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45 NGOs Signed Open Letter Demanding Release of Zhang Zhan Who Is Jailed for Reporting on COVID Outbreak

On September 17, 45 non-governmental organizations, including Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International, sent a joint letter to Xi Jinping, demanding the release of Zhang Zhan. Zhang was jailed for reporting on the COVID outbreak and has been on a hunger strike since May 2020.

Zhang reported the outbreak when it was in its early stage in Wuhan. After Wuhan was locked down on January 23, 2020, Zhang went to Wuhan and reported on how the hospital was packed with infected people and piles of bodies were in the crematorium. On December 28, 2020, after a three-hour trial, Zhang was sentenced to four-years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Zhang’s family said she has lost a significant amount of weigh. She was hospitalized in early August. Despite her rapid decline in health, Zhang was sent back to prison. Reporters Without Borders said Zhang has been mistreated while in custody and her family had been barred from visiting.

China ranks 177th out of 180 countries and regions in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index. The group says China has imprisoned the largest number of journalists in the world. At least 122 journalists are currently in prison.

The organizations that co-signed the open letter also include the Taiwan Journalists Association, the China Aid Association, Change China, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, as well as many others.

Source: Voice of America, September 17, 2021

Four Incidents alerted Switzerland to Chinese Infiltration; Swiss Parliament Passed Bill: “Improving Relations with Taiwan”

On September 14th, the lower house of the Swiss Parliament passed the “Improving Relations with Taiwan” bill by an overwhelming majority. The bill will require the Swiss Federal Council to submit a report on how to deepen relations with Taiwan in the economic, trade, political, scientific and cultural fields.

Yan Minru, a Taiwanese writer who has lived in Switzerland for more than three decades, told Radio Free Asia that Taiwan’s success in combating COVID, coupled with four recent China-related incidents in Switzerland, alerted Switzerland to the infiltration from China and made them realize that they should start to support Taiwan.

Those four China-related incidents are described as follows:
1. During the Hong Kong protest, Zurich University of the Arts used an art exhibit to show support for Hong Kong protesters. The Chinese embassy pressured the university, telling them not to interfere with China’s internal affairs. The university insisted they had the right to freedom of speech and it would be unconstitutional if they gave in and cancelled the exhibition. Their position was well received by the media.

2. Gerber, a Ph.D. student at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, criticized China on twitter. His professor and adviser then received threats from some Chinese students. The university asked Gerber to find another adviser. Since Gerber studied China’s environmental pollution which is a sensitive subject, Gerber was unable to find a new adviser. He had to drop out of school and wasted three years of research work.

3. About two years ago, for about a year, the Swiss German-language weekly Le Monde published articles written by a former Chinese ambassador to Switzerland on a monthly basis. The articles were full of propaganda. New Zurich Daily later exposed that the articles were published through the process of trade involving a paid advertisement with the Chinese embassy.

4. A large number of Chinese were smuggled into Switzerland. The Swiss government allowed several Chinese officials to come to Switzerland to verify the status of the refugees. The process lasted for two weeks. The Swiss government even paid for the Chinese officials’ airfare, hotel accommodations, health insurance, and gave them a US$217 daily allowance. They even let these officials use the Swiss office facilities. It caused strong public opposition.

Source: Radio Free Asia, September 15, 2021

Former Scientist at Canada’s National Laboratory Collaborated with PLA Major General

According to the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, a former scientist at Canada’s National Laboratory had a close, cooperative research relationship with a Chinese PLA Major General who was praised in China for developing a COVID 19 vaccine.

While working at the Winnipeg National Laboratory in Canada, Qiu Xiangguo collaborated with Chinese PLA general Chen Wei while doing Ebola virus research. Both of them published papers on their research results in 2016 and 2020. However, there was no mention in the research process or in the paper’s publication that Chen is a military major general and a virologist. She was described as a Ph.D. from the Beijing Biotechnology Research Institute.

Three Canadian scientists involved in the study said they did not know Chen’s true identity and that Qiu did not disclose her cooperation with the Chinese scientists either.

It was later confirmed that Chen is a major general in the People’s Liberation Army and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Xi Jinping praised Chen’s team for developing China’s COVID vaccine.

The first to discover the relationship between Chen and Qiu was Canadian writer Elaine Dewar, who was conducting an investigation into the origin of COVID 19. She found a close relationship between the National Laboratory in Winnipeg and the Wuhan Laboratory in China. She then documented the relationship in her recent book, “On the Origin of the Deadliest Pandemic in 100 Years: An investigation.”

Qiu Xiangguo and her scientist husband, Cheng Keding, were expelled from the Winnipeg National Laboratory in July 2019. They were fired in January 2020, but Ottawa would not comment on the reason.

1. Radio Free Asia, September 17, 2021
2. The Globe and Mail, September 16, 2021

Housing Market in 66 Cities Plunged in August

In August, 21 cities including Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai, and Shenyang issued over 30 real estate policies to curb the overheated market. A report from the Shell Research Institute suggested that the new housing sales in August in 66 cities across the country continued to decline. According to the Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Housing and Urban-rural Development, existing housing sales in July fell by more than 80 percent compared to July 2020. In August, it reached a 10-year low with only 2,043 existing home sales, a plunge of 77.28 percent year over year.

The National Daily Business News reported that land sales in 300 cities was 226.4 billion yuan (US$35 billion) in August, a decrease of 17 percent from July and a year over year decrease of 49 percent.

Real estate financing does not look rosy either. There were 62 foreign bonds issued in August, a decrease of 27 from the previous month. The total financing was 57.1 billion yuan (US$8.86 billion), a decrease of 39.8 percent from the previous month and a decrease of 54.2 percent from the same period last year.

Real estate developers are also facing mounting pressure on debt payment. According to the Shell Research Institute, debt maturity of domestic and foreign bonds in August was approximately 119.6 billion yuan (US$18.56 billion), an increase of 3.3 percent from the previous month and 21.2 percent year-on-year. There were 16 bond defaults in August. Seven of those were in real estate when companies failed to pay principal and interest on time.

Source: Epoch Times, September 11, 2021

In 2020, China Signed $255.54 Billion in New Foreign Contracts

On September 9, the Ministry of Commerce published a report which stated that, in 2020, China signed US$255.54 billion in new foreign contracts with 184 countries and regions around the world. It made US$155.94 billion in contract revenue mainly in Asian and African markets.

The report also highlighted that 1) over 80 percent of the contracts were in Asia and Africa where new contracts accounted for 56 percent and 26.6 percent of the total revenue respectively. 2) Over half of the total contract revenue came from belt and road countries. In 2020, new contracts signed by Chinese companies in 61 countries along the “Belt and Road” amounted to US$141.46 billion which accounted for 55.4 percent of the total. The completed contract revenue was US$91.12 billion,  which was 58.4 percent of the total. 3) Over 75 percent of the foreign contracts are in infrastructure, architecture, electrical engineering and petrochemical. 4) The number of newly signed major foreign contracted projects increased. There were 904 major contracts worth over US$50 million, up by ten compared with 2019. Among those, 514 were contracts over US$100 million, an increase of eight compared with 2019.

Source: Central News Agency, September 9, 2021

Cyberspace Administration Shut Down 1,793 Financial Commentators’ Social Media Accounts

On September 8, days after the Cyberspace Administration announced its plan to crack down on independent financial commentators for bad-mouthing China’s economy, it announced that it has identified 2,929 illegal accounts and suspended 1,793 of those accounts. Three of those suspended accounts had over one million followers including one account which had three million followers. The Cyberspace Administration also deleted over 40,000 “harmful postings.”

On August 27, the Cyberspace Administration had announced that it would clamp down on illegally collecting, editing and publishing financial information on commercial websites and self-media. China’s major social medial platforms WeChat, the Baidu Group, Douyin, and Kuaishou immediately announced that they would comply with the official policies and regularly publish their progress reports.

On September 9, the Shanghai Securities Regulatory Bureau released a preliminary report which stated that, as part of the crackdown effort, they have banned 3,187 audio files, films, and programs and closed 53 live broadcast studios.

Source: Tencent QQ, September 9, 2021

Bilateral Trade between China and Afghanistan Up 44 Percent In the First Half of 2021

According to CCTV, on August 26, during a regular press conference, the Ministry of Commerce spokesperson said that, in 2020, bilateral trade between China and Afghanistan reached 550 million U.S. dollars. From January to June this year, bilateral trade between China and Afghanistan reached US$310 million, up 44 percent year over year. By the end of June, China had invested US$430 million in Afghanistan.

Source: Sina, August 26, 2021

Cyberspace Administration Cracks Down on Tech Companies and Financial Self-Media Accounts

On August 27, China’s Cyberspace Administration issued two orders in a row targeting tech companies and online financial self-media accounts.

The first order was a draft version of a regulation that bans the tech companies from using an algorithm to block content, push recommendations or manipulate the ranking order of a top search list. The experts suggested that these restrictive measures will have a major impact on the growth and profitability of these tech companies.

The second order aimed at effectively curbing the online dissemination of financial information by clamping down on online self-media accounts to keep them from illegally publishing financial related information. The self-media mainly refers to those independent accounts on Chinese social media that are not officially registered but can publish their original content. The order listed eight types of violations including arbitrarily making a distorted interpretation of the official policies and predicting a gloomy future for the Chinese economy and financial market; irresponsibly posting news and commentaries from overseas; spreading rumors and false information; manipulating the official economic and financial news reports; acting as a “black mouth” which refers to the commentators who post comments that disturb the social order; using negative information to threaten, intimidate, or blackmail the relevant party for financial benefits; hype negative social events to incite emotion, anxiety and panic; or fraudulent use of the name of state officials or experts to open up a financial column.

On Saturday, China’s largest social media platforms WeChat, TikTok, Sina Weibo and Kuaishou quickly issued statements stating that they will comply with the requirement and clean up any violations.

Source: Voice of America, August 28, 2021