The U.S., South Korea and Japan condemned North Korea’s plan to launch a long-range rocket that Pyongyang says is carrying an earth-observation satellite. Photo: Airbus Defense & Space and 38 North satellite imagery.
#Media: 10 Publishers Account For Half Of All Online News, MSN.com Scores Highest Traffic at Over 27 Billion Combined Page ViewsPosted: January 29, 2016
The biggest online news publisher for the U.S. audience was MSN, owner of MSN.com, with just over 27 billion combined page views across mobile and desktop, followed by Disney Media Networks, owner ofESPN and ABC News, with 25.9 billion….(read more)
Stanley Lubman writes: A trio of recent repressive actions by the Chinese party-state represents a disturbing three-pronged attack that treats legality as an unnecessary burden on governance over society, and illustrates how far China is willing to go to snuff out dissent.
The actions include the arrest of seven lawyers accused of “subversion” and four others charged with lesser offenses; the televised “confession” of a China-based Swedish citizen who worked for a rights NGO and has been charged with “endangering state security;” and the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers and publishers One reemerged on CCTV to confess to a prior crime years earlier, and a second has written to his wife from Shenzhen to say that he has been “assisting in an investigation.”
Arrests for “subversion of state power”
The lawyers who have been arrested have all been in the forefront of defending controversial activists. Seven are accused of “subversion of state power,” an offense that has been on the books since 1997 but infrequently used. More commonly, activists such as Pu Zhiqiang have been convicted for the lesser charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels.” (Pu received a three-year sentence that was simultaneously suspended for the same length of time; however, because of his conviction, Pu is barred from practicing law.) Conviction for subversion can lead to a sentence of anywhere from three years to life in prison.
Three of the other lawyers were charged with the lesser offense of “inciting subversion against state power” which, according to a recent posting by Chinese Human Rights Defenders, is used against individuals who “express criticism of the government” and is punishable by a sentence of up to five years. One other person, a paralegal, has been charged with “assisting in destruction of evidence; other lawyers have been detained incommunicado or forcibly disappeared for at least six months.
The arrests raise the severity of the charges by aiming at speech related to “subversion” — rather than acts. Foreign experts are dismayed; Eva Pils (Kings College London) comments that the situation “is basically about as serious as it gets for human rights advocacy.”
The arrest of the human rights lawyers is a continuation of the crackdown that exploded in July, but the rise of the accusation of “subversion” raises the odds of harsher punishment.
Arrest and televised “confession” of Swedish citizen affiliated with a human rights NGO
A Swedish man in his 30s, Peter Dahlin, a co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action) that organizes training programs for human rights defenders, was detained in early January, on a charge of “endangering state security.” On Wednesday, he was paraded on China Central Television and shown admitting to have broken Chinese laws, in a televised “confession” that has been denounced by rights advocates as coerced.
According to a statement from China Action, the NGO focuses on land law and administrative law and trains non-lawyers to provide pro-bono legal aid to victims of rights violations. Dahlin is in need of daily medication due to affliction by a rare disease; Chinese state media reports say he is receiving it, but no other information has been available. China’s Foreign Ministry says it is granting Swedish consular officials access to him, although no information has been available on his whereabouts. Read the rest of this entry »
Noting a marked shift in China’s behaviour around the islands since last December, a Japanese foreign ministry official said: “The situation in the East China Sea is getting worse.”
Tension over the group of five uninhabited islands and three barren rocks mounted in September 2012, when the Japanese government — which has administered the islands since 1895 — bought them from a private owner.
Japanese officials fear Beijing is using the shift in international attention towards the South China Sea — where China has been constructing artificial islands — to mount a new push in the waters further north.
Tokyo has formally protested the Chinese actions, which it calls a “forceful, coercive attempt to change the status quo”, but has so far avoided any escalation with countermeasures of its own.
In late December, China sailed an armed vessel into territorial waters around the disputed islands for the first time.
Sailing with three other Chinese vessels, a former naval frigate converted for coastguard use but carrying four quick-firing 37mm cannon, entered the 24 nautical mile “contiguous zone” around the islands for the first time on December 22, and the 12 nautical mile territorial waters on December 26. Read the rest of this entry »
Chinese stock exchanges closed early for the second time this week after the CSI 300 Index plunged more than 7 percent.
Trading of shares and index futures was halted by automatic circuit breakers from about 9:59 a.m. local time. Stocks fell after China’s central bank weakened the currency’s daily reference rate by the most since August.
“The yuan’s depreciation has exceeded investors’ expectations,” said Wang Zheng, Shanghai-based chief investment officer at Jingxi Investment Management Co. “Investors are getting spooked by the declines, which will spur capital outflows.”
Under the mechanism which became effective Monday, a move of 5 percent in the CSI 300 triggers…(read more)
Source: Bloomberg Business
Yifan Xie and Shen Hong report: China’s stock market regulator announced last month that come the New Year it would introduce a circuit breaker–a forced pause to trading–if shares fell too precipitously. On the first trading day of the year, officials had to reach for the newly installed system, twice.
“The U.S. adopted the circuit breaker system in 1988, and it was only triggered once. The history of China’s circuit breaker is one day, and we’ve triggered it twice.”
An index of the 300 biggest stocks listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen plunged Monday, triggering the circuit breaker and leading first to one 15-minute pause in trading and then a second halt, which closed the markets for the remainder of the day 80 minutes earlier than scheduled.
“Excessive interference with trading will affect market efficiency and become counter-productive.”
— Chief economist Lin Caiyi
The markets opened in negative territory and stayed there as a flurry of bad news arrived: a weaker-than-expected gauge of manufacturing activity and a further slide in the value of the country’s currency. Adding to the bearish mood are worries among investors about the lapse this Friday of a six-month ban on selling shares by major shareholders–those holding 5% stakes or larger in a listed company. The ban was imposed in July last year to stem a meltdown in the stock markets, and its end may lead to more selling.
Markets turned critical 12 minutes into the afternoon session, as the CSI 300 Index fell 5%, prompting the 15-minute suspension. Six minutes after trading resumed, at 1:27 p.m.,the hemorrhaging continued. The CSI 300 index dived further, hitting a 7% limit and bringing the trading day to an end.
Caught off guard by the plunge, traders speculated that the securities regulator was conducting a test of the new circuit breaker mechanism. Read the rest of this entry »
In 2015 we witness a rare geopolitcal power shift – and in the face of every kind of new external challenge the leaders of the EU and the USA have never looked weaker or more bemused.
Christopher Booker writes: As we enter this new year, what is the most significant feature of how the world is changing that went almost unnoticed in the year just ended? Two events last autumn might have given us a clue.
One was the very peculiar nature of that state visit in October, when the president of China was taken in a golden coach to stay at Buckingham Palace, down a Mall lined with hundreds of placard-waving pro‑China stooges, while the only people manhandled away by Chinese security guards were a few protesters against China’s treatment of Tibet and abuses of human rights.
Led by David Cameron, our politicians could not have fawned more humiliatingly on the leader of a country whose economy, before its recent wobbles, was predicted by the IMF to overtake that of the US as the largest in the world in 2016. While Britain once led the world in steel‑making and the civil use of nuclear power, the visit coincided with the crumbling of the remains of our steel industry before a flood of cheap Chinese steel, as our politicians pleaded for China’s help in building, to an obsolete design, the most costly nuclear power station in the world.
Three weeks later came the rather less prominent visit of Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, whose even faster-growing economy is predicted by financial analysts to become bigger than Britain’s within three years, and to overtake China’s as the world’s largest in the second half of the century. Read the rest of this entry »
Factory activity cools for fifth month running as overseas demand for Chinese goods continues to fall
A further slowdown in China’s vast manufacturing sector has intensified worries about the year ahead for the world’s second largest economy.
“Against the backdrop of a faltering global economy, turmoil in the country’s stock markets and overcapacity in factories, Chinese economic growth has slowed markedly. The country’s central bank expects growth in 2015 to be the slowest for a quarter of a century.”
The latest in a string of downbeat reports from showed that activity at China’s factor ies cooled in December for the fifth month running, as overseas demand for Chinese goods continued to fall.
Against the backdrop of a faltering global economy, turmoil in the country’s stock markets and overcapacity in factories, Chinese economic growth has slowed markedly. The country’s central bank expects growth in 2015 to be the slowest for a quarter of a century.
After growing 7.3% in 2014, the economy is thought to have expanded by 6.9% in 2015 and the central bank has forecast that it may slow further in 2016 to 6.8%.
A series of interventions by policymakers, including interest rate cuts, have done little to revive growth and in some cases served only to heighten concern about China’s challenges.
Friday’s figures showed that the manufacturing sector limped to the end of 2015. The official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) of manufacturing activity edged up to 49.7 in December from 49.6 in November.
The December reading matched the forecast in a Reuters poll of economists and marked the fifth consecutive month that the index was below 50, the point that separates expansion from contraction. Read the rest of this entry »
The rap was released in conjunction with a special program on CCTV called ‘The Power of Deepening Reforms‘.
Alyssa Abkowitz, Yang Jie and Chang Chen report: As 2015 comes to an end, China Central Television is rolling out a novel rap song that presents a year in review, Communist Party style – with only good news.
On Monday, the state broadcaster released a 2:44-minute rap to celebrate the achievements of everyone’s favorite party organ, the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reform, which will mark its two-year anniversary on Dec. 30.
The song — which struck China Real Time as more Skee-Lo than Kendrick Lamar – reminds the Chinese public to “trust the government” and look at China’s progress on advancing education, combating smog and reforming the health care system during 2015.
It also features voice clips from President Xi Jinping (although the soundbites appear to have been sampled from Mr. Xi’s speeches rather than performed by the Chinese leader live in-studio).
The rap was released in conjunction with a special program on CCTV called “The Power of Deepening Reforms.” It comes on the heels of the second year of Mr. Xi’s far-reaching anticorruption campaign, which has snagged, as the song says, hundreds of “flies, tigers and large foxes.”
It also touts China’s establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the International Monetary Fund’s move to accept the yuan as its fifth reserve currency and the progress made by the “One Belt, One Road” network of infrastructure projects.
Xi makes his debut at around 49 seconds with the phrase: “To turn the people’s expectations into our actions.” Ten seconds later, he comes back, saying, “An arrow will never return once it’s shot.” Read the rest of this entry »
Force backs down after being accused of trying to whitewash the city’s history and role played by pro-Beijing radicals.
Christy Leung reports: The Hong Kong police force has made an unexpected climbdown and is restoring its official account of the 1967 riots after causing a storm earlier this year by deleting parts of it.
A source told the Post the missing details would be reinstated on its archived website as early as Friday, and more historical details would be added to make the account “fuller”.
The U-turn was decided at a meeting of the Police Historical Records Committee yesterday.
It reverses a controversial move in mid-September to revise the official version of the riots, during which pro-Beijing radicals inspired by the Cultural Revolution sought to overthrow the colonial government.
The force replaced phrases like “communist militia” with “gunmen” and deleted detailed descriptions of events such as leftist mobs threatening bus and tram drivers who refused to strike.
Police were accused of trying to whitewash history out of political considerations. They were also ridiculed for claiming there was not enough space to publish full details online.
“[We are uploading the original version] to answer our readers’ calls and have no political agenda behind it,” the source explained yesterday.
“We think people nowadays are not into reading bulky and long paragraphs, but since they enjoy reading the full version, we are bringing it back.”
In addition to the original write-up, the history of women in the force and the Hong Kong Police College will be added to the website.
“We want to make the contents ‘finer’ and ‘fuller’, so that people can have a better understanding of police history,” the source said.
It is understood the committee is still reviewing the content and may upload the original version along with the new information on January 1 at the earliest. Read the rest of this entry »
BEIJING (AP) — China said Saturday that it will not renew press credentials for a French journalist, effectively expelling her following a harsh media campaign against her for questioning the official line equating ethnic violence in China’s western Muslim region with global terrorism.
Expecting the move, Ursula Gauthier, a longtime journalist for the French news magazine L’Obs, said late Friday night that she was prepared to leave China.
“They want a public apology for things that I have not written,” Gauthier said. “They are accusing me of writing things that I have not written.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that Gauthier was no longer “suitable” to be allowed to work in China because she had supported “terrorism and cruel acts” that killed civilians and refused to apologize for her words.
“China has always protected the legal rights of foreign media and foreign correspondents to report within the country, but China does not tolerate the freedom to embolden terrorism,” Lu said in a statement.
Gauthier on Saturday called the accusations “absurd,” and said that emboldening terrorism is morally and legally wrong. She said that she should be prosecuted if that were the case. Read the rest of this entry »
GUIYANG, China — Emily Rauhala reports: Pastor Su Tianfu slides into the back seat and tells the driver to hit it.
He looks over his shoulder: “Is there anybody following us?”
It is days before Christmas, but instead of working on his sermon, Su is giving his tail the slip.
The slight and soft-spoken Protestant preacher is no stranger to surveillance. Su has worked for years in China’s unregistered “house churches,” and he said he has been interrogated more times than he can count.
But even Su is surprised by what has happened in Guiyang this month: a crackdown that has led to the shuttering of the thriving Living Stone Church, the detention of a pastor on charges of “possessing state secrets” and the shadowing of dozens of churchgoers by police.
A local government directive leaked to China Aid, a Texas-based Christian group, and reviewed by The Washington Post advises local Communist Party cadres that shutting down the church is necessary to “maintain social stability”— a catchall phrase often used to justify sweeping clampdowns.
The Dec. 9 raid on the church in a relatively sleepy provincial capital is conspicuous because of the timing — about two weeks before Christmas — and because the government’s tactics were revealed.
But it also speaks to a broader pattern of religious repression that is playing out beyond China’s mountainous southwest, as the officially atheist Communist Party struggles to control the spread of religion amid a broader push to thwart dissent.
“The overall environment in the past few years has been harsh,” said Yang Fenggang, director of Purdue University’s Center on Religion and Chinese Society. “There’s a tightened control over civil society in general, including churches.”
Unlike in many parts of the West, Christianity is thriving in China.
Because of tight restrictions on religious practices, reliable figures are hard to find, but the Chinese government generally puts the number of Protestants (a group it calls “Christians”) at 23 million and the number of Catholics at more than 5 million.
Foreign scholars estimate that there are 67 million to 100 million Christians in China — compared with 87 million Communist Party cadres. Yang estimates that China will be home to 250 million Christians by 2030. Evangelical Protestants, like Su, are the fastest-growing group.
The Communist Party has a complicated, often contradictory, view of faith: The constitution protects the right to religion, but the state is unwilling to relinquish control.
“The Chinese Communist Party is violently allergic to non-party organizing vehicles, whether they’re nonprofits, libraries or churches,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s Bizarre Maoist Spectacle: Final Nail in the Coffin for the Cuckoo Bananas Labour Party?Posted: December 19, 2015
John McDonnell audaciously brandished a copy of Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell dropped a political bombshell in the House of Commons What was it over? A book. Not just any book, mind. A book conveying a philosophy that is most certainly taboo in British politics. A book that was none other than Mao Zedong’s very own ‘Little Red Book’. The commotion caused by it was far from little, however.
The immediate reactions of everyone in the House of Commons were indeed telling. The Conservatives were overjoyed. It was an early Christmas present for them. Many MPs were chorusing “more! more!” On the Labour side of the hall, some found it amusing; yet it clearly stirred up much discontent. Even Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who could be seen sat beside McDonnell at the time, had a faint look of despair as this historic book was pulled out; which is, to some extent, the scriptures, or holy book, of the far left.
Clearly it was done as a mere jest, and nothing more than a humoured attack at Chancellor George Osborne – who he ironically labelled “Comrade Osborne” – in criticism for his approach to Britain’s relations with China. His direct quote from Chairman Mao was as follows:
“We must learn to do economic work from all who know how. No matter who they are, we must esteem them as teachers, learning from them respectfully and conscientiously. But we must not pretend to know what we do not know.”
Yet it is an unsuitable affiliation. Surely you’d expect something like this from the Communist Party of Great Britain themselves; not from a serious opposition party vying to win power in modern-day Britain – where Thatcherism still lingers and private property is still at large.
Most Marxists I have ever associated with would actually distance themselves from Mao Zedong: a dictator of the People’s Republic of China, responsible for the deaths of millions of his own civilians – from famine and executing those against the rule. Even if you are going to cite a Communist figure at all in British politics, better to use a figure such as Lenin or Trotsky; not a brutal mass-murdering despot.
Many feel content with a more narrow view of politics. Even if it isn’t one that directly mirrors the Conservative party’s ideology, it wouldn’t drift too far from this. Hence by both the Conservative party and the then-austerity-favouring Labour party gained 330 and 232 seats respectively (562 out of 650 overall) in the General Election last May. Many predict the latter figure, which is that of Labour of course, will be trimmed away if trends stay the same. Read the rest of this entry »
New regulations could make it harder than ever for Google to re-enter the world’s largest market.
David Z. Morris reports: In rules released this week, China’s State Council announced that all digital maps provided in China be stored on servers within its borders. The rules, which also lay out certification standards for digital mapping providers, will go into effect Jan. 1.
“Keeping map servers within China would, in theory, give its government even more control over what its citizens see. But the move is arguably redundant—China has long held mapping services to strict content standards, and blocks those that don’t comply.”
According to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, the purpose of the new regulations is to “boost development of the geographic information industry” and safeguard “national sovereignty and geographic information security.”
“Google has since made moderate concessions in its representation of Chinese borders on maps accessed from outside of the country, changing the names of disputed regions and depiction of Chinese borders with India and the Philippines”
The rules seem much heavier on tightening control than on boosting development. In addition to the server location requirements, map providers are prohibited both from displaying or even storing any data deemed to be prohibited by the government. Government officials will be able to regularly inspect data for “errors and leaks of information that threaten national sovereignty,” according to Xinhua. Read the rest of this entry »
China Petrochemical Corp., commonly known as Sinopec, said Monday it had begun building a fueling station and storage depot at the Chinese settlement of Sansha City in the disputed Paracel Island chain.
A statement by the company on its official microblog account confirmed earlier reports from local authorities that the project intended to ease fuel shortages at Sansha, a settlement with a population of around 1,000 people, making it the largest outpost among the many contested islands of the South China Sea.
“Tu hao, go fishing in Sansha, and remember to bring your refueling card,” Sinopec’s statement said, using a popular term for China’s newly minted moneyed class.
Sansha City, located on Woody Island, is used to administer China’s claims over nearly the entire South China Sea, and holds the same administrative rank in China as large metropolises with millions of people.
China took de facto control of Woody Island and the Paracels following a naval conflict with South Vietnamese forces in 1974. Vietnam continues to claim the area today. Its Foreign Ministry said it didn’t have any comment on the fuel facilities Monday.
Sinopec, whose main listed unit trades in New York and Hong Kong, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether building the facilities would hurt its ability to pursue future business with Vietnam. Read the rest of this entry »
Lindsey Patterson writes: Japan has made a bold move, making Godzilla an official resident. It’s unknown if Godzilla sightings will be a daily occurrence, however, many local businesses wouldn’t mind. It’s believed by many that fortune follows any place that is destroyed in a Godzilla film. Hopefully, they’re providing room and board for him as well because nobody wants to rent to a monster that’s always destroying cities. There has been no comment from Godzilla’s new neighbors but it’s suspected that his destructive life has been left behind, only to be utilized for his film career. Making Godzilla an official resident of Japan could be seen as claiming Godzilla, their own creation, and letting the United States know that they are only temporarily borrowing the idea for a couple of movies.
Born in 1954, it’s taken long enough for his residency paperwork to go through. Shinjuku also made copies of Godzilla’s residency plaque, for the first 3,000 fans that demanded proof of his residency.
The plaque of Godzilla’s residency reads:
Address: Shinjuku-ku, Kabuki-cho, 1-19-1
Date of birth: April 9, 1954
Date of becoming a Shinjuku resident: April 9, 2015
Reason for special residency: Promoting the entertainment of and watching over the Kabuki-cho neighborhood and drawing visitors from around the globe in the form of the Godzilla head built atop the Shinjuku TOHO Building.
Previous visits to Shinjuku Ward: 3 times; Godzilla (1984), Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah(1991), Godzilla 2000 Millennium (1999)”
Shinjuku, a neighborhood in Tokyo, is home to Toho Cinemas. Toho Cinemas, the company that makes the Godzilla movies, erected a giant Godzilla head on their building, which is sure to make for some amazing Japan tour pictures. It is complete with glowing eyes and claws, making it stand out against the night sky. Not only is there a giant Godzilla head, but it’s animated as well. He roars and comes equipped with Atomic breath, too. Soon after the Godzilla head was erected, a ceremony was held, naming Godzilla the local Tourism Ambassador for the area and even awarded a plaque of appreciation. Surely, Godzilla plays an active role on day-to-day lives in the area. Japan tour guides won’t be complaining either. It’s likely that assigning Godzilla these new responsibilities will ensure higher tourism rates for the Shinjuku area, and possibly all of Japan.
It’s unknown if this move is related to the impending release of The first Japanese Godzilla movie in 12 years, but it’s likely that it is. Toho is planning on releasing the new Godzilla movie throughout Japan in 2016. It will be the first Japan produced Godzilla film since 2004 and should be expected to be a huge hit. The United States is planning an American Godzilla movie, to be released in 2018, it’s second attempt at taming the monster that Japan has perfected. The American Godzilla film did create a resurgence in fan support, making 3.2 billion yen ($26 million USD) in Japan alone and a whopping 57 billion yen ($470 million USD) worldwide. Toho is quoted as saying that they will be making “a film that will not bow down to the Hollywood film,” and is expecting to blow fans away graphics made possible by more recent technological advances. It isn’t surprising that Toho is not planning to link the new Japanese Godzilla film to the one made in the United States. The new Japanese Godzilla will stand alone. Does this mean that the cheesy style of the old Godzilla movies will be lost forever? Maybe. The styling of the new movies has not been released but, taking all things into consideration, fans will likely have to revisit their old favorites if they desire the original Japanese Godzilla feel.
[Image by Flickr]
It’s understandable why Godzilla is so dear to Japan. He is the embodiment of many historical moments that have effected Japan. He symbolizes the feelings that Japan had after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, being a mutation caused by nuclear testing in the Pacific. Despite the serious undertones of his origin, Godzilla has received several awards, including the MTV Lifetime Achievement Award and a star in Hollywood. It’s no wonder that’ during his residency and Ambassador ceremony, it was said that he is “the pride of Japan.
It’s unknown how much Godzilla’s salary has been effected by becoming Tourism Ambassador but he must be making movie star wages in Japan and the United States. Surely, he will be a lot busier this day, making movies, attending ceremonies, and possibly making the occasional appearance for Japan tourists, because why would anybody make a trip to Japan if seeing the great Godzilla isn’t a guarantee, right?