Archive for ‘Social & cultural’

25/05/2019

Feature: Governors compete for investment at China-U.S. Governors Forum

LEXINGTON, the United States, May 24 (Xinhua) — Chinese and U.S. governors gathered here on Thursday, competing to promote their state or province for investment at the Fifth China-U.S. Governors Forum.

“I want to be a little bit more objective. I’ll tell you not what I think, but what U.S. News (and World Report) just said,” said Cyrus Habib, lieutenant governor of the U.S. state of Washington, grabbing the opportunity when he took the podium to present his state. “In the U.S. News ranked states in the United States, they ranked Washington state No. 1 overall.”

The national media U.S. News and World Report published its yearly Best States Rankings on May 14, putting Washington state on top based on several criteria including health care, education, economy and opportunity.

“It is not a coincidence for Washington to get ranked the No. 1 place to do business and the No. 1 place to live,” he said. “I always tell them the key is international relationships … We are the No. 1 exporter per capita of any state in the country.”

“We are the No. 1 source of U.S. imports into China and so our relationship with China is absolutely key central to the success that we have had now economically in terms of trade,” he added.

Dianne Primavera, lieutenant governor of the U.S. state of Colorado, advertised her state by saying “according to the U.S. News and World Report, Colorado is home to the No. 1 economy in the United States.”

“Our business climate is an active mix of knowledge-based industries and entrepreneurial activity that drives successful startups,” Primavera said. “Colorado welcomes the opportunity to do business with China.”

Matt Bevin, governor of Kentucky and host of the event, was also eager to grasp the opportunity to talk about the benefits of his state.

“We have rivers and roads and railways that transect through this state. You can put goods on the Ohio River and take them straight to any port in China,” he said. “We want you here, we want your investment here.”

U.S. state of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee introduced his state as a neighbor of Kentucky, saying “when Kentucky or Tennessee has investment from companies, from countries like China, then we both benefit. We are a regional economy and what is good for one state and our region is good for another state in our region.”

Local Chinese officials also presented their province or municipality.

Mayor of Chongqing Tang Liangzhi said the southwestern Chinese municipality has an important role in regional development and China’s opening-up layout, and that he hopes to cooperate with U.S. states in many fields like intelligent industry, auto manufacturing, and environmental protection.

Liu Guozhong, governor of China’s northwestern Shaanxi Province, deliberated on the long-standing history and culture, as well as the recent tax-cutting policies of his province, hoping to expand cooperation in technological innovation and environmental protection between the two countries.

Chinese and U.S. companies signed three cooperation agreements at the forum on Thursday. Meanwhile, China’s southeastern province of Jiangxi and the U.S. state of Kentucky signed a memorandum of understanding.

Initiated in 2011, the China-U.S. Governors Forum has become an important platform to promote exchanges and cooperation between the local governments of the two countries.

Source: Xinhua

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23/05/2019

Boeing 737 Max: China’s top airlines seek compensation

China’s three biggest airlines are demanding compensation from Boeing over its grounded 737 Max fleet.

Air China, China Southern and China Eastern have filed claims for payouts, according to state media reports.

China’s regulator was the first to ground the fleet in the wake of two deadly crashes involving the US-made aircraft.

It comes on the eve of a meeting of global aviation regulators that will provide an update on the troubled jets.

The Chinese airlines are seeking compensation for losses incurred by the grounded fleet, as well as delayed deliveries of the 737 Max jets, according to reports.

China operates the largest fleet of Boeing 737 Max aircraft and was the first country to take the jets out of service after the Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 crash in March.

The disaster killed all 157 people on board. In October, 189 people were killed in a Lion Air crash involving the same model.

Both crashes were linked to the jet’s Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System, a new feature on 737 Max planes, which was designed to improve the handling of the jet and to stop it pitching up at too high an angle.

Last week, Boeing said it had completed development of a software update for its 737 Max planes.

The planemaker’s entire global fleet of 737 Max aircraft has been grounded since March and the firm is anxious to prove it is safe to return to the skies.

The move by China’s top airlines to seek compensation comes ahead of a closely watched summit of aviation regulators in Texas on Thursday.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is due to provide an update on reviews of Boeing’s software fix and new pilot training.

The meeting in Texas will involve 57 agencies from 33 countries, including China, France, Germany and the UK, as well as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.

But it is unclear if the planes will be back in the air before the end of the critical summer travel season.

Source: The BBC

21/05/2019

China’s green efforts hit by fake data and corruption among the grass roots

  • Local officials have devised creative ways to cover up their lack of action on tackling pollution
  • Falsified monitoring information risks directing clean-up efforts away from where they are needed most
China’s efforts to cut pollution are being hampered by local officials who use creative methods to hide their lack of action. Photo: Simon Song
China’s efforts to cut pollution are being hampered by local officials who use creative methods to hide their lack of action. Photo: Simon Song
China’s notoriously lax local government officials and polluting companies are finding creative ways to fudge their environmental responsibilities and outsmart Beijing’s pollution inspectors, despite stern warnings and tough penalties.
Recent audit reports covering the past two years released by the environment ministry showed its inspectors were frequently presented with fake data and fabricated documents, as local officials – sometimes working in league with companies – have devised multiple ways to cheat and cover up their lack of action.
Local governments have been under pressure to meet environmental protection targets since Chinese President Xi Jinping made it one of his top three policy pledges in late 2017.
The performance of leading local officials is now partly assessed by how good a job they have done in cleaning up China’s much depleted environment.
According to the reports released this month by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, pollution inspectors have found evidence in a number of city environmental protection bureaus of made-up meeting notes and even instructions to local companies to forge materials.
Cao Liping, director of the ministry’s ecology and environment law enforcement department, said many of the cases uncovered were the result of officials failing to act in a timely manner.
“In some places, local officials didn’t really do the rectification work. When the inspections began, they realised they didn’t have enough time, so they made up material,” he said.
China ‘still facing uphill struggle in fight against pollution’

While some officials are covering up their inaction, others are actively corrupt. According to Guangzhou’s Southern Weekend, since 2012 there have been 63 cases involving 118 people in the environment protection system involved in corruption.

In the southwest province of Sichuan, 32 current and former employees of Suining city’s environmental protection bureau were found to be corrupt, raking in illicit income of 6.32 million yuan (US$900,000).

Fabricated notes

The party committee of Bozhou district in Zunyi, Guizhou province in southern China, was found to have fabricated notes for 10 meetings – part of the work requirement under the new environmental targets – in a bid to cheat the inspectors.

The case was flagged by the environment ministry in a notice issued on May 10, which said party officials in Bozhou lacked “political consciousness … the nature of this case is very severe”.
Watering down results
Environmental officials in Shizuishan, in the northwest region of Ningxia, tried to improve their results in December 2017 by ordering sanitation workers to spray the building of the local environmental protection bureau with an anti-smog water cannon.
The intention was to lower the amount of pollutant particles registered by the building’s monitoring equipment.
The scheme may have gone undetected if the weather had been warmer but the next day a telltale layer of ice covered the building and the chief and deputy chief of the environmental station in the city’s Dawokou district were later penalised for influencing the monitoring results.
1 million dead, US$38 billion lost: the price of China’s air pollution
Similar tactics were deployed in Linfen, in the northern province of Shanxi in March 2017, when former bureau chief Zhang Wenqing and 11 others were found to have altered air quality monitoring data during days of heavy pollution.
The monitoring machine was blocked and sprayed with water to improve the data and Zhang was also found to have paid another person to make sure the sabotage was not captured by surveillance camera.
According to the environment ministry, six national observation stations in Linfen were interfered with more than 100 times between April 2017 and March 2018. In the same period, monitoring data was seriously distorted on 53 occasions.
Zhang was sentenced to two years in prison in May last year for destroying information on a computer.
Bad company
A ministry notice on May 11 flagged collusion by local officials and businesses in Bozhou in southeast China’s Anhui province. Companies were given advance notice of environmental inspections, with instructions to make up contracts and temporarily suspend production in a bid to deceive inspectors.
In Henan province, central China, inspectors found a thermal power company had been using a wireless mouse to interfere with the sealed automatic monitoring system. They were able to remotely delete undesirable data, eliminating evidence of excessive emissions, and only provided selective data to the environment bureau.
Officials in Shandong reprimanded for failing to cut pollution
In another case, from 2017, an environmental inspection group in Hubei province, central China, found a ceramics company had been working with the data monitoring company to alter automatically collected data on sulphur dioxide emissions.
Criminal offence
Cao said that while the cheating by grass-roots officials was serious, the involvement of companies in falsifying data was a major issue that made the work of inspectors even harder.
“Some fraudulent methods are hidden with the help of high technology, so it’s hard for us to obtain evidence. Besides, the environment officials are not totally familiar with these technologies,” he said.
The environment ministry was working on solutions to the problems, he said, adding that falsifying monitoring data was now a criminal offence.
Fake data was particularly serious, he said, because it could directly influence his department’s decisions about where to deploy resources.

Wang Canfa, an environmental law expert at the China University of Political Science and Law, said the problem of fake data could damage the government’s credibility but also prevent it from taking measures in time.

“If the water pollution or air pollution is severe in one place but the local government has said it’s not a big deal, then the investment needed to control the situation might go to other places,” he said.

Zhou Ke, a professor of environment and resources law at Renmin University, said there was an incentive for local officials to cheat because the inspection results were directly related to their career prospects.

Officials ended up cheating or forging materials to protect local interests or their own political achievements, he said.

Source: SCMP

21/05/2019

North Korean women ‘forced into sex slavery’ in China – report

Prostitute in a Shanghai back alley (credit: Lei Han)Image copyright KOREA FUTURE INITIATIVE
Image caption The trade of North Korean women in China is said to be worth $100m a year for criminal organisations

Thousands of North Korean women and girls are being forced to work in the sex trade in China, according to a new report by a London-based rights group.

They are often abducted and sold as prostitutes, or compelled to marry Chinese men, says the Korea Future Initiative.

The trade is worth $100m (£79m) a year for criminal organisations, it says.

The women are often trapped because China repatriates North Koreans, who then face torture at home, it says.

“Victims are prostituted for as little as 30 Chinese yuan ($4.30; £3.40), sold as wives for just 1,000 yuan, and trafficked into cybersex dens for exploitation by a global online audience,” the report’s author Yoon Hee-soon said.

The girls and women in question are usually aged between 12 and 29, but can sometimes be younger, the report said.

They are coerced, sold, or abducted in China or trafficked directly from North Korea. Many are sold more than once and are forced into at least one form of sexual slavery within a year of leaving their homeland, it adds.

Many are enslaved in brothels in districts in north-east China with large migrant worker populations.

The girls – some as young as nine – and women working in the cybersex industry are forced to perform sex acts and are sexually assaulted in front of webcams. Many of the subscribers are thought to be South Korean.

Women forced into marriage were mostly sold in rural areas for 1,000 to 50,000 yuan, and were raped and abused by their husbands.

Media caption North Korean defectors who had to escape twice

The group collected its information from victims in China and exiled survivors in South Korea.

One woman, named as Ms Pyon from Chongjin City, North Korea, is quoted as saying in the report:

“I was sold [to a brothel] with six other North Korean women at a hotel. We were not given much food and were treated badly…After eight months, half of us were sold again. The broker did bad things to me.”

“When I arrived [at the new brothel] I had bruises on my body. [The broker] was beaten then stabbed in the legs by some members of the gang.”

Another, Ms Kim, said: “There are many South Koreans [in Dalian, China]…We put advertising cards under their doors [in hotels]…The cards are in the Korean-language and advertise what we offer…We are mostly taken to bars [by the pimp].

“South Korean companies want [North Korean prostitutes] for their businessmen…Prostitution was my first experience of meeting a South Korean person.”

Source: The BBC

20/05/2019

The Indian Dalit man killed for eating in front of upper-caste men

Jitendra
Image caption Jitendra was a carpenter and the only breadwinner in his family

A helpless anger pervades the Dalit community in the remote Indian village of Kot.

Last month, a group of upper-caste men allegedly beat up a 21-year-old Dalit resident, named Jitendra, so badly that he died nine days later.

His alleged crime: he sat on a chair and ate in their presence at a wedding.

Not even one of the hundreds of guests who attended the wedding celebration – also of a young Dalit man – will go on record to describe what happened to Jitendra on 26 April.

Afraid of a backlash, they will only admit to being at a large ground where the wedding feast was being held.

Only the police have publicly said what happened.

The wedding food had been cooked by upper-caste residents because many people in remote regions don’t touch any food prepared by Dalits, who are the bottom of the rigid Hindu caste hierarchy.

“The scuffle happened when food was being served. The controversy erupted over who was sitting on the chair,” police officer Ashok Kumar said.

The incident has been registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act) – a law meant to protect historically oppressed communities.

Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, have suffered public shaming for generations at the hands of upper-caste Hindus.

Geeta Devi
Image caption Geeta Devi says she found her son dead outside their home

Dalits continue to face widespread atrocities across the country and any attempts at upward social mobility are violently put down.

For example, four wedding processions of Dalits were attacked in the western state of Gujarat within a week in May.

It is still common to see reports of Dalits being threatened, beaten and killed for seemingly mundane reasons.

The culture that pervades their community is visible everywhere – including in Kot, which is in the hilly northern state of Uttarakhand.

Local residents from the Dalit community allege that Jitendra was beaten and humiliated at the wedding.

They say he left the event in tears, but was ambushed again a short distance away and attacked again – this time more brutally.

Jitendra’s mother, Geeta Devi, found him injured outside their dilapidated house early the next morning.

“He had been perhaps lying there the entire night,” she said, pointing to where she found him. “He had bruises and injury marks all over his body. He tried to speak but couldn’t.”

Kot village in Uttarakhand state
Image caption Dalits are outnumbered by upper-caste families in the village

She does not know who left her son outside their home. He died nine days later in hospital.

Jitendra’s death is a double tragedy for his mother – nearly five years ago her husband also died.

This meant that Jitendra, who was a carpenter, became the family’s only breadwinner and had to drop out of school to start working.

Family and friends describe him as a private man who spoke very little.

Loved ones have been demanding justice for his death, but have found little support among the community.

“There is fear. The family lives in a remote area. They have no land and are financially fragile,” Dalit activist Jabar Singh Verma said. “In surrounding villages too, the Dalits are outnumbered by families from higher castes.”

Of the 50 families in Jitendra’s village, only some 12 or 13 are Dalits.

Dalits comprise almost 19% of Uttarakhand’s population and the state has a history of atrocities committed against them.

Police have arrested seven men in connection with Jitendra’s death, but all of them deny any involvement.

Group of upper-caste residents in the village
Image caption Upper-caste villagers deny discriminating against the Dalit community

“It’s a conspiracy against our family,” said a woman whose father, uncles and brothers are among the accused. “Why would my father use caste slurs at a Dalit’s marriage?”

“He must have been embarrassed that he got beaten and popped dozens of pills that led to his death,” another local upper-caste person said.

But the Dalits in the village, who are livid over Jitendra’s death, hotly deny these claims.

They say Jitendra suffered from epilepsy, but insist there is no chance that he overdosed on his medication.

Apart from these expressions of anger, local Dalit families have largely remained silent.

“It is because they are economically dependent on families from the higher castes,” activist Daulat Kunwar said.

“Most Dalits are landless. They work the fields of their wealthy upper caste neighbours. They know the consequences of speaking out loud.”

Jitendra’s family has already experienced some of these consequences – Geeta Devi says they are under pressure to stop pushing for the truth.

“Some men came over to our house and tried to scare us,” she said. “There is no one to support us but I will never give up our quest for justice.”

Source: The BBC

18/05/2019

Narendra Modi attends first press conference but takes no questions

Mr Modi said the Congress should be ashamed of the 1984 anti-Sikh riotsImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Mr Modi said he will not forgive Pragya Thakur

India is in full election mode: voting began on 11 April, and the final ballot will be cast on 19 May with results out on 23 May. Every day, the BBC will be bringing you all the latest updates on the twists and turns of the world’s largest democracy.

What happened?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attended first ever press conference at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) head office in Delhi – days before Indians take part in the final stage of voting.

But journalists were left disappointed as he did not take any questions, and instead largely talked about his government’s achievements.

“I have come to thank the country for blessing me. I have seen a lot of ups and downs but the country stayed with me,” he said.

Mr Modi also spoke of his pride in India’s democratic process and said he needs to show the world “how diverse our democracy is”.

Mr Modi was seated next to party president Amit Shah. He said he would not take questions because the press conference was Mr Shah’s.

Earlier, the prime minister said he would “never be able to forgive” those who have “insulted” Mahatma Gandhi.

Mr Modi’s statement comes after controversial Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician Pragya Thakur called Nathuram Godse – the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi – a “patriot”.

Ms Thakur apologised after several leaders, including those from the BJP, criticised her.

“Such statements should be condemned. There is no place in society for such comments. She [Ms Thakur] may have apologised, but I will never be able to forgive her,” he said in an interview to News24 TV channel.

Why does this matter?

This is the first time Mr Modi has attended a press conference as prime minister while in India. Most of his press conferences have been on state visits to other countries and often involved little more than reading out an official statement.

He has given some one-on-one interviews to Indian media, though critics say that these have largely been tightly controlled and given to journalists seen as sympathetic to him. However in recent weeks he has given a flurry of interviews to several leading publications and television channels, including those that have been critical of him.

But if people were expecting a complete about-turn in his media policy this time, they would have been disappointed.

This caused some frustration among journalists on Twitter.

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Also on Friday, a BJP candidate apologised for calling Gandhi’s killer a patriot

Hindu activist Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur leaving for Simhastha in Ujjain under heavy police protection on May 18, 2016 in Bhopal, India.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES

What is happening?

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician Pragya Thakur has apologised after calling Nathuram Godse – the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi – a “patriot”.

Several political parties had criticised her comment and her own party demanded that she should publicly apologise.

“It was my personal opinion. My intention was not to hurt anyone’s sentiments. If I’ve hurt anyone, I do apologise. What Gandhi Ji has done for the country cannot be forgotten. My statement has been twisted by the media,” Ms Thakur said on Thursday evening.

She made the comment after actor-turned politician Kamal Haasan said Godse was India’s first Hindu “extremist” earlier this week.

Why does this matter?

The BJP as well as opposition parties immediately reacted to her comment, which also caused a storm on social media.

BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said that the party does not agree with her statement, and asked her to publicly apologise.

The main opposition Congress party demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said that the BJP should take “punitive action” against Ms Thakur.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that “insulting martyrs is in the BJP DNA” and that the “soul of the nation” has been hurt by her remarks.

Congress party leader Priyanka Gandhi also lashed out at the BJP.

Political analysts also say that her comments have put the BJP in a tough spot, since Mr Modi and BJP president Amit Shah defended their decision to field her as a candidate despite terror charges against her.

Her candidature caused outrage as she is an accused of involvement in a blast that killed seven people and injured 100 others. Ms Thakur denies all charges against her.

However, Ms Thakur’s comments do reflect the views of some right-wing Hindus who support the BJP and have long seen Gandhi as too moderate.

Godse, who shot Gandhi in the chest three times at point-blank range on 30 January 1948, was also an activist with nationalist right-wing groups, including those closely associated with the BJP.

Hindu hardliners in India accuse Gandhi of having betrayed Hindus by being too pro-Muslim, and even for the division of India and the bloodshed that marked Partition, which saw India and Pakistan created after independence from Britain in 1947.

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On Thursday, a ruling party candidate called Gandhi’s killer a patriot

What happened?

Controversial Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician Pragya Thakur made headlines again. This time it was for calling Nathuram Godse – the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi – a “patriot”.

Her comment was made in response to a statement by southern actor-turned politician Kamal Haasan who had said India’s first “extremist” was a Hindu”, referring to Godse.

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His statement, made on Monday, was heavily criticised by the BJP, which accused him of indulging in “divisive politics” and filed a complaint against him with the Election Commission of India.

Why does this matter?

The BJP responded by criticising Ms Thakur and asking her to publicly apologise.

“BJP does not agree with this statement, we condemn it. Party will ask her for clarification, she should apologise publicly for this statement,” party spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao told reporters.

Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi,1869 - 1948), Indian nationalist and spiritual leader, leading the Salt March in protest against the government monopoly on salt production.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES

Ms Thakur has seen her fair share of controversy. Her candidature caused outrage as she is an accused of involvement in a blast that killed seven people and injured 100 others. On 18 April, she said that police officer Hemant Karkare had died in the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks because she had “cursed” him. She was then banned from campaigning for 72 hours as a result.

A team led by Mr Karkare had arrested her for questioning in connection with the Malegaon blast.

During her campaign, she also said she was “proud” of her part in the demolition of the 16th Century Babri mosque. In 1992, right-wing Hindu mobs razed the mosque to the ground, claiming it was built on the site of a temple destroyed by Muslim rulers. The site, which is in the city of Ayodhya, has been a religious flashpoint for Hindus and Muslims for decades.

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Campaigning ended in West Bengal a day before deadline

What happened?

The Election Commission (EC) told political parties to end their campaigning in West Bengal state, a day before the deadline in the wake of poll-related violence.

The campaign will end on Thursday at 10pm local time, and voting will be held on Sunday.

The decision comes after clashes broke out between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers and protesters believed to be from the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) on Tuesday.

It happened during a roadshow of BJP chief Amit Shah. Several people were injured and vehicles were set on fire. A statue of renowned Bengali reformer Iswarchandra Vidyasagar was also vandalised in the clashes.

Both parties have accused each other of starting the violence.

Why does this matter?

Violence took place during BJP chief Amit Shah's rally in Kolkata on TuesdayImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Violence took place during BJP chief Amit Shah’s rally in Kolkata on Tuesday

The BJP welcomed the decision, saying it validated their argument that the state had “descended into anarchy” under the leadership of chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

Ms Banerjee said that the move was “undemocratic” and “it had insulted the people of Bengal”.

“Tomorrow, [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi has two meetings in Bengal. When he finishes, the campaigning also ends… Instead of punishing Amit Shah, the Election Commission has given a gift to the BJP,” she said.

This photo taken on May 14, 2019 shows supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) facing off with Indian police next to torn down barricades during clashes between rival groups during a campaign rally event held by BJP president Amit Shah in KolkataImage copyright AFP
Image caption Several people were injured and vehicles were set on fire during the violence

Both parties are locked into a fierce election battle to win most out West Bengal’s 42 seats. Ms Banerjee has ambitions of becoming the prime minister in case a nationwide coalition of regional parties wins enough seats.

The state has also become crucial for the BJP as it’s trying to expand its reach in the eastern state. It won only two seats in the 2014 election.

The BJP performed well in northern states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan in 2014, but this time it’s expected to suffer loses against a coalition of regional parties and the main opposition Congress.

So the party is trying to make up for the losses in West Bengal.

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On Wednesday, the TMC and the BJP accused each other of poll violence

West Bengal chief minister Mamata BanerjeeImage copyright GETTY IMAGES

What happened?

The war of words between West Bengal state chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) intensified ahead of voting on Sunday.

The latest verbal duel comes after violence was reported during BJP chief Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) on Tuesday.

Clashes broke out between BJP supporters and protesters who were holding “Amit Shah go back” posters.

Some people suffered minor injuries and a few vehicles were set on fire.

The BJP said the protest was “orchestrated” and called it an “attempt to strangulate democracy”.

Why does this matter?

The eastern state has become politically crucial for the BJP as it has intensified campaigning in the past few days.

And that has sparked a feverish electoral battle between the BJP and Ms Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC).

“What does Amit Shah think of himself? Is he above everything? Is he god that no one can protest against him?” Ms Banerjee said.

In reply, Mr Shah accused the TMC of not following democratic norms during elections.

“Have faith in the people of Bengal that they’d face the TMC goons,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hold more rallies in the coming days, so one can expect more verbal fireworks from the two leaders.

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On Tuesday, the saga of the morphed Mamata meme continued

What happened?

India’s top court stepped in to release an activist belonging to India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who was sent to prison for sharing a doctored image of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Priyanka Sharma was sentenced to two weeks in prison on 10 May after she shared a picture of Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra and her husband Nick Jonas at the Met Gala – but with Ms Banerjee’s head superimposed on to Chopra’s body.

Earlier the court had said Ms Sharma could be released only if she apologised to Ms Banerjee, but later waived this condition.

Why does this matter?

The battle for West Bengal in this general election has been absolutely bruising.

The BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, has been campaigning hard for votes in the state. This has brought them toe-to-toe with the state’s feisty chief minister. The fact that voting for West Bengal’s 42 seats has been split across all nine phases of voting has meant that the battle has been long and drawn-out.

And with just one phase to go before voting finally ends, the gloves are well and truly off. The two parties have traded insults on the campaign stage, their workers have attacked each other, and the violence on the ground has intensified. And now the battle has spread to cyberspace as well.

The country’s finance minister Arun Jaitley jumped at news of Ms Sharma’s release to call Ms Banerjee a dictator.

Analysts say that this political row is so bitter because the BJP has clearly identified West Bengal as one of the states where they may be able to make gains this election. This becomes more important for the party in the context of their fight in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, which sends the most number of MPs (80) to parliament.

They are up against a powerful coalition of regional parties there, and many expect them to lose seats as a result.

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And PM Modi said Rahul Gandhi should be ashamed of 1984 riots

What happened?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that main opposition Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi should be “ashamed of himself” over his colleague’s remark on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Mr Modi was replying to a controversial statement made by Sam Pitroda, who is a strategist of the Congress party.

In his reply to a question about the Congress’ role in the riots, Mr Pitroda had said “so what?”.

“I don’t think so, this is also another lie, and what about 1984? You speak about what you [Mr Modi] have done in five years. It [the riots] happened in 1984, so what?” he said.

Mr Gandhi said he was “ashamed” of Mr Pitroda’s statement, and asked him to apologise.

Mr Pitroda later said his statement was “twisted” and he did not mean to hurt sentiments.

But Mr Modi said the Congress chief “must apologise”.

“I was watching that naamdar [the dynast] told his guru that he should be ashamed of what he said. I want to ask naamdar, you pretended to scold your mentor for what? Because he exposed what was always in the Congress’s heart, and in the discussions of the naamdar family? Because he made public a family secret? Naamdar, it is you who should be ashamed,” Mr Modi said.

Why does this matter?

The controversy matters because it comes days ahead of voting for the 13 seats in the northern state of Punjab.

The BJP, which has formed a coalition with regional Shiromani Akali Dal, is locked in a bitter electoral battle with the ruling Congress in the state.

Sikhs are a majority in the state and the 1984 riots is still an emotional issue for many of them.

More than 3,000 Sikhs were killed in 1984 after the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

They were angry at her decision to send the army into the Golden Temple – Sikhism’s holiest shrine – to flush out militants earlier in the year.

The killing of Mrs Gandhi, who belonged to the Congress, saw mobs attack and murder members of the Sikh community across the country.

And both parties appear to be trying to come across as pro-Sikh ahead of the vote on 19 May.

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On Sunday, Delhi voted but not enthusiastically

A voter in Delhi in the general electionImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Delhi’s voter turnout was lower than in 2014

What happened?

Sunday saw India’s capital Delhi vote along with several other states in the polls – the penultimate phase of the country’s mammoth general election.

Voters turned out to vote, but in fewer numbers than they did in 2014. The election commission said that around 60% of the capital’s registered voters had actually cast ballots, which was about a five percent drop from 2014.

Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Ranbir Singh expressed disappointment, saying that the turnout did not match expectations.

Why does this matter?

The election commission is right to be disappointed – it had run a series of campaigns in the city, encouraging more people to vote.

But it was not as though polling in Delhi was an entirely smooth process. Some voters complained that their names were missing from electoral lists even though they had all the necessary documents. There were also reports that around 1,200 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) had malfunctioned across the city, delaying the polling process.

The fact that Delhi became a three-cornered contest after the main opposition Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which controls the Delhi state assembly, failed to stitch up an alliance may also have put voters off. Many analysts believe that this failure will only split voters who were against prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and effectively hand them victory.

So they may have decided to just stay home, and not bother queuing up in the blistering heat – it touched 40C on Sunday.

Source: The BBC

16/05/2019

Gandhi killer ‘patriot’ comment by BJP candidate draws outrage

Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi,1869 - 1948), Indian nationalist and spiritual leader, leading the Salt March in protest against the government monopoly on salt production.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES

India is in full election mode: voting began on 11 April, and the final ballot will be cast on 19 May with results out on 23 May. Every day, the BBC will be bringing you all the latest updates on the twists and turns of the world’s largest democracy.

Ruling party candidate calls Gandhi’s killer a patriot

What is happening?

Controversial Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician Pragya Thakur has made headlines again. This time it was for calling Nathuram Godse – the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi – a “patriot”.

Her comment was made in response to a statement by southern actor-turned politician Kamal Haasan who had said India’s first “extremist” was a Hindu”, referring to Godse.

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His statement, made on Monday, was heavily criticised by the BJP, which accused him of indulging in “divisive politics” and filed a complaint against him with the Election Commission of India.

Why does this matter?

The BJP has responded by criticising Ms Thakur and asking her to publicly apologise.

“BJP does not agree with this statement, we condemn it. Party will ask her for clarification, she should apologise publicly for this statement,” party spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao told reporters.

However, Ms Thakur’s comments do reflect the views of some right-wing Hindus who support the BJP and have long seen Gandhi as too moderate.

Godse, who shot Gandhi in the chest three times at point-blank range on 30 January 1948, was also an activist with nationalist right-wing groups, including those closely associated with the BJP.

Hindu hardliners in India accuse Gandhi of having betrayed Hindus by being too pro-Muslim, and even for the division of India and the bloodshed that marked Partition, which saw India and Pakistan created after independence from Britain in 1947.

Ms Thakur has seen her fair share of controversy. Her candidature caused outrage as she is an accused of involvement in a blast that killed seven people and injured 100 others. On 18 April, she said that police officer Hemant Karkare had died in the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks because she had “cursed” him. She was then banned from campaigning for 72 hours as a result.

A team led by Mr Karkare had arrested her for questioning in connection with the Malegaon blast.

During her campaign, she also said she was “proud” of her part in the demolition of the 16th Century Babri mosque. In 1992, right-wing Hindu mobs razed the mosque to the ground, claiming it was built on the site of a temple destroyed by Muslim rulers. The site, which is in the city of Ayodhya, has been a religious flashpoint for Hindus and Muslims for decades.

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Campaigning ends in West Bengal a day before deadline

What happened?

The Election Commission (EC) has told political parties to end their campaigning in West Bengal state, a day before the deadline in the wake of poll-related violence.

The campaign will end on Thursday at 10pm local time, and voting will be held on Sunday.

The decision comes after clashes broke out between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers and protesters believed to be from the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) on Tuesday.

It happened during a roadshow of BJP chief Amit Shah. Several people were injured and vehicles were set on fire. A statue of renowned Bengali reformer Iswarchandra Vidyasagar was also vandalised in the clashes.

Both parties have accused each other of starting the violence.

Why does this matter?

Violence took place during BJP chief Amit Shah's rally in Kolkata on TuesdayImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Violence took place during BJP chief Amit Shah’s rally in Kolkata on Tuesday

The BJP welcomed the decision, saying it validated their argument that the state had “descended into anarchy” under the leadership of chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

Ms Banerjee said that the move was “undemocratic” and “it had insulted the people of Bengal”.

“Tomorrow, [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi has two meetings in Bengal. When he finishes, the campaigning also ends… Instead of punishing Amit Shah, the Election Commission has given a gift to the BJP,” she said.

This photo taken on May 14, 2019 shows supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) facing off with Indian police next to torn down barricades during clashes between rival groups during a campaign rally event held by BJP president Amit Shah in KolkataImage copyright AFP
Image caption Several people were injured and vehicles were set on fire during the violence

Both parties are locked into a fierce election battle to win most out West Bengal’s 42 seats. Ms Banerjee has ambitions of becoming the prime minister in case a nationwide coalition of regional parties wins enough seats.

The state has also become crucial for the BJP as it’s trying to expand its reach in the eastern state. It won only two seats in the 2014 election.

The BJP performed well in northern states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan in 2014, but this time it’s expected to suffer loses against a coalition of regional parties and the main opposition Congress.

So the party is trying to make up for the losses in West Bengal.

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TMC, BJP accused each other of poll violence

West Bengal chief minister Mamata BanerjeeImage copyright GETTY IMAGES

What happened?

The war of words between West Bengal state chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) intensified ahead of voting on Sunday.

The latest verbal duel comes after violence was reported during BJP chief Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) on Tuesday.

Clashes broke out between BJP supporters and protesters who were holding “Amit Shah go back” posters.

Some people suffered minor injuries and a few vehicles were set on fire.

The BJP said the protest was “orchestrated” and called it an “attempt to strangulate democracy”.

Why does this matter?

The eastern state has become politically crucial for the BJP as it has intensified campaigning in the past few days.

And that has sparked a feverish electoral battle between the BJP and Ms Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC).

“What does Amit Shah think of himself? Is he above everything? Is he god that no one can protest against him?” Ms Banerjee said.

In reply, Mr Shah accused the TMC of not following democratic norms during elections.

“Have faith in the people of Bengal that they’d face the TMC goons,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hold more rallies in the coming days, so one can expect more verbal fireworks from the two leaders.

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On Tuesday, the saga of the morphed Mamata meme continued

What happened?

India’s top court stepped in to release an activist belonging to India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who was sent to prison for sharing a doctored image of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Priyanka Sharma was sentenced to two weeks in prison on 10 May after she shared a picture of Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra and her husband Nick Jonas at the Met Gala – but with Ms Banerjee’s head superimposed on to Chopra’s body.

Earlier the court had said Ms Sharma could be released only if she apologised to Ms Banerjee, but later waived this condition.

Why does this matter?

The battle for West Bengal in this general election has been absolutely bruising.

The BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, has been campaigning hard for votes in the state. This has brought them toe-to-toe with the state’s feisty chief minister. The fact that voting for West Bengal’s 42 seats has been split across all nine phases of voting has meant that the battle has been long and drawn-out.

And with just one phase to go before voting finally ends, the gloves are well and truly off. The two parties have traded insults on the campaign stage, their workers have attacked each other, and the violence on the ground has intensified. And now the battle has spread to cyberspace as well.

The country’s finance minister Arun Jaitley jumped at news of Ms Sharma’s release to call Ms Banerjee a dictator.

Analysts say that this political row is so bitter because the BJP has clearly identified West Bengal as one of the states where they may be able to make gains this election. This becomes more important for the party in the context of their fight in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, which sends the most number of MPs (80) to parliament.

They are up against a powerful coalition of regional parties there, and many expect them to lose seats as a result.

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And PM Modi said Rahul Gandhi should be ashamed of 1984 riots

What happened?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that main opposition Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi should be “ashamed of himself” over his colleague’s remark on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Mr Modi was replying to a controversial statement made by Sam Pitroda, who is a strategist of the Congress party.

In his reply to a question about the Congress’ role in the riots, Mr Pitroda had said “so what?”.

“I don’t think so, this is also another lie, and what about 1984? You speak about what you [Mr Modi] have done in five years. It [the riots] happened in 1984, so what?” he said.

Mr Gandhi said he was “ashamed” of Mr Pitroda’s statement, and asked him to apologise.

Mr Pitroda later said his statement was “twisted” and he did not mean to hurt sentiments.

But Mr Modi said the Congress chief “must apologise”.

“I was watching that naamdar [the dynast] told his guru that he should be ashamed of what he said. I want to ask naamdar, you pretended to scold your mentor for what? Because he exposed what was always in the Congress’s heart, and in the discussions of the naamdar family? Because he made public a family secret? Naamdar, it is you who should be ashamed,” Mr Modi said.

Why does this matter?

The controversy matters because it comes days ahead of voting for the 13 seats in the northern state of Punjab.

The BJP, which has formed a coalition with regional Shiromani Akali Dal, is locked in a bitter electoral battle with the ruling Congress in the state.

Sikhs are a majority in the state and the 1984 riots is still an emotional issue for many of them.

More than 3,000 Sikhs were killed in 1984 after the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

They were angry at her decision to send the army into the Golden Temple – Sikhism’s holiest shrine – to flush out militants earlier in the year.

The killing of Mrs Gandhi, who belonged to the Congress, saw mobs attack and murder members of the Sikh community across the country.

And both parties appear to be trying to come across as pro-Sikh ahead of the vote on 19 May.

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On Sunday, Delhi voted but not enthusiastically

A voter in Delhi in the general electionImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Delhi’s voter turnout was lower than in 2014

What happened?

Sunday saw India’s capital Delhi vote along with several other states in the polls – the penultimate phase of the country’s mammoth general election.

Voters turned out to vote, but in fewer numbers than they did in 2014. The election commission said that around 60% of the capital’s registered voters had actually cast ballots, which was about a five percent drop from 2014.

Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Ranbir Singh expressed disappointment, saying that the turnout did not match expectations.

Why does this matter?

The election commission is right to be disappointed – it had run a series of campaigns in the city, encouraging more people to vote.

But it was not as though polling in Delhi was an entirely smooth process. Some voters complained that their names were missing from electoral lists even though they had all the necessary documents. There were also reports that around 1,200 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) had malfunctioned across the city, delaying the polling process.

The fact that Delhi became a three-cornered contest after the main opposition Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which controls the Delhi state assembly, failed to stitch up an alliance may also have put voters off. Many analysts believe that this failure will only split voters who were against prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and effectively hand them victory.

So they may have decided to just stay home, and not bother queuing up in the blistering heat – it touched 40C on Sunday.

Source: The BBC

11/05/2019

China’s mothers say no to more babies, they can’t afford them

  • Birth rate continues to fall three years after one-child policy was relaxed
  • Survey finds high cost of raising children biggest deterrent to second baby
Chinese mothers say financial pressures are stopping them from having another child. Photo: Shutterstock
Chinese mothers say financial pressures are stopping them from having another child. Photo: Shutterstock
Half of China’s working mothers do not want a second child, mainly because of financial pressures, a survey released ahead of Mother’s Day has found.
Another 40 per cent said they hoped to have a second child, but dared not to, according to the 2019 working mothers’ living condition survey by Chinese recruitment website Zhaopin.com, which polled 8,739 women over the past two weeks.
The biggest obstacle deterring the mothers from having a second child was economic pressure, with 85 per cent saying they could not afford the high cost of raising children.
China’s low birth rate has been a top concern for the government since it introduced a universal two-child policy in 2016. After decades of a rigidly enforced restriction on couples to have only one child, the number of newborns has not risen as expected.
Births across the country have continued to fall over the past three years, from 17.86 million in 2016, to 17.23 million in 2017, and 15.23 million last year, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
Social demography professor Yang Juhua, from the Centre for Population and Development Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said there were several factors influencing Chinese women’s decision to stick to one child, despite the policy relaxation.

“People are reluctant to give birth because of two reasons: no money to raise kids and no people to look after them, especially when the babies are too young to be admitted to kindergartens,” she said.

The economic stress of raising a child was not about basic living costs, but the expense of extracurricular courses and tuition fees at elite private schools, she said.
“Parents have to send their kids to learn various subjects in order to keep up with their peers amid fierce competition. So the kids are called cash-smashers.”
‘Burden’ of homework leaves kids sleep-deprived Doris Ding, a mother of an eight-year-old boy in Shanghai, said she decided years ago not to have another child.
The senior manager at an audit firm and her husband, an IT engineer at a technology company, pay more than 200,000 yuan (US$30,000) a year for their son to attend an international primary school. His after-school classes, which include piano and public speaking, cost another 50,000 yuan a year.
“So it’s out of our reach to raise a second kid,” Ding said.
Yang said that for many families the second major challenge was an inability to find relatives or other trustworthy people to take care of their children while they were at work.
“Grandparents are too old or not strong enough to do that. We often hear complaints from old people that they are tired of raising the first kid and don’t want to help raise the second one. Otherwise, they don’t have a personal life at all for many years,” she said.
Chinese database lists whether 1.8 million women are ‘BreedReady’
Nurseries providing places for children under the age of three was far from sufficient to resolve the problem, Yang said.
On Thursday, China’s executive State Council proposed a raft of policies aimed at easing the childcare burden for new parents, including encouraging companies to set up day care services for children aged three and under, as well as extended childcare and maternity leave.
According to research by Zhu Qin, a professor from the Centre for Population and Development Policy Studies at Shanghai’s Fudan University, China’s total fertility rate is just 1.54 per woman, putting the country among the lowest birth rates in the world.
As well as the economic factors, Zhu said women were not willing to give birth because of the lack of support from society.
The latest survey from Zhaopin.com showed only 8 per cent of companies had designated rooms for mothers and infants, while 40 per cent of working mothers said they did not take their legally entitled maternity or breastfeeding leave.
“In big cities, white-collar women face the challenge that their career progress will be affected by having babies,” Zhu said.
Source: SCMP
06/05/2019

Summit demonstrates China’s leapfrog into digital world

CHINA-FUJIAN-HUANG KUNMING-DIGITAL CHINA SUMMIT-SPEECH(CN)

Huang Kunming, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, also head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, speaks at the opening ceremony of the second Digital China Summit in Fuzhou, southeast China’s Fujian Province, May 6, 2019. (Xinhua/Ding Lin)

FUZHOU, May 6 (Xinhua) — China on Monday sounded another heartening note for its development of information technologies, as both companies and the government rush to harness the nationwide tech boom to raise efficiency, buoy public satisfaction and even tackle corruption.

The second Digital China Summit opened Monday in eastern China’s Fujian Province, shedding light on the latest information technologies that have penetrated the country’s government, industries and society.

The Chinese government has expected information technologies to nurture new economic engines and upgrade old industries as the country shunts from the high-speed economic growth to the path of high-quality development.

Huang Kunming, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, in a keynote speech at the summit called for advancing the building of a digital China and smart society, stressing the role of information technology in promoting high-quality development.

Huang, also head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, said China’s advantages in internet technology innovation, technology application and as a huge market should be transformed into advantages in developing a digital economy.

The official called for achieving breakthroughs in core technologies, enhancing protection of intellectual property rights, advancing information infrastructure construction and narrowing digital gaps between urban and rural areas.

A report reviewing the country’s digital development in 2018 was also issued at the summit, pointing to rapid growth in sectors including electronic information manufacturing, software service, communications and big data.

The report published by the Cyberspace Administration of China said the country last year recorded more than 9 trillion yuan (1.3 trillion U.S. dollars) in online retail. China’s digital economy reached 31.3 trillion yuan in scale, accounting for one-third of the national GDP in 2018.

Provincial-level e-government platforms have also slashed time for getting government permits by an average of 30 percent, noted the report.

Trendy technologies from driverless vendor vehicles and facial recognition security checks to 5G networks are being used at the event in the city of Fuzhou. A number of tech companies are displaying their cutting-edge products including Baidu’s driverless vehicles, Huawei’s AI chip “Ascend” and Foxconn’s “future factories.”

Pony Ma, CEO of China’s Internet giant Tencent, said at the summit that the company, by working with Fujian police, has used its facial recognition technology to help 1,000 families find missing family members in the past two years.

Hu Xiaoming, president of Ant Financial that runs the popular online payment network Alipay, said at the event that one of every four Chinese now handles government services on Alipay, making it the country’s largest platform that offers access to government services.

E-GOVERNMENT

One of the major highlights at the summit’s exhibition area are the many e-government apps, which have mushroomed across China to incorporate a wide range of government and public services. They are part of the government’s efforts to cut red tape to benefit residents and businesses alike.

In Fuzhou, the host city of the event, a citizen’s typical day now revolves around the e-Fuzhou app, which allows users to buy bus tickets, pay tuition fees and manage social security accounts without the need of visiting government offices.

A slew of digital technology applications, including the big data credit inquiry system, the online tax bureau, and the paperless customs clearance system, have also been developed in the province over the years.

Dingxi, one of the least developed cities in west China’s Gansu Province, has a booth displaying an online monitoring platform, which it launched last year to allow villagers to scrutinize the management of poverty-relief funds and report any signs of corruption.

“We went door-to-door to teach villagers how to use mobile phones to check the subsidies they are entitled to and the sum other families actually received,” said Yang Sirun, an inspector with the city’s discipline inspection commission.

“In the past, some wealthy families feigned poverty to claim subsistence allowances, while some officials fraudulently pocketed subsidies in the names of families that had moved away. The new platform can easily expose such ‘micro corruption,'” Yang said.

The official said since its launch, over 3,400 officials and residents have voluntarily turned in their illegal gains for fear of being reported. “Many hidden problems were also found during the collation of data from different departments, which proves big data’s power in fighting corruption,” he said.

The summit from May 6 to 8 aims to serve as a platform for issuing China’s policies on IT development and displaying the achievements and experience of e-government and the digital economy.

More than 1,500 officials, company representatives and scholars are attending the event, which is co-organized by the Cyberspace Administration of China, National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and Fujian provincial government.

Source: Xinhua

29/04/2019

The Wandering Earth and China’s sci-fi heritage

Still from The Wandering EarthImage copyrightNETFLIX
Image caption The Wandering Earth debuts on Netflix on 30 April

The Wandering Earth has been billed as a breakthrough for Chinese sci-fi.

The film tells the story of our planet, doomed by the expanding Sun, being moved across space to a safer place. The Chinese heroes have to save the mission – and humanity – when Earth gets caught in Jupiter’s gravitational pull.

Based on Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin’s short story of the same name, Wandering Earth has already grossed $600m (£464m) at the Chinese box office and was called China’s “giant leap into science fiction” by the Financial Times. It’s been bought by Netflix and will debut there on 30 April.

But while this may be the first time many in the West have heard of “kehuan” – Chinese science fiction – Chinese cinema has a long sci-fi history, which has given support to scientific endeavour, offered escapism from harsh times and inspired generations of film-goers.

So for Western audiences eager to plot the rise of the Chinese sci-fi movie, here are five films I think are worth renewed attention.

Dislocation

Huang Jianxin, 1986

For most in the Western world, their first encounter with Chinese cinema came from directors like Wu Tianming (The Old Well, The King of Masks) and Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers, Raise the Red Lantern).

A still image from the film DislocationImage copyrightNANHAI FILMS
Image caption Dislocation explores themes of work and artificial intelligence in a surreal dreamscape

They were largely preoccupied with themes like the loss of youth, tradition versus change, and creating the rural aesthetic most people associated with Chinese film.

But China in the 1980s was a scene of rapid modernisation, urbanisation and Westernisation, and films started responding to the impact of this massive change.

In Dislocation, a scientist creates an android version of himself to attend the endless meetings that rob him of his time, in a black comedy of mechanisation and bureaucracy.

Huang’s take on the debate on artificial intelligence is superbly delivered against a surreal Kafka-esque dreamscape, with stark lighting and suspenseful music, making this film a delight to watch.

Hopefully the new interest in kehuan will see it gain an official release in the West.

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Warrior Revived

Li Guomin, 1995

A grown-up style of kehuan emerged in the 1990s, reflecting the themes of identity versus technological advancement which were also occupying Western sci-fi at the time.

Still image from Warrior RevivedImage copyrightSHANGHAI FILM STUDIOS
Image caption The low budget appearance of Warrior Revived never gets in the way of its creative energy

In Warrior Revived, police officer Song Da Wei dies a gruesome death on duty and ends up in a decade-long coma. He’s brought back to life by a “miracle cure” from a biologist who has found a way to repair defective DNA.

The genetically enhanced Song finds himself uncomfortable with the cyberised world around him, and excluded by his old comrades. Meanwhile, the heavily maimed villain he gave his life to destroy is plotting to steal the gene formula and wreak his revenge.

Like a lot of great cyberpunk movies before the age of CGI, this early mainland kehuan impresses with its high kitsch, low-budget, imaginative approach.

The villain’s lair is filled with neon tubes, hand-crafted lab controls and walls covered with plastic bowls in the best traditions of the Tardis.

What it lacks in sleekness it more than makes up with innovative costume designs and soundtrack, diligent camera work and the sheer energy from the cast.

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Wonder Boy

Song Chong, 1988

The 1980s brought a slew of Hollywood sci-fi films made for children, but which appealed equally to adults – like Explorers, Flight of The Navigator, and D.A.R.Y.L. – and filmmakers in China were taking a similar route.

Promotional poster for Wonder BoyImage copyrightCHILDREN’S FILM STUDIO
Image caption Wonder Boy remains popular and is still occasionally played out on national TV
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Produced by the Children’s Film Studios and hailed as the nation’s first children’s fantasy film, Wonder Boy tells the story of a child born with the ability to generate electricity.

Bei Bei is bullied by neighbours and kept in isolation by parents who want to protect him, but is still a caring and mischievous little boy, who uses his powers to help others and have fun in equal measure.

When Bei Bei is taken away to be experimented on – by a non-governmental, possibly foreign group – a handful of the close friends he has made come to his rescue.

Well-loved for its humour and accessibility, Wonder Boy is remembered in China as a great classic, and still enjoyed by children today when it is repeated on both national television and streaming services.

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Reset

Hong-Seung Yoon, 2017

Produced by Jackie Chan and winner of the 2017 Grand Remi for Best Feature and Best Actress, Reset is a time travel thriller, which addresses a Chinese preoccupation with personal roles in a culture that so totally promotes the good of society.

Xia Tian (Yang Mi) is a senior researcher of wormhole technology and a single mother. When her young son is kidnapped, she is forced to hand over her research, but when the villain murders her child anyway she is forced to test her own discoveries into time travel in order to save his life, and maybe undo her own betrayal of the programme.

Promotional poster for ResetImage copyrightBEIJING YAOYING MOVIE DISTRIBUTION CO LTD
Image caption Reset explores the identity struggle facing many modern Chinese women
The film is an exploration of the plight of a New Chinese Woman, who walks the line between the roles of highly skilled professional and loving mother. The psychological exploration is fantastic. With several versions of Xia being generated by her repeated time travel, the face-off between our heroine and these alternate selves, including a darker, damaged one, creates an amazing tension which is missing from so many Western takes on this classic trope.

A female-led space kehuan story that also deals with single parenthood couldn’t be more relevant in a society that is simultaneously beginning a golden space age, and struggling with attitudes to women’s emancipation.

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Super Mechs

Cui Junjie, 2018

Wuxia, or kung fu fantasy, is so intrinsic to Chinese pop culture it was almost inevitable that its tropes would be incorporated into Chinese sci-fi.

Promotional poster for Super MechsImage copyrightSEVEN ENTERTAINMENT PICTURES
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Produced exclusively for IQiyi, China’s version of Netflix, Super Mechs is set in 2066 in a world where humanity has begun to experience genetic mutations which leave some people with X-Men style super powers.

Global criminal organisations are threatening the order of society and private entities are stepping up to uphold it by developing highly advanced mechanised power suits.

Hero Xiao Qi is an ordinary office clerk enlisted by the Dragon Clan, who reveal to him his latent mutant ice powers, before arming him with a robotic power suit and sending him on a mission. Little does Xiao Qi know that he will be greeted by another mech-suited warrior with fire-based powers who will fight him to a standstill.

The “warriors with opposite powers” trope is a staple of the wuxia genre, but the film falls deeper down the rabbit hole when this deadly opponent is revealed to be Xiao Qi’s long-lost brother.

Add in ancient warring clans, fast-paced action between the sleek computer-generated mechanical fighters and a cheeky sense of humour from our protagonist, and the high budget Huayi Brothers production appeals to fans of superhero, kung fu and toku/tecuo films alike.

The works of stalwart wuxia authors like Jin Yong are steadily being translated into English, so we will certainly see more from this sub-genre reach our screens.

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Acknowledging the rich and varied Chinese science fiction tradition does not at all detract from the pride in the success of Wandering Earth.

With China’s growing middle class and increased youth spending power, Chinese filmmakers are increasingly catering for a booming domestic demand for entertainment, and no longer worry as much about making their films palatable for export.

But with more East-West co-productions in the pipeline, like the animated Next Gen which originated from a Chinese web comic, it is certainly a sensible decision for companies like Netflix to bring films from platforms like IQiyi, to an English speaking audience, and that is going to include kehuan.

Western audiences may not immediately “get” some of these films, or may feel that some elements do not flow to their expectations.

But Wandering Earth and the titles above are the product of China’s culture and worldview. And to some extent, it’s what makes them different that will pique interest, fascinate and entertain.

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