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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Hans’

Germany says Liu Xiaobo’s widow is welcome ‘at any time’

May 04, 2018

BEIJING (AP) — Germany said Thursday it would welcome the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo after a recording was released of her crying in desperation and indicating she has given up hope of being able to leave China.

“If I can’t leave, I’ll die in my home,” Liu Xia said during a recent phone call with her close friend Liao Yiwu, a writer who documented their conversation in an essay published Wednesday. “Xiaobo is gone, and there’s nothing in the world for me now,” Liu said tearfully. “It’s easier to die than live. Using death to defy could not be any simpler for me.”

Liu has never been charged with a crime, but has been kept guarded and largely isolated since her husband, Liu Xiaobo, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his human rights activism in 2010. He was still serving a prison sentence for inciting subversion of state power when he died of liver cancer last summer.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry told The Associated Press on Thursday that the German government has been discussing Liu’s case with China and “will continue to do so.” “According to the information available to us, Liu Xia has not been accused of any crime,” the ministry said in emailed comments. “She should be allowed to travel, also for humanitarian considerations. Should she choose to come to Germany, Liu Xia would be welcome here at any time.”

Writing from Germany where he is living in exile, Liao said that Chinese state security agents repeatedly promised Liu Xia that she would be able to leave the country and seek treatment for the clinical depression that has long ailed her.

Germany was prepared to take her in, according to Liao: “In early April the German Foreign Minister had already made specific arrangements, including as to how they’d not alert the news media, how they’d covertly collect Liu Xia at the airport, and how they’d arrange her treatment and recovery and more.”

But hopes for a quiet departure have not borne fruit. Hu Jia, a dissident and longtime friend of the Lius, described Liao’s essay as a “counterattack” against Chinese authorities prompted by an “awakening” after hearing for months that Liu would soon be released.

Corroborating Liao’s account, Hu said Liu had initially been told by security agents to wait until after the 19th Party Congress last fall, when President Xi Jinping secured a second term at the helm of the ruling Communist Party. Then, Hu said, they told her to wait until after the meeting of the ceremonial legislature in March.

During this time, Liu’s supporters kept a low profile because government agents told them that remaining silent about the case would lead to a solution, Hu told the AP. “Why did Mr. Liao call Liu Xia on April 30? Because at that point it was already clear that hope was shattered,” Hu said. “We were duped.”

When asked at a regular press briefing whether Liu will be able to leave the country, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was “not aware of the situation.” “But Liu Xia is a Chinese citizen. The competent Chinese authority will handle the relevant matter in accordance with laws,” Hua said, repeating a statement often used by China to address Liu’s case.


Leaders of Japan, China, SKorea agree to cooperate on NKorea

May 09, 2018

TOKYO (AP) — China, Japan and South Korea agreed Wednesday to cooperate on ending North Korea’s nuclear program and promoting free trade, two hot-button issues challenging their region. The agreements came at the first summit for the Northeast Asian neighbors after a hiatus of more than two years, bringing together Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Abe said they discussed how they can get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, but he didn’t provide any details. China and Japan, in particular, have differences over how best to achieve North Korea’s nuclear disarmament.

The meeting comes amid a flurry of developments on the Korean Peninsula. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met Moon on April 27 and Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this week, in a surprise visit to the Chinese coastal city of Dalian. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, early Wednesday to finalize details of a summit planned between President Donald Trump and Kim.

“We must lead the ongoing momentum toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and achieve peace and stability in Northeast Asia,” Abe told a joint news conference in Tokyo. Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura said the three leaders also agreed to work toward two free trade agreements, a free trade pact among themselves and the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership with Southeast Asian nations.

Trump has threatened all three countries with tariffs in a bid to seek trade concessions from them. His moves have raised fears of a trade war between the U.S. and China. Li, the No. 2 official in China after President Xi Jinping, said earlier that free trade is a good way to promote a global economic recovery.

“We are willing to work with Japan and South Korea to jointly maintain regional stability and push forward the development of the three countries,” he said before the meeting started. The leaders also agreed to hold trilateral summits on regular basis and set up a secretariat. The summits, which started in 2008, are supposed to be held annually, but Wednesday’s was the first since November 2015.

Analysts say Japan is trying to showcase improved ties and cooperation with China and South Korea so its views will be represented in any negotiations with North Korea. Abe reiterated Japan’s position that it would normalize ties with North Korea only if the latter took concrete steps toward abandoning its nuclear and missile programs and resolved the issue of Japanese abducted by North Korean agents.

Japan’s leader was to hold talks separately with Moon and Li later Wednesday. Japanese officials said they plan to propose a free and peaceful East China Sea, but do not plan to raise contentious issues such as South Korean “comfort women” forced to provide sex to Japan’s wartime military.

Moon is to leave Japan after half a day. After that, Abe will host a dinner and lunch for Li and join him on the northern island of Hokkaido on the final day of his four-day Japan visit. Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said they want to improve Japan’s strained relations with China, with the eventual goal of realizing a visit by Xi.

While Japan, China and South Korea are closely linked economically, anti-Japanese sentiment runs deep in China and South Korea because of territorial and historical disputes dating back to Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula and invasion of China in the first half of the 20th century.

Bolton’s appointment comes at sensitive time for China ties

March 23, 2018

BEIJING (AP) — Foreign policy hard-liner John Bolton’s appointment as U.S. national security adviser comes at a particularly sensitive time for relations with Beijing following President Donald Trump’s approval of harsh new tariffs on China and a law encouraging closer relations with Taiwan.

Bolton has taken a tough position on both issues, saying Beijing needed to be called out on what he characterized as systematic cheating on global trade while enjoying the benefits of an open U.S. market.

He has also urged a rethink of U.S. restrictions of contacts with Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that China considers its own territory. On those and other issues, Bolton, a former U.N. ambassador under President George W. Bush, is seen as heralding a rightward shift in Trump’s foreign policy and an embrace of more hard-line policies.

His appointment also raised questions over policy toward North Korea following Trump’s acceptance of an offer for direct talks, possibly before May. In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said he was “a bit surprised” by Bolton’s appointment, but said he didn’t anticipate any major changes in U.S. policy on North Korea.

“During my recent visit to the U.S., members of the Trump administration seem to fully share consensus on policies. So I believe there is no major change to their stance,” Kono said. Bolton’s approach to North Korea appears to be everything China has warned against, including supporting the possibility of a pre-emptive military strike and dismissing direct negotiations that Beijing says are vital to jump-starting the denuclearization process.

Like Trump, Bolton has also been highly critical of the U.S trade deficit with China, which Washington says hit a record of $375.2 billion last year. In an interview Thursday with Fox Business News, Bolton accused China of stealing U.S. intellectual property and pursuing “mercantilist policies in what is supposed to be a free-trade environment.”

“I don’t buy it. I am a free trader, but I don’t think that means just getting pounded into the ground when another country doesn’t abide by the commitments it’s made,” Bolton said. Bolton said China cheats by providing subsidies to exports and discriminating against foreign entities, including through the legal system, while enjoying the benefits of WTO membership. Chinese government subsidies allow Americans to buy goods cheaper to the detriment of the Chinese worker, he said.

“The reality is, China just doesn’t have the same concern for its citizen’s welfare that we do in this country,” Bolton said. “And even beyond that, there’s simply no excuse for the stealing of intellectual property, forced technology transfers it’s sometimes called.”

Speaking to the Washington Free Beacon newspaper in February 2017, Bolton criticized America’s “One-China” policy, under which it does not recognize Taiwan as an independent nation, and called for increased arms sales to the island.

“The One-China policy is inherently ambiguous,” Bolton said. “China thinks it means one thing, we think it means another.” Bolton’s appointment was loudly cheered by one of the administration’s chief China hawks, trade and manufacturing adviser Peter Navarro, author of the book “Death by China: Confronting the Dragon — a Global Call to Action.”

“I’ve gotten to know him over the years, and he’ll be a great replacement. So what we are seeing here is a president who has great judge of talent,” Navarro told CNN on Thursday. Though Trump ultimately follows his own instincts, Bolton “will have a sort of influence on Trump’s foreign diplomacy because they share a similar view on matters such as ideology, threats to U.S. national security and values,” said Yu Wanli, professor at the Peking University’s School of International Relations in Beijing.

“Trump now has a faithful implementer of his policies,” Yu said. “Bolton will surely contribute to the tension in China-U.S. relations.”

Kim, Xi portray strong ties after N. Korean leader’s visit

March 28, 2018

BEIJING (AP) — With smiles and firm handshakes, North Korea and China used a surprise summit this week to show that despite recent tensions, Pyongyang still has a powerful backer and Beijing will not be sidelined in discussions about the fate of its unpredictable neighbor.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s secretive talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing appear aimed at improving both countries’ positions ahead of Kim’s anticipated meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and President Donald Trump in the coming weeks.

A key objective for Beijing is to reassert its relevance to these talks from which it has been excluded. China has appeared increasingly shut out as its relations with the North deteriorated and Pyongyang reached out to Seoul and Washington.

“Kim Jong Un’s visit shows that China is not marginalized, but playing a leading role. This saves China a lot of face,” said Pang Zhongying, a North Korea expert at Renmin University in Beijing. Official reports from both countries on Wednesday depicted in effusive terms warm ties between the two leaders in an effort to downplay recent tensions over Kim’s development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

In these reports, “Kim reaffirms the traditional friendship between the two countries as if nothing had ever happened, when the relationship had plummeted to unprecedented lows,” said Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Ties in recent months have frayed as China supported tougher U.N. sanctions on North Korea and suspended coal and iron ore imports. Pyongyang last year seemingly sought to humiliate Beijing by timing some of its missile tests for major global summits in China.

Kim made the unofficial visit to China at Xi’s invitation, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said, in his first trip to a foreign country since he took power in 2011. Xinhua said the trip ran from Sunday to Wednesday but appeared to include travel time from Pyongyang on the special armored train that Kim traveled in, which secretly arrived in Beijing on Monday and left Tuesday afternoon.

Rumors of the presence of Kim began circulating on Monday night, with the spotting of Kim’s special train, Chinese security teams and official delegations at the border city of Dandong and various points in Beijing.

Although China sought to keep Kim’s visit secret, and Wednesday described it as “unofficial,” it accorded him full honors due to a head of state, including a formal welcoming ceremony and troop review at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing.

Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan also hosted a banquet for Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju, Xinhua said. They also watched an art performance together, the news agency said. “We speak highly of this visit,” Xi told Kim, according to Xinhua.

For China, the visit also projects to the Chinese public that Xi is firmly in charge of steering Beijing’s relations with North Korea in a way that favors China’s interests. “Here is Xi Jinping saying, ‘Don’t worry, everything is going to be great,'” Glaser said.

Analysts say Kim would have felt a need to consult with his country’s traditional ally ahead of summits with Moon and Trump. His famously reclusive father, Kim Jong Il, made his first visit to China as North Korean leader in May 2000, reportedly to consult with Chinese leadership ahead of Kim’s summit with the former South Korean leader Kim Dae-jung.

China would also not want Kim’s first foreign meeting to be with someone other than Xi. “This is China asserting its regional hegemony and influence, saying: ‘Hey, you talk to me first,'” said Michael Kovrig, senior advisor for northeast Asia at the International Crisis Group.

In footage aired by China’s state broadcaster China Central Television, Kim appeared reserved and collected as he sat at a long table across from Xi. Kim wore horn-rimmed glasses and was shown jotting down notes and speaking in a calm manner. In contrast, while meeting with South Korean envoys earlier this month, Kim was shown by his state media frequently smiling, bursting into laughter, proposing toasts and waving at departing limousines.

Kim was described by Xinhua as saying that his country wants “reconciliation and cooperation” with South Korea, with which it is technically still at war. He also said North Korea is willing to hold a summit with the United States, according to Xinhua.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency published Kim’s personal letter to Xi dated on Wednesday, where he said he was satisfied that the leaders confirmed their “unified opinions” on mutual issues.

“For the North Koreans, it is in their best interests to enter any meetings with Moon or Trump having shored up and repaired to a certain extent their relations with Beijing,” said Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing.

Kim also called for more meetings with Xi and other Chinese officials and asked Xi to visit North Korea at a time convenient for him, to which Xi “gladly accepted,” KCNA said. The North’s diplomatic outreach this year follows a tenser 2017 when it conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date and tested three intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to target the U.S. mainland.

The developments are being interpreted as the North being desperate to break out of isolation and improve its economy after being squeezed by heavy sanctions. “At least one of the things that Kim would want out of these meetings is a way forward to begin to ease those sanctions and support from China in that effort,” Glaser said.

China remains North Korea’s only major ally and chief provider of energy, aid and trade that keep the country’s broken economy afloat. In addition to the trip being his first abroad as leader, his talk with Xi was his first meeting with a foreign head of state. Kim’s father, late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, had visited China several times during his rule, lastly in May 2011, months before his death that December.

“It’s most proper that my first overseas trip would be the capital of the People’s Republic of China,” said Kim Jong Un, according to KCNA. “It’s also one of my noble duties to value the North Korea-China friendship as I do my own life.”

Kim reported from Seoul, South Korea. Associated Press writers Foster Klug in Seoul, and Christopher Bodeen and researcher Shanshan Wang in Beijing contributed to this report.

China names former missile force commander defense minister

March 19, 2018

BEIJING (AP) — China on Monday appointed a former missile force commander as its new defense minister amid lingering concerns over the goals of its rapid military modernization. Lt. Gen. Wei Fenghe’s naming as the international face of China’s military was among a series of appointments by the ceremonial legislature on the penultimate day of its annual session.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi was reappointed as China’s top diplomat and also promoted to state counselor, while Zhao Kezhi was confirmed as minister of public security in charge of the police. Chen Wenqing, a former top official in the ruling Communist Party’s graft-busting agency, remains minister of state security responsible for espionage and counterintelligence.

China has increasingly been deploying its intelligence agencies overseas to track down those accused of high-level corruption, along with other perceived regime opponents and critics who have moved abroad.

As defense minister, Wei is outranked by President Xi Jinping, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, and two vice chairmen, but will be the main interface between China’s 2 million-member armed forces and the rest of the world’s militaries.

China’s increased its military budget by 8.1 percent this year to about $173 billion, making it again the world’s second-largest behind the U.S. Wei was named head of the 2nd Artillery in 2012, then remained head of the missile command after it was renamed the Rocket Force in 2016 amid a reorganization of military units.

The head of the U.S. Strategic Command considers China’s ballistic missile program the world’s “most active and diverse.” It includes a range of short- and intermediate-range missile aimed at Taiwan, as well as road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles targeting the U.S. and its allies.

Most of China’s growing conventional and nuclear warhead-tipped missiles are of the type prohibited by the U.S.-Russian Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. That has led to calls in both Moscow and Washington for a reassessment of the treaty to deal with a potential threat from China and others.

China’s Cabinet is headed by Premier Li Keqiang, the No. 2 leader of the ruling Communist Party, who was reappointed to a second five-year term by the legislature on Sunday. The vote came a day after party leader Xi Jinping was reappointed China’s president with no limits on how many terms he can serve.

The legislature also approved the appointment of Yang Xiaodu as director for the National Supervisory Commission, created from a merger of the party’s internal anti-graft watchdog with one that oversees civil servants. It will have the power to detain suspects for up to six months without seeking court approval.

A marathon anti-corruption campaign led by Xi has snared thousands of government officials and managers of state companies. Xi has been steadily tightening central control over the government and state industry while also stepping up efforts to crush dissent.

On Saturday, a key Xi ally, Wang Qishan, was appointed to the previously ceremonial post of vice president.

Xi reappointed as China’s president with no term limits

March 17, 2018

BEIJING (AP) — Xi Jinping was reappointed Saturday as China’s president with no limit on the number of terms he can serve. The National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp legislature, also appointed close Xi ally Wang Qishan to the formerly ceremonial post of vice president.

At the Great Hall of the People, Xi, Wang and other officials took turns stepping to the lectern to place their left hands on the constitution and raise their right fists as they delivered an oath swearing loyalty to the constitution, the motherland and the people.

Xi, 64, is considered the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong and last Sunday was given the right to continue in office indefinitely after the legislature scrapped term limits for the president and vice president.

Chinese officials defended the move saying it would bring the presidency in-line with Xi’s other two main positons of head of the ruling Communist Party and commander of the armed forces. Critics say the move overturning a push to institutionalize China’s ruling practices dating from 1982 will likely lead to increased political repression and possible infighting among party factions seeking to promote their own candidates within the closed system.

Xi took office as president in 2013 and hasn’t said how many additional five-year terms he intends to serve. State media has said the removal of term limits will not alter conditions for retirement or create a president in perpetuity, but has offered no details.

Xi is expected to expand his yearslong campaign against corruption within the party to include all state employees through the creation of a new National Supervisory Commission, while continuing to pursue a muscular foreign policy and policies to upgrade the slowing economy.

Economic growth and social stability have allowed Xi to amend the constitution and carry out other moves that once seemed highly contentious, said Kerry Brown, professor of Chinese Studies and director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College, London.

“Really no one is going to shout and moan too much” because growth and stability are considered so important, Brown said Friday in a talk to foreign media in Beijing.

Prison time for China anthem insults in new Hong Kong law

March 16, 2018

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong authorities on Friday unveiled planned legislation requiring students to be taught China’s national anthem and punishing anyone who insults it with up to three years in prison.

The legislation also calls for anyone who is present when “March of The Volunteers” is played to “stand and deport themselves respectfully.” The anthem has become a political flashpoint in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese city where soccer fans have repeatedly booed it at matches, drawing warnings and fines from organizers.

Hong Kong’s government is acting after Beijing last year enacted a new National Anthem Law and amended China’s criminal code so that anyone disrespecting the anthem can be imprisoned. China’s legislature also added it to Hong Kong’s Basic Law constitution, requiring the city to introduce local legislation.

The proposed law adds to concerns that Beijing is eroding civil liberties in Hong Kong despite promises to maintain them following its 1997 handover from Britain. Pro-democracy activists and lawmakers worry the law will be used to undermine free speech in Hong Kong, which has a separate legal system.

Under the new law, anyone who “publicly and willfully alters the lyrics or the score of the national anthem,” performs or sings it in “a distorted or derogatory manner,” or insults it in “any other manner” would be fined up to 50,000 Hong Kong dollars (about $6,400) and imprisoned for up to three years.

The proposal also calls for primary and secondary schools to teach pupils the anthem as well as “to observe the etiquette” when it is sung or played. The proposal will be discussed on March 23 in Hong Kong’s legislature.

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