July 2019

China to further improve business environment, open up wider

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) holds a dialogue with representatives from communities such as industry and commerce, finance, think tanks and media outlets attending the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2019, also known as the Summer Davos Forum, in Dalian, northeast China’s Liaoning Province, July 2, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua)

China will further improve its business environment and expand opening-up, Premier Li Keqiang has said.

Li made the remarks during a dialogue session held Tuesday at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2019, also known as the Summer Davos Forum, in the city of Dalian.

The dialogue session was chaired by Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, with attendance of more than 200 global representatives of industry and commerce, finance, think tanks, media.

At the dialogue session, Premier Li answered a raft of questions put forward by the attendees, ranging from China’s business environment, adjustment of industry chain, enterprises and innovation, opening-up of finance, to development of private businesses.

As for business environment, China will build market-oriented, internationalized business environment based on rule of law and with openness, transparency and predictability, Li said, noting that restrictions on market access will be further relaxed.

Apart from treating foreign investors impartially and fairly, the country will strengthen the protection of intellectual property, Li said.

Against the backdrop of worldwide investment downturn, China saw a steady inflow of foreign investment in the first five months of this year, with the investment in the manufacturing industry up more than 8 percent year on year, Li said.

He attributed the stable growth in foreign investment to the country’s globalized industrial system and vast market with huge potential, saying China boasts great competitiveness in the global industrial chain.

The country will step up efforts to expand opening-up, uphold fair competition and safeguard foreign investors’ rights and interests, Li said.

Speaking of China’s financial opening-up, Li said the country continued to make new steps in opening its financial sector, and greater financial opening-up helped improve the sector’s competitiveness.

The Chinese government also enhanced financial regulation to protect the interests of domestic and overseas investors and consumers, Li said.

Although facing downward economic pressures, China has strived to maintain financial stability, without saddling the economy with excessive money supply. The country has maintained stability of its monetary policy, with timely and pre-emptive fine-tuning, and kept the yuan exchange rate basically stable at a reasonable and balanced level.

“China’s financial sector will further open up, and financial supervision and management will become more and more well-regulated,” he said.

When talking about difficulties facing private businesses, which contribute more than 80 percent of the country’s urban jobs and 60 percent of the country’s GDP, Premier Li said the country will work to ensure implementation of tax reduction policies to lower financing costs and make sure enterprises benefit from these policies.

Xi meets Chinese diplomatic envoys to foreign countries

President Xi Jinping on Wednesday met with Chinese diplomatic envoys to foreign countries, who are in Beijing to attend a work conference for overseas envoys.

On behalf of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, congratulated on the convening of the work conference and extended sincere greetings to the envoys and all diplomatic personnel for their hard work.

Wang Huning, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and a member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, was also present.

At the work conference, the envoys were urged to fully carry out the plans and arrangements of diplomatic work of the CPC Central Committee under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy and to keep on working with great determination.

Beijing blacklists uncivilized behavior in park

A blacklist of uncivilized behavior in Beijing parks was published on Tuesday in which walking dogs was deemed as uncivilized, triggering heated public debate.

The blacklist published by Beijing park management authorities lists behavior such as damaging the parks’ environment, disturbing public order, throwing garbage, barbecuing and catching animals, as well as carving on the buildings and trees.

During the three-day holidays around Tomb Sweeping Day in April, parks in Beijing experienced an upsurge in visitors, which led to uncivilized tourist behavior such as digging potherbs.

Some internet users with pets said the management method was too inflexible and inconvenient to residents,

“Now we cannot walk dogs in parks or on the street. Where should pet owners walk dogs? Does it mean that keeping dogs is banned in China?” as one typical user posted about the regulation.

Other users supported the ban.

“I was bitten by a Teddy dog without the owner in the park when I took a walk.”

A staff member who refused to be named at Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau that is one of the list makers told the Global Times that “walking dogs in parks is a kind of uncivilized behavior. This is also my individual opinion.”

When asked if they consider dogs might bite others and damage the environment, she refused to answer.

Officials of the Beijing Municipal Administration Center of Parks said in April that “facial recognition” and other technologies will be used to detect uncivilized behavior in parks.

UK holds crisis meeting after oil tanker seized

British Prime Minister Theresa May convened an emergency meeting of ministers and security officials on Monday to discuss how to respond after Iran seized a UK-flagged tanker in the Gulf.

In a dramatic escalation of tensions, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Stena Impero on Friday in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

It came two weeks after British authorities seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar on suspicion of breaching sanctions against Syria, and against a backdrop of brinkmanship between Washington andTehran.

The government’s emergency Cobra committee met over the weekend and May was to chair another meeting on Monday.

The EU has condemned Iran’s action and as UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt spoke to his French and German counterparts on Sunday.

They agreed that “safe passage for vessels through the Strait of Hormuz is a top priority for European nations, while avoiding any possible escalation in the region,” a British statement said.

Tensions in the Gulf have ramped up since May, when the US boosted its military presence in response to what it called indications of a “credible threat” from Iran.

The British government had warned its ships to avoid the Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint for about one third of the world’s sea-borne oil.

But questions are being asked in London about why it was not more proactive in protecting ships after the Gibraltar incident, which provoked fury in Tehran.

The standoff comes at a sensitive time for Britain, with May due to resign on Wednesday over her Brexit strategy, with former foreign minister Boris Johnson the overwhelming favorite to replaceher.

Junior defence minister Tobias Ellwood said Sunday that Britain would be looking “at a series of options” on how to respond to Iran’sactions.

Iranian authorities said they detained Stena Impero after the tanker failed to respond to distress calls and turned off its transponder after hitting a fishing boat.

But in a letter to the UN Security Council, British charge d’affaires Jonathan Allen accused Tehran of “illegal interference.”

He said there was no evidence of a collision and said the vessel had been in Omani waters with its transponder switched on when it was approached.

Iranian authorities have said the fate of the Swedish-owned tanker depends on the cooperation of its crew.

But they insisted the 18 Indians, including the captain, three Russians, a Latvian and a Filipino on board are all in good health and anchored in a safe place.

Iran released video footage showing the tanker being surrounded by speedboats before troops in balaclavas descend a rope from a helicopter onto the vessel. In an audio recording of a radio exchange obtained by a London-based maritime firm, an Iranian officer can be heard ordering the tanker to change course “immediately.”

US Senate approves bill to ensure funding for 9/11 responders

Photo: VCG

US Senate on Tuesday approved a bill to ensure lifetime funding for 9/11 victims, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it later this week.

In a vote of 97 to 2, the Senate passed the bill that would provide financial support through 2090 for medical claims of thousands of first responders of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, who worked under hazardous conditions to rescue people and have been suffering from all kinds of health issues.

Citing a source familiar with the situation, CBS News said President Trump is expected to sign the bill on Friday and 9/11 first responders have also been invited to attend the signing ceremony at the White House.

On July 12, the House overwhelmingly passed the bill to extend funding for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund through 2090, weeks after a powerful and emotional speech made by comedian Jon Stewart brought nationwide attention to the issue.

However, the bill failed to pass the Senate in a unanimous vote last week after Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) voted against it. Paul cited budget concerns, saying any new spending should be offset by corresponding cuts.

The bill will ensure the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund is funded for the next seven decades at a cost of 10.2 billion US dollars over the next 10 years, according to a report of The New York Times.

“Today is not a celebration. It’s a deep sigh of relief,” said New York Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday’s passage of the bill.

Foreign teacher rules tighten amid scandals

A foreign teacher gives a lesson to pupils in a local primary school in Shanghai. Photo: CFP

Multiple central government departments, including the Ministry of Education (MOE), are demanding all online education agencies in China to employ only foreign staff who meets the requirements of the country’s relevant laws and regulations.

Documents showing the qualifications of teachers employed by online agencies are among the materials that must be submitted to the relevant authorities, and foreign staff will be required to provide additional documents to prove their education and work experience, their teaching qualifications and abilities, according to the notice released on the website of MOE on Monday.

“Employment of foreign staff must be in line with the country’s relevant laws and regulations. And foreign staff’s names, profile pictures and teaching qualifications, as well as their educational backgrounds, working and teaching experience must be displayed on the online agency’s platform,” the notice said.

According to the notice, a nationwide check should be completed before the end of 2019.

Once the nationwide check is completed, a national unified supervision system for online education agencies shall be established before the end of 2020, the notice said.

A publicly available list will also be established showing whether an online agency has implemented the regulations, said the notice.

Such moves, according to the notice, are designed to promote the sustainable and healthy development of the “internet and education,” and to address emerging problems, such as under-qualified online teaching staff and some online platforms that have shown to have links to harmful and vulgar information or internet game-related content directed at their students.

Lü Yugang, an official from the Ministry of Education, said at a Monday conference that the authorities would raise the entrance bar for such foreign employees.

Once they go against laws or regulations, they shall be dealt with in a serious manner with no appeasement, the official said.

A Beijing mother surnamed Li, whose primary-school son is taking online courses with a foreign teacher, hailed the new policies, saying the extra teaching qualification information would better assure parents.

Strict selection of qualified foreign teachers has already been implemented in China as the country saw a sharp increase in the demand in recent years.

VIPKID, one of China’s largest online English learning platforms, said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Monday that they invest annually several million US dollars to conduct background check on its foreign faculty, including their criminal records.

Bruno, a senior French language tutor in Shenyang, Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, told the Global Times that “to attain a legitimate work visa in China for language teaching is increasingly difficult, as one has to have a master’s degree, at least two years of teaching experience and loads of paperwork, such as a birth certificate.”

Everything must be certified by the Chinese embassy in the foreign country, he said.

Foreigners who want to be a language teacher in China must be aware that some so-called schools do not really have the license to hire foreigners. They may teach on a business visa, which is illegal, according to Bruno.

The notice comes after seven foreign teachers from EF Education First’s Xuzhou branch in East China’s Jiangsu Province were detained last week for allegedly taking drugs, which sparked heated discussions online, with many calling for a crackdown on “unqualified” and “immoral” foreign teachers in the country.

More than 400,000 foreign teachers were working in the education industry in China in 2017 and only one-third of them are legal foreign teachers, according to a report by Banyuetan, a magazine under the Xinhua News Agency.

Boris Johnson takes office as UK PM amid Brexit uncertainties

Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a speech at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain on July 24, 2019. Newly-elected Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson took office as the British prime minister on Wednesday amid the rising uncertainties of Brexit. (Photo by Alberto Pezzali/Xinhua)

Newly-elected Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson took office as the British prime minister on Wednesday amid the rising uncertainties of Brexit.

The latest development came after Theresa May formally stepped down as the leader of the country and Johnson was invited by the Queen to form the government.

Johnson, former British foreign secretary and ex-mayor of London, became the prime minister as Britain is faced with the looming Brexit deadline and uncertainties.

In front of the famous front door, Johnson gave his first speech to the nation as he vowed to bring Britain out of the European Union by Oct. 31, saying “no ifs, no buts”.

He said the critics, the doubters and the gloomsters are wrong, adding: “The people who bet against Britain will lose their shirts.”

Johnson said although Britain will leave the EU by the end of October, and he was confident this can be done, adding: “We will crack this in 99 days, but we won’t wait till then.”

He said he was confident a deal can be done to resolve the Irish border question, without the need for what he described as an undemocratic backstop.

He said: “Never mind the backstop, the buck stops here.”

But Johnson added Britain will prepare for Brussels refusing to do a deal with Britain.

He added: “To those who say it can’t be done, do not underestimate this country.”

Johnson’s vehicle was briefly blocked by a human chain of protestors on its way to the Buckingham Palace.

The Opposition Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a general election, saying that the new prime minister has “no mandate” of the British people.

Before Johnson became the prime minister, Philip Hammond had quit as Chancellor of the Exchequer, the most high profile in a slew of resignations.

Moscow says sailors of Russian tanker detained by Kiev to return home

Sailors on board of the Russian tanker detained in the Ukrainian port of Izmail have not been charged with anything by Kiev and will soon return to Moscow, Russian Commissioner for Human Rights Tatyana Moskalkova said Thursday.

According to Moskalkova, she talked to her Ukrainian counterpart Lyudmila Denisova and was told that the Russian sailors were not detained or accused of violating Ukrainian law and are currently on their way back to Russia.

“Ten sailors, citizens of the Russian Federation, are currently traveling from Ukraine to Moldova on a bus … Their passports have been checked and they were put on a bus en route to Moldova, from where they will fly to Moscow,” Moskalkova was quoted by RIA Novosti news agency as saying.

The Russian embassy in Kiev also confirmed that the sailors of the Russian tanker are going home while the vessel remains in Ukraine, Russian media reported, citing a spokesman of the embassy.

Earlier in the day, Ukrainian Security Service together with the Military Prosecutor’s Office had detained the Russian NEYMA tanker in Izmail for its alleged involvement in last year’s Kerch Strait incident.

The tanker was reportedly searched by Ukrainian investigators and prosecutors “with court permission” and its crew members were questioned.

Ukrainian media later cited sources in the security service as saying that the sailors have been released.

In November 2018, Russia seized three Ukrainian warships and 24 sailors on board near the Kerch Strait connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, accusing them of breaching the Russian border.

Tensions have flared up between Russia and Ukraine following the incident. Moscow has called the incident a provocation, while Kiev denied any wrongdoing and western countries denounced the “aggressive” actions of Russia.

Govt eases rules on travel permits

Chinese tourists post at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia on Dec 9, 2018. [Photo/VCG]

Residents in Chinese mainland will be able to apply for passports and travel permits at every exit and entry management department across the country starting from April 1, according to National Immigration Administration on Tuesday.

The travel permits refer to the documents allowing mainland residents to travel to and from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, it said.

The introduced measure is to “offer convenience for the public and greatly improve our work efficiency”, according to a released statement at a news conference held by the administration on Tuesday.

In the past, the residents in Chinese mainland could only apply for permits in their household registration places with relevant documents, including identification card, hukou and application form.

National Immigration Administration holds a press conference on March 26, 2019. [Photo by Zhang Yan/chinadaily.com.cn]

Under the new measure, the residents will provide the same documents to apply for the passports and travel permits in their nearby exit and entry management departments, it said.

With the rapid development of China’s economy and society, a growing number of people have been living, studying and working away from their hometown, and there has been a strong demand for them to apply for the passports or travel permits in different places.

Data provided by the National Immigration Administration show, this year, an estimated 21 million people will apply for passports and travel permits in different places rather than returning to their home cities.