China Has Acted ‘For The Good Of Hong Kong’: Xi Says At Handover Anniversary

Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive John Lee (L) walks with China’s President Xi Jinping (R) following Xi’s speech after a ceremony to inaugurate the city’s new leader and government in Hong Kong on July 1, 2022, on the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China. (Photo by Selim CHTAYTI / POOL / AFP)



President Xi Jinping hailed China’s rule over Hong Kong on Friday as he led 25th anniversary celebrations of the city’s handover from Britain, insisting that democracy was flourishing despite a years-long political crackdown that has silenced dissent.

Xi’s speech was the finale of a two-day victory lap aimed at celebrating the Chinese Communist Party’s control over the once outspoken business hub after authorities stamped out huge democracy protests.

Since Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020, opposition has been quashed and most leading pro-democracy figures have fled the country, been disqualified from office or jailed.

But Xi said Beijing had always acted “for the good of Hong Kong”.

“After reuniting with the motherland, Hong Kong’s people became the masters of their own city,” he said. “Hong Kong’s true democracy started from here.”

The tightly choreographed trip is the Chinese leader’s first outside of the mainland since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and his first to Hong Kong since the massive protests overwhelmed the city in 2019.

Friday’s ceremony included the inauguration of the city’s new government, led by John Lee — a former security chief who oversaw the police response to those demonstrations.

“After all the storms, everyone has painfully learned that Hong Kong can’t fall into chaos and Hong Kong can’t afford chaos,” Xi said.

“It must get rid of all disturbances and focus on development.”

– ‘Erosion of autonomy’ –
Friday marks the halfway point of the 50-year governance model agreed by Britain and China under which Hong Kong would keep autonomy and key freedoms, known as One Country, Two Systems.

The anniversary used to be a prime example of those freedoms in action.

For years after the handover hundreds of thousands of residents would take part in a march every July 1 to voice political and social grievances.

But that rally, like all other mass gatherings and protests in Hong Kong, has been banned for more than two years.

Critics, including many western powers, say Beijing has effectively torn up the promise that Hong Kong would retain its way of life after the handover.

“We made a promise to the territory and its people and we intend to keep it, doing all we can to hold China to its commitments,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday.

The United States and Australia also issued statements timed for the anniversary criticising the erosion of freedoms while Taiwan’s Premier said freedom and democracy had “vanished” in Hong Kong.

But Xi insisted that One Country, Two Systems was “a good system”.

It “has no reason at all to change and it must be upheld in the long run,” he said in his speech, arguing it safeguarded “the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests”.


This handout photo taken on June 30, 2022 and received via Hong Kong’s Information Services Department shows China’s President Xi Jinping (3rd L) and his wife Peng Liyuan (3rd R), Hong Kong’s outgoing Chief Executive Carrie Lam (2nd L) and her husband Lam Siu-por (L), and Hong Kong’s incoming Chief Executive John Lee (2nd R) and his wife Janet Lee China’s posing together for a photo before a dinner at Government House in Hong Kong. (Photo by Handout / various sources / AFP)


– Closed loop –
China still maintains strict zero-Covid controls and Xi’s visit took place under a tightly monitored “closed-loop” system to protect him.

Those coming into the president’s orbit — from the schoolchildren who welcomed him at the train station to the highest-ranking government officials — were made to take daily PCR tests and spend days in a quarantine hotel.

Parts of the city were closed off, and media coverage was tightly restricted.

Police moved to eliminate any potential source of embarrassment during Xi’s time in the city, with national security police making at least nine arrests over the past week, and many of the few remaining opposition groups saying they had been warned off protesting.

Authorities have sought to portray an image of public support for the celebrations.

The city’s main newspapers ran all-red full front pages celebrating the anniversary, and pro-Beijing publications ran bumper editions full of advertisements, with the longest running to 188 pages.

Friday’s celebrations began with a flag-raising ceremony at the city’s Victoria Harbour, complete with a military flypast and a flotilla spraying plumes of water.

Xi was not present — local media reported he had spent the night in the neighbouring mainland city of Shenzhen and travelled back into the city on Friday morning.

All events have been closed to the public, but some scattered groups gathered near the flag-raising ceremony to watch the flypast.

Liu, a 43-year-old restaurant worker, was among those who snapped pictures on her phone as the helicopters, trailing massive Chinese and Hong Kong flags, roared past.

“Our motherland has taken good care of us and we are thankful,” she said. “I’m hopeful for the next 25 years.”

In a nearby eatery, a 35-year-old tech worker surnamed Cheng said he had no special plans to mark the day.

“For me and I think some Hong Kongers, the biggest impact we feel is (Xi’s) visit causing huge traffic jams everywhere.”

Sanctioned Russia Becomes China’s Main Source Of Oil

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Talent and Success Educational Foundation via a video link at the Sirius Educational Center for Gifted Children in Sochi on May 11, 2022. Mikhail METZEL / SPUTNIK / AFP
File Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin 




China ramped up crude oil imports from Russia in May, customs data showed Monday, helping to offset losses from Western nations scaling back Russian energy purchases over the invasion of Ukraine.

The spike means Russia has overtaken Saudi Arabia to become China’s top oil provider as the West sanctions Moscow’s energy exports.

The world’s second-biggest economy imported around 8.42 million tonnes of oil from Russia last month — a 55 percent rise on-year.

Beijing has refused to publicly condemn Moscow’s war and has instead exacted economic gains from its isolated neighbour.

It imported 7.82 million tonnes of oil from Saudi Arabia in May.

China bought $7.47 billion worth of Russian energy products last month, about $1 billion more than in April, according to Bloomberg News.

The new customs data comes four months into the war in Ukraine, with buyers from the United States and Europe shunning Russian energy imports or pledging to slash them over the coming months.

Asian demand is helping to staunch some of those losses for Russia, especially buyers from China and India.

India bought six times more Russian oil from March to May compared with the same period last year, while imports by China during that period trippled, data from research firm Rystad Energy shows.

“For now, it is just pure economics that Indian and Chinese refiners are importing more Russian-origin crude oil… as such oil is cheap,” said analyst Wei Cheong Ho.

According to the International Energy Agency’s latest global oil report, India has overtaken Germany in the last two months as the second-largest importer of Russian crude.

China has been Russia’s biggest market for crude oil since 2016.

– ‘No limits’ –
Days before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s President Xi Jinping greeted his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Beijing where the two countries declared a bilateral relationship of “no limits”.

Although demand in China remains muted due to Covid restrictions, there has been some improvement in the past month as cities loosen controls after the country’s worst outbreak since the early days of the pandemic.

This has allowed supply chain problems to ease and industrial production to pick up, official data shows.

China’s overall imports from Russia spiked 80 percent in May from a year ago to $10.3 billion, according to customs data.

Beijing’s purchases of Russian liquefied natural gas surged 54 percent on-year to 397,000 tonnes, even as overall imports of the fuel fell.

China has been accused of providing a diplomatic shield for Russia by criticising Western sanctions on Moscow and arms sales to Kyiv.

– Joint goals –
Once bitter Cold War rivals, Beijing and Moscow have stepped up cooperation in recent years as a counterbalance to what they see as US global dominance.

This month they unveiled the first road bridge linking the countries, connecting the far eastern Russian city of Blagoveshchensk with the northern Chinese city of Heihe.

Last week Xi assured Putin of China’s support on Russian “sovereignty and security” in a call between the two leaders.

The Kremlin said the pair had agreed to ramp up economic cooperation in the face of “unlawful” Western sanctions.

The West has implemented unprecedented sanctions on Russia in retaliation for its war in Ukraine, forcing Moscow to find new markets and suppliers to replace foreign firms that have left Russia following the invasion.

The 27-nation European Union agreed in late May to a package of sanctions that would halt the majority of Russian oil imports.

The United States has already banned all Russian oil but European nations are much more dependent on these imports.

Energy is a major source of income for Putin’s government, and Western nations are trying to isolate Moscow and impede its ability to continue the war.

Russia, China Unveil First Road Bridge

A view of the first border bridge over the Amur (Heilongjiang) river linking the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk and the Chinese city of Heihe during its inauguration ceremony on June 10, 2022.
Handout / Amur region Government press service / AFP




Russia and China on Friday unveiled the first road bridge between the two countries as Moscow pivots to Asia amid its confrontation with the West over Ukraine.

The kilometre-long bridge over the Amur River links the far eastern Russian city of Blagoveshchensk with Heihe in northern China.

The construction of the bridge was completed two years ago but its inauguration was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

During a ceremony in Blagoveshchensk on Friday, the bridge opened to freight traffic, with the passage of the first trucks greeted by fireworks.

Consisting of two traffic lanes, the bridge cost around 19 billion rubles ($328 million), according to official figures.

A view of the first border bridge over the Amur (Heilongjiang) river linking the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk and the Chinese city of Heihe during its inauguration ceremony on June 10, 2022.
Handout / Amur region Government press service / AFP

Once bitter foes during the Cold War, Moscow and Beijing have over the past years ramped up political and economic cooperation as both are driven by a desire to counterbalance what they see as US global dominance.

Trade between Russia and China, which share a 4,250-kilometre border, has flourished since the normalisation of relations between the two giants in the late 1980s, but has always come up against the region’s lack of transport infrastructure.

Heavy Rains Leave 10 Dead, Thousands Displaced In China

The Chinese map.


Ten people have died in central China as torrential rains lashed Hunan province, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands, state media reported.

The downpours, which began on June 1, have forced the evacuation of around 286,000 people, with more than 2,700 homes collapsed or seriously damaged, the official Xinhua news agency reported Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, 10 people were killed and three were missing, Hunan provincial official Li Dajian said, according to the agency.

“Heavy rains have caused the water levels of rivers and lakes to rise significantly,” the provincial government said in a statement on Thursday.

“The whole province at all levels is responding actively and making every effort to prevent (disasters).”

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The rains have impacted almost all of Hunan province with some weather stations reporting “historic levels” of precipitation, Xinhua said.

It cited local authorities as saying 1.79 million people have been “affected”, without providing details.

Authorities have sent tents, foldable beds, food and clothing to the stricken areas, Xinhua added.

Floods are fairly common in central and southern China, where the humid summer often brings heavy rains.

China experienced its worst floods in a decade last year when deluges in central regions killed more than 300 people.

Scores died in floods and mudslides in the worst-hit city of Zhengzhou, where residents also became trapped in subway carriages, underground car parks and tunnels.

Experts believe that disaster was likely made worse by human-induced climate change.


Amazon To Close Kindle e-Bookstore In China

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 27, 2019 an Amazon sign is pictured at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Peterborough, east England. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)


US tech giant Amazon said Thursday that it will stop operating its Kindle e-bookstore in China from next year, closing the chapter on a massive consumer market.

The e-commerce pioneer has in recent years appeared to admit defeat to local Chinese rivals such as Alibaba and, ending its online retail operations for Chinese consumers in 2019.

Amazon’s decision to pull the Kindle service comes about eight years after it first set up an official store for the e-book reader on Alibaba’s Tmall platform.

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“Amazon will stop operating its Kindle e-bookstore in China a year from now on June 30, 2023,” the company said Thursday in a statement on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

This means that customers can no longer buy new e-books, although those that have been purchased can still be downloaded until June 2024 and will remain readable afterwards, it said.

It did not give a reason for ending the service, but said its remaining China businesses would “continue to innovate and invest”.

“As a global business, we periodically evaluate our offerings and make adjustments, wherever we operate,” it added.

Customers can still buy Kindle devices from other Tmall retailers, but not from its official online store.

Amazon said in a separate notice that although it announced “the adjustment of Kindle-related business in China”, this does not change its long-term commitment to the market.

“Millions of Kindle reading devices” were sold in China between 2013 and 2018, according to state media outlet China Daily.

The report added that by end-2016, China became the biggest market for these devices.

Kindle’s exit is the latest among global brands, after US internet services giant Yahoo! pulled out of mainland China last year and Microsoft said it would close its career-oriented social network LinkedIn in the country.

Microsoft cited a “challenging operating environment” as Beijing tightened control over tech firms.

While e-commerce is very popular with Chinese consumers, Amazon has struggled to make headway in the country.

Local competitors such as Alibaba and have capitalised on their supplier networks and understanding of Chinese consumers to gain market share, before Amazon could acquire a foothold.

Asked about Kindle’s exit, Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said was “normal… to adjust products and services according to market development”.

Amazon has more than 10,000 staff and offices in 12 cities across China including Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Shenzhen, the company said.


China To Double Wind, Solar Energy Capacity By 2025

This file photo taken on September 30, 2021 shows China's President Xi Jinping (C) arriving with Premier Li Keqiang (L) for a reception at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on the eve of China's National Day. GREG BAKER / AFP
This file photo taken on September 30, 2021 shows China’s President Xi Jinping (C) arriving with Premier Li Keqiang (L) for a reception at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on the eve of China’s National Day. GREG BAKER / AFP


China aims to double its wind and solar capacity by 2025, according to a new road map that also allows for more coal-fired power plants to bolster energy security.

The world’s biggest polluter earlier estimated it needs to double wind and solar use by 2030 to deliver on its pledges under the Paris climate accord.

The latest plan — if implemented — means China might reach that goal earlier.

But Beijing has also ramped up reliance on coal-fired power plants in recent months to support its ailing economy as the Ukraine war pushes up global energy prices.

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The country’s central economic planner said 33 percent of power supply to the national grid will come from renewable sources by 2025, up from 29 percent in 2020, in a document released Wednesday.

“In 2025, the annual power generation from renewable energy will reach about 3.3 trillion kilowatt-hours… and the wind power and solar power generation will double,” the plan said.

China, already the world’s largest producer of renewable energy, has accelerated investment in solar and wind projects to tackle pollution at home, which researchers say kills millions every year.

Beijing has pledged to peak emissions by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060.

Investment in solar energy nearly tripled in the first four months of the year to 29 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) compared with January to April investment in the previous year, data from the National Energy Administration shows.

But China’s energy policy has remained a two-headed beast, with the country burning about half the coal used globally each year to power its economy.

Policymakers further embraced coal as the Ukraine war pushed up prices of oil and natural gas.

Premier Li Keqiang said coal underpinned China’s energy security in an emergency meeting last week to address economic woes, and the central bank has approved a $15 billion credit line to fund coal mining and coal-fired plants.

In March, the cabinet ordered miners to dig up 300 million tons of extra coal this year.

Local governments started building new power plants last year that will boost capacity from coal by the most since 2016, after an energy crunch paralysed swathes of the economy.

Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, said “energy security — avoiding another energy shortage and managing geopolitical risks — is the overwhelming priority” for China with the economic outlook uncertain.

The latest energy plan says renewables will supply “50 percent of the growth in power consumption” to 2025, lower than previous official estimates and signalling more room to expand coal power.

“The planners are projecting, or preparing for, faster demand growth which would see fossil fuel use and emissions still increase,” Myllyvirta said.

Taiwan Says 30 China Jets Breached Its Air Defence Zone

An F-2 fighter jet takes part in a live fire exercise conducted by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) at East Fuji Maneuver Area in Gotemba on May 28, 2022. Tomohiro Ohsumi / POOL / AFP
PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE STORY: An F-2 fighter jet takes part in a live fire exercise conducted by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) at East Fuji Maneuver Area in Gotemba on May 28, 2022. Tomohiro Ohsumi / POOL / AFP


China has made the second largest incursion into Taiwan’s air defence zone this year with Taipei reporting 30 jets entering the area, including more than 20 fighters. 

Taiwan’s defence ministry said late Monday it had scrambled its own aircraft and deployed air defence missile systems to monitor the latest Chinese activity.

In recent years, Beijing has begun sending large sorties into Taiwan’s defence zone to signal dissatisfaction, and to keep Taipei’s ageing fighter fleet regularly stressed.

Self-ruled democratic Taiwan lives under the constant threat of invasion by China, which views the island as its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.

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Monday’s incursion was the largest since January 23, when 39 planes entered the air defence identification zone, or ADIZ.

The ADIZ is not the same as Taiwan’s territorial airspace but includes a far greater area that overlaps with part of China’s own air defence identification zone and even includes some of the mainland.

A flight map provided by the Taiwanese defence ministry showed the planes entering the southwestern corner of the ADIZ before looping back out again.

‘Increasingly provocative’

The United States last week accused Beijing of raising tensions over the island, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken specifically mentioning aircraft incursions as an example of “increasingly provocative rhetoric and activity”.

Blinken’s remarks came after US President Joe Biden appeared to break decades of US policy when, in response to a question on a visit to Japan, he said Washington would defend Taiwan militarily if it is attacked by China.

But the White House has since insisted its policy of “strategic ambiguity” over whether or not it would intervene has not changed.

There is growing bipartisan discussion in Washington over whether to switch to “strategic clarity” given Beijing’s increasingly aggressive approach to cross-strait relations, epitomised by the air incursions.

US senators have made multiple trips to the island in a show of support — a group led by Republican Lindsey Graham visited in April, and Democrat Tammy Duckworth landed in Taipei on Monday.

Duckworth was one of the main sponsors of the Taiwan Partnership Act, which aims to deepen security ties between Taipei and Washington. It has yet to be voted on or become law.

But after a meeting with Duckworth on Tuesday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen suggested that some form of link-up was already happening.

“As a result (of the Act), the US Department of Defence is now actively planning cooperation between the National Guard and Taiwan’s defence forces,” Tsai said in a statement, without explaining further.

Constant alert

Last year, Taiwan recorded 969 incursions by Chinese warplanes into its ADIZ, according to an AFP database — more than double the roughly 380 carried out in 2020.

The most number of aircraft China has sent in a single day was 56 on October 4, 2021.

That month saw a record 196 incursions, mostly around China’s annual national day celebrations.

So far in 2022 Taiwan has reported 465 incursions, a near 50 percent increase on the same period last year.

The sheer number of sorties has put the air force under immense pressure, and it has suffered a string of fatal accidents in recent years.

On Tuesday local media reported that a pilot had died after crashing a trainer jet in southern Kaohsiung.

It is not the first deadly crash this year — in January one of Taiwan’s most advanced fighter jets, an F-16V, plunged into the sea.

Last March, Taiwan grounded all military aircraft after a pilot was killed and another went missing when their fighters collided mid-air in the third fatal crash in less than six months.



WHO Meet Refuses To Admit Taiwan Amid China Pressure

A file photo of a signpost with WHO emblem.



The World Health Organization’s annual assembly refused Monday to discuss admitting Taiwan to the meeting, under pressure from China and despite impassioned pleas from several countries.

Taiwan has been blocked from attending the assembly in recent years by China, which considers the island a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland.

There have been growing calls to allow Taiwan in as an observer, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of global cooperation on reining in infectious diseases.

“As we continue to fight Covid-19 and other emerging health threats, Taiwan’s isolation from the pre-eminent global health forum is unwarranted and undermines inclusive global public health cooperation,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week.

At the start of the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA), representatives from 13 of WHO’s 194 member countries, including Belize, Eswatini, Haiti and Tuvalu, presented a proposal to put offering Taiwan permanent observer status onto the agenda.

Pointing to the still-raging Covid-19 pandemic, the text warned that “the continued exclusion of Taiwan from the World Health Organization has seriously compromised WHO’s overall disease prevention efforts, undermined the interests of its members, and jeopardised global health.”

It also highlighted Taiwan’s “exceptional” response to the Covid-19 crisis: the island of more than 23 million people has suffered just over 1,300 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

“Taiwan’s medical services and universal health care system are among the world’s best, making Taiwan an ideal model for many WHO member states to consider,” the text said, insisting the global community would benefit from including Taiwan.

A WHA committee had discussed the issue behind closed doors on Sunday, and proposed to the full assembly Monday morning to leave the issue off the agenda.

After two countries for each side were asked to present their positions, the assembly agreed the issue should not be included in the agenda.

The proposal was “political manipulation,” China’s ambassador Chen Xu told the assembly in his address, alledging it’s “true aim is to seek independence through the pandemic.”

Eswatini’s representative pushed back, insisting “Taiwan’s participation in the WHA is a health issue, not a political one.”

Taiwan was expelled from the WHO in 1972, a year after losing the “China” seat at the UN to the People’s Republic of China.

It was allowed to attend the WHO’s top annual meetings between 2009 and 2016 as an observer when relations with China were warmer.

But Beijing has stepped up its campaign to pressure Taipei since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power, as she refuses to acknowledge its stance that self-ruled democratic Taiwan is part of China.

Biden Vows To Defend Taiwan Militarily If China Invades

In this file photo, US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and the rule that will allow the passage of the Build Back Better Act in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, DC on November 6, 2021. ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP


President Joe Biden vowed Monday that US forces would defend Taiwan militarily if China attempted to take control of the self-ruled island by force, warning Beijing was already “flirting with danger”.

The remarks, made in Tokyo where he is meeting with Japan’s prime minister ahead of a summit Tuesday, were Biden’s strongest to date on the issue and come with rising tensions in the region over China’s growing economic and military power.

Washington and allies like Japan have framed their tough response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a warning to others, particularly China, about the consequences of unilateral military action.

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Biden hammered that message home after talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in which the pair agreed to monitor Chinese naval activity and joint Chinese-Russia exercises.

Asked if Washington was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan, Biden replied simply: “Yes.”

“That’s the commitment we made,” he added.

“We agreed with the One China policy, we signed on to it… but the idea that it can be taken by force is just not appropriate, it would dislocate the entire region and would be another action similar to Ukraine,” Biden said.

He warned Beijing was already “flirting with danger right now by flying so close and all the manoeuvres undertaken”, in reference to a growing number of Chinese sorties, naval exercises and construction in the region, viewed as a projection of its growing power.

The US leader, who has led an international effort to impose punishing sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, said President Vladimir Putin had to pay a “long-term price”, otherwise it would send the wrong message.

“What signal does that send to China about the cost of attempting to take Taiwan by force?” he said.

Like most nations, the United States diplomatically recognises Beijing but also maintains de facto diplomatic ties with Taipei.

For decades it has maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” in which it never makes clear what it would do in the event of an invasion.

The policy was designed both to keep Beijing from declaring war and also to stop Taiwan formally declaring independence.

 ‘Policy Has Not Changed’

Taiwan Flag


A White House official said after Biden’s remarks that they did not constitute a divergence from Washington’s “One China” policy and its commitment to “provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself”.

“Our policy has not changed,” the official said.

China’s Communist Party has never controlled self-ruled Taiwan but it views the island as part of its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if needed.

Beijing’s growing sabre-rattling on the issue has prompted increasing diplomatic support for Taipei, including from Japan, which has regularly warned China against “unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force”.

Kishida called for stability in the Taiwan Strait and said Tokyo was committed to boosting its defence spending, a sensitive subject in a country with constitutional limits on its military.

“Japan will fundamentally strengthen its defence capacity, and to back that up will significantly increase its defence spending,” Kishida said at a joint press conference with Biden.

“We don’t rule out any options, including (acquiring) the capacity to counter-attack,” he added.

Biden is in Japan on the second leg of an Asia trip intended to reinforce regional ties and show Washington remains committed to the region despite its involvement with the crisis in Ukraine.

He announced Monday that 13 countries have joined a new, US-led Asia-Pacific trade initiative touted as a counterweight to China’s aggressive expansion in the region.

The initiative is expected to be formally rolled out later Monday, but faces some scepticism because there is no plan for members to negotiate tariffs and ease market access.

On Tuesday, Biden meets with the leaders of Japan, Australia and India, the so-called Quad grouping, also hoping to rally partners against China’s growing economic and military clout.

Biden arrived in Tokyo on Sunday after stopping in Seoul for talks with newly elected President Yoon Suk-yeol.

While there, Biden said he was willing to meet Kim Jong Un if the leader-for-life is “sincere”, despite the threat of a possible North Korean nuclear test hanging over the Asian tour.


China Condemns Canada’s ‘Groundless’ Huawei 5G Ban

The logo of Chinese company Huawei is seen on the screen of a Huawei mobile phone held in the photographer's hand in London on July 14, 2020. - Britain on Tuesday ordered its telecom providers to stop purchasing 5G equipment from China's Huawei giant from the start of next year, and to strip out all of its equipment by 2027. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)
The logo of Chinese company Huawei is seen on the screen of a Huawei mobile phone held in the photographer’s hand in London on July 14, 2020. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)




China on Friday hit out at Ottawa for blocking Chinese telecoms giants Huawei and ZTE from Canadian 5G networks, describing the ban as “groundless” ban and based on spurious security risks.

Canada’s long-awaited move follows the United States and other key allies, and comes on the heels of a diplomatic row between Ottawa and Beijing over the detention of a senior Huawei executive on a US warrant, which has now been resolved.

“China is firmly opposed to this,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters of the 5G block, adding Beijing would “take all necessary measures” to protect Chinese companies.

“This move runs counter to market economy principles and free trade rules,” he added.

Canadian Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne made the announcement on Thursday, citing their “intention to prohibit the inclusion of Huawei and ZTE products and services in Canada’s telecommunication systems.”

The United States has warned of the security implications of giving Chinese tech companies access to telecommunications infrastructure that could be used for state espionage.

Both Huawei and Beijing have rejected the allegations, while Beijing warned of repercussions for nations placing restrictions on the telecoms equipment provider.

Wang on Friday accused the Canadian government of “seriously damaging the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.”

UN Rights Chief To Visit China From Monday, Including Xinjiang

 In this file photo taken on February 28, 2022 United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet delivers a speech at the opening of a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 28, 2022 United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet delivers a speech at the opening of a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP


The UN rights chief will begin her long-anticipated visit to China on Monday, her office said, including to the Xinjiang region where authorities stand accused of widespread violations.

After years of requesting “meaningful and unfettered” access to China’s far-western Xinjiang region, Michelle Bachelet will finally be heading there next week.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “on Monday begins a six-day official mission to China, at the invitation of the government,” her office said in a statement Friday.

It is the first trip to China by a UN rights chief since 2005 and Bachelet will meet “a number of high-level officials at the national and local levels”.

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“The high commissioner will also meet with civil society organisations, business representatives, academics, and deliver a lecture to students at Guangzhou University,” the statement added.

An advance team was sent to China several weeks ago to prepare the visit, and has completed a lengthy quarantine in the country, currently in the grip of fresh Covid outbreaks.

Bachelet, who will not need to quarantine, is not travelling to Beijing due to Covid restrictions, her office said this week.

But she will go to Kashgar and Urumqi in Xinjiang, it said.

She wraps up the mission on May 28 with a press conference at an as-yet undisclosed location and issue a statement.

There have long been calls for Bachelet to visit Xinjiang and to publish her office’s findings on the situation there.

The US government and lawmakers in a number of other Western countries have labelled China’s treatment of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang “genocide” — a charge Beijing vehemently denies.

Rights groups say at least one million mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in “re-education camps” in the region, and face widespread abuses, including forced sterilisation and forced labour.

China says it is running vocational training centres in the region designed to counter extremism.

In March, the UN rights office announced an agreement had finally been reached on arranging a visit, although it still remains unclear when Bachelet’s team will release its long-delayed report on the situation.

Rights groups, diplomats and others have voiced concern  Beijing will manipulate her visit and have stepped up  demands for the report’s publication.

But a spokeswoman for Bachelet said Tuesday it would not be released before her trip, and that there was no clear timing for making it public.



Canada Bans Huawei And ZTE From 5G Networks

This file photo taken on May 31, 2021 shows a Huawei logo at the flagship store in Shenzhen, in China's southern Guangdong province. STR / AFP
This file photo taken on May 31, 2021 shows a Huawei logo at the flagship store in Shenzhen, in China’s southern Guangdong province. STR / AFP


Canada will ban Chinese telecommunications giants Huawei and ZTE from its 5G wireless networks due to national security concerns, officials said Thursday.

The long-awaited move follows the United States and other key allies, and comes on the heels of a diplomatic row between Ottawa and Beijing over the detention of a senior Huawei executive on a US warrant, which has now been resolved.

The United States has warned of the security implications of giving Chinese tech companies access to telecommunications infrastructure that could be used for state espionage.

READ ALSO: China Condemns Canada’s ‘Groundless’ Huawei 5G Ban

Both Huawei and Beijing have rejected the allegations, while Beijing warned of repercussions for nations placing restrictions on the telecoms equipment provider.

The company did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment on Canada’s ban.

Canadian Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino made the announcement at a news conference.

“Today, we’re announcing our intention to prohibit the inclusion of Huawei and ZTE products and services in Canada’s telecommunication systems,” Champagne said.

“This follows a full review by our security agencies and in consultation with our closest allies.”

Canada had been reviewing the 5G technology and network access for several years, repeatedly delaying a decision that was first expected in 2019.

It remained silent on the telecoms issue after China jailed two Canadians — diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor — in what observers believed was in retaliation for the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wangzhou in Vancouver in December 2018 at the request of the United States.

All three were released in September 2021 after Meng reached a deal with US prosecutors on the fraud charges, ending her extradition fight.

Champagne said Canadian telecommunications companies “will not be permitted to include in their networks products or services that put our national security at risk.”

“Providers who already have this equipment installed will be required to cease its use and remove it,” he said.

‘Hostile actors’

Huawei already supplies some Canadian telecommunications firms with 4G equipment.

Most, if not all, had held off using Huawei in their fifth-generation (5G) wirelesss networks that deliver speedier online connections with greater data capacity, or looked to other suppliers while Ottawa hemmed and hawed.

Mendicino said 5G innovation “represents a major opportunity for competition and growth” but “also comes risks.”

“There are many hostile actors who are ready to exploit vulnerabilities” in telecom networks, he said.

The United States, Australia, Britain, New Zealand, Japan and Sweden have already blocked or restricted the use of Huawei technology in their 5G networks.

The US government considers Huawei a potential security threat due to the background of its founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, a former Chinese army engineer who is Meng’s father.

The concern escalated as Huawei rose to become the world leader in telecoms networking equipment and one of the top smartphone manufacturers, and following Beijing’s passage of a 2017 law obliging Chinese companies to assist the government in matters of national security.

Canada’s two spy agencies had reportedly been divided initially over whether or not to ban Huawei from Canada’s 5G networks — one favouring a ban while the other argued risks could be mitigated.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment had been tasked with conducting a cybersecurity review to evaluate the risks as well as the economic costs to Canadian telecoms and consumers of blacklisting the equipment supplier.

Huawei was already prohibited from bidding on Canadian government contracts and core network equipment such as routers and switches.