06 Nov

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

Basic Law interpretation expected to counter ‘Hong Kong independence’

(CRI Online)  November 06, 2016

China’s top legislature began on Saturday to review a “draft interpretation” of part of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

It’s widely believed to be aimed at countering the advocacy of “Hong Kong independence.”

The draft interpretation applies to Article 104 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

It relates to the requirement for local officials, legislators, judges and other members of the judiciary to uphold Hong Kong’s Basic Law when assuming office.

The explanation comes less than a month after a handful of Hong Kong legislators-elect publicly advocated “Hong Kong independence” and insulted the Chinese nation at the swearing-in ceremony for the sixth Legislative Council, or LegCo, of the Hong Kong SAR. Some even interrupted LegCo’s normal meetings after their oath-taking was declared invalid.

Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), says the interpretation gives a clear signal against separatist attempt in the city.

“Hong Kong Independence is a serious problem. It challenges the “one country, two systems” principle and may even jeopardize the unification of the nation. It’s why the interpretation should be made. The NPC is expected to release a clear signal that the central government will neither make concessions over Hong Kong Independence nor tolerate any separatist attempt.”

This is the fifth time that China’s top legislature has made interpretations to Hong Kong’s Basic Law since 1997.

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Who would Beijing prefer as US president: Clinton or Trump?

Beijing might have to settle for the lesser of two evils

Hillary Clinton (left) is battling against Donald Trump. Photo: AFP

By Wang Xiangwei

Would a Trump or a Clinton presidency be preferable from a Chinese perspective?

That question has come into a sharper focus following the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton last week.

The both candidates may not have agreed on much of anything but they appeared united on beating China like a piñata, with Trump leading the charge. The Republican candidate accused China of stealing American jobs, devaluing its currency to cheat at global trade, and failing to rein in North Korea, while his Democrat opponent pledged tough responses to possible cyberattacks from China and other countries.

Trump’s Chinese aspersions are nonsense

China-bashing has become a fashionable theme in US presidential debates over the past two decades, and is expected to feature again in the next two scheduled clashes between the candidates.

Handling China’s rising economic and military power will be one of the most complex challenges facing the next American president, so interest has been building in China as to which of the two would be preferable to ensure Sino-US ties, arguably the most consequential relationship between any two countries in the world, continue broadly along the lines of co-operation instead of confrontation.

Donald Trump accused China of ‘raping’ the US. Photo: AFP

Publicly, the Chinese leaders have refrained from weighing in despite the increasingly fiery attacks on China from both candidates. Last month, Premier Li Keqiang offered the standard textbook reply in a meeting with top US executives in New York by saying that the Sino-US ties were destined to improve no matter who is elected.

The mainland leadership has long accepted that China-bashing is part of the fear-mongering and sensationalism that have framed the presidential debates, in which the candidates’ tough rhetoric may not usually translate into action and the winners often moderate their stances once inside the Oval Office.

Why Donald Trump’s wall will be around China, not Mexico

Getting the lesser of the two evils is the best the Chinese leaders can hope for but deciding between Clinton and Trump can be a tall order, at least judging from their rhetoric and record on China.

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Staff from the Cumhuriyet newspaper detained as critics claim Erdo?an is using failed coup as a pretext to crush the opposition

Protesters raise their fists during a demonstration in support to the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet.

Protesters raise their fists during a demonstration in support to the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet. Photograph: Yasin Akgul/AFP/Getty Images

Turkish authorities ordered the formal arrest of nine staff members of a leading opposition newspaper and detained more pro-Kurdish officials, widening an anti-terror probe that has drawn condemnation from the west.

The arrests, a day after the co-leaders of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) were jailed pending trial, are likely to spark more concern among Turkey’s allies about President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an’s intolerance of dissent.

More than 110,000 officials, including judges, teachers, police and civil servants, have been detained or suspended following a failed coup in July. Erdo?an’s critics say he is using the coup as a pretext to crush the opposition. Ankara says the crackdown is necessary to root out terrorists.

Authorities ordered the formal arrest of nine executives and journalists from the secularist Cumhuriyet newspaper, including the editor-in-chief, Murat Sabuncu, and senior staff, broadcaster NTV and other media reported. They had been detained since Monday. In addition, nine HDP officials, including some provincial and district heads, were detained in the south-eastern province of Adana, a party official said.

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Charities warn that the longer children are exposed to uncertainty, the more difficult it will be for them to adjust to normal life

Only 15% of the unaccompanied children in Calais at the time of the camp’s evacuation have so far been transferred to the UK.

Only 15% of the unaccompanied children in Calais at the time of the camp’s evacuation have so far been transferred to the UK. Photograph: SERRO/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

Nearly all of the children who stayed in the now demolished Calais camp for refugees have a mental health condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, according to psychiatric assessments of some of those waiting to come to Britain.

Evidence compiled by a psychiatrist for Citizens UK, which is supporting scores of children dispersed around France, suggests that their mental health is deteriorating amid continuing delays over their transfer. Since the demolition of the camp, the charity’s staff report receiving suicidal text messages from the children. Of the 40 being cared for, Citizens UK claims a third have expressed suicidal thoughts or a lack of care for their own life, 75% have showed an “alarming deterioration” in mental health and 90% have reported ‘“increased anxiety”.

Dr Susannah Fairweather, a psychiatrist who led a team assessing the children, said there had been a “significant deterioration in the children’s mental health, including a risk of suicide”.

“As a consultant psychiatrist who has assessed children both in the ‘Jungle’ and once they have arrived in the UK, I know the children living there experienced horrific traumas both in their home countries and their journeys there,” she said. “Of the children who underwent psychiatric assessment, all of them presented with psychiatric symptoms, with approximately 90% meeting the criteria for a recognised psychiatric disorder, such as PTSD and depression.”

About 15% of the unaccompanied children in Calais at the time of the camp’s demolition have so far been transferred to the UK with 1,600 children now dispersed across France in temporary shelters.

Citizens UK estimates hundreds of them have a legal right to sanctuary in the UK, but on Friday, following more than a week of delays, the government confirmed that none would be transferred this weekend. Charities have called on the government to resume transfers to the UK immediately.

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Italian coastguard say 10 bodies recovered from sea during 16 rescue operations over one day

A child cries while being rescued

A child is rescued in the Mediterranean sea. Photograph: Francesco Malavolta/AP

Reuters in Milan

More than 2,200 people have been rescued in the Mediterranean as they tried to reach Europe and 10 bodies recovered, Italy’s coast guard has said in a statement.

They were picked up from 13 rubber dinghies, two small boats and one large vessel in 16 separate rescue operations on Saturday.

The International Organisation for Migration said this week that 4,220 migrants had died in the Mediterranean so far this year, compared with 3,777 in the whole of 2015.

As of 2 November, 159,496 people had reached Italy by sea this year, the IOM said.

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Ten years ago the leading economist warned about climate change in a landmark report – he says while there is cause for optimism, the picture is still grim

Nicholas Stern

Nicholas Stern: ‘With hindsight, I now realise that I underestimated the risks. I should have been much stronger in what I said.’ Photograph: David Levenson/Getty Images

A lot has happened since Nicholas Stern, then a permanent secretary at the Treasury, produced his landmark review of the impact of climate change 10 years ago. His work was quickly recognised as the definitive account of the economic dangers posed to the planet by global warming.

Since then, global temperatures have risen to record levels. Arctic summer sea ice has continued to shrink, as have many major land-based ice sheets. Carbon dioxide is being pumped into the atmosphere in ever-increasing amounts. At the same time, low-lying coastal areas, such as south Florida and parts of Bangladesh, are experiencing more and more flooding as sea levels have risen. Scientists have begun to link extreme weather events to the planet’s changing climate, while animal and plant species are gradualling moving towards the poles. So, a decade on, is Stern plunged in despair over our prospects? Not quite. While the picture is certainly grim, the world’s top climate economist still believes there are grounds for modest optimism.

“We have been too slow in acting on climate change,” he told the Observer. “In particular, we have delayed the curbing of greenhouse gas emissions for far too long. When we published our review, emissions were equivalent to the pumping of 40-41bn tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a year. Today there are around 50bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. At the same time, science is telling us that impacts of global warming – like ice sheet and glacier melting – are now happening much more quickly than we anticipated.”

In his report, published in October 2006, Stern warned that the cost of inaction would be far greater for future generations than the costs of actions taken today. “With hindsight, I now realise that I underestimated the risks. I should have been much stronger in what I said in the report about the costs of inaction. I underplayed the dangers.”

These are stark remarks. Yet the dramatic success of the Paris climate talks last year, and their subsequent rapid ratification by more than 90 countries, has provided the 70-year-old economist with a sense of hope: “It has taken only 11 months to get the Paris agreement ratified. It took eight years to get its predecessor, the Kyoto protocol, into force. So in a sense, the last 12 months have been encouraging.”

In his review, Stern made a cogent case for the need to make drastic reductions in fossil fuel burning to curb emissions of carbon dioxide, which are heating our atmosphere dangerously. The costs involved – in investing in the development of alternative energy sources, for example – would be far outweighed by the costs of coping with an overheated world afflicted by flooding, soaring temperatures, ruined crops and farmland, lack of food and displaced people, he argued. Most experts responded positively to the review.

Yet the world is still burning more and more fossil fuel and pumping more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This has both long- and short-term consequences. “Apart from raising carbon levels and temperatures, burning fossil fuels causes air pollution, as we have learned over the past five years,” says Stern. “The consequences are terrible. Air pollution kills more than 30,000 people a year in Britain. That is about one in 2,000 of the population. It has become one of the very big killers around the world. In China, it causes about 4,000 deaths a day.

“We are killing millions every year from air pollution produced by burning fossil fuels. Yes, there are other sources of air pollution but burning fossil fuels is a large part of the story. That understanding is new and very important.”

As a counterbalance, Stern points to the fact that in recent years there has been an encouraging increase in the use of sustainable technologies that should help us to wean us of our fossil fuel dependency. Cities like Barcelona and Bogotá have made themselves cleaner and healthier. Coal burning has peaked in China. Hybrid cars and electric vehicles are being sold in increasing numbers and the cost of making solar panels has been reduced by a factor of 20. “We have reached the point where we can now see that the alternative route is not really something that should be regarded as a cost. It is actually a much better way of doing things, even if you had never heard of climate change,” says Stern.


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