Archive for ‘Social & cultural’

18/05/2015

How the Family Got in the Way of an Outright Ban on Child Labor in India – India Real Time – WSJ

The government approved a set of amendments to India’s child labor law last week to allow children under 14 years of age to work in non-hazardous family enterprises, some entertainment industries and sport so long as they work after school or during vacations.

Though it drew the line at allowing children to work in the circus, the cabinet decision also drew a lot of criticism from child rights activists because it rowed back on a plan to outlaw all child labor for those below age 14.

The Bharatiya Janata Party–led cabinet said that a total ban–as proposed in the Child Labor Amendment Bill 2012 — had to be balanced against the need to maintain the country’s social fabric and bearing in mind the socio-economic conditions.

“In a large number of families, children help their parents in their occupations like agriculture, artisanship etc. and while helping the parents, children also learn the basics of occupations,” the government said.

Some of the amendments were welcomed by child rights campaigners. For instance, under the changes, anyone aged 14 to 18 would be protected by law from hazardous occupations and punishments for employing children illegally would be strengthened.

A fund to help support children rescued from illegal child labor also fell into the proposed amendments.

via How the Family Got in the Way of an Outright Ban on Child Labor in India – India Real Time – WSJ.

14/05/2015

Chinese firms give thousands of employees free trips in Thailand, France[1]- Chinadaily.com.cn

Two Chinese direct-sales companies made global headlines recently for taking thousands of employees on all-paid tour to separate foreign destinations – Thailand and France.

Chinese firms give thousands of employees free trips in Thailand, France

Both firms, Infinitus and Tiens, are among the top direct-sellers in terms of sales on the Chinese mainland, following international giants like Amway of the United States and Perfect China of Malaysia.

Infinitus (China) Ltd, a Hong Kong-based company that specializes in health care, skin care and household products, recently took its 12,700 employees on a six-night package to Bangkok and Pattaya in Thailand, the Bangkok Post reported on Wednesday.

They are set to travel in groups of 2,000-3,000 each from May 10-26, spending three nights in Bangkok and another three in Pattaya – at four- to five-star hotels. The first group arrived there on Sunday, said the newspaper citing the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

TAT acting governor Juthaporn Rerngronasa said the company’s incentive tour, a boost to the country’s low-season market, is expected to generate around 600 million baht ($17.9 million) in Thailand’s tourism revenue this year.

China has been Thailand’s biggest source of tourists over the past few years, with expectations of six million arrivals from the country this year, according to media reports citing Kasian Watanachaopisut, president of the Thai-Chinese Tourism Alliance Association.

via Chinese firms give thousands of employees free trips in Thailand, France[1]- Chinadaily.com.cn.

08/05/2015

China’s drive to settle new wave of migrants in restive Xinjiang | South China Morning Post

Newly employed as a hotel receptionist in Xinjiang, Fang Lihua is a foot soldier on the front line of a demographic contest for the mainly Muslim region’s identity as China opens it up for migration.

Uygur men visiting a night market in Hotan. Some Uygurs allege that ethnic Han settlers in Xinjiang receive preferential treatment. Photo: AFP

The resource-rich, far-western region is home to more than 10 million Uygurs, a Turkic minority with stronger cultural links to Central Asia than to the rest of China, dominated by the Han ethnic majority.

It sees sporadic violence the authorities blame on Islamist separatists, which has increased in intensity and spread beyond its borders in recent years.

Waves of mass migration from China’s heartland have raised Xinjiang’s Han population from six per cent in 1949 to 38 per cent four years ago.

Now Beijing hopes to trigger a new influx with the most liberal residency rules in China.

Fang, who is Han and in her 20s, took a three-day train ride from China’s ancient capital Xian to reach her new home in Hotan. The oasis town by the Taklamakan desert is renowned for its jade and fruit, but held little charm for her.

“I hate it here,” she said. “It’s completely foreign, I don’t think I’ll be able to adjust to life here.”

She and her builder husband are among the first to take advantage of new rules announced six months ago and she says they may stay despite her misgivings.

In cities across China, migration is strictly controlled, with new arrivals struggling for years to secure the all-important household registration, or hukou, entitling residents to education, healthcare, social insurance and more. Larger cities require advanced degrees, special skills or a job at a well-connected or government-owned company.

But in southern Xinjiang, the latest regulations mean a hukou is available with no educational or skill requirements at all.

Nationwide changes to the system are in the pipeline with urbanisation a key driver of the Chinese economy, but the fact that the Uygur-dominated area has been chosen for the country’s most liberal rules is striking.

More than 200 people died in Xinjiang-linked incidents last year according to official media reports, including a bloody mass stabbing in Kunming in southwestern China.

“The hukou reforms are about trying to encourage Han migration to southern Xinjiang, even though it’s not phrased in that way,” said James Leibold, an expert on ethnic relations in China at Australia’s La Trobe University.

“The idea behind that is to encourage more inter-ethnic mingling and hopefully by bringing more Han, the quality and the civilisation of southern Xinjiang will increase.”

At the same time the government is trying to stem population growth among minorities.

Propaganda throughout rural Hotan encourages residents to “have fewer children and get rich quick”, with a 3,000 yuan (HK$3,800) payout for those who forgo having the third child allowed to many ethnic minority couples under China’s family planning rules, compared to one or two for Han.

Security concerns and poor business opportunities would put off many potential migrants, Leibold said.

But that did not stop construction worker Du Yun, from the southwestern province of Sichuan, who arrived in November.

“I prefer the air in Sichuan, we don’t have sandstorms, but the social benefits are better in cities,” he said.

Areas of Xinjiang have at times been part of different states, including Russia, sometimes independent, but it has largely been ruled by Beijing since the late 1800s.

After the Communists won China’s civil war in 1949, it saw waves of migration from the east.

The semi-military Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps settled demobilised soldiers on work farms and today runs businesses including real estate, insurance, plastics and cement across the region, with its own universities and media.

Throughout Xinjiang, the Han and Uygur communities live almost entirely separately.

At one bazaar nearly all the patrons and merchants were Uygur, and blamed rising prices on new arrivals.

“The government has plenty of money, but any subsidies we’re entitled to just get taken by officials,” said Abduljan, who was buying lamb. “But we can’t do anything, we have no voice, no power.”

Almost none of about two dozen Han Chinese living in Hotan interviewed for this article spoke Uygur.

“Even if these policies do manage to attract Han to places like Hotan it doesn’t mean they will intermingle,” Leibold said.

“They’ll just live in segregated communities and they’ll be guarded by the People’s Armed Police,” he added.

“To create a truly cohesive society you need first and foremost trust, and interethnic trust is in extremely short supply.”

More than 300,000 people live in Hotan, but at night it is a ghost town.

Eighteen people were killed in an assault on a police station four years ago, according to the authorities, who say all the attackers who mounted a fatal car crash in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square 18 months ago were from Hotan.

Now most Han are afraid to go out after sunset and those who gather for nightly dances under a Mao Zedong statue in the main square are guarded by armed police.

The security presence is ubiquitous and many Uygurs similarly avoid the streets during darkness, citing harassment in the form of constant identity checks and probing questioning.

“The police, the checkpoints, the guns,” said a Uygur man who refused to give his name. “It’s all here to make the Han feel safe.”

 

via China’s drive to settle new wave of migrants in restive Xinjiang | South China Morning Post.

07/05/2015

Corruption: Not so far away | The Economist

“THE mountains are high; the emperor is far away,” goes a Chinese saying that has always given comfort to bureaucrats who play fast and loose with the law in remote parts of the country. But often, these days, distance is not enough. Those who hanker after the added protection of a foreign jurisdiction are often called “naked officials”. The term describes people who have moved families and assets abroad in readiness for escape themselves. Now, however, anti-graft officers are trying to extend their reach beyond China’s borders.

Since late last year, as part of the most intense and sustained anti-corruption drive in the history of Communist-ruled China, officials have been stepping up efforts to persuade foreign countries to send back those who have fled with their ill-gotten gains. On April 22nd they released a wanted list, together with mugshots, of 100 such people, as part of a new operation called Sky Net. The list was compiled by a Communist Party body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), whose agents often hold suspects in secret detention and torture them. “We will apprehend them no matter where they flee to,” Fu Kui, a member of the CCDI, told state media. The operation involves other agencies such as the police, the central bank and the foreign ministry.

Among the wanted fugitives, for whom Interpol has issued arrest warrants, 48 were the most senior officials in their workplaces. One was the deputy head of a provincial construction bureau accused of fleeing to America with 250m yuan ($40m) in embezzled funds. Another was a county-level finance official who allegedly took 94m yuan to Singapore.

Officials say that Sky Net is a new phase of Operation Fox Hunt, a campaign launched by the police last year to secure the repatriation of criminals (not just the corrupt). Officials say the exercise has been a success, having secured the repatriation of 680 fugitives from 69 countries. On April 27th the state prosecutor’s office said a further 61 people suspected of “dereliction of duty” had been arrested after spending time on the run abroad. Many had turned themselves in.

But anti-corruption officials have a big problem: the 39 countries with which China has extradition treaties do not include America, Australia or Canada, which are among the favoured destinations of corrupt fugitives. China has been pressing these countries for more co-operation. After a visit to Beijing in April by Jeh Johnson, America’s secretary for homeland security, state media said America “actively” supported China’s efforts. The Americans say they have agreed to a more “streamlined” procedure for handing back Chinese nationals whom they decide to repatriate. But they insist that such cases be handled according to American law and “values”.

China says it has sent 61 agents abroad (it has not said where) to “persuade” accused fugitives to return and face justice. It has also been trying a new tactic: scaring them with horror stories. State media last month reported one fugitive in America who dared not even see a doctor, so worried was he that his identity might become known. He returned home of his own will, a broken man.

via Corruption: Not so far away | The Economist.

19/04/2015

The marriage squeeze in India and China: Bare branches, redundant males | The Economist

KHAPs are informal local councils in north-western India. They meet to lay down the law on questions of marriage and caste, and are among India’s most unflinchingly conservative institutions. They have banned marriage between people of different castes, restricted it between people from the same village and stand accused of ordering honour killings to enforce their rulings, which have no legal force. India’s Supreme Court once called for khaps to be “ruthlessly stamped out”. In April 2014, however, the Satrol khap, the largest in Haryana, one of India’s richest states, relaxed its ban on inter-caste marriage and made it easier for villagers to marry among their neighbours. “This will bring revolutionary change to Haryana,” said Inder Singh, president of the khap.

The cause of the decision, he admitted, was “the declining male-female sex ratio in the state”. After years of sex-selective abortions in favour of boys, Haryana has India’s most distorted sex ratio: 114 males of all ages for every 100 females. In their search for brides, young men are increasingly looking out of caste, out of district and out of state. “This is the only way out to keep our old traditions alive,” said Mr Singh. “Instead of getting a bride from outside the state who takes time to adjust, we preferred to prune the jurisdiction of prohibited areas.”

The revision of 500 years of custom by its conservative guardians symbolises a profound change not just in India. Usually dubbed the “marriage squeeze”, the change refers both to the fact of having too many men chasing too few brides and the consequence of it in countries where marriage has always been nearly universal. Sex selection at birth is common in China and India. The flight from marriage—with women marrying later, or not at all—is long established in Japan and South Korea. But until recently, Asia’s twin giants have not felt the effects of sexual imbalance in marriage. Now they are.

The marriage squeeze is likely to last for decades, getting worse before it gets better. It will take the two countries with their combined population of 2.6 billion—a third of humanity—into uncharted territory. Marriage has always been a necessary part of belonging to society in India and China. No one really knows how these countries will react if marriage is no longer universal. But there may be damaging consequences. In every society, large numbers of young men, unmarried and away from their families, are associated with abnormal levels of crime and violence.

via The marriage squeeze in India and China: Bare branches, redundant males | The Economist.

14/04/2015

The Statesman: Let’s make India Ambedkar dreamt of: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday paid tributes to to BR Ambedkar on his 124th birth anniversary, and said, “Let us pledge to dedicate ourselves to creating India that Ambedkar dreamt of…an India that will make him proud”.

title=

“I bow to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar on his birth anniversary – Jai Bhim,” the prime minister said in a message.

“Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar is a yug purush (man of the era) who lives in the hearts and minds of crores of Indians. His life is characterised by unmatched determination and a firm commitment towards social justice. He made a mark as a bright lawyer, scholar, writer and intellectual who always spoke his mind,” Modi said.

He added: “Who can forget Dr. Ambedkar’s contribution in the making of our Constitution? He served the nation and the people tirelessly and selflessly.”

“Let us pledge to dedicate ourselves to creating the India that Dr. Ambedkar dreamt of…an India that will make him proud.”

via The Statesman: Let’s make India Ambedkar dreamt of: Modi.

14/04/2015

Why the Trial of Former Chinese Oil Executive Jiang Jiemin Matters – China Real Time Report – WSJ

A court in central China’s Hubei province today began hearing the case of Jiang Jiemin, the former chairman of China’s biggest oil company who also briefly headed a government commission that oversees state-owned firms.

Though Mr. Jiang may not be a household name, his trial marks the most senior-level prosecution of a Communist Party official in President Xi Jinping’s anticorruption drive, which has targeted both large state industries and their political backers over the past two years.

Far more important than his past role as head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission was Mr. Jiang’s previous tenure as chairman of China National Petroleum Corp. Following his appointment to that role in 2011, CNPC’s revenue rose, and it grew to rival Exxon Mobil Corp. in total market value.

Mr. Jiang was tapped to head Sasac in 2013, just as several other oil-company executives were becoming ensnared in corruption allegations or disappeared from view.

While Sasac oversees state-owned companies, in practice analysts say it is weaker than the larger, clout-wielding companies it supervises.

Mr. Jiang’s trial is being closely watched in part to see if it yields any details about the circumstances surrounding the downfall of Zhou Yongkang, the country’s granite-faced former security chief, who was formally charged with bribery and abuse of power earlier this month. Mr. Jiang had risen through the ranks of the country’s oil industry under Mr. Zhou.

It is also being watched for further details of corruption investigations involving other politicians and officials in the country’s oil industry, a key target for Mr. Xi’s campaign. The trial began at 8:30 a.m. Monday and was announced in a brief notice on the Hubei Hanjiang Intermediate People’s Court Weibo account. Without elaborating, the court said Mr. Jiang faces charges in connection to bribe-taking, holding a large amount of property that came from unidentified sources and abuse of power.

The court said Mr. Jiang has a lawyer and didn’t object to the charges that include taking bribes, holding assets from unexplained sources and abusing his power.

Like Mr. Jiang, Mr. Zhou had previously served as the head of CNPC. A wide network of Mr. Zhou’s acquaintances and family members have been caught up in a far-flung investigation involving deals in areas where Mr. Zhou oversaw power, involving deals worth tens of millions or more.

Officials of Mr. Zhou’s standing have traditionally been considered off limits, but under Mr. Xi, that is changing.

Mr. Zhou is expected to face trial as are other associates, including Li Chuncheng, former deputy party secretary of Sichuan, who worked under Mr. Zhou from 1999-2002

via Why the Trial of Former Chinese Oil Executive Jiang Jiemin Matters – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

08/04/2015

Ikea bans customers sleeping on showing beds – China – Chinadaily.com.cn

Ikea has introduced new rules that forbid store visitors from sleeping on showroom sofas and beds, but the rule is proving hard to enforce, the Beijing Youth Daily reported Monday.

Ikea bans customers sleeping on showing beds

The world’s largest furniture retailer introduced the rule because many customers, both adults and children, have been sleeping in stores, creating a scene and affecting the experience of other customers.

A middle-aged woman said Ikea beds are comfortable so her friends “take a nap” there sometimes, according to the newspaper.

Pictures also show young couples lying on the sofas, their faces covered by pillows.

The newspaper said some customers take off their shoes and lie on the beds as if they were in their own homes.

Ikea encourages customers to sit or lie on beds for a short while to experience their quality, but many sleeping customers occupy the display pieces for too long, a staff member says.

The air-conditioned megastore in Beijing is known for attracting customers in summer who are looking to escape the heat.

Workers in Ikea said it is hard to enforce the no-sleeping rule as many of the perpetrators are often elderly or young children, and some customers simply ignore their requests.

via Ikea bans customers sleeping on showing beds – China – Chinadaily.com.cn.

07/04/2015

Zhou Yongkang Charges Come As Xi Jinping’s Anti-Corruption Campaign Hits Snags – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Former Chinese security czar Zhou Yongkang has now been formally charged with bribery and abuse of power, in what appears to be yet another triumph in President Xi Jinping’s strategy to go after “tigers and flies”— in Chinese political parlance, both senior leaders and junior officials.

By all accounts, the hunting and the swatting have been a major success for Xi. The effort appears to be both popular and effective. For Xi, it has the added benefit of consolidating his political command.

That’s the good news.

But Zhou’s prosecution is coming at an important moment for the anticorruption campaign. A number of signs suggest that Xi’s strategy is beginning to show its age. Specifically, it appears Xi and his supporters are having an increasingly difficult time selling the idea that Beijing’s current approach is successfully rooting out the corruption that too often plagues Chinese politics.

First, there’s the fall-off in high-profile news coverage of cadres caught being bad. China’s state-controlled media still runs stories of officials who are being investigated for possible criminal conduct, as with allegations of bribery in the Chongqing city works department and claims of graft committed by a deputy director at the main television network in Anhui province.  But the focus in recent weeks has been on the identification and extradition of allegedly corrupt Chinese officials who have fled overseas. By broadcasting about those who are hiding abroad, Beijing is trying to pivot away from the persistence of graft at home. Indeed, the more cadres that are caught in-country, the more intractable the problem of corruption has to appear.

Then there’s the growing coverage in China’s state media of “maintaining political discipline”—code words for both party unity and getting cadres to conduct themselves according to rules and regulations set by the leadership.  That emphasis underscores the alternative view of some Communist party members that Beijing should rethink the way it trains and promotes cadres, rather than constantly supervising and occasionally punishing them. This conversation is taking place across major party publications, illustrating indecision in some quarters about which weapons the government should be wielding in the war on graft.

Xi’s supporters have also been forced on the defensive by the argument that the anticorruption campaign is having a deleterious effect on an already slowing national economy.  A recent essay that appeared in the Communist party’s flagship newspaper People’s Daily and various affiliated outlets argued that this “misconception needed clarification,” and went on to insist that “the anticorruption effort isn’t an obstacle but a way to smooth the path of economic development by removing inefficiencies and thereby provide positive energy,” especially in the realm of public opinion.

Even anticorruption czar Wang Qishan has had to come out in the past few days to defend the effort to go after “tigers and flies,” urging more grassroots efforts to identify corrupt officials and asking for patience from the public and fellow party members because, he insisted, “changing the political ethos is not achieved overnight.”

If Xi and his allies were in complete control of the anticorruption narrative, there’d be little need to have to counter criticism of Beijing’s current strategy.

It isn’t clear how this announcement about Zhou will end up playing out in the party ranks. If the formal charges against Zhou help to revitalize Xi’s anticorruption campaign, the strategy of striking hard will reinforce the sense that Xi is still on the right path. But to some cadres who want more accountability and party reform instead of political revenge, it may read like old news.

via Zhou Yongkang Charges Come As Xi Jinping’s Anti-Corruption Campaign Hits Snags – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 595 other followers