Archive for ‘Culture’


Seven Silk Road destinations, from China to Italy: towns that grew rich on trade

  • Settlements along the route linking Europe and Asia thrived by providing accommodation and services for countless traders
  • Formally established during the Han dynasty, it was a 19th-century German geographer who coined the term Silk Road
The ruins of a fortified gatehouse and cus­toms post at Yunmenguan Pass, in China’s Gansu province. Photo: Alamy
The ruins of a fortified gatehouse and cus­toms post at Yunmenguan Pass, in China’s Gansu province. Photo: Alamy
We have a German geographer, cartographer and explorer to thank for the name of the world’s most famous network of transconti­nental trade routes.
Formally established during the Han dynasty, in the first and second centuries BC, it wasn’t until 1877 that Ferdinand von Richthofen coined the term Silk Road (historians increasingly favour the collective term Silk Routes).
The movement of merchandise between China and Europe had been taking place long before the Han arrived on the scene but it was they who employed troops to keep the roads safe from marauding nomads.
Commerce flourished and goods as varied as carpets and camels, glassware and gold, spices and slaves were traded; as were horses, weapons and armour.
Merchants also moved medicines but they were no match for the bubonic plague, which worked its way west along the Silk Road before devastating huge swathes of 14th century Europe.
What follows are some of the countless kingdoms, territories, (modern-day) nations and cities that grew rich on the proceeds of trade, taxes and tolls.


A watchtower made of rammed earth at Dunhuang, a desert outpost at the crossroads of two major Silk Road routes in China’s northwestern Gansu province. Photo: Alamy
A watchtower made of rammed earth at Dunhuang, a desert outpost at the crossroads of two major Silk Road routes in China’s northwestern Gansu province. Photo: Alamy

Marco Polo worked in the Mongol capital, Khanbaliq (today’s Beijing), and was struck by the level of mercantile activity.

The Venetian gap-year pioneer wrote, “Every day more than a thousand carts loaded with silk enter the city, for a great deal of cloth of gold and silk is woven here.”

Light, easy to transport items such as paper and tea provided Silk Road traders with rich pickings, but it was China’s monopoly on the luxurious shimmering fabric that guaranteed huge profits.

So much so that sneaking silk worms out of the empire was punishable by death.

The desert outpost of Dunhuang found itself at the crossroads of two major Silk Road trade arteries, one leading west through the Pamir Mountains to Central Asia and another south to India.

Built into the Great Wall at nearby Yunmenguan are the ruins of a fortified gatehouse and cus­toms post, which controlled the movement of Silk Road caravans.

Also near Dunhuang, the Mogao Caves contain one of the richest collections of Buddhist art treasures any­where in the world, a legacy of the route to and from the subcontinent.


Afghanistan's mountainous terrain was an inescapable part of the Silk Road, until maritime technologies would become the area's undoing. Photo: Shutterstock
Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain was an inescapable part of the Silk Road, until maritime technologies would become the area’s undoing. Photo: Shutterstock

For merchants and middlemen hauling goods through Central Asia, there was no way of bypassing the mountainous lands we know today as Afghanistan.

Evidence of trade can be traced back to long before the Silk Road – locally mined lapis lazuli stones somehow found their way to ancient Egypt, and into Tutankhamun’s funeral mask, created in 1323BC.

Jagged peaks, rough roads in Tajikistan, roof of the world

Besides mercan­tile exchange, the caravan routes were responsible for the sharing of ideas and Afghanistan was a major beneficiary. Art, philosophy, language, science, food, architecture and technology were all exchanged, along with commercial goods.

In fact, maritime technology would eventually be the area’s undoing. By the 15th century, it had become cheaper and more convenient to transport cargo by sea – a far from ideal development for a landlocked region.


The Ganjali Khan Complex, in Iran. Photo: Shutterstock
The Ganjali Khan Complex, in Iran. Photo: Shutterstock

Thanks to the Silk Road and the routes that preceded it, the northern Mesopotamian region (present-day Iran) became China’s closest trading partner. Traders rarely journeyed the entire length of the trail, however.

Merchandise was passed along by middlemen who each travelled part of the way and overnighted in caravan­serai, forti­fied inns that provided accom­mo­dation, storerooms for goods and space for pack animals.

The good, bad and ugly sides to visiting Chernobyl and Kiev

With so many wheeler-dealers gathering in one place, the hostelries developed into ad hoc marketplaces.

Marco Polo writes of the Persian kingdom of Kerman, where craftsmen made saddles, bridles, spurs and “arms of every kind”.

Today, in the centre of Kerman, the former caravanserai building forms part of the Ganjali Khan Complex, which incorporates a bazaar, bathhouse and mosque.


A fort in Khiva, Uzbekistan. Photo: Alamy
A fort in Khiva, Uzbekistan. Photo: Alamy

The double-landlocked country boasts some of the Silk Road’s most fabled destinations. Forts, such as the one still standing at Khiva, were built to protect traders from bandits; in fact, the city is so well-preserved, it is known as the Museum under the Sky.

The name Samarkand is also deeply entangled with the history of the Silk Road.

The earliest evidence of silk being used outside China can be traced to Bactria, now part of modern Uzbekistan, where four graves from around 1500BC-1200BC contained skeletons wrapped in garments made from the fabric.

Three thousand years later, silk weaving and the production and trade of textiles remain one of Samarkand’s major industries.


A street in old town of Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo: Alamy
A street in old town of Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo: Alamy

Security issues in Persia led to the opening up of another branch of the legendary trade route and the first caravan loaded with silk made its way across Georgia in AD568.

Marco Polo referred to the weaving of raw silk in “a very large and fine city called Tbilisi”.

Today, the capital has shaken off the Soviet shackles and is on the cusp of going viral.

Travellers lap up the city’s monaster­ies, walled fortresses and 1,000-year-old churches before heading up the Georgian Military Highway to stay in villages nestling in the soaring Caucasus Mountains.

Public minibuses known as marshrutka labour into the foothills and although the vehicles can get cramped and uncomfortable, they beat travelling by camel.


Petra, in Jordan. Photo: Alamy
Petra, in Jordan. Photo: Alamy

The location of the Nabataean capital, Petra, wasn’t chosen by chance.

Savvy nomadic herders realised the site would make the perfect pit-stop at the confluence of several caravan trails, including a route to the north through Palmyra (in modern-day Syria), the Arabian peninsula to the south and Mediterranean ports to the west.

Huge payments in the form of taxes and protection money were collected – no wonder the most magnificent of the sand­stone city’s hand-carved buildings is called the Treasury.

The Red Rose City is still a gold mine – today’s tourists pay a hefty

US$70 fee to enter Petra

. The Nabataeans would no doubt approve.


Tourists crowd onto Venice’s Rialto Bridge. Photo: Alamy
Tourists crowd onto Venice’s Rialto Bridge. Photo: Alamy

Trade enriched Venice beyond measure, helping shape the Adriatic entrepot into the floating marvel we see today.

Besides the well-documented flow of goods heading west, consignments of cotton, ivory, animal furs, grapevines and other goods passed through the strategically sited port on their way east.

Ironically, for a city built on trade and taxes, the biggest problem Venice faces today is visitors who don’t contribute enough to the local economy.

A lack of spending by millions of day-tripping tourists and cruise passengers who aren’t liable for nightly hotel taxes has prompted authorities to introduce a citywide access fee from January 2020.

Two thousand years ago, tariffs and tolls helped Venice develop and prosper. Now they’re needed to prevent its demise.

Source: SCMP


Tiananmen Square: What happened in the protests of 1989?

File photo of protestersImage copyright AFP
Image caption By early June 1989, huge numbers had gathered in Tiananmen Square

Thirty years ago, Beijing’s Tiananmen Square became the focus for large-scale protests, which were crushed by China’s Communist rulers.

The events produced one of the most iconic photos of the 20th Century – a lone protester standing in front of a line of army tanks.

What led up to the events?

In the 1980s, China was going through huge changes.

The ruling Communist Party began to allow some private companies and foreign investment.

Leader Deng Xiaoping hoped to boost the economy and raise living standards.

However, the move brought with it corruption, while at the same time raising hopes for greater political openness.

Protesters in Tiananmen SquareImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Protesters in Tiananmen Square, 1989

The Communist Party was divided between those urging more rapid change and hardliners wanting to maintain strict state control.

In the mid-1980s, student-led protests started.

Those taking part included people who had lived abroad and been exposed to new ideas and higher standards of living.

How did the protests grow?

In spring 1989, the protests grew, with demands for greater political freedom.

Protesters were spurred on by the death of a leading politician, Hu Yaobang, who had overseen some of the economic and political changes.

Archive picture of Deng and HuImage copyrigh AFP
Image caption Deng Xiaoping (left) with Hu Yaobang

He had been pushed out of a top position in the party by political opponents two years earlier.

Tens of thousands gathered on the day of Hu’s funeral, in April, calling for greater freedom of speech and less censorship.

In the following weeks, protesters gathered in Tiananmen Square, with numbers estimated to be up to one million at their largest.

The square is one of Beijing’s most famous landmarks.

It is near the tomb of Mao Zedong, the founder of modern China, and the Great Hall of the People, used for Communist Party meetings.

What was the government’s response?

At first, the government took no direct action against the protesters.

Party officials disagreed on how to respond, some backing concessions, others wanting to take a harder line.

The hardliners won the debate, and in the last two weeks of May, martial law was declared in Beijing.

On 3 to 4 June, troops began to move towards Tiananmen Square, opening fire, crushing and arresting protesters to regain control of the area.

Who was Tank Man?

On 5 June, a man faced down a line of tanks heading away from the square.

He was carrying two shopping bags and was filmed walking to block the tanks from moving past.

"Tank Man" in BeijingImage copyright GETTY IMAGES

He was pulled away by two men.

It’s not known what happened to him but he’s become the defining image of the protests.

How many people died in the protests?

No-one knows for sure how many people were killed.

At the end of June 1989, the Chinese government said 200 civilians and several dozen security personnel had died.

Other estimates have ranged from hundreds to many thousands.

In 2017, newly released UK documents revealed that a diplomatic cable from then British Ambassador to China, Sir Alan Donald, had said that 10,000 had died.

Do people in China know what happened?

Discussion of the events that took place in Tiananmen Square is highly sensitive in China.

View of Tiananmen SquareImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Tiananmen Square now – full of tourists and surveillance cameras

Posts relating to the massacres are regularly removed from the internet, tightly controlled by the government.

So, for a younger generation who didn’t live through the protests, there is little awareness about what happened.

Source: The BBC


No compulsory Hindi in India schools after Tamil Nadu anger

Indian schoolchildren are silhouetted against a national flag as they participate in Independence Day celebrations in Chennai on August 15, 2016.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Tamils argue that imposing Hindi will jeopardise their language

The Indian government has revised a controversial draft bill to make Hindi a mandatory third language to be taught in schools across the country.

The draft bill had met particularly strong opposition in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, which has always resisted the “imposition” of Hindi.

In 1965, it saw violent protests against a proposal that Hindi would be India’s only official language.

Tamil is one of the oldest languages and evokes a lot of pride in the state.

However the government decision has not calmed tensions in Tamil Nadu.

The two main political parties in the state, the DMK and AIADMK, have both said that simply revising the draft to say Hindi would not be mandatory is not enough.

The state teaches only two languages – Tamil and English – in the government school curriculum, and the parties do not want a third language introduced at all.

A DMK spokesman told the NDTV news channel that the third language clause would be used as a “back door” to introduce Hindi anyway.

Their rivals, the AIADMK, which allied with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the general elections but lost badly in the state, had a similar view.

“Our party has always been clear in our stand. We have always followed a two-language policy. Though mandatory Hindi has been revised in the draft now, we still cannot support this three-language system. Our government will talk to the union government for our rights,” former state education minister and AIADMK spokesman Vaigaichelvan told BBC Tamil.

On Monday, #HindiIsNotTheNationalLanguage began trending on Twitter in India, which saw many from Tamil Nadu facing off against people from other parts of the country and asserting their right not to have the language “imposed” on them.

Skip Twitter post by @Akahrsh
Skip Twitter post by @AkbarHussaine
Presentational white space“There is no opposition to actually learning Hindi. In fact with the recent IT boom in the south, so many people from the north have migrated here that its use has become more widespread here. It is true that if you know Hindi you will find it easier to get work in other parts of India, so there are also many people here who willingly learn it. But that should be their choice. What people are opposing is the imposition of it,” senior journalist and political analyst KN Arun told the BBC.

Mr Arun also warned that there was a chance that the issue could lead to further protests in the state, saying that a few hardline Tamil groups had been using the issue to whip up anger among the people.

It is also a particularly emotive issue. Politics in the state is still centred around the ideas and principles of the Dravidian movement, which among other things reveres the Tamil language and links it closely to regional identity.

“Tamil is very rich in literature and different to other languages like Hindi which branched out of Sanskrit. There is fear that the Indian government is trying to slowly introduce Hindi, which will threaten the status of Tamil,” author and journalist Vaasanthi told the BBC.

Source: The BBC


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


Summit demonstrates China’s leapfrog into digital world


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.


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


China’s booming middle class creates opportunities for culture, entertainment industry: business leaders

NEW YORK, April 6 (Xinhua) — Boosted by a growing middle class population, China’s culture and entertainment industry enjoys broader prospect and is creating enormous opportunities, a group of business leaders from the United States and China said here Saturday.

Chinese society today has a growing appetite for the intellectual strength of art and music, Joseph Polisi, president emeritus and chief China officer at the Juilliard School, a renowned performing arts conservatory in the United States, said at a panel in New York.

Themed “The human connection: China and America in culture and entertainment,” the panel is part of the ongoing annual conference held by the Committee of 100 (C100), a premier U.S. organization of Chinese-American leaders from different fields.

The demand of “Chinese audiences are growing in size for western music,” he said, adding that Chinese parents have a greater request for orchestral musical training programs resulting in Chinese children being able to engage in sophisticated musical works at a young age.

Polisi, who is also an accomplished bassoonist, said that Juilliard is establishing a campus in Tianjin. Slated to open in fall 2019, the Tianjin campus offers audition-based programs on pre-college and graduate levels.

U.S. businesses have much to gain by accessing the Chinese market with the growth of the Chinese middle class and the emergence of dynamic forces including the nation’s Generation Z, small-town and rural dwellers, noted the panelists.

Their growing demand for a better life and high-quality goods will create new business opportunities.

Ben Wood, founder of Studio Shanghai Architectural Firm, who has spent 22 years in China, said bringing popular culture to China through the rapid rise of the middle class is among others behind his business success.

Gong Yu, founder and CEO of China’s leading online entertainment platform iQiyi, said his company delivers content to 200 to 300 million users daily, a remarkable achievement made in a span of only nine years thanks to the broader picture of China’s rapid development. He is confident that there will be more Chinese culture and entertainment production going global since more Chinese young people are willing to be dedicated in the industry.

Now China is home to the world’s biggest middle-income group comprised of some 400 million people, and the number is still on the rise. The country is evolving from the world’s workshop to becoming a major consumer of goods and services instead.

ource: Xinhua


Xi stresses perseverance in fight against poverty


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


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.