China on Monday said it would impose visa restrictions on United States citizens as tensions rise over Hong Kong’s autonomy, state media reported.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Beijing would impose visa restrictions against Americans with egregious conduct.
The move was in response to Washington’s earlier announcement on visa curbs on Chinese officials believed to be responsible for undermining human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong.
The law, which would curb political protest and dissent in Hong Kong, is pending approval by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, a top legislative body.
According to the state-run Xinhua News Agency, the Council of Chairpersons, a group of 16 senior lawmakers, heard a report on the draft law.
The council submitted the draft for review and possible vote by the standing committee, which could approve the law by Tuesday, at the end of a three-day session.
The national security law targets secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces in Hong Kong.
However, critics said its purpose was to quash dissent in the financial hub, which had been roiled by protests for some years.
The South China Morning Post quoted anonymous sources as saying the law would carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. However, the draft had yet to be seen by Hong Kong residents and even lawmakers.
The secrecy surrounding the law had prompted criticism from pro-democracy activists.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Bar Association has called the law unconstitutional.
A previous attempt by Hong Kong leaders to impose national security legislation failed in 2003 after thousands of Hong Kong residents protested against it.
This time, Beijing circumvented Hong Kong’s legislature when the National People’s Congress in May passed a resolution empowering the standing committee to introduce national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s Basic Law.
The legislation is expected to be approved before July 1, which marks the 23rd anniversary of Britain’s handover of Hong Kong to China.
The law would also see the establishment of mainland Chinese security agencies in Hong Kong.
The city’s Chief Executive, who must answer to Beijing, would be empowered to decide which judges could hear trials for state security cases.
The United States has threatened sanctions against Chinese officials and against foreign financial institutions conducting transactions with them.
On Thursday, the United States Senate passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which calls for sanctions against individuals found to undermine the city’s autonomy from China. The legislation is set to move to the House of Representatives.
Hong Kong is guaranteed a certain degree of autonomy from mainland China until 2047 under the “one country, two systems” agreement reached by China and Britain in 1997.
Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Obike Ukoh (NAN)
China’s Wanda Film warn a loss
China’s largest cinema chain operator Wanda Film (002739.SZ) said on Tuesday it expects to report a net loss of 1.5 to 1.6 billion Yuan (214 to 228 million dollars) in the first half of this year, after the coronavirus kept its cinemas shut for almost the entire period.
In comparison, the company reported a net profit of 524 million Yuan (75 million dollars) in the same period last year.
China asked cinemas across the country to shut down in late January to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
While the pandemic is seen to be mostly under control in China they have remained shut, for much longer than many people had expected.
“All the more than 600 cinemas of Wanda Film in China have been closed since Jan. 23, and the ones overseas also suspended business after the end of March,” Wanda Film said in the statement.
Detective Chinatown 3, a film whose top investor is Wanda Film, was originally scheduled to be shown in cinemas in January during the Lunar New Year.
However it has yet to be released due to the shutdowns.
Meanwhile, the production of some of its other films has also been delayed.
“Operating income dropped by a big margin compared with the same period last year,” the company said, blaming fixed costs such as salaries and rent.
China’s box office took in a record 64.3 billion Yuan in 2019, up 5.4 per cent on the year.
Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Silas Nwoha (NAN)
China’s central bank injects 30bn yuan into market
With no reverse repos maturing Tuesday, the People’s Bank of China injected a total of 30 billion yuan (about 4.29 billion United States dollars) into the market through seven-day reverse repos at an interest rate of 2.2 per cent, according to a statement on the website of the central bank.
The injection is intended to maintain reasonable and sufficient liquidity in the banking system, the central bank.
The central bank pumped 50 billion yuan into the banking system via reverse repos on Monday after skipping open market operations via reverse repos for 10 consecutive trading days.
A reverse repo is a process in which the central bank purchases securities from commercial banks through bidding, with an agreement to sell them back in the future.
China would pursue a prudent monetary policy in a more flexible and appropriate way, according to this year’s government work report.
The country would use a variety of tools including required reserve ratio reductions, interest rate cuts and re-lending to enable M2 money supply and aggregate financing to grow at notably higher rates than last year, said the report.
Edited By: Felix Ajide (NAN)
Vietnam to resume some flights to China, Japan, S. Korea and Taiwan
“In a government meeting on Friday, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc asked the Foreign Ministry and the relevant embassies to arrange the recommencement of flights to Guangzhou, Tokyo, Seoul and Taiwan,’’ reports said.
According to him, just one or two flights will be permitted each week and passengers coming to Vietnam will still need to undergo mandatory two-week quarantine.
“Priority will be given to Vietnamese nationals, investors and business experts.
“Mid-July has been suggested as a possible restart date,’’ the prime minister noted.
Kidong Park, the World Health Organisation’s representative to Vietnam, has praised the country’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
The nation’s first two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in late January.
At the beginning of February, Vietnam Airlines ceased all flights to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, after a spike in new infections in March, all international flights were grounded.
No deaths have been reported, confirmed virus numbers have placed at 372, and no community transmissions of the virus have been reported in the last three months.
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Ali Baba-Inuwa (NAN)
United States warns citizens of heightened detention risks in China
The United States State Department on Saturday warned American citizens to “exercise increased caution” in China due to heightened risk of arbitrary law enforcement, including detention and a ban from exiting the country.
“United States citizens may be detained without access to United States consular services or information about their alleged crime,” the State Department said in a security alert issued to its citizens in China.
It added that United States citizens could face “prolonged interrogations and extended detention” for reasons related to state security.
“Security personnel may detain or deport United States citizens for sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government,” it added, without citing specific examples.
The state department also did not say what prompted the security alert.
The security alert came as bilateral tensions intensify over issues ranging from the coronavirus pandemic, trade, the new Hong Kong security law and allegations of human rights violations against Uighurs in the Xinjiang region.
Washington and Beijing recently exchanged visa bans against each other’s officials, underscoring the deteriorating relations.
The Chinese foreign ministry could not be immediately reached for comment outside of business hours on Saturday.
On Wednesday, Beijing called a similar warning issued by Australia about the risk of arbitrary detention in China “completely ridiculous and disinformation.”
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)
China didn’t create Coronavirus pandemic to attack America, says United States magazine
“Lost amid all this finger-pointing is a basic logic of agency; what would China hope to gain from using a viral weapon?” political scientist Erik Gartzke was quoted as saying in an opinion piece run by The National Interest on Wednesday.
Apart from the fact that United States President Donald Trump labeled the virus “China virus,” a range of pundits and government officials also directly or indirectly accused China of causing the pandemic.
According to Gartzke, listing a few reasons, there is little evidence that they planned a pandemic.
“First, the virus is too inconvenient to be used as a weapon to attack opponents.
“The most desirable weapons are generally quick, precise and effective. The coronavirus achieves none of these criteria.
“As the probation period can be days or even weeks, the victims may not soon find they are infected, and the target group may not necessarily fall ill, the novel coronavirus is neither quick nor effective.
“Second, China would not develop a weapon that would eventually hurt its own people or its economy.
“It has been obvious that since the outbreak was first discovered in the Chinese central city of Wuhan, many Chinese also had fallen victim to the virus.
“The following strict social distancing policy, while keeping Chinese safe from being infected, has hurt the Chinese economy.
“Third, China would never wish to see the United States, Europe or any country to be plagued by the pandemic because disproportionate economic harm would and will still befall China.
“As world markets contract in response to the coronavirus, China is destined to incur economic pneumonia.’’
The expert added that when the United States is at trade war with China, circulating such conspiracy that China is the mastermind of the global health crisis is completely off the point.
“Not every adversary is intentionally malicious,” he noted.
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Sadiya Hamza (NAN)
Swedish court acquits ex-Swedish China envoy over dissident talks
Swedish court acquits ex-Swedish China envoy over dissident talks
Stockholm, July 10,2020 A Swedish court on Friday acquitted Sweden’s former ambassador to China, Anna Lindstedt, of overstepping her diplomatic brief in efforts to free a jailed Chinese-Swedish bookseller.
Lindstedt had denied any wrongdoing in her efforts to free Gui Minhai, but had potentially risked prison if convicted.
Gui’s case has strained ties between China and Sweden.
The case centered on a meeting Lindstedt organised in January 2019 at a Stockholm hotel.
It was attended by, among others, two businessmen with links to China and Angela Gui, the daughter of Gui Minhai.
As part of the deal discussed to free her father, Angela Gui said she was to agree to stop criticising China in public.
She described how she felt pressured and contacted the Swedish Foreign Ministry which said they were unaware of the meeting and that it was not how consular matters were handled.
Lindstedt had said she did not conduct any negotiations and that the meeting was only aimed at discussing ideas.
The Stockholm’s district court said Prosecutor Henrik Olin had not proved that Lindstedt had negotiated with any person who represented the Chinese state.
The court also noted that Lindstedt would have been in her authority to do so, noting that an ambassador had a wide-ranging scope, Judge Anna Flodin said.
Flodin said the court was unanimous.
Prerequisites for the alleged crime labelled arbitrary conduct in connection with negotiations with a foreign power were not fulfilled, the judge added.
The legislation was several hundred years old and not tested in recent times, Flodin said.
Lindstedt’s lawyer, Conny Cedermark welcomed the acquittal, saying the ruling was wise, while Lindstedt said she was happy and relieved.
“Now I will try to return to a normal life,’’ she was quoted as telling Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter.
In a brief comment, Prosecutor Henrik Olin told Swedish Radio he wanted to read the ruling before determining whether to appeal.
The two businessmen did not testify during the trial, but several former ambassadors were summoned as well as Angela Gui, Foreign Ministry officials, activists, academics and reporters.
Parts of the hearing were held behind closed doors.
Shortly after Friday’s decision, Angela Gui told Stockholm daily Expressen that “the damage has already been done.
“It does not change anything for me or my father because it is the state that is the plaintiff. This whole process has just been tragic for me.”
Olin had in his closing statement in June said that a suspended sentence was sufficient, citing that the Foreign Ministry had stated it would likely fire Lindstedt if she was convicted.
Borje Ljunggren, another former Swedish ambassador to China, said he was not surprised by the ruling.
“The meeting exhibited remarkable cluelessness by Lindstedt, but this should not have gone to trial,’’ he told Swedish public broadcaster SVT.
Ove Bring, professor emeritus of International Law at Stockholm University and the Swedish National Defence University, told Swedish Radio he concurred that there were no grounds for a prosecution.
In 2016, he appeared on Chinese state television where he admitted to leaving China without having served a two-year suspended sentence for his role in a drink-driving death more than a decade ago.
After serving that sentence he was rearrested in 2018.
In February of this year, a Chinese court sentenced the bookseller to 10 years in prison for `illegally providing intelligence abroad.’
Sweden maintains that he has Swedish citizenship, but China does not recognise dual nationality for any Chinese national and also claims he has renounced his Swedish citizenship.
Edited By: Kevin Okunzuwa/Tajudeen Atitebi (NAN)
WHO advance team on way to China to set up probe into virus origin
An advance team from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has left for China to organise an investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus which sparked the global pandemic, a spokeswoman said on Friday.
The virus is believed to have emerged in a wholesale market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late 2019, since then closed, after jumping the species barrier from the animal kingdom to infect humans.
“The two WHO experts, specialists in animal health and epidemiology, will work with Chinese scientists to determine the scope and itinerary of the investigation,’’ WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said, declining to name them.
She told a briefing that they have gone, they are in the air now, they are the advance party that is to work out the scope.
“This would involve negotiations on issues including the composition of the fuller team.
“One of the big issues that everybody is interested in, and of course that’s why we’re sending an animal health expert, is to look at whether or not it jumped from species to a human and what species it jumped from.
“We know it’s very, very similar to the virus in the bat, but did it go through an intermediate species? This is a question we all need answered,” Harris said.
United States President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have said it may have originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, although they have presented no evidence for this and China strongly denies it.
Scientists and United States intelligence agencies have said it emerged in nature.
According to Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown Law in Washington, D.C., if there was wrongdoing and we may never know that for sure, it will be very hard to uncover.
“The wet market was closed immediately.
“There is no independent record, evaluation or investigation of a potential zoonotic source, so it will be very hard to go back and piece together,” he said.
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye and Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)
Explainer: Dollar peg is critical to Hong Kong amid United States threats, China worries
The HKD is pegged in a narrow range of 7.75-7.85 to the United States dollar.
Buying HKD boosts it by reducing its availability and raises the costs of betting against the currency.
Sales do the opposite.
The HKMA has sold HK$106 billion ($13.68 billion) so far this year to keep a strengthening Hong Kong dollar within this range, according to Reuters’ calculations.
To maintain the peg, official Hong Kong interest rates track United States monetary policy.
The currency’s movement within the band is influenced by differences between market interest rates in both.
There are fears that escalating United States-China tensions could result in the United States potentially limiting Hong Kong banks’ access to United States dollars, thus jeopardising the peg.
A Bloomberg report suggested this week that United States President Donald Trump’s policy advisers explored that option, though the idea did not gain any traction.
Analysts say the White House cannot hurt the peg in Hong Kong, one of the world’s largest United States dollar trading centres, without also hampering the greenback’s hegemony as a global currency.
Some call it a “nuclear option”.
“The bottom line is that current rhetoric surrounding the Hong Kong dollar peg will likely stay as rhetoric.’’
Hong Kong also has more than $400 billion in reserves – six times the currency in circulation.
The HKMA can also call on China’s central bank for United States dollars, the city’s top finance official said recently.
Hong Kong’s economy has shrunk in its importance relative to the mainland since the territory’s 1997 handover to China but its financial significance has grown.
Any real threat to the peg risks undermining that.
With China maintaining tight capital controls, Hong Kong acts as a key financing conduit, hosting one of the largest stock markets in the world and acting as the biggest gateway for international investment in mainland stocks and bonds.
It has also become one of the world’s biggest currency trading centres and ranks third globally for United States dollar trading.
China’s wealthy have put faith in the city too, with more than half of Hong Kong’s estimated private wealth of more than $1 trillion coming from mainland individuals. ($1 = 7.7501 HKD)
Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)
China committed to arms control talks — United States
By Harrison Arubu
New York, July 9, 2020 (NAN) The United States on Thursday said China was committed to engage in arms control negotiations, inviting Beijing to the table.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Ms Morgan Ortagus, the Department of State said “prudent next steps will need to include face-to-face meetings between the U.S and China”.
China has always spurned invitation to a trilateral arms control discussion with the United States and Russia.
But on Wednesday, a senior Chinese diplomat reportedly gave conditions for his country to engage in the discussion.
Media reports quoted Fu Cong, head of the Arms Control Department of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as saying Washington must significantly reduce its arsenal to China’s level.
China currently has 320 unclear warheads, according to CNN, citing the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
But the United States and Russia both have no fewer than 5,000 nuclear warheads each, according to the report.
The administration of President Donald Trump alleges that Chinese military is quickly expanding its arsenal military without transparency.
Ortagus said the United States Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control, Amb. Marshall Billingslea, would invite the Chinese government to “join in good faith negotiations in Vienna, Austria”.
“The United States also recommends that China meet with Russia at an early date to consider next steps for trilateral arms control negotiations.
“We will all bring different perspectives and objectives to the negotiating table and will surely have disagreements.
“But it is time for dialogue and diplomacy between the three biggest nuclear weapons powers on how to prevent a new arms race,” she added.(NAN)
Edited By: Sadiya Hamza (NAN)
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