Posts Tagged ‘China’

South China Sea: China’s ‘Large Scale’ Reclamation in Disputed Islands Will Forever Change China’s Strategic Regional Presence and Defense

February 26, 2015

China is projecting military power into Southeast Asia

BEIJING Thu Feb 26, 2015 8:13am EST

(Reuters) – China is conducting “large scale” land reclamation and construction on a reef in the disputed Spratly Islands, state-backed media reported on Thursday, in an unusual acknowledgement of its controversial work in the region.

Citing satellite images, the semi-official China Military Online said China had officially begun reclamation work on Cuarteron Reef, which is also claimed by the Philippines.

Chinese troops also conducted drills on the reef this month, the online publication said.

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.

Filipinos march in an anti-China demonstration in Manila, June 12, 2104. Credit: Reuters/Erik De Castro

All but Brunei have fortified bases in the Spratlys, which lie roughly 1,300 km (810 miles) from the Chinese mainland but much closer to the Southeast Asian claimants.

Satellite photographs have shown that Chinese reclamation work is advanced on six reefs in the Spratly archipelago.

Workers are building ports and fuel storage depots as well as possibly two airstrips as China works to project its military power into Southeast Asia.

China has rejected diplomatic protests by the Philippines and Vietnam and criticism from the United States over its reclamation on the reefs, saying it falls “within the scope of China’s sovereignty”.

(Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Now, Fiery Cross Reef has been transformed into an artificial island at least 3,000 yards long that experts say is big enough to include an airstrip and could become a Chinese command and control center for military operations in the area. Seen here in November.
Fiery Cross Reef has been transformed into an artificial island at least 3,000 yards long that experts say is big enough to include an airstrip and could become a Chinese command and control center for military operations in the area. Seen here in November. IHS Jane’s

Photographs show China building on disputed South China Sea islands using reclamation to enlarge islands for ports and airstrips

Above: A before and after picture of China’s reclamation work on one islet in the South China Sea. Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines claim many of the islands now claimed by China. The United States has called on China to stop the land reclamation project that could be large enough to accommodate an airstrip. Beijing has called those remarks “irresponsible”, signaling that it would firmly reject proposals by any country to freeze any activity that may raise tension.


China rejects judicial independence, democracy, human rights and “Western values” as “erroneous thoughts” — Leaders at rights groups “disappear”

February 26, 2015

Blow for hopes of reform as country’s most senior judge, Zhou Qiang, urges Community party to resist ‘mistaken viewpoints’ including separation of powers — “Western values pose a threat to the Communist Party of China”


Xi Jinping on a billboard. The Chinese president has emerged as a conservative rather than a reformer on state control.

 Xi Jinping on a billboard. The Chinese president has emerged as a conservative rather than a reformer on state control. Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty

China’s top court has urged officials from the ruling Communist party to shun western-style judicial independence and reject “erroneous western thought”, state media has said, as controls over the media, dissent and the internet are tightened.

The comments by China’s supreme court constitute Beijing’s latest attack on western ideology and are another sign of President Xi Jinping’s conservative political agenda.

The party has signalled it will not embark on political reform despite hopes that Xi, the son of a former liberal-minded vice-premier, might relax tight central controls.

A meeting of the supreme court’s party committee on Wednesday said China would draw boundaries with the west’s notion of “judicial independence” and “separation of powers”, the state-run China News Service said.

“Resolutely resist the influence of the west’s erroneous thought and mistaken viewpoints,” it said on its website, citing the meeting.

China’s top judge, Zhou Qiang, “stressed the need to unswervingly take the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics”, it said, reiterating Beijing’s stance that it is the best way to govern the world’s most populous nation.

The party has long railed against western values, including concepts like multi-party democracy and universal human rights.

Hong Kong police use pepper spray on pro-democracy and human rights activists on November 30, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Tyrone Siu

The tenor has become more shrill under Xi, who has urged more “ideological guidance” at universities as well as the study of Marxism. The minister of education said in January that China must keep educational materials that promote “western values” out of its classrooms.

Last year the party pledged to speed up legislation to fight corruption and make it tougher for officials to exert control over the judiciary, even as it stressed full control over the courts.

Xi has espoused old school Maoism as he seeks to court powerful conservative elements in the party. Like many officials before him Xi is steeped in the party’s long-held belief that loosening control too quickly, or even at all, could lead to chaos and the break-up of the country..


South China Sea: Can The Philippines And Vietnam Forge a Meaningful Strategic Partnership?

February 26, 2015


Photo: Chinese fishing fleet in the South China Sea

By Julio S. Amador III and Jeremie P. Credo

Enjoying steady bilateral relations since diplomatic ties were established after the Vietnam War in 1976, the Philippines and Vietnam are now engaging in high-level dialogues to try to establish a strategic partnership.

In May of 2014, President Benigno S. Aquino III and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan expressed an aspiration toward establishing a strategic partnership between the two countries. In November, at the sidelines of the 2014 22nd APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Beijing, China, President Aquino and Vietnam’s President Truong Tan Sang agreed to convene a Joint Working Committee to start discussions on the roadmap towards this partnership.

The China Factor?

The idea of a strategic partnership became stronger during the oil rig row between Vietnam and China. In June 2014, China’s National Petroleum Corporation deployed a giant oil rig near the Paracel Islands, in the waters claimed by Vietnam as part of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This unilateral action by China led to a confrontation between Chinese and Vietnamese government vessels, as well as violent anti-China riots in Vietnam that forced thousands of Chinese to flee the country. Adding fuel to the clash was the arrest of six Vietnamese fishermen by Chinese naval ships in disputed waters. These standoffs led to a diplomatic rift between the two states.

Vietnam, the Philippines and other nations have objected to China’s almost constant armed presence among the contested islands in the South China Sea. Here, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel near a drilling rig that China installed in disputed waters near Vietnam in May 2014. Credit Reuters 

The Philippines is the only claimant state in the SCS to have filed an arbitration case against China’s historic claims. In support of this move to promote a rules-based approach in solving maritime disputes, Vietnam submitted its position on this arbitration case to the international tribunal last December 2014. The changing geopolitical context has facilitated the convergence of interests of the Philippines and Vietnam, paving the way for establishing a strategic partnership.

Vietnam’s current hard and soft power policy options

In dealing with regional flashpoints, Vietnam has used both hard and soft power approaches. It has strengthened its military and non-military presence in the disputed waters. This is evident in the establishment of permanent military garrisons, installation of medical facilities and equipment in Cam Ranh Bay – which is the closest and largest port to the Spratlys to the South and is located within the range of the Paracels – and deployment of troops and civilians in land features it claims. Recently, it has purchased Kilo-class submarines from Russia to modernize its naval capabilities.

Philippine warship BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF 15)

Vietnam recognizes that solely relying on military force is not enough to deter China. It has chosen to be diplomatically proactive, internationalizing the issue to gain the support of other countries. Elevating and strengthening bilateral relations to strategic partnerships is a move that Vietnam has also been exploring. In addition, it has actively participated in fora such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the East Asia Summit (EAS), meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the United Nations (UN) to raise awareness on concerns in the South China Sea.

Building the Philippines-Vietnam strategic partnership

The term strategic partnership is oftentimes a misunderstood concept as it is equated to a security-oriented agreement between two states, directed at certain parties or states. It is, in fact, an elevation of bilateral exchanges that creates room for bilateral strategic dialogue mechanisms that are conducted in the ministerial-level. It is comprehensive and includes economic, functional and socio-cultural cooperation.

Chinese maritime law enforcement officers stop and search a fishing boat in the South China Sea

With the Philippines’ and Vietnam’s increasingly converging interests, initial discussions on the strategic partnership started a month after the foreign ministers announced the forging of a stronger relationship between the two countries. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh and Foreign Affairs Secretary del Rosario co-chaired the Joint Commission on concluding a strategic partnership held last 29 to 30 January 2015. The two parties came up with a working draft on the joint statement for the strategic partnership on the basis of amity, equality, mutual respect and cooperation.

The beginning of 2015, thus, marks a promising future for the Philippines and Vietnam. The two countries’ bilateral relations will certainly grow in areas such as political, trade and investment, fisheries, marine and oceanic affairs, as well as defense and security, among others.

Photo: The Shadow of China looms large over dozens of islands in the East China Sea and South China Sea

What is the Philippines looking for in a strategic partner?

When asked why the Philippines decided to make Vietnam a strategic partner, Secretary del Rosario stated that “just like the US and Japan, there is a special bond between the Philippines and Vietnam.” Before a strategic partnership is established, parties must have a mutual agreement based on and consistent with common values and goals. Vietnam is a potentially viable partner not only because of mutual economic benefits that can be gained, but also because Vietnam recognizes the importance of upholding ASEAN’s centrality and unity in an evolving regional architecture. The Philippines, however, is committed to values such as democracy, human rights, and good governance, all of which may not sit well with Vietnam.

Vietnamese warships visiting Manila, November 24, 2014

On regional issues, Vietnam also promotes maritime cooperation, asserting a rules-based approach in preserving regional stability and security. The Philippines and Vietnam have a shared commitment to maintain peace in the region, ensuring that people across Southeast Asia will live in harmony and prosperity, through peaceful resolution of disputes. Most importantly, they are committed to continue both bilateral and multilateral cooperation towards the creation of an ASEAN Community. It is equally essential that strategic partners engage in collaborative activities – culturally, economically, and politically, as well as in sharing of information and expertise, turning weaknesses into strengths.

What is in store for the future strategic partnership?

Given the commonality of issues they face and commitments they share, both countries are strong advocates of security and stability in the region especially, when instruments or mechanisms relating to the promotion of maritime conflict-prevention are becoming ineffective in the face of China’s unilateral actions. Thus, there is an urgent need for ASEAN to finalize a legally-binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea with China.

There will be more collaboration between the Philippines and Vietnam as they elevate their relations to strategic partnership. These include strengthened cooperation in the areas of agriculture, search and rescue operations, marine environment protection, and oil spill preparedness. Addressing regional issues will be a strong component of the deepening ties and, as such, there will be closer cooperation in military and maritime matters. The focus on political, defense and security cooperation, however, will certainly not be their only and primary objective. The overarching goal of a strategic partnership is to improve the overall relations between the two states and the living conditions of their populace.

The elevation of bilateral relations also means greater responsibility for both the Philippines and Vietnam. Both states must collaborate on the planning and implementation of the strategic partnership agreement, because there is convergence of interests in many areas. There is, however, a very important challenge before the ties between the two states are further elevated.

The Philippines’ basis for strategic partners is not merely convergent positions on strategic issues but also on shared values and principles, which means a strategic partnership cannot be agreed upon on the basis of expediency. Vietnam and the Philippines need to further thresh this issue out or the proposed strategic partnership will be shallow and cannot be implemented when the diplomatic winds change.

*About the authors:
Julio S. Amador III is the Deputy Director-General of the Foreign Service Institute. Mr. Amador may be reached at

Jeremie P. Credo is a Foreign Affairs Research Specialist with the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies of the Foreign Service Institute. Ms. Credo can be reached at

This article was published by FSI as CIRSS Commentaries – Vol. 1, No. 13 (February 2015)


China urged to uphold religious freedom, human rights in new year

February 26, 2015

Government crackdowns on believers won’t bring the stability officials crave


By all accounts, the past year in China was a punishing one for freedom of religion or belief.

In the name of fighting terrorism, officials increased their persecution of the Uighur Muslim community in the autonomous region of Xinjiang. In the name of fighting cults, they continued their assault on Falun Gong, unregistered Christian organizations, Buddhist groups and others. These examples of flagrant violations of religious freedom and fundamental human rights stand in sharp contrast to China’s preferred narrative of a modern, forward-looking superpower. Instead it reveals a one-party dictatorship fearful of diversity and hostile to freedom and faith.

A church member prays at Jiu’en Tang, a Christian church in Wenzhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province. By Didi Tank for CSM

Late last year, a Chinese court sentenced Ilham Tohti, a respected Uighur Muslim scholar, to life in prison for separatism. Known for peacefully advocating Uighur rights, Tohti was an economics professor in Beijing until his arrest in January of last year. Prior to this draconian sentence, China restricted Uighur rights to fast and carry out other religious observances during the month of Ramadan. This assault on religious freedom follows years of Chinese authorities’ raiding schools, seizing literature, shuttering religious sites, clamping down on the study of the Quran, monitoring imams’ sermons, restricting Muslim dress and religious expression and banning children from mosques.


China has also trained its sights on so-called cults, an arbitrary term that potentially includes any group operating outside the government’s orbit of strict regulation and control. Government officials stepped up the anti-cult campaign after a woman was beaten to death last May by six members of a group called Almighty God. Days later, the government published a list of 20 cults, and Chinese media warned repeatedly about their evil dangers.

Heading the list was Falun Gong, which has been in Beijing’s crosshairs for more than 15 years. Near the end of last year, Wang Zhiwen, a Falun Gong practitioner, finished a 15-year prison sentence, during which he was tortured, and then he was detained in a brainwashing center. He has been stripped of all political rights for four years and has not been getting needed medical care. Falun Gong practitioners Li Chang, Yu Changxin and Ji Liewu remain imprisoned. Over the years, human rights groups have reported deaths in custody, the use of psychiatric experiments and the harvesting of organs of Falun Gong members.

Targeting peaceful religious communities deeply undermines the legitimacy of the state in the eyes of all its citizens.

China’s anti-cult campaign also threatens unregistered, or underground, Christian churches. An article last year in a government newspaper warned that “underground churches and evil cults are spreading like mushrooms.” Even before this, China’s government issued a directive to “eradicate” unregistered Protestant churches over the next decade. Catholic and Protestant groups refusing to register have long faced arrests, fines and church closures. Pastor Yang Rongli has been serving a seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence since 2009 for leading the 50,000-member Linfen Church in Shaanxi Province.

A Chinese Catholic priest celebrates Mass in China

Such government hostility has gone beyond alleged cults. Starting in early 2014, Chinese Christians were faced with a new threat: assaults on registered churches. In Zhejiang province, the government targeted hundreds of churches, tearing down or removing crosses and even bulldozing a number of them, including Sanjiang Church, which had thousands of members. In Henan province, Pastor Zhang Shaojie of the Nanle County Christian Church was convicted on July 4 on groundless charges of fraud and gathering a crowd to disturb public order and was handed a 12-year prison sentence.

Besides Falun Gong and Christianity, Chinese anti-cult efforts also harass movements within Buddhism. Late last year, China arrested Wu Zeheng — also known as Zen master Shi Xingwu, a renowned leader with millions of followers worldwide — along with more than a dozen of his followers in China. They were charged under China’s anti-cult law barring people from forming or using “superstitious sects or … societies … to undermine the implementation of the laws and … rules and regulations of the state.” If convicted, each could serve from seven years to life in prison.

These actions are on top of China’s continued suppression of Tibetan Buddhism, which has been led to an alarming number of self-immolations. In recent years, more than 130 Buddhists, including monks and nuns, have set themselves ablaze.

China Authorities tear down a cross from a Protestant church in Hangzhou’s Dinqiao township December 2014. Photo from China Aid

Through its conduct, China is denying its people the internationally guaranteed right to believe or not believe according to conscience. Why? Perhaps its leaders fear that allegiance to organizations beyond the Chinese state threaten their control. For example, Ye Xiaowen, a former head of China’s Religious Affairs Bureau, voiced what many Chinese officials fear: that Christians’ role in bringing down communism in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s could be repeated in China.

But ironically, repression can exacerbate the extremism it aims to eradicate. Furthermore, targeting peaceful religious communities deeply undermines the legitimacy of the state in the eyes of all its citizens.

Above all else, the Chinese government seeks stability. It will find this an elusive goal as long as it continues to violate the basic rights of millions of its citizens.

Katrina Lantos Swett is the chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Robert P. George is a vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.



China: Catholic Bishop’s Body Not Given To Relatives More Than One Month After Death, With No Explanation

February 26, 2015

Family of Bishop Shi Enxiang, who spent more than half a century in detention for refusing to renounce Pope’s authority, told by a village official last month that he had died, aged 93


In a living room plastered with pious images, the Shi family flicked through timeworn pictures of a wizened man with tortoiseshell glasses and bright eyes, the oldest bishop of China’s underground Catholic church.

Almost a month ago, they were passed word that Bishop Shi Enxiang – who spent more than half a century in detention for refusing to renounce the authority of the Pope – had died, aged 93.

Since then, nothing: no official confirmation, no corpse, no ashes.

“All we want is to be able to bury him: they should give us the body out of human dignity,” said Shi Wanke, 66, the bishop’s nephew, in a calm, gravelly voice. Around him, his children nodded in agreement.

The family were first told at the end of last month that Shi Enxiang – whom they have not heard from since he disappeared during a trip to Beijing in 2001 – had died.

The village chief in Shizhuang, in the northern province of Hebei, “asked if we had received the body of my uncle”, Shi Wanke said. .

“We asked if he was alive. He said: ‘No, he’s dead. Apparently he’s dead.’ After that he came back twice to see if the body had arrived.”

Shi Enxiang, the former bishop of Yixian, in Hebei, was ordained in 1947, two years before the Communists came to power.

He spent 54 years in labour camps for refusing to disavow the Pope and cooperate with China’s state-sponsored church, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA).

Instead, he ministered in one of the hundreds of underground churches that have sprung up across China.

“He is a martyr and I hope that, one day, the life of our bishop will be recognised by the pope,” Shi Daxing, 33, a great-nephew of Shi Enxiang, said.

“We want to organise a big public ceremony for his funeral. Even if we are under pressure, we want to honour him, as a member of our family [and] as a prominent member of the church.”

The fates of Shi Enxiang and Bishop Su Zhimin, who was detained in 1997, have been a key sticking point in relations between the Vatican and Beijing.

The two have not had diplomatic ties since they were broken off by Mao Zedong in 1951, and have been embroiled in a long-running battle for control of China’s estimated 12 million Catholics.

Beijing bans adherents from recognising the Vatican’s authority, regarding the Holy See’s insistence on the right to appoint bishops as foreign interference in China’s domestic affairs.

President Xi Jinping and Pope Francis exchanged letters of congratulation on their respective elections in 2013, fuelling speculation that ties could be warming.

In December Francis ducked out of a meeting with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, which would have been sure to rile Beijing and jeopardise quiet behind-the-scenes contacts.

However, Xi has overseen a crackdown on independent Christian groups and Shi’s fate has drawn an angry response from Hong Kong, where Cardinal Joseph Zen, the city’s emeritus bishop, led protests and sent an open letter to the Chinese authorities denouncing forced disappearances.

Calls to the Baoding municipal government, which oversees Shizhuang, went unanswered.

A woman at the CPCA’s Baoding diocese said she had “heard he’s [Shi Enxiang] died”, but declined to give details.

District officials have told the family that the village head who gave them the news was a drunkard spreading “false information”, the Shi family said.

They have long faced a wall of silence from Chinese authorities.

Shi Daxing said that after Shi Enxiang’s disappearance in 2001, “we went to the county government, but they told us they didn’t know anything and we should ask Beijing. But in Beijing, they sent us back to the county.”

Inside the family home, between the bursts of firecrackers marking the Lunar New Year and the cries of children, Shi Enxiang’s relatives were left only with scraps of memories.

“He was a simple man,” recalled a grandmother.

“The last of five siblings, he never had much. He wore only the clothes they gave him, ate practically only vegetables and never complained, even if we had forgotten to give him chopsticks to eat.”


Australia’s Agribusiness Company Elders Extends Beef Operations to China, Vietnam

February 26, 2015


Agribusiness company Elders Limited is moving to capitalise on the growing global demand for food and fibre, by extending its beef operations to China and Vietnam, managing director Mark Allison said yesterday.

Speaking at an Agribusiness Association of Australia breakfast in Adelaide, Mr Allison said Elders is examining the development of feedlots in China and Vietnam.

If it decided to go ahead with the feedlots, an extension of its feedlotting and abattoir business in Indonesia, any development would be carried out in a prudent and moderate way to create value for shareholders, he said.

Mr Allison said the opportunities for Australian agribusiness were significant, but identified the lack of empathy among city people for the nation’s food producing sector as one of the key threats facing the industry.

This generation of city people no longer had a connection to the bush and the National Farmers Federation needed to increase its presence to help address the issue because it has brand awareness and represents all farmers, he said.

“The direct link between people coming to the city from the country has been broken and often people have no link to rural and regional Australia,” Mr Allison said.

“We need to rebuild the link in a way that is appropriate through telling positive stories about Australian agriculture.”

City people consume the information they are given and there maybe a role for the media to emphasise the importance of agriculture in the Australian economy compared to some other industries which don’t have a competitive advantage, he said.

Mr Allison said other challenges facing the agriculture sector include the ageing farmer profile because it was counter-intuitive to think that older farmers will be more likely to adopt new technology and be innovative.

“For the first time for a long-time, my sense is that rather than putting subsidies and industry support packages on industries that aren’t the heart and soul of Australia like agriculture, we should be looking at policies to help succession for younger farmers,” he said.

“We should be empathetic to the reality that this is an area where we do have a competitive advantage through proximity to Asia and others areas, but we need help to make it a more important industry for Australia.”

Mr Allison said the age profile of Australian farming should become a Federal Government policy issue and urged the development of a program to help make succession a little smoother from one generation to the next.

“There is a national good about having a smooth transition of young farmers taking over the family farm,” he said.

“In New Zealand they have a HECS-type system where you gradually pay it back, but it needs clever policy.”

Mr Allison also said there was a need to encourage foreign capital into the farming sector because Australian investors won’t invest in it because they are generally unwilling to take a strategic long-term view.

“The better approach is to ensure foreign capital does what we want it to do,” he said.

Businesses from Singapore, Thailand and China eager to Indonesia

February 26, 2015

Companies from Singapore, Thailand and China are seizing new business opportunities that have arisen from Indonesia’s large and burgeoning middle class, a United Overseas Bank (UOB) survey reveals.


The “UOB Asian Enterprise Survey 2014” finds that more than 90 million or 40 percent of Indonesia’s populations make up the country’s middle class, a large consumer base that is a major factor in attracting businesses from Singapore (26 percent), Thailand (25 percent) and China (21 percent) to Indonesia.


UOB Indonesia deputy chief executive officer of business, Iwan Satawidinata, said rising incomes, especially among this middle class, led to greater spending power, changing consumption patterns and higher expectations and these were all creating opportunities for Asian enterprises keen to expand into Indonesia.


“As incomes rise and urbanization continues apace, companies that offer products and services that meet the new needs of Indonesia’s middle class will be well positioned for sustainable growth. It is through seizing the opportunities that are now opening up in Indonesia that these Asian businesses are fueling their next phase of growth,” Satawidinata said in a release made available to The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.


Asian enterprises are keen to participate in building Indonesia’s infrastructure, says the survey, citing Indonesia’s domestic economy, which is supported by rising income levels and improved economic conditions.


UOB Group senior economist Ho Woei Chen, said Indonesia’s infrastructure boom had not gone unnoticed by its regional neighbors. Construction companies from Malaysia (50 percent), Singapore (40 percent), Thailand (33 percent) and Hong Kong (33 per cent) are most bullish about Indonesia’s infrastructure improvement plans, according to the survey.


“Construction spending to meet Indonesia’s infrastructural needs will also open up investment and business expansion opportunities for related industries such as the logistics, food and beverage, and hotel industries,” Ho said.


“To facilitate more foreign direct investment, government trade agencies are working across all ministries to reduce bureaucracy and to enhance Indonesia’s attractiveness as an investment destination.”


See more at:


Philippines Expels China Experts Amid South China Sea Concerns

February 26, 2015


Manila ends Chinese involvement in running its power grid citing security fears.

By Prashanth Parameswaran
The Diplomat

The Philippine government said earlier this week it would end Chinese technical involvement in the country’s power grid partly due to lingering security concerns.

On the night of February 23, Philippine media outlets had first reported that Philippine Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla had said that the government would not renew the work visas of 16 Chinese experts employed by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) when they expire in July 2015.

The Chinese state-owned firm State Grid Corporation of China has had a 40% stake in the NGCP, which runs the national power grid of the Philippines. But Petilla said the government now wanted only Filipinos working there.

Petilla openly acknowledged that concerns over the presence of the Chinese experts stemmed partly from the ongoing South China Sea disputes between the Philippines and China. Relations between the two countries have soured over the last few years largely due to conflicting claims there, and Manila has filed a case against Beijing with the arbitral tribunal at The Hague.

“Of course, this is an offshoot of the West Philippine Sea dispute,” Petilla said according to ABS-CBN News, using the Philippines’ preferred term for the South China Sea.

He also admitted that some officials in Philippine government agencies and bodies like the National Security Council were uncomfortable with NGCP having Chinese experts involved.

“NSA is wary that it [NGCP] is being run by Chinese nationals. So ang solusyon [the solution] is with finality, turn over everything to Filipinos,” he said in a mixture of Tagalog and English.

Interestingly, Petilla also reportedly wondered aloud why others did not have similar fears because the Chinese firm also has similar partial ownership in other countries like Australia.

“If we are paranoid about it, I am not sure why Australia and the others are not,” he said.

However, Petilla emphasized that while there would be no more Chinese nationals running NGCP, there would be two of them remaining in their capacity as board of directors. The Chinese stake in the NGCP would still remain because of the distinction made between the management and technical side and ownership.

He also said he did not anticipate any opposition to the decision because key officials of several government agencies and the NGCP had already taken part in a high-level meeting last year and had agreed on the outcome.

The announcement came a day after Philippine senator Miriam Santiago had warned about foreign involvement in NGCP – albeit without referring specifically to China.

“The Philippine Constitution is replete with requirements of nationalism but such a vital and strategic industry such as the electric power industry is infected by a national security virus,” Santiago said in a statement on February 22.


Hong Kong Democracy Advocates Address Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy

February 25, 2015


By Emily Tsang
The South China Morning Post

Lester Shum (left) and Alex Chow address the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

Student leaders behind the “umbrella movement” told a human rights summit in Geneva on Tuesday that the world must stay focused on the human rights situation in China and keep up the pressure on Beijing to allow more democracy in Hong Kong.

Federation of Students secretary general Alex Chow Yong-kang  and his deputy, Lester Shum,  also said they would not retreat or lose hope in the fight for genuine universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election.

The pair made the remarks at the annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy,  where they gave a presentation on the 79-day pro-democracy protests that garnered worldwide attention last year.

The summit is organised by a coalition of 20 non-governmental organisations from around the world ahead of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s main annual session, which starts next Monday.  It is intended to influence the discussions at the UN session, which are dominated by governments.

“Only through continuous attention and movement, we can pressure … for change in Hong Kong and China,” Shum said. “We have no right to withdraw hope. We have no space to retreat. We must stay hopeful.”

Chow listed the three most important tasks for Hongkongers right now as voting down the government proposal on political reform; uniting society; and cooperating with democracy movements in Taiwan, Macau, and elsewhere.

“We must take the regional approach as all these places are interrelated. Progress can only be made by cooperation,” Chow said. “Let’s care for one another. Our futures are tightly connected. A better world will come.”

Hong Kong police use pepper spray on pro-democracy protesters on November 30, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Tyrone Siu

He was referring to the government proposal based on Beijing’s ruling in August that the chief executive is to be chosen from just two or three candidates endorsed by most of a 1,200-strong nominating committee.

The pair were welcomed on stage as “young leaders” who played a key role in last year’s unprecedented mass protests, with the forum moderator adding that he “sees hope in this generation”.

Shum told the summit that Hongkongers had embraced Western ideologies – such as freedom, liberal democracy, equality, rule of law and justice – during British colonial rule.

But he said China saw these ideologies as a threat to its rule, and in order to gain control of Hong Kong it had broken its promise on democracy.

“Someone said there is no hope to win over China because it is too powerful and influential. But please do not stop the pressure … There is still hope for change,” Shum said.

They were the first Hongkongers to speak at the annual summit, which takes place every February in Switzerland.

Activists from around the world attended the one-day event to discuss human rights issues in their countries.


To ring in the year of the sheep, more Chinese travel abroad

February 25, 2015

Chinese New Year


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