National China News

The dam breach caused more than 85,000 people to die instantly.

OZY 
Date: Feb 17 2019
By: Justin Higginbottom

Workers stood along the top of Banqiao Dam, some 150 feet above the valley’s floor, desperately trying to repair its crest as rain from Typhoon Nina fell for a third straight day. After battering Taiwan, the storm had moved inland where it was expected to dissipate, but Nina turned north instead, reaching the Huai River basin on Aug. 5, 1975, where a cold front blocked its progression. Parked in place, the typhoon generated more than a year’s worth of rain in 24 hours.

By the time night fell on Aug. 8, as many as 65 area dams had collapsed. But despite the fact that water levels at the Banqiao Dam had far exceeded a safe capacity, and a number of sluice gates for controlling water flow were clogged with silt, authorities felt confident they’d skirt disaster. After all, the Soviet-designed dam had been built to survive a typhoon — a once-every-1,000-year occurrence that could dump 11 inches of rain per day. Unfortunately, Typhoon Nina would prove to be a once-every-2,000-year storm, bearing down with enough force to cause the world’s deadliest infrastructure failure ever.

Chen Xing, one of China’s foremost hydrologists, had followed the construction of Banqiao in 1952 with concern. Chairman Mao Zedong, eager to modernize the country, ordered hundreds of dams built, which put people to work, provided electricity and tamed rivers as part of his brutal Great Leap Forward. After swimming across the Yangtze River in 1958, Zedong penned a poem about his obsession with dams: “Great plans are being made/ Walls of stone will stand upstream to the west …The mountain goddess if she is still there/ Will marvel at a world so changed.” Decades later, ignoring warnings from scientists and environmentalists, the Chinese government initiated construction of the Three Gorges Dam — the world’s largest power station — on the Yangtze.
[FULL  STORY]

The New York Times
Date: Jan. 23, 2019
By: Paul Mozur and Karen Weise

Image
Harry Shum, Microsoft’s executive vice president for artificial intelligence and research, speaking in San Francisco in 2017. Microsoft has long conducted research in China, including in artificial intelligence.CreditCreditJeff Chiu/Associated Press

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SHANGHAI — Under China’s president, Xi Jinping, the last vestiges of the global internet have slowly disappeared from an online world that had already shut out Twitter, Google and Facebook.

Now one of the last survivors, Microsoft’s Bing search engine, appears to have joined them — even though the American company already censors its results in China.

The Chinese government appeared to block the search engine on Wednesday, in what would be a startling renunciation of more than a decade of efforts by Microsoft to engage with Beijing to make its products available. If the block proves to be permanent, it would suggest that Western companies can do little to persuade China to give them access to what has become the world’s largest Internet market by users, especially at a time of increased trade and economic tensions with the United States.

The Redmond, Wash., company has cooperated with local companies to provide its Windows and cloud services to win acceptance by the Chinese government. Its long-established research and development center has turned out valuable products and launched the careers of a generation of artificial-intelligence experts who have started important new companies in China.
[FULL  STORY]

BBC News
Date: 29 January 2019
By Jessica Murphy, BBC News, Toronto

Image copyrightSIMEON GARRATTImage captionJulia and Kevin Garratt (centre) with their children Peter and Hannah. Their second son Simeon is not pictured

Canadian couple Kevin and Julia Garratt were detained in China in 2014 and accused of spying. Amid an escalating feud between Canada and China and allegations of retaliatory detentions, the pair tells the BBC about what it was like – and how they ever made it home.

Kevin Garratt remembers well the night he and Julia were arrested in north-eastern China.

He recalls being pulled away from his wife as they walked through a restaurant’s downstairs lobby, and pushed into the back of a black sedan filled with burly officers.

He thought the whole thing was some terrible mistake.

Julia, forced into a separate sedan, found herself shaking in fear and shock at the sudden turn of events, and the drive in the darkness.

She thought: “This is going to be my last night.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt that level of fear and panic before. And also just sad for my family and my children, because there was no warning, there would be no chance to say goodbye.”

The Garratts had lived in China since 1984, and from 2008 operated a coffee house popular with Western expats and tourists in Dandong, a city on the North Korean border, while continuing to carry out Christian aid work.    [FULL  STORY]

CNN
Date: February 1, 2019
By: Cheri Mossberg and Caitlin Hu, CNN

(CNN)Three people were arrested on charges of running “birth tourism” companies that catered to Chinese clients in Southern California Thursday. It is the first time that criminal charges have been filed in a US federal court over the practice, according to Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office.

“Birth tourists” travel to foreign countries to give birth, so that their children acquire the citizenship of that country. In the US, the legal principle of jus soli automatically confers citizenship upon babies born on US soil. Other countries, including Switzerland and Japan, do not grant citizenship automatically unless one or more parents are also citizens.

The three people in custody had not given comment at time of publishing. All were charged “conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, international money laundering and identity theft,” according to the DOJ statement.    [FULL  STORY]

The Sydney Morning Herald
Date: 29 January 2019
By: Peter Hartcher

After a quarter-century of researching China, Anne-Marie Brady is a veteran of Chinese

China expert Anne-Marie Brady has been subject to ongoing harassment.
CREDIT:JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFF

 

 

government spying and harassment.  “I was prepared for pressure in China,” says the 52-year-old New Zealander, a well-regarded professor of political science at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. “But I always felt safe in New Zealand. So that changed.” Last week she wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seeking police protection. It was her first direct appeal to Ardern, but her third in a series of pleas to escalating levels of officialdom.

First came the pressure on her university. Chinese officials demanded that her immediate superior stop her research. It might have worked – the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the mayor of Christchurch backed them up in an effort to appease Beijing.  They failed when the university vice-chancellor intervened on behalf of academic freedom. But it was just the beginning.

Next, her office was broken into in December 2017. As far as she could tell, nothing was taken. “I think it was meant to scare me, to show me people could come into my office.” If so, it worked: “I felt this great dread,” after the intrusion. “I reported it to security and there was no follow-up.”

If she had any doubt that she’d been targeted, she got a detailed warning letter from a concerned friend in the Chinese community to let her know that an official campaign of intimidation against her – and others – was under way.

Brady’s home was next. While she was on the phone to the NZ Secret Intelligence Service negotiating to give them the letter, her husband called to say that someone had broken in. “Cash, pearls, jewellery, other electronics were ignored,” Brady tells me. The only things missing were laptops, phones and an encrypted memory stick from her last trip to China. Other memory sticks were left behind. “It was very telling.”  She immediately reported the break-in to the intelligence service and the police. Brady went to her office the next morning to discover that it had been broken into. Again. It was February 15 last year. Brady was scheduled to give testimony to Australia’s Parliament that afternoon.    [FULL  STORY]

CBC News
Date: Jan 29, 2019
By: Jonathon Gatehouse

China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning takes part in a military drill by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the western Pacific Ocean in April last year. China’s neighbours are increasingly nervous of the sharp buildup of its navy and high-tech weaponry. (Reuters)

China’s nervous neighbours

Ottawa’s relations with China have hit a new low following the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou and what appear to be retaliatory measures against three Canadians.

But Canada isn’t the only country feeling rattled by the suddenly cranky superpower.

Australia is trying to negotiate the release of one of its own citizens, the Chinese-born writer Yang Hengjun. The academic and political commentator was snatched off the streets of Guangzhou on Jan. 18, and is being held in a Beijing jail on national security suspicions.

And China’s sudden willingness to flex its military muscle in the South China Sea is unnerving countries all around the South Pacific.

At an international forum in Singapore yesterday, Christopher Pyne, the Australian defence minister, called on Beijing to rethink its approach to the region, saying its bellicose words and actions have been causing needless anxiety.

“As the exhortation goes, to those that much is given, much is expected; similarly for nation states, for those with great power comes great responsibility, and so I call on China to act with great responsibility in the South China Sea,” Pyne said.

Even against the backdrop of a recently announced $90 billion investment in new ships for the Australian Navy, Pyne took pains to say that no one is trying “to contain” China.

Neighbouring New Zealand is also experiencing tension with China.

Last week, a well-known China expert from the University of Canterbury released a letter she had written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asking for police protection following a campaign of harassment that she believes originated in Beijing.    [FULL  STORY]

 

BBC News
Date: Jan 24, 2019

The Australian government says it is investigating reports a Chinese-Australian writer has gone missing in China.

Yang Hengjun, a blogger and former Chinese diplomat, has not been heard from since flying from New York to Guangzhou on Saturday, a friend said.

Sydney academic Feng Chongyi said he feared that Mr Yang had been detained by Chinese authorities.

Chinese officials have not yet commented.

In response to a query about Mr Yang, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was “seeking information about an Australian citizen who has been reported missing in China”.

Mr Yang is believed to have been travelling with his wife, Chinese national Yuan Rui Juan, and young stepson.

A social media post by Ms Yuan appeared to show that she was in Beijing, Australian media reported.

It is believed that she was interviewed there by Chinese officials after first travelling to Shanghai to leave her son with relatives, reported the BBC’s Stephen McDonell in Beijing.

‘We’ve been trying to contact him’

Mr Yang, an Australian citizen who now lives in the US, has a sizeable following online and has been critical of China’s Communist Party.    [FULL  STORY]

  • China arrested former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor on vague national security allegations.
  • “It is unfortunate that China has arbitrarily and unfairly detained two Canadian citizens, and indeed in one of the cases is not respecting the principles of diplomatic immunity,” Trudeau said.
  • Canadian authorities haven’t previously said Kovrig was protected by diplomatic immunity, but Trudeau asserted that Friday.

CNBC News
Date: 11 Jan 2019
By: The Associated Press

Martin Ouellet-Diotte | AFP | Getty Images
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a meeting in Montreal on Dec. 7, 2018.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that Chinese officials are not respecting the diplomatic immunity of one of the Canadians detained in China last month as he ramped up efforts to get them released.

China arrested former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor on vague national security allegations.

The arrests came after a top Chinese executive was arrested in Canada on Dec. 1 at the request of Washington, which wants Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou extradited to face charges that she misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. She is out on bail in Canada and awaiting a bail extradition proceeding next month.

Kovrig is an analyst on northeast Asia for the International Crisis Group think tank who took a leave of absence from the Canadian government.

Canadian authorities haven’t previously said he was protected by diplomatic immunity. But Trudeau asserted that Friday.

“It is unfortunate that China has arbitrarily and unfairly detained two Canadian citizens, and indeed in one of the cases is not respecting the principles of diplomatic immunity,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau asserted diplomatic immunity in both French and English answers to a question but did not elaborate on why Kovrig is entitled to it.      [FULL  STORY]

Lawfare
Date: January 11, 2019
By Donald Clarke

Main entrance to the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China (Source: Wikimedia/Rneches)

An obscure Chinese drug case has been pushed to the center of China’s relations with Canada—and, by implication, with the rest of the world. The case appears to reinforce the message, previously suggested by the detentions of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, that China views the holding of human hostages as an acceptable way to conduct diplomacy.

Canadian Robert Schellenberg entered China in November of 2014 and was detained the following month on charges of planning to smuggle almost 500 pounds of crystal methamphetamine from China to Australia. Sentenced just last November to 15 years’ imprisonment, he effectively lost—indeed, more than lost—his appeal in the Liaoning Provincial High Court on Dec. 29, 2018. The High Court sent his case back for retrial, suggesting a harsher sentence would be appropriate. That could include the death penalty.

Several unusual features of the Schellenberg case suggest that it may be connected to China’s efforts to get Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei executive detained in Canada on Dec. 11, released before she is extradited to the United States to face charges of bank fraud related to Iran sanctions.
[FULL  STORY]

The list of high profile “disappeared” individuals in China expanded over the last year to include a Hollywood star and Interpol head.

Date: January 13, 2019
By: Yanan Wang for AP

Fan Bingbing was enjoying Hollywood fame before her social media accounts went quiet and she disappeared last year.Source:News Corp Australia

It’s not uncommon for individuals who speak out against the government to disappear in China, but the scope of the “disappeared” has expanded since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013.

Not only dissidents and activists, but also high-level officials, Marxists, foreigners and even a movie star — people who never publicly opposed the ruling Communist Party — have been whisked away by police to unknown destinations.

The widening dragnet throws into stark relief the lengths to which Xi’s administration is willing to go to maintain its control and authority.

A look at some of the people who went missing in 2018 at the hands of the Chinese state.

FOREIGN PAWNS

China threatened “grave consequences” if Canada did not release hi-tech executive Meng Wanzhou, shortly after the Huawei chief financial officer was detained in Vancouver in December for possible extradition to the U.S.

The apparent consequences materialised within days, when two Canadian men went missing in China. Both turned up in the hands of state security on suspicion of endangering national security, a nebulous category of crimes that has been levied against foreigners in recent years.

Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig was taken by authorities from a Beijing street late in the evening, a person familiar with his case said.

He is allowed one consular visit a month and has not been granted access to a lawyer, as is standard for state security cases.

Also detained is Michael Spavor, who organises tours to North Korea from the border city of Dandong. China has not said whether their detentions are related to Meng’s, but a similar scenario unfolded in the past.

A Canadian couple was detained in 2014 on national security grounds shortly after Canada arrested Su Bin, a Chinese man wanted for industrial espionage in the U.S.    [FULL  STORY]