Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) and China’s Premier Li Keqiang leave after a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Pool
March 19, 2019
BEIJING (Reuters) – China played a “constructive role” in reducing tension between Pakistan and India, the foreign ministry said, after the nuclear-armed rivals almost came to blows last month following an attack on an Indian paramilitary convoy in disputed Kashmir.
The sparring threatened to spiral out of control and only interventions by U.S. officials, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, headed off a bigger conflict, five sources familiar with the events have told Reuters.
At one stage, India threatened to fire at least six missiles at Pakistan, and Islamabad said it would respond with its own missile strikes “three times over”, said Western diplomats and government sources in New Delhi, Islamabad and Washington.
A Pakistani minister said China and the United Arab Emirates also intervened to lessen tension between the south Asian neighbors.
In a faxed statement to Reuters late on Monday, responding to a question on China’s role in reining in the crisis, its foreign ministry said peaceful coexistence between Pakistan and India was in everyone’s interest.
“As a friendly neighbor of both India and Pakistan, China pro-actively promoted peace talks and played a constructive role in easing the tense situation,” it said.
“Some other countries also made positive efforts in this regard,” the ministry added.
China is willing to work with the international community to continue to encourage the neighbors to meet each other half way and use dialogue and peaceful means to resolve differences, it said, without elaborating.
The Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, is set to meet Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Beijing later on Tuesday.
The Feb. 14 attack that killed at least 40 paramilitary police was the deadliest in Kashmir’s 30-year-long insurgency, escalating tension between the neighbors, who said they shot down each other’s fighter jets late last month.
China and Pakistan call each other “all-weather” friends, but China has also been trying to improve ties with New Delhi.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping held an informal summit in China last year agreeing to reset relations, and Xi is expected to visit India sometime this year, diplomatic sources say.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
FILE PHOTO: Afghanistan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before their meeting at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing, China January 10, 2019. Andy Wong/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
March 18, 2019
By Jonathan Landay
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In fallout from a feud over U.S.-Taliban peace talks, a senior U.S. diplomat has told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that U.S. officials will no longer deal with his national security adviser, four knowledgable sources said on Monday.
The decision to end U.S. contacts with Hamdullah Mohib will almost certainly raise tensions between the allies over Kabul’s exclusion from negotiations that have mainly focused on a U.S. troop pullout and how the Taliban would stop militant groups from using Afghanistan as a springboard for attacks.
Mohib had launched a blistering public attack last Thursday on the chief U.S. negotiator, Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad.
The following day, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale told Ghani by phone that Mohib would no longer be received in Washington and U.S. civilian and military officials would not do business with him, the sources said.
“Hale called Ghani and told him that Mohib is no longer welcome in D.C. The U.S. will not deal with him in Kabul or in D.C. any more,” said a former senior Afghan official, who like the other sources requested anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.
Kabul fears that Washington is intent on finalizing a U.S. troop pullout to fulfill a vow by President Donald Trump, undermining its ability to reach a political pact with the Taliban that preserves gains, such as women’s education, won since the 2001 U.S. invasion ended the militants’ harsh version of Islamic rule.
The former Afghan official said he saw the move as an effort to compel Ghani to “oust” Mohib, who became the president’s national security adviser after serving as his envoy to Washington.
A second source, a congressional aide, agreed that pressuring Ghani to end contacts with Mohib was “one way of looking at this” because the State Department provides funding for the Afghan president’s national security council staff.
The State Department declined to comment. The Afghan embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Simmering tensions over the Afghan government’s exclusion from the U.S.-Taliban talks in Doha, Qatar, erupted with Mohib’s attack on Khalilzad, an Afghan-born U.S. diplomat, at a news conference in Washington.
He accused Khalilzad of giving the Taliban legitimacy while “delegitimizing the Afghan government.” He added that Khalilzad perhaps was trying to create “a caretaker government of which he would then become viceroy.”
Viceroy was the title of the colonial administrator of British-ruled India.
The State Department responded with a strong statement quoting Hale as telling Mohib later Thursday that his comments “only serve to hinder the bilateral relationship and the peace process.”
The latest round of peace talks ended on March 11 after 16 days. The sides reported progress, but no accord on a withdrawal of U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban’s counter-extremist assurances.
U.S. negotiators also are pressing the insurgents to accept a ceasefire and talks with Afghan society representatives, including government officials. The Taliban have refused to talk to Ghani’s government, which they deride as a U.S. puppet.
In an interview on Monday with Reuters, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Qatar, Faizullah Kakar, said that another country should not be negotiating on the use of Afghan territory by militants.
“It is the government that should be deciding, whoever the government is, that the territory is used or not used against another country,” he said.
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Additional reporting by Erich Knecht in Doha; Editing by Alistair Bell)
Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter
Chinese authorities said they arrested nearly 13,000 “terrorists” and punished more than 30,000 for “illegal religious activities” in the Xinjiang region since 2014.
The Chinese government issued a report Monday about its ostensible security measures employed in Xinjiang, in response to international backlash about the use of internment camps, which officials call “vocational training centers,” and severe legal restrictions against Uyghur Muslims in the region, according to The Associated Press.
The government report claimed authorities have arrested 12,995 “terrorists,” seized 2,052 explosive devices, and broken up 1,588 “terrorist gangs” in the region since 2014. (RELATED: China Strongly Implies Muslim Internment Camps Will Never Go Away)
Government officials also said in the report that they confiscated 345,229 copies of “illegal religious publicity materials,” likely meaning Korans, as the Chinese government banned owning or selling a Koran in Xinjiang. Chinese authorities have provided little to no evidence that those who they charge with terrorism in the region actually have ties to foreign terrorist groups, as Beijing claims.
Chinese authorities also outlawed fasting during Ramadan, public prayer, beards and forbade anyone under the age of 18 from participating in religious services. Beijing’s severe crackdown against Islam in the region come as part of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s policy of sinicization, which is a campaign to bring all religions in line with the Communist Party’s vision of Chinese culture.
The report all but confirms Beijing’s goal of forcefully sinicizing the Uyghur Muslims, saying though it “cannot be denied that Xinjiang received the influence of Islamic culture,” it is an “objective fact” that Xinjiang’s culture is ultimately part of Chinese culture.
“Islam is not the natural faith of the Uyghurs and other ethnicities, nor is it their only faith,” the report reads.
Patrick Poon, an Amnesty International China researcher, said Beijing’s report proves Chinese authorities are using a vague definition of terrorism to justify what he says is the arbitrary arrest and detention of thousands of people.
“It’s exactly because of the Chinese government’s arbitrary and vague definition of these terms that leads to mass arbitrary detention of many ordinary people in Xinjiang,” Poon said, according to the AP.
Poon also criticized the Chinese government’s labeling of internment camps as “vocational training centers.”
“It’s simply not normal at all for people losing contact with their relatives if they are merely receiving ‘vocational training’ as the Chinese government claims,” Poon said.
Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, said China was using the report to try to garner international sympathy for its harsh treatment of Uyghurs.
Maya Wang, a senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch, went so far as to call China’s bluff, saying the government should open the camps to investigation if it had nothing to conceal.
“If the Chinese government is so certain that it has nothing to hide in Xinjiang, then it should allow independent international observers such as the U.N. into the region,” Wang said.
Former internment camp detainees claim camp officials subjected them to forced medication, forced medical procedures, inhumane living conditions, brainwashing and compelled them to renounce Islam and pledge their loyalty to the state.
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FILE PHOTO: Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Patron of Children in Crossfire, speaks during a press conference in Londonderry, Northern Ireland September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/File Photo
March 18, 2019
By Krishna N. Das and Sunil Kataria
DHARAMSHALA, India (Reuters) – The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, said on Monday it was possible that once he dies his incarnation could be found in India, where he has lived in exile for 60 years, and warned that any other successor named by China would not be respected.
Sat in an office next to a temple ringed by green hills and snow-capped mountains, the 14th Dalai Lama spoke to Reuters a day after Tibetans in the northern Indian town of Dharamshala marked the anniversary of his escape from the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, disguised as a soldier.
He fled to India in early 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, and has since worked to draw global support for linguistic and cultural autonomy in his remote and mountainous homeland.
China, which took control of Tibet in 1950, brands the 83-year-old Nobel peace laureate a dangerous separatist.
Pondering what might happen after his death, the Dalai Lama anticipated some attempt by Beijing to foist a successor on Tibetan Buddhists.
“China considers Dalai Lama’s reincarnation as something very important. They have more concern about the next Dalai Lama than me,” said the Dalai Lama, swathed in his traditional red robes and yellow scarf.
“In future, in case you see two Dalai Lamas come, one from here, in free country, one chosen by Chinese, then nobody will trust, nobody will respect (the one chosen by China). So that’s an additional problem for the Chinese! It’s possible, it can happen,” he added, laughing.
China has said its leaders have the right to approve the Dalai Lama’s successor, as a legacy inherited from China’s emperors.
But many Tibetans – whose tradition holds that the soul of a senior Buddhist monk is reincarnated in the body of a child on his death – suspect any Chinese role as a ploy to exert influence on the community.
Born in 1935, the current Dalai Lama was identified as the reincarnation of his predecessor when he was two years old.
Many of China’s more than 6 million Tibetans still venerate the Dalai Lama despite government prohibitions on displays of his picture or any public display of devotion.
UP FOR DISCUSSION
The Dalai Lama said contact between Tibetans living in their homeland and in exile was increasing, but that no formal meetings have happened between Chinese and his officials since 2010.
Informally, however, some retired Chinese officials and businessman with connections to Beijing do visit him from time to time, he added.
He said the role of the Dalai Lama after his death, including whether to keep it, could be discussed during a meeting of Tibetan Buddhists in India later this year.
He, however, added that though there was no reincarnation of Buddha, his teachings have remained.
“If the majority of (Tibetan people) really want to keep this institution, then this institution will remain,” he said. “Then comes the question of the reincarnation of the 15th Dalai Lama.”
If there is one, he would still have ” no political responsibility”, said the Dalai Lama, who gave up his political duties in 2001, developing a democratic system for the up to 100,000 Tibetans living in India.
SEMINAR IN CHINA?
During the interview, the Dalai Lama spoke passionately about his love for cosmology, neurobiology, quantum physics and psychology.
If he was ever allowed to visit his homeland, he said he’d like to speak about those subjects in a Chinese university.
But he wasn’t expecting to go while China remained under Communist rule.
“China – great nation, ancient nation – but it’s political system is totalitarian system, no freedom. So therefore I prefer to remain here, in this country.”
The Dalai Lama was born to a family of farmers in Taktser, a village on the northeastern edge of the Tibetan plateau, in China’s Qinghai province.
During a recent Reuters visit to Taktser, police armed with automatic weapons blocked the road. Police and more than a dozen plain-clothed officials said the village was not open to non-locals.
“Our strength, our power is based on truth. Chinese power based on gun,” the Dalai Lama said. “So for short term, gun is much more decisive, but long term truth is more powerful.”
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
FILE PHOTO: German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz attends a media briefing during his visit to Beijing, China, January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
March 18, 2019
BERLIN (Reuters) – German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz on Monday welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to stimulate debate about the future of the European project with an open letter published earlier this month.
“Our problem is that we have, from my point of view, 27 monologues – or 28 at this time,” Scholz said of debate on the future of the European Union.
“But we should have a real European debate and this is the real advantage you get from the proposals from Macron – that he is starting a European debate,” he added, speaking at a World Policy Forum conference in Berlin.
(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Madeline Chambers)
FILE PHOTO: Buildings under construction are pictured in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Yawen Chen
March 18, 2019
BEIJING (Reuters) – China will steadily implement a pilot scheme under plans to set up a long-term mechanism in the property market, Vice Premier Han Zheng was quoted by state television as saying on Monday.
China will promote stable and healthy development of the property market and maintain a city-based property policy, Han said.
“We will steadily implement a pilot scheme under plans for a long-term mechanism to ensure stable and healthy development of the real estate market, and evaluate and track the implementation,” state television quoted Han as saying.
The government will stabilize land and property prices and strive to resolve property market risks, Han said but did not give further details.
Leaders have pledged to set up a “long-term mechanism” for the property market, which is seen heralding a long-expected property tax.
Work on a draft property tax in China is “steadily advancing”, senior Chinese parliamentary officials said this month during the annual parliament meeting.
China has considered a property tax for more than a decade.Analysts say the central government may be accelerating the process now as it just pledged to slash trillions in taxes and fees to spur growth in the economy, and as it enters the third year of a campaign against property speculation.
Such a tax would boost local governments’ coffers as a much-needed new source of revenue.
(Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk and Kevin Yao)
FILE PHOTO: Aerial view of containers at a loading terminal in the port of Hamburg, Germany August 1, 2018. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer
March 18, 2019
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s trade surplus with the United States and its deficit with China both increased in January, serving as potential fuel for trade conflicts between the world’s largest economies.
The EU surplus in goods trade with the United States expanded to 11.5 billion euros ($13.0 billion) in January, from 10.1 billion in January 2018, EU statistics office Eurostat said.
With China, the EU deficit also increased to 21.4 billion euros, from 20.8 billion euros a year earlier.
U.S. President Donald Trump has complained repeatedly about Europe’s trade surplus with his country, imposing tariffs to curb imports of EU steel and aluminum and threatening to do the same for the much larger trade in cars and car parts.
China’s trade surplus with the European Union is also a source of tension between the two, with the bloc taking a firmer line toward Beijing, for example setting out a 10-point plan to balance economic ties and pushing China to open up
As a whole, the EU trade deficit in goods was 24.9 billion euros in January from 21.4 billion euros in January 2018. For the euro zone, its trade surplus dropped to 1.5 billion euros from 3.1 billion euros.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the euro zone’s overall surplus rose slightly on the month and the EU’s trade deficit dipped in January compared with December 2018.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Francesco Guarascio)
FILE PHOTO: The Huawei brand logo is seen above a store of the telecoms equipment maker in Beijing, China, March 7, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo
March 18, 2019
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – China opposes politically motivated attempts to discredit its telecoms equipment makers on security grounds, the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said on Monday.
“What we oppose are groundless accusations for political purposes and attempts to bring down a foreign company,” Wang told a news conference in Brussels in a veiled reference to Huawei Technologies Co.
“We think such practices are abnormal, immoral and have no support,” he said after a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott, editing by Thomas Escritt)
FILE PHOTO: Weapons the government says were seized from militants in Xinjiang are on display at an exhibition titled “Major Violent Terrorist Attack Cases in Xinjiang”, during a government organised trip in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Ben Blanchard/File Photo
March 18, 2019
BEIJING (Reuters) – Authorities in China have arrested almost 13,000 “terrorists” in the restive far western region of Xinjiang since 2014, the government said on Monday, in a lengthy policy paper again defending its controversial Islamic de-radicalisation measures.
China has faced growing international opprobrium for setting up facilities that United Nations experts describe as detention centers holding more than one million Uighurs and other Muslims. Beijing says it needs the measures to stem the threat of Islamist militancy, and calls them vocational training centers.
Legal authorities have adopted a policy that “strikes the right balance between compassion and severity”, the government said in its white paper.
Since 2014, Xinjiang has “destroyed 1,588 violent and terrorist gangs, arrested 12,995 terrorists, seized 2,052 explosive devices, punished 30,645 people for 4,858 illegal religious activities, and confiscated 345,229 copies of illegal religious materials”, it added.
Only a small minority of people face strict punishment, such as ringleaders of terror groups, while those influenced by extremist thinking receive education and training to teach them the error of their ways, the paper said.
The main exiled group, the World Uyghur Congress, swiftly denounced the white paper.
“China is deliberately distorting the truth,” spokesman Dilxat Raxit said in an emailed statement.
“Counter-terrorism is a political excuse to suppress the Uighurs. The real aim of the so-called de-radicalisation is to eliminate faith and thoroughly carry out Sinification.”
The white paper said Xinjiang has faced a particular challenge since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, as East Turkestan extremists ramped up activities in China, referring to China’s term for extremists and separatists it says operates in Xinjiang.
“They screamed the evil words of ‘getting into heaven by martyrdom with jihad’, turning some people into extremists and terrorists who have been completely mind-controlled, and even turned into murderous devils.”
Religious extremism under the banner of Islam runs counter to Islamic doctrines, and is not Islam, it added.
Xinjiang has long been an inseparable part of Chinese territory, and the Uighur ethnic group evolved from a long process of migration and ethnic integration, the paper said.
“They are not descendants of the Turks.”
Turkey is the only Islamic country that has regularly expressed concern about the situation in Xinjiang, due to close cultural links with the Uighurs, who speak a Turkic language.
China has denounced Turkish concern as unwarranted and interference in its internal affairs.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)