Archive for ‘Politics’

20/01/2019

Bullet trains maintained in China’s Guiyang to ensure safety for Spring Festival travel rush

CHINA-GUIYANG-SPRING FESTIVAL-TRAVEL (CN)

Mechanics check a bullet train at a maintenance station to ensure safety for the upcoming Spring Festival travel rush in Guiyang, capital of southwest China’s Guizhou Province, Jan. 19, 2019. (Xinhua/Ou Dongqu)

Source: Xinhua

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19/01/2019

Meng Hongwei: Wife of ex-Interpol chief seeks France asylum

The wife of Meng Hongwei, the Interpol president held in China since September, has sought asylum in France for herself and her twin children.

Grace Meng and the seven-year-olds live in Lyon, the international police agency’s headquarters. Meng Hongwei disappeared during a visit to China.

In October the Chinese authorities said Mr Meng was being investigated over suspected bribe-taking.

His wife and children are under police protection, having received threats.

Quoted by France Inter radio on Friday, she said, “I fear they will kidnap me.”

“I’ve received strange phone calls. Even my car was damaged. Two Chinese – a man and woman – followed me to the hotel,” she said.

In media interviews she has refused to show her face, fearing for her safety.

On the day her husband went missing, she said he had sent her a social media message telling her to “wait for my call”, before sending a knife emoji, signifying danger.

Grace Meng with journalists, 7 Oct 18Image copyrightAFP
Image captionGrace Meng does not reveal her face on camera

What is known about Meng Hongwei?

Since his disappearance on 25 September no details have emerged about his prison conditions or the charges against him.

The 65-year-old’s job as Interpol president was largely ceremonial and did not require him to return to China often.

He was also one of six powerful vice-ministers in China’s public security ministry and had 40 years of experience in China’s criminal justice system. He previously worked under security czar Zhou Yongkang, one of the most powerful figures to be taken down in President Xi’s anti-corruption campaign that has targeted more than a million officials.

Meng Hongwei was elected Interpol president in November 2016, the first Chinese person to take up the post, and was scheduled to serve until 2020.

China’s new National Supervision Commission – an anti-corruption agency – said Mr Meng was being investigated for “violation of laws”.

But unlike in other high-profile detentions, it did not mention a charge of “violating party rules”.

China has not presented any evidence to justify the allegation against Mr Meng.

How did Interpol react?

China said Mr Meng had written a resignation letter and Interpol Secretary-General Jürgen Stock acknowledged that he had received it on 7 October. “There was no reason for me to (suspect) that anything was forced or wrong,” he said.

Quoted by the Associated Press news agency, Mr Stock said Interpol’s rules did not allow him to investigate Mr Meng’s disappearance. Interpol accepted the resignation letter without further comment.

In November Interpol elected South Korean Kim Jong-yang as its new president, rejecting a Russian candidate who had been tipped to succeed Mr Meng.

What is Interpol?

The International Criminal Police Organisation was founded in 1923 in Vienna, and its original members included Germany, France and China.

The UK and US did not join until later.

In 1956, it became officially known as Interpol and has since grown into a network of 194 member countries.

Its primary aim is to promote co-operation and share intelligence between police forces.

The general secretariat oversees its day-to-day work. It focuses on crimes such as terrorism, drug-trafficking, people-smuggling, child pornography and money-laundering.

Source: The BBC

16/01/2019

Exclusive – Modi’s party wants expansionary economic policy ahead of India election

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party is in favour of an expansionary economic policy and does not consider the government’s plan to keep the fiscal deficit to 3.3 percent of GDP as “sacrosanct”, a party spokesman told Reuters.

Ahead of a general election that must be held by May and after a string of losses in recent state polls, the government run by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has announced several stimulus measures for the countryside where millions of farmers are grappling with low crop prices. Other fiscal moves have been aimed at helping small businesses.

The measures are likely to be a drain on finances in Asia’s third-biggest economy, though the Modi administration is expected to get the Reserve Bank of India to agree to transfer an interim dividend of 300-400 billion rupees (£3.36 billion-£4.51 billion) to the government by March, Reuters reported last week quoting sources.

Weak consumer spending and the fragile farm sector have already been a drag on economic growth, creating a headache for Modi as he struggles to meet ambitious job creation targets.

India lost 11 million jobs last year, with around 83 percent in rural areas, according to independent think-tank the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, as operational costs surged for small businesses. Those costs were boosted by the launch of a national sales tax in 2017 and the economic impact of an earlier ban on high value currency notes.

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“There’s a demand, there’s a debate – all my colleagues are saying what’s the need of keeping the fiscal deficit in check when there is a distress in a particular sector,” said Gopal Krishna Agarwal, the economic affairs spokesman for the Hindu nationalist BJP, referring to the farm sector.

“Even think-tanks associated with us are talking in this sense. Very few people domestically are talking about fiscal prudence. Only foreign think-tanks are talking fiscal prudence, fiscal prudence. I strongly believe an expansionary policy can benefit the party,” he said in an interview on Tuesday night.

India’s 10-year benchmark bond yield IN071728G=CC rose 4 basis points to 7.53 percent after the news, its highest since Jan. 8 on worries about the fiscal deficit. The rupee INR=D4 also weakened to 71.23 to the dollar from its previous close of 71.03.

Agarwal, a chartered accountant who is a director at state-run Bank of Baroda (BOB.NS) and a member of a government committee on small and medium-sized businesses, said Modi was aware of his party colleagues’ thinking but that no final decision had been taken.

D.S. Malik, a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance, did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is in the United States for a medical check-up, said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that India’s “fiscal discipline during the past five years has been amongst the best as compared to any preceding period”.

NEED TO REACH LANDLESS

Agarwal said the government understands that farmers are in distress and that directly transferring money to their bank accounts was an option to help them out. He said the government was, however, trying to figure out how to distribute funds to landless tillers to make sure any such transfer programme was effective and didn’t just benefit those with land.

The government is studying a programme launched by the eastern state of Odisha under which farmers with landholdings of up to 5 acres would get cash assistance to buy seeds, pesticides, fertilisers and pay for labour. Sharecroppers, who cultivate rented land will also get the benefits, which include life insurance coverage.

Agarwal said Modi and many financial institutions were not in favour of waiving farm loans, as done by states recently won by the main opposition Congress party, because doing so mainly helps banks and not so much farmers in duress.

“There’s definitely a suggestion to give interest-free loans to farmers. Banks won’t have to pay, it has to be incorporated into the budget,” he said.

“And what’s the so sacrosanct issue about keeping the fiscal deficit at less than 3.5 percent? If you don’t adopt an expansionary economic policy, then the government alone can’t create demand by just spending on infrastructure. It has to come from both public and the private sector. The economy will grow only when demand will be created.”

He said increasing the income tax exemption limit for individuals was also being considered for the interim budget to be presented on Feb. 1 by Jaitley.

William Foster, vice president at Moody’s Investors Service, said that it expects the country’s fiscal deficit to slip to 3.4 of GDP this fiscal year ending March 31 due to revenue shortfalls from goods and services tax, lower excise duty and below-target receipts from sale of government assets.

“Increased expenditure on income transfers, farm loan waivers or other forms of subsidies would weigh further on government finances,” Foster told Reuters.

Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Aftab Ahmed; Additional reporting by Suvashree Dey Choudhury; Edited by Martin Howell

Source: Reuters

16/01/2019

Peng Liyuan attends performance with Finnish first lady

CHINA-BEIJING-PENG LIYUAN-JENNI HAUKIO-PERFORMANCE (CN)

Peng Liyuan (R, front), the wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, attends a show including poetry reading and musical performances with Jenni Haukio, wife of Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 15, 2019. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan)

BEIJING, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) — Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, attended a performance with Jenni Haukio, wife of Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, on Tuesday.

The show, which included poetry reading and musical performances, was held in the stylish bookstore Page One situated in the Qianmen area, a significant symbol of old Beijing.

After having strolled around the bookstore and learning about the history of the bookstore and the surrounding block, Peng and Haukio enjoyed wonderful performances on the top floor. Peng also briefed Haukio on the history and recent renovation of the historic district of Dashilar.

During the show, students majoring in Finnish read Haukio’s award-winning poems, catching her by surprise.

Young ladies dressed in ancient costumes sang traditional Chinese poems with the accompaniment of piano and Chinese zither, a traditional Chinese instrument.

The performance ended with a violinist and a pianist playing a piece work composed by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.

The show was performed by teachers and students from the Beijing Foreign Studies University and the China Conservatory of Music.

Haukio is in Beijing accompanying President Niinisto who is paying a state visit to China from Sunday to Wednesday.

Source: Xinhua

13/01/2019

Rivals unite in Indian state in bid to beat Modi in elections

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI (Reuters) – Two political rivals in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh will form an alliance in a bid to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in national election scheduled for May, leaders of the parties said.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), both of whom command large support bases among Uttar Pradesh state’s working class and are led by former chief ministers, will contest the election as a team, they said.

Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state and accounts for about a sixth of all members of the parliament, the highest by a single state. Barring a couple of exceptions in the 1990s, the party winning the most number of seats there has helped form the federal government.

Out of the 80 seats in the state, SP and BSP will nominate candidates for 38 seats each, BSP chief Mayawati Das said at a joint press conference with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav on Saturday.

They will not contest the other four seats, which include two that have historically been held by the country’s main opposition party, Congress.

Congress, which ruled India for nearly four decades since its independence from Britain in 1947, has also been working to build a “grand alliance” with other parties ahead of the polls.

Mayawati, however, said Congress would not be a part of the BSP-SP alliance in Uttar Pradesh. “We can surely stop the BJP from coming to power with this alliance with SP,” she said.

On Friday, Yadav had told news channel NDTV: “We can give Congress two seats they have always held”, referring to the constituencies from where Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi have contested in the past.

Mamata Banerjee, head of Trinamool Congress party and chief minister of eastern India’s West Bengal state who has been pushing to create a mega alliance of regional parties to defeat the BJP, welcomed the announcement in a tweet.

“I welcome the alliance of the SP and the BSP for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections,” Banerjee tweeted.

Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and Samajwadi Party (SP) President, addresses a news conference before resigning from his post in Lucknow, India, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar

“Let us cherish the ‘idea of India’ for which our freedom fighters laid down their lives. Our people and our great institutions must strive to remain “independent”, in the true sense of the word.”

OPPOSITION GETS A FILLIP

Opposition parties across the country received a fillip last month, when India’s ruling party lost power in three states and dealt Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014.

The BJP, SP and BSP contested against each other during the state elections in March 2017, which the BJP comfortably won, but political analysts say a BSP-SP alliance could affect the ruling party’s prospects.

The BJP had a 40 percent vote share in the state polls, the BSP and SP put together accounted for 44 percent. To be sure, voting patterns could be different when the world’s largest democracy goes to polls.

The BJP, however, is confident of winning elections in Uttar Pradesh. “We will win 74 out of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh,” president Amit Shah said in a televised address on Friday.

Despite the strategic significance and having been ruled by different parties since independence, Uttar Pradesh remains one of India’s most backward states.

It is notorious for its crime rate and unlicensed gun use, has below-average literacy levels, an abysmally low human development index and worrying levels of population growth.

13/01/2019

2019 Lok Sabha Elections: Congress drops a bombshell, to contest all 80 seats in UP

Amethi is Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s parliamentary constituency and Rae Bareilly is that of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

SNS Web | New Delhi | 

Breaking the suspense over its election plans in the state of Uttar Pradesh for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress on Sunday announced that it will be fielding candidates on all the 80 Lok Sabha seats.

This was informed by senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is also the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

“We will fight all 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections. We are fully prepared. And just like the Congress emerged the number one party in Uttar Pradesh in 2009 Lok Sabha elections, it will happen again in 2019,” said Azad while interacting with the media in UP capital Lucknow.

Also Read: Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav announce BSP-SP alliance for 2019 Lok Sabha polls | Slam ‘arrogant’ BJP

“We had earlier also said that we are ready to walk with every party that wants to defeat the BJP. But we can’t force anyone. They have (SP-BSP) closed this chapter, so we will continue this fight to defeat the BJP on our own,” he added.

On Saturday, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) had officially announced their alliance ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, keeping the Congress out.

While BSP and SP will contest on 38 Lok Sabha seats each, they have left two seats for other parties. “We have left Amethi and Rae Bareilly for Congress, which is not part of our alliance,” Mayawati had said addressing the media at Lucknow’s Hotel Taj on Saturday.

Amethi is Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s parliamentary constituency and Rae Bareilly is that of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

“BSP and SP are not going to get any benefit from an alliance with Congress. Our experience is that we do not get votes on seats we leave and they go to the BJP. Congress benefits from us but honest parties like us do not get any benefit,” Mayawati had said, drawing attention to the BSP’s alliance with the Congress in 1996 and SP’s in 2017.

Azad was speaking after a meeting at the party’s state headquarters in Lucknow.

12/01/2019

Rivals unite in Indian state in bid to beat Modi in elections

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI (Reuters) – Two political rivals in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh will form an alliance in a bid to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in national election scheduled for May, leaders of the parties said.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), both of whom command large support bases among Uttar Pradesh state’s working class and are led by former chief ministers, will contest the election as a team, they said.

Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state and accounts for about a sixth of all members of the parliament, the highest by a single state. Barring a couple of exceptions in the 1990s, the party winning the most number of seats there has helped form the federal government.

Out of the 80 seats in the state, SP and BSP will nominate candidates for 38 seats each, BSP chief Mayawati Das said at a joint press conference with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav on Saturday.

They will not contest the other four seats, which include two that have historically been held by the country’s main opposition party, Congress.

Congress, which ruled India for nearly four decades since its independence from Britain in 1947, has also been working to build a “grand alliance” with other parties ahead of the polls.

Mayawati, however, said Congress would not be a part of the BSP-SP alliance in Uttar Pradesh. “We can surely stop the BJP from coming to power with this alliance with SP,” she said.

On Friday, Yadav had told news channel NDTV: “We can give Congress two seats they have always held”, referring to the constituencies from where Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi have contested in the past.

Mamata Banerjee, head of Trinamool Congress party and chief minister of eastern India’s West Bengal state who has been pushing to create a mega alliance of regional parties to defeat the BJP, welcomed the announcement in a tweet.

“I welcome the alliance of the SP and the BSP for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections,” Banerjee tweeted.

Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and Samajwadi Party (SP) President, addresses a news conference before resigning from his post in Lucknow, India, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar

“Let us cherish the ‘idea of India’ for which our freedom fighters laid down their lives. Our people and our great institutions must strive to remain “independent”, in the true sense of the word.”

OPPOSITION GETS A FILLIP

Opposition parties across the country received a fillip last month, when India’s ruling party lost power in three states and dealt Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014.

The BJP, SP and BSP contested against each other during the state elections in March 2017, which the BJP comfortably won, but political analysts say a BSP-SP alliance could affect the ruling party’s prospects.

The BJP had a 40 percent vote share in the state polls, the BSP and SP put together accounted for 44 percent. To be sure, voting patterns could be different when the world’s largest democracy goes to polls.

The BJP, however, is confident of winning elections in Uttar Pradesh. “We will win 74 out of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh,” president Amit Shah said in a televised address on Friday.

Despite the strategic significance and having been ruled by different parties since independence, Uttar Pradesh remains one of India’s most backward states.

It is notorious for its crime rate and unlicensed gun use, has below-average literacy levels, an abysmally low human development index and worrying levels of population growth.

12/01/2019

Chinese envoy asks for int’l support for stability in DRC

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) — A Chinese envoy on Friday asked the international community to continue to assist the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in maintaining peace and stability in the country at a crucial juncture after elections.

The international community should show full respect for the national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the DRC and the authority of the national electoral commission, Ma Zhaoxu, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, told the Security Council.

“We see elections as a country’s internal affair. We believe that the people of the DRC have the ability and wisdom to resolve relevant issues in their own way. We hope that parties in the DRC can stay calm, exercise restraint and resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation so as to maintain peace and stability.”

A peaceful handover of power is in the interests of the DRC people, and is conducive to peace, stability and development of the DRC and the African continent as a whole, he said.

The Chinese envoy also asked the international community to keep up humanitarian assistance. The Ebola epidemic in the northeast of the DRC also requires continued support from the international community, he said.

China has been a staunch supporter of DRC’s peace process and will continue to provide medical, food and other assistance, remain engaged in the country’s social and economic development, he said.

Presidential, legislative and provincial elections were held in the DRC on Dec. 30 after long and repeated delays. Provisional results were released on Wednesday.

08/01/2019

China deploys vehicle-mounted cannons in Tibet along border with India

China has either deployed or plans to induct cutting-edge weaponry for its land border troops to use. Last August, China said it was building rockets for its artillery brigades that will be propelled by the “electromagnetic catapult” technology and can be used in the high altitude plateaus of the TAR.

WORLD Updated: Jan 08, 2019 16:41 IST

Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
China,China army,China forces
China has equipped its forces in Tibet, which has a long border with India, with new vehicle-mounted howitzers to improve combat capability at high altitudes, reports sourced from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said on Tuesday.(Reuters File Photo)

China has equipped its forces in Tibet, which has a long border with India, with new vehicle-mounted howitzers to improve combat capability at high altitudes, reports sourced from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said on Tuesday.

It is the same cannon used by an artillery brigade during the 73-day Sino-India border standoff at Doklam (Donglang in Chinese), a state media report said, indicating that since then it has been inducted in high-altitude brigades on a wider scale in the border areas of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

The deployment comes at a time with China’s border issues, with India and Bhutan, remain unresolved and “…challenged by pro-Tibet independence forces and terrorists,” an analyst told the state media.

The deployed weapon is said to be the rarely seen PLC-181 vehicle-mounted howitzer cannons, capable of firing and then rapidly changing positions. It is said to be a new addition in the arsenal of the PLA ground forces (PLAGF).

The information was first released on a social media app by the PLAGF, saying the PLA in the Tibet Military Command is equipped with the new howitzer, which Chinese military analysts said is supposed to be the PLC-181 vehicle-mounted howitzer.

Song Zhongping, a military expert, told the nationalistic tabloid Global Times the howitzer has 52-caliber cannon with a range of over 50 kilometres and shoots laser-guided and satellite-guided projectiles.

“It will boost the high-altitude combat capability of the PLA in Tibet,” Song said.

“As part of military training in 2019, an artillery brigade in the Tibet Military Command ordered soldiers to take part in a military skills competition at a training ground on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau 3,700 meters above sea level,” the report said.

Video from the China News Service on Sunday shows soldiers engaged in military boxing, standstill shooting and firing in motion, as well as assembling guns on the snowfields to improve their attack capability.

The information about the new deployment comes within days of President Xi Jinping commanding China’s armed forces to be ready for combat and be prepared for unexpected crisis and war.

The armed forces should have enhanced awareness of danger, crisis and war, Xi told a meeting of the central military commission (CMC), the top military organisation in the country of which he is the chairperson.

The deployment is not to provoke neighbours but defensive in nature, Zhao Gancheng, director of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies told the Global Times.

China has either deployed or plans to induct cutting-edge weaponry for its land border troops to use.

Last August, China said it was building rockets for its artillery brigades that will be propelled by the “electromagnetic catapult” technology and can be used in the high altitude plateaus of the TAR.

Calling the innovation “unprecedented”, the report said the catapult-propelled rockets, which can hit targets beyond 200 km, will be more powerful and effective than conventional artillery guns.

07/01/2019

Kashmir-centric politicians churn out pro-militant formulas before elections

Top separatist, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, calls the slain terrorists “martyrs” and publicly offers tributes to them.

SP Sharma | Jammu | 

Provoked by Mehbooba Mufti’s visits to families of slain terrorists on the eve of the general elections, the Kashmir-centric political leadership has started churning out their respective formulas to tackle militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.

It is expected that elections for the state assembly might be held simultaneously with that of the Lok Sabha.

The latest to join the chorus is the BJP backed Sajjad Lone who has demanded a policy “laced with dignity” for the return of militants in the mainstream. Lone, who is himself a former separatist, and was a minister in Mehbooba’s government from the quota of BJP, told media persons in Srinagar that the government should take steps for a dignified return of terrorists in the mainstream. However, he did not elaborate his formula.

Mehbooba has come under fire from her rivals who are also trying to placate the terrorists.

The Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) operations commander, Riyaz Naikoo, who is among the most wanted terrorists, has in a video clip asked families of killed militants to “throw Mehbooba out if she comes to their homes.” He appealed to such families not to allow her inside their homes as her hands were soaked with the blood of militants whom she got killed when she was in power.

National Conference leader, Omar Abdullah, was the first to lock horns with Mehbooba with whom he exchanged a series of sarcastic tweets on the issue.

Sympathising with terrorists at the time of elections has become a part of the electoral campaign of the Kashmir-centric political parties. Mehbooba’s father, late Mufti Sayeed, had faced criticism outside the Valley as the first thing he did after becoming the chief minister with the support of BJP in 2015 was to ‘thank the separatists and Pakistan for allowing peaceful elections in J&K.’ He did not have a word of praise for the security forces that performed their duty even in harsh weather to maintain peace during the long-stretched phase wise polling.

Top separatist, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, calls the slain terrorists “martyrs” and publicly offers tributes to them. He is never heard criticising killing of innocent civilians or policemen by terrorists.

Pakistan leadership has also been adding fuel to the fire in Kashmir.

Separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq appreciated the recent statement of Pakistan PM Imran Khan on Kashmir during his interaction with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey has always been a strong supporter of the right to self-determination for the people of Jammu & Kashmir and an active member of the OIC contact group on Kashmir, said the Mirwaiz.

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