Archive for ‘Social & cultural’

14/03/2019

China Focus: Tibetan Buddhism well respected, preserved: political advisors

BEIJING, March 13 (Xinhua) — Chinese religious figures serving as political advisors at this year’s “two sessions” are pleased with the country’s protection of Tibetan Buddhism in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.

Political advisor Lhapa from Jokhang Temple is among the over 2,000 members of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), who gathered in Beijing for this year’s session that started on March 3 and concluded Wednesday.

Jokhang Temple, in downtown Lhasa, the regional capital of Tibet, is a must for visitors to Tibet and a sacred site for Tibetan Buddhists. It attracts about 800,000 tourists and receives over three million Buddhist followers each year.

Built in the 7th century in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Jokhang Temple is home to plenty of historical relics and typical Tibetan architecture. It was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000.

The Chinese government has attached great importance to the protection and preservation of the temple, said Lhapa, executive deputy director of the management committee of Jokhang Temple. Five years ago, for example, the government invested over 60 million yuan (8.94 million U.S. dollars) in gilding the five golden roofs of the temple.

The Buddha figures, Thangka and murals in the temple have also been well preserved. To better protect these precious cultural relics, a database for Buddha statues and Thangka in both Mandarin and Tibetan languages, launched in 2015, will be completed next year, he added.

Experts from Beijing and Xi’an have been invited to help build the database. More than 6,000 Buddha statues and over 600 Thangka have been included in the database, according to Lhapa.

“The government has invested 100 million yuan in protecting the cultural relics,” Lhapa said. “I’m really satisfied with the government’s role in protecting the temple, a treasure of the country.”

As a political advisor from the religious circles, Lhapa said he must serve all the people, including tourists, believers and researchers who visit the temple.

“We have personnel working 24/7 in the halls of the temple, including monks, firefighters and police officers to prevent the cultural heritage from being destroyed or stolen, and to ensure tourists’ safety,” Lhapa said.

The monks in Jokhang Temple usually spend about nine hours every day conducting religious activities such as chanting sutra and learning Buddhist doctrine, Lhapa said.

“Anyone who comes to Jokhang Temple will see worshippers crowd the square in front of the main hall throughout the year,” Lhapa said.

Every Tibetan New Year, Jokhang Temple opens for 24 hours to provide convenience for believers and tourists.

“On the Lamp Festival, we have Dharma assembly here and the butter lamps are lit on top of the temple. Believers come to pray for happiness and health,” he said.

Similar to Jokhang Temple, almost all the temples and monasteries in Tibet are under national or regional protection, according to Lhapa.

Living Buddha Drigung Khyungtsang echoed Lhapa’s ideas, saying today’s Tibet observes many traditional folk and religious activities. The Shoton festival at Zhaibung Monastery and the worship activities at Sera Monastery are among the most popular ones.

“Tibetan Buddhists, young and old, would sway their praying wheels and chant sutras when significant activities are launched,” said Drigung Khyungtsang.

As vice chairman of the Tibet branch of the Buddhist Association of China, Drigung Khyungtsang is in charge of the Kangyur printing. The precious wooden templates of the Kangyur have been well preserved and printing is suspended in winter because cold weather may cause damage to the templates.

Political advisor Lodro Gyatso, a senior monk from the Sakya Monastery, the earliest monastery of the Sakya Sect of the Tibetan Buddhism, in Xigaze Prefecture, told Xinhua that the monastery has two Buddhist colleges, offering various classes including Tibetan language, Tibetan calligraphy, Buddhist texts, astronomy, calendrical calculation and philosophy to monks and lamas.

Thanks to a digital archive project launched in 2017 in the monastery, the original sutra books and archives have been preserved while their digital versions are available online.

Living Buddha Jewon Koondhor has a story different from other political advisors. He had spent most of his life outside and returned to his hometown, the city of Qamdo in Tibet, when he was 60 in 2011.

“My hometown Qamdo has changed a lot and is continually improving. The traffic there today is much more convenient. I’m happy to be back,” he said.

Source: Xinhua

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14/03/2019

Chinese police detain suspect after several children are attacked at primary school in Hebei

  • Video from scene shows man on ground, imploring police to ‘Beat me to death’
  • Investigations go on after pupils treated for non-life-threatening injuries
Video footage purports to show a suspect apprehended by police after reports of assaults on pupils at a primary school in Fengrun district of Tangshan city in Hebei province. Photo: Handout
Video footage purports to show a suspect apprehended by police after reports of assaults on pupils at a primary school in Fengrun district of Tangshan city in Hebei province. Photo: Handout
Several pupils were attacked outside a primary school in northern China on Thursday.

Police said the incident took place in the Fengrun district of Tangshan city in Hebei province at about 1.30pm. It was not clear how many pupils were wounded or how their wounds were inflicted.

According to video footage obtained by The South China Morning Post, a suspect was arrested by police next to a pool of blood on the ground.

He could be heard saying, “Beat me to death, just beat me to death,” in the video.

Police officers named the suspect as Cui Zhenjiang, 54, of Fengrun.

Pupils involved in the attack were taken to hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, officials said.

Police said investigations were ongoing.

Onlookers and families gather at a primary school in the Fengrun district of Tangshan city in Hebei province after reports of an incident on Thursday afternoon. Photo: Handout
Onlookers and families gather at a primary school in the Fengrun district of Tangshan city in Hebei province after reports of an incident on Thursday afternoon.
Source: SCMP
12/03/2019

Two dead after Chinese navy plane crashes

  • No other injuries reported following accident on southern island of Hainan
  • Military is currently intensifying training for pilots as it looks to strengthen capabilities

Mobile phone footage believed to be taken from the crash site. Photo: Handout
Mobile phone footage believed to be taken from the crash site. Photo: Handout
A Chinese navy plane crashed in Hainan province on Tuesday killing two crew members, the military said.
A short statement said the crash happened during a training exercise over rural Ledong county in the southern island province.
No one else was reported to have been injured after the plane hit the ground and the cause of the incident is being investigated.
Footage that purported to be taken from the crash site started circulating on social media after the accident.
Footage apparently taken at the crash site. Photo: Handout
Footage apparently taken at the crash site. Photo: Handout

The PLA’s official statement did not specify the type plane that crashed, although unverified witness account online said it was a twin-seat Xian JH-7 “Flying Leopard”.

The JH-7, which entered service with the navy and air force in the 1990s, has been involved in a number of fatal accidents over the years.

The country’s worst military air accident in recent years happened in January 2018. At least 12 crew members died when a PLA Air Force plane, believed to be an electronic reconnaissance aircraft, crashed in Guizhou in the southwest of the country.

Between 2016 and 2017, there were at least four accidents involving the navy’s J-15 “Flying Sharks”, one of them resulting in the death of the pilot.

Military commentators have previously said that China’s drive to improve its combat readiness, which includes the building of new aircraft carriers and warplanes, has resulted in a serious shortage of qualified pilots.

To fill the vacancies the Chinese military has started a major recruitment drive and intensive training programme for pilot pilots.

One unverified report said the plane that crashed was a JH-7 “Flying Leopard”. Photo. Xinhua
One unverified report said the plane that crashed was a JH-7 “Flying Leopard”. Photo. Xinhua

Currently China has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in service, which can carry a maximum of 24 J-15s as well as other aircraft.

Meanwhile, the new home-grown carrier Type 001A will soon be commissioned, which is designed to accommodate to carry eight more fighters.

In addition, construction is believed to have started on another carrier that will be able to carry heavier and more advanced warplanes.

Chinese navy veteran warns training, not hardware is key to military preparedness
According to figures from the end of 2016, there were only 25 pilots qualified to fly the J-15 while 12 others were in training.
Most of the Chinese navy’s pilots have been redeployed from the air force, which is itself in need of more trained pilots.
This year the navy for the first time began a nation-wide programme to scout out potential pilots.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing legislative meeting in Beijing Feng Wei, a PLA pilot from the Western Theatre, said the military was currently intensifying its pilots’ training as increasing amounts of new equipment entered service.
“Personnel quality is the key to everything,” he added.
Source: SCMP
10/03/2019

China’s wealthy families are turning to long holidays abroad as their efforts emigrate overseas are halted

  • Foreign lifestyle experiences are becoming more popular as citizens seek to escape pollution, food and medicine safety worries and authoritarian government controls
  • Citizens encountering more barriers to their dreams of travelling abroad, with severe limits on moving money overseas and restrictions on visiting foreign countries
Thailand, including the likes of Chiang Mai, the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand are popular destinations for Chinese families. Photo: Shutteratock
Thailand, including the likes of Chiang Mai, the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand are popular destinations for Chinese families. Photo: Shutteratock

Xu Zhangle and her husband and their two children are a typical middle-class couple from Shenzhen, and along with 60 other Chinese families, they are going on an extended holiday to Thailand in July, where they hope to enjoy an immigrant-like life experience.

The family have paid a travel agent around 50,000 yuan (US$7,473) for the stay in Chiang Mai in the mountainous north of the country, including transport, a three-week summer camp for their daughters at a local international school, rent for a serviced apartment and daily expenses.

Zhangle loves Chiang Mai’s relaxed lifestyle and easy atmosphere and wants to live as a local for a month or even longer, instead of having to rush through a short-term holiday.

“It would not be just [tourist] travelling but rather a life away from the mainland.” she said.

Recently, upper middle-class citizens have increased their efforts to safeguard their wealth and achieve more freedom by spending more time abroad.

They have invested considerable amounts of money in overseas properties and applied for long-stay visas, although many of their attempts have ended in failure.

Chinese citizens are encountering more barriers to their dreams of travelling abroad, with severe limits on moving money overseas and restrictions on visiting foreign countries.

Still, growing anxieties about air pollution, food and medicine safety and an increasingly authoritarian political climate are pushing middle class families to look for new ways to circumvent the obstacles so they can live outside China.

Among the options, there is growing demand for sojourns abroad of a month or more, to enjoy a foreign lifestyle for a brief period to make up for the fact that their emigration dreams may have stalled.

“I think this is becoming a trend. Chinese middle-class families are facing increasing difficulties to emigrate and own homes overseas. On the other hand, they still yearn for more freedom, for a better quality of life than what is found in first-tier cities in China.

They are eager to seek alternatives to give themselves and their children a global lifestyle,” said Cai Mingdong, founder of Zhejiang Newway, an online tour and education operator in Ningbo, south of Shanghai.

“First, the availability of multiple-entry tourist visas and the sharp drop in air ticket prices have made it convenient and practical to stay abroad for from a few weeks to up to three months each year.”

Blacklist labels millions of Chinese citizens and businesses untrustworthy

Now, many well-to-do Chinese middle class families can get a tourist visa for five or even 10 years that allows them to stay in a number of countries — including the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other Asian countries — for up to six months at a time.

“In 2011, a round-trip air ticket from Shanghai to New Zealand cost 14,000 yuan (US$2,000), but now is about 4,000 (US$598),” added Cai.

This opens up the possibility for many middle-class families who are not eligible to emigrate, to live abroad for short periods of time.

Many wealthy Chinese middle class families can get a tourist visa for five or even 10 years that allows them to stay in several countries including the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other Asian countries, for up to six months at a time. Photo: AP
Many wealthy Chinese middle class families can get a tourist visa for five or even 10 years that allows them to stay in several countries including the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other Asian countries, for up to six months at a time. Photo: AP

Chinese tourists made more than 140 million trips outside the country in 2018, a 13.5 per cent increase from the previous year, spending an estimated US$120 billion, according to the China Tourism Academy, an official research institute under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

“In [the Thai cities of] Bangkok and Chiang Mai, there are more and more Chinese who stay there to experience the local lifestyle, which is different from theirs in China. The life there is very different from that in China,” said Owen Zhu, who now lives in the Bangkok condo he bought last year.

“The freedom, culture and community are diversified. The quality of air, food and services are much higher than in first-tier cities in China, but the prices are more affordable.

“In Bangkok, in many international apartment complexes where foreigners live, the monthly rent for a one-bedroom [apartment] is about 2,000 (US$298) to 3,000 yuan.”

China’s richest regions are also home to the most blacklisted firms
A one-bedroom apartment in Shenzhen in southern China is twice as expensive, with rents continuing to rise rapidly.

There are global goods, and it is easy to socialise with different people from around the world,” Zhu added

“Many Chinese people around me, really, come to Thailand to live for a while and go back to China, but then come back again after a few months.”

Both Cai and Zhu said they discovered the new phenomenon among China’s middle class and decided it was a business opportunity.

Growing anxieties about air pollution, food and medicine safety and an increasingly authoritarian political climate are pushing middle class families to look for new ways to circumvent the obstacles so they can live outside China. Photo: AP
Growing anxieties about air pollution, food and medicine safety and an increasingly authoritarian political climate are pushing middle class families to look for new ways to circumvent the obstacles so they can live outside China. Photo: AP

Zhu is in the process of registering a company in Bangkok and plans to build an online platform to service the needs of Chinese citizens living abroad who do not own property or have immigration status, especially members of the LGBT community.

Cai said dozens of Chinese families in the Yangtze River Delta had paid him to send their children to schools in New Zealand or Europe for around three or four weeks in the middle of the school year, while the parents rent villas in the area, with New Zealand and Toronto in Canada among the most popular destinations.

Last year, Zheng Feng, a single mother and freelance writer from Beijing, rented a small villa in Australia for a month for them, a friend and their children to escape Beijing’s pollution and experience life overseas.

“To be honest, I don’t have enough money to invest in a property or a green card in Australia. But it’s very affordable for me and my son to pay about 30,000 yuan (US$4,484) to live abroad for one or two months.” Zheng said.

China says 2018 growth was worth more than Australia’s whole GDP

Zheng will join the Xu family in Chiang Mai later this year and she is also planning a similar trip to England next year.

Zheng’s friend, Alice Yu, invested in an American EB-5 investor visa a few years ago, and plans to make one or two month-long trips abroad each year until her family is finally able to move to the United States.

Demand for the EB-5 investor visa in China seems to be waning given heightened uncertainty about the future of the programme and US immigration law in general under US President Donald Trump.

Approval for the visa can now take up to 10 years, resulting in a huge backlog that has further dampened interest and led to a significant dip in investment inflows into the US from foreign individuals.

A one-bedroom apartment in Bangkok can cost around bout 2,000 (US$298) to 3,000 yuan a month. Photo: AFP
A one-bedroom apartment in Bangkok can cost around bout 2,000 (US$298) to 3,000 yuan a month. Photo: AFP

“Maybe it will soon become standard for a real Chinese middle-class family to have the time and money to enjoy a long stay at a countryside villa overseas,” said Yu.

“Regardless of whether we can get a long-term visa for the United States, I want my children grow up in a global lifestyle and with more freedom than just growing up on the mainland. So do all wealthy and middle class Chinese families, I think.”

Karen Gao’s son started studying at an international school in Chiang Mai in June, at the cost of about 70,000 yuan (US$10,462) a year, after she quit her job as a public relations manager in Shenzhen and moved to Thailand on a tourist visa.

For better or worse? China’s complicated employment explained

“A few months each year for good air, good food and no censorship and internet control, but cheaper living costs compared to Beijing, it sounds like a really good deal to go,” said Gao, who has now been offered a guardian visa to accompany her son, who has already been given a student visa.

“In Shenzhen, I wasn’t able to get him into school because I had no [local] residence permit.

“It would be the best choice for us because we feel so uncertain and worried about investing and living in the mainland.”

Last year, Gao, like thousands of other private investors mostly middle class people living in first-tier cities, suffered significant losses when their investments in hotels and inns in Dali, Yunnan province, were demolished amid the local government’s campaign to curb pollution and improve the environment around Lake Erhai.

“We were robbed by the officials without proper compensation,” Gao said.

Source: SCMP

08/03/2019

Xi stresses perseverance in fight against poverty

(TWO SESSIONS)CHINA-BEIJING-XI JINPING-NPC-DELIBERATION (CN)

Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, joins deliberation with deputies from Gansu Province at the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress in Beijing, capital of China, March 7, 2019. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)

BEIJING, March 7 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday called for perseverance in the fight against poverty as there are only two years left for the country to meet its goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2020.

“There should be no retreat until a complete victory is won,” said Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission.

He made the remarks when deliberating with deputies from Gansu Province at the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s national legislature.

Decisive progress has been achieved in the country’s tough fight against poverty over the past years, marking a new chapter in the poverty reduction history of mankind, said Xi, stressing that the goal to eradicate extreme poverty must be achieved on time.

He warned that the tasks ahead remain arduous and hard as those still in poverty are the worst stricken.

Explaining the criteria of lifting people out of poverty, Xi said they should no longer need to worry about food and clothing while enjoying access to compulsory education, basic medical care and safe housing.

The practices of formalities for formalities’ sake and bureaucratism hamper the effective advancement of poverty reduction, he said, stressing a firm hand in rectifying malpractices in poverty relief.

Xi asked Party committees and governments at all levels to shoulder their responsibilities in the critical battle against poverty.

He ordered efforts to redress undesirable conduct of officials in a timely manner, as well as special campaigns to target corruption and bad conduct in poverty reduction.

Li Keqiang, Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji and Han Zheng — members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee — on Thursday also separately joined deliberation with NPC deputies.

Premier Li Keqiang spoke of the need to replace old growth drivers with new ones and improve people’s wellbeing to advance high-quality development.

NPC Standing Committee Chairman Li Zhanshu called for efforts to adhere to green, high-quality development and link poverty alleviation with rural vitalization strategy.

Wang Yang, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, urged high-quality poverty alleviation work to make sure that nobody is left behind in the course of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

Wang Huning, a member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, said he expects Shanghai to continue to lead the reform and opening-up and to elevate the coordinated development of the Yangtze River Delta to a higher level.

Zhao Leji, secretary of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, spoke of the need for Tianjin to take advantage of the period of strategic opportunity, enhance the capacity of innovation, and focus on developing real economy.

Vice Premier Han Zheng stressed the full implementation of the national strategy of the coordinated development of the Yangtze River Delta.

Source: Xinhua

06/03/2019

Huawei: The story of a controversial company

The African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa is a shiny spaceship-like structure that glistens in the afternoon sun.

With its accompanying skyscraper, it stands out in the Ethiopian capital.

Greetings in Mandarin welcome visitors as they enter the lifts, and the plastic palm trees bear the logos of the China Development Bank.

African Union HQ, Addis Ababa

African Union HQ, Addis Ababa

 

Everywhere, there are small indications that the building was made possible through Chinese financial aid.

In 2006, Beijing pledged $200m to build the headquarters. Completed in 2012, everything was custom-built by the Chinese – including a state-of-the-art computer system.

For several years, the building stood as a proud testament to ever-closer ties between China and Africa. Trade has rocketed over the past two decades, growing by about 20% a year, according to international consultancy McKinsey. China is Africa’s largest economic partner.

But in January 2018, French newspaper Le Monde Afrique dropped a bombshell.

It reported that the AU’s computer system had been compromised.

The newspaper, citing multiple sources, said that for five years, between the hours of midnight and 0200, data from the AU’s servers was transferred more than 8,000km away – to servers in Shanghai.

This had allegedly continued for 1,825 days in a row.

Le Monde Afrique reported that it had come to light in 2017, when a conscientious scientist working for the AU recorded an unusually high amount of computer activity on its servers during hours when the offices would have been deserted.

It was also reported that microphones and listening devices had been discovered in the walls and desks of the building, following a sweep for bugs.

The reaction was swift.

Both AU and Chinese officials publicly condemned the report as false and sensationalist – an attempt by the Western media to damage relations between a more assertive China and an increasingly independent Africa.

But Le Monde Afrique said that AU officials had privately expressed concerns about just how dependent they were on Chinese aid – and what the consequences of that could be.

In the midst of all of this, one fact remained largely unreported.

The main supplier of information and communication technology systems to the AU headquarters was China’s best-known telecoms equipment company – Huawei.

The company says it had “nothing” to do with any alleged breach.

Huawei “served as the key ICT provider inside the AU’s headquarters”, said Danielle Cave of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, in a review of the alleged incident.

Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, China

Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, China

“This doesn’t mean the company was complicit in any theft of data. But… it’s hard to see how – given Huawei’s role in providing equipment and key ICT services to the AU building and specifically to the AU’s data centre – the company could have remained completely unaware of the apparent theft of large amounts of data, every day, for five years.”

There is no evidence to indicate that Huawei’s telecoms network equipment was ever used by the Chinese government – or anyone else – to gain access to the data of their customers.

Indeed, no-one has ever gone on record to confirm that the AU system was compromised in the first place.

But these reports played into years of suspicions about Huawei – that a large Chinese company might find itself unduly influenced by the Chinese government.

Ren and the rise of Huawei

“When I first started out 30 years ago… we didn’t really have any telephones. The only phones we had were those hand-cranked phones that you see in old World War II films. We were pretty undeveloped then.”

Huawei’s founder and chairman Ren Zhengfei is reminiscing to the BBC about the origins of the world’s second-biggest smartphone firm, while sitting in the Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen – a symbol of the success that he’s worked his whole lifetime for.

A long marbled staircase, covered in plush red carpet, greets you as you first walk in.

At the top of the stairs, a giant painting depicts a traditional Chinese New Year scene.

Inside Huawei's Shenzhen HQ

Inside Huawei’s Shenzhen HQ

A few kilometres away in Dongguan, Huawei’s latest campus is even more eye-catching.

The site – designed to accommodate the company’s 25,000 R&D staff – comprises 12 “villages”, each of which recreates the architecture of a different European city, among them Paris, Bologna and Granada.

It’s as if Silicon Valley had been re-imagined by Walt Disney. Long corridors of Roman pillars and picturesque French cafes adorn the campus, with a train connecting the different areas, running through manicured gardens and past an artificial lake.

It’s a world away from the environment that Mr Ren found himself in when he first started the company in 1987. “I founded Huawei when China began to implement its reform and opening up policy,” he says. “At that time, China was shifting from a planned economy to a market economy. Not only people like myself, but even the most senior government officials, did not have the vaguest idea of what a market economy was. It seemed it was hard to survive.”

Ren was born in 1944 in Southern China – a tumultuous, chaotic place, one of the poorest regions in an already destitute country.

For a long time, hardship was all he ever knew.

He was from a family of seven children. “They were very poor,” says David De Cremer, who has co-written a book on Ren and Huawei.

“I think hardship is something that you can see throughout his life, and which he keeps emphasising himself.”

To escape that life of poverty and drudgery, Ren did what many young Chinese men of that era did. He joined the army.

Soldiers from the People's Liberation Army, 1972

Soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army, 1972

“I was a very low-ranking officer in the People’s Liberation Army,” he says. “I served in an ordinary construction project, not a field unit. At the time, I was a technician of a company in the military, and then I became an engineer.”

He left the military in 1983 when China began to downsize its forces, and went into the electronics business.

By his own admission, he wasn’t a great businessman at first.

“I was someone who had been in the military all my life at the time, used to doing what I was told,” he says. “Suddenly, I began to work in a market economy. I was at a total loss. So I too suffered losses, I too was deceived, and I was cheated.”

But he was quick to learn, and was a keen student of Western business practices and European history.

“I did research on what exactly a market economy was all about,” he says. “I read books on laws, including those about European and US laws. At that time, there were very few books on Chinese laws, and I had to read those on European and US laws.”

Five years later, he founded Huawei – the name can be translated as “splendid achievement” or “China is able” – to sell simple telecoms equipment to the rural Chinese market. Within a few years, Huawei was developing and producing the equipment itself.

Sometime in the early 90s, Huawei won a government contract to provide telecoms equipment for the People’s Liberation Army.

By 1995, the company was generating sales of around US$220,000, mainly from selling to the rural market.

The following year Huawei was given the status of a Chinese “national champion”. In practice, this meant the government closed the market to foreign competition.

At a time when China’s economy was growing by an average of 10% per year, this was no small advantage. But it was only when Huawei started to expand overseas in 2000, that it really saw its sales soar.

In 2002, Huawei made US$552m from its international market sales. By 2005 its international market contracts exceeded its domestic business for the first time.

Ren’s early days in business instilled in him a desire to protect his company from the whims and fancies of the stock market. Huawei is privately held and employee-owned. This gave Ren the power to plough more money back into research and development. Each year, Huawei spends US$20bn on R&D – one of the biggest such budgets in the world.

“Publicly listed companies have to pay a lot of attention to their balance sheets,” he says. “They can’t invest too much, otherwise profits will drop and so will their share prices. At Huawei, we fight for our ideals. We know that if we fertilise our ‘soil’ it will become more bountiful. That’s how we’ve managed to pull ahead and succeed.”

One story from the early days of the company tells how Ren was cooking for his staff (he loves to cook, or so the story goes). Suddenly he rushed out of the kitchen and announced to the room: “Huawei will be a top three player in the global communications market 20 years from now!”

And that’s exactly what happened. In fact, those ambitions were surpassed.

Today, Huawei is the world’s biggest seller of network telecommunications equipment.

From aspiring to be a company like Apple, it now sells more smartphones than Apple.

But shadows have continued to loom over Huawei’s international success.

Ren and Huawei’s links to the Chinese Communist Party have raised suspicions that the company owes its meteoric rise to its powerful political connections in China. The US has accused Huawei of being a tool of the Chinese government.

It’s an accusation which Ren denies. “Please don’t think that Huawei has become what it is today because we have special connections,” he says. “Even 100% state-owned companies have failed. Do good connections mean you will succeed then? Huawei’s success is still very much due to our hard work.”

The case against

It was 1 December 2018. US President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping were dining on grilled sirloin followed by caramel rolled pancakes at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

They had a lot to discuss. The US and China were in the middle of a trade war – imposing tariffs on each other’s goods – and growth forecasts for both countries had recently been cut as a result. This was adding to the fear of a slowing global economy.

In the event, the two leaders agreed a truce in the trade war, with Donald Trump tweeting that “Relations with China have taken a BIG leap forward!”

Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at dinner, December 2018

Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at dinner, December 2018

But thousands of kilometres north in Canada, an arrest was taking place that would throw doubt on this rapprochement.

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and Ren Zhengfei’s eldest daughter, had been detained by Canadian officials while transferring between flights at Vancouver airport.

The arrest had come at the request of the US, who accused her of breaking sanctions against Iran.

“When she was detained, as her father, my heart broke,” says Ren, visibly emotional. “How could I watch my child suffer like this? But what happened, has happened. We can only depend on the law to solve this problem.”

Meng Wanzhou being driven to court in Canada

Meng Wanzhou being driven to court in Canada

Huawei’s problems were just beginning. Nearly two months later, the US Department of Justice filed two indictments against Huawei and Ms Meng.

Under the first indictment, Huawei and Ms Meng were charged with misleading banks and the US government about their business in Iran.

The second indictment – against Huawei – involved criminal charges including obstruction of justice and the attempted theft of trade secrets.

Both Huawei and Ms Meng deny the charges.

January 2019: Acting US attorney general Matthew Whittaker announces charges against Huawei and Meng Wanzhou

January 2019: Acting US attorney general Matthew Whittaker announces charges against Huawei and Meng Wanzhou

The charge of stealing trade secrets centres on a robotic tool – developed by T-Mobile – known as Tappy.

According to legal documents, Huawei had tried to buy Tappy, a device which mimicked human fingers by tapping mobile phone screens rapidly to test responsiveness.

T-Mobile was in partnership with Huawei at the time, but it rebuffed the Chinese firm’s offers, fearing it would use the technology to make phones for T-Mobile’s competitors.

It’s alleged that one of Huawei’s US employees then smuggled Tappy’s robotic arm into his satchel so that he could send its details to colleagues in China.

After the alleged theft was discovered, the Huawei employee claimed that the arm had mistakenly fallen into his bag.

Huawei claimed that the employee had been acting alone, and the case was settled out of court in 2014. But the latest case is built on email trails between managers in China and the company’s US employees, linking Huawei management to the alleged theft.

The indictment also details evidence of a bonus scheme from 2013, offering Huawei employees financial rewards for stealing confidential information from competitors.

Huawei has denied any such scheme exists.

Meng Wanzhou, photographed in 2014

Meng Wanzhou, photographed in 2014

This is not the first time that Huawei has been accused of stealing trade secrets. Over the years companies like Cisco, Nortel and Motorola have all pointed the finger at the Chinese firm.

But US fears about Huawei are about much more than industrial espionage. For more than a decade, the US government has seen the company as little more than an arm of the Chinese Communist Party.

These concerns have been brought to the fore with the advent of “fifth generation” or 5G mobile internet, which promises download speeds 10 or 20 times faster than at present, and much greater connectivity between devices.

As the world’s biggest telecoms infrastructure provider, Huawei is one of the companies best placed to build new 5G networks. But the US has warned its intelligence partners that awarding contracts to Huawei would be tantamount to allowing the Chinese spy on them.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently cautioned against Huawei, saying, “If a country adopts this and puts it in some of their critical information systems, we won’t be able to share information with them.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

The UK, Germany and Canada are reviewing whether Huawei’s products pose a security threat.

Australia went a step further last year, and banned equipment suppliers “likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government”.

Huawei was not mentioned by name, but Danielle Cave of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says the company posed a national security risk because of its government links.

She cites an article in Chinese law that makes it impossible for any company to refuse to help the Chinese Communist Party in intelligence gathering.

“Admittedly, what is missing from this debate is the smoking gun,” she says.

“For the average person who has a Huawei smartphone it’s not a big deal. But if you’re a Western government that has key national security to protect – why would you allow this access to a company that is in the political system that China is in?”

For his part, Ren says that Huawei’s resources have never and would never be used to spy for the Chinese government.

“The Chinese government has clearly said that it won’t ask companies to install backdoors,” he says. A “backdoor” is a term used to describe a secret entry point in software or a computer system that gives access to the person or entity who installed it to the inner workings of the system.

“Huawei will not do it either,” he continues. “Our sales revenues are now hundreds of billions of dollars. We are not going to risk the disgust of our country and our customers all over the world because of something like that. We will lose all our business. I’m not going to take that risk.”

Xi’s China

Zhou Daiqi is Huawei’s chief ethics and compliance officer.

He’s been with the company for nearly 25 years, in a number of different positions – chief engineer, director of the hardware department, head of the research centre in Xi’an, according to his biography on the company’s website. He is also understood to combine his high-ranking executive duties with another role – party secretary of Huawei’s Communist Party committee.

All companies in China are required by law to have a Communist Party committee.

Zhou Daiqi's profile on Huawei's website

Zhou Daiqi’s profile on Huawei’s website

The official line is that they exist to ensure that employees uphold the country’s moral and social values. Representatives of the committee are also often tasked with helping workers with financial problems.

But critics of China’s one-party system argue that they allow the state to exert control on corporate China. And they say the level of this control has increased in recent years.

“[President] Xi Jinping is exerting greater control over the business community in China,” says Elliott Zaagman, who regularly advises Chinese companies on their PR strategy. “As these companies gain power and influence overseas, the party doesn’t want to lose control over them.”

Ren, however, argues that the role of Huawei’s Communist Party committee is far less important than many in the West believe.

“[It] serves only to educate its employees,” he says. “It is not involved in any business decisions.”

In China, most chief executives are Communist Party members.

Every year, they dutifully turn up to the National People’s Congress along with local and national party chiefs, officials and chief executives.

It’s where the big economic decisions are voted on – although no proposal is put forward which hasn’t already been agreed upon.

Still, big CEOs come to show their commitment to the party, and to contribute to working papers that are meant to help the government understand the concerns of the business community.

Being a member of the party is very much a networking opportunity – in the way one would join a business association.

Elliott Zaagman argues that this is a system that demands loyalty.

“There is no separation from the party and the state,” he says.

“The system in China encourages the lack of transparency in companies like Huawei.”

The worry is that these close links mean that if the Communist Party asked a company to do something, they would have no choice but to comply.

And if that company is one that is involved in sensitive global telecoms infrastructure projects, it’s easy to see why Western observers would be worried.

There is no evidence to indicate that Huawei is in any way under the orders of the Chinese government, or that Beijing has any plans to dictate business plans and strategy at Huawei – particularly when it comes to spying.

But the way in which the Chinese Communist Party has robustly defended Huawei has raised questions about how independent the company is of its influence.

For example, Beijing stated that Ms Meng’s detention was a rights abuse .

And while her extradition case to the US was moving forward, China detained two Canadian citizens and accused them of stealing state secrets. Critics say the detentions are linked to Ms Meng’s arrest.

December 2018: Chinese police patrol outside Canada's embassy in Beijing

December 2018: Chinese police patrol outside Canada’s embassy in Beijing

While not commenting on the arrest of the Canadians, Ren says China’s defence of Huawei is understandable.

“It is the Chinese government’s duty to protect its people,” he says. “If the US attempts to gain competitive edge by undermining China’s most outstanding hi-tech talent, then it is understandable if the Chinese government, in turn, protects its hi-tech companies.”

Over the past few years, there have been signs of a bigger push by the government to get private companies, and in particular tech firms, to cooperate with party rules – even when they are firmly resistant.

 A Didi Chuxing logo adorns a building in Hangzhou, China

 A Didi Chuxing logo adorns a building in Hangzhou, China

China’s ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing’s troubles are an example of the struggles Chinese firms face when they try to uphold their independence in the face of government pressure.

Chinese attitudes to data collection and data privacy are different to those in the West – many people don’t care if businesses have access to their data, arguing that it adds to the convenience of life and work.

Government access to data in China is not the free-for-all that many outside of China assume it to be

Samm Sacks, CSIS

So it wasn’t unusual when, after the murders of two of its passengers by Didi drivers, regulators used the scandal to force Didi to share more corporate data with the government. But Didi resisted – citing customer privacy. Under Chinese law, it had no choice but to comply.

When it did, it handed over “three boxes of data printed on paper, including 95 hard copies for authorities to review”.

According to Samm Sacks of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the case demonstrates that “government access to data in China is not the free-for-all that many outside China assume it to be”.

She says this indicates that there appears to be “a kind of tug of war between the government and companies over data”.

How this plays out will determine how Chinese companies are viewed by foreign governments when they do business overseas.

Companies like Huawei have grown up in a system where to survive and thrive they needed strong links to the Chinese government – there was and is no other choice. But these links could harm their reputation abroad.

“It’s two different systems,” says Zaagman. “Think of it like an electrical outlet. China’s plug doesn’t fit in to the outlets we have in the West.”

What’s at stake

“Basically you want to connect to everything that can be connected.”

Zhu Peiying, head of Huawei’s 5G wireless labs, is showing off devices that can connect to the new technology. From a smart toothbrush that collects data about how well you brush your teeth, to a smart cup that reminds you when you should drink some water, this is a world where everything you can think of is being measured and analysed.

At its most sophisticated, everything in entire cities would be connected – driverless cars, the temperature of buildings, the speed of public transport – the list is endless.

Huawei is thought to be a year ahead of its competitors in terms of its technological expertise and what it can offer customers, according to industry sources.

It’s also thought that the company can offer prices that are about 10% cheaper than its competitors, although critics claim this is because of state support.

Ren dismisses this, saying that Huawei doesn’t receive government subsidies.

He says the real reason behind the US resistance to Huawei is its superior technology.

“There’s no way the US can crush us,” he says. “The world needs Huawei because we are more advanced. Even if they persuade more countries not to use us temporarily we could just scale things down a bit.”

Many analysts say that Huawei’s exclusion from US networks could actually cause the US to fall behind in its 5G capabilities.

“It would mean we wouldn’t be able to participate in any blended network [using Huawei] in Europe or Asia,” says Samm Sacks of CSIS. “That would put us at a significant disadvantage.”

What this would mean in reality is a world of two internets – or what analysts are calling a “digital iron curtain” – dividing the world into parts that do business with Chinese companies like Huawei, and those that don’t.

Because of US pressure on its allies, Huawei has been on an aggressive public relations campaign to win over customers and government stakeholders.

In recent days, Vodafone’s boss Nick Read called on the US to share any evidence it has about Huawei, while Andrus Ansip, the European Commission’s vice president for the digital single market, said in a tweet that he had met with Huawei’s rotating CEO to discuss the importance of being open and transparent, as they explored ways of working together.

But suspicions about Huawei remain.

One security firm reports a sharp rise in inquiries by Asian government clients about Huawei.

“Some have asked us how much they should worry about whether Huawei is really a liability,” says an analyst who consults to Asian governments, on condition of anonymity.

Ren is sanguine about such concerns.

“For countries who believe in them [suspicions about Huawei] we will hold off,” he says. “For countries who feel Huawei is trustworthy, we may move a little faster. The world is so big. We can’t walk across every corner of it.”

But this is about more than just one company or one CEO and his family.

Increasingly, this is perceived as a battle between two world orders, and which one is the future.

In the early days of China opening up, US presidents like George HW Bush espoused the merits of engagement.

“No nation on Earth has discovered a way to import the world’s goods and services while stopping foreign ideas at the border,” he said in a 1991 speech. “Just as the democratic idea has transformed nations on every continent, so, too, change will inevitably come to China.”

1989: George HW Bush in Beijing - he encouraged economic engagement with China

1989: George HW Bush in Beijing – he encouraged economic engagement with China

Previous US administrations believed that economic engagement in China would lead to China following a freer, more “liberal” path.

There’s no denying China has made remarkable strides in the past 40 years. The economy grew by an annual average of 10% for three decades, helping to lift 800 million people out of poverty. It is now the second-largest economy in the world, only surpassed by the US.

Some estimates put China’s economy ahead of America’s by 2030.

It achieved this while maintaining one-party rule and the supremacy of the Communist Party.

But its success has raised concerns that it is only possible with a huge amount of government control over the country’s companies. The fear is that control could be used to achieve the Communist Party’s goals – which are at this point unclear.

“It’s a double-edged sword for China,” says Danielle Cave. “[Because of its laws] the Chinese Communist Party has made it virtually impossible for Chinese companies to expand without attracting understandable and legitimate suspicion.”

Added to this, China has become more authoritarian under Xi Jinping’s rule.

President Xi Jinping 

President Xi Jinping 

“Xi is systematically undermining virtually every feature that made China so distinct and helped it work so well in the past,” writes Jonathan Tepperman, editor in chief of Foreign Policy.

“His efforts may boost his own power and prestige in the short term and reduce some forms of corruption. On balance, however, Xi’s campaign will have disastrous long-term consequences for his country and the world.”

But Ren dismisses this, insisting that China is more open than ever before.

“If this meeting took place 30 years ago,” he says of our interview, “it would have been very dangerous for me. Today, I can be straightforward when answering difficult questions. This shows that China has a more open political environment.”

Still, Ren is hopeful of the direction China will take in the future.

“China has more or less tried to close itself off from the outside world for 5,000 years,” he says. “Yet we had found ourselves poor, lagging behind other nations. It was only in the past 30 years since Deng Xiaoping opened China’s doors to the world that China has become more prosperous. Therefore, China must continue to move forward on the path of reform and opening-up.”

In one of Huawei’s vast campus sites across Shenzen, lies a man-made lake. Swimming in these serene waters are two black swans.

There is a story that Ren put the birds here to remind employees of “black swan” events – unpredictable and catastrophic financial eventualities that are impossible to prepare for. He dismisses this as an urban myth, but it’s hard not to read something into it.

For Huawei, and Ren, these are highly uncertain times with no way of telling what lies ahead.

Source: The BBC

06/03/2019

‘War’ and India PM Modi’s muscular strongman image

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he speaks during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) "Sankalp" rally in Patna in the Indian eastern state of Bihar on March 3, 2019.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionMr Modi is accused of exploiting India-Pakistan hostilities for political gain

A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth, American political journalist Michael Kinsley said.

Last week, a prominent leader of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appeared to have done exactly that. BS Yeddyurappa said the armed aerial hostilities between India and Pakistan would help his party win some two dozen seats in the upcoming general election.

The remark by Mr Yeddyurappa, former chief minister of Karnataka, was remarkable in its candour. Not surprisingly, it was immediately seized upon by opposition parties. They said it was a brazen admission of the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party was mining the tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals ahead of general elections, which are barely a month away. Mr Modi’s party is looking at a second term in power.

Mr Yeddyurappa’s plain-spokenness appeared to have embarrassed even the BJP. Federal minister VK Singh issued a statement, saying the government’s decision to carry out air strikes in Pakistan last week was to “safeguard our nation and ensure safety of our citizens, not to win a few seats”. No political party can afford to concede that it was exploiting a near war for electoral gains.

A billboard displaying an image of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding a rifle is seen on a roadside in Ahmedabad on March 3, 2019.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionThe BJP has put up election posters of Mr Modi posing with guns

Even as tensions between India and Pakistan ratcheted up last week, Mr Modi went on with business as usual. Hours after the Indian attack in Pakistan’s Balakot region, he told a packed election meeting that the country was in safe hands and would “no longer be helpless in the face of terror”. Next morning, Pakistan retaliated and captured an Indian pilot who ejected from a downed fighter jet. Two days later, Pakistan returned the pilot to India.

Mr Modi then told a gathering of scientists that India’s aerial strikes were merely a “pilot project” and hinted there was more to come. Elsewhere, his party chief Amit Shah said India had killed more than 250 militants in the Balakot attack even as senior defence officials said they didn’t know how many had died. Gaudy BJP posters showing Mr Modi holding guns and flanked by soldiers, fighter jets and orange explosions have been put up in parts of the country. “Really uncomfortable with pictures of soldiers on election posters and podiums. This should be banned. Surely the uniform is sullied by vote gathering in its name,” tweeted Barkha Dutt, an Indian television journalist and author.

Mr Modi has appealed to the opposition to refrain from politicising the hostilities. The opposition parties are peeved because they believe Mr Modi has not kept his word. Last week, they issued a statement saying “national security must transcend narrow political considerations”.

‘Petty political gain’

But can the recent conflict fetch more votes for Mr Modi? In other words, can national security become a campaign plank?

Many believe Mr Modi is likely to make national security the pivot of his campaign. Before last month’s suicide attack – claimed by Pakistan-based militants – killed more than 40 Indian paramilitaries in Kashmir, Mr Modi was looking a little vulnerable. His party had lost three state elections on the trot to the Congress party. Looming farm and jobs crises were threatening to hurt the BJP’s prospects.

Now, many believe, Mr Modi’s chances look brighter as he positions himself as a “muscular” protector of the country’s borders. “This is one of the worst attempts to use war to win [an] election, and to use national security as petty political gain. But I don’t know whether it will succeed or not,” says Yogendra Yadav, a politician and psephologist.

Indian people feed sweets to a poster of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as they celebrate the Indian Air Force"s air strike across the Line of Control (LoC) near the international border with PakistanImage copyrightEPA
Image captionMany Indians have celebrated India’s strike in Pakistani territory

Evidence is mixed on whether national security helps ruling parties win elections in India. Ashutosh Varshney, a professor of political science at Brown University in the US, says previous national security disruptions in India were “distant from the national elections”.

The wars in 1962 (against China) and 1971 (against Pakistan) broke out after general elections. Elections were still two years away when India and Pakistan fought a war in 1965. The 2001 attack on the Indian parliament that brought the two countries to the brink of war happened two years after a general election. The Mumbai attacks in 2008 took place five months before the elections in 2009 – and the then ruling Congress party won without making national security a campaign plank.

Things may be different this time. Professor Varshney says the suicide attack in Kashmir on 14 February and last week’s hostilities are “more electorally significant than the earlier security episodes”.

For one, he says, it comes just weeks ahead of a general election in a highly polarised country. The vast expansion of the urban middle class means that national security has a larger constituency. And most importantly, according to Dr Varshney, “the nature of the regime in Delhi” is an important variable. “Hindu nationalists have always been tougher on national security than the Congress. And with rare exceptions, national security does not dominate the horizons of regional parties, governed as they are by caste and regional identities.”

Presentational grey line

Read more from Soutik Biswas

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Bhanu Joshi, a political scientist also at Brown University, believes Mr Modi’s adoption of a muscular and robust foreign policy and his frequent international trips to meet foreign leaders may have touched a chord with a section of voters. “During my work in northern India, people would continuously invoke the improvement in India’s stature in the international arena. These perceptions get reinforced with an event like [the] Balakot strikes and form impressions which I think voters, particularly on a bipolar contest of India and Pakistan, care about,” says Mr Joshi.

Others like Milan Vaishnav, senior fellow and director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, echo a similar sentiment. He told me that although foreign policy has never been a “mass” issue in India’s domestic politics, “given the proximity of the conflict to the elections, the salience of Pakistan, and the ability of the Modi government to claim credit for striking back hard, I expect it will become an important part of the campaign”.

But Dr Vaishnav believes it will not displace the economy and farm distress as an issue, especially in village communities. “Where it will help the BJP most is among swing voters, especially in urban constituencies. If there were fence-sitters unsure of how to vote in 2019, this emotive issue might compel them to stick with the incumbent.”

How the opposition counters Mr Modi’s agenda-setting on national security will be interesting to watch. Even if the hostilities end up giving a slight bump to BJP prospects in the crucial bellwether states in the north, it could help take the party over the winning line. But then even a week is a long time in politics.

Source: The BBC

23/02/2019

Rakbar Khan: Did cow vigilantes lynch a Muslim farmer?

Members of Nawal Kishore Sharma's cow vigilante gang pictured in 2015Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES (ALLISON JOYCE)
Image captionCow vigilantes in Ramgarh in 2015
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A Muslim dairy farmer was stopped late one night last July as he led two cows down a track in rural Rajasthan, south of the Indian capital, Delhi. Within hours he was dead, but who killed him, asks the BBC’s James Clayton – the “cow vigilantes” he met on the road, or the police?

It’s 4am and Dr Hassan Khan, the duty doctor at Ramgarh hospital, is notified of something unusual.

The police have brought in a dead man, a man they claim not to know.

“What were the police like when they brought him in? Were they calm?” I ask him.

“Not calm,” he says. “They were anxious.”

“Are they usually anxious?” I ask.

“Not usually,” he says, laughing nervously.

The dead man is later identified by his father as local farmer Rakbar Khan.

This was not a random murder. The story illustrates some of the social tensions bubbling away under the surface in India, and particularly in the north of the country.

And his case raises questions for the authorities – including the governing Hindu nationalist BJP party.

Cow-related violence – 2012-2019

IndiaSpend map of cow violenceImage copyrightINDIASPEND
Rakbar Khan was a family man. He had seven children.

He kept cows and he also happened to be a Muslim. That can be a dangerous mix in India.

“We have always reared cows, and we are dependent on their milk for our livelihood,” says Rakbar’s father, Suleiman.

“No-one used to say anything when you transported a cow.”

That has changed. Several men have been killed in recent years while transporting cows in the mainly Muslim region of Mewat, not far from Delhi, where Rakbar lived.

“People are afraid. If we go to get a cow they will kill us. They surround our vehicle. So everyone is too scared to get these animals,” says Suleiman.

Everyone I speak to in the village where the Khans live is afraid of gau rakshaks – cow protection gangs.

Nawal Kishore Sharma's cow vigilante gangImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES (ALLISON JOYCE)
Image captionNawal Kishore Sharma’s cow protection group in 2015
Presentational white spaceThe gangs often consist of young, hardline Hindus, who believe passionately in defending India’s holy animal.

They believe that laws to protect cows, such as a ban on slaughtering the animals, are not being fully enforced – and they hunt for “cow smugglers”, who they believe are taking cows to be killed for meat.

Often armed, they have been responsible for dozens of attacks on farmers in India over the last five years, according to data analysis organisation IndiaSpend, which monitors reports of hate crimes in the media.

On 21 July 2018, Rakbar Khan met the local gau rakshak.

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There are some things we know for certain about what happened that night.

Rakbar was walking down a small road with two cows. It was late and it was raining heavily.

Then, out of the dark, came the lights of motorbikes. We know this, because Rakbar was with a friend, who survived.

Cow vigilantes on motorbikes in Yadavnagar, RajasthanImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES (ENRICO FABIAN)
At this point the details become a little sketchier. There are three versions of the story.

The gang managed to catch Rakbar, but his friend, Aslam, slipped away. He lay on the ground, in the mud and prayed he wouldn’t be found.

“There was so much fear inside me, my heart was hurting,” he says.

“From there I heard the screams. They were beating him. There wasn’t a single part of his body that wasn’t broken. He was beaten very badly.”

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Find out more

Watch James Clayton’s report for Newsnight, on BBC Two

The documentary India’s Cow Vigilantes can be seen on Our World on BBC World Newsand on the BBC News Channel (click for transmission times)

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Aslam says that Rakbar was killed then and there.

But there is evidence that suggests otherwise.

Much of what happened next focuses around the leader of the local cow vigilante group, Nawal Kishore Sharma.

Aslam claims he heard the gang address him by name that night, but when I speak to Sharma, he denies he was there at all.

Nawal Kishore Sharma
Image captionNawal Kishore Sharma

“It was about 00:30 in the morning and I was sleeping in my house… Some of my group phoned me to say they’d caught some cow smugglers,” he says.

According to Nawal Kishore Sharma, he then drove with the police to the spot. “He was alive and he was fine,” he says.

But that’s not what the police say.

In their “first incident report” they say that Rakbar was indeed alive when they found him.

“Nawal Kishore Sharma informed the police at about 00:41 that some men were smuggling two cows on foot,” the report says.

“Then the police met Nawal Kishore outside the police station and they all went to the location.

“There was a man who was injured and covered in mud.

“He told the police his name, his father’s name, his age (28) and the village he was from.

“And as he finished these sentences, he almost immediately passed out. Then he was put in the police vehicle and they left for Ramgarh.

“Then the police reached Ramgarh with Rakbar where the available doctor declared him dead.”

Ramgarh at nightImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES (ALLISON JOYCE)
Image captionRamgarh at night
But this version of events is highly dubious.

I go to the hospital in Ramgarh, where Rakbar was taken. Hospital staff are busily going through bound books of hospital records – looking for Rakbar’s admission entry.

And then, there it is. “Unknown dead body” brought in at 04:00 on 21 July 2018.

Hospital record of unknown dead body

It’s not a long entry, but it contradicts the police’s story, and raises some serious questions.

For a start, Rakbar was found about 12 minutes’ drive away from the hospital. Why did it take more than three hours for them to take him there?

And if the police say Rakbar gave them his name, why did they tell the hospital they didn’t know who he was?

Nawal Kishore Sharma claims to know why. He paints a very different picture of what happened to Rakbar.

He tells me that after picking up Rakbar, they changed his clothes.

He then claims to have taken two photos of Rakbar – who at this point was with the police.

Nawal Kishore Sharma's photograph of Rakbar Khan
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Nawal Kishore Sharma's photograph of Rakbar Khan

Sharma says that he went to the police station with the police. He claims that’s when the beating really began.

“The police injured him badly. They even beat him with their shoes,” he says.

“They kicked him powerfully on the left side of his body four times. Then they beat him with sticks. They beat him here (pointing at his ribs) and even on his neck.”

At about 03:00 Nawal Kishore Sharma says he went with some police officers to take the two cows to a local cow shelter. When he returned, he says, the police told him that Rakbar had died.

Rakbar’s death certificate shows that his leg and hand had been broken. He’d been badly beaten and had broken his ribs, which had punctured his lungs.

According to his death certificate he died of “shock… as a result of injuries sustained over body”.

I ask the duty doctor at the hospital whether he remembers what Rakbar’s body was like when the police brought it in.

“It was cold,” he says.

I ask him how long it would take for a body to become cold after death.

“A couple of hours,” he replies.

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“I don’t want to talk about Rakbar’s case,” says Rejendra Singh, chief of police of Alwar district, which includes Ramgarh.

Since Rakbar’s murder several police officers have been suspended. I want to know why.

He looks uneasily at me.

“There were lapses on the police side,” he says.

I ask him what those lapses were.

“They had not followed the regular police procedure, which they were supposed to do,” he says. “It was one big lapse.”

Three men from Nawal Kishore Sharma’s vigilante group have been charged with Rakbar’s murder. Sharma himself remains under investigation.

The vigilante group and the police blame each other for Rakbar’s death, but neither denies working together that night.

The way Sharma describes it, the police cannot be everywhere, so the vigilantes help them out. But it’s the police that “take all the action” he says.

Nawal Kishore Sharma investigates a lorry outside Bilaspur, near Ramgarh, in 2015Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES (ENRICO FABIAN)
Image captionNawal Kishore Sharma inspects a lorry transporting cows (October 2015)
Much police activity in Rajasthan is focused on stopping cow slaughter.

Across the state there are dozens of formal cow checkpoints, where police stop vehicles looking for smugglers who are taking cows to be killed.

I visited one of the checkpoints. Sure enough police were patiently stopping vehicles and looking for cows.

The night before officers had had a gun battle with a group of men after a truck failed to stop.

These checkpoints have become common in some parts of India. Sometimes they are run by the police, sometimes by the vigilantes, and sometimes by both.

This gets to the heart of Rakbar’s case.

Human rights groups argue that his murder – and others like his – show that in some areas the police have got too close to the gangs.

Cow vigilantes in Ramgarh check a suspicious load in November 2015Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES (ALLISON JOYCE)
Image captionThe vigilantes find what they are looking for (November 2015)
“Unfortunately what we’re finding too often is that the police are complicit,” says Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch, which published a 104-page report on cow-related violence in India this week.

In some areas, police have been reluctant to arrest the perpetrators of violence – and much faster to prosecute people accused of either consuming or trading in beef, he says.

Human Rights Watch has looked into 12 cases where it claims police have been complicit in the death of a suspected cow smuggler or have covered it up. Rakbar’s is one of them.

But this case doesn’t just illustrate police failings. Some would argue that it also illustrates how parts of the governing BJP party have inflamed the problem.

Gyandev Ahuja is a larger-than-life character. As the local member of parliament in Ramgarh at the time when Rakbar was killed he’s an important local figure.

He has also made a series of controversial statements about “cow smugglers”.

After a man was badly beaten in December 2017 Ahuja told local media: “To be straightforward, I will say that if anyone is indulging in cow smuggling, then this is how you will die.”

After Rakbar’s death he said that cow smuggling was worse than terrorism.

Nails used by cow vigilantes to force lorries to stopImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES (ENRICO FABIAN)
Image captionNails used by the vigilantes to force lorries to stop
Gyandev Ahuja is just one of several BJP politicians who have made statements that are supportive of the accused in so-called “cow lynchings”.

One of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ministers was even photographed garlanding the accused murderers in a cow vigilante case. He has since apologised.

Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch says it is “terrifying” that elected officials have defended attackers.

“It is really, at this point of time, something that is a great concern, because it is changing a belief into a political narrative, and a violent one,” he says.

The worry is that supportive messages from some of the governing party’s politicians have emboldened the vigilantes.

No official figures are kept on cow violence, but the data collected by IndiaSpend suggests that it started ramping up in 2015, the year after Narendra Modi was elected.

IndiaSpend says that since then there have been 250 injuries and 46 deaths related to cow violence. This is likely to be an underestimate because farmers who have been beaten may be afraid to go to the police – and when a body is found it may not be clear what spurred the attack. The vast majority of the victims are Muslims.

A cow shelter in RamgarhImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES (ENRICO FABIAN)
Image captionA cow shelter in Ramgarh
A BJP spokesman, Nalin Kohli, emphatically rejects any connection between his party and cow violence.

“To say the BJP is responsible is perverse, inaccurate and absolutely false,” he tells me.

“Many people have an interest in building a statement that the BJP is behind it. We won’t tolerate it.”

I ask him about Gyandev Ahuja’s inflammatory statements.

“Firstly that is not the party’s point of view and we have very clearly and unequivocally always said an individual’s point of view is theirs, the point of view of the party is articulated by the party.

“Has the BJP promoted him or protected him? No.”

But a month after this interview, Ahuja was made vice-president of the party in Rajasthan.

Shortly afterwards, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Rajasthan – publicly slapping Ahuja on the back and waving together at crowds of BJP supporters.

presentational grey line

In Mewat I speak to Rakbar’s wife, Asmina.

“Show me how you raise seven children without a husband. How will I be able to raise them?” she says, wiping away tears.

“My youngest daughter says that my father went to God. If you ask her, ‘How did he go to God?’ she says, ‘My father was bringing a cow and people killed him.’

“The life of an animal is so important but that of a human is not.”

The trial of the three men accused of his murder has yet to take place, but perhaps we will never know what really happened to Rakbar.

In November 2015, photographer Allison Joyce spent a night following Nawal Kishore Sharma’s vigilantes in the countryside near Ramgarh. One of her photographs shows a police officer embracing Sharma after a shootout between the vigilantes and a suspected cow smuggler.

Though the police now accuse the cow vigilantes of killing Rakbar Khan, and the vigilantes accuse the police, the photograph illustrates just how closely they worked together.

A policeman embraces Nawal Kishore Sharma after his group chases down a lorry in November 2015Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES (ALLISON JOYCE)
In the Indian media there have been claims that the police took the two cows that Rakbar had been transporting to a cow shelter, as Rakbar lay dead or dying in a police vehicle.

There are also claims that the police stopped and drank tea instead of taking Rakbar to hospital.

Whatever they did, they did not take Rakbar to hospital immediately.

Source: The BBC

21/02/2019

India Catholic Cardinal Oswald Gracias ‘failed abuse victims’

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, during the launch of the bishops' declaration on climate justice on 26 October 2018 in Rome, Italy.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionCardinal Oswald Gracias told the BBC it pained him to hear accusations that he had neglected victims of alleged abuse

One of the Catholic Church’s most senior cardinals has admitted that he could have better handled sexual abuse allegations that were brought to him.

Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Mumbai is one of four men organising a major Vatican conference on child abuse this week.

We found two separate cases where the cardinal, who is tipped by some to possibly become the next Pope, is claimed to have failed to respond quickly or offer support to the victims.

Victims and those who supported them allege that Cardinal Gracias did not take allegations of abuse seriously when they were reported to him.

India’s Catholics say there is a culture of fear and silence in the Catholic Church about sexual abuse by priests. Those who have dared to speak out say it has been an ordeal.

‘My heart was hurt’

The first case dates back to 2015 in Mumbai.

A woman’s life changed when her son returned from Mass at the church and told her that the parish priest had raped him.

“I could not understand what should I do?” she said. She did not know this yet, but this event would put her on a collision course with the Catholic Church in India.

Media captionWhy is India’s Catholic church silent about sexual abuse?

The man she reached out to for help was and remains one of the most senior representatives of the Church.

It was nearly 72 hours after the alleged rape that the family briefly met Cardinal Gracias, then president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India and Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

The issue of sexual abuse within the Church is being called the Vatican’s biggest crisis in modern times, and the integrity of the Catholic Church is said to ride on the outcome of this conference.

Pope Francis, flanked by Archbishop of Bombay Cardinal Oswald Gracias (L) and other bishops, arrives at Synod Hall in Vatican City on 24 October 2015Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionPope Francis with Cardinal Oswald Gracias (fourth from left)

Over the past year, the Catholic Church has been reeling under multiple allegations of sexual abuse around the world.

But while abuse claims have made headlines in North and South America, Europe and Australia, very little is known about the problems in Asian countries. In countries such as India there is a social stigma about reporting abuse.

Among Christians, who are a minority of nearly 28 million people, a culture of fear and silence makes it impossible to gauge the true scale of the problem.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago – a colleague of Cardinal Gracias on the four-member organising committee – has promised that decisive action in Rome and in dioceses worldwide will follow after the meeting so as to safeguard children and bring justice to the victims.

Cardinal Gracias will open the second day of the summit with a conversation about accountability in the Church.

Media captionBrigitte, a survivor of child sex abuse by a chaplain, explains why she is ready to speak now

This vital role given to him during this crucial conference has made some in India unhappy.

They say his track record in protecting children and women from abusers is questionable. Those we have spoken to who have taken cases to him say they received little support from him.

The mother of the abused boy said: “I told the cardinal about what the priest had done to my child, that my child was in a lot of pain. So he prayed for us and told us he had to go to Rome…my heart was hurt in that moment.

“As a mother, I had gone to him with great expectations that he would think about my son, give me justice, but he said he had no time, he only cared about going to Rome.”

The family say they requested medical help but were offered none.

The cardinal told us it pained him to hear this, and that he was not aware that the boy needed medical help – and if he had been asked, he would have immediately offered it.

The Archbishop's house in Mumbai

The cardinal admits he left for Rome that night without alerting the authorities.

By failing to call the police, Cardinal Gracias may have violated India’s Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO).

The provisions of this law state that if the head of any company or institution fails to report the commission of an offence in respect of a subordinate under his control, they shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, and with a fine.

The cardinal told us he had telephoned his bishop the next day, who told him the family had subsequently informed the police themselves.

Asked if he regretted not calling the police personally at the time, he said: “You know I’m being honest, I’m not 100% sure… but I must reflect on that. I admit whether immediately, the police should have got involved, sure.”

He says he was under a duty to evaluate the credibility of accusations by speaking to the accused man.

Emerging from that meeting, the family decided to go to a doctor.

“He took one look at my boy and said that something has happened to him. This is a police case. Either you report it or I will… so we went to the police that night,” the mother said.

A police medical examination found that the child had been sexually assaulted.

Indian Catholics pray during Friday afternoon service at the Holy Name Cathedral in Mumbai on 15 March 2013.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionIndia is home to about 19 million Catholics

A current priest who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity said this was not the first time allegations about this priest had been brought to the cardinal’s attention.

“I met him some years before this [alleged] incident,” the priest told us.

“There were strong rumours about [the accused priest] in the diocese, and like these are about abuse that is taking place. And yet he seems to be moving from one place to another, one parish to another. The cardinal told me directly that he is not aware directly of all these things.”

The cardinal says he cannot recall the conversation. He says he did not recollect any “cloud of suspicion” over the man.

‘A lonely battle’

As part of our investigation, we wanted to see if there were other allegations of the cardinal being slow to act.

We found an instance dating back almost a decade, brought to his attention just a couple of years after becoming archbishop of Mumbai.

Virginia Saldanha.
Image captionCatholic activist Virginia Saldanha says three legal notices were sent to the cardinal, threatening court action unless took action about the claims of abuse

In March 2009, a woman approached him with accusations of sexual abuse by another priest who conducted retreats.

She says that he took no action against the priest so she reached out to a group of female Catholic activists, who say they forced the cardinal to act.

Under pressure, he finally set up an enquiry committee in December 2011. Six months after the enquiry, there was still no action and the accused priest continued working in his parish.

“We had to send the cardinal three legal notices to act, threaten to take the matter to the courts if he did not act,” said Virginia Saldanha, a devout Catholic who has worked on the women’s desk of multiple Church-affiliated positions for over two decades.

When the cardinal replied, he said: “The priest is not listening to me.”

Blurred image of family
Image captionThe family says they have been ostracised from the church and isolated within their communities since reporting the sexual assault

During the time, Saldanha said she had to leave the church because “I could not bear to see that man giving Mass in the church. I did not feel like going there.”

The priest was eventually removed from his parish, but the reasons for his departure were never made public.

The punishment, decided by the cardinal personally in October 2011, was a “guided retreat and therapeutic counselling”.

When we pressed him about the speed of process and punishment, the cardinal said it was a “complicated case”.

After a stay in the seminary, the accused priest was briefly given a parish again and still conducts retreats.

Meanwhile, the family of the allegedly raped minor feel abandoned by the institution that they had built their lives around.

“It has been a lonely battle,” the mother concedes. They say they have been ostracised from the church and isolated within their communities.

“After complaining to the police, when we would go into church, people would refuse to talk to us, to sit next to us during Mass. If I went to sit next to someone… they would get up and leave,” she said.

The hostility she encountered eventually “made us leave the church. But it got so difficult for us that we eventually had to change our home as well. We left it all behind”.

Church members say that it is this hostility that makes it harder for victims and their families to speak up.

Caught between an apparently unsupportive clergy and hostile social network, many find their voices faltering.

Source: The BBC

19/02/2019

Viewpoint: Should Britain apologise for Amritsar massacre?

Indian visitors look at the bullet ridden wall at the historical site of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar on April 12, 2011Image copyrightAFP
Image captionVisitors can inspect a bullet-ridden wall at the site of the massacre

Hundreds of Indians attending a public meeting were shot dead by British troops in the northern Indian city of Amritsar in 1919. Historian Kim Wagner sifts fact from fiction as the UK House of Lords prepares to debate the massacre, including if Britain should apologise.

On 13 April 1919, Sergeant WJ Anderson witnessed first-hand the brutal massacre of hundreds of Indian civilians at Jallianwala Bagh, a public garden in Amritsar city.

“When fire was opened the whole crowd seemed to sink to the ground, a whole flutter of white garments, with however a spreading out towards the main gateway, and some individuals could be seen climbing the high wall,” Anderson later recalled.

“There was little movement, except for the climbers. The gateway would soon be jammed. I saw no sign of a rush towards the troops.”

He had served as the bodyguard of Brigadier General RH Dyer, who had rushed to Amritsar a few days earlier to quell what he believed to be a major uprising.

The crowd of more than 20,000 people, however, were not armed rebels. They were local residents and villagers from the surrounding countryside who had come to listen to political speeches or simply to spend a few hours in the gardens.

It was also the day of the Baisakhi festival, which marked the anniversary of the creation of the Khalsa, or Sikh community, and annually attracted thousands of visitors and pilgrims.

The crowd comprised Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. Most were men and young boys, including some infants; only a few women were present.

British Brigadier General R.E.H. DyerImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionBrigadier General Dyer rushed to Amritsar to quell what he believed to be a major uprising

When Gen Dyer ordered his troops to cease firing, Jallianwala Bagh resembled a battlefield strewn with corpses. Between 500 and 600 people were killed, and probably three times as many wounded. The exact numbers will never be known for certain but the official death count, reached months later, was just 379.

In recent years, much of the public debate has focused on calls for a formal British apology – the demand has been led by, among others, Indian politician and author Shashi Tharoor.

Queen Elizabeth II visited the memorial at Jallianwala Bagh in 1997 and then Prime Minister David Cameron visited in 2013 – both showed their respect yet carefully avoided making an actual apology.

In December 2017, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, nevertheless urged the British government to make just such a gesture during his own visit to Amritsar.

“I am clear that the government should now apologise, especially as we reach the centenary of the massacre. This is about properly acknowledging what happened here and giving the people of Amritsar and India the closure they need through a formal apology,” he said.

ritish Prime Minister David Cameron (C) along with Punjab State Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal (2L), and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) President Avtar Singh Makkar (2R) visit the Sikh Shrine Golden temple in Amritsar on February 20, 2013Image copyrightAFP
Image captionOn his 2013 visit, Cameron avoided making an actual apology but said the massacre was “deeply shameful”

Exactly what happened at Jallianwala Bagh, however, remains unclear, and a century later, the actual circumstances of the massacre are still shrouded in myth and misconceptions.

There are, for instance, people, often with a nostalgic attachment to the Empire, who still insist that Gen Dyer only opened fire as a final resort when the crowd ignored his warning to disperse – even though the general himself was quite clear that he gave no such warning.

Similarly, the idea that the shooting was necessary and prevented much worse violence conveniently ignores the fact that Indian riots in April 1919 were in each and every case precipitated by British actions.

Factual inaccuracies are also to be found at the Jallianwala Bagh memorial today. Among other things, a sign claims that 120 bodies of the victims of the massacre were recovered from what has become known as the Martyrs’ Well. It’s believed that many people jumped into the well to escape the bullets.

But there is no evidence for this story, which appears to be based on a mix-up with the infamous well at Kanpur city, where the bodies of British women and children were disposed after a massacre in 1857.

Visual depictions of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre also show machine guns being used, when the historical record is quite clear that the shooting was carried out by 50 Gurkha and Baluchi troops armed with rifles.

Gen Dyer also did not orchestrate the massacre, and deliberately trap the crowd inside the gardens, as some popular accounts have it.

An Indian man takes a photograph of a painting depicting the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar on April 12, 2011. The Amritsar massacre, also known as the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, took place on April 13, 1919 when British Indian Army soldiers on the direct orders of their British officers opened fire on an unarmed gathering killing at least 379 men, women and children, according to official records. AFP PHOTO /NARINDER NANU (Photo credit should read NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe crowd were not armed rebels but local residents and villagers

In fact, it was British panic and misreading of the political turmoil in India that was at the root of the violence.

While Indian nationalists were looking forward to political reforms and greater self-determination after the end of World War One, the British were still haunted by the spectre of the 1857 “mutiny”, an uprising that is often referred to as India’s first war of independence.

So, when riots broke out in Amritsar on 10 April – and five Europeans and dozens of Indians were killed – the authorities responded with immediate and indiscriminate force. Three days later, Gen Dyer entered what he mistakenly perceived to be a war zone.

Where popular depictions show a peaceful crowd of locals quietly listening to a political speech, Gen Dyer instead perceived a defiant and murderous mob, which had only days before run rampant through Amritsar. When he ordered his troops to open fire, it was an act of fear, spurred on by a disastrously flawed threat assessment.

None of this exonerates Gen Dyer or detracts from the sheer brutality of the massacre – nor does it justify the subsequent torture and humiliation of Indians under martial law. The indisputable violence of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre hardly requires any embellishment. Nevertheless, facts matter if we are to pay our respect to those who died rather than simply perpetuate politically convenient fiction. And to understand is not the same as to condone.

A visitor looking at the bullet marks on a wall on the eve of 95th anniversary of the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh on 12 April 2014 in Amritsar.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThere are bullet marks on a wall in the garden

Apologies and centenaries, which are essentially about the present rather than the past, are rarely conducive to an honest and nuanced reckoning with history.

An apology from a British government in the throes of Brexit, at the moment, seems highly unlikely. It it indeed doubtful whether an official acknowledgement of the massacre would be construed as more than an act of political expediency.

The question thus remains whether an apology without a genuine understanding of the past can ever provide the “closure” that so many seek.

Source: The BBC

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