Archive for ‘Tibet’

05/06/2019

African swine fever virus is now ‘endemic’ in China’s Tibet and Xinjiang regions, making its eradication harder, UN says

  • The virus that causes the African swine fever is now endemic in Tibet and Xinjiang, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organisation said
  • Diseases that are endemic, or generally present, are harder to stamp out
Piglets are kept in pens at a pig farm in Langfang in Hebei province on Monday, April 1, 2019. Photo: Bloomberg
Piglets are kept in pens at a pig farm in Langfang in Hebei province on Monday, April 1, 2019. Photo: Bloomberg
China’s attempts to control African swine fever have been insufficient to stem further spread of the disease, with the deadly pig contagion now endemic in two regions, a United Nations group said.
The virus that causes the disease is entrenched among pig populations in the autonomous regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome said in a report Thursday.
Diseases that are endemic, or generally present, are more difficult to stamp out by quarantining and culling diseased and vulnerable livestock.

About 20 per cent of China’s pig inventories may have been culled in the first few months of 2019 amid fears of African swine fever spreading more rapidly, according to the FAO, which is monitoring the disease in cooperation with local authorities and China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

China’s pig production will drop by 134 million heads, or 20 per cent, in 2019, the US Department of Agriculture said last month.

“While official sources confirm a rapid spread of the disease, both the speed and severity of the spread could prove more pronounced than currently assumed,” the FAO said in its report. A government investigation in seven provinces found “irrational culling of sows on breeding farms in February, reducing the sector’s core production capacity.”

Thailand launches crackdown to keep out African swine fever

Since the first cases were reported last August, 130 outbreaks have been detected in 32 provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and special administrative regions across the nation, which raises half the world’s pigs.

SCMP Graphics
SCMP Graphics

The FAO report found:

  • In Jilin province, swine inventory fell 28 per cent from the previous year, with some reports pointing to a larger drop In Shandong province, sow numbers fell 41 per cent from July 2018 to February 2019
  • In Guangdong province, hog inventories slumped 20 per cent from a year earlier and pig-feed sales fell 10 per cent to 50 per cent
  • Production of fresh and frozen meat by meatpackers plunged 17 per cent in January and February, compared with the same months in 2018
  • Source: SCMP
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26/05/2019

China’s robot censors crank up as Tiananmen anniversary nears

BEIJING (Reuters) – It’s the most sensitive day of the year for China’s internet, the anniversary of the bloody June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square, and with under two weeks to go, China’s robot censors are working overtime.

Censors at Chinese internet companies say tools to detect and block content related to the 1989 crackdown have reached unprecedented levels of accuracy, aided by machine learning and voice and image recognition.

“We sometimes say that the artificial intelligence is a scalpel, and a human is a machete,” said one content screening employee at Beijing Bytedance Co Ltd, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorised to speak to media.

Two employees at the firm said censorship of the Tiananmen crackdown, along with other highly sensitive issues including Taiwan and Tibet, is now largely automated.

Posts that allude to dates, images and names associated with the protests are automatically rejected.

“When I first began this kind of work four years ago there was opportunity to remove the images of Tiananmen, but now the artificial intelligence is very accurate,” one of the people said.

Four censors, working across Bytedance, Weibo Corp and Baidu Inc apps said they censor between 5,000-10,000 pieces of information a day, or five to seven pieces a minute, most of which they said were pornographic or violent content.

Despite advances in AI censorship, current-day tourist snaps in the square are sometimes unintentionally blocked, one of the censors said.

Bytedance declined to comment, while Weibo and Baidu did not respond to requests for comment.

SENSITIVE PERIOD

The Tiananmen crackdown is a taboo subject in China 30 years after the government sent tanks to quell student-led protests calling for democratic reforms. Beijing has never released a death toll but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.

June 4th itself is marked by a cat-and-mouse game as people use more and more obscure references on social media sites, with obvious allusions blocked immediately. In some years, even the word “today” has been scrubbed.

In 2012, China’s most-watched stock index fell 64.89 points on the anniversary day here, echoing the date of the original event in what analysts said was likely a strange coincidence rather than a deliberate reference.

Still, censors blocked access to the term “Shanghai stock market” and to the index numbers themselves on microblogs, along with other obscure references to sensitive issues.

While companies censorship tools are becoming more refined, analysts, academics and users say heavy-handed policies mean sensitive periods before anniversaries and political events have become catch-alls for a wide range of sensitive content.

In the lead-up to this year’s Tiananmen Square anniversary, censorship on social media has targeted LGBT groups, labour and environment activists and NGOs, they say.

Upgrades to censorship tech have been urged on by new policies introduced by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). The group was set up – and officially led – by President Xi Jinping, whose tenure has been defined by increasingly strict ideological control of the internet.

The CAC did not respond to a request for comment.

Last November, the CAC introduced new rules aimed at quashing dissent online in China, where “falsifying the history of the Communist Party” on the internet is a punishable offence for both platforms and individuals.

The new rules require assessment reports and site visits for any internet platform that could be used to “socially mobilise” or lead to “major changes in public opinion”, including access to real names, network addresses, times of use, chat logs and call logs.

One official who works for CAC told Reuters the recent boost in online censorship is “very likely” linked to the upcoming anniversary.

“There is constant communication with the companies during this time,” said the official, who declined to directly talk about the Tiananmen, instead referring to the “the sensitive period in June”.

Companies, which are largely responsible for their own censorship, receive little in the way of directives from the CAC, but are responsible for creating guidelines in their own “internal ethical and party units”, the official said.

SECRET FACTS

With Xi’s tightening grip on the internet, the flow of information has been centralised under the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department and state media network. Censors and company staff say this reduces the pressure of censoring some events, including major political news, natural disasters and diplomatic visits.

“When it comes to news, the rule is simple… If it is not from state media first, it is not authorised, especially regarding the leaders and political items,” said one Baidu staffer.

“We have a basic list of keywords which include the 1989 details, but (AI) can more easily select those.”

Punishment for failing to properly censor content can be severe.

In the past six weeks, popular services including a Netease Inc news app, Tencent Holdings Ltd’s news app TianTian, and Sina Corp have all been hit with suspensions ranging from days to weeks, according to the CAC, meaning services are made temporarily unavailable on apps stores and online.

For internet users and activists, penalties can range from fines to jail time for spreading information about sensitive events online.

In China, social media accounts are linked to real names and national ID numbers by law, and companies are legally compelled to offer user information to authorities when requested.

“It has become normal to know things and also understand that they can’t be shared,” said one user, Andrew Hu. “They’re secret facts.”

In 2015, Hu spent three days in detention in his home region of Inner Mongolia after posting a comment about air pollution onto an unrelated image that alluded to the Tiananmen crackdown on Twitter-like social media site Weibo.

Hu, who declined to use his full Chinese name to avoid further run-ins with the law, said when police officers came to his parents house while he was on leave from his job in Beijing he was surprised, but not frightened.

“The responsible authorities and the internet users are equally confused,” said Hu. “Even if the enforcement is irregular, they know the simple option is to increase pressure.”

Source: Reuters

20/05/2019

U.S. ambassador to China to make first visit to Tibet since 2013 – report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad was due to begin visiting Tibet on Sunday for official meetings and visits to religious and cultural sites, according to a news report on Sunday.

Branstad was scheduled to visit the Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province, a historic region of Tibet known to Tibetans as Amdo, from Sunday to Saturday, Radio Free Asia said in a report.

The State Department did not immediately comment on the story.

Radio Free Asia said it would be the first visit to Tibet by a U.S. official since the U.S. Congress approved a law in December that requires the United States to deny visas to Chinese officials in charge of implementing policies that restrict access to Tibet for foreigners. The U.S. government is required to begin denying visas by the end of this year.

In December, China denounced the United States for passing the law, saying it was “resolutely opposed” to the U.S. legislation on what China considers an internal affair, and it risked causing “serious harm” to their relations.

Since then, tensions have been running high between the two countries over trade. China struck a more aggressive tone in its trade war with the United States on Friday, suggesting a resumption of talks between the world’s two largest economies would be meaningless unless Washington changed course.

On Saturday, China’s senior diplomat Wang Yi told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that recent U.S. words and actions had harmed the interests of China and its enterprises, and that Washington should show restraint.

While the Trump administration has taken a tough stance towards China on trade and highlighted security rivalry with Beijing, the administration has so far not acted on congressional calls for it to impose sanctions on China’s former Communist Party chief in Tibet, Chen Quanguo, for the treatment of minority Muslims in Xinjiang province, where he is currently party chief. 

A State Department report in March said Chen had replicated in Xinjiang, policies similar to those credited with reducing opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet.

Beijing sent troops into remote, mountainous Tibet in 1950 in what it officially terms a peaceful liberation and has ruled there with an iron fist ever since.

Source: Reuters

02/05/2019

Tibet launches venture base to promote cultural industry

LHASA, May 1 (Xinhua) — China’s Tibet Autonomous Region Tuesday launched its first innovation and entrepreneurship base for small and micro venture companies wanting to take a share of the booming cultural industry.

The base, established by the regional department of culture, prioritizes incubating locally-established cultural startups by providing innovation-oriented training as well as displaying featured cultural products.

Sambo, deputy head of the department, said the base aims to promote Tibetan culture through innovative companies and their featured cultural products.

Official data shows the number of cultural companies in Tibet exceeded 6,000 with more than 50,000 employees by the end of 2018. Their total annual output value surpassed 4.6 billion yuan (about 683 million U.S. dollars), with average yearly growth being maintained at over 15 percent.

Source: Xinhua

19/03/2019

More population to have electricity in Tibet

LHASA, March 18 (Xinhua) — The State Grid’s Tibet branch announced that 25,000 more people in the plateau region will be covered by the main power grid by the end of this year.

In 2019, Tibet plans to build 140 electric substations of 35 kilovolts and above and 7,000 km of power transmission lines as the region continues to expand and upgrade its electricity infrastructure.

By the end of 2018, 2.76 million people in 63 counties, or over 80 percent of Tibet’s population, were covered by the main power grid, thanks to an investment of 8.89 billion yuan (about 1.3 billion U.S. dollars) in the year.

If the plan goes well, the figure will rise to 66 counties by the end of 2019.

A 16.2-billion-yuan power interconnection project was put into operation in Tibet last November, linking the region with the national grid network for the first time.

Source: Xinhua

07/03/2019

Tibet has 667,000 people engaged in environmental protection

LHASA, March 6 (Xinhua) — To conserve the ecosystem while eradicating poverty, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region hired 309,000 farmers and herders as forest rangers in 2018, bringing the total number of people engaged in environmental protection to 667,000.

Average annual subsidies in the jobs increased to 3,500 yuan (522 U.S. dollars), according to the regional department of ecology and environment.

Last year, Tibet invested 10.7 billion yuan in environmental protection funds, with 74,133 hectares of trees planted and forest coverage rising to 12.14 percent.

The region also invested 100 million yuan in enhancing the ecology along the upper reaches of the Yangtze, China’s longest river.

“Protecting the forests is equal to protecting our homeland,” said a local Tibetan forest ranger.

The implementation of a series of measures contributed to environmental protection, making Tibet one of the areas with the best ecological environment in the world, authorities said.

Source: Xinhua

07/03/2019

In sensitive year for China, warnings against ‘erroneous thoughts’

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s ruling Communist Party is ramping up calls for political loyalty in a year of sensitive anniversaries, warning against “erroneous thoughts” as officials fall over themselves to pledge allegiance to President Xi Jinping and his philosophy.

This year is marked by some delicate milestones: 30 years since the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square; 60 years since the Dalai Lama fled from Tibet into exile; and finally, on Oct. 1, 70 years since the founding of Communist China.

Born of turmoil and revolution, the Communist Party came to power in 1949 on the back of decades of civil war in which millions died, and has always been on high alert for “luan”, or “chaos”, and valued stability above all else.

“This year is the 70th anniversary of the founding of new China,” Xi told legislators from Inner Mongolia on Tuesday, the opening day of the annual meeting of parliament. “Maintaining sustained, healthy economic development and social stability is a mission that is extremely arduous.”

Xi has tightened the party’s grip on almost every facet of government and life since assuming power in late 2012.

ROOTING OUT DISLOYALTY

The party has increasingly been making rooting out disloyalty and wavering from the party line a disciplinary offence to be enforced by its anti-corruption watchdog, whose role had ostensibly been to go after criminal acts such as bribery and lesser bureaucratic transgressions.

The graft buster said last month it would “uncover political deviation” in its political inspections this year of provincial governments and ministries.

Top graft buster Zhao Leji, in a January speech to the corruption watchdog, a full transcript of which the party released late February, used the word “loyalty” eight times.

“Set an example with your loyalty to the party,” Zhao said.

China has persistently denied its war on corruption is about political manoeuvring or Xi taking down his enemies. Xi told an audience in Seattle in 2015 that the anti-graft fight was no “House of Cards”-style power play, in a reference to the Netflix U.S. political drama.

The deeper fear for the party is some sort of unrest or a domestic or even international event fomenting a crisis that could end its rule.

Xi told officials in January they need to be on high alert for “black swan” events..

That same month the top law-enforcement official said China’s police must focus on withstanding “colour revolutions”, or popular uprisings, and treat the defence of China’s political system as central to their work.

The party has meanwhile shown no interest in political reform, and has been doubling down on the merits of the Communist Party, including this month rolling out English-language propaganda videos on state media-run Twitter accounts to laud “Chinese democracy”. Twitter remains blocked in China.

The official state news agency Xinhua said in an English-language commentary on Sunday that China was determined to stick to its political model and rejected Western-style democracy.
“The country began to learn about democracy a century ago, but soon found Western politics did not work here. Decades of turmoil and civil war followed,” it said.
Source: Reuters
26/02/2019

China has 2.9 million teachers in rural areas

BEIJING, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) — China had over 2.9 million teachers in rural areas by the end of 2018, the Ministry of Education said Tuesday.

Close to 2.5 million rural teachers work at primary and secondary schools, while 420,000 teachers work at kindergartens, according to the ministry.

The ministry is striving to build a high-quality team of rural teachers and dispatched a great number of college graduates to the rural areas, especially the poverty-stricken regions, said Liu Jiantong, an official with the ministry’s department of teachers.

The central budget financed 4.5 billion yuan (670 million U.S. dollars) last year as an allowance for 1.27 million teachers from over 80,000 rural schools in China’s central and western regions, said Liu.

In 2018, 1,800 retired teachers in good health registered to teach at rural schools. In addition, 19 provincial-level regions dispatched 4,000 teachers to support education in Tibet and Xinjiang, said the ministry.

Source: Xinhua

25/02/2019

Smog continues in north and east China, snow to hit west

BEIJING, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) — China’s national observatory on Sunday forecast that some northern and eastern parts of the country would be shrouded in smog in the coming days while snow will hit western regions.

Thick smog will envelop northern and eastern areas including Hebei and Shandong provinces until Thursday, according to the National Meteorological Center (NMC).

From Sunday night to Monday morning, thick fog will be seen in the provinces of Henan, Anhui, Jiangsu, Shanghai and Hubei, reducing visibility in some areas to less than 200 meters, the NMC said.

From Sunday night to Tuesday, snow will hit west China’s Tibet, Qinghai and Gansu, while rain will soak the south from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Bad weather could disrupt traffic after the Spring Festival holiday when many people are returning to work after the break.

China’s Spring Festival travel rush started from Jan. 21 and will last till March 1.

Source: Xinhua

15/02/2019

China closes its Everest base camp to tourists

Everest view from Tibetan sideImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMore and more people want to see the world’s tallest peak

China has closed the base camp on its side of Mount Everest to visitors who don’t have climbing permits.

Authorities have resorted to the unusual move to deal with the mounting waste problem at the site.

The ban means tourists can only go as far as a monastery slightly below the 5,200m (17,060ft) base camp level.

More people visit the mountain from the southern side in Nepal, but over the past years numbers have been rising steadily on the Chinese side as well.

The Chinese base camp, located in Tibet, is popular as it is accessible by car – whereas the Nepalese camp can only be reached by a hike of almost two weeks.

The world’s highest peak has been struggling with escalating levels of rubbish for years, as the number of visitors rises.

The Chinese Mountaineering Association says 40,000 visited its base camp in 2015, the most recent year with figures. A record 45,000 visited Nepal’s base camp in 2016-7 according to Nepal’s Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation.

Everest view from Tibetan sideImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionTourists are still allowed to go as far as the Rongbuk monastery

Ordinary tourists will only be banned from areas above Rongbuk monastery, which is around 5,000m above sea level, according to China’s state news agency Xinhua.

Mountaineers who have a permit to climb the 8,848m peak will still be allowed to use the higher camp.

In January, authorities announced that they would limit the number of climbing permits each year to 300.

On Chinese social media, claims have spread in recent days that its base camp will be permanently closed to tourists – but Xinhua cited officials denying that.

Nepalese sherpa picking up trash on EverestImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe temperature and high altitude make clean-up efforts on Everest a tough task

The official announcement about the closure was made in December, on the website of the Tibetan authorities.

It stated that three clean-up operations last spring had collected eight tonnes of waste, including human faeces and mountaineering equipment climbers had left behind.

This year’s clean-up efforts will also try to remove the bodies of mountaineers who have died in the so-called death zone above 8,000m, where the air is too thin to sustain life for long.

Due to the cold and high altitude, these bodies often remain on the mountain for years or even decades.

Source: The BBC

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