China To Reform Human Organ Donation Rules

China’s President Xi Jinping speaks during an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Message to Compatriots in Taiwan at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on January 2, 2019. 
Mark Schiefelbein / POOL / AFP

 

China is planning changes in its organ donation rules to tackle a shortage of donors and curb illicit harvesting after it stopped taking tissue from executed prisoners five years ago.

The draft rules published Wednesday by the National Health Commission allow people to donate the organs of relatives who have died.

They also make it illegal to take organs from living minors as China tries to stamp out child trafficking for harvesting.

China has been grappling with a massive dearth of donors after it ended the controversial practice of harvesting organs from executed prisoners in 2015.

The reforms focus on protecting the legal rights of donors but are unlikely to boost donations given the cultural sensitivities in China of “mutilating a body” after death, said Wang Bing, a Beijing-based lawyer who specialises in medical disputes.

“The number of organ donors is very low and the law falls short of creating an opt-out system, which is the only way to tackle social taboos around the topic,” he said.

The draft law is available for public comment until the end of the month and no timeline has been set for debate or adoption by China’s parliament.

Beijing first passed laws to regulate organ donations in 2007 but a lack of clear punishments and enforcement led to a black market where a kidney could be bought for about $50,000 (350,000 yuan), according to a report last July by China Tribunal, a Britain-based NGO that carries out independent investigations into forced organ harvesting.

The report also said the number of transplants in China far outnumbered official donors, and organs harvested from prisoners of conscience — including practitioners of the banned Falungong spiritual movement — accounted for the difference.

Beijing has long denied such claims.

The amendments include fines and other punishments for individuals and institutions involved in organ trafficking or illegal transplants.

Violators will face a fine “worth eight to 10 times the illegal gains plus doctors will have their medical licence suspended”, the draft says.

“There have been punishments on the books for a long time, but transplant hospitals continue to… do large numbers of transplants with no accounted source of organs,” Matthew Robertson, a researcher at the Australian National University specialising in medical malpractices in China, told AFP.

‘Mystery organs’

China has engaged in “systemic falsification” of voluntary organ donation data, according to a study published in November by the peer-reviewed journal BMC Medical Ethics, which also said official national and provincial transplant figures were likely “man-made” based on a “mathematical model”.

Since pilot projects with voluntary donors began in the early 2010s, Beijing has reported tremendous success, with the number of voluntary deceased donors increasing from 34 in 2010 to 6,316 in 2018, according to the government-run China Organ Transplant Response System.

The system has been in charge of allocating organs since 2013 and the draft law says surgeons cannot override its decisions.

“This plugs a loophole that had allowed hospitals to transplant mystery organs without checking their origins,” Wang said.

The Chinese Red Cross is in charge of registering potential donors.

 

AFP

China Appoints ‘Tough’ Official To Head New Security Agency In Hong Kong

This file photo taken on December 20, 2011 shows Zheng Yanxiong, then-Communist Party Secretary of Shanwei prefecture, speaking on television as villagers watch the broadcast in Wukan, Guangdong province. MARK RALSTON / AFP
This file photo taken on December 20, 2011 shows Zheng Yanxiong, then-Communist Party Secretary of Shanwei prefecture, speaking on television as villagers watch the broadcast in Wukan, Guangdong province. MARK RALSTON / AFP

 

China appointed a hardliner to head a new national security agency in Hong Kong Friday as police brought the first charges under a sweeping new anti-subversion law that has shaken the semi-autonomous finance hub.

Zheng Yanxiong — a party official best known for tackling protests on the mainland — will lead the office set up by the legislation that empowers mainland security agents to operate in Hong Kong openly for the first time, unbound by the city’s laws.

The appointment came as a man accused of deliberately driving his motorbike into a group of police officers became the first person in Hong Kong to be charged under the new national security law.

China’s authoritarian leaders say the suite of powers will restore stability after a year of protests and will not stifle freedoms.

But police have already begun arresting people for possessing flags and banners while the local government has made clear certain political views, especially calls for independence, are now outlawed.

On Thursday evening Nathan Law, one of the city’s most prominent young activists, announced he had fled overseas to an undisclosed location, fearing arrest days after the pro-democracy party he helped found said it was disbanding.

Many western governments — led by Britain and the United States — have condemned the law and have angered Beijing by threatening to hit back with sanctions or offer sanctuary to Hong Kongers.

‘A tough enforcer’

The new national security agency is just one new element of Beijing’s landmark law targeting subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.

The office has investigation and prosecution powers and will monitor intelligence related to national security and process cases, in some circumstances handing them over to the mainland for trial.

Zheng rose through the ranks of the local government in southern Guangdong province which borders Hong Kong, to serve as secretary general of the provincial Communist Party committee.

The 56-year-old is known as a hardliner who stamped out often-violent anti-corruption protests that erupted in Wukan, a village in the province, in 2011 after a local activist died in police custody.

“He is a tough enforcer, a law and order person,” Willy Lam, an expert on China’s Communist Party at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told AFP.

Hong Kong was rocked by several months of huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests last year, a movement which Beijing has vowed to end with its new security law.

China has dismissed protesters’ demands for greater democracy and portrayed the unrest as a foreign plot to destabilise the motherland.

It has sought to ramp up oversight on Hong Kong’s government.

On Friday, the State Council also named Luo Huining — the current director of Beijing’s Liaison Office in the city — as the national security adviser to the newly-formed national security commission, chaired by Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

A loyalist of president Xi Jinping, Luo built a reputation for enforcing Communist Party discipline and tackling corruption.

Hong Kong’s mini-constitution forbids mainland officials from interfering in the running of Hong Kong’s day-to-day affairs.

But Beijing has argued national security is purely the purview of central authorities.

Court charges

The most serious offences carry up to life in jail.

On Friday afternoon, Tong Ying-kit, 23, was charged with the first national security crimes — terrorism and inciting secession.

A police source told AFP Tong drove his motorbike into a group of police officers on Wednesday during protests against the security law, wounding three.

Video footage captured by local television showed a man on an orange motorbike with a flag reading “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times” — a popular pro-democracy slogan — moments before it hit a group of riot police.

Hong Kong’s government have announced that using the phrase “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our times” is illegal under the secession and subversion provisions.

 

AFP

Canada Suspends Extradition With Hong Kong To Protest China’s New Security Law

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during his daily coronavirus, COVID-19 briefing at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Ontario,/ AFP

 

Canada on Friday suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong to protest the sweeping new national security law China has enacted in the financial hub.

Canada is also halting exports of sensitive military gear to Hong Kong and updating its travel advisory so Canadians traveling there will know how the law might affect them, the foreign ministry said.

“Canada is a firm believer in the one-country, two-system framework,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, referring to the semi-autonomous model adopted after Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997.

 

Asian Stocks Extend Gains As US Jobs Trump Virus Worries

People wait to cross a street in front of a stock indicator displaying share prices of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on January 9, 2020. Behrouz MEHRI / AFP

 

 

Asian investors welcomed a forecast-busting US jobs report to send regional equities higher on Friday, though an acceleration in virus infections across the world’s top economy tempered big gains.

While the US registered more than 50,000 new cases for a second straight day and authorities across the country reimposed containment measures, traders backed up with a wall of government and central bank cash chose to look to the positives.

And a near-five million jump in employment in June, combined with promising vaccine tests, provided the platform for another market rally that saw the Nasdaq clock up yet another record.

The jobs report showed people returning to jobs in hard-hit and crucial sectors such as leisure and hospitality, which accounted for just under half of the increase.

The US advances, and a strong performance in Europe — where countries are pressing ahead with lockdown easing — gave Asia a strong lead, which investors picked up on.

Hong Kong rose 1.2 percent after climbing almost three percent Thursday, while Tokyo finished 0.7 percent higher and Shanghai jumped two percent.

Sydney climbed 0.4 percent and Seoul put on 0.8 percent, while there were healthy advances in Taipei, Seoul, Wellington, Singapore and Mumbai. Manila reversed early losses.

London, Paris and Frankfurt all rose at the open.

 

Recovery to ‘level off’

“There’s still a general positive sentiment about how quickly we’re seeing the recovery,” said Chris Gaffney at TIAA Bank.

“But we do think you’re going to see the recovery level off, especially if we continue to see higher case numbers on the virus.”

Analysts warned that while the employment data were good, jobless claims were still elevated — at 1.43 million last week, which was slightly better than the week before but missed expectations.

They pointed out that the latest spike in infections and the reclosure of some businesses around the US, particularly in the Sun Belt, could set the recovery back.

“The non-farm payrolls report is a mid-June snapshot, which might have been the ‘sweet spot’ of near-term employment optimism as the virus situation in the US has deteriorated sharply since,” warned AxiCorp’s Stephen Innes.

“It would be tough to take the better-than-expected… payrolls numbers and extrapolate that there will be a V-shaped recovery in the US,” he added. “The economy has brought back only about 30 percent of the jobs lost.”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow injected some nervousness into trading floors by telling Fox Business Network that the US was “very unhappy with China”.

He added that there were “going to be export restrictions, particularly with respect to military, national security and some sensitive high technology”.

 

Key figures around 0720 GMT

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.7 percent at 22,306.48 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.2 percent at 25,418.19

Shanghai – Composite: UP 2.0 percent at 3,152.81 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 6,258.79

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.9 percent at $40.30 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.8 percent at $42.79 per barrel

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1242 from $1.1239 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 107.52 yen from 107.48 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2475 from $1.2466

Euro/pound: DOWN at 90.08 pence from 90.15 yen

New York – Dow: UP 0.4 percent at 25,827.36 (close)

 

 

 

-AFP

India’s Modi Makes Surprise China Border Visit After Clash

In this handout photograph taken on July 3, 2020 and released by the Indian Press Information Bureau (PIB), India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) walks with military commanders as he arrives in Leh, the joint capital of the union territory of Ladakh. - Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to India's northern frontier region with China on July 3 in his first trip to the area since a deadly border clash last month. (Photo by Handout / PIB / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / Indian Press Information Bureau"
In this handout photograph taken on July 3, 2020 and released by the Indian Press Information Bureau (PIB), India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) walks with military commanders as he arrives in Leh, the joint capital of the union territory of Ladakh. – Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to India’s northern frontier region with China on July 3 in his first trip to the area since a deadly border clash last month. (Photo by Handout / PIB / AFP) 

 

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to India’s northern frontier region with China on Friday in his first trip to the area since a deadly border clash last month.

The incident in the Galwan Valley saw 20 Indian troops killed and was the first time in 45 years that soldiers had died in combat on the Asian giants’ long-disputed Himalayan border.

Modi toured a military base at Nimoo in Ladakh, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) as the crow flies from the site of the June 15 battle.

He was due to go to a military hospital in nearby Leh to meet soldiers injured in the hand-to-hand skirmish, a security source told AFP.

The head of India’s military and the army chief also joined the visit to the sensitive area, which has been used as a staging post to build up troop numbers in the region.

China also suffered casualties but has not given details.

Both sides have blamed each other for the incident and since sent thousands of extra troops to the region.

They have held several rounds of military-level talks and said they want a negotiated settlement but have made little apparent progress.

India has also attempted to turn the screws on China economically, this week banning 59 Chinese mobile phone apps including the popular TikTok citing national security concerns.

With anti-China sentiment on the rise locally, Chinese imports including raw materials vital to India’s pharmaceutical industry have reportedly been piling up at Indian ports due to more stringent border checks.

 

-AFP

China, UK Clash Over Hong Kong’s Fate Under New Security Law

Riot police stand guard outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on May 27, 2020, ahead of a debate over a law that bans insulting China's national anthem, Anthony WALLACE / AFP
Riot police stand guard outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on May 27, 2020, ahead of a debate over a law that bans insulting China’s national anthem. Anthony WALLACE / AFP

 

 

China promised Thursday to take countermeasures against Britain if it presses ahead with plans to extend citizenship rights to Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed a sweeping security law on the restless financial hub.

Beijing has faced a groundswell of criticism from primarily Western nations over its decision to impose a law outlawing acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.

That includes from the United States, where Congress on Thursday dialled up the pressure by passing tough new sanctions that target banks over infringements on Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Hong Kong’s influential Bar Association published a new legal analysis warning that the wording of the law — which was kept secret until Tuesday — undermines the city’s independent judiciary and stifles freedoms.

Britain has said the law breaches China’s pre-handover “One Country, Two Systems” promise to grant residents key liberties — as well as judicial and legislative autonomy — until 2047.

It has responded by announcing plans to allow millions of Hong Kongers with British National Overseas status to relocate with their families and eventually apply for citizenship.

“We will live up to our promises to them,” foreign secretary Dominic Raab told parliament.

That move has infuriated Beijing, which says Britain promised not to grant full citizenship rights to Hong Kongers ahead of the 1997 handover.

“If the British side makes unilateral changes to the relevant practice, it will breach its own position and pledges as well as international law and basic norms governing international relations,” China’s embassy in London said Thursday.

“We firmly oppose this and reserve the right to take corresponding measures,” it added.

– Sanctuary calls –

Britain is not alone in announcing plans to offer Hong Kongers sanctuary or increased immigration rights as fears multiply over the semi-autonomous city’s future under the new law.

Australian leader Scott Morrison said he was “very actively” considering offering Hong Kongers safe haven.

Taiwan has opened an office to help Hong Kongers wanting to flee, while a proposed bill in the United States offering sanctuary to city residents has received widespread bipartisan support.

US lawmakers have also fast-tracked the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, passed Thursday, which targets Chinese officials and the Hong Kong police, making US sanctions against them mandatory if they are identified in two consecutive government reports as working to impede Hong Kong’s freedoms.

Crucially, the act would punish banks — including blocking loans from US institutions — if they conduct “significant transactions” with individuals identified as infringing on the city’s autonomy.

– ‘Arbitrary’ –

Beijing says the law is needed to quell seething pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and restore order after a year of political unrest.

But critics fear it will usher in a new era of political repression given similar laws are routinely used to crush dissent on the Chinese mainland.

The law has sent fear coursing through the city and rattled the legal community in a business hub that has built its reputation on the independence and reliability of its courts.

The Bar Association — which represents the city’s barristers — issued a scathing critique of the law, saying it dismantles the legal firewall that has existed between Hong Kong’s judiciary and China’s Communist Party-controlled courts.

The new national security offences were “widely drawn”, the group said, and “are capable of being applied in a manner that is arbitrary, and that disproportionately interferes with fundamental rights, including the freedom of conscience, expression and assembly”.

It also criticised “the total absence of meaningful consultation” with Hong Kongers before the law was passed.

China dismissed the association’s fears, and said their claim the law lacked meaningful consultation was “totally unfounded”.

– Activist flees –

One of Hong Kong’s most prominent young democracy activists, Nathan Law, announced on Thursday he had fled overseas and will “continue the advocacy work on the international level”.

The revelation came as Hong Kong’s local government confirmed that a popular protest slogan used over the last year was now illegal.

“Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times” has become a clarion call for pro-democracy protesters over the last year.

It could be heard on the streets as thousands defied a protest ban on Wednesday — the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China — in some of the worst unrest in months.

Police responded with water cannon, pepper spray and tear gas, arresting nearly 400 people.

Ten people were arrested under the new law, illustrating how holding certain political views had become illegal overnight.

Most of those arrested were carrying flags or leaflets advocating for Hong Kong independence.

The security law is controversial because it radically increases Beijing’s control over the city.

China says it will have jurisdiction over some cases and has empowered its security agents to operate openly inside Hong Kong for the first time, unconstrained by local laws.

It has also claimed global jurisdiction, saying the law covers national security offences committed overseas — even by foreigners.

Some trials will be held behind closed doors and without juries, while local police have been granted sweeping surveillance powers that no longer need judicial sign off.

China And UK Clash Over Fate Of Hong Kongers Under New Security Law

Riot police detain a man as they clear protesters taking part in a rally against a new national security law in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020, on the 23rd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. Hong Kong police made the first arrests under Beijing's new national security law on July 1 as the city greeted the anniversary of its handover to China with protesters fleeing water cannon. DALE DE LA REY / AFP
Riot police detain a man as they clear protesters taking part in a rally against a new national security law in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020, on the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China. – Hong Kong police made the first arrests under Beijing’s new national security law on July 1 as the city greeted the anniversary of its handover to China with protesters fleeing water cannon. (Photo by DALE DE LA REY / AFP)

 

 

China promised Thursday to take countermeasures against Britain if it presses ahead with plans to extend citizenship rights to Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed a sweeping security law on the restless financial hub.

Beijing has faced a groundswell of criticism from primarily Western nations over its decision to impose a new law outlawing acts of subversion, secession, terrorism, and colluding with foreign forces.

Adding to concerns, Hong Kong’s influential Bar Association published a new legal analysis warning that the wording of the law — which was kept secret until Tuesday — undermines the city’s independent judiciary and stifles freedoms.

Britain has said the law breaches China’s pre-handover “One Country, Two Systems” promise to grant residents key liberties — as well as judicial and legislative autonomy — until 2047.

It has responded by announcing plans to allow millions of Hong Kongers with British National Overseas status to relocate with their families and eventually apply for citizenship.

“We will live up to our promises to them,” foreign secretary Dominic Raab told parliament.

That move has infuriated Beijing, which says Britain promised not to grant full citizenship rights to Hong Kongers ahead of the 1997 handover.

“If the British side makes unilateral changes to the relevant practice, it will breach its own position and pledges as well as international law and basic norms governing international relations,” China’s embassy in London said Thursday.

“We firmly oppose this and reserve the right to take corresponding measures,” it added.

– Sanctuary calls –
Britain is not alone in announcing plans to offer Hong Kongers sanctuary or increased immigration rights as fears multiply over the semi-autonomous city’s future under the new law.

On Thursday, Australian leader Scott Morrison said he was “very actively” considering offering Hong Kongers safe haven.

Taiwan has opened an office to help Hong Kongers wanting to flee, while a proposed bill in the United States offering sanctuary to city residents has received widespread bipartisan support.

Beijing says the law is needed to quell seething pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and restore order after a year of political unrest.

But critics fear it will usher in a new era of political repression given similar laws are routinely used to crush dissent on the Chinese mainland.

The law has sent fear coursing through the city and rattled the legal community in a business hub that has built its reputation on the independence and reliability of its courts.

The Bar Association — which represents the city’s barristers — issued a scathing critique of the law, saying it dismantles the legal firewall that has existed between Hong Kong’s judiciary and China’s Communist Party-controlled courts.

The new national security offences were “widely drawn”, the group said, and “are capable of being applied in a manner that is arbitrary, and that disproportionately interferes with fundamental rights, including the freedom of conscience, expression and assembly”.

It also criticised “the total absence of meaningful consultation” with Hong Kongers before the law was passed.

– First arrests –
Thousands of residents defied a protest ban on Wednesday — the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China — to block roads and voice opposition to the bill in some of the worst unrest in months.

Police responded with water cannon, pepper spray and tear gas, arresting nearly 400 people.

Seven officers were injured, including one who was stabbed in the shoulder and three others hit by a protester on a motorbike.

Ten people were arrested under the new law, illustrating how holding certain political views had become illegal overnight.

Most of those arrested were carrying flags or leaflets advocating for Hong Kong independence.

The security law is controversial because it radically increases Beijing’s control over the city.

China says it will have jurisdiction over some cases and has empowered its security agents to operate openly inside Hong Kong for the first time, unconstrained by local laws.

It has also claimed global jurisdiction, saying the law covers national security offences committed overseas — even by foreigners.

Some trials will be held behind closed doors and without juries, while local police have been granted sweeping surveillance powers that no longer need judicial sign off.

 

 

 

-AFP

China Orders Four US Media Outlets To Disclose Finances, Staff

(FILES)(COMBO) This combination of file pictures created on April 4, 2017 shows US President Donald Trump in St. Louis, Missouri on October 9, 2016 and China’s leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on December 5, 2012. Ed Jones, Paul J. RICHARDS / AFP

 

 

China on Wednesday ordered four US news outlets to disclose details of their staff and financial operations in the country within seven days, as a media row escalates between Washington and Beijing.

The Associated Press, United Press International, CBS and NPR must report the information — as well as details of any real estate they hold in China — in retaliation for Washington’s crackdown on four Chinese state media outlets, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

China’s actions are “entirely necessary countermeasures against the United States’ unreasonable oppression of Chinese media organisations in the US”, Zhao said at a regular press briefing.

The US State Department on June 22 reclassified four Chinese state media outlets as foreign missions in the United States, adding to five others designated in February.

All nine outlets “are effectively controlled by the government of the People’s Republic of China”, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in June.

After the first group of outlets were ordered to cut their Chinese staff working in the United States, Beijing hit back by expelling more than a dozen US nationals working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

Beijing also ordered the papers, as well as Voice of America and Time magazine, to declare in writing their staff, finances, operations and real estate in China.

Zhao on Wednesday said the US restrictions on Chinese media “exposed the hypocrisy of the so-called press freedom touted by the US”.

China urges the US to “correct its mistakes and stop the political suppression and unreasonable restrictions on Chinese media”, Zhao said.

All nine Chinese state-run news organisations are required to report details of their US-based staff and real estate transactions to the State Department. Their news reporting will not be restricted, US officials said in June.

Relations between Beijing and Washington have worsened as the two sides trade barbs over blame for the COVID-19 pandemic and human rights violations.

The United States has led a global backlash against a national security law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing Tuesday, cutting off defence exports and revoking the financial hub’s special trade status.

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he was growing “more and more angry at China” over the pandemic, which he blames on Chinese inaction and lack of transparency.

Meanwhile, China has accused the Trump administration of politicising the pandemic to deflect from its own handling of the crisis.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met senior Chinese official Yang Jiechi in Hawaii last month, with little apparent effect on soaring bilateral tensions.

AFP

China To Foreign Critics: Hong Kong Law ‘None Of Your Business’

People watch after police (background C) entered a shopping mall to disperse people attending a lunchtime rally in Hong Kong on June 30, 2020, as China passed a sweeping national security law for the city.(Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

 

China on Wednesday slammed international criticism over a controversial new national security law for Hong Kong, saying other countries should keep quiet.

Western governments and critics have warned the new law will curb the city’s autonomy and undermine the “One Country, Two Systems” policy meant to protect freedoms unseen on the mainland.

But Beijing officials have rebuffed the criticism.

“What’s this got to do with you?” said Zhang Xiaoming of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council at a press conference. “It’s none of your business”.

Officials insisted there had been wide consultation with members of Hong Kong society and hit back at claims it was undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.

“If what we want is one country, one system, it would have been simple,” Zhang said.

“We are completely able to impose the criminal law, the criminal procedure and the national security law and other national laws on Hong Kong.

“Why would we need to put so much effort into formulating a national security law tailor-made for Hong Kong?”

Zhang also insisted that the law — which he said cannot be applied retrospectively — was only to target “a handful of criminals” and “not the entire opposition camp.”

“The purpose of enacting Hong Kong’s national security law is definitely not to target Hong Kong’s opposition camp, pro-democracy camp, as the enemy,” he said.

Instead, the One Country, Two Systems policy showed the government’s “political tolerance”, he said.

His comments come a day after Hong Kong pro-democracy party Demosisto announced it was disbanding, following the passing of the law.

Zhang also lashed out at suggestions of punishment from other nations.

“As for… some countries now saying that they will impose severe sanctions on some Chinese officials, I think this is the logic of bandits.”

A group of 27 countries including Britain, France, Germany and Japan, made a rare oral rebuke of China at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday and urged Beijing to reconsider the law.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a separate briefing that 53 countries had made a joint statement at the council to “support China’s policy on Hong Kong.”

“A minority of Western countries including the United Kingdom, attacked and smeared China on Hong Kong-related issues,” he said. “The anti-China performance of a few Western countries has failed.”

AFP

Australia To Boost Defence Spending As China Tensions Rise

Police patrol aound the Australia’s iconic landmark Opera House, usually packed with tourists, in Sydney on June 30, 2020. Saeed KHAN / AFP.

 

Australia will announce a substantial increase in defence spending and focus on projecting military power across the Indo-Pacific amid escalating tensions with China, in a major policy speech to be delivered Wednesday by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The address, seen by AFP, will set out Australia’s defence policy for the next ten years and earmark Aus$270 billion ($185 billion) for new and upgraded defence capabilities.

“We must face the reality that we have moved into a new and less benign strategic era,” Morrison will warn, eyeing the end of unquestioned US hegemony and the rise of an increasingly assertive China.

“Even as we stare down the COVID pandemic at home, we need to also prepare for a post-COVID world that is poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly.”

Australia’s government is committing to spending two percent of GDP on defence — as US President Donald Trump has angrily demanded of allies — and spending almost 40 percent more over the last defence review in 2016.

The country will acquire more powerful strike capabilities, including the United States’ AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, as well as invest in hypersonic weapons research.

– Middle power –

While acknowledging the nation of 25 million people cannot match its rivals in the region — China officially plans to spend $178 billion on defence in 2020 alone — Morrison framed Australia as a regional power committed to an “open, sovereign Indo-Pacific, free from coercion and hegemony”.

Though Morrison says Australia remains prepared to send troops further afield “where it is in our national interest to do so”, that cannot come at the cost of its ability to respond to threats from and in its own backyard, he will say.

The Australian Defence Force will focus on building “stronger deterrence capabilities” to raise the cost for any would-be aggressor and concentrate on the immediate region over operations further afield.

Australia has fought alongside the United States in every major war of the last century, sometimes in areas far from its shores or outside its immediate interests.

The announcement marks a significant shift in Australia’s defence posture that will be widely seen as an effort to counter Beijing’s growing influence in the region.

It also follows Morrison’s “Pacific Step-Up” policy — announced in 2018 to rebuild support among regional allies drifting toward Beijing — which has seen his government ramp up diplomatic engagement and offer greater financial aid to its developing neighbours.

“We want a region where all countries, large and small, can engage freely with each other, guided by international rules and norms,” he will say.

He will also pinpoint cybersecurity as key to Australia’s defence strategy, a day after announcing the “largest-ever” boost in cybersecurity spending — a roughly 10 percent hike that takes the budget for the next decade to Aus$15 billion.

The government says Australia has been targeted in a wave of state-sponsored attacks, which are suspected to have been carried out by China.

Beijing has clashed repeatedly with Canberra as it looks to increase the cost for Australia of speaking out against Communist Party interests.

Most recently, Australia enraged China by calling for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Canberra has also pushed back against what it describes as China’s economic “coercion”, covert influence campaigns and the use of technology companies like Huawei as a tool for intelligence gathering and geopolitical leverage.

China has warned its students and tourists against going to Australia, slapped trade sanctions on Australian goods and sentenced an Australian citizen to death for drug trafficking.

AFP

China Passes Feared Hong Kong Security Law

People watch after police (background C) entered a shopping mall to disperse people attending a lunchtime rally in Hong Kong on June 30, 2020, as China passed a sweeping national security law for the city. – China passed a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong, a historic move that critics and many western governments fear will smother the finance hub’s freedoms and hollow out its autonomy. Anthony WALLACE / AFP.

 

China imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong Tuesday, a historic move that critics and many western governments fear will smother the finance hub’s freedoms and hollow out its autonomy.

As the law was signed by President Xi Jinping little more than six weeks after it was first unveiled, Beijing described it as a “sword” hanging over the heads of those who endanger national security.

The contents of the law have so far been kept secret from Hong Kong’s 7.5 million inhabitants, sparking alarm, anger and fear.

“It marks the end of Hong Kong that the world knew before,” prominent democracy campaigner Joshua Wong tweeted as his political party Demosisto announced it was disbanding.

“With sweeping powers and ill-defined law, the city will turn into a #secretpolicestate.”

Some Hong Kongers on Tuesday said they were deleting Twitter accounts and scrubbing other social media platforms.

In contrast, former city leader Leung Chun-ying took to Facebook to offer bounties of up to HK$1 million ($130,000) for anyone who could help secure the first prosecutions under the new legislation or track down people who have recently fled the city.

The United States, Britain, the European Union and the United Nations rights watchdog have all voiced fears it could be used to stifle criticism of Beijing, which wields similar laws to crush dissent on the mainland.

The law bypassed Hong Kong’s fractious legislature and comes into effect on Tuesday evening, according to the city’s current leader Carrie Lam.

“The fact that Hong Kong people will only come to know what’s really in this new law after the fact is more than preposterous,” Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker, told AFP.

– ‘Fundamental change’ –

As part of the 1997 handover from Britain, Hong Kong was guaranteed certain freedoms — as well as judicial and legislative autonomy — for 50 years in a deal known as “One Country, Two Systems”.

The formula helped to cement the city’s status as a world-class business hub, bolstered by a reliable judiciary and political freedoms unseen on the mainland.

Critics have long accused Beijing of chipping away at that status, but they describe the new security law as the most brazen move yet.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply concerned” and that London would scrutinise the law “to understand whether it is in conflict” with the handover agreement.

A summary of the law published by the official state news agency Xinhua this month said it would cover subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.

China’s security agencies will also be able to set up shop publicly in the city for the first time.

And Beijing will have jurisdiction over some cases, toppling the legal firewall that has existed between Hong Kong and the mainland’s party-controlled courts.

Analysts said that even without knowing details, the security law radically restructures the relationship between Beijing and Hong Kong.

“It’s a fundamental change that dramatically undermines both the local and international community’s confidence towards Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” model and its status as a robust financial centre,” Hong Kong political analyst Dixon Sing told AFP.

– Restore stability –

On the mainland, national security laws are routinely used to jail critics, especially for the vague offence of “subversion”.

Beijing and Hong Kong’s government reject those allegations.

They have said the law will only target a minority of people, will not harm political freedoms in the city and will restore business confidence after a year of historic pro-democracy protests.

“I urge the international community to respect our country’s right to safeguard national security and Hong Kong people’s aspirations for stability and harmony,” city leader Lam told the UN Human Rights Council in a video message on Tuesday.

Millions took to the streets last year while a hard core of protesters frequently battled police in often violent confrontations that saw more than 9,000 arrested.

Hong Kong has banned protests in recent months, citing previous unrest and the coronavirus pandemic, although local transmissions have ended.

Some western nations warned of potential repercussions ahead of the security law’s passing.

However many are also wary of incurring Beijing’s wrath and losing lucrative access to the mainland’s huge economy.

“We deplore this decision,” said European Council head Charles Michel.

Chris Patten, the last British governor of the territory, said the decision marked “the end of One Country, Two Systems”.

Washington — which has embarked on a trade war with China — has said the security law means Hong Kong no longer enjoys sufficient autonomy from the mainland to justify special status.

In a largely symbolic move, the United States on Monday ended sensitive defence exports to Hong Kong over the law.

China said it would take unspecified “countermeasures” in response.

AFP

New Swine Flu Found In China Has ‘Pandemic Potential’

The new type of swine flu is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009 (AFP Photo/INA FASSBENDER)
The new type of swine flu is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009 (AFP Photo/INA FASSBENDER)

 

 

Researchers in China have discovered a new type of swine flu that is capable of triggering a pandemic, according to a study published Monday in the US science journal PNAS.

Named G4, it is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009.

It possesses “all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans,” say the authors, scientists at Chinese universities and China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

From 2011 to 2018, researchers took 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces and in a veterinary hospital, allowing them to isolate 179 swine flu viruses.

The majority were of a new kind which has been dominant among pigs since 2016.

The researchers then carried out various experiments including on ferrets, which are widely used in flu studies because they experience similar symptoms to humans — principally fever, coughing and sneezing.

G4 was observed to be highly infectious, replicating in human cells and causing more serious symptoms in ferrets than other viruses.

Tests also showed that any immunity humans gain from exposure to seasonal flu does not provide protection from G4.

According to blood tests which showed up antibodies created by exposure to the virus, 10.4 percent of swine workers had already been infected.

The tests showed that as many as 4.4 percent of the general population also appeared to have been exposed.

The virus has therefore already passed from animals to humans but there is no evidence yet that it can be passed from human to human — the scientists’ main worry.

“It is of concern that human infection of G4 virus will further human adaptation and increase the risk of a human pandemic,” the researchers wrote.

Asked about the virus on Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing that China “has been paying close attention to its development” and will take all needed action to prevent its spread and any outbreaks.

The study’s authors called for urgent measures to monitor people working with pigs.

“The work comes as a salutary reminder that we are constantly at risk of new emergence of zoonotic pathogens and that farmed animals, with which humans have greater contact than with wildlife, may act as the source for important pandemic viruses,” said James Wood, head of the department of veterinary medicine at Cambridge University.

A zoonotic infection is caused by a pathogen that has jumped from a non-human animal into a human.

-AFP