China, Russia Block US Push For UN Sanctions On N. Koreans: Diplomats

 In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP

 

China and Russia on Thursday blocked a US push to impose United Nations sanctions on five North Koreans in response to recent missile launches by Pyongyang, diplomats told AFP.

China’s block came before a new closed-door council meeting on North Korea, also requested by Washington, and was followed by Russia’s decision to similarly oppose the American proposal.

Under current UN rules, the block period lasts for six months. After that, another council member can extend the block for three more months and one day, before the proposal is permanently removed from the negotiating table.

Along with Beijing, Moscow has long held a line against increasing pressure on North Korea, even asking for relief from international sanctions for humanitarian reasons.

READ ALSO: Russia’s Only Female Cosmonaut To Travel To Space In September

Last week, after Washington levied sanctions on five North Koreans linked to the country’s ballistic missile program, the United States undertook a campaign within the Security Council to extend UN sanctions to those same five people.

The US Treasury Department said one of the North Koreans being sanctioned, Choe Myong Hyon, was based in Russia and had provided support to North Korea’s Second Academy of Natural Sciences (SANS), which is already subject to sanctions.

Also targeted were four China-based North Korean representatives of SANS-subordinate organizations, the Treasury Department said: Sim Kwang Sok, Kim Song Hun, Kang Chol Hak, and Pyon Kwang Chol.

Washington has accused all five of ties to North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction program.

North Korea has launched a series of missile tests, asserting its “legitimate right” to self-defense.

The Chinese diplomatic mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

‘We have to respond’

Thursday’s meeting of the UN Security Council on North Korea, the second in eleven days, was devoted to discussing a “response to the latest tests,” according to the US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

“We have to respond to them. These actions are unacceptable,” Thomas-Greenfield said during a virtual interview with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a research institute.

North Korea hinted Thursday it could resume its nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests, as top officials led by Kim Jong Un said the country was preparing for a “long-term confrontation” with the United States, state-run media reported.

China said Monday it had reopened its border with North Korea for freight train trade, some two years after it was shuttered by Pyongyang because of the coronavirus pandemic.

AFP

China Orders Overseas Mail Disinfection Over Omicron Fears

This picture taken and released on December 4, 2020, by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS shows a Chinese national flag unfurled from the Chang'e-5 lunar probe. China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS / AFP
This picture taken and released on December 4, 2020, by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS shows a Chinese national flag unfurled from the Chang’e-5 lunar probe. China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS / AFP

 

 

South Korean speed skating star Shim Suk-hee’s Beijing Olympic hopes were dashed Tuesday as she lost a court battle over a two-month ban that will rule her out of the Winter Games, local media reported.

Shim is one of short track superpower South Korea’s most successful skaters, winning four Olympics short track medals, including relay golds at the 2014 and 2018 Games.

She was handed a two-month suspension by the Korea Skating Union (KSU) in December over expletive-laden texts about her teammates, leaving her participation at the Beijing Games hanging by a thread.

Shim, 24, sought a court injunction in the hope of overturning the ban but the Seoul Eastern District Court threw out her petition Tuesday, Yonhap news agency reported.

The court agreed with the KSU that her messages “violated the national team’s code of conduct”, a KSU official told Yonhap after the verdict was announced.

Her texts, sent to her coach during the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, were first reported by local media in October.

In them, Shim suggested she could trip her teammate Choi Min-jeong if they competed in the same race at Pyeongchang.

The two did both end up racing in the women’s 1,000-metre final and got tangled in the final stretch, causing them to fall and crash into the wall.

Shim was disqualified and Choi placed fourth. Investigators concluded Shim had not intentionally sabotaged Choi, citing a lack of evidence.

Shim apologised for her “immature behaviour” when the text messages were first revealed.

South Korean sport has seen a number of cases of bullying, abuse and ill-discipline in recent years — especially in short track speed skating.

Shim is an assault survivor, with one of her coaches — not involved in the texting case — jailed last year for more than a decade for sexually assaulting her over several years.

China Cancels Plans To Sell Olympic Tickets To Public

This photo taken on January 15, 2022 shows visitors taking photos of an ice sculpture for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, in Beijing. (Photo by AFP) / China OUT

 

China on Monday cancelled plans to sell tickets to the public for the Winter Olympics in Beijing, allowing only invitees to view the action as part of strict virus control measures.

Games organisers last year said there would be no international spectators — partly due to the country’s weeks-long quarantine requirements — but they had promised to allow domestic audiences.

But these plans were dropped on Monday as China reported 223 new Covid-19 cases — the highest number since March 2020 and just three weeks before hosting the Winter Olympics.

“In order to protect the health and safety of Olympic-related personnel and spectators, it was decided to adjust the original plan to sell tickets to the public and (instead) organise spectators to watch the games on-site,” the Beijing Olympic organising committee said in a statement.

It is unclear how these spectators will be selected and whether they will have to quarantine before or after the Games.

READ ALSO: Nadal, Osaka Through After Djokovic Saga At Australian Open

China, where the coronavirus first emerged in late 2019, has stuck to a strict policy of targeting zero Covid cases even as the rest of the world has reopened.

Athletes and officials have already started to land in Beijing ahead of the Games, immediately entering a tightly controlled bubble separating them from the rest of the population.

The 2022 Winter Olympics are set to kick off on February 4 and run until February 20 at venues in and around Beijing, making the Chinese capital the first city in modern history to host both a summer and winter Olympics.

China COVID-19 Cases Highest In Nearly Two Years, Weeks Before Olympics

(FILES) This file photo taken on December 28, 2021 shows a health worker taking a swab sample from a man to be tested for Covid-19 coronavirus in Beijing. Noel Celis / AFP

 

The number of Covid-19 cases in China reached its highest level since March 2020 on Monday, as Beijing races to smother outbreaks just three weeks before hosting the Winter Olympics.

China, where the virus first emerged in late 2019, has stuck to a strict policy of targeting zero Covid cases even as the rest of the world has reopened.

But its approach has come under sustained pressure in recent weeks with multiple clusters across the country just as the Games are about to get under way in Beijing.

On Monday there were 223 more cases reported in China, including another 80 in the virus-hit port city of Tianjin, and nine more — including cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant — in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangdong.

Athletes and officials have already started to land in the capital ahead of the Games, immediately entering a tightly controlled bubble separating them from the rest of the population.

But after a local Omicron case was detected in Beijing over the weekend, authorities have also tightened regulations for those arriving in the capital from elsewhere in China.

The city is now demanding a negative test before travel and a follow-up test after entering the city, with residents urged not to leave the city for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.

Some tourist sites in the capital have also been closed.

– Strain on economy –

The infected woman in Beijing had not travelled or had contact with infected people, authorities said, as they tested some 13,000 people living or working in the same area.

Health official Pang Xinghuo told reporters Monday the virus had been found on the surface of a letter the infected person had received from Canada, as well as inside the unopened letter.

Dozens of letters from the same batch were tested, and five showed positive traces of Covid-19, she said, including samples from inside unopened letters.

The strain was different from Omicron cases in China, and similar to strains identified from North America last month, she said.

“We come to the conclusion that the possibility of virus infection through inbound objects cannot be ruled out,” she said.

Beijing’s theory the virus did not originate in China but was imported in frozen food was judged “possible” but very unlikely in a report from World Health Organization-appointed international experts last year.

China has linked some virus clusters to products imported from overseas.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US says on its website that it is “possible” for people to be infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects — but the risk is low.

Within three days, there should be a 99 percent reduction of virus traces left on surfaces.

Analysts have warned that China’s ongoing zero-Covid approach — which includes swift and targeted lockdowns and travel restrictions — will increasingly weigh on the economy.

Another 68 cases were reported across central Henan province, where partial lockdowns and mass testing have been rolled out for millions of residents.

Zhuhai, the mainland city bordering the gambling hub of Macau, told residents to avoid leaving and started testing the whole city from Monday, after detecting a handful of Omicron cases.

Meanwhile in the historic northern city of Xi’an infections have slowed to single digits after nearly a month under lockdown.

Sixty more imported cases were also recorded, as China maintains strict controls over border entry including slashed flights and a “circuit breaker” policy where routes are halted if infections brought in are too high.

China’s Birth Rate At Record Low In 2021 – Official

A picture of the Chinese flag.
A picture of the Chinese flag.

 

The birth rate in China plummeted to a record low last year, official data showed Monday, as analysts warn that faster-than-expected ageing could deepen economic growth concerns.

Beijing has been grappling with a looming demographic crisis amid a rapidly ageing workforce, slowing economy and the country’s weakest population growth in decades.

The birth rate of the world’s second-biggest economy slipped to 7.52 births per 1,000 people, according to National Bureau of Statistics data, down from 8.52 in 2020.

This marks the lowest figure logged in the country’s annual Statistical Yearbook data since 1978 and is also the lowest since Communist China was founded in 1949.

READ ALSO: Biden Announces Diverse Slate Of Fed Nominees

Although officials relaxed the nation’s “one-child policy” in 2016 — allowing couples to have two children and easing one of the world’s strictest family planning regulations — the changes have failed to bring about a baby boom.

Last year, Chinese authorities extended the policy to allow couples three children.

In 2021, the country logged 10.62 million births according to official data.

The natural population growth rate plunged to 0.34 per 1,000 people, from an earlier 1.45 figure.

“The demographic challenge is well known but the speed of population aging is clearly faster than expected,” said Zhiwei Zhang, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management.

AFP

Omicron Spreads To Southern China City Bordering Macau

(FILES) This file photo taken on December 28, 2021, shows a health worker taking a swab sample from a man to be tested for Covid-19 coronavirus in Beijing. Noel Celis / AFP

 

The southern Chinese city of Zhuhai suspended public bus routes on Saturday after announcing it had detected at least seven cases of the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant there and warning residents not to leave the city.

The coastal city of Zhuhai, which borders the gambling hub Macau, said late Friday Omicron had been detected in one mildly ill and six asymptomatic patients, after launching mass testing due to a case in a neighbouring city.

China is battling a spate of coronavirus outbreaks, including several from the Omicron variant, as the country steps up vigilance against the virus ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics next month.

Millions of people across the country have been ordered to stay home in recent weeks, with scores of domestic flights cancelled and factories shut down.

READ ALSO: Brazil Begins Vaccinating Children Despite President’s Objection

Zhuhai officials have asked residents avoid leaving the city “unless necessary”, with those who do require to show negative Covid test results within the past 24 hours.

The city had launched mass testing for its population of 2.4 million people on Friday after a Covid case was detected in neighbouring Zhongshan earlier in the week.

Businesses including beauty salons, card rooms, gyms and cinemas were ordered to close on Thursday, with officials announcing the suspension of public bus routes in parts of the city.

China has kept Covid-19 cases relatively low throughout the pandemic with its zero-tolerance strategy of immediately ordering mass testing and strict lockdowns when infections are detected.

But the fast-spreading Omicron variant has tested that strategy in recent weeks, appearing in the port city of Tianjin close to Beijing before spreading to the central city of Anyang.

The country reported 104 domestically transmitted Covid-19 cases on Saturday.

Chinese Woman Stuck In Blind Date’s House After Lockdown

A picture of the Chinese flag.
A picture of the Chinese flag.

 

Imagine being on a first date you couldn’t end? That’s what happened to a woman in China whose video blogs about going into a citywide lockdown during a blind date have gone viral.

Over 100 virus cases have been reported in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou since last week, as China battles to contain multiple local outbreaks of the Delta and Omicron variants.

Parts of the city were abruptly placed under lockdown last Wednesday when a woman surnamed Wang was having dinner at her blind date’s house.

“Just after I arrived in Zhengzhou, there was an outbreak, and his community was put under lockdown and I could not leave,” Wang told Shanghai-based outlet The Paper on Tuesday, adding that she went there for a week-long trip to meet potential suitors.

“I’m getting old now, my family introduced me to ten matches… The fifth date wanted to show off his cooking skills and invited me over to his house for dinner.”

Since then, Wang has posted short videos documenting her daily life in lockdown, which show her date cooking meals for her, doing household chores, and working at his laptop while she sleeps in, according to clips published by local media.

READ ALSO: North Korea’s Kim Calls For More ‘Military Muscle’ After Missile Test

So far it seems romance has yet to blossom during their prolonged date, according to Wang who says she’s looking for a more talkative partner.

“Besides the fact that he’s as mute as a wooden mannequin, everything else (about him) is pretty good,” Wang told The Paper. “Despite his food being mediocre, he’s still willing to cook, which I think is great.”

Wang did not disclose her age or the identity of the man in the videos.

Related hashtags have racked up over six million views on the Twitter-like social media site Weibo by Wednesday.

However, Wang said the recent surge in online attention prompted her to remove the videos.

“Friends have been calling him and I think this has definitely affected his life, so I have taken them down for now,” she said in a video posted Tuesday that was widely republished in Chinese local media.

“Thanks, everyone for your attention… I hope the outbreak ends soon and that my single sisters also find a relationship soon.”

AFP

COVID-19: Millions More Locked Down As China Battles Omicron Spread

A health worker takes a swab sample from a man to be tested for Covid-19 coronavirus in Beijing on December 28, 2021. Noel Celis / AFP

 

Five million residents of a central Chinese city were confined to their homes Tuesday while another megacity shuttered all non-essential businesses, as the country battles a spate of coronavirus outbreaks including from the Omicron variant.

Beijing is on high alert as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics next month, sticking to a zero-Covid strategy of targeted lockdowns, border restrictions and lengthy quarantines.

While those measures have kept the number of new cases far lower than virus hotspots in the United States and Europe, China is currently facing local flare-ups in multiple cities.

Fast-spreading Omicron presents a fresh challenge, with two cases in Anyang — the newly locked-down city in Henan province — linked to a growing infection cluster in the northern metropolis of Tianjin, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) away.

Authorities in Anyang announced the lockdown late Monday, issuing a notice ordering residents not to leave their homes or drive cars on the roads, state news agency Xinhua reported.

All non-essential businesses have been closed and a mass-testing drive has been launched “to respond to the severe epidemic control situation and strictly prevent the spread of the Omicron virus outbreak”, Xinhua reported.

There were 58 new local infections reported in Anyang, state broadcaster CCTV said Tuesday, bringing the city’s total caseload to 84 since Saturday.

The city had already restricted outbound travel, which local officials said was to “ensure that the outbreak does not spill over into outside areas”.

At least three cities in Henan are battling emerging outbreaks, with provincial capital Zhengzhou’s 13 million inhabitants inching closer to a full lockdown.

Under current rules, schools and kindergartens have been closed along with all non-essential businesses.

Last week, one million people in the city of Yuzhou were put under stay-at-home orders.

– Hong Kong, Shenzhen –

Elsewhere, Tianjin — a major port city just 150 kilometres from Beijing — has barred people from leaving without official permission, ordered the testing of all 14 million residents, and cancelled trains into the capital.

Tianjin, which is adjacent to Winter Olympics venues in Beijing and Hebei province, confirmed another 10 new locally transmitted cases after citywide mass testing.

Zhang Boli, of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told local television that the Tianjin cluster is the first time Omicron has been detected spreading within China.

The northern city of Xi’an is in its third week of lockdown as it attempts to stamp out a 2,000-case outbreak.

There are also flare-ups in southern China.

The Chinese territory of Hong Kong is battling its own Omicron outbreak that began with returning airline crew.

The outbreak has upended the city’s zero-Covid success and seen a reintroduction of strict social-distancing measures including the closure of bars and gyms, and an end to evening restaurant dining.

On Tuesday, chief executive Carrie Lam announced further measures including the closure of all kindergartens and primary schools until after the Lunar New Year in early February.

Her administration has hewn to China’s closed-off blueprint but is facing growing anger from both residents and international businesses over the lack of an exit strategy.

Across the border from Hong Kong, the mainland tech hub of Shenzhen has also logged a handful of cases in recent days, sparking lockdowns of some housing compounds, a mass-testing initiative and travel restrictions.

The city’s Yantian port is one of the world’s busiest, and there are fears that further lockdowns or restrictions there and in Hong Kong could compound already acute global supply problems.

China Detects More Omicron Cases As Cities Tighten Restrictions

A picture of the Chinese flag.
A picture of the Chinese flag.

 

China reported more cases of the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant on Monday, with authorities on high alert over flare-ups in major cities just weeks ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The emergence of the fast-spreading variant is yet another test of China’s zero Covid strategy, with authorities already battling several outbreaks — including in Xi’an, where 13 million city residents were in their third week of lockdown.

Fears grew about a cluster of infections in the northern city of Tianjin, which was linked to two Omicron cases reported Monday in the city of Anyang around 400 kilometres (250 miles) away.

On Monday, Anyang official Li Chao told reporters that sales of train and long-distance bus tickets out of the city have been suspended, while checkpoints have been set up on all highways out, to “ensure that the outbreak does not spill over into outside areas”.

Meanwhile, city officials said in a statement Sunday that “the general public should not leave Tianjin unless essential to do so”.

Those who need to leave must obtain official permission and test negative for the virus within 48 hours of their departure, they added.

Schools and university campuses have been closed, and trains into Beijing from Tianjin have been cancelled.

Road checkpoints have been set up for vehicles entering the capital.

Tianjin — just 150 kilometres from Beijing — has already ordered the testing of all 14 million residents.

Another 21 cases were reported in the city Monday, although the strain of virus wasn’t confirmed.

Gu Qing, director of the Tianjin Municipal Health Commission, told a press briefing Monday that the city has so far detected 31 domestic virus cases in the latest outbreak, adding that close contacts have been quarantined.

Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed masked people in Tianjin’s Nankai district queueing for virus tests on Sunday from medical workers in white hazmat suits.

Gu told reporters at the weekend that the new cases are “mainly students and their parents who go to the same nursery and school.”

– Henan outbreak –
The world’s most populous nation — where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019 — slowed the spread of the virus to a trickle through its zero Covid strategy, which includes targeted lockdowns, border restrictions and lengthy quarantines.

While China’s total reported cases are far lower than other virus hotspots such as the United States and Europe, there is widespread concern about the impact of Omicron.

Authorities in the city of Anyang in central Henan province also announced the testing of all residents — more than five million people — over the weekend.

The city on Monday reported two Omicron cases linked to the Tianjin cluster.

Henan reported 60 new cases Monday but did not break down the tally by variant. The provincial capital Zhengzhou has closed schools and kindergartens, and stopped restaurants from accepting dine-in customers.

Before the latest cluster, China had reported just a handful of Omicron cases, all linked to imported infections.

Authorities are especially wary of major outbreaks ahead of the Winter Olympics, which Beijing will host from February 4-20.

The global event will coincide with the busy Lunar New Year holidays, during which millions of people travel across the country.

At Least 20 Trapped In China Building Collapse

A picture of the Chinese flag.
A picture of the Chinese flag.

 

At least 20 people were trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building after an explosion on Friday in the Chinese city of Chongqing, according to state media.

The blast at 12:10 pm (0410 GMT) was caused by a “suspected gas leak” and led to the collapse of a neighbourhood committee building housing a canteen, the state-run People’s Daily reported.

People having lunch at the time were trapped, state news agency Xinhua said.

Nine people have been rescued from the rubble so far, according to the fire department.

It posted a video on its official Weibo page showing orange-clad workers in hard hats climbing through a tangle of cables, bricks, and concrete.

READ ALSO: China Is Not Trapping Africa In Debt, Says Foreign Minister

Some of the injured people have been taken to hospital for treatment, said Xinhua, without giving further details of their condition.

Footage posted on social media by state broadcaster CCTV showed smoke and dust billowing from the collapsed building in Wulong district on the outskirts of the southwestern megacity.

The scene of the blast appeared to be in the middle of other buildings and was surrounded by a crowd of bystanders.

Authorities have sent around 260 rescue workers and 50 vehicles to the site, CCTV said, adding that the cause of the blast was still under investigation.

Heavy lifting and excavation equipment have also been sent to the scene.

Another clip by Xinhua showed dozens of rescuers in military fatigues jogging along a road to the accident site carrying shovels over their shoulders.

‘Blown To Pieces’

Local authorities have set up an “on-site emergency response headquarters” to direct the rescue work and provide medical treatment, the People’s Daily reported.

An eyewitness told state-run Phoenix TV that the blast was “very scary… our windows have all been blown to pieces”.

Officials have demanded the “fastest possible rescue” and ordered service personnel to “spare no effort to rescue the injured and strictly guard against secondary disasters”, the newspaper said.

Gas leaks and explosions are not uncommon in China, due to weak safety standards and corruption among officials tasked with enforcement.

In June, 25 people were killed in a gas blast that ripped through a residential compound and struck a busy two-storey building packed with shoppers.

Eight suspects, including the general manager of the company that owned the gas pipe, were detained after the government said “the company’s safety management system was unsound”.

The same month, 18 people were killed and more injured when a fire broke out at a martial arts school, with state media reporting that all the victims were boarding school pupils.

AFP

China Is Not Trapping Africa In Debt, Says Foreign Minister

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (L) is received by his Kenyan counterpart, Raychelle Omamo (R) at the Sarova Whitesands Hotel where they met for a bilateral meeting between Kenyan and Chinese officials in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa on January 6, 2022. (Photo by Tony KARUMBA / AFP)

 

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday rejected suggestions that Beijing was luring African countries into debt traps by offering them massive loans, dismissing the idea as a “narrative” pushed by opponents to poverty reduction.

Wang, speaking ahead of touring Beijing-funded infrastructure projects in Kenya, said China’s considerable lending to Africa was “mutually benefiting” and not a strategy to extract diplomatic and commercial concessions.

“That is simply not a fact. It is speculation being played out by some with ulterior motives,” he told reporters in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa.

“This is a narrative that has been created by those who do not want to see development in Africa. If there is any trap, it is about poverty and underdevelopment,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

Wang’s three-nation tour of Eritrea, Kenya and the Comoros follows a trip to Africa by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in November that in part aimed at countering China’s growing influence on the continent.

China is Africa’s largest trading partner, with direct trade worth over $200 billion (177 billion euros) in 2019, according to official Chinese figures.

China is Kenya’s second-largest lender after the World Bank and has funded a number of costly infrastructure projects that have raised concerns about Nairobi taking on more debt than it can afford.

In Mombasa, Wang held a closed-door meeting with a team of government ministers and signed agreements on trade and investment, health, security, climate change and green technology transfer.

He later met President Uhuru Kenyatta and visited the Port of Mombasa, where China is constructing a new $353 million terminal to allow larger oil tankers to berth.

“The visit is a testament to the deepening of relations between the two countries,” said Kenya’s foreign minister, Raychelle Omamo.

– Debt fears –

Beijing funded Kenya’s most expensive infrastructure project since independence, loaning $5 billion for the construction of a railway line from Mombasa opened in 2017.

During a visit to Mombasa in January 2020, Wang described the railway as a “benchmark” of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a trillion-dollar push to improve trade links across the globe by building landmark infrastructure.

But observers have raised red flags over Kenya’s reliance on Chinese funding, warning that debt was soaring to unmanageable levels.

Aly-Khan Satchu, a Kenyan geopolitical and economic analyst, said the East African nation was at a disadvantage negotiating deals and often stuck with high-interest repayments.

“These investments are not going to make a return on investments for the foreseeable future,” he told AFP.

“You have taken out these loans and they are making losses every month. You are essentially increasing the problems.”

Beijing’s lending spree has slowed in recent years as borrowers have pushed back on terms and the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted economic pain.

Satchu said China was shifting focus from infrastructure to greater trade, and saw promise in deepening ties with Indian Ocean economies. “The Chinese are trying to recalibrate their relationship with Africa, with a lot of emphasis on agriculture and lending to the private sector,” he said.

Wang has already visited Eritrea and after Kenya, heads to the Indian Ocean island nation of the Comoros.

‘Hypocrisy’: China Blasts US Over Tesla Xinjiang Showroom

A picture of the Chinese flag.
A picture of the Chinese flag.

 

China accused Washington of hypocrisy on Thursday after US politicians and rights groups criticised carmaker Tesla for opening a dealership in Xinjiang, the site of alleged widespread human rights abuses.

The US electric carmaker announced the opening of its new showroom in the northwestern region’s capital Urumqi on New Year’s Eve, welcoming followers on the Chinese social media platform to “start Xinjiang’s electric journey together”.

The announcement prompted a backlash from US politicians including Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who accused Tesla on Twitter of “helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up genocide and slave labor in the region”.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that the “international community, including the public and private sectors, cannot look the other way when it comes to what is taking place in Xinjiang”.

But China on Thursday hit out at the criticism, accusing the United States of “hypocrisy” and attempting to “carry out economic coercion and political repression against China under the guise of human rights”.

At a regular press conference, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin dismissed abuse allegations as “lies that have long been exposed by the facts”.

Campaigners say at least one million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minorities have been detained in camps in Xinjiang.

After initially denying the existence of the Xinjiang camps, China later defended them as vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.

US-based NGO the Council on American-Islamic Relations urged Tesla to close its Urumqi showroom.

The group’s communication director Ibrahim Hooper said Monday that “no American corporation should be doing business in a region that is the focal point of a campaign of genocide targeting a religious and ethnic minority”.

Human rights groups and foreign governments have also found evidence of what they say is mass imprisonment, forced labour, political indoctrination, torture and forced sterilisation. Washington has described it as genocide.

Tesla is the latest foreign company to find itself struggling to appease both Chinese and international markets over Xinjiang.

Fast-fashion giant H&M is still blocked from major e-commerce apps in China after state media launched a boycott over the Swedish company’s promise to avoid Xinjiang cotton.

Tesla did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.