Asia Pacific Focus

US climate envoy in shanghai for climate talks
Asia Pacific Focus

US climate envoy in shanghai for climate talks

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is in China for talks on Thursday, as the two countries look forward to cooperate over the environment despite being at loggerheads on other fronts.

This trip is important as it lies shortly ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s climate summit of world leaders.

Biden’s virtual summit will take place next week, to which the U.S. President has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Beijing has so far not committed to President Xi’s presence at the summit.

The U.S. and China are the biggest carbon emitters in the world and both have decided to set targets to become carbon neutral in times to come. China has unveiled its plan to achieve the set goal by 2060, but analysts warn that hefty reliance on coal and less short-term targets could make it difficult.

The trip is important as it marks the highest-level trip to China as far as Biden’s administration is concerned. Kerry’s visit is deemed as a chance to set aside political tensions and shift focus on areas of possible climate cooperation. 

His visit comes at a time when agitations are heightened over trade, human rights, and China’s territorial claims at Taiwan and the South China Sea.

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This visit is aimed to boost cooperation on climate change and debate on views on the United Nations climate change conference 2021, known as COP26.

As per media reports, Kerry is set to meet China’s top climate negotiator, and veteran diplomat Xie Zhenhua.

Officials expect that UN-led climate talks set to take place in Glasgow at the end of the year will also be discussed.

After talks in China, Kerry is scheduled to travel to Seoul, South Korea. No media events are planned, as per the US Embassy in Beijing. before Kerry heads to Seoul.

Myanmar to see protests amidst new year celebrations
Asia Pacific Focus

Myanmar to see protests amidst new year celebrations

Myanmar pro-democracy activists have, on Tuesday, pledged to hold several rounds of protests this week to keep the pressure on the military leadership during the country’s most important holiday of the year.

Thingyan, the five-day New Year holidays, is usually celebrated with a ritual cleaning of Buddha images in temples, prayers, and throwing high-spirited water on the streets.

Activists have asked people to stage symbolic protests from the start to the end of the holidays. Protests will include painting a three-finger salute on traditional Thingyan pots that are filled with flowers.

“The military doesn’t own Thingyan. Ultimate power rests in the hands of people,” said EiThinzarMaung, leader of a protest group known as the General Strike Collaboration Committee.

Maung said that other holiday protests included the splashes of red paint on sidewalks and honking.

Activists have called for a day of complete silence to remember the victims of the violence. Buddhists have been urged to wear their religious attire and recite prayers together while Christian communities have been asked to wear white and read psalms. 

Coronavirus cancelled the last year’s celebrations while this year, another disrupted new year holiday will be seen in view of the protests.

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The February 1 coup has thrown Myanmar into crisis after nearly 10 years of tentative steps towards democracy. The Junta had stepped back from politics and had let Aung San Suu Kyi form a government after her party won the 2015 elections.

The Junta claims that it had no option but to overthrow the government because the elections held in November were rigged. The election commission has dismissed this accusation.

The coup has sparked daily protests by those who oppose the military rule, but Myanmar has paid a heavy price for it. 

Security forces, as per reports, have killed 710 protesters to date.

Rights groups ask Canada to “do more” for Hong Kong
Asia Pacific Focus

Rights groups ask Canada to “do more” for Hong Kong

Amid a hefty crackdown on dissenting voices in Hong Kong, Canada has opened up study, work and residency permit programmers for the people of Hong Kong but an advocacy group has urged the country to “do more” to help the Hong Kongers.

The Canadian government announced its new immigration measures in November to ask the people of Hong Kong to come to Canada work and study. It also broadened a pathway to a permanent residency for those present in the country already.

Officials from Canada claim that their country has grave concerns about the national security law and stands firm in support of the right of Hong Kong’s citizens to protest and voice their opinions peacefully.

Canada’s “open” work permits for citizens of Hong Kong will allow people to get job experience in Canada, but will be made available on February 8 officially.

The pathway to a permanent residence will be introduced in the later part of this year as per the officials of the Canadian government. 

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These announcements have prompted concerns from immigration advocates who say that easily accessible programmes should be introduced for the people of Hong Kong, especially those seeking asylum as they are in dire need of help.

China’s national security law for Hong Kong has made life tough for the dissenting voices in the territory. China says that the law introduced is the need of the hour to prevent external interferences and waves of separatism in the semi-autonomous region.

Since the passing of this law, the move has drawn widespread criticism and various rights groups have termed it as completely “repressive and autocratic” against fundamental human rights.  Rights groups from across the globe think of it as a part of an effort to put a curb on demonstrations that are calling for more freedoms

China imposes a record $2.75 bn fine on Alibaba for monopolistic conduct
Asia Pacific Focus

China imposes a record $2.75 bn fine on Alibaba for monopolistic conduct

Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group, the world’s greatest e-commerce company got massively fined by China’s regulator on Saturday. A record sum of $2.75 billion fine was imposed on the company for violating anti-monopoly laws and taking advantage of its dominant market position, marking the highest antitrust fine ever, Reuters reported.

Alibaba’s richest founder Jack Ma’s Company has been specially put under severe scrutiny following his strong criticism of China’s regulatory system in October 2020. 

The move is another jolt for Alibaba and its founder Jack Ma, following a decision by Chinese regulators to waive the stock market debut of Ant Group, a money platform expounded from the e-commerce goliath. It would have been the globe’s biggest initial government stock contribution in 2020.

China’s Regulators stated in December 2020, that it started an antitrust inquiry into Alibaba. That was announced after authorities scrambled a purposed $37 billion IPO from Ant Group, Alibaba’s online finance unit.

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They likewise declared their primary rival, JD.com, and four other online companies were ordered to meet and were given a warning not to utilize their market power to keep out new contenders. 

The SAMR likewise summoned Alibaba to perform precise ratifications to guard consumer rights and fortify internal compliance.

Greenland Is Not Completely Ready For Rare Earth Trade With The World
Asia Pacific Focus

Greenland Is Not Completely Ready For Rare Earth Trade With The World

Greenland has made it very clear that it is not interested in trading its rare earth minerals with everyone, at least not at the moment. Earlier, it was Trump that was that was shooed away.  Now, it is Australia and China too. Greenland is one of the richest sources of rare earth in the world that still remains unexcavated for trade to the world.

Greenland holds some great geopolitical importance too. But dealing with the descendents of the Vikings isn’t getting any easier for any nation that now wants to have a prominent place in the geopolitical power game at the Arctic.

Earlier, Donald Trump wished to buy an island off and Denmark flatly refused. Now the An Australian company with Chinese connections called Greenland Minerals has been showing interest to develop the Kvanefjeld rare earth and uranium project in the south-west of the country. But Greenland is not interested in getting into a trade war.

The leader of Inuit Ataqatigiit party (IA), and likely next Prime Minister of Greenland, Mute Egede, has said he is opposed to the development of Kvanefjeld but not other possible mining projects. Inuit Ataqatigiit party candidate is clear that he does not want the uranium ore to be exploited. The use of uranium has been the biggest bone of contention for the Western world. The whole drama around the 2015 Nuclear Deal with Iran started over America wishing to ensure that Iran does not arm twist the world with its uranium reserves and would use it for peaceful purposes only.

Now, with the winning of the Inuit Ataqatigiit party, the possibility of any progress on the mining of the Kvanefjeld Mines looks like a distant dream. However, economists feel that the party will have to reassure the mining community that it is not averse to mining development itself.

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Rare earths are key to a wide range of modern technology, including smartphones, batteries and wind turbines. Their trade is becoming important for Greenland owing to challenges that the country faces in the face of global warming and need for self sufficiency. Its resources are becoming more and more visible and therefore it is only in favour of the country to use them for trade. Today, China accounts for nearly 60 percent of global production and it handles the vast majority of separating and refining — an uncomfortable situation for the U.S. and its allies such as Japan and Australia as tensions with Beijing continue to simmer.

Australian Government agrees to amend the sex discrimination bill
Asia Pacific Focus

Australian Government agrees to amend the sex discrimination bill

The Australian Government announces it will amend legislative laws to attempt to get rid of sexual misbehavior in Australian work environments.

Also, the key measures declared by the public authority on Thursday are to alter the Sex Discrimination Act to incorporate MPs, judges, and public workers who are absolved under current sexual harassment laws. 

Since February, the Australian Government has been criticized for its response to a series of reports related to sexual misconduct, including bad behavior by Liberal National MP Andrew Laming, rape allegation against Christian Porter, which he denies, and alleged rape of Brittany Higgins by a co-worker in the Parliament House.

In March 2020, responding to the [email protected] report made by discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins, the federal government declared on Thursday that it had acknowledged the majority of the report’s 55 recommendations either in full, to some degree, or in principle.

As per the recommendations, the definition and extent of inappropriate behavior will likewise be expanded, with the serious sexual misconduct provisions in workplace law simplified to create sexual harassment to be a legitimate ground for terminating an employee. 

In another significant change pointed toward urging victims to address their case, will be increased from six months to two years from now to file a complaint in the Australian Human Rights Commission. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated that the federal government will announce funding responsibility for the changes in the budget in May and will recognize that the events of the previous two months have unveiled the need for strict government action.

“There is no uncertainty that the recent month’s events have enforced the importance [of the sexual harassment issue] and highlighted it again,” Morrison added. 

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Senator Michaelia Cash also had highlighted that the changes are needed in the Sex Discrimination Act and to include MPs, state public servants, and judges that are currently excluded from it. She hoped the amendments for MPs and judges would prompt genuine results if they harassed anyone but added that the details were yet being worked out. 

Morrison stated that the issue of harassment in the workplace was a “culture we need to change in our society” and urged individuals to join hands in accomplishing results.

Covid-19 arrests and restrictions leave Hong Kong’s opposition gasping for breath
Asia Pacific Focus

Covid-19 arrests and restrictions leave Hong Kong’s opposition gasping for breath

Hong Kong’s opposition parties are in severe financial crises, unable to raise donations for their protests as they are not allowed to do so in view of the anti-pandemic restrictions and the intensifying crackdown on members under the national security act. 

Two of the city’s major pro-democracy parties, as reported by local media, claim that social distancing rules have curbed their regular fundraising campaigns and their situation has worsened because of prosecutions over money laundering allegations.

These allegations are discouraging regular donors and imply an added need to pay legal costs for members, under detention, facing the charges.

Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah Kit said “the actual problem is that if you’re donating to a party accused of subversion, won’t you think multiple times before opening your purse?” 

Several members of the opposition are under detention and are dealing with allegations of national security offences. 

Alan revealed that the Civic Party, unless it receives some funding in the coming days, will last only for 4-5 months at the max. 

On the other hand, restaurant owners in Hong Kong are forced to subject their customers to contact tracing. Teachers, too, are ordered to get regularly tested for COVID-19 once schooling resumes after Easter. 

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In the city, whenever more than four protesters gather, they’re subjected to stiff fines by police for obstructing the set social distancing regulations.

“Hong Kong’s leaders have been under severe pressure from Beijing to curb the virus from spreading,” said Bruce Lui, veteran political commentator and senior lecturer at Hong Kong Baptist University

“That’s the reason why they are ruling with an iron fist so that they deliver and the results could be shown to Beijing as they mean business,” he added.

The national security law, passed by Beijing last June, criminalizes protests and political organizing of most forms. 

China Talks Diplomacy Before Japan-US Summit
Asia Pacific Focus

China Talks Diplomacy Before Japan-US Summit

China feels it could have another arch enemy in its neighborhood. Beijing has now warned Japan that it does not want it meddling into its internal matters, saying ‘show some basic respect’.

In the words of China’s internal affairs, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Japan needs to mind its own business.

His counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi has been informed that Japan is not going to be allowed into meddling of internal affairs; much before the forthcoming US-Japan Summit.  Mr. Yi has used diplomatic words this time to ensure it has Japan well informed before Tokyo steps into any agreements with the US, without the biased stance over China.

Confrontation should not be an option and Mr. Yi reminded Mr. Motegi of the various discussions and agreements signed between Japan and China over the last few years.  The focus was more than anything on China’s stance over the Diaoyu Islands and South China Sea.

Wang also expressed opposition to Tokyo for its interference over China’s affairs on Xinjiang and Hong Kong. “We urged the Japanese side to abide by basic criteria of international relations,” Wang said. The whole world has opposed the lack of accountability of the human rights in both these places.

In a telephonic conversation, the Chinese foreign minister highlighted the four political documents between China and Japan in bilateral relations, and urged the two sides to abide by the principles and spirits established in the documents to ensure that bilateral relations do not flip-flop, stagnate or backpedal, and do not get involved in the so-called confrontation between major countries.

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China has also had flack with Australia for not having them allowed a full blown investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 virus. This has already led to souring of trade relations amongst the nations.

Extending an olive branch, the Chinese minister did say that it expected Japan to cooperate as Beijing was looking at supporting the sportsmen of both nations in hosting the Tokyo Olympic Games and the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. On his part, Montegi echoed Wang’s words by saying that Japan is willing to maintain communication with China, strengthen dialogue, enhance mutual trust and properly manage their differences, so as to create a sound atmosphere for jointly celebrating the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and China.

Protests surge in Myanmar against Junta coup
Asia Pacific Focus

Protests surge in Myanmar against Junta coup

Demonstrators in Myanmar have staged several protests across the country to demand the restoration of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government and have called for coordinated nationwide dissent to defy the military’s latest steps to suppress attempts to rally opposition to its ongoing rule.

As per media reports, over the weekend nearly six people were killed as activists, police and soldiers had several skirmishes across the country. 

Security forces resorted to violence to enforce their writ on demonstrators who gathered for what they call a “spring revolution”.

The campaign against the martial law enforced to oust the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi has included civil disobedience, street marches, strikes and quirky acts of rebellion organised on social media. 

The army has sought to moves like shutting down mobile data and wireless broadband services.

Demonstrators were seen with placards of Suu Kyi, asking for international intervention as they marched through the streets of the city of Mandalay, according to images on social media.

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Protesters urged the international fraternity to recognise the ethnic minority armies that have gotten alongside the anti-coup movement, and youth demonstrators who have battled security forces in the streets to shield or rescue wounded protesters.

“We will clap for five minutes on April 5, 5 p.m. to pay tribute to Ethnic Armed Organisations and Gen Z defence youths of Myanmar including Yangon who are a part in the revolution fight on behalf of us,” said Ei Thinzar Maung, a protest leader, on Facebook.

Opponents of military rule released messages of protest on Easter eggs, like “get out MAH” and “we must win” – referring to junta leader Min Aung Hlaing.

Nearly 557 people have so far been killed since he led a coup on February 1. This was just hours before a new parliament convened, to stop Suu Kyi’s party from initiating a second term in office.

Electoral reforms “very very dark” for Hong Kong: Emily Lau
Asia Pacific Focus

Electoral reforms “very very dark” for Hong Kong: Emily Lau

The former Democratic Party chairperson Emily lau, on Tuesday, said the passing of sweeping electoral reforms for Hong Kong will mean a degrading and humiliating process for prospective MPs.

She said Hong Kong doesn’t have any form of democracy but had a system that allowed people to be safe, free, and live under the rule of law. 

“Now all this is stumbling in front of us and it makes the people very scared that they are going to lose freedoms, personal safety, rule of law and this makes it a very dark day for Hong Kong,” she said.

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam said that there wasn’t a “one-size-fits-all” way of democratic procedures and vetting committee won’t screen out people on their political views. 

In its latest move aimed at tightening control over Hong Kong, China has set forth a controversial “patriot” plan to bring reforms to the city’s elections.

The recently passed electoral reforms will half the number of directly elected parliamentary seats and prospective MPs will first be shortlisted by a pro-Beijing committee make sure that their loyalty stays with the mainland.

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Beijing is of the opinion that the aim is to keep “unpatriotic” figures away from positions of power in Hong Kong.

Critics around the world warn that these sweeping changes would mean an end to democracy in Hong Kong, eradicating the air of disagreement or whatever opposition there is left.

Hong Kong, that once was under British control, was handed over back to China in 1997 that was promised to be governed under a “one country, two systems” principle.

This principle meant to protect freedoms for Hong Kong, which no part of mainland China enjoys: freedom of speech anf assembly, an independent judiciary, and a few freedoms of political nature.

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