August 2019

Uprooting “protective umbrellas” key to battling organized crime: CCDI

BEIJING – China’s graft busters have asked for more efforts in the investigation and punishment of “protective umbrellas” — officials who shelter criminal organizations by concealing their crimes and shielding them from punishment — in a campaign against organized crime.

According to a guideline released by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and made public Tuesday, discipline agencies should dig into each of the cases involving “protective umbrellas” to uproot them and corrupt officials.

Cases of party cadres and civil servants involved in gang crime and corruption should be strictly punished, the CCDI said.

Problems involving local Party committees and governments, political and legal organs and other related departments that fail to serve the campaign should also be seriously dealt with, according to the guideline.

It was announced in a document released by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on Jan 24 that a campaign against organized crime and officials who shelter criminal organizations would begin.

The fight will focus on industries and areas prone to gang crime, organized crimes that prompt the “strongest public reaction” and those “detested” by the people, the document said.

Major topics of two sessions

BEIJING – The annual sessions of China’s top legislative and advisory bodies to be held in early March are of particular importance this year, as the country has officially announced its entry into a new era.

The first session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC), and the first session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), collectively known as the “two sessions,” will open on March 5 and March 3, respectively.

The two sessions this year will be the first annual sessions opened under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

A number of topics are of interest to the public:

— New thought

The proposal of writing Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era into the country’s fundamental law will get much attention during the two sessions. The thought, which was set at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) last October, has become the guideline for China’s new development.

— New state leadership

One of the most important issues of the first session of the 13th National People’s Congress will be the election of state leadership, including the Chinese president. China’s current president Xi Jinping was elected to the post at the first session of the 12th NPC five years ago.

— New anti-corruption model

A new national supervisory platform is expected to be introduced, as China is spearheading a pilot reform of supervisory systems, with supervisory commissions being established at provincial, city, and county levels. Sharing offices and staff with CPC discipline inspectors, the new commissions will incorporate existing supervisory, corruption prevention and control agencies within government and procuratorates. With a complete supervisory network over all state functionaries under the Party’s leadership, China can create a new anti-corruption model.

— New growth target

Analysts believe the economic growth target this year will be somewhat on par with that of last year. But the growth, among the fastest in the world, can not change the fact that China is still a developing country, given that its per capita GDP lags far behind that of developed countries. China’s economic growth will bring opportunities for the rest of the world, but what exactly? The answer will be found in the two sessions.

— Poverty alleviation

China aims to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020 before becoming a moderately prosperous society. China has lifted 68.53 million people out of poverty over the past five years, which is equivalent to an annual reduction of at least 13 million. The country’s poverty rate dropped from 10.2 percent in 2012 to 3.1 percent in 2017. Despite this progress, there were around 30 million Chinese living below the national poverty line at the end of last year.

— Role of the Constitution

Major theoretical achievements, principles, and policies adopted at the 19th CPC National Congress are to be incorporated into the upcoming revision to the Constitution, so as to keep pace with the times and improve the Constitution while maintaining its consistency, stability and authority since it was last amended in 2004.

— 40 years of reform and opening up

After decades of reform and opening up, Chinese people’s lives are getting better. The country is expected to make new historical strides in 2018 as the country marks 40 years of reform and opening up to the world.

— People’s livelihood

A stronger social security system will not only improve the well-being of Chinese people, but also boost individual consumption and reduce the dependence of China’s economic growth on exports. President Xi said recently the issues that concern the people most — education, jobs, health care, social security and order — should be properly dealt with to let the people feel richer, happier, and safer. New policies concerning the people’s livelihood may be released.

— National defense

China has started a national defense and military reform in an effort to have a stronger military to better safeguard peace. China’s defense budget and new reform measures concerning army building are to receive attention.

— A community with shared future for humanity

China champions the development of a community with a shared future for humanity, and has encouraged the evolution of the global governance system. The Belt and Road Initiative, part of China’s efforts to boost the development of such a community, may continue to be a hot topic at the annual sessions and new measures may be formed.

China’s top legislature discusses proposal on Constitution revision

BEIJING – The National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee convened Monday to discuss the amending of the Constitution.

Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the 12th NPC Standing Committee, presided over the meeting.

Entrusted by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Li Zhanshu, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, briefed lawmakers about a proposal of the CPC Central Committee on the revision to the Constitution.

At its second plenary session earlier this month, the 19th CPC Central Committee adopted the proposal.

“Major theoretical achievements, principles and policies adopted at the 19th CPC National Congress, particularly Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, should be incorporated into the upcoming revision to the Constitution,” said Li, also deputy head of a group working on the revision. “We should keep pace with the times and improve the Constitution while maintaining its consistency, stability and authority.”

The amending of the Constitution should adhere to the Party’s leadership and socialist rule of law, head toward correct political direction, follow due process, be based on broad consensus, embody the will of the people, and only amend part of it instead of revising on a large scale, Li said.

In 1982, the fifth NPC adopted the present Constitution, which underwent four amendments in 1988, 1993, 1999 and 2004.

“The Constitution has been proven to be a good legislation that fits in China’s reality and meets demands of the times,” Li said, adding that, as the Party and nation had undergone profound changes since 2004, the Constitution should be readjusted accordingly.

Tibetan border city entices industry to go west

The government of Shigatse, a border city in the Tibet autonomous region, is using multimillion yuan subsidies to attract businesses and industries.

Subsidies up to 20 million yuan ($3.14 million) will be granted to industrial or business projects that can work within the Shigatse Economic Development Zone, such as high-technology industry and modern logistics services.

Those designated by the region’s government or central government as key projects could receive as much as 30 million yuan.

Enterprises also will receive rewards for seeking financing through stock market initial public offerings, with the sum ranging from 1.5 million yuan to 7 million yuan.

The decision to provide the subsidies was disclosed late last month at a news conference held by the Shigatse city government in Shanghai-which has been paired with the Tibetan city since 1994 in a nationwide assistance program to boost development in Tibet.

More than 400 top workers from Shanghai-including government officials and professionals in different areas-have been sent to Tibet in eight groupings.

Shanghai will be a major adviser for the upcoming zone, which is 5 kilometers south of the urban area of Shigatse. The city was set up in 2014, bordering Nepal, Bhutan and India.

According to the layout unveiled at the news conference, the 36.3 sq km zone comprises two major functional zones-divided by the Jiaqu River, which flows across Shigatse-and will hold as many as 120,000 residents.

East of the river is the new city area, where the city government will be seated, along with schools, sports facilities, business and residential areas. West of the river is designated as the industrial area, equipped with logistics services and other support facilities.

The industries to be incorporated in the zone include logistics services, organic farming, drinking water industry, handicrafts, financial services and trade exhibitions, according to the Shigatse government.

By the end of next year, the zone’s output value aims to hit 350 million yuan, accounting for up to 10 percent of that of Shigatse.

The Shigatse zone signals that industrial transfers are shifting further to the west, which benefits the whole country, said Sang Baichuan, an economics professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

“East China, like Shanghai, excels in talents and capital, and there’s a growing trend for the East to seek cooperation with the West in the industrial transfer,” he said.

Sang also noted the focus of the national Tibet assistance program is gradually shifting to “forming blood” rather than “getting blood transfusions”, which is evidenced by the economic development zone.

“Compared with lending money to the underdeveloped region in the very beginning, Shanghai now cultivates clusters of industries in Shigatse, which helps boost local economic development in a sustainable way,” the professor said.

1,300 fugitives returned last year, $152m recovered

A total of 1,300 fugitives suspected of economic crimes, 347 of whom were corrupt officials, returned to China from abroad to face justice last year, according to the country’s top discipline watchdog.

About 980 million yuan ($152 million) of illicit assets were recovered, according to the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Discipline watchdogs have also tightened management of Party and governmental officials so that the number of newly escaped fugitives dropped from 101 in 2014 to only four last year, CCDI figures show. The number was 31 in 2015 and 19 in 2016.

This year, China will further enhance international cooperation in fighting corruption, said a statement adopted at the second plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which was ended on Saturday.

China is preparing to sign more bilateral or multilateral agreements with other countries in this sector, and will enhance information exchanges and joint investigation especially with Western countries such as the US, Canada and Australia on some major or individual cases, according to the CCDI.

Under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee, we’ll broaden judicial cooperation with relevant countries so that there will be no ‘safe heaven’ for corrupt fugitives, said La Yifan, director of the CCDI’s International Cooperation Department.

In the past years, many Chinese corrupt officials or senior executives of State-owned enterprises have fled overseas to escape legal punishment due to the lack of bilateral extradition treaties between China and other countries, and complex legal procedures.

Since 2014, China has set up a central authorized office responsible for coordinating and directing various departments to hunt down the fugitives, and it has conducted the SkyNet capture operation.

Interpol issued red notices to arrest the 100 most-wanted Chinese corrupt fugitives in April 2015. So far, more than half of them have been returned, including No 1 fugitive Yang Xiuzhu, who was back to China in November 2016 after 13 years on the run in the US.

Under a court ruling in October, Yang, a former official in Zhejiang province, received eight years in prison for embezzling 19 million yuan in public funds and taking bribes of 7.35 million yuan.

Apart from nabbing the fugitives, to improve the procedures to prevent corrupt fugitives from fleeing is also a priority, La said.

Discipline inspectors will work closely with relevant authorities, including the police, personnel departments and the banking system to strengthen management of officials’ private passports and monitor their suspicious assets sent abroad, according to the CCDI.

Xi-Kim meeting affirms China’s role in peace initiative

At the invitation of Xi Jinping, DPRK leader Kim Jong-un paid an unofficial visit to China from March 25 to 28. During the visit, Xi held talks with Kim at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. [Photo/Xinhua]

Last week’s meeting between President Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un, the top leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, indicates China is playing an essential role in the settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, according to several US analysts.

Kim paid an unofficial visit to China from March 25 to Wednesday, during which he met with Xi in Beijing.

“China’s role is essential,” said Jon Taylor, professor of political science at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. The visit to Beijing and the Xi-Kim meeting has “reinforced China’s role as a central actor in managing security issues in Northeast Asia in general and the Korean Peninsula in particular”, he said.

During their Beijing meeting, Xi said China will continue to play a constructive role on the issue and work with all parties, including the DPRK, toward a thaw of the situation on the peninsula.

Kim said it is his country’s “consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula” and the DPRK is willing to have a dialogue with the United States and hold a summit between the two countries.

The Xi-Kim meeting is expected to be followed by a flurry of other talks, such as the late-April summit between Kim and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea. These are “quite relevant” to the summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim in May, according to Taylor, who writes about China.

“The willingness of the principal parties to engage in diplomacy and dialogue on the Korean Peninsula issue is a hopeful sign,” Taylor told China Daily.

“If the Moon-Kim summit goes as well as the Xi-Kim summit, the greater the likelihood that Trump and Kim will be able to ratchet down nuclear tensions and begin to address the challenge of developing a meaningful path to peace.”

Yun Sun, co-director of the East Asia Program at the Stimson Center, a think tank in Washington, said, “The significance (of the Xi-Kim meeting) is that China shows the world that China is indispensable in the process and cannot be excluded.”

Sun said China has cooperated with Trump on sanctions and placing the maximum pressure on Kim, which has brought Pyongyang back to the negotiation table.

“Looking into the future, for any deal with North Korea to sustain, China will have to be included and most likely as a guarantor,” she said in an email.

The more “consensus and amity” Pyongyang and Seoul can build, between themselves and toward denuclearization, the more foundation it will pave for the engagement between Trump and Kim, she said.

The Beijing meeting showed that whatever may come of the upcoming inter-Korean and North Korea-US summits, China will not be a peripheral, Ankit Panda, a senior editor with The Diplomat who covers Asia-Pacific security and the DPRK’s ballistic-missile and nuclear-weapons programs, said in a Wednesday post.

“As this trip represents Kim’s first known sojourn outside of the country to meet a foreign head of state, it suggests that the North Korean leader may not be averse to traveling outside of the country (perhaps even overseas) for a summit with the US president,” said Victor Cha, Senior Adviser and Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in a commentary co-authored with Sue Mi Terry, a senior fellow at the CSIS.

Ke Yian in Washington contributed to this story.

Chinese vice-premier stresses natural resource development, protection

Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng (L), also member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, attends the inauguration ceremony of the newly-formed Ministry of Natural Resources and inspects the ministry in Beijing, capital of China, April 10, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING – Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng has demanded efforts to balance development and protection of natural resources.

Han, also member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, made the remarks during an inspection at the newly-formed Ministry of Natural Resources.

He said efforts should be made to arrange internal organs and personnel under the ministry to ensure better environmental protection, restoration, and management.

As part of a massive cabinet restructuring plan unveiled last month, the ministry was formed to oversee the development and protection of natural resources as well as set up and implement a spatial planning system.

Han urged the ministry to accelerate the establishment of mechanisms to improve environmental protection and restoration, and balance resource development and protection.

He also demanded better implementation of the institution reform, transformation of government functions, and improvement of government services.

Taobao wins landmark ruling

The Shanghai People’s Court of Fengxian District on July 20 ordered an online pet food shop to pay 120,000 yuan ($17,700) in compensation to Taobao after it was found guilty of selling fake Royal Canin cat food on the e-commerce platform.

The Shanghai People’s Court of Fengxian District orders an online pet food shop to pay 120,000 yuan ($17,700) in compensation to Taobao after it was found guilty of selling fake Royal Canin cat food on the e-commerce platform on July 20.[Photo provided to]

The ruling is the first of its kind in China.

The court ruled that the shop damaged the reputation of Taobao and demanded that the defendant, a man surnamed Yao, to pay the compensation within 10 days.

Zheng Junfang, chief administrative officer of Alibaba, the parent company of Taobao, said that the company would continue assisting law enforcement agencies in weeding out counterfeit products on the e-commerce platform.

Established in 2003, Taobao has more than 500 million registered users and over 60 million visitors each day.

According to the court, Yao started to sell pet food on Taobao in 2015. The online platform and Mars, the multinational company which owns Royal Canin and a number of other pet food brands, later suspected that the cat food sold by Yao might be fake. Their suspicions were later confirmed by lab tests.

On Oct 12, 2016, Yao was arrested by the police and the lawsuit was filed.

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, said before that his company loses five customers for each fake product that is sold on its online shopping platforms. Alibaba spends 1 billion yuan each year to run a special team of 2,000 people who work to eliminate fake goods from Taobao and Tmall. A total of 880 suspects were caught in 2016.

In addition to the current lawsuit, Taobao has taken another two online shops to court for selling fake Wuliangye, a well-known Chinese white liquor, and counterfeit Swarovski wrist watches.

The two cases were being heard in Shanghai and Shenzhen, Guangdong province, respectively.

He Qi in Shanghai contributed to this story.

WWF works with China to protect rare milu deer

The United Kingdom will further help to revitalize the milu deer in China through introducing different species for crossbreeding with the support of World Wide Fund for Nature.

On Friday, WWF signed a memorandum of understanding with the Forestry Department of Hunan province to promote crossbreeding of milu, known as Pere David Deer in the West, between Europe and China.

The UK’s Princess Anne was invited as a distinguished guest.

Under the plan revealed by WWF, milu from Woburn Abbey Deer Park in the UK will travel to China for breeding younger generations to avoid degeneration of the gene pool.

As one of the largest conservation parks in Europe, Woburn Abbey Deer Park holds nine deer species, among which seven originated from Asia, including the critically endangered milu deer that at one point had been extinct in the wild in China.

The 22 deer have returned to their native habitat of Beijing as a gift from the Marquis of Tavistock of Woburn Abbey.

According to WWF, 6,000 milu are now living worldwide, with about 5,000 in China and the rest in Europe. As many as 600 milu in China live in the wild in Hubei and Hunan provinces along the Yangtze River.

However, due to decades of breeding with other deer, the group’s genes are suffering from degeneration.

The survival and growth of milu is representative of a harmonious relationship between humans and nature, said Ren Wenwei, water practice leader of WWF China.

He said the crossbreeding program will further promote international cooperation and boost cross-regional communication between research institutes.

Hunan is now the world’s largest habitat of wild milu (about 100 to 120), which traveled from bordering Hubei province in 1998 due to a flood, according to Deng Sanlong, head of the Hunan Forestry Department.

We will launch several research programs to follow the crossbreeding process and help them to go into the wild, Deng said.

Wang Han, a well-known TV host in Hunan, was named WWF’s ambassador of milu protection work.

Thanks to the UK for returning milu to China in the 1980s. As we are protecting the wildlife variety, we are always reminded to keep our respect toward nature, Wang said.