and has a relatively strong compliance record in the face of adverse rulings, largely due to the reputational costs of non-compliance.

Arbitrating the South China Sea dispute is assuredly more fraught than commercial disputes, grating as it does on China’s rawest nerve: territorial sovereignty. That is why it must be complemented by all claimant states exploring the equivalent of an amicable settlement: shelving questions of who owns what and focusing on joint development of resources for which compelling precedent exists. For now, however, Manila’s lawyers have staked out important legal ground in the South China Sea. Beijing should consider meeting them there.

Ziad Haider is Asia director of Washington-based think-tank the Truman National Security Project.

Ukraine: Insurgents Dig In; Ukraine Tanks Reported on The Move

April 15, 2014

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T-72 tank

Associated Press

Pro-Russian insurgents who have seized government buildings across eastern Ukraine dug in on Tuesday, fortifying their positions and erecting fresh barricades as Ukrainian tanks were seen within 70 kms of one city controlled by pro-Moscow gunmen.

Roads into Slovyansk, a city some 160 kilometers (100 miles) east of Russia that has come under ever more secure control of the gunmen since Saturday, were dotted with checkpoints. One at the entrance into town was waving a Russian flag. Another bore a sign reading “If we don’t do it, nobody will.”

Despite mounting fears of an imminent assault by Ukrainian government troops, the town appeared calm at midday.

In Kiev, Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, announced an “anti-terrorist operation” to root out the “separatists,” but it was unclear how that measure differed from the one announced Monday, which resulted in no visible action.

The insurgents, many of them armed, continued occupying government, police and other administrative buildings in nearly nine cities in the country’s Russian-speaking east of the country, demanding broader autonomy and closer ties with Russia. The central government has so far been unable to rein in the insurgents, as many of the local security forces have switched to their side.

The unrest comes after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula last month following the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president at the end of three months of pro-Western protests.

The city of Horlivka, not far from the Russian border, where the local police station was seized by unidentified gunmen on Monday, has been turned into the latest of a wave of sit-ins across eastern Ukraine, where at least nine cities appeared in control of the insurgents.

Outside the police station, a sign pinned to the wall of tires listed items required by protesters, including blankets, drinking water and tape to cover up windows smashed during the storming of the building.

Anatoly Zhurov, a 53-year old Horlivka resident participating in the defense of the site, said their goal was to resist the government in Kiev.

The Interior Ministry’s branch in the Donetsk region said on Tuesday that the police station in Kramatorsk that was seized by pro-Russian gunmen has been “liberated” while the nearby small airport is still controlled by the militia.

Turchynov, speaking to parliament, gave few details of the “anti-terrorist operation,” saying only that it would be conducted in a “responsible and balanced” manner.

“The plans of the Russian Federation were and remain brutal. They want not only for Donbass (Donetsk region), but for the whole south and east of Ukraine to be engulfed by fire,” Turchynov said. The aim of the operation is to “defend the citizens of Ukraine, to stop terror, stop crime and stop attempts to tear our country into pieces,” he said.

Russia strongly warned Kiev against using force against the pro-Russian protesters, saying Moscow could walk out of an international conference devoted to the Ukrainian crisis scheduled for Thursday.

“You can’t send in tanks and at the same time hold talks and the use force would sabotage the opportunity offered by the four-party negotiations in Geneva,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference Tuesday after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. “One cannot issue invitations to talks while at the same time issuing criminal orders for the use of armed force against the people there.”

In a sign the economic situation is becoming ever more difficult, Ukraine’s central bank increased its benchmark interest rate by a whopping 7 percent to 14.5 percent.

The move aims to contain the risk of inflation by supporting the currency, which has been falling to record lows in recent days. A dropping currency fuels inflation by boosting the cost of imports.

However, hiking interest rates can cause collateral damage to the economy by making loans and mortgages more expensive to residents and businesses.

Ukraine has relied on cheap gas supplies from Russia for years. Moscow raised the gas prices for Kiev in the past weeks, leaving Ukraine scrambling to pay the mounting gas bills as well as multi-billion arrears.

In the wake of Moscow’s threats to cut off the supplies, German utility company RWE AG said on Tuesday that it has started supplying gas to Ukraine via Poland began Tuesday could sell it up to 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year. Ukraine consumes between 52 and 55 billion cubic meters of gas a year.

In Kiev, two pro-Russian politicians were attacked by pro-Western activists as tensions mounted over unrest in the east.

Oleh Tsaryov, a pro-Russian lawmaker and a candidate in the May 25 presidential elections, was beaten by dozens of enraged activists in the early hours of Tuesday as he was leaving a television studio. The activists pelted him with eggs, shouted insults and then assaulted him.

Tsaryov’s press service said in a statement that he was “brutally beaten.”

Another Russian-leaning politician and presidential hopeful, Mikhaylo Dobkin, was sprayed with a green disinfectant and had flour thrown at him late Monday.

Moscow accused Kiev authorities of condoning such radicalism and said the attacks proved that presidential elections will not be fair or democratic.

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Peter Leonard in Donetsk, Maria Danilova and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Kiev, and Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.

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Photos From:

Maidan self-defence activists guard the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev during a session on Tuesday

 

Maidan self-defence activists stop the protesters trying to make their way into the parliament during the protesters' rally

 

Pro-Russian activists meanwhile guard a barricade outside the regional police building they seized in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk

 

'Left of their own accord': This photo taken on Saturday shows the armed men who were occupying the police headquarters in Kramatorsk

 

Gun battle: The pro-Russian militias, some of whom were suspected Russian soldiers, had taken control of the building after a fierce firefight

Putin's work? The sudden withdrawal comes after U.S. President Barack Obama urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to use his influence to cool tensions in Ukraine

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2604496/Little-sign-progress-Obama-Putin-speak.html#ixzz2yxbdjOVM
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China’s New National Security Commission: President Xi Jinping seeks coordinated approach to domestic and foreign challenges

April 15, 2014

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China's President Xi Jinping speaks at the College of Europe at the Concert Hall in Bruges, northern Belgium April 1, 2014. REUTERS/Yves Logghe/Pool

China’s President Xi Jinping speaks at the College of Europe at the Concert Hall in Bruges, northern Belgium April 1, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/Yves Logghe/Pool

(Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping held the first meeting of a new national security commission on Tuesday, saying China needed a coordinated approach to domestic and foreign challenges, including social unrest, in “the most complex time in history”.

China announced the formation of the commission in November at the end of a key party meeting to map out reforms.

Experts say it is based on the National Security Council in the United States and will increase coordination among the various wings of China’s security bureaucracy, split now among the police, military, intelligence and diplomatic services.

Possible international flashpoints for China include Japan, North Korea and the South China Sea. China says it also faces considerable threats at home, pointing to continued unrest in two regions heavily populated by ethnic minorities which chafe at Chinese rule – Tibet and Xinjiang.

Xi told the commission’s first meeting that China faced the “most complex time in history” at home and abroad when it came to its security, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

China must “implement and put into practice an overall national security view, paying attention to external as well as internal security”, Xi was cited as saying.

While Xi listed areas ranging from economic to nuclear security, he also said the commission had to “take political security as its base” and “seek stability”, references to protecting the ruling Communist Party’s hold on power and dealing with domestic unrest.

“Security is the condition for development. We can only make the country rich by building up military power, and only with military power can we protect the country,” Xi said.

The report did not mention any specific topics that were discussed.

On Monday, Xi urged the air force to adopt an integrated air and space defense capability, in what state media called a response to the increasing military use of space by the United States and others.

While Beijing insists its space program is for peaceful purposes, a Pentagon report last year highlighted China’s increasing space capability and said Beijing was pursuing a variety of activities aimed at preventing its adversaries from using space-based assets during a crisis.

Fears of a space arms race with the United States and other powers mounted after China blew up one of its own weather satellites with a ground-based missile in January 2007.

Visiting air force headquarters in Beijing, Xi, who is also head of the military, told officers “to speed up air and space integration and sharpen their offensive and defensive capabilities”, Xinhua said.

It gave no details of how China expects to do this.

China has been increasingly ambitious in developing its space programs for military, commercial and scientific purposes. Xi has said he wanted China to establish itself as a space superpower.

But it is still playing catch-up to established space superpowers the United States and Russia. China’s Jade Rabbit moon rover has been beset by technical difficulties since landing to great domestic fanfare in mid-December.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Related:

Chinese soldiers take part in an exercise in Heihe, northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, April 9, 2014 (AFP Photo/)

Photo: Chinese people wear face masks with “No to Kunming PX,” paraxylene, written on signs and  chant slogans as they hold a protest against a planned refinery project in downtown Kunming in southwest China’s Yunnan province Saturday, May 4, 2013. After word spread about an environmental protest that was planned for Saturday in the central Chinese city of Chengdu, drugstores and printing shops were ordered to report anyone making certain purchases. Microbloggers say government fliers urged people not to demonstrate, and schools were told to stay open to keep students on campus. Meanwhile, hundreds of people – many wearing mouth masks – gathered in Kunming to protest a planned refinery project in the area. The demonstrators demanded information transparency and that public health be safeguarded. (AP Photo)

Demonstrators set trash bins on fire as they protest against a chemical plant project in Maoming

Demonstrators set trash bins on fire as they protest against a chemical plant project in Maoming Photo: Reuters
Chinese soldiers watch Muslim Uighur women in Xinjiang

China, Human Rights, Tibet and Nepal

April 15, 2014

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The Editorial Board
The New York Times

Human Rights Watch report released this month shows how far Nepal has gone in capitulating to Chinese pressure in cracking down on Tibetan residents and refugees. It details a long list of shameful actions against Tibetans in Nepal, including restrictions on their activities and movements, surveillance and intimidation, arbitrary detention and forcible return to China.

In effect, Nepal has turned itself into a partner of China’s anti-Tibetan policies.

Nepal has long been a way station for Tibetans fleeing China. Many continue on to India, where the Dalai Lama lives and where they can obtain refugee status. Still, some 20,000 Tibetans live in Nepal. Most were born there, yet the government of Nepal refuses, according to Human Rights Watch, to issue at least half of them official identification.

Even those Tibetans who arrived before a 1989 rapprochement with China have no right to own property, or to gain official employment or access to higher education.

Tibetans in Nepal know that wherever they gather to socialize or worship, they are likely to be spied on by Nepalese security forces who make no secret of their close links with Chinese authorities. Nongovernmental organizations that seek to monitor the situation or are engaged in humanitarian work with Tibetans in Nepal are also under surveillance and have been accused of disloyalty.

In February, Nepal’s Parliament elected the longtime democracy activist Sushil Koirala prime minister. Nepal’s Constituent Assembly is tasked with drafting a new constitution before February 2015. Nepal now has a fresh opportunity to reform its unjust policies toward Tibetan residents and refugees. But this will not be easy.

Aware of Nepal’s urgent economic needs, China has invited Mr. Koirala to attend the China-South Asia Exposition in Kunming, China, in June and pledged to increase tourism to Nepal, a poor country heavily dependent on Chinese help and investment. The Nepalese press reports that China has also offered lawmakers financial assistance in drafting the new constitution.

The government of Nepal has every right to seek positive trade and diplomatic relations with China. But it must stop allowing China to dictate policy regarding Tibetans in Nepal.

Mr. Koirala and Nepal’s Constituent Assembly should move quickly to guarantee resident Tibetans legal status that respects their basic rights, and to treat Tibetan refugees in accordance with Nepalese and international law. Without these steps, Nepal’s struggle to achieve lasting democratic governance will remain woefully incomplete.


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