Ozone layer: Banned CFCs traced to China say scientists

home insulationImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Much of the CFC-11 gas has been used in home insulation

Researchers say that they have pinpointed the major sources of a mysterious recent rise in a dangerous, ozone-destroying chemical.

CFC-11 was primarily used for home insulation but global production was due to be phased out in 2010.

But scientists have seen a big slowdown in the rate of depletion over the past six years.

This new study says this is mostly being caused by new gas production in eastern provinces of China.

CFC-11 is also known as trichlorofluoromethane, and is one of a number of chloroflurocarbon (CFC) chemicals that were initially developed as refrigerants during the 1930s.

However, it took many decades for scientists to discover that when CFCs break down in the atmosphere, they release chlorine atoms that are able to rapidly destroy the ozone layer which protects us from ultraviolet light. A gaping hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica was discovered in the mid 1980s.

Media caption Twenty-five years of ice loss in the Antarctic

The international community agreed the Montreal Protocol in 1987, which banned most of the offending chemicals. Recent research suggests that the hole in the Northern Hemisphere could be fully fixed by the 2030s and Antarctica by the 2060s.

When was the CFC problem discovered?

CFC-11 was the second most abundant CFCs and was initially seen to be declining as expected.

However in 2018 a team of researchers monitoring the atmosphere found that the rate of decline had slowed by about 50% after 2012.

Image caption Monitoring stations in Korea and Japan were key to detecting the mystery sources of CFC-11

That team reasoned that they were seeing new production of the gas, coming from East Asia. The authors of that paper argued that if the sources of new production weren’t shut down, it could delay the healing of the ozone layer by a decade.

What did investigators find on the ground?

Further detective work in China by the Environmental Investigation Agency in 2018 seemed to indicate that the country was indeed the source. They found that the illegal chemical was used in the majority of the polyurethane insulation produced by firms they contacted.

One seller of CFC-11 estimated that 70% of China’s domestic sales used the illegal gas. The reason was quite simple – CFC-11 is better quality and much cheaper than the alternatives.

So what does this latest study show?

This new paper seems to confirm beyond any reasonable doubt that some 40-60% of the increase in emissions is coming from provinces in eastern China.

Using what are termed “top-down” measurements from air monitoring stations in South Korea and Japan, the researchers were able to show that since 2012 CFC-11 has increased from production sites in eastern China.

home insulationImage copyright GETTY IMAGES

They calculated that there was a 110% rise in emissions from these parts of China for the years 2014-2017 compared to the period between 2008-2012.

“This new study is based on spikes in the data on air that comes from China,” lead author Dr Matt Rigby, a reader at the University of Bristol, told BBC Inside Science.

“Using computer simulations of the transport of these gases through the atmosphere we can start to put numbers on emissions from different regions and that’s where we come up with this number of around 7,000 tonnes of extra CFC-11 emissions coming out of China compared to before 2012.

“But from the data, all we just see are the ultimate releases to the atmosphere, we don’t have any information on how that CFC-11 was used or where it was produced, it is entirely possible that it was manufactured in some other region, some other part of China or even some other country and was transported to the place where they are making insulating foams at which point some of it could have been emitted to the atmosphere.”

Where are the rest of the emissions coming from?

The researchers are not sure. It’s possible that the missing emissions are coming from other parts of China, as the monitoring stations just can’t see them. They could also be coming from India, Africa or South America as again there is very little monitoring in these regions.

Does this have implications for climate change?

Yes – the authors say that these CFCs are also very potent greenhouse gases. One tonne of CFC-11 is equivalent to around 5,000 tonnes of CO2.

“If we look at these extra emissions that we’ve identified from eastern China, it equates to about 35 million tonnes of CO2 being emitted into the atmosphere every year, that’s equivalent to about 10% of UK emissions, or similar to the whole of London.”

Will China clampdown on the production?

The Chinese say they have already started to clamp down on production by what they term “rogue manufacturers”. Last November, several suspects were arrested in Henan province, in possession of 30 tonnes of CFC-11.

Clare Perry from the Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA) said that the new findings re-affirmed the need to stamp out production.

“I think with this study, it is beyond doubt that China is the source of these unexpected emissions, and we would hope that China is leaving no stone unturned to discover the source of the CFC-11 production.

“Unless the production of the chemical is shut down it will be near impossible to end the use and emissions in the foam companies.”

The study has been published in the journal Nature.

Source: The BBC


U.S. Navy again sails through Taiwan Strait, angering China

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military said it sent two Navy ships through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, its latest transit through the sensitive waterway, angering China at a time of tense relations between the world’s two biggest economies.

Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which also include a bitter trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom-of-navigation patrols.

The voyage will be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from the Trump administration amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing, which views the island as a breakaway province.

The transit was carried out by the destroyer Preble and the Navy oil tanker Walter S. Diehl, a U.S. military spokesman told Reuters.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said in a statement.

Doss said all interactions were safe and professional.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Beijing had lodged “stern representations” with the United States.
“The Taiwan issue is the most sensitive in China-U.S. relations,” he told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the two U.S. ships had sailed north through the Taiwan Strait and that they had monitored the mission.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said there was no cause for alarm.
“Nothing abnormal happened during it, please everyone rest assured,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
U.S. warships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait at least once a month since the start of this year. The United States restarted such missions on a regular basis last July.
The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide the island with the means to defend itself and is its main source of arms.
The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taipei more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.
China has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island, which it considers part of “one China” and sacred Chinese territory, to be brought under Beijing’s control by force if needed.
Beijing said a recent Taiwan Strait passage by a French warship, first reported by Reuters, was illegal.
China has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle Taiwan on exercises in the past few years and worked to isolate it internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.
The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency released a report earlier this year describing Taiwan as the “primary driver” for China’s military modernization, which it said had made major advances in recent years.
On Sunday, the Preble sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal claimed by China in the South China Sea, angering Beijing.
The state-run China Daily said in an editorial on Wednesday that China had shown “utmost restraint”.
“With tensions between the two countries already rife, there is no guarantee that the presence of U.S. warships on China’s doorstep will not spark direct confrontation between the two militaries,” it said.
Source: Reuters

EE keeps Huawei in first British 5G network but halts handsets

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s biggest mobile operator EE said on Wednesday its 5G network would rely on equipment made by China’s Huawei, at least for the first few years, as it announced plans to switch on the next-generation services on May 30.

However, BT-owned EE joined rival Vodafone in pulling a Huawei smartphone from its 5G launch line-up because of uncertainty about support by Google’s Android after a U.S. move to block the Chinese firm’s access to its technology.

The United States has said Huawei is a security risk and open to spying by Beijing, a claim the Chinese company denies.

The government will rule imminently whether Huawei will be allowed to participate in these new networks.

EE Chief Executive Marc Allera said its planned 5G launch was “the start of the UK’s 5G journey and great news for our customers that want and need the best connections”.

Britain had given the green light for the launch, which will see six cities including London, Cardiff and Edinburgh switched on next week and another 10 by the end of the year, he added.

“We do believe it is important for the UK that we are in the pack of the leading nations (for 5G),” he said. “At the moment we have no instructions [from government] to change our plans.”

EE has said it was already removing Huawei networking equipment from it core network. BT Group’s technology chief Howard Watson, however, said 5G would start before Huawei was totally removed from the core of its network.

“We are launching 5G with Huawei in the radio access network and we are using an upgraded version of that existing core, which will then … be migrated away from,” Watson said.


EE and Vodafone have opened orders for 5G phones, for example from Samsung, to be available when their networks launch.

Apple does not yet have a 5G phone and analysts do not expect it to launch one until 2020 at the earliest.

Users were already regularly achieving speed of 500Mbps in tests networks, Allera said, adding that he was confident speeds of 1Gbps would be reached by the end of the year.
Average speeds at launch would be about 200Mbps, five times faster than typical top 4G speeds, while EE said smartphone tariffs would range from 54 pounds ($68) a month for 10GB of data to 74 pounds a month for 120GB.
It aims to have 1,500 5G sites by the end of 2019, targeting the busiest areas of the busiest cities, he said.
Industry analyst Kester Mann from CCS said he “applauded a realistic launch” that did not over-inflate expectations.
“Although being the first UK network to launch 5G will mean little to consumers, EE clearly see it as an important honor,” he said. Vodafone launches on July 3.
Huawei’s Mate 20X (5G) had been expected to be among the devices available on both company’s superfast networks, but EE dropped the company from a launch line-up that includes Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G, and devices from Oppo, LG and OnePlus.
“We have put the Huawei devices on pause until we have got a bit some more information,” Allera said, adding that EE needed to be sure the devices it supplies are going to be supported.

Vodafone UK took the same step, stopping pre-orders for the handset before the launch of its network.

Huawei, the world’s second-biggest phone maker runs its devices on Google’s Android platform outside China, but the U.S. Commerce Department blocked Huawei from buying U.S. goods last week, throwing future software updates into question.

Britain was set to allow Huawei some participation in the radio part of 5G networks but bar it from the intelligent core. But a decision has not been announced, and the U.S. and some politicians are pushing for a more far-reaching ban.

Source: Reuters


Beyond the Yellow River: DNA tells new story of the origins of Han Chinese

  • Researchers say history of China’s biggest ethnic group is more complex than many believe
  • DNA study involving 20,000 unrelated people points to three river origins
The study of Han DNA by the team from the Kunming institute challenges a long-held view of the early origins of Chinese civilisation. Photo: Xinhua
The study of Han DNA by the team from the Kunming institute challenges a long-held view of the early origins of Chinese civilisation. Photo: Xinhua
The origins of China’s biggest ethnic group can be traced back to three river valleys, deposing the Yellow River as the sole cradle of Chinese civilisation, according to a new study.
The Yellow has long been hailed as the mother river of Han Chinese, who make up nearly 92 per cent of the country’s population today.
But research published in the online journal Molecular Biology and Evolution on Wednesday said the Yangtze and Pearl rivers – as well as the Yellow – gave rise to genetically separate groups about 10,000 years ago. Those ancestors then mingled to become the largest ethnic group in the world today, it said.
“The history of Han Chinese is more sophisticated than thought,” said Professor Kong Qingdong, a researcher with the Kunming Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and lead scientist in the study. “Many details need investigation.”
A DNA study suggests the Yellow River (above) may have to share its place as a cradle for Han Chinese with the Yangtze and the Pearl. Photo: Xinhua
A DNA study suggests the Yellow River (above) may have to share its place as a cradle for Han Chinese with the Yangtze and the Pearl. Photo: Xinhua

After analysing DNA samples from more than 20,000 unrelated Han Chinese, examining their dialects and family geography and comparing those to archaeological DNA records, scientists concluded that the Yangtze and Pearl had equal claim with the Yellow to Han origins.

Progenitors from the three river valleys evolved independently, the Kunming team said, and distinctions found in the mitochondrial DNA (the mother’s line) of study volunteers added weight to their assertion.

Who are you? DNA tests help Chinese retrace ancient steps

About 0.07 per cent of the DNA examined in the Han Chinese study differed according to river valley origin. By comparison, the difference was much lower – 0.02 per cent – when the study volunteer data was assessed by dialect, the researchers said.

Earlier studies of genetic markers and microsatellite data that mapped the prevalence of DNA revealed that Han Chinese can be generally divided into two groups: North and South. The latest study found that the genetic variation between North and South Han Chinese is 0.03 per cent, considerably less significant than the distinction by rivers.

Dr Li Yuchun, lead author of the paper, said the findings helped trace the history of Han to the dawn of civilisation, the emergence of agriculture and the sustainable growth of population.

The earliest migrants from Africa to China arrived in what is now the southwest between 60,000 and 100,000 years ago, studies said. The genes of this group of hunter-gatherers were largely unchanged for tens of thousands years.

About 10,000 years ago, agricultural practices began to emerge in the valleys of the three rivers. Archaeologists found evidence of millet cultivation around the Yellow River, rice in the Yangtze, and roots and tubers in the Pearl.

The busy Yangtze River flows through Chongqing in southwest China. Photo: Xinhua
The busy Yangtze River flows through Chongqing in southwest China. Photo: Xinhua

“Increasing food led to a population boom in these areas. We can see it in the separate path of gene evolution,” Li said.

The research also found that women were able to preserve their genetic story better than men as they stayed at home to tend the fields, while men went to explore, trade or wage war.

“Females are resilient to invasion,” she said.

The cultural significance of knowing one’s ancestry

The research team planned to examine the Y-chromosome, which passed from father to son, to study the expansion of the Han civilisation, Li said.

“It will be interesting to hear the story from a male perspective,” she said.

As the Han empires expanded, many ancient ethnic groups such as Huns, Siberians, Khitan in northern China and the Thai-Khadai speaking peoples in the south, passed from the record.

Some researchers think these minorities become extinct, but others believe they were absorbed into the Han Chinese population.

Source: SCMP


Chinese envoy asks for adherence to political solution in Libya


Ma Zhaoxu (C, Front), China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, addresses a Security Council meeting on the situation in Libya, at the UN headquarters in New York, on May 21, 2019. Ma Zhaoxu on Tuesday called for the proper handling of sanctions against Libya. (Xinhua/Ma Jianguo)

UNITED NATIONS, May 21 (Xinhua) — A Chinese envoy on Tuesday called for adherence to a political solution in Libya.

“There is a need to stick to a political solution. China has always believed that the Libyan issue must be settled through political means,” Ma Zhaoxu, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, told the Security Council.

“We hope that parties to the conflict in Libya will put the interests of the country and the people first, respond to the calls of the international community for a cease-fire as soon as possible, ease the tensions and return to the path of settlement through peaceful dialogue and consultation.”

He added that the safety and security of civilians must be protected and the humanitarian situation in the country must be improved.

Ma asked for synergy of international efforts. The international community should respect Libya’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Countries with influence should push for the resolution of differences among the parties, help build trust and provide constructive assistance to the parties in achieving a cease-fire and returning to political dialogue, said the Chinese ambassador.

He also stressed the need for coordination. China supports the promotion of the political settlement process in Libya under the leadership of the United Nations, and the good offices of the UN secretary-general and his special representative for Libya, he said. China also supports the active role of regional organizations such as the African Union, and hopes that the mechanisms will fully leverage their advantages and enhance coordination and cooperation.

Source: Xinhua


China plans to remove all expressway toll booths by end of 2019

BEIJING, May 21 (Xinhua) — China has unveiled a guideline to meet the goal of removing all expressway toll booths at provincial borders by the end of this year.

Local governments should work to improve toll collecting systems and promote the application of non-stop electronic toll collection systems, according to the guideline released by the General Office of the State Council.

Meanwhile, related laws and regulations should be optimized, said the guideline.

Through the move, China aims to help solve the issue of expressway traffic congestion, enhance traffic efficiency and reduce logistics costs.

Source: Xinhua


China, Kenya relations have developed with deep roots: Chinese envoy

NAIROBI, May 21 (Xinhua) — China and Kenya have deepened mutual political trust and expanded cooperation over the years, pushing their relations to the level of a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Wu Peng said on Tuesday.

Wu said increased cooperation has seen China’s non-financial direct investment in Kenya record double-fold increase to about 520 million U.S. dollars in 2018.

“Now we have over 400 Chinese companies in Kenya, creating thousands of jobs for local community,” Wu said.

“Both sides enjoy frequent exchanges in education, science and culture. The China-Africa Joint Research Center and China-Kenya Joint Laboratory for Crop Molecular Biology have been operating smoothly in Kenya,” Wu said during the sixth press club meeting in Nairobi.

Since 2015, he said, China has provided over 67,000 training opportunities for Kenyans.

“Currently, over 2,400 Kenyan students are studying in China. In 2018, over 81,000 Chinese tourists traveled to Kenya for leisure and adventure,” he said.

Wu observed that China’s funding to Kenya and other developing countries is aimed at development.

“China always attaches high importance to debt sustainability. Before making decisions, Chinese companies and banks, even the third party, go through rigorous feasibility studies, evaluation, and review of a country’s credit rating,”said Wu, who used the occasion to discuss some hot topics about the China-Kenya partnership.

Huge infrastructural projects like the standard gauge railway (SGR) may take long to yield returns, but they are solid and valid assets, whose value will grow in time, he stressed.

The SGR, according to Wu, is a flagship project that showcases the fast speed and high quality of China-Kenya cooperation.

The building of Mombasa-Nairobi SGR has driven the Kenya’s economic growth by 1.5 percent and created 46,000 jobs for local residents.

He said the train shortened the Nairobi-Mombasa trip from over 10 hours to five hours. Since its launch in May 2017, with an average booking rate of 99 percent, over 2.77 million passengers have traveled by the SGR, and around 4.2 million tonnes of goods have been transported, said Wu.

In the first full year of operation, SGR earned nearly 10.33 billion Kenyan shillings (about 103 million dollars, which is very close to the operation cost of 120 million dollars a year, he said, adding that for an infrastructural project of SGR’s magnitude, it is not easy to achieve near break-even in one year.

China and Kenya are currently discussing the construction of the Mombasa Special Economic Zone and the Naivasha Industrial Park, said the ambassador.

“With the development of the industrial chain from railway transportation, port economy to industrial parks, we have every reason to believe that SGR will benefit Kenya’s efforts towards industrialization, and strongly boost Kenya’s GDP growth significantly.”

He noted that China does not pursue a policy of trade surplus with Kenya, adding it is paying great attention to Kenya’s desire to expand exports.

“We understand how important agricultural exports are to Kenya. Consequently, we have been working hard to expand China’s imports for Kenya’s agricultural produce,” said Wu.

Last year, China and Kenya signed an agreement on export of stevia to China. An agreement on the export of frozen avocados was also signed, which makes Kenya the first African country to export avocados to China, he added.

He said the two countries are working to seal the deal on export of fresh avocados, as well as working on other horticultural products.

Christopher Chika, head of Asia and Australasia affairs at Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Kenya will continue to engage with China as long as the relationship is beneficial.

“Our relationship is based on mutual respect and equality. China plays a great role in stabilizing Africa and we shall work with the Chinese nationally, regionally and internationally,” Chika said.

Source: Xinhua


Chinese, Kyrgyz officials vow to enhance bilateral cooperation


Visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (L) and Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Chyngyz Aidarbekov attend a signing ceremony of the Cooperation Program from 2020 to 2021 between Chinese Foreign Ministry and Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on May 21, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Yong)

BISHKEK, May 21 (Xinhua) — Visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday held talks with Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Chyngyz Aidarbekov in Bishkek, vowing to enhance cooperation in various fields between the two countries.

Wang noted that China and Kyrgyzstan are friendly neighbors and comprehensive strategic partners linked by mountains and rivers. The two heads of states reached a wide range of consensuses on further developing bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership on the sidelines of the second Belt and Road Forum of International Cooperation in Beijing in April.

Taking the opportunity of jointly building the Belt and Road, China is ready to pursue coordination of the development strategies between China and Kyrgyzstan and effectively implement the key projects for the benefit of the two peoples, the Chinese state councilor said during the meeting.

To this end, the two sides should work to build closer people-to-people ties, promote local-level cooperation, further strengthen security cooperation ties and expand cooperation in fighting the “three forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism, transnational crime and drug trafficking, said Wang, adding that China fully supports Kyrgyzstan in hosting the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in June to promote further cooperation among the member states.

Wang stressed that the sustained, steady and sound development of bilateral relations serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples. China appreciates Kyrgyzstan’s firm support on some major issues concerning Taiwan and Xinjiang, and will resolutely support Kyrgyzstan’s independent choice of development path as well as its internal and external policies to maintain national independence, sovereignty and security.

For his part, Aidarbekov extended warm congratulations on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China and expressed sincere admiration for China’s great achievements during the 40 years of reform and opening up.

He noted that Kyrgyzstan attaches great importance to the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries, fully supports the Belt and Road Initiative, and is ready to further promote bilateral cooperation in the fields of trade, investment, energy, transportation, agriculture and disaster relief.

The Kyrgyz foreign minister stressed that his country firmly upholds the one-China policy, fully supports China’s stance on its internal affairs including Taiwan and Xinjiang issues and hopes the mutual political trust between the two countries can be further strengthened.

Following their talks, the two officials signed the Cooperation Program from 2020 to 2021 between Chinese Foreign Ministry and Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry and jointly met with the press.

Source: Xinhua


China’s top legislator seeks to tap cooperation potentials with Austria


Li Zhanshu (L), chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), meets with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen in Vienna, Austria, on May 20, 2019. China’s top legislator Li Zhanshu paid an official friendly visit from May 18 to 21 to Austria, where he met with Austrian leaders on promoting bilateral ties and expressed China’s stance on upholding multilateralism and free trade. (Xinhua/Shen Hong)

VIENNA, May 21 (Xinhua) — China’s top legislator Li Zhanshu paid an official friendly visit from May 18 to 21 to Austria, where he met with Austrian leaders on promoting bilateral ties and expressed China’s stance on upholding multilateralism and free trade.


In meeting with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, Li, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), conveyed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s greetings.

He said during the Austrian president’s state visit to China in April last year, the two countries’ heads of state jointly established a new orientation for bilateral ties, which pushed forward the ties to usher in a new stage.

“China is willing to work together with the Austrian side to implement the important consensus of the two heads of state and promote the in-depth development of cooperation in various fields,” said Li.

During the meeting, Li and Van der Bellen also exchanged in-depth views on issues of common concerns, including free trade, climate change, and the Iranian nuclear issue.

Li said China always adheres to the principle of mutual respect, equal treatment, mutual benefit and common development in dealing with the relationship between countries.

“Maintaining multilateralism and free trade is the common responsibility of the international community. Unilateralism and trade protectionism are not in line with the world trend,” said Li, adding that unilateral withdrawal and unilateral sanctions will not only harm other countries but also harm the interests of the countries which take the moves.

Li said China advocates that economic and trade differences should be resolved through negotiation and consultation. In the meantime, people who conduct negotiations must follow a bottom line and some principles, conform to international trade rules, adhere to equality, mutual benefit, and non-discrimination, and resolutely oppose “long-arm jurisdiction”.

China is willing to work with countries including Austria to uphold multilateralism and free trade, work together to address global challenges, and promote the building of a community of shared future for the mankind, said Li.

For his part, Van der Bellen spoke highly of the development of bilateral ties, and highly appreciated China’s positive role in global affairs. He said that the Austrian side shares the same or similar position with China on many issues.

The two sides should strengthen communication and coordination in international and regional affairs, support liberalization and facilitation in trade and investment, jointly address climate change, and promote friendly cooperation to yield more results, the president said.


When meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Li said jointly building the “Belt and Road” has become a new growth point for bilateral cooperation. The two sides should adhere to the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and continuously explore and tap the potential of cooperation.

Li called on the two countries to deepen cooperation in fields like high-end manufacturing, energy conservation, environmental protection, ecological agriculture, tourism, and finance. And the two sides are expected to actively explore innovative cooperation in such area as the Internet, big data, artificial intelligence and 5G technology.

Noting China is preparing for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, Li said China will learn from Austria’s experience, and carry out cooperation in athlete training, winter sports education and research, and winter sports equipment.

“China always regards Europe as a comprehensive strategic partner and an important global power which is indispensable,” said Li, adding that China is happy to see Europe maintain unity, stability, openness and prosperity, and supports the integration process in Europe.

Kurz said that the Belt and Road Initiative has set up a new platform for equal cooperation among the countries in the world. China is Austria’s largest trading partner in Asia, and the two countries have strong economic complementarities.

Noting the two sides share strong aspiration of deepening cooperation, Kurz said the cooperation potential is huge, and more investment from Chinese companies as well as more Chinese tourists are welcome to Austria.


In his respective talks with Austrian National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka and Federal Council President Ingo Appe, Li said the cooperation between the two countries’ legislative bodies should “closely follow the pace of development of state-to-state relations,” through cementing mutual understanding and exchanging experience on such areas as legislative supervision in regular visits, so as to create a good law environment for pragmatic cooperation.

Noting that people-to-people and cultural exchanges have always been the most active part of China-Austria relations, Li called on the legislative bodies to “respond to the voices of the people” by promoting cooperation in art, music, sports, and local areas, and advancing exchanges among young people.

The two leaders of the Austrian parliament expressed the willingness to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with the National People’s Congress of China, saying the Austrian side highly values the development of ties between the two countries. They will promote the implementation of the bilateral cooperation agreement, and forge ahead personnel and culture exchanges between the two countries.

During his stay in Austria, Li also met with regional officials from Salzburg to discuss cooperation between local areas of the two countries. Li and Van der Bellen also attended a ceremony in which a giant panda from China was officially handed over to the Austrian side.

After wrapping up his tour in Norway on May 18, Li’s stay in Austria marked the second lag of his 10-day tour in Europe, which will also take him to Hungary.

Source: Xinhua


In an Indian village, Muslims talk of leaving as divide with Hindus widens

NAYABANS, India (Reuters) – Muslims in Nayabans, an unremarkable village in northern India, say they remember a time when their children played with Hindu youths, and people from either faith chatted when they frequented each other’s shops and went to festivals together.

Such interactions no longer happen, many say, because of how polarized the two communities have become in the past two years, and some are frightened and thinking of moving away – if they can afford it.

Muslim residents who spoke to Reuters said they thought tensions would only worsen if Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins a second term in the current general election, as exit polls released on Sunday indicate is likely. Votes will be counted Thursday.

“Things were very good earlier. Muslims and Hindus were together in good and bad times, weddings to deaths. Now we live our separate ways despite living in the same village,” said Gulfam Ali, who runs a small shop selling bread and tobacco.

Modi came to power in 2014 and the BJP took control of Uttar Pradesh state, which includes Nayabans, in 2017, partly on the back of a Hindu-first message. The state’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, is a hardline Hindu priest and senior BJP figure.

“Modi and Yogi have messed it up,” said Ali. “Dividing Hindus and Muslims is their main agenda, only agenda. It was never like this earlier. We want to leave this place but can’t really do that.”

He says about a dozen Muslim families have left in the past two years, including his uncle.

The BJP denies its policies have stoked community divisions.


At the end of last year, Nayabans, a village of wheatfields, narrow cemented streets, bullock carts and loitering cows, became a symbol of India’s deepening divide as some Hindu men from the area complained they had seen a group of Muslims slaughtering cows, which Hindus regard as sacred.

Angry Hindus accused police of failing to stop an illegal practice, and a Hindu mob blocked a highway, threw stones and burned vehicles. Two people were shot and killed – including a police officer.

Five months later many Muslims, who only number about 400 of the village’s population of more than 4,000, say the wounds haven’t healed.

And in a country where 14 percent of the population are Muslim and 80 percent Hindu, Nayabans reflects wider tensions in places where Muslim residents are heavily outnumbered by Hindu neighbours.

The BJP denies it is seeking to make Muslims second-class citizens or is anti-Muslim.

“There have been no riots in the country under this government. It’s wrong to label criminal incidents, which we denounce, as Hindu-Muslim issues,” BJP spokesman Gopal Krishna Agarwal said.

“The opposition has been playing communal politics but we believe in neutrality of governance. Neither appeasement of any, nor denouncement of any. Some people may be finding that they are not being appeased anymore.”


To be sure, villagers say Nayabans was not free of conflict in the past – attempts to build a mosque in 1977 led to communal riots in which two people were killed. But for the 40 years after that there had been relative harmony, villagers say.

Some Muslim residents said Hindu hardliners started asserting themselves more in the village after Yogi took office in March 2017.

The atmosphere worsened around the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2017 – Hindu activists demanded Muslims stop using a microphone in their madrasa, which also acts as a mosque, to call people to prayer, arguing it disturbed the whole community.

The Muslims reluctantly agreed to stop using the mike and speaker – even though they say it had been operating for many years – to keep the peace, but the move created deep resentment.

Some Hindus were unsympathetic.

“God knows what they are moaning about,” said Hindu elder Om Prakash, a 63-year-old tailor. “There’s peace here but we won’t tolerate any mike there. That’s a madrasa, not a mosque.”

Islam requires the faithful to pray five times a day. Without the reminder of hearing the call, some Muslim residents say they risk missing prayer times.

“We can’t express our religion in any way here, but they are free to do whatever they want,” said Muslim law student Aisha, 21.

She said that Hindu men from the village often shouted anti-Muslim slogans during festival processions. At least a dozen Hindus in the village denied that was the case.

Aisha remembers when relations were better.

“Earlier they would speak very nicely to us, but now they don’t,” said Aisha. “If there was any problem at all, or someone was sick in the family, all the neighbours would come over and help – whether Hindus or Muslims. Now that doesn’t happen.”


Sharfuddin Saifi, 38, who runs a cloth shop at a nearby market, was named in a complaint filed with the police by local Hindus over the cow incident last year.

After 16 days in jail, he was released as the police found he had nothing to do with the suspected slaughter, but said he found much had changed.

Hindus now shun his business. The money he spent on lawyers meant he had to stop going to Delhi to buy stock for the shop, which is largely empty. And he withdrew his 13-year-old son from a private school because he could no longer afford it.

“For someone who had never seen the inside of a police station or even dreamt of committing a crime, it’s a big thing,” he said of the trauma of his detention.

He often thinks about leaving the village, he says, but tells himself: “I have not done anything wrong, why should I leave?”

Carpenter Jabbar Ali, 55, moved to a Muslim-dominated area in Masuri, closer to Delhi, buying a house with money he saved from working in Saudi Arabia.

“If Hindus could kill a Hindu police inspector, in front of a police outpost, with armed guards alongside him, then who are we Muslims?” Ali said, recalling the December incident.

He still keeps his house in Nayabans and visits occasionally but said he feels much safer in his new home, where all his immediate neighbours are Muslims.

“I’m fearful here,” he said. “Muslims may have to empty out this place if Modi gets another term, and Yogi continues here.”

Junaid, a round-faced 22-year-old with a goatee, comes from one of the most affluent Muslim families in the village. His father runs a gold shop in a town nearby.

Seated outside his home, he recalled playing sport together with Hindus.

“When we were young all the Hindus and Muslims used to play together, especially cricket – I played it a lot,” he said. “Now we haven’t played in at least a year.”

He said he wanted to move to New Delhi soon to study at a university there. “Things are not good here,” he said.

Some Muslims, however, say they are committed to remaining. Aas Mohammed, 42, the owner of a flourishing tiles and bathroom fixtures business in a nearby town, has decided to stay in the village, though he has a house on Delhi’s outskirts.
Mohammed helped arrange a lawyer for Saifi after his arrest over the cow incident. He is now lobbying to have the microphone brought back and fighting a legal battle to get a new mosque built.
“I will fight on,” he said. “I am not scared, but another term for Modi will make it very difficult for many other people to live here.”
Source: Reuters
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