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Military and Armed Police to Stop Providing Paid Services by June 2018

On May 31, Xinhua published an article which stated that, by June 2018, the military and the armed police will complete a plan to stop providing paid services. According to the article, the Ministry of the Military issued the initial notice in February 2016. The execution of the plan was divided into two phases. The first phase is easier to carry out and will be completed by June 2017. It involves areas such as childhood education, the press, culture and sports, telecommunications, training, construction, transportation, equipment maintenance for the militia, maintenance, and driver’s training. The second phase includes real estate leasing, agriculture, hotels, medical services, and research science. These areas are more difficult to execute because they tend to involve long term contracts, large investments, and a number of interest groups. The target date for the second phase is June 2018. The article quoted a comment from a professor from National Defense University. He stated that some paid services have become a major source of financing for certain units and some may not quite understand why this policy is being implemented. It is expected that through more communication and persuasion all units will cooperate in order to move the project forward.

Source: Xinhua, May 31, 2017

Radio Free Asia: North Korea Increases Taxes and Fees for Merchants from Mainland China

According to an article that Radio Free Asia published, since May, North Korea has been imposing different types of tax and fees on merchants who come from China to enter the Rason Special Economic Zone. The total could add up to as much as 1,000 yuan (US$147) for each such entrance. The move is considered to be related to friction in the foreign relations between China and North Korea. The article quoted comments from South Koreans that, since North Korea is facing sanctions from the international community, it is possible that it is using the imposed taxes to offset the shortage in foreign currency. However since the fee is not a small amount for small businesses owners, it might also result in a reduced traffic flow and trade activities.

Source: Radio Free Asia, June 1, 2017

VOA: Facebook Apologized to a Hong Kong Facebook User

On June 1, VOA carried an article reporting that Facebook recently apologized to a customer who submitted a request to post his own camera effects platform, which was associated with the June 4th student movement in Tiananmen. According to the article, the designer was from Hong Kong and works for the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union. On May 26, 24 hours after its submission, Facebook rejected the initial camera effects platform design that contained words “End Dictatorial Rule; Vindicate June 4th.” The reason Facebook gave was that it “undermined, threatened, or attacked a certain individual, race, or group.” The author then changed the design to “Never Forget June 4th” and added a candle but still didn’t get approval. Finally the author published the incident on his Facebook page. He then quickly received a response from the Hong Kong media. On May 29, Facebook replied back to the request and approved the first design. On May 30, it followed with the approval of the second design.

Facebook estimates that there are 4.4 million Facebook users in Hong Kong. They account for 50 percent of the population, but Facebook has been banned on the mainland since 2009. Recently Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook expressed an interest in re-entering the China market. The article stated that people who care about Chinese affairs wish that the reported incident was simply an isolated case. They do not want to see Facebook losing its ground and exercising control over those contents that contain criticism of the Chinese government simply in order to please Beijing.

Source: Voice of America, June 1, 2017

VOA: New Intelligence Law Grants Extended Powers to Intelligence Agencies

According to an article that Voice of America published, the People’s Congress recently posted the “National Intelligence Law” on its official website and welcomed members of the general public to voice their opinions. The Intelligence Law states that the intelligence agencies can interrogate or conduct searches, including searching in restricted areas, as long as they obtain approval and display their identification. However, the law does not specify who would issue the approval. The speculation is that the new law will grant expanded powers to intelligence agencies.

The article also stated that the Ministry of State Security could be split into two agencies: the National Counterintelligence and the National Intelligence Agencies. The article said that, since Xi Jinping attained power, the Ministry of State Security has gone through a series of restructurings and has removed a number of key members from their posts including Zhou Yongkang, former Secretary of the Central Political and Legislative Affairs Commission; Ma Jian, former Vice Minister of State Security; and Liang Ke, former director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of State Security. Currently the Ministry of State Security is under the National Security Commission which is chaired by Xi Jinping.

The article stated that, since 2014, China has passed a series of national security laws including the Internet security law in 2016, the national security law in 2015, and the counterintelligence law in 2014.

Source: Voice of America, May 16, 2017

VOA: Belt and Road Forum Criticized for Suppressing Different Voices

Voice of America carried an article on the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation which was held on May 14 in Beijing. The article discussed the criticism Beijing received for promoting tolerance to the outside world while lacking tolerance toward its own citizens and suppressing different voices. The article mentioned that, while the forum was taking place, Beijing applied the highest level of security measures against dissidents and petitioners. Security forces could be sited at public facilities. Some of the dissidents were either sent back to their hometowns or forced to take a “vacation” and leave Beijing. Some stores, tourist sites, and certain construction sites were ordered to shut down during the forum.

In terms of the Belt and Road project, the article stated that it faces many challenges. One is a lack of transparency since it is State Owned Enterprises that are driving the project rather than the market economy. Another concern is the stability of the countries that are situated along the Belt and Road path.

Source: Voice of America, May 14, 2017

Publicity Department Directives to Launch Nationwide Publicity Campaign Prior to 19th National Congress

According to Guangming Daily, on May 16, the Publicity Department held a meeting in Beijing and issued directives to launch a nationwide publicity campaign prior to the 19th National Congress. The directives requested that all parties “increase the depth of the media campaign to the full extent; mobilize large scale media events, exhibits and forums, as well as produce TV documentaries in order to showcase the achievements that the Party and the country have made; to launch education, arts, and cultural programs to present a harmonious and upright social environment; actively to produce publicity content that targets foreign countries that are able to tell China and the Party’s stories well, and to present confidence and positive energy to the world.”

Source: Guangming Daily, May 17, 2017

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